Sunday, January 27, 2013

Worteltjes en Spruitjes

This week two vegetable dishes from Grandma VandenBergh's 1922 Dutch cookbook:

The Dutch word wortel means root or carrot; add the diminutive suffix -tje -- worteltje, and we would translate this into English as "baby carrots."

Wortel has an English cousin  --  wort, in Middle English, which also means root or plant, as in St. John's wort or liverwort. If you are not familiar with these plant names, you will certainly recognize another English language cousin: try repeating the words "wort yard" rapidly ten times in a row, and you will probably end up saying "orchard," which means literally, "plant yard."*

Likewise, the Dutch word spruit is easily identified with its English language cousin "sprout" ; add the diminutive suffix -tje again and you have "little sprout," or what we call in English Brussels sprouts. As the name indicates, this leafy green vegetable may have originated in Belgium, from whence it spread of course to the Netherlands. It is related to cabbage and broccoli, and in fact, the little green spheres do look like baby cabbages. I have to confess that as I child I particularly detested Brussels sprouts, but now I do like the nutty flavor of fresh (and freshly steamed) sprouts. Fresh is definitely better than canned!

The two recipes require few ingredients and little fuss:

Worteltjes (Baby Carrots)

- 1 large bunch small carrots
- 30 grams (2 tablespoons) butter or margarine
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) salt

Scrape the carrots, wash them, and set them in a small amount of boiling water (The cookbook says an amount that will boil away in about 30 minutes, but I would say that 15- to 20 minutes is sufficient).
Toss the carrots a few times to brown them. Stir in the butter or margarine and simmer a few more minutes.
Add the finely chopped parsley and stir before serving.


Spruitjes (Brussels sprouts)

- 1 kilogram (2 pounds) Brussels sprouts
- 5 grams (1 teaspoon) salt
- 40 grams (3 tablespoons) butter

Wash the sprouts and set them in salted boiling water (or steam in a steamer).
Simmer (or steam) for about half an hour, and then drain and stir in the butter.

If I would change this recipe at all, I would use half the salt called for, and cook the sprouts for no longer than 20 minutes. Boiling them for too long will not only destroy the delicate nutty flavor, but also some of the vitamins (Vitamins A and C, and folic acid).

Eet smakelijk! Enjoy your meal.

Dutch vocabulary:

worteltjes (n.)  =  baby carrots
spruitjes (n.)  =  Brussels sprouts
boter (n.)  = butter
peterselie (n.)  =  parsley
zout (n.)  =  salt
schrapen (v.)  =  to scrape
stoven (v.)  =  to simmer, stew

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*The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition; Houghton-Mifflin, 2006.

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