Category Archives: The Holland Diary

Good Bye Holland!

Good Bye Holland!

So… now, it is bye bye time.

Saying bye to near and dear ones is never easy…

Shifting one’s home can be tremendously pain staking, loaded with the stress of packing things right and holding emotions tight.

I start writing this post from New Delhi Airport Lounge where we wait to board the flight.

The last few weeks have been very busy, not able to communicate with friends through dosaikal and telephone too. So busy that recording emotions and memories of holland in words also did not work out well.

Navratri passed by – no recipes on sundals!
Many special occasions to share and many more new trials on cooking went on and on but no recipes added!
A special post on Wassenaar- the elite city that we live(d) in for more than three years was planned – could not materialize..


Such is the physical and mental pressure one undergoes … or have I been too packocentric(!?)
Even when I first boarded the flight from Amsterdam, the physical pressure of working almost sleepless for nearly a week and planning and completion of important tasks that started nearly a month ago, overtook the reality of leaving a country.


Now, I sit in the Airport in India,  with the feel of really having shifted, presently homeless, yet to settle in a new place, might be after a month’s break!


Holland has been a wonderful country to live in!

dutch houses



A wonderful country why? A few of them –


a. The beautiful dutch houses;

b. A definite distinction between footpath, cycle path and the motor path that makes commutation so systematic;

c.  When one walks on the foot path of the city, whoever comes across, known or unknown would wish a good morgan (good morning) with a friendly smile;

d. Be it the super market or any shop, anyone would start with Dutch, the language of the country, but…. when one mentions that he or she does not know the language, the person would immediately shift to English;

e. Most of them who immediately shift to English would be well versed in many of the European languages;

f. If the forecast says it is a sunny day, they immediately plan to enjoy in the beach or any nearest destination to spend with family and friends;

g. Different kinds of multi geared bicycles and the passion not only to ride it but take to their holiday destination too;





h. The fascinating caravan – the different kinds of caravans one sees on the road in and around the country and around Europe;

i. The different varieties of milk, cheese, yoghurt and various other milk products;

j. The Dutch Blue Pottery;

k. The exclusive flowers in different seasons;

l. Sinterklaas and tulips;

m. The windmills and wind and especially the sky ever ready to rain




the list would go on and on – but…

We have been mesmerised by the Dutch Water Management Skill. They say


“God created Earth and the Dutch created Holland”.

Certainly, this phrase is true. The Dutch have reclaimed many of their cities and towns and they are the world leaders in Land Reclamation!



Today, approximately 27 percent of the Netherlands is actually below sea level. This area is home to over 60 percent of the country’s population of 15.8 million people. The Netherlands, which is approximately the size of the U.S. states Connecticut and Massachusetts combined, has an approximate average elevation of 11 meters (36 feet). The Netherlands ties Lemmefjord, Denmark for claim to the lowest point in Western Europe – Prince Alexander Polder lies at 23 feet (7 meters) below sea level.









The Dutch and their struggle against the sea has made them the true conquerors of their Land from Sea! Actually, there needs to be a special post on the Delta Works and Afsluitdijk – both considered to be one of the seven wonders of the modern world. For more details see –



The Afsluitdijk is a 32kilometer long dike, which connects the province of North Holland with the province of Friesland. It was constructed between 1927 and 1933 as a fundamental part in a larger plan called the Zuiderzee Works. With the completion of the Afsluitdijk the Zuiderzee (‘Southern Sea’) became the fresh water lake of IJsselmeer.




I shall not stop my Dutch Diary until I have shared my captivated memories on Holland!


So, here I am, ready for the relentless travel that is in front of me… Visiting family  and friends in the south of India, learning more authentic dishes from amma and aachi and not to mention the big and small list of shopping for the new place!


For now, it is bye bye Holland and bye bye friends… Thankyou for all those sweet memories and wonderful moments that made our life in this beautiful country a marvellous and an incredible journey to cherish.


Meet you all with my new post from India!


Tale of five cities – Part II

We said a big bye to Prague and moved towards Bratislava. While I was searching the net to find details on Prague and Bratislava, I came across this beautiful place called Telc (pronounced telsh). Mesmerised by the pictures in the website, we decided not to miss this special spot. We were truly wise and lucky this time too!!



The historic centre of Telč was added to the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage in 1992, thanks mainly to the chateau and beautifully preserved town square. Though it’s a colourful, busy place ringed with outdoor cafes and restaurants, the Telč square has essentially kept the same appearance for centuries and is one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture north of the Alps.



A place so calm and peaceful – would let one forget the busy – ‘running with the wind’ kind of lifestyle!


regarded most beautiful in the republic

very impressive

So, if you plan to visit Prague, Telc is a ‘not to miss’ zone, with the State Chateau of Telc and the historic square. You will be mesmerised by its stunning beauty!

Shopping tip: I could also find some classy Bohemian Crystal Vases and many more collector’s items at much lesser cost in Telc than my search in Prague.




Then, we continued our journey towards the capital of Slovakia – Bratislava. It is also called the small big city of Europe – small in size but big in its importance of historical sites.



Known as Pressburg to German-speakers or Pozsony to Hungarian-speakers, Bratislava got its present name only 90 years ago.  But the city has a long and proud history that dates back to pre-Roman times.

Since we stayed in the old city, all historical attractions were at walkable distance.

After a quick visit to the Information Office, we went to the Primatial Palace – which is the former archbishop’s winter palace.

primatial palace

Today, the palace serves as the office of the Mayor.

Walking in the old city is really an interesting one, with many surprises – like these-

statue sticking out of a hole

man with a hat

relaxed man in the square

Proceeding towards some serious historic places, on the way towards the Bratislava Castle, stands tall the National Theatre

St. Martin’s Cathedral

St. Martin’s Cathedral is the most sacred building in the town, where there used to be a Roman Church. 11 Hungarian Kings and 8 consorts were crowned in this Gothic Church between 1563 and 1830. The tower of the Church has a huge crown on it.

St. Martin’s Cathedral

and the crown

Bratislava Castle

Bratislava Castle stands above the river Danube. At present, the castle houses expositions of the Slovak National Museum and some of its premises are used by the Slovak Parliament.


The Roman settlement on the Castle mount dates to the end of 1st century A. D. After the territory fell under the rule of Germanic tribes that came to conflict with the Roman empire.

The Castle Hill in Bratislava and its Slavonic castle were of importance in the period of the Great Moravian Empire. Archeologists have found a great number of Slavonic deposits originating from that time – foundations of both civic and ecclesiastic architecture.



Towards the castle, one has to take a breath taking walk to reach to the top. Some clicks on the way –

the steep path

an interesting menu on the way

river danube and cruise ships seen from top of the castle


Next destination was Budapest, Capital of Hungary. When we entered Budapest, it was late night.  We were astonished by the well lit Chain Bridge and Buda Castle, and the whole of the mainland city made us feel we had entered a Royal City.



Chain Bridge



Built in the middle of the 19th century the stone bridge with the lion bridgeheads was the first permanent connection between Buda and Pest.

fascination by day missed to capture at night

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has listed the view of the Danube embankments and the Buda Castle District – which is one of the most beautiful and romantic parts of the city of Budapest – as a World Heritage site on the 11th of December, 1987. The latter is an ancient town district, giving home to some of the most important historical monuments in Hungary. While nearly 800 years passed since it has been originally founded, its beauty still stands unparalelled, despite earthquakes, fires, sieges and world wars. The buildings themselves in Budapest bear tell-tale signs of recent and ancient history.

We took a hop-on-hop-off tour and could do a bit of justice to the most important places in Buda and Pest.

Heroes Square

The millenial monument was built in 1896 to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the arrival of Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin.

statues of kings, govenors and famous characters of Hungarian history

Shuttle Boat

This boat is a part of the hop-on-hop-off tour. The view of the beautiful buildings from the boat in the River Danube was certainly a memorable affair.


The Hungarian Parliament is certainly the most impressive monument that I have seen in Budapest. The view of the Parliament from the river Danube is amazing!

The building stretches 268 meters in its length, along the Danube embankment. Ornamented with white neo-gothic turrets and arches, it forms the most outstanding landmark of the Pest side horizon. Statues of Hungarian monarchs and military commanders decorate the outer walls.

St. Stephen’s Bascilica

The Bascilica is named after the first Hungarian King Stephen, who helped Christianity enter Hungary. This is the largest church in Hungary.

The most famous article inside, is the right hand of exactly, King Stephen.

Another interesting thing is that the heaviest church bell weighs more than 9 tons. The former bell was taken away during the Second World War, and its successor only arrived in 1990.

truly very impressive

inside the bascilica

Matthias Church

Mathias Church is a very different landmark – also called the Church of Our Lady, the colourful exterior and interior walls are very unique.

the church

the colourful roof

and the interiors


Now, we move on quickly to our next destination – Vienna, capital of Austria. The first thing that comes to our mind when we think of our trip to vienna is their excellent connectivity through metro stations. All the main destinations are very well connected that makes a tourist feels so much at ease and comfort.

Hofburg Castle

This was originally a medieval castle and now is home to the National Library, Imperial Treasury, and has a collection of musical instruments and weapons and many other exotic things.

The Austrian Parliament

The main entrance is a copy of the doorway of Erechtheion on the Akropolis in Athens. The walls are decorated with marble and Greek statues. Behind the entrance the visitor encounters the Great Hall of Pillars. The 40 m long hall has 24 Corinthian style marble pillars. The capitals of the pillar are gilded with 23 carat gold and the marble floors are polished to perfection.

The Town Hall

the seat of the mayor of vienna and city council


the biggest cathedral in baroque style, north of the Alps

The church has a panoramic lift, which offers a spectacular view of the city. A lift inside a church was quite interesting!

Schonbrunn Palace

Schonbrunn Palace was the summer residence of Austrian Emperors and used to be the summer residence of the royal family until 1918.

The castle was build to rival French Versailles in Baroque beauty and importance but House Habsburg lacked funds to outdo its rivalling nation France.  In earlier times it served as summer residence to various Habsburg rulers.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the seat of Arch Bishop of Vienna. It stands on the ruins of two earlier churches, first consecrated in 1147.

The highest south tower (136 m) took 65 years to build – from 1368 to 1433. The two Roman towers at the main entrance are 65 m tall. The roof is extraordinary with its colorful mosaic and is covered by 230,000 glazed tiles.


After the spell binding tour, we travelled towards our fifth city, Nuremburg in Germany.

We did nothing of the nuremburg trial related tourism.  We chose Nuremburg as a stop gap destination to proceed towards holland, after a long drive from the previous place Vienna. It turned out not only to be a relaxing but also a lively and picturesque city. We visited the Kaiserburg Castle and the Main Square of the city – the Town Hall Square.

