Belgium

All posts tagged Belgium

Tiramisu à la Belge: Advocaat-Mascarpone Cream with Speculoos and Cinnamon Apples

Published March 31, 2014 by The Feminist

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Warning: This post contains severe quantities of product placement.

As you may or may not know, I am a proud citizen of that teeny weeny country called Belgium. I don’t always like living here – because it rains a lot and Belgian politics is often more ludicrous than all the episodes of the Bold and the Beautiful combined- but I do have to admit that we have some damn fine food.

Yes, there is the world famous chocolate and the infamously strong beer, but Belgium’s finest food products are much more versatile than you would initially assume. And two of my favourite Belgian delights are speculoos and advocaat.

Speculoos is very similar to gingerbread – only way better!- and has that comforting cinnamon scent and sweet-spicy flavour.

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Furthermore, it is probably the most versatile cookie on the planet. You can put it in/on/with everything. You can crumble it on top of ice cream, you can mix it with herbs to form a crust on a fillet of salmon (sounds bonkers, but it works!) or you can put it in a tiramisu as a substitute for your traditional lady fingers (Like I did in this recipe).

Advocaat is what I would call “eggnog for Kings”. It is an alcoholic beverage made from egg yolks, sugar and alcohol and has a rich and creamy texture. You can buy many different types of advocaat with varying degrees of alcohol and thickness. But I prefer mine boozy and with the consistency of a Mary Berry approved crème patisserie. Because make no mistake: although advocaat may technically be a “beverage” , the best advocaat is gulped down with a spoon!

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So this Tiramisu is not your typical, Italian delight with Amaretto and lady fingers, but a celebration of all the things I love about my dear old country. I’m not trying to be patriotic here, I’m simply demonstrating how to make a different yet extraordinary dessert. 😉

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Tiramisu à la Belge: Advocaat-Mascarpone Cream with Speculoos and Cinnamon Apples

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 250gr mascarpone cheese
  • 4-8 tbsp of advocaat (depending on how boozy your advocaat is)
  • 50gr caster sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Speculoos (approx. 10-15 cookies)
  • 1 cup of strong coffee
  • 1 apple, diced
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Method:

  1. Whisk the egg yolk together with the caster sugar. Stir in the mascarpone cheese, but make sure not to overmix it. Add the advocaat to taste. (Your mascarpone filling should have a light yellow colour and have a distinct advocaat  flavour but not to such an extent that you’re completely hung-over afterwards 😉 )
  2. Dip a speculoos cookie in coffee and put it at the bottom of a glass. Now spoon two tablespoons of mascarpone-advocaat filling on top. Now add another layer of speculoos dipped in coffee and finish with a layer of mascarpone filling. Repeat this process for the other three glasses. Put the glasses in the fridge overnight to set.
  3. Heat a knob of butter in a small pan and fry the diced apple with the cinnamon until golden brown. Spoon some of the cinnamon apples on top of the Belgian tiramisu and crumble some speculoos over the top to finish.

 

Cooking with Booze: Pumpkin Soup with Chimay and Cheddar + Chocolate and Cointreau Bread Pudding

Published November 12, 2013 by The Feminist

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“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.

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Ingredients:
• 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

Method:
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!

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Ingredients:
• 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)

Method:
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.

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Cake Season in full Bloom: Boozy and fruity elderflower cake

Published May 25, 2013 by The Feminist

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Elderflower cake is a well-known afternoon tea treat this time of the year: It is easy to bake and the refreshing floral taste of the elderflower transports us to the most sunniest places imaginable, even if it is raining cats and dogs outside.

Most elderflower cakes are made with elderflower cordial, a non-alcoholic soft drink that is often used in cocktails. The elderflower in this amazingly fragrant cake, however, is not so innocent. ( Innocence is not really my style 😉 ) I used “RoomeR”, a wonderful artisanal liquor produced in my hometown Ghent. It gives the cake a great depth and an electrifying boozy aftertaste! Oh yes, the RoomeR turns this cake into something truly special!

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Those who would really like to bake this cake (If you don’t, you are really missing out on something extraordinary, dear readers! ), but don’t live in Belgium and hence can’t find a bottle of RoomeR, I suggest mixing equal amounts of elderflower cordial and rum. Admittedly, it won’t be exactly the same, but at least you will get that boozy kick 😉 .

The topping was made with RoomeR, elderberry jam and decorated with fresh strawberries. Since the elderflower and the elderberry come from the same plant, it feels very therapeutic to bring these two predestined ingredients back together once more.

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Boozy and fruity elderflower cake

Ingredients:

For the sponge:
• 2 eggs
• 55gr soy spread (or butter)
• 190gr caster sugar
• 160gr plain flour
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 50ml milk
• 110 ml RoomeR

For the topping:
• 150gr elderberry jam
• 50ml Roomer
• Fresh strawberries

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line a 20cm diameter loose-bottomed cake tin with baking parchment.
2. Mix together the butter, flour, sugar and baking powder until it forms a sandy consistency.
3. Mix together the eggs, milk and RoomeR in a jug and gradually pour the liquid into the crumb mixture.
4. Mix thoroughly until the batter is thick and smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
5. Put the elderberry jam and the RoomeR in a small sauce pan and heat through to create a glossy and runny spread.
6. Once the cake is removed from the oven, leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tin and then pour over the fruity elderberry spread. Let it sit for half an hour before removing the cake from its tin.
7. Arrange some strawberries on top of the cake.

Spring on a Plate: Rigatoni with Asparagus and Prawns

Published May 15, 2013 by The Feminist

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When seasons change, so do the vegetables in our garden. Everyone knows you get the tastiest tomatoes in the summer, the biggest pumpkins in the fall and the pinkest rhubarb in the spring. This pasta dish is incredibly delicious thanks to the wonderful sweetness of the white asparagus. For once, I’m actually grateful to live in Belgium, one of the few countries that cultivates these lovely jewels. They are one of my favorite vegetables and I tend to go completely overboard when the asparagus season starts in April, eating white asparagus at least once a week.

Traditionally, they are served with a classic hollandaise sauce or melted butter, but –as always- I try to avoid the traditional recipes and do my own thing. (hell yeah!) Combining the indescribable flavour of the white asparagus with al dente pasta and the sweetness of the prawns, almost makes me lyrical. Since I’m not really gifted when it comes to writing poetry, I thought I would simply post one of my favorite poems by E.E. Cummings to get you in the perfect spring mood before you start cooking…

“sweet spring is your
time is my time is our
time for springtime is lovetime
and viva sweet love”

(all the merry little birds are
flying in the floating in the
very spirits singing in
are winging in the blossoming)

lovers go and lovers come
awandering awondering
but any two are perfectly
alone there’s nobody else alive

(such a sky and such a sun
I never knew and neither did you
and everybody never breathed
quite so many kinds of yes)

not a tree can count his leaves
each herself by opening
but shining who by thousands mean
only one amazing thing

(secretly adoring shyly
tiny winging darting floating
merry in the blossoming
always joyful selves are singing)

“sweet spring is your
time is my time is our
time for springtime is lovetime
and viva sweet love”

I hope you’re all in a fantastic mood after reading this sweet, loveable poem. So get your pots and pans ready, because here’s the recipe:

Rigatoni with white asparagus and prawns

Ingredients