Sunday, March 10, 2013

Kerrysoep van witte boonen

Although winter is winding down here in Upstate New York, it is still good soup weather. I found an intriguing recipe in Grandma VandenBergh's 1922 Dutch cookbook, and craving something warm and savory, I decided to try it out:

Curry bean soup ingredients
Curry Soup with White Beans

- 250 gr. (1/2 pound) white beans
- 2 liters (approx. 2 quarts) water
- 1/2 teaspoon curry
- "a piece of mace"  (I used a half teaspoon)
- 7 1/2 gr. (1 1/2 teaspoon) salt
- 1 medium onion
- 20 gr. (2 tablespoons) whole wheat flour
- 30 gr. (2 tablespoons) butter

Wash the beans and soak them overnight in the water.
The next day, cook the beans in the same water, adding the salt and mace. Simmer for about 2 hours.
In a separate pan, melt the butter and add the flour, the chopped onion, and the curry.
Do not overcook; take care that the mixture remains light yellow.
Slowly pour in the liquid with the beans; let cook through about 10 minutes.

The recipe suggests that you pour the soup through a strainer or sieve so that the bean husks and onion are strained out, before serving with croutons. But I served as is, with all the beans and chopped onions. That seemed to turn out okay, and it contained more fiber than if it had been strained.

Curry and white bean soup

The two spices used to flavor this soup are curry and mace. But strictly speaking, curry is not a spice; it's a mixture that may contain as many as a dozen different herbs and spices. The variety I bought in my local gourmet spice shop contains turmeric, coriander, cumin, cardamom, fenugreek, ginger, nutmeg, fennel, cinnamon, black and white pepper, cloves, saffron [I was surprised to learn that this comes from a species of crocus], and cayenne pepper. In spite of the inclusion of this last, this curry powder is not too spicy, but if I unscrew the cap and take a whiff, its perfume is redolent of outdoor markets in Goa or Mumbai.

The other spice cited in this recipe is mace, which is the dried seed coat of the nutmeg nut. It has a much stronger flavor than the nut itself; the label on my jar indicates that a quarter teaspoon of mace is equivalent to a teaspoon of nutmeg. And indeed, when I added the mace to the soup, a pungent aroma filled the kitchen.

Nutmeg and mace inhabit a notorious niche in Dutch history. Have you ever heard of the Spice Islands? Now known as the Maluku Islands, or Moluccas, this group of islands in the Indonesian archipelago was once the only source of nutmeg and mace. Through the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC in Dutch), the Dutch gained control of the islands in the 17th century, and forcibly attained a monopoly on the trade in nutmeg, mace, and cloves.

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To learn more about the history of the islands, including a series of historical maps, visit the Web site about the Spice Islands maintained by the Princeton University Library at: .

Dutch vocabulary:

boter  =  butter
foelie  =  mace
kerry (modern spelling - kerrie)  =  curry
tarwemeel  =  whole wheat flour
ui  =  onion
witte boonen  =  white beans
zout  =  salt

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