Kaiserburg Imperial Castle

This was one of the most important fortified imperial palaces of the Old Holy Roman Empire.

The Town Hall Square is marked by historic buildings and monuments inclusive of the Town Hall, St. Sebald’s Church and the Church of our Lady.

The Rathaus – Town Hall

St. Sebald’s Church

This is the oldest city parish church built in 1215.

Destroyed during World War II like the rest of the city, St. Sebald was reconstructed in 1957 and reconsecrated. The reliquary shrine (ca. 1397) in the tomb cast in bronze by Peter Vischer and his sons (1508-1519) is prominently located in the interior of the church. The bones of Nuremberg patron saint Sebaldus are presumed to rest in the silver embossed “casket”.

The Church of our Lady or the Frauen Kirche

While we wandered for quite a while in the town hall square,  there was a fair going on – a sunny summer sunday! Amongst those beer shops and live rock music stuff, we found a crepe shop and clicked a few snaps while the efficient lady of the shop was making them.

honey or choco pasta for the sweet tooth/teeth

for cheese lovers

Crepes, Pancakes, Pannekoeken or Dosais – everything needs the artistic movement of hands to make them perfect.

It reminds me of our Gothumai Dosai (South Indian Pancakes made of wheat flour) and Maida Dosai (the same made with all purpose flour). The South Indian version always needs a spicy chutney (thakkali-kaara-chutneyspicy-tomato-chutney/)  or sambar (sambar/) to go with it!!

I think it has been a long time not discussing food.  See you soon with some of those I have missed so long!

Tale of five cities – Part I!

A loooong break… really long! Quite a lot of travel, exploring more and more of Europe.  It is truly a pleasure to travel beyond closer boundaries. So, first we decided to visit Spain. When some of our friends warned us of the heavy summer, we chose to go to Prague, capital of Czech Republic. Then, slowly the travel plan came to shape with the ever efficient ‘man of the house’… who charted the perfect plan. Prague, Bratislava, Budapest and Vienna – capitals of Czech, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria respectively. On the way back home, we would take a break at Nuremburg, Germany to avoid long hours of journey by car.

Now, it was my turn to find out important places of visit in the concerned cities to make it a memorable holiday. So, the search and research started. First, search – hotel rooms were booked. Then came research – the most interesting part of any tour – what to visit? Quickly made a list of the most important places – through those very useful multiple websites. Got a big list of ‘must see’ places – especially palaces – our little princess loves visiting palaces!

So, packed our bags, stuffed the trunk of the car with sufficient food, clothing, more and more necessary and unnecesssary stuff as usual.

Here, I pack again to share our beautiful moments through a few photographs.

First destination


czech republic


beautiful buildings

Prague Castle

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Prague Castle is the largest coherent castle complex in the world, with an area of almost 70,000 m². A UNESCO World Heritage site, it consists of a large-scale composition of palaces and ecclesiastical buildings of various architectural styles, from Roman-style buildings from the 10th century through Gothic modifications in the 14th century.

charmingly sculpted…

one of the numerous buildings inside the castle complex

The Prague Castle is the seat of the President since 1918.

The Cathedral of SS Vitus, Wenceslas and Adalbert

The basilica of St. Vitus, built on the site of the original rotunda, was the main castle church since the 11th century, where the relics of the patron saints of the land were kept: SS. Vitus, Wenceslas and Adalbert. And from the 10th century the convent of the Prague church was an important educational and cultural institution.

This Cathedral is the largest of Prague’s places of worship. It is the hardwork of 600 years. It stands huge and tall in the Prague Castle.

St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert Cathedral is A gothic cathedral, the spiritual symbol of the Czech state, founded in the year 1344 by Jan Lucembursky (John of Luxembourg) and his sons Karel (Charles) and Jan Jindrich (John Henry) in the place of the original romanesque rotunda.

Charles Bridge

the perfect post card (from my camera)

Charles Bridge stands splendid on the river Vltava. But this was not the first bridge on the bridge. There used to be the Judith Bridge, which was the first stone bridge over the river. Judith Bridge was build in 1172 and collapsed in a flood in 1342.

The Stone or Prague Bridge since 1870 called Charles Bridge, was founded by Charles IV in the year 1357. The smaller tower – the romanesque one, a relic of the Judita’s Bridge, was constructed in the 12th century. The higher one is 200 years younger (1464) and its late gothis architecture draws upon the Parler’s Old Town Bridge Tower.

tower on the Mala Strana can be climbed for a view of the city

Some of the statues on charles bridge…

statues of Saints Dominic and Thomas

statue of crucification

statue of Saint John of Nepomuk

The plaque on this statue depicts a man being thrown off from the bridge. It was St. John of Nepomuk who was executed by being thrown into the Vltava during the reign of Wenceslas IV. Touching the statue is a Prague custom and is supposed to bring good luck and one’s return to Prague.

Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square lies at the heart of the New Town (Nove Mesto) – the word new is misleading though, as the area was actually laid out in 1348 by Charles IV.

Wenceslas Square is really a boulevard, measuring 750m long by 60m wide. It was originally laid out as the Prague horse market 650 years ago.

the bustling centre – wenceslas square

The Dutch Connection

After walking through Charles Bridge, in one of those busy tourist streets, we found this interesting door. We were excited specially because of the Dutch connection – it had two great men recognised worldwide for their service to humanity – John Amos Comenius of Czech and Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam.  This door was designed for the co-owner of the particular house who is a Dutch man. It specially symbolises ties of two nations. My ignorance on the subject let me get into the website mentioned on the door to find some more interesting details.

