Dutch retail institution HEMA launched their 7th UK store on Monday and I was there to help them celebrate and talk to people about what makes HEMA so great. I realise that many of you may have never heard of HEMA, so let me start by telling you a bit more about them.
To me, HEMA is one of the most iconic Dutch brands out there and I grew up with it living in the Netherlands. They have actually been around since 1926 and are celebrating their 90th anniversary this year, which is quite something don’t you think? HEMA is known for its high quality, expert designs and affordable prices for everyday essentials – and I love the concept that they design & make all of their all their products (which range from beauty, food, stationery, kids and homeware) in Amsterdam. People often describe HEMA as the Dutch IKEA or Tiger Tiger but I think the quality and range available in products for items like clothing, beauty, home and food is so much better than either of those brands.
Like I said, I’ve known HEMA all my life growing up in the Netherlands. So when they were launching their new London Euston Station store and asked me to be an expert on the night on all things food for this event I couldn’t be more excited. I was asked to select and display products that I have a personal connection with and which bring the dutch foodie traditions to life. Didn’t my table look full of incredible treats? So let me tell you guys also a bit more about my #HEMAhacks and knowledge on how to eat like the Dutch.
The Dutch have a word they use frequently: ‘gezellig’ (pronounced ‘heh-SELL-ick’), which loosely means cosy, fun, and a sense of belonging and togetherness. This is at the heart of Dutch food – spending time with loved ones and experiencing that cosy closeness.
The Dutch love having a cup – or large pot! – of tea. It’s an important part of family life in the Netherlands, linking in with the feeling of ‘gezellig’ and cosy togetherness. Quite often when you’re invited to someone’s house, they will instantly offer you a cup of tea. The Dutch style is in a big pot, served without milk.
Together with tea, people will always pull out the biscuit tin and offer you a delicious tea time treat. Tea time is often in the afternoon; growing up I remember coming home from school and gathering with my family to have tea and biscuits together to talk about our days. My ‘go-to’ tea is Rooibos, which is a lovely herbal tea that not only tastes great but also has many health benefits. Treat wise my favourite Dutch biscuits are anything with Speculaas in it, which is a traditional Dutch mixed spice combination. I strongly recommend trying HEMA’s seasonal chocolate covered Gingerbread ‘nuts’ (or pepernoten as we call them) or those famous Dutch stroopwafels!
A Dutch breakfast – healthy vs. naughty
Breakfast time in the Netherlands is also very much a family tradition. Unicef recently did a report which concluded that Dutch kids were some of the happiest in the world. And no, this is not just because they get to eat chocolate sprinkles (hagelslag) on their sandwiches in the morning! It’s because Dutch children and teens reported eating breakfast with their family on a regular basis – something no other country does as regularly as the Netherlands.
The Dutch tend to live a very balanced lifestyle which means they like their healthy foods but also their treats. When it comes to breakfast, this means they love starting the day with a healthy bowl of yoghurt and muesli, fruit and added health seeds. Or for breakfast, on-the-go Dutch can’t go without a slice of breakfast cake with a bit of butter. And when they have a real sweet craving for breakfast, they will never say no to an open sandwich with peanut butter or those famous chocolate sprinkles!
It doesn’t seem like HEMA has a lot of their healthy/breakfast products online but pop into of of their stores for the best peanut butter or to pick up some of their health products. For example they sell tubs of chia seeds, goji berries, flax seeds etc. at only £3.50!
Entertain at home
The culture of going out is not as big in the Netherlands as it is in the UK (unless you live in buzzy Amsterdam or Rotterdam of course) Instead of meeting their friends at the pub, people will often invite them round for drinks and snacks. The Dutch are very house-proud and love having people over for a ‘borrel’ (drink + snack). ‘Borrels’ are quintessentially ‘gezellig’ :)
HEMA has a huge variety of snacks, from nuts and crisps to crackers to make your own canapés. So next time you fancy a get-together with friends and family, try entertaining at home – the Dutch way. I’d recommend Melba Toast with cream cheese and smoked salmon for a simple but tasty snack. Or use HEMA’s Rosemary ready-to-go Bruschetta topped with your favourite pesto and a slice of Dutch Gouda cheese. Or you can always serve me some Paprika Chips, they are my favourite flavour!
Aside from all the foodie (cooking & dining) stuff, HEMA is also a super handy place for getting gifts, hobby & crafting bits and bobs, home & living, beauty, and stationery! I already did my Christmas & St Nicholas shopping there on Monday so am all sorted. Plus I have a stack of chocolate letters and Dutch treats to feast on hehe. So, maybe be a bit more Dutch and check out HEMA? See their website for store locations and much more!