Friday, June 24, 2011


The weather last Saturday was bleak. Dark skies, pouring rain, howling winds. In other words, a typical Dutch summer day. But I had other plans. I wasn't about to give up on my Saturday. I was not going to sit around the house complaining about the horrible weather. No.

View from my kitchen window

I got off my warm, cozy bed, I ate my rich in fiber breakfast and decided to brave the glorious, greener-than-green, Dutch countryside. But first, I had to wake up my sleeping boyfriend. A huge task, not to mention a perilous one, but someone had to do it. I abide by the belief that persistence leads to success so eventually, after a few tries, I managed to wake him up and come out of it unscathed.

This girl right here though, is a bona fide city girl who can't just venture into the wilderness without good reason. It's not easy being exposed to that much clean air and open fields. I need an incentive.
Cheese! Milk! Butter! Eggs! Fresh! Straight from the cow!
Were these enough to convince me?
Oh, yes!

We jumped in our car, delicious cookies in hand (sent to me by Ioanna from Greece), S sat comfortably on the passenger's seat playing dj on the car stereo while I was the designated driver for the day and we headed to a dairy farm just thirty minutes out of The Hague.

Thirty minutes out of The Hague. Thirty minutes out of the city. Thirty minutes away from all the hustle and bustle, you come face to face with this.

And this

And this

This dairy farm, located just 3 kilometres outside the city of Leiden, makes one of the best Leidse cheeses in The Netherlands. Boeren-Leidse met sleutels kaas (P.D.O.) is a farm-made cheese originating from the Leiden region in the province of South Holland that can be recognized by its red-brown coating and the official seal depicting the keys of the city of Leiden on top. It is a semi-firm, low-fat, raw cow's milk cheese made from skimmed milk and the addition of whole cumin seeds and has a creamy, sharp and spicy flavor that is quite unique.

The addition of spices to cheeses is very common in The Netherlands and dates back to the 1600s when the Dutch East India Company controlled the world's spice trade. The Dutch grew accustomed to the taste of spices and their new exciting flavor was quickly incorporated into their local cheeses.

Whenever I look at this photo, I start singing this song

The farm we visited, called "De Keizershof" (The Emperor's Garden), is run by the Van Leeuwen family since the late 1970's. Apart from their Leidse kaas, they are also famous for their Boeren-Roomboter (Farmhouse Dairy Butter), which is a very rich butter, made with the cream that's scooped from the surface of the milk which is used to make cheese. Both this butter and the Leidse cheese are in the Ark of Taste, which is an international catalog of food in danger of extinction that is maintained by the global Slow Food movement.

This is real farmhouse butter and it is delicious. We bought half a kilo (oh yes we did) and the first 250 grams were gone in a matter of a couple of days.
We smeared it on top of a pain rustique,

a whole-wheat bread,

and this Dutch corn bread.

We also wouldn't pass on the opportunity to buy a dozen of freshly laid eggs from the farm hens—who were running around freely and happily making the farm dog crazy (who by the way fell in love with S and followed him around everywhere)—and two liters of raw (unpasteurized) cow's milk.

S asked the farmer whether we should boil the milk before drinking it and another guy waiting to buy his own milk laughed at our ignorance. "This is good for you", he said with a heavy Dutch accent. "Drink it as is".

After we left the beautiful farm, we stopped by another dairy farm nearby that sold freshly churned ice cream. Naturally, I couldn't resist having a taste. It was one of the most flavorful ice creams I have ever had. Incredibly creamy with a subtle milky undertone.

We couldn't wait however to get home. We couldn't wait to try the butter and the eggs and the milk and the cheese we'd bought.

My instinct, as soon as I see eggs, is to fry them, sunny-side-up. It is the way S prefers them as well. And let me tell you, they were unbelievable.

The following day, I started wondering what I could do with all that raw milk besides the obvious and then I saw Deb's (of Smitten Kitchen) recipe for homemade ricotta. I thought I had just hit the jackpot. I prepared it the same day, using just raw milk, no cream, and it came out perfect. I couldn't believe I had made my own cheese. S absolutely loved it.

Yesterday, as I opened the fridge and realized that there are no more fresh eggs, no more raw cow's milk, no more farmhouse butter, I decided that that thirty-minute drive to the country will be one that I'll be taking again and again.

Van Leeuwen Family
Noord Aa 4
2381 LV
The Netherlands

Slow Food Nederland


  1. Such beautiful scenery and food! A thoroughly enjoyable story to read.

  2. It is amazing what a difference 30 minutes can make. Your ricotta looks so delicious and creamy!

  3. Madeleine — thank you!

    Denise — oh yes, it is.
    I loved the recipe for the ricotta. So simple and quick, with wonderful results.

  4. Fantastic! I enjoyed that post immensely!

  5. First, I can't believe you think of Ring My Bell in that setting! What a hoot! I had a good laugh and it brought back lots of memories of my college days. Second, I have always wanted to make my own ricotta and now I will. Not sure if I can find fresh, raw milk here - but I might try with goat's cheese from Trader Joe's!

    Thank you for yet another beautiful and inspirational post.


  6. Anna — thanks!

    Tracy — :)

    David — hehe it has nothing to do with the setting. Just the bell :)
    Thank you for reading.

  7. You make me want to visit Holland! I could be very happy with that cheese (love Gouda with cumin! Yum!!!) and that butter and those eggs, and a good loaf of bread; how is the coffee in Holland?

  8. oh, your lovely post stirred up all these Dutch words long-buried in my brain: Mooi! Enig! Lekker! Uitstekend!

  9. Joumana — pretty good. You must visit :)

    Nancy — Your memory works perfectly!

  10. It is more of a three four hour's drive to me, but I'm considering making it :) I tasted raw milk a few times and it is completely different. That butter - it looks like the stuff dreams are made of.

  11. Just 30 minutes and your in heaven. Soooooooo cool. Love the lashings of butter on the bread and the picture of the milk cow. Im totally jealous. Its miserable and cold here. Id need to drive like 12 hours to get away from it. Thanks for sharing your gorgeous trip. :)

  12. Loved this post! Love travelling with all you bloggers around the world. So funny that on the same day I posted about cows and ricotta too, hehe.

  13. Whata wonderful post! That countryside is so peaceful and lovely, evfen when the weather is sad... Mouthwatering produces.



  14. Oh man...this looks so, so lovely. I can only imagine what that homemade ricotta tasted like with milk that fresh.

    Don't mind me--I'm simply salivating over here. :)

  15. Ah, so beautiful. One of my favorite things about living in Amsterdam were the amazing dairy products. The Dutch are masters of dairy (which I guess compensates for the other stuff... sorry!), and the countryside is truly beautiful. How lucky to get it straight from the source.

  16. The butter! The bread! The eggs! The cheese! Holy cow, I would have WALKED kilometers to get all that, forget the drive! How beautiful, Magda!!

  17. Beautiful simple food in the countryside, this is fantastic. I am totally drooling at your food porn pics, everything looks positively divine!!!
    *kisses* HH

  18. hmmmmm, i am now tempted to make ricotta...