Four recipes from UM students and staff
Ready steady cook. This is how most students want to prepare their dinner: a reasonably decent dish in less than half an hour. Often, due to a lack of time and inspiration, they stick to boring spaghetti, pancakes or fresh meals from Albert Heijn. For those occasions when you want to impress a friend or your mother: try a Persian eggplant dip, Dutch pea soup, Columbian patacones or an authentic Italian pasta.
Stefania Valera (Erasmus student studying International Relations) maintains that the dish from her native Italy, spaghetti all’amatriciana, is very good for students: “It’s very easy and delicious.” She is adamant that it is impossible to get wrong, as long as you keep tasting it and watch the clock when adding the ingredients. It has no special significance to her though – “I just love eating.” Not having an oven, she does miss proper pizza and lasagna. Valera usually shops at Aldi, despite its limited selection of products, as Albert Heijn is too expensive, but when her parents come to visit in the near future they will make sure she is well-stocked with some quality ingredients from back home.
Gently fry the diced bacon and chopped onion in olive oil until golden brown. Add some freshly grated pepper to the saucepan. Mix in the crushed tomatoes with salt and some water. Bring to a simmer, and cook uncovered until sauce thickens (+/- 15 minutes). While sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt and then the spaghetti. Cook uncovered over high heat until al dente. It’s preferable to check on the progress by tasting it, rather than sticking strictly to the cooking time on the packaging. Drain the pasta, and add to the saucepan with some Parmesan cheese.
Valera considers Dutch habits when eating Italian food a bit odd, as pasta is supposed to be eaten as a first course to a meal, rather than as a component of the main course, and she hasn’t had a pizza here yet that truly deserved a seal of approval. She does appreciate some typical Dutch cuisine, making special mention of “stamppot with smashed potatoes”, and reacting incredulously when informed that a kroket is made with no potatoes at all, but usually with the addition of some horse meat.
Ingredients (4 servings): 400g spaghetti, 350g crushed tomatoes (Dutch: gezeefde tomaten), 100g bacon (Italian if you can get it, Pancetta or Guanciale), 75g parmesan cheese, small yellow onion, chopped, olive oil, salt and pepper
Mirza Ghasemi (Persian eggplant dip)
“I once made this dish during an International Dinner at Tafelstraat 13. At the end of the evening, everything had been eaten.” A good sign, reckons Seyed Hossein Naeemi, PhD candidate at the Department of Quantitative Economics. “You can have it as a side dish or a main dish, whatever you want. In Iran, people have a hot main meal around two in the afternoon. This eggplant dip, for example, with some rice. By the way, rice in Iran is very different to rice here in the Netherlands; it's longer and less sticky.”
Mirza Ghasemi is a typical North Iranian dish. The eggplant is a favourite ingredient in Iran, as is garlic for that matter. “It is a humid climate and people believe that garlic is therapeutic, good for one’s health. Iranians even have it in their yoghurt; you should try it some time.”
Naeemi’s dish is “very easy to prepare. Even if you are not a good cook, you can manage this.” As far as preparations are concerned, Naeemi refers to one of the many clips on YouTube. “Enter the name of the dish to see immediately what you have to do. Handy.”
The eggplants are put into a hot oven or under the grill for a while; the skin, which has become completely black, can then be removed more easily. Be careful, allow it to cool first. Fry the chopped garlic with the oil, add the chopped eggplant and the tomatoes. Add turmeric, salt and pepper to taste. Beat the eggs well with a fork and fry separately until half-cooked. Add to the eggplants, mix and fry further for two minutes. Serve with bread or rice.
Some Dutch people like leftovers: a bowl of lasagne for tomorrow, some chicken tandoori for the day after tomorrow. In Iran, Naeemi says, people make exactly enough for one day, for that one dish. “I like fresh food. If the food is healthy, then so is the body.”
