Hallo! Madam Rosmerta here.
I am currently studying abroad in Leiden, the Netherlands (Nederland). I have been here for less than a week, but I already have some exciting food adventures to share with you all!
The main thing I’ve learned so far is that the Dutch love their pastries – and they’re very good at making them.
You know those Biscoff/Speculoos cookies that are all the rage in the foodie community right now? They’re Dutch.
Also, buy a coffee anywhere in Leiden and it comes in a little dixie-cup. Nothing bigger. Except at the one Starbucks in town, at the train station. But the coffee is very strong and satisfying, so I have never really felt the need for more.
Tip: Koffie verkeerd (literally “incorrect coffee”) is coffee with steamed milk, like a café au lait in the U.S. But it’s closer to a latte, because it’s so strong.
The first night we arrived, we went to Oudt Leyden – ‘t Pannekoekenhuysje (the Pancake House) for some delicious and HUGE crepe-like pancakes.
This one had warm cherries, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream. It was sublime. It was 12 euros (they ranged from €7 to €15), which is on the cheaper side of average for a dinner here, but expensive for a college muggle’s budget, so I would recommend it once in a while.
Similar, but much cheaper, are the crepes.
I got this nutella & banana crepe from a little stand at the biweekly outdoor market in the center of Leiden. It was a third of the price of the pancake, and still a wonderful treat. They had various fillings – fruits, spreads, liqueurs, even Kinder® chocolate!
At the same market, I acquired this haul:
Fruits & veggies, garlic and chives, a loaf of whole grain bread, and a half-kilo wedge of good quality cheese, all for around €16, or $22. The cheese is “Geitenkaas met Koriander” (goat cheese with coriander) and it’s absolutely fabulous, even for someone who doesn’t particularly love cheese.
Then a trip to the grocery store for staples and seasonings (Nutella is a staple, right?) for €14, and I’m set for a while.
This is definitely the way to go when living on a budget in Europe. Although there are many interesting-looking items labeled in Dutch that I would like to try, I decided to stick to what I know for now. (Spaghetti = spaghetti, apple = appel, paprika = paprika. Phew!) And I forced myself to pass up the chocolate speculoos spread. Yes, it’s a thing here.
Fun fact: Peanut butter is called “pindakaas”, which literally means “peanut cheese”.
When you’re on a budget, be creative to avoid getting bored! To use my new groceries, I made this the first night:
Sautéed mushrooms, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and potato chunks with paprika, garlic and chives
And this the second night:
Garlicky cherry tomato & mushroom pasta with goat cheese
Tomorrow night, I’ll use the zucchini, the red pepper, the rest of the huge carrot, my last 2 mushrooms, another potato and/or some brown rice – I might borrow some soy sauce from a friend and make an asian-style stir fry, or just keep using my own spices for flavor, but either way it will be a new and different meal!
If you get bored with the same foods over and over, you can still get by with minimal ingredients as long as you get a bit creative. Buy a few versatile spices/seasonings and vary your ingredients until you have used them all up. If you eat meat, you can also buy different meats to pair with the veggies and grains each night.
If you don’t get bored easily, and you don’t particularly love to cook, get bulk packages of meat and/or veggies and/or grains, cook a huge batch, and save the leftovers in tupperware. For example, one of my dorm-mates bought a big pack of beef and a jar of curry sauce, cooked all of the beef in the sauce, put some over rice for his dinner tonight, then stored the rest for his next few meals.
Another tip for caffeine-loving muggles like Bathilda & me:
A little pour-over brewer. Small, easy to pack and clean, and makes decent coffee! I bought the cheapest coffee at the supermarket, so it’s not fantastic, but it does the trick. That entire bag of coffee cost 2 euros, which would only get me 2 cups of coffee at a café. It’s worth the extra few minutes it takes to boil water.
And, um… according to whoever supplies dishes to my dorm, this is supposedly a soup bowl.
It’s maybe the size of my smallest coffee mug in the U.S. I told you portions are small in Europe. Except for the pancakes, apparently.
Thanks for reading! I hope this will help you out if you ever visit the Netherlands or Western Europe. I’ll be back soon to talk about savory foods! Meanwhile, I feel right at home – there’s even a castle in Leiden!