Beyond bread: the gastronomic value of Dutch grains
13 Dec 2022
Slow Food the Netherlands organizes grain-workshop and tasting with Cooks Alliance and others
On December 12th, 2022 Slow Food the Netherlands organised a grain-workshop for the Slow Food Cooks Alliance. Several members of the Alliance, as well as new enthusiasts, came together. ‘SmaakPark’-owner en fermentation-expert Christian Weij showed them the world of fermentation, with an emphasis on grain; Slow Food the Netherlands annual theme of 2022. The Netherlands has an enormous wealth of different grain varieties, from ‘Veluws kruiprogge’ to ‘Utrechtse blauwe emmertarwe’, which are gastronomically very interesting. After the workshop, several members of Slow Food joined the group, who are engaged with grains as well: from bread-baker to beer-brewer, from farmer to writer. This event marked the closure of the annual theme ‘grains’ for Slow Food the Netherlands.
Fermenting is at the basis of society
Christian Weij enthusiastically explained that fermentation is incredibly important in our food-history. Ever since shortly after the invention of agriculture, people have been engaged in controlled rotting, which is what fermentation essentially is. This rot adds flavour, preserves food and changes its texture. Think of sauerkraut, sourdough bread, soy sauce, beer and wine, miso, vinegar and much more. The same goes for grain: every culture has their own bread. Grain has played an important role in history in numerous ways. Christian: “Even the French revolution is related to the rising grain-prices!” Apart from the fermented products we all know, like bread and beer, grains can be used for many more exciting foods. Chirstian and the Cooks Alliance have made their own miso together, based on rye-koji (koji is the fungus that is used to produce miso and soy sauce, and also plays a crucial role in the production of sake). The group tasted one of Christian’s miso’s. Grain, salt, fungus ánd patience makes a real flavour-explosion: fruity, packed with umami and silky smooth. Besides that, fermentation can revitalise products otherwise destined to be wasted; Christian makes vinegar from byproducts of beer production.
The Cooks Alliance
The cooks that joined are all in their own way actively promoting locally and sustainably produced food in their restaurants. By bringing such passionate people together, we create an environment to inspire each other. Essentially, all these cooks want to make the most of their surroundings, with respect for humans and animals alike. But that also poses challenges. Where do you find local vegetable varieties? How can you become more sustainable by using less animal products? Christian Weij showed how gastronomically interesting local grains are. Making ‘risotto’ with just four ingredients (water, salt, emmer wheat and mould)? That’s possible! ‘Coffee’ made of fermented grains? Sure! Even the taste of chocolate can be recreated by fermenting and roasting certain grains.
Later on, the group was joined by members of Slow Food. They discussed what the cooks had done that day, and Christian and his team provided a tasting of the most exciting grain-products: kimchi fried rye (rye instead of rice), miso, sourdough bread, potato soup with koji-crumble, chocolate-without-chocolate (based on double-fermented grains) and much more. In between tasting, baker (and miller) René van der Veer (De Veldkeuken), grain grower Marcel van Silfhout (GraanGeluk) and brewer Mattias Terpstra (Nevel) gave a presentation about the ways in which they work with local and sustainable grain. Alongside the dinner, the group tasted beers of GraanGeluk, Brouwerij Nevel and Gulpener. Cooks Alliance caterer Jeroen van Nijnatten finalised the dinner with serving some bites from the Dutch Ark of Taste, including the Yellow Butter Turnip, Weir Fished Bergen Anchovy, Aged Artisanal Gouda and eggs of the Chaam Chicken.
This event was not just about grain, but also about connection. By bringing people engaged in one way or the other with grains together, there is a valuable exchange of knowledge and ideas. In this way, we are on our way to revaluing the Dutch grain chain. With this gathering, Slow Food Netherlands closed the annual theme of 2022 ‘grains’!
This initiative is supported by Slow Food – through the Slow Food Europe Call for ideas 2022 – and co-financed by the LIFE programme of the European Union. With this initiative Slow Food contributes to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the LIFE programme #LIFEis30.
This publication represents the opinion of Slow Food Netherlands only. CINEA is not accountable for the use of the information in this publication.
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