Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Baking for the holidays

DSC09079I’m making a real run at doing Thanksgiving at home in the Netherlands this year.  It’s not easy.

I found two splendid turkey breasts last night, and have found a recipe that suggests how to make them with a nice cranberry bread stuffing.  I’ve got a big bag of green beans waiting for an almond topping, cranberry relish already gelling in the ‘fridge, and big plans for a pumpkin pie.  My Dutch friends are contributing sweet potatoes, bread, and salad (besides their appetites), so I think we’re good to go.

The turkey breast will be a bit tricky since the game store removed the skin and bones, so it’s not clear how to hold things together so there is a cavity for the stuffing.  I put the question out on Facebook and got a lot of good ideas and suggestions, so I’m good to go there. (many thanks to all!)

Armed with my shopping list, then, I set off for the Albert Heijn for the last bits.

Spices are always a challenge in the Netherlands because people generally don’t bake (and why would you with a bakery on every corner?).  Spice names can also be non-intuitive (Muskaat – Nutmeg : Kaneel – Cinnamon), sage (salie) isn’t as common, allspice is unknown.  So it’s a bit of a scavenger hunt to come up with all of the ingredients or substitutes.  I didn’t do bad: slivered almonds were a puzzle, and I barely got the last bags of  cranberries (veenbessen).

The pumpkin pie was the impossible one.

The recipe calls for mashed pumpkin, eggs, condensed milk, spices, brown sugar, butter, all mixed and ladled into pie shells.  This is the archetypical list of things you can’t find in the AH.

I started by asking for pumpkin (pompoen).  The clerk headed for the vegetable section.  “Sorry, no, I need it already out of the pumpkin, in a can?”  The clerk looked baffled and a little worried.  A can?  We checked the veggie aisle; he said he’d never seen anything like that.  I asked another clerk if there was mashed pumpkin somewhere, making sqhishing motions with my fingers.  He brightened: absolutely!, and brought me pumpkin juice from the health food section.

Pie shells were no easier: the frozen desserts included lots of ice cream and fruit, but no pies or cakes.  Condensed milk brought5 me to the shelf-milk section where I had a choice of volle or koffie melk, but not what I needed.

It’s okay: dessert will be store-bought this year.  The important things are taken care of and I’m grateful to have even gotten a few calls from expat friends asking me to join them for celebrations.   Many thanks; friends are definitely something I’m thankful for this season.


gvg said...

I can get allspice in my local AH. They also have (sweetened) condensed milk.

Allspice is called piment (although it's sometimes called jamaicapeper, pimentbes or nagelpeper).
Your local surinamese 'toko' is also a good bet, since allspice is an American herb. In Europe they usually use clove when the Americas use allspice, since that grows in Europe.
The 'toko's' usually also have condensed milk.

Dave Hampton said...

Thanks for the suggestions, I'll take your list back to the AH to try to see what I missed. I didn't try looking for piment, I missed it in the dictionary but found it now. There was a hint that it might be called english pepper? Clove (kruidnagel?) would have been a good substitute.

The clerks didn't recognize "condensed milk", but I will try "sweetened milk" next time. They tend to think about koffie milk when I ask for concentrated products.

I probably should switch to some Dutch recipies too, and live off the land a bit more in the local style.

gvg said...

Never heard of english pepper.

Clove is indeed kruidnagel, but if you want to substitute allspice, what people tend to do is:
5 piment berries -> 1 teaspoon pimentpowder. And 1 teaspoon pimentpowder can be substituted by 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg + 1/4 teaspoon clove + 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Have to admit I never tried this.