The publisher describes kastelenkookboek, which features authentic recipes from castles and manorial estates across the Netherlands, as a cookbook "for everyone who loves good food, history and a touch of romance". And, indeed, author Robbie Dell'Aira has succeeded in creating an attractive and informative book that is sure to appeal to everyone interested in the old Dutch kitchen.
A New Look at the Long Lost Dutch Kitchen
features recipes from as far back as the 14th century, and while you obviously won't find relatively new ingredients such as tomatoes
in the earlier recipes in this book, you may very well discover a few surprises (ravioli! garlic!). Far from being bland and boring, many old recipes feature exotic ingredients such as dates, rice, cinnamon, ginger and saffron. As we've explained in our article The History of Dutch Cooking
, much of what can be considered as the true Dutch kitchen has been lost due to the disruptive influence of the infamous huishoudscholen
, but interestingly, the chefs at various Dutch castles kept very detailed purchasing records, which tells us what foods they ordered and cooked. Much of this information has not been published before.
Historic Recipes for Today's Cook
Chestnut SoupPhoto © Uitgeverij KunstMag
It's a happy coincidence for the author, then, that historic recipes play into the current trend for seasonal cooking. After all, a 14th century cook had no choice but to use what nature provided. But, while the book is arranged by season, the majority of recipes seem more fitting - by today's standards - for cool weather cooking. Pigeon pie, cherry and clove compote, rice pudding, lamb stewed in red wine and baked apples with spices are what we'd classify as classic comfort food, and not exactly what we crave in the spring and summer months.
There are a few recipes that might not appeal to today's palate, such as quaetbeleyt, a drink made of eggs, red wine and sugar, but most dishes are surprisingly appetizing, drawing early influences from the Asian, Arabic, Italian and French kitchens. Of course, the author had a hand in it, updating old recipes using modern cooking techniques, and thankfully avoiding now-controversial ingredients such as herron, sparrows and ram's testicles. Still, we suspect we'll be using Kastelenkookboek more as a reference book and source of inspiration than as a cookbook.
Fascinating Stories & Recipes, Stunningly Presented
After a foreword by a Dutch food historian, a long introduction follows, which explains the author's fascination with the topic, and provides an overview of the culinary history of the Netherlands, Dutch dining etiquette and the earliest recorded recipes.
The remaining chapters feature stories about earlier inhabitants of various castles and estates throughout the Netherlands, with seasonal recipes they might have once enjoyed. One of the most interesting tales is that of Dr. Faust, who supposedly lived at Kasteel Waardenburg (near Zaltbommel in the Eastern Dutch province of Gelderland) when, according to the well-known legend, he sold his soul to the devil and met his grizzly end.
Considering that the author is an art-historian, it's perhaps not surprising that the book looks beautiful, with stunning photography of the dishes and the estates, and plenty of interesting historical drawings, paintings and etches. The book also features a complete bibliography and a list of the recipes with source information, as well as handy indexes listed by name, recipe and illustration.
Try a Recipe from the Book: Mussels with Saffron & Ginger Recipe Eyeren Lombaert (Lombardian Zabaione with Saffron Recipe) Chestnut Soup Recipe (Kastanjesoep Recipe) Warm Sautéed Mushrooms with Crusty Bread Recipe
Mussels with Saffron & GingerPhoto © Uitgeverij KunstMag
Author: Robbie Dell'Aira
First published in November 2011.
Published by: KunstMag
Retail price: €34,95
Language: Available in Dutch only.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy