Tag Archives: Party Food

Kruidnoten – Christmas Cookies


Kruidnoten – really tasty christmas treats

Dutch and Flemish children do not have to wait for Christmas to celebrate. On the 5th December, the Netherlands celebrate Sinterklaas, when St Nicholas visits them and fills their shoes with sweets and biscuits.

One of the traditional biscuits that are given out at this time of year are Kruidnoten. These are little aniseed – flavoured biscuits, that are given to children, and also appear on your saucer whenever you order a coffee in December.

I really like them, and wanted to try my hand at doing some myself. the recent Mince Pie Party seemed like the perfect place to start, and my guests wouldn’t have to wait until Christmas either. As a bonus, these biscuits are vegan, as they contain no butter. Much older recipes do use honey, but these days stroop is a great alternative.That link is in Dutch, but stroop is basically a viscous sugar syrup, often the by-product of refining sugars. It is widely available in the Netherlands and often used on pancakes.

If you cannot get stroop where you are, golden syrup is also perfectly acceptable.

I got the recipe that I used from here. I have translated it below, and adapted it very slightly, to make it wholly vegan.

Recipe: Kruidnoten


200 g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

Pinch salt

150 g stroop or golden syrup

2 tsp speculaas spice. This is widely available in the Netherlands. If you are not in the Netherlands and fancy trying these, you can mix up your own – I will give the proportions at the end of this recipe.

1 tsp ground aniseed (I grind mine fresh when I need it in a pestle and mortar)


Preheat the oven to 160°C

Mix the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt in a bowl. Then make a well in the centre.

Add the stroop to the well, and stir in the flour. It should form a firm dough, but if it doesn’t, add a little more stroop or some water. I found that I needed a little of both, for this amount of flour.

Brush a baking sheet with oil.

Break off small chunks of dough, and roll them into balls. Press them into the baking tray, so that the base is flat. You will need to have well floured hands, and if the mixture gets a little sticky, roll it in a little flour as well.

Bake for about 15 minutes until the biscuits are browned. They should still be a little soft at this point, because they harden as they cool.

Recipe: Speculaas Spice

According to mijnreceptenbook.com speculaas spices can be made up yourself in the following proportions:

50 g ground cinnamon

15 g ground (or finely grated) nutmeg

10 g ground cloves

10 g ground ginger

5 g ground pepper

5 g ground aniseed

This mix will kep well in an airtight jar. If you want to make this up, you could reduce the amount of  each spice proportionately, or make up the lot, and try it in gingerbread, cakes and other recipes that call for either ground ginger or ground cinnamon to ring the changes.

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Old-Fashioned Gingerbread

Sticky Gingerbread

Old fashioned gingerbread – sticky, not crunchy

On Friday, we had our annual mince pie and mulled wine party. I have been so busy baking for this that I have not had much time to write these recipes up, nor to publish the older posts. I managed to wipe out all of the photos, and have not taken good records, so it is a little time-consuming to go back through all my archives and find the right pictures. I also had an international Christmas dinner for other friends yesterday. I have a lot to write up.   They will all be up soon, I’m  sure!

This year, I decided to try to make some other nibbles from English and Dutch traditions, most of which will appear here in the next few days.

I wanted to make gingerbread, the old-fashioned kind that is dense and soft – not biscuity, like the sort that you make gingerbread men with.

The basic idea is that you make a syrupy sponge, and then let it sit for a couple of days, so that it acquires the dense, sticky texture that I desired.

Of course, you can’t decorate them like you can with gingerbread men, but since this was an adult party, then I don’t suppose any of my guests minded.

I have been making this recipe for years, but there are many very similar ones that I have seen in cook books.

Recipe: Old-Fashioned Gingerbread


280 g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

170 g softened unsalted butter. I use the pat of butter that I keep in a butter dish out of the fridge

90 g lichte basterdsuiker, or soft brown sugar

220 g golden syrup. I get this from home, but if you are in the Netherlands, and cannot get golden syrup, then I am pretty sure the stroop that you can buy to eat with pancakes will be fine instead.

1 egg

200 ml milk

4 balls of preserved stem ginger

2-3 tbsp ginger syrup (from the preserved ginger jar)


Set your oven to 180°C

Mix the dry ingredients together. I don’t often bother to sieve ingredients when baking, although many recipes will call for it. It has never really affected anything that I bake. If you are in the sieving camp, then do so by all means.

In a separate bowl, beat the sugar and the butter together. I used an electric hand whisk, but if you have Popeye arms (or would like them) then a wooden spoon will do just as well. The mixture needs to be fluffy and several shades lighter than when you started.

