Why the Dutch eat hotchpotch on October 3

Relief of Leiden 1574, by Otto van Veen.
Photograph Wikimedia Commons

On October 3, many Dutch eat carrot hotchpotch known as “hutspot”. This is mashed potato with carrot and onions, served with smoked sausage. Some add little bacon strips and/or cheese dice to it. Why? To commemorate that on October 3, 1574 the siege of the city of Leiden by the Spanish troops finally came to an end.

In 1568, Dutch rebels had taken up arms against the rule of the Spaniards. A few years later, in 1573, the Spaniards besieged the rebel city of Leiden. Although the rebels defended themselves well, even after fighting a whole year, they had been unable to lift the siege. Finally, in September 1754, they broke the dikes to let the seawater pour into the low, reclaimed land around the city and literally flush the enemy out. Unfortunately, it took until October 3, 1754 for a big storm to finally push the water far enough through the dikes to make the Spaniards flee.

It is said that the Spaniards left in such a hurry that the rebels still found a hot pot with an unknown stew made of carrots, onion, meat and parsnip. To celebrate their victory the rebels gave the food to the starving citizens of Leiden. They called it “hutspot” derived from the words “hutsen” (to mix) and “pot” (pot), literally meaning “mixed pot”. Some people still eat hutspot on October 3 to celebrate the liberation of Leiden.

If you would like to join in this hotchpotch-eating tradition, here is how to cook “hutspot”:

Ingredients (4 persons):

  • 2 pounds (900 gr) floury potatoes
  • 1.5 pounds (675 gr) carrots cleaned and washed
  • 3-4 big onions
  • 4 sausages
  • milk
  • 2 laurel leaves
  • nutmeg to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • butter
  • bacon strips (optional)
  • cheese dice (optional)

Instructions:

1. Peel the potatoes, cut them in small pieces and wash them. Do the same with the carrots.

2. Cut the unions in rings.

3. Cook the potatoes together with the carrots, onions and about 2 laurel leaves in slightly salted water until they are done (15-20 minutes). For extra hearty “hutspot” consider cooking in broth instead of salty water.

4. In the meanwhile, bake the sausages in butter.

5. When the potatoes and carrots are done, remove the water and mash them together.

6. Add the gravy from the sausages and if necessary add some milk until you get a nice smooth puree.

7. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

8. If you like, add the optional bacon and cheese.

Vegetarians that do not use the gravy could consider adding some french fries condiments to add a bit more taste.

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