Viva la Paris. This is a tribute to my friend, V who made it happen for me. In February, I went on my first ever real Mum-alone trip with her and we had a fantastic 4-day trip, enjoying the sights and sounds of Paris.
This post is about Mustard. Paris and Mustard. What’s the link?
Well in Paris, V ate everything (except dessert – which surprised me) with lashings and lashings of Mustard. When we came back home to the Netherlands, as a sort of victory song for our girl’s trip, I made her dinner. If you call bread and soup dinner. And I say you do, especially when its a simple delicious soup which I discovered some years before - Zaansemosterdsoep (Dutch Mustard Soup).
The soup is made with special wholegrain mustard from the Zaandam region of the Netherlands.
The first time I heard of anything like Mustard soup, it sent me Googling – my first resort in any case of doubt. And a pefect opportunity to make it presented itself. It was December ‘07 and we’d invited our friend S to lunch on Boxing day. Because she is vegetarian (eats fish though), lives in Europe (the continent for 3 course meals) and is Dutch, I had to think of something I could make which would be easy and light to have before our main and dessert. At this point, I made a very random guess that most Dutch people liked Mustard.
However, this was most likely a bogey assessment since at that point (and since then) I’d neither sought confirmation of this from the locals or polled it, but my assumptions hold true so I guess they do. Anyway, since I have a self-confessed problem with following recipes (#20 on the list), my first attempt, though edible was a thick slurry – tasty but thick. We all ate it, not knowing what and how it should look like or taste. S loved it, but had never had it before and so couldn’t give me a 2 out of 10 score for getting it wrong, horribly wrong (at least texturally). And so, my quest for perfection was born.
The next time I had an encounter with this soup, it was at the dinner table from a ‘zak’ (bag) which I myself had purchased. It wasn’t soup day (Saturday is traditional soup day in the Netherlands and no one frowns on having it from a bag) but I served it up anyway. I personally didn’t like the taste but I got to see the consistency that was required.
So when we came back from Paris, I just knew I had to make it again, considering V’s addiction. I went about making it with renewed purpose and determination to follow the recipe to a T (save for a few minor adjustments here and there – a bit of chilie pepper, parsley to garnish and brown bread to go).
V enjoyed it thoroughly, for which I was glad. And relieved. And convinced that following recipes sometimes is the future of great cooks. An aspiration and a hope.
One of the greatest attractions of this soup is the topping of fried bacon bits. Incredible appeal it lends to this Dutch delicacy. But I like my bacon desalted. Weird, right? I’ve always been a salt lover but lately, I’ve found bacon too salty and have resorted to giving my bacon hot water baths before the frying or grilling. Sufficient to extract some, but not all of the salt.
I especially love his soup because it is light and quick and versatile. A few ingredients, little prepping, quick cooking and food is on the table. Did I mention the fact that very little can actually go wrong. If this isn’t a recipe for success, I don’t know what is.
So, here’s to you trying it. If you don’t like mustard, hmmm, my apologies. There’ll be more soup recipes soon. And if mustard is right up your street, then get a-making it.
Sit back, relax and enjoy yourself. You deserve it.
- Don’t add any salt to the soup till it is cooked as Mustard is very salty
- Use wholegrain mustard if you can find it
- If using fresh chili, its important to wear plastic/rubber gloves, avoid contact with your eyes and ensure you wash your hands thoroughly after handling
- Apparently, you can make your own crème fraiche, if you can’t find it to buy. Here is the recipe
Adapted from Zaansemosterdsoep (Dutch Mustard Soup) recipe by Karen Haigh
Makes loads – at least 1 litre (4 cups).
And you could always use up the leftovers in to ”Soup it, Sauce it or Bake it”
For the soup
1 teaspoon butter
1 medium-sized onion, chopped finely
1 litre water, room temperature
1/2 a fresh chilli, to taste – optional
2 stock cubes (Veggie or Chicken give the best flavours – not too intense)
125 g crème fraiche
125g smeerkaas (spreadable cheese which is easy melt or cooking cheese like Philadelphia, plain and unflavoured)
2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
4 tablespoons cornflour mixture (Make up by mixing cornflour with 4 tablespoons of water at room temperature)
Black pepper, to taste
How to make the soup
Melt the butter in a large pan and then add the chopped onion, letting it cook (not brown) for a few minutes. Add water and crumble in the stock cubes then slowly bring to the boil. If you’d like to add fresh chilies, do so now. I normally get a yellow chili, slice it in half and put one half in the soup. Let that simmer for a few minutes – taste and then decide what to do. If the heat is at the right level, I take the chili out and if not, I leave it in for a bit longer.
Combine the crème fraiche, smeerkaas and the mustard with a whisk or a spoon.
When water has come to the boil, lower the heat and add mustard mixture; whip with a whisk until smooth. Let simmer for a few minutes.
Add cornstarch and let the soup thicken on low heat for a couple of minutes.
Once thickened, season with freshly ground black pepper. I can assure you there’ll be no need to salt the soup, except you’re a salt addict, which I used to be, and even then I found adding salt was an overkill – an undesirable one at that.
Garnish with: Bacon bits, Chopped parsley and/or Green spring onion rings
Serve with: Chunks of French bread, slices of wholegrain toast with butter, Breadsticks dipped in cheese and rolled in parsley