Vegan ‘Boerenkoolstamppot’: Dutch Winter Dish with Kale
I was chatting with a fellow food blogger this week when the topic came to our national cuisines. She asked me about the Netherlands – which dishes are traditional, and how suitable are they for vegans? This got me thinking, and I decided I’ve never really thought about vegan Dutch cuisine – which Dutch foods are naturally vegan, which Dutch foods can be adapted easily? And what is ‘Dutch cuisine’ anyway? So it was time to write down a Dutch recipe to share!
While I haven’t thought about it, I do cook Dutch dishes every once in a while. Growing up, my mom cooked a lot of traditional foods, so some of those dishes (albeit in a veganized version) are definitely comfort food for me! Most Dutch main dishes are very potato-based. Classic dishes include many versions of stamppot, which is the Dutch word for, well, mashed potatoes with a vegetable mixed in. I’ve been told stamppot is pretty similar to Irish colcannon. The most well known stamppot dishes are boerenkoolstamppot (mashed potatoes with kale) and hutspot (mashed potatoes with carrots and onions).
There’s also some traditional ones with very funny names: hete bliksem (‘hot lightning’, consisting of cooked green apples mixed with mashed potatoes, named this way because the apple stays dangerously warm for a long time!) and blote billetjes in het gras (this translates to something like ‘naked butts in the tall grass’, which refers to flat beans and white beans mixed with mashed potatoes 🙂 ). All of these are carby main dishes, traditionally served with meat on the side (typically bacon or rookworst sausages), as well as meat gravy. While the ones mentioned are some traditional combos, stamppot is open to interpretation and Dutch people have been coming up with many variations, even ones that replace the traditional potato with sweet potato or pumpkin.
To make vegan stamppot, I usually prefer choosing a hearty combination that does not need an extra protein. My favorite is one with kale, but a stamppot with beans works well too. To add more flavor, boil the potatoes and vegetables in vegetable stock instead of water as is usually done. It’s also really nice to add a bit of vegan butter at the end, but you can leave it out if you prefer, or sub for a bit of plant milk if your stamppot is quite thick.
Boerenkoolstamppot specifically is a recipe that can be quite dividing: some Dutch people eat it with gravy, some add mustard or pickled silverskin onions, and some – my family included – pour vinegar on it. While for me, a warm, savory, buttery plate of stamppot with a lot of vinegar tastes like pure nostalgia, I can see this not being everyone’s cup of tea. To make a modern version that still delivers the acidity that works so well, I opt for a balsamic vinegar and onion gravy.
Vegan gravy can be made using commercially available gravy packets (which are often vegan), or by frying some onion in vegan butter, adding a bit of flour and then some vegetable stock to combine it into a simple sauce. If you’re using balsamic vinegar, add it at the end. While this gravy works best with boerenkoolstamppot, I’ve also served it with other types of stamppot, such as bok choy-sundried tomato stamppot. You could definitely serve this stamppot with a vegan faux meat on the side, but it will be delicious without this as well!
- Potato masher
- 500 g kale (fresh or frozen)
- 500 g potatoes peeled
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 50 g pearl barley
- 50 g vegan butter / margarine
- salt and pepper
Onion and Balsamic Gravy
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 small onion red onion is best, but normal works too
- pinch baking soda
- 1 tbsp flour can sub corn starch
- balsamic vinegar to taste
- 1 tbsp soy sauce optional, to taste
- Peel the potatoes. If they are very big, quarter them and make sure they are approximately the same size.
- Put the chopped kale in a large pot. Put the potatoes on top of the kale, and fill with hot water, enough to just cover the potatoes. Add the stock cube.
- Boil for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked. Test whether the potatoes are done by poking one with a fork: if it is tender and you can break it apart, they are cooked.
- Drain the liquid, make sure you catch about 200 ml of it and set this aside.
- Put the liquid drained from the kale and potatoes in a small pot, and add the barley. Cook the barley according to the packet's instructions and drain if any liquid remains.
- Mash the vegetables using a potato masher, and add in the barley, making sure it is mixed in well. Add vegan butter, salt and pepper to taste. It should have the thickness of mashed potatoes, but it will be much less smooth, due to the kale and barley.
- While the potatoes and kale are cooking, chop the onion for the gravy.
- In a small pot (such as the one you're using for the barley afterwards) heat some oil (or vegan butter). Add the onion, a bit of salt and the baking soda. Fry the onion until it browns a bit.
- Add the flour, and fry this with the onion so that it loses its raw flavor.
- Add the balsamic vinegar to deglaze. I think I used about three tablespoons. Then add about 200 ml of water and whisk well so that the flour dissolves. Keep whisking until no lumps remain.
- Add soy sauce (optional, but gives it a nicer color), salt and pepper to taste, and more water if necessary.
- Set aside and serve with the stamppot.
- Put a good amount of stamppot on each plate. With a spoon, make a hole in the middle of the stamppot, and ladle some gravy into this hole. This is called a 'kuiltje jus', which means gravy pit 🙂