The two never met and actually couldn’t have; Comenius was born 56 years after Erasmus’ death.

As it is generally known, it was in Holland that Comenius spent last years of his life, passed away there and is buried in Naarden.
Erasmus has always been read and translated in the Czech Lands and his Praise of Folly ranks among those precious books that never collect dust.

the two scholars


A wonderful trip, but good for us, did not end so soon. While we move to the next destination, let’s take a very short break! See you in Bratislava!

To be continued…

The Dutch Dairy




  • Milk and dairy products are providers of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and protein which are all essential for healthy bone growth and development.
  • The most abundant protein in milk is casein and is protective as it forms a thin film on the enamel surface which prevents loss of calcium and phosphate from the enamel when the teeth are exposed to acids in the mouth.
  • Studies have shown that high calcium intakes may reduce high levels of bad cholesterol in the blood, and increase low levels of good cholesterol both of which are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
  • Contrary to popular belief, research has shown that people who consume milk and dairy foods are likely to be slimmer than those who do not.
  • Regular consumption of low fat dairy products can help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, which has been a longstanding problem in adults, and is becoming increasingly common in children and adolescents.
  • There is considerable evidence to suggest that milk has a protective effect on risk of both colorectal and breast cancer with increased intakes.

World Milk Day was celebrated on the 1st of June. I thought this was the right time to write about the speciality of the Dairy Industry in the Netherlands.


The first World Milk Day was held in 2001. FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) proposed this specific day to celebrate all aspects of milk; the natural origin, the nutritional value, the numerous tasty products which are liked by many people all across the globe, the economic importance of milk in rural regions as well as in the entire food chain. (


When we came to Holland, one of our neighbours took me to the nearby farm, where I could get pure cow’s milk and cheese.   Getting milk directly from farm…. reminded of my childhood days at my maternal grandparents’ house. I remember as a child playing, hearing to stories from chithies (maternal aunts) and even being fed breakfast and lunch in the cow shed… seeing those innocent faced cows and calves. Though my daughter finds this very different and interesting to be fed in a cow shed?!



The back portion of the really big house was the cow shed… spacious for many cows but thatha (grandfather) had two or three cows. Early in the morning, konar ( traditional herdsmen, who come to houses to milk the cows) used to be the first person to ring the door bell. He would milk the cows and leave. When we woke up, we would find the big brass pots filled with foamy fresh milk. Then, the milk would be boiled – children get plain milk and adults, their frothy filter kaapi (the-morning-cup-of-coffee/). 

In the port city of Thoothukudi, lies our thatha veedu – grandpa’s house.  The first drawing-room of the house, called the ‘tharsa’ is meant for formal and non-familial guests. In the morning hours, it is a special room for those special friends of thatha who would come to discuss problems and to find definite solutions to national and international issues.  Here, there is non-stop supply of milk and kaapi as per preference of guests… when the other part of the house is busy getting ready to go to college and school. I think, thatha veedu used to compensate for the lack of parks or beaches – the main chatting spots of elderly members of the locality.

Coming to the milk story –

forms the important phases in the life of the brass pot/pots of milk, milked by konar early in the morning.  Not to mention the last litres of the day’s milk, which would be converted to sunda kaichina pal – thickened milk with/without sugar -bed time drink for the 15 member family.

Left over full cream yoghurt would be diluted to buttermilk and churned every morning in turns, by the ladies of the house to make butter. Later, when I grew up in Chennai, cream was removed from the boiled milk and stored in the freezer; then fermented with some yoghurt overnight, and churned/beaten in the mixer jar to get precious butter.

Influenced by the cow shed and milk experiences in grandpa’s home, having cows in my backyard and making all possible by-products at home continues to be my dream till today. Hence, wherever we have lived, I would first trace the possibilities of fresh milk and next – collect cream in the freezer, make butter, then boil the butter to get nei -ghee/clarified butter.  And making yoghurt at home is an everyday routine in almost every household in India!

nei/ghee/clarified butter


Now, when I came to the Netherlands, where everything is available fresh in the supermarkets… I felt those farms which were nearly 15 minutes walkable distance from our house was god sent. In appreciation of my childhood, teenage and adulthood unvanished dream, God had given this opportunity to buy fresh milk, boil, preserve cream, make butter, boil it to ghee….. same as thatha veedu – grandpa’s house!! I was truly elated. Thus started my milky milk journey in the Netherlands – Appreciation of farm fresh milk and its various usages – everything under one roof – MY HOME!

It was after a year and many months, that a wise soul – a truly practical friend of mine – brought to light the easy ways of getting everything from the super market – especially when there is no helping hand as in India. I thought for a few more months and switched over to milk, cream and butter from super markets. My work drastically reduced, but I felt terribly guilty of doing injustice to those farm cows… who would be deprived of my untold love and appreciation. Though I am an enlightened soul now – dependent on the super markets, I do pay a visit now and then to buy some fresh milk from the farm nearby. Because, the freshness of milk and everything else which comes from it is simply incomparable.

