Sunday, August 24, 2014

Bientensla -- Dutch Beet Salad

Two "flinke" beets
Two "flinke" beets  --  thus begins the recipe in Grandma Vanden Bergh's 1920's Dutch cookbook for Beet Salad  -- Bientensla. The adjective can be translated here as "extra large," or "of substantial size."

The rest of the recipe calls for:

3 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons salad oil
1 teaspoon sugar
chopped onion or leek
salt and pepper to taste

I used beets that I purchased at a local farmers' market. The preparation is described as follows:

- Wash the beets thoroughly.
- Cook them in ample water, with salt for about three hours [!]
- Remove the skin; let them cool, and cut in slices or cubes.
- Mix with the oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper, and if desired, the chopped onion or leek.
- Serve the salad with cold meat or cold cooked fish.

Beet Salad - 1922 Recipe

This is the simplest of the recipes for beet salad in my three Dutch cookbooks. I found that the huge beets cooked for a lengthy time (I only boiled them for half the time indicated in the recipe) did not have much flavor on their own, and a larger number of smaller beets may have produced a tastier dish.

Mom's 1961 cookbook included a slightly different recipe for beet salad, which called for six beets, six boiled potatoes, four hard-cooked eggs, two apples, and three large sour pickles. The dressing was either mayonnaise or oil and vinegar, "if [the mayonnaise] is considered to be too nourishing."

This version was also suggested to be served alongside cold meat.

In good frugal Dutch fashion, I used the leftovers from the first recipe to try this one out as well, although I omitted the apples and pickles. Of course, the potatoes and egg turned a pleasing shade of pink when they came into contact with the beet juice.

Beet Salad  -  1961 Recipe

My modern Dutch cookbook adds even more ingredients to the mix  --  300 grams of corned beef. In this version, the beets and apples are grated, and the mixture is served on a bed of lettuce leaves, with a slice of white bread to round out the meal.

I think I like the oldest recipe best, and would prefer to have the meat and potatoes separately. Whichever way you prefer your bietensla, eet smakelijk  --  enjoy your meal!

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Language note:  My Essential Dutch Dictionary translates the Dutch word flink(e) as "tough, capable, considerable."

Mom's 1967 Cassell's Dutch-English Dictionary (first copyrighted in 1923, a year after Grandma's cookbook was published) gives a range of meanings for different contexts. Here are a few:

For objects:
     good (walk, number, size)
     considerable (sum)
     substantial (progress)
     thorough (overhaul)

For people:
     sturdy, stout, lusty, robust, strapping, stalwart, hardy, energetic

I love this versatile Dutch word flink(e) --  so useful for describing people or things!

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