Ingredients (2 servings): 3 eggplants, 3 tomatoes, diced, skin removed, 5 or 6 chopped garlic cloves, 1.5 teaspoons of ground turmeric (kurkuma), salt and pepper, 2 eggs, lightly beaten, olive oil
The French abhor Dutch cuisine, but there is one dish they all like: pea soup. “That is because of its rustic, bold character,” according to Marie-Claire van de Voort, secretary at the Department of Health Risk Analysis & Toxicology. She should know because her family on her mother’s side is French. She regards herself as a good cook, certainly if she compares herself to the Dutch. Not among the French: “I would not dare cook for my French grandmother. I would make a fool of myself.”
Van de Voort grew up with guinea fowl in a grape-port sauce and roast beef with mushrooms in a Madeira sauce, but snert – as the pea soup dish is called by the Dutch - she finds just as appetising. Preparation takes a good hour, but not the ‘student variety’ à la Van de Voort: just half an hour. The secret? She buys two cans of the cheapest pea soup at the Aldi, removes the sausage (“because that is completely inedible”) and then pimps the soup with individual ingredients.
“In a separate pot, I boil a handful of vegetables for the soup plus a potato in two decilitre of stock. I used to put a pig’s trotter or a heel in, but nowadays we find that too greasy. I often add a cutlet or small cubes of bacon to the stock. After approximately fifteen minutes, I add the contents of the pot to the pea soup.”
This becomes a watery substance, so what you do then, she says, as she bangs her fist on the table: “Sprinkle in potato puree from a package! That thickens it. And lastly I add the slices of rookworst (smoked sausage), from the Hema for example. Absolutely delicious. Or the Unox brand. I then let the soup simmer for ten minutes on a low heat. Done!”
This dish should not be eaten without rye bread with smoked bacon. Whispering: “Preferably with real butter, right. I don’t need everything to be lean, just fresh and preferably free-range meat.”
Ingredients: 2 cans of pea soup, vegetables, 1 potato, potato puree from a package, rookworst, cubes of bacon, 2 dl of stock
Patacones con hoago
Estefania Velilla, second-year student at the University College, is amused at the mint tea she is served outside Grand Café 043. While it is considered a staple beverage in her native Colombia – or rather the Colombian island of San Andrès, in the Caribbean Sea – the fancy and exotic presentation suggests it is considered a luxurious drink over here.
Preparing her vegetarian recipe of patacones con hoago, which was taught to her by the cook who prepared meals for her family back on the island, takes some ability, apparently, but she is adamant it is worth the effort. First, you have to carefully peel two green cooking bananas, also known as plantains. “In Maastricht you can find them at the Friday market on the last stand, going towards the abandoned Sphinx factory. Take special care as the juices from the fruit can cause nasty stains.” The thick, cut slices have to be deep fried in vegetable oil until golden brown. You then flatten the slices between two heavy cutting boards and dip them in a bowl of generously salted water. And fry once more until crisp. “The salty water will give them the right amount of salt and make them crunchier after the second frying. But be careful: hot oil reacts aggressively to water, so beware of burns.”
Discussing Dutch cuisine, the suggestion of bitterballen receives a muted response, as Velilla has been a vegetarian since age 7. She does like pannenkoeken, “although I’ve no talent for them”. As for the things she dislikes, she unwittingly paraphrases a line from Pulp Fiction: “You put mayonnaise on everything.”
Ingredients (2–4 servings): 2 peeled plantains (Dutch: bakbanaan), 3 tomatoes, 1 yellow onion, coriander (cilantro) leaves, salt and pepper, butter, vegetable oil for frying
For the hoago: dice the tomatoes and onions and finely cut the coriander leaves. Slowly fry in a saucepan with a heaped teaspoon of butter and a tablespoon of vegetable oil until they form a saucy consistency, adding water if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the patacones immediately, with the hoago on the side. Other toppings, such as guacamole and shredded cheese, can be included as well.
Wendy Degens, Jeroen Postma, Maurice Timmermans