Here are a few pictures of the farm we visit –






and the very special cow comfort brush


Dutch Dairy

The milk products section in the supermarkets here in the Netherlands speaks the success story of the Dutch Dairy Industry. When I close my eyes and think about the Dutch landscape –  in the background of a delightful blue sky, luscious green pastures and the patiently grazing cattle is what comes to my mind.  The cow is certainly given a very high position by any dutch individual.


fresh milk cans


fresh milk in tetra packs



Celebrated as the world champion of milk production and cherished as the national favourite animal, the Dutch cow is almost sacred. The statues erected here and there speak volumes; the Dutch are proud of this die-hard symbol of Dutch prosperity. This love affair does not run deep, however. The Dutch like their steaks. The Netherlands has four million cows and thirty thousand dairy farms; The Dutch dairy cow produces 35 litres every day – a world record.

taken from the book – The Dutch, I presume?Icons of the Netherlands by Martijn de Rooi, Jurjen Drenth and friends


The amazing varieties of milk products available in the Netherlands is not a new scenario. Many experts emphasise that dairy production has been a speciality of the Netherlands for centuries.

Fresh milk in cans (2.4 lrs and 2 lrs), fresh milk in tetra packs (1 lr. and 2 lrs) – categorised as full cream milk (volle melk), semi skimmed milk (half volle melk), low fat milk or 0% fat milk (magere melk) is the basic form of milk available in super market.

Apart from the fresh milk stored in the chilled food section, the above mentioned categories of milk are also available in the non-chilled area as Langlekker Melk – or the storable milk with its expiry date. Fruit flavoured milk drinks are a treat to taste buds.


storable langlekker milk


low-fat milk


Different kinds of yoghurt – full fat greek or stand natural, fruit flavoured yoghurt, quark, or flavoured yoghurt drink – the list is too long. The stand natural yoghurt is similar to the Indian set yoghurt and hence I find many Indians prefer this. There is also the free-flowing roer yoghurt suitable to make more kuzhambu( Yoghurt in combination with fresh fruits, readily available fruit flavoured yoghurt or quark is also served as a dessert after a Dutch meal.


set yoghurt as in India


peach flavoured quark


Now, the true dessert arena has flavoured custard – vanilla, strawberry and chocolate; different kinds of pudding and the ever tempting varieties of ice cream.


puddings and other desserts


Other dairy products include coffee milk, buttermilk called karnemelk, condensed milk and the most popular of all Cheese! There needs to be a separate post about the world-famous dutch cheese!!


the cheese section


special yoghurt and quark for children


(photos from supermarket Dirk van den Broek)

These are some amazing facts about the dutch dairy industry –


  • One third of the total surface of the country is occupied by dairy-farming.
  • With 11 million tons of milk, The Netherlands are the fifth largest milk producer in the European Union (after Germany, France, the UK and Poland).
  • Fifty percent of the milk is used for cheese production. 75 percent of the cheese is exported, mostly to Germany, Belgium and France
  • Nearly one fifth of the milk in the Netherlands is processed into ingredients (caseinates, lactose, whey proteins) for producers of daily foods, specialty foods and pharmaceutical products.
  • The most important part of the dairy production is exported. Total sales abroad amount to € 4,5 billion (2008).
  • The Netherlands export a quarter of the total EU-dairy export.
  • The Netherlands counts 20 dairy companies with 52 plants. Some companies are the owner of enterprises in other countries. Most of the companies are cooperatives. One, big, cooperative enterprise (FrieslandCampina) dominates the Dutch dairy industry. About 75 percent of all the milk is transformed by this company.

taken from; (EDA – European Dairy Association).


FrieslandCampina is the biggest player in the Dutch dairy market. Campina, Mona, Chocomel, Fristi, Milner and Optimel are products of Friesland Campina.


The Nederlandse Zuivel Organization – The Dutch Dairy Association (NZO) is the sector organisation of the Dutch dairy processing industry. Dairy companies, jointly processing approximately 98 percent of Dutch farm milk, are affiliated with the organisation. The dairy activities of NZO members have a turnover of some 10 billion, two-thirds of which are exported. Approximately 9,000 employees work in the dairy industry.



Wentelteefjes: French Toast with Lemon


Next, I tried making an easy dutch breakfast, tea time or brunch menu-

Wentelteefjes, which sounds quite complicated is a simple dutch version of french toast. French Toast called Pain Perdu which literally means ‘lost bread’ originated as a way to use stale or old bread, when storage facilities were rare.


Also notably: In France, French toast, and in Belgium (and DRC Africa) is called pain perdu, or “lost bread,” since it is a way to reclaim stale, “lost,” bread: hard bread is softened by dipping in a mixture of milk and eggs, then fried.


The recipe is taken from the book ‘Dutch cooking today’.


  • egg – 1 no.
  • grated rind of 1 lemon or
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • milk – 150 ml
  • stale white bread – 4 slices
  • butter – 30 gms
  • soft brown sugar/cane sugar – 2 tbsp


Method of Preparation

  1. In a bowl, beat the egg and stir in the lemon peel or cinnamon and milk
  2. Remove the crusts from the bread
  3. Dip the slices of bread in the egg mixture
  4. Put the slices on top of each other in the bowl so that they absorb all the remaining liquid
  5. In a large frying pan, heat the butter over moderate heat
  6. Fry the bread on both sides until golden brown
  7. Serve the french toast sprinkled with soft cane sugar.