Beat in the golden syrup, and the ginger syrup until it is thoroughly combined. When trying to get the golden syrup out of the tin, use a hot spoon (just hold it in hot water for a few seconds), if you don’t want to spend way too long waiting as the syrup drips sloooooowly from your spoon to the mixture below. If you are using stroop, then this is a little runnier than golden syrup, and comes in a handy squeezy bottle, so you shouldn’t have this problem.

Add the egg, and a tablespoonful of the flour mix (which should stop the batter from separating) and beat until it is all well combined.

Mix the flour in really well, then beat in the milk. You should get a really thick batter.

Finely chop the ginger, and stir it through the batter.

Pour into a square cake tin, about 20cm across. the bottom must be lined with greaseproof paper, and the sides well buttered (or brushed with oil). If you only have a round one, this is also fine, but I like to serve flat slices, for aesthetic purposes.

Because I hate waste, and don’t have children, I use a spatula to ensure that I get all of the batter into the tin, and scrape the bowl and the remains off the whisk. I did allow myself a tiny bit from the spatula after I had as much in the tin as I could physically get. It was a good job I waited too, the golden syrup makes this batter as moreish as crack.

Bake it in the oven for about 40 mins, or until a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. Leave it in the tin until it is cool enough to handle, then put it on a wire cooling rack.

You can eat it like this, when it is spongy and cakey. Better still, wrap it in greasproof paper and store it in an airtight container for 4-5 days, whereupon it will be sticky and dark and lovely. This is really good with a nice, proper cup of tea. People who enjoy Pickwick need not apply!

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Fantastic Finger Food Part 2

So, following on from yesterday, a couple more party dishes for you.

A good time was had by all, I think. It is always lovely to share food with friends, especially at a party.

I also made an onion tart, and a few other bits and pieces, but I didn’t take photos of them. The tart, especially, is something that  I do regularly, so I will get the chance to blog about them again.

Chinese Tea Eggs

Chinese Tea Eggs

The prettiest finger food

These marbled little beauties are widely available at street vendors in China. I had read that they were supposed to be a sign of prosperity and good fortune, and where often given away at New Year because of this. However, I can’t seem to find that again, so I suspect that it is a bit of a myth, considering how widely used they seem to be. Over here, we seem to be told that so many Chinese things are a sign of prosperity and given out at New Year that they can’t all be exclusively for one festival, no matter how important it is.

I thought that the look of them was really fitting for a party, so I decided to make them for ours.

The spice mix varies from region to region, but this is how I made mine.

Bring a number of eggs to the boil. I did 12, because that I what I had in, and I hadn’t yet tested them on friends over here, so I didn’t want to get carried way. Let them boil for 10 minutes, then take them off the heat and leave to cool in the water. I find doing them this way prevents that grey ring that you sometimes see around the yolk from forming.

Once the eggs are cool enough to handle, gently tap them so that they are cracked all the way around, but so that none of the shell actually comes off. This will create the marbling effect of the final eggs.

In another saucepan put 2 tbsp soy sauce, a black tea bag (or a tbsp of loose leaf), a cinnamon stick, a tbsp chinese five spice powder, and 2-3 strips of citrus peel. Use what you have in, I had a mandarin, so I used that. Put in the cooked, cracked eggs, and enough water to cover them.

Bring this to the boil, and simmer for an hour. Remove from the heat, and allow the eggs to sit in the liquid for as long as you can, overnight if you are organised, but at least a couple of hours.

They look so pretty when they are peeled and arranged nicely on the plate that people find them hard to resist.

White Bean and Rosemary Dip

White Bean and Rosemary Dip

Makes a change from humus

If you are a vegetarian or a vegan at any party, you will more than likely be pretty bored of humus. It seems to be everywhere. I like it, myself, but if I were to be served it at every single social gathering, and had few alternatives, I would get pretty bored too. In the same way that it took me many years to be able to look a Cornish pasty in the face, after living there for two years and being served cocktail pasties for every single working lunch ‘do’ that I had to attend – and there were very, very many of them!

This dip is a great, and surprising alternative to them. Use dried beans instead of tinned, and it will be even better.It is almost like the humble white bean, rosemary and lemon were made to go together.


200 g dried cannellini beans, or a tin of them

2 sprigs rosemary, removed from stalks and finely chopped

Zest and some juice of 1 lemon

Glug of good extra virgin olive oil


If you are using dried beans, soak them. For cannellini, I find a couple of hours is fine, and that it is not great to soak them for too long, because the skins come off, and they turn to mush when you cook them. About  two hours should be plenty.

