Tucked away in an unassuming industrial estate, this gem of a shop is fast becoming the go-todestination for all things Dutch.
The ‘t Winkeltje’ sign above the gabled door means 'little shop', owner Monique van Altena tells me. “We put that up when we first opened, but we’re not so little anymore.” With her mother, Anne, Monique opened The Dutch Shop in 1985 in the back of an oak furniture warehouse on an industrial estate in Smithfield. The furniture is still on offer, but the bulk of the space has now been given over to Dutch ingredients and a cafe.
A tinkling bell attached to the door announces the arrival of new customers, who are greeted with a wall of blue and white Delft crockery and traditional wooden clogs hanging overhead. On the shelves sit rows of sweet delights, including slabs of kandij koek (burnt sugar and ginger cake), speculaas (cinnamon biscuits), gevulde speculaas (a filled version served at Christmas) and stroopwafels (syrup waffles). “We put these waffles on top of our coffee cup so the rising steam can melt the caramel syrup, making them fabulously gooey,” Monique explains.
In fact, a typical day in Holland often begins with something sweet. “The Dutch adore sugar. We usually start with a sweet breakfast and eat sugary snacks all day long. That said, Holland is a flat country, so most people tend to walk or ride their bikes, which helps burn it all off,” laughs Monique.
An aisle of breakfast goodies includes De Ruijter chocolate flakes (in milk, dark, white and rainbow shades). “We like to sprinkle these on buttered bread for breakfast. The kids love them!” Monique adds. Also popular with children are the jars of speculoos (biscuit butter) paste and bebogeen (caramel spread), which are lathered on toast like chocolate spread, while the adults tend to prefer topping their toast with the shop’s selection of cheeses, including the famous Edam, or the appelstroop spread. “This is made with apples and has a molasses-like consistency, but is salty like Vegemite,” Monique explains. “Even though the Dutch love salt, they still hate Vegemite for some reason,” she shrugs.
The Dutch Shop also stocks more than 100 varieties of Dutch licorice, many of them salted. One variety, salmiak kikkers, is shaped like little frogs and is “extremely salty,” Monique warns. Other types include licorice on a stick, licorice rope, licorice powder in jars that’s eaten with a spoon like sherbet and licorice in the shape of farm animals, available in both sweet and lightly salted varieties. Sugar-free licorice is another big seller.
As well as their sweets selection, The Dutch Shop stocks many popular savoury items, including oxtail soup and pittige mosterdsoep (mustard soup), plus tubes of mustard and mayonnaise. You can also find a wide range of Dutch-Indonesian ingredients, such as sambal oelek (a chilli-based condiment), atjar tjampoer (pickled vegetables) and ajam smoor and sajoer boontjes spice mixes. “When food isn’t sweet, we like it spicy,” Monique says.
This is an indulgently rich Dutch-Indonesian specialty that is typically enjoyed with coffee. For this recipe, each layer of cake is carefully measured, cooked to perfection, then generously brushed with butter. Making spekkoek can get a little competitive in Holland, with families judging the chef by the number of layers achieved.
This is the Dutch answer to fish and chips and is usually eaten with some boiled potatoes. For an alternative offering, we’ve stuffed these golden and crispy whiting fillets into little bread rolls that have been generously dolloped with tartare sauce, and have served them sprinkled with dill sprigs.
Photography Tom Donald
As seen in Feast magazine, October 2013, Issue 25. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.