  1. I used lemon peel instead of cinnamon powder
  2. Brown bread has been used instead of white – though white bread is considered better in taste and additionally, white bread toasts come out more fluffy
  3. Adjust number of bread slices according to the quantity of mixture – I needed three slices instead of four
  4. Fresh bread is used instead of stale bread.

Dutch Apple Pie – The Snow Show!

whole wheat (no butter, no eggs)



After enjoying snowfall in the past two years – 2010 and 2011, it was natural to expect some beautiful snow filled moments this year too! December went away, January too was sliding away with very cold nights – without any trace of snow… my family was missing snow… my daughter missing the white snowman with his carrot nose… also missing those snow angels she used to make in front of our house….  my husband waiting to see those milky white flakes falling from the sky and to watch the trees turn silvery – snow sticking so perfectly to the branches… especially waking up in the morning to see everything bright white,  from the balcony or the kitchen windows or the garden!

Me… I love nature…but not so comfortable with cold weather… be it chilly winds, cold winters or snowy roads. I love to watch the snowfall from indoors – with a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate… but packing oneself and moving out for the daily routine is something that bothers me every winter. So, I wasn’t really waiting for the snow … For someone who can appreciate the 35 degrees heat of Chennai and more than that in my native place down south… I just wait for winter to make his journey faster in any place I am!  This time I was waiting for snow for one reason – just to wear my new snow boots I bought after the snow descended last year.  Though I did not approve of my husband’s prayers for some snow this year, I supported his wish only for those snow boots – that I might not have a chance to wear it in the near future… (quite cruel though).

Then came the snow… delayed by nearly a couple of months… at the fag-end of winter. When the trees were ready to adorn themselves with  leafy clothes, there was snow to give them some designer fairy clothing! I relished it from indoors…thanks to the Daring Duo of my family, I was pulled out of my burrow for some beautiful, appealing, splendid, exquisite (add many more equivalent words for beautiful) moments!

This news was published on february 4, 2012-


Today’s temperatures in the Netherlands reached their lowest point in 27 years on Saturday. The lowest temperature was recorded in Lelystad in the Flevopolder, a region of reclaimed land, at -21.8 degrees Celsius.

A spokesperson for meteorological agency says temperatures reached -20 degrees in many parts of the country. The spokesperson called them “bizarre temperatures.”

The coldest temperature ever recorded in the Netherlands was -27.4 degrees in the town of Winterswijk in the east of the country near the German border on 27 January 1942.


The snow show…

the designer snow clothing


the frozen canal


making a mark


snow in the woods


the lonely bird


frozen canal converted into an ice skating rink

and the migratory birds


up above the snowy landscape…


frozen sea in Almere


These are some special pictures of the historic city of Leiden in the Netherlands. Pictures were clicked and sent by our friend Y and his betterhalf. A very special thanks to them for these exclusive pictures of the first feel of snow!


Some details of the city Leiden –


The city is famous for its almshouses, university, museums and glorious history. The spirit of the Golden Age lives on here, a place where Rembrandt was born and inspired so many other influential painters. By the end of the 15th century Leiden was the largest city in the county of Holland.

In 1575, Leiden had the distinction of becoming the first city in the northern Netherlands to have a university. Legend has it that the university was a reward for the heroic resistance to the Spanish occupation.

Nowadays, the restored historic city centre is an especially pleasant place to live. With all of its monuments, museums, ancient alleyways, canals and moats, Leiden also continues to attract an increasing number of tourists and day visitors who appreciate the city’s charms. – taken from


Leiden is a quite Dutch renaissance town situated on a tributary of the river Rhine. The river represented the Northern frontier of the Roman Empire and some old Roman fortifications have been excavated nearby. Leiden was one of the first places where one could actually bridge the Rhine.


nature’s own beauty


apple trees in disguise



pictures of frozen river rhine…






rhine in its normal flow



Appeltaart/Appelgebak – Apple Pie
Now, having started relishing the dutch snow…and the supplementary cold weather… why not try something special and dutchy.. I took out this book – ‘Dutch cooking today’ -that one of our friends had gifted us. This book combines traditional recipes with modern dutch food consisting of sauces, cakes, snacks, soups, one-pan dishes, main courses and many more. After a quick search, I decided to try the Dutch Apple Pie which is called appeltaatrt or appelgebak in dutch.


English apple pie recipes go back to the 14th century. The first printed apple pie recipe was by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1381.

Dutch apple pie recipes also go back centuries. Dutch apple pie recipes usually call for cinnamon and lemon juice to be added to the pie. The first recipes probably appeared in the late 15th century or early 16th century.


The subtle flavour of cinnamon and soaked raisins with apples makes this pie a simple yet superb dessert.  It is usually served with vanilla saus in restaurants or had cold with ice-cream or cream (slagroom in dutch) topping.