Cook them in a large saucepan and in plenty of fresh water. Do not salt the water, it makes the skins tough. Bring the beans up to the boil, then reduce them to a vigorous simmer. the time they take to cook will depend on how old they are, but check after 4o mins. The best way to see if the beans are cooked is to eat one. If it is hard at all, then it is not done. When you can bite through them easily, and the bean is soft, they are ready.

If you are using tinned beans then you can skip this step. I know that tins are easy, and I have definitely used them myself, especially if I have not remembered to soak the beans in time for making the dip, but I do ask that you please try to used dried at least once – it makes such a difference to the texture of the finished dip. Cooked dried beans also freeze easily, so you can just cook one big lot and freeze them in batches if that is easier.

Drain the beans and blend them to a smooth paste using a food processor or a stick blender. Or you can pass them through a food mill or sieve, if you don’t have those. You can also mash them with a fork if you really have nothing else.

Add the rosemary and the lemon zest, and stir them in. Season to taste with salt and a little pepper (white, if you have it). then make the paste more of a dip consistency using the lemon and the olive oil. Keep adding small amounts of each and tasting in between, so that you get a good balance of acidity and the oil.

Serve with breadsticks, crudités, or good old tortill chips, or you can use this to spread in a sandwich too.

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Fantastic Finger Food Part 1

I was asked to provide some finger food for a friend’s birthday party. I agreed to do a number of savoury dishes.

Most of my friends and I are what is often referred to as hippies. I hate this term, not jut because it is usually levelled at us as a pejorative, but also because I like to think that my views are a more modern take on the environmental and peaceful aims that a lot of hippies espoused in the 60s.

One thing I guess we do have in common is a reluctance, or downright refusal to eat other animals. Many of my friends are vegetarian, including the birthday girl. So I made a whole range of veggie finger foods for the occasion. Here are a few selected highlights.I even managed to make some of these vegan!

Bloody Mary Tomatoes

Bloody Mary Tomatoes

Boozy Tomatoes – rated 18

This one starts with a confession. This was originally a Delia Smith recipe. I am not a massive fan of the patron saint of the British home cook, if I am honest. This opinion may get me strung up from the nearest pasta tree, but there, I have said it. I know she has done many good things to improve cookery skills and so on, but I find most of her recipes a little staid. Then there was the infamous bean incident that we no longer discuss, but let’s just say that her  (rubbish) cheat for beans left a party of hungry walkers without a stew for several hours too long, and left me beside myself with embarrassment. Luckily, I think they all got a little merry and didn’t notice exactly how late their dinner was.

All that said, this recipe will blow your socks off.

The basic premise is that this is a bloody mary in solid form, which saves on washing up of all those pesky glasses.

Firstly, mix the ingredients for a bloody mary. The following figures are really rough, and you should mix it to your taste anyway.

200 ml vodka

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Dash Tabasco sauce

1/2 tsp celery salt

If you are particularly keen on other things when you make a bloody mary (eg I did know someone who insisted on adding some English Mustard Powder) then add that too. Why not? Give it a good whisk to blend the ingredients as well as you can.

Cut crosses in the bases of a load of cherry or baby plum tomatoes. A mix of red and yellow is also attractive. Place these quite snugly in an airtight container, with the cross facing upwards.

Pour the bloody mary mix over the tomatoes. Seal the container, and marinate in the fridge for as long as you can. Two days is ideal, but I often forget that they should have this long, so often only do one.I also forgot a second bowl in the fridge at a party, and the booze kept them good for a couple of weeks.

Drain them, then arrange on a plate to serve. You can keep the vodka mixture for another batch if you like.

These are really popular, and will go quickly. It will be up to you what excuse you use to make sure any kids at the party eat the undoctored tomatoes, and not these.

Marinated Tofu Skewers

Tofu Skewers

Tofu and Tomato Treats

I found this recipe over at raspberry eggplant. I wasn’t able to find ginger soy sauce, so I made my own by using dark soy, and lump of garlic about 2cm thick, which I then grated into the soy. This does the trick, and imparts a lovely flavour to the tofu, but it does leave it much blacker than the ones that Roopa has photographed over there.I have tried water down the soy, but that does not seem to make much difference.

Nevertheless, they went like hot cakes, despite being cold skewers.

Well, I don’t want to bore you with overlong posts, so the next lot of these will appear tomorrow.

Update: I was asked on facebook what was between the tofu on the skewers. It is cucmber, that I peeled to give a stripy effect, deseeded and cut into similar-sized lumps to the tofu. Roopa used them in her original recipe. I also think cherry tomatoes would work just as well.


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