“I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.” This famous quote by kitchen goddess Julia Child is one that seems to be coined just for the likes of me. Mark my words: if I ever get my own place, with a very large kitchen (mandatory, as you might have guessed) , I want that quote engraved above the stove, so I can look at it every day while I’m stirring my stew/risotto/soup and sipping from a ridiculously large glass of rose wine…
Just for the record, I am not some closet alcoholic. I like my glass of chardonnay in the weekend, my cocktail when I go out and the stronger stuff (Mr. Whiskey or Ms Amaretto) when I feel a bit down or under the weather (nothing better to cure a cold than a jalapeno shot!), but I never get drunk, have never been hung over (can’t believe I’m saying this out loud) and (since it’s confession time, I might just well add the following) I don’t like beer.
There. I said it. The big secret is out.
But what I lack in the “let’s drink loads of alcohol to have fun!” department, I make up for in the “let’s give this sauce a good splash of booze”-section. I love adding alcohol to my dishes. It gives the most lovely depth of flavour to practically any dish. It turns a sauce into a work of art, a venison stew into a well of rich divinity and a cake into a heavenly delightful piece of paradise. It intensifies the experience of cooking and eating. It makes even the most ordinary dish look outrageously decadent and gives richness in a way it would even make Will Smith’s big fat bank account sneak off in embarrassment!
So here are two dishes that are ridiculously easy to make (and may sound quite ordinary if you leave out the booze) but with that little touch of alcohol they are transformed into a brilliant image of culinary madness!
Pumpkin soup with Cheddar, Chimay and crispy pancetta
Like I said, I don’t drink beer. Pouring plenty of it in food, on the other hands, is one of my culinary trademarks. Chimay is one of Belgium’s best known beers. It may seem completely bonkers to add it to a soup, but the beer adds such great flavour to the sweetness of the butternut.
• 1 large butternut, cut into chunks
• 2 large carrots, cut into chunks
• 1 large onion, cut into chunks
• 1 -1,5 l vegetable stock
• 1 bottle of Chimay Triple Trappist (33cl)
• ¼ tsp cinnamon
• ¼ tsp nutmeg
• 150gr grated matured cheddar cheese
• Slices of pancetta
1. Heat a knob of butter in a large pot and sauté the veg for a couple of minutes. Add the beer and bring to the boil.
2. Add the stock and the spices. Let it simmer for at least half an hour.
3. Mix the soup until you get a smooth and velvety texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the cheddar cheese and let it melt.
4. Meanwhile, put your slices of pancetta on a baking tray and put them under a grill until they get all golden brown and crispy.
Chocolate and Cointreau bread pudding
Bread pudding is a very traditional dessert here in Belgium (and probably in the Netherlands and Germany as well). It is our version of the British all-time favourite bread and butter pudding but if I may be so frank: this version is way better than the version they serve across the Channem. Just saying.
Oh, and I added a good splash of Cointreau as well, which made this pudding even more special!
• 375gr stale bread
• 75gr dark chocolate, finely chopped
• 80gr sugar
• 1 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
• 3 eggs
• 5dl milk
• 4 tbsp cointreau
• 3 tbsp orange marmalade
• ½ tsp cinnamon
• ¼ tsp nutmeg
• ¼ tsp ginger
• Pinch of salt
• One Clementine, for decoration (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and grease a flat loaf tin with plenty of butter. Heat the milk, sugar, cocoa powder and spices on a low heat and let it infuse for 15 minutes.
2. Cut the bread into small morsels and add a good pinch of salt. Pour the milk on top of the bread and let the bread soak up all the moisture. Mash the gloopy bread together until you get an incorporated, semi-smooth mixture.
3. Stir in the eggs. Now finally stir in the marmalade, chocolate and cointreau.
4. Pour the batter into the tin, decorate with Clementine and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.