My version of Dutch Apple Pie – Whole Wheat (no butter, no eggs) Apple Pie


I have made some minor changes in the pie crust. As usual, all-purpose flour is substituted with wheat flour; butter is substituted with cooking oil; egg has been avoided and yoghurt is added in its place. So, this can also be regarded as a low-fat pie..(hopefully)! Though, I have not researched on the fat value of this pie, reduction of all-purpose flour and butter might lead to fewer calories in terms of fat.


baked right



Pie Crust

  • wheat flour – 175 gms
  • sugar – 75 gms
  • cooking oil – 100 ml
  • yoghurt – 2 tbsp
  • salt – a pinch
  • baking soda – a pinch


make two balls


for the pie crust




  • apple – 2 or 3 medium
  • raisins – 50 gms
  • orange juice – 50 ml
  • custard powder – 1 tbsp
  • sugar – 1 tbsp
  • cinnamon powder – 1 tsp
  • apricot jam – 2 tsp


apple-raisin-cinnamon filling


Method of Preparation

  1. Sieve wheat flour and baking soda and keep aside
  2. Mix wheat flour, sugar, salt, oil and yoghurt in a bowl
  3. Make a dough. Normally all-purpose flour and butter would make a firm dough – but wheat flour, oil and yoghurt combines into a soft dough
  4. In a cake tin with removable bottom, press 2/3 of the dough over the bottom and the sides
  5. Refrigerate the tin and remaining dough  for about 10-15 minutes till set
  6. In a pan, bring raisins and orange juice to a boil and simmer until the liquid is evaporated
  7. Combine cut apples, raisins, custard powder, cinnamon powder and sugar and spread over the pastry base
  8. Roll out of the rest of the pastry and cut into 1 cm strips. Arrange in a criss-cross pattern on top of the apple mixture, pressing the pastry  edges together
  9. Preheat oven at 175 degrees centigrade.
  10. Bake the apple pie at 175 degrees centigrade for about 45 minutes in the oven till golden brown. Check after nearly 40 minutes for the golden brown colour – too much browning might turn the crust hard
  11. Remove from the oven and glaze with apricot jam
  12. Allow to cool in the cake tin for 10 minutes
  13. Remove from the tin and serve.


filling inside the crust


ready to be baked (updated picture)





  1. Caster sugar is preferred as it would dissolve easily. If sugar is not too fine, powder it in a blender
  2. Baking soda is a doubtful ingredient. It is just that i felt the lack of egg might result in a harder base especially with wheat flour. Hence, baking soda is added. One can try without baking soda and let me know the result too
  3. Instead of pressing the dough in the cake tin, dough has been rolled into a chapati and pressed in the tin
  4. The apricot jam spread on the baked pie gives a fine glow to the pie
  5. The original recipe mentions apples without skin – the pain of removing skin has been avoided – and doesn’t make much difference in taste too.

goodness of apple



The Arrival of Sinterklaas!

Governmental officials making arrangements for a smooth ceremony; Shopkeepers creating innovative themes to motivate purchases; Children excited about the gifts they are going to receive; Parents wondering what gifts to buy this year; Grand parents choosing different presents for their beloved grand children with that special care; Teachers in schools busy arranging events – what are all these for?  These are for the Arrival of Sinterklaas.


Sinterklaas and Zwarte Pieten

Now, who is this Sinterklaas? Sinterklaas is the shortened version of St. Nicholas.  The celebration of the arrival of St. Nicholas – Sinterklaas or simply the Sint is an authentic Dutch Festival. He is also believed to be the source of the ever popular Santa Claus.

Santa Claus, often abbreviated Santa, is a figure in North American culture who reflects an amalgamation of the Dutch Sinterklaas, the English Father Christmas, and Christmas gift-bringers in other traditions. Santa Claus is said to bring gifts to the homes of good children during the late evening and overnight hours of Christmas Eve, December 24. Santa Claus in this contemporary understanding echoes aspects of hagiographical tales concerning the historical figure of gift-giver Saint Nicholas, the man from whom the name of Santa Claus derives and in whose honor Santa Claus may be referred to as Saint Nicholas or Saint Nick.  (


a different sint and piet

This is another clear information about the travel of Sinterklaas magic to America –

When the early Dutch settlers came to America, they naturally brought with them their venerated old bishop. St. Nicholas and their favorite holiday, Sinterklaas. Indeed, after landing in the New World, the Dutch explorers, led by Henry Hudson, built their first church on the island of Manhattan in 1642, dedicating it to Sinterklaas. When the British took control of New Amsterdam in 1664, they adopted the Dutch recognition of Sinterklaas and merged it with their own observance of the Winter Solstice, Father Christmas—the merry, roly- poly, Falstaffian figure in high boots. Eventually, these two old gentlemen commemorated in December, merged into one.

Over the next few generations, Sinterklaas found his way into American literature. In 1809, writer Washington Irving (a man who lived not far from Rhinebeck) created a jolly Sinterklaas for his popular Knickerbocker Tales. Then in 1822, an Episcopal priest named Clement Moore (who also lived near to Rhinebeck) wrote a lighthearted poem called “A Visit from St. Nicholas” which featured a jolly old elf, his descent down a chimney on Christmas Eve, and a sleigh drawn by eight tiny reindeer (Odin’s flying horse!) The Father Christmas image stuck, but he acquired a Dutch name—Santa Claus—a direct derivation from Sinterklaas.

Every year the Sint arrives in the Netherlands in a steam boat in November. He comes from Spain and then travels throughout the country meeting and greeting people and distributing presents to children. Then comes the special day – The Sinterklaas Feast on December 5 – also called the Sinterklaas Eve – the evening the children receive their gifts. The children keep their shoes outside their houses, traditionally in front of the fire-place, stuffed with hay and carrots for the Sint’s horse. Sinterklaas takes them and leaves the precious presents for the children.  He leaves for Spain on December 6.


shoes in front of the fire-place



The Spain Connection

Why does Sinterklaas come from Spain?

