St. Nicolas and Ivan Denisovich

It is St. Nicolas time back home in the Netherlands. In the middle of November he arrived on his steamboat from Spain, with his Moorish servants, all called (very political incorrectly) Black Pete. Since then he has been riding on his dapple horse over the rooftops, to have a look if children have been behaving well. Young believers, say under the age of 7, have put their shoes at the bottom of the chimney, sang their special St. Nicolas songs, and have found some treats the next morning as a reward. It all culminates on the eve of December the 5th, when the bag with presents for all the well behaved children arrives.


Here a recipe for Kruidnoten – say a Dutch version of Amaretti biscuits. Crunchy gingerbread drops, perfect to leave some in a shoe at the bottom of the chimney.

  • 1 cup of self raising flour
  • 3/4 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 2 teasp of cinnamon
  • 1 teasp of ground ginger
  • 1 teasp of ground aniseed
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of white pepper
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of ground cardamom
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of cloves
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 2 tablesp of butter

Mix everything together into a dough, adding a tablespoon or 2 of cold milk if necessary. Wrap & rest in a fridge for at least 2 hours, but preferrably overnight for the flavours to blend. Roll small pieces (think amaretti) from the dough and flatten them a bit on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 15 mins in a preheated oven of 200°.


My pedantic site always wants to point out that the Santa Claus living with this elves and reindeer on the North Pole is a poor Americanised version of our original. ‘Sinterklaas’. But than I realise the Dutch myths around him are as far away from the original St. Nicolas story as well. That Saint Nicolas was a bishop in Turkey who saved some children from being cooked in a pot!

St. Nicolas is since then regarded as a protector of the weak, and as such Russia’s most beloved saint. The Russian champion of the disadvantaged. And by sheer coincidence we are having a Russian menu this week! But that is because Louise from Oren’s bookclub (gathering this Thursday) has chosen ‘A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’ by Alexander Solzenytchin to read. I had to put  the book down, because it made me feel so cold. Maybe that’s why I chose the ham cooked in hay. That hay just said ‘warmth’ to me.

  • Zakuski (Russian Tapas)
  • Lazy S’chee (Cabbage Soup)
  • Ham Cooked with Hay & Beer
  • Salmon Steak in Madeira with Shrimp Sauce
  • Vegetarian Forshmak  (smoked tofu baked in cream)
  • served with baked Kasha (buckwheat) and mixed winter vegetables
  • Russian Brown Betty

We are cooking from ‘The Best of Russian Cooking’ by Alexandra Kropotkin this week.



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