The Saint Nicholas was a Greek bishop of Myra in present-day Turkey. In 1087, his relics were furtively translated to Bari, in southeastern Italy; for this reason, he is also known as Nikolaos of Bari. Bari later formed part of the Spanish Kingdom of Naples.  Due to the fact that the remains of St. Nicholas were in Bari (then a Spanish city), is this tradition that St. Nicholas comes from Spain. St. Nicholas is well-known in Spain as the patron of sailors, so that´s why St. Nicholas comes to the Netherlands always in a steamboat. (


Zwarte Pieten

Zwarte Piet translates as Black Peter. Zwarte in Dutch means Black and Piet might be the Dutch version of Peter. Sinterklaas is accompanied by one Zwarte Piet while he arrives from Spain. Then he gets the help of several zwarte pieten or local helpers. Piet helps Sinterklaas to deliver gifts to children by climbing through chimneys – hence his face is black due to the sooty chimneys.

The eve of December 5th is a special day for all Dutch children. This is when Sinterklaas rides around the country on his white horse. Children put shoes under the chimney and they also place a piece of carrot in them as a reward for the horse. Sinterklaas stops at the roof of the houses and sends a Piet down the chimney to put some kind of gift in the shoes. This is often a piece of chocolate in the form of the receiver’s first initial and pepernoten, small hard cookies. This is a very busy time for Sinterklaas, in the day he visits schools and other places and in the evening people’s homes. He knocks on the door and hands out gifts from his sack.


zwarte piet and his sack



A New Experience

Thanks to my daughter, Sinterklaas also comes to our house. Till last year, we just celebrated it at her play school. This year, the magic of Sinterklaas has entered our home too – it was also a special experience making the favourite kruidnoten in her primary school!

Come October and the Sinterklaas wave starts to sweep in – shops displaying gift items. Enter November, all decorations set in. Sinterklaas enters Holland and then everywhere one finds celebrations of their favourite saint. On November 19, when Sinterklaas came to our suburb, we went to welcome him. We could not make it to the harbour he arrived, but we could see him at our own Centrum/Central Shopping Lane – called the Lang Straat.


shop with sint, piet and white horse


the sint’s shopping

All the shops with posters of the saint and his helpers…. some quite innovative and some very impressive!  After a wait for some time, first came the Zwarte Pieten with kruidnoten, peppernoten and candies in their jute bags; then arrived the Sint with some good music and warmth. In front of Sinterklaas and behind were piets, piets and more piets of different age groups – some walking, some distributing kruidnoten, some driving vans, some playing instruments and some singing Sinterklaas songs in those open vans…a different experience altogether.


piets in an open van singing sint songs 


piet welcoming customers


sint flying high



Sinterklaas in School

There was a ‘kruidnoten baking day’ and the parents had to help. Kruidnoten or Spicy Cookies are always associated with Sinterklaas. These are the cookies that zwarte piets bring for children. It was an interesting day –  children with their tiny little hands making those small cookies; we baked them and put it in small cups with their names. Children were so excited to see the cookies they made by themselves but did not bring one for mom and dad to taste. (that mom had her share while baking was an expected one).


ready-to-make flour mix


work of those beautiful tiny hands

We used the ready made flour mix available in the market to make the dough for kruidnoten. In a professional way, the teachers in the primary class had demonstrated to the children to make dough with the actual ingredients together. I got this recipe from my daughter’s favourite teacher!


kruidnoten ready!


Ingredients (makes approximately 125 kruidnoten)

  • self-raising flour – 250 gms
  • butter – 150 gms
  • pure cane sugar (Basterd Suiker in dutch) – 125 gms
  • salt – 1/2 tsp
  • milk – 2 tbsp
  • ready-made spice mix from shop – 10 gm

Note: An egg can be added if preferred.

Method of Preparation

  1. Knead all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Dough should be soft but easy to make small balls
  3. Keep the dough closed for at least half an hour
  4. Make small balls and press slightly to form a flat cookie
  5. Preheat oven at 160 degrees celsius and bake for 15-20 minutes
  6. Leave the cookies to cool – initially the cookies would be soft when done;  When cooled for about 10 minutes, they become crisp
  7. Store in an air-tight container and enjoy crisp kruidnoten with a cup of Hot Chocolate!


General combination of spices in kruidnoten

taken from

  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground mace
  • 1/3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/5 tsp ground white pepper (a pinch)
  • 1/5 tsp ground cardamom (a pinch)
  • 1/5 tsp ground coriander seeds (a pinch)
  • 1/5 tsp ground anise seeds (a pinch)
  • 1/5 tsp grated nutmeg (a pinch)


spicy cup of cookies

Other goodies popular with Sinterklaas are the chocolate letters, peppernoten or a soft chewy cookie, marzipan and speculaas cookies.

Children are taught dutch songs on Sinterklaas, do art and craft works based on sinterklaas, decorate their classes with various things related to the Sint and learn a lot about the Saint and his helpers. They take one of their shoes to school and paint it and leave it with hay and carrots and eagerly wait for the day Sinterklaas comes to meet them with gifts. They prepare themselves with a poem to recite in front of the Sint.




chocolate letter

I am waiting for the Sint’s arrival on 5th of December at my daughter’s school. I also have to hunt for some gifts to keep in her shoes on the eve of Sinterklaas. Speciality lies in the fact that, even at their teens and beyond, children want to believe that the sint and piets deliver those goodies to them in appreciation of their good behaviour! Hurrah it is time for celebration!! 

an interesting gift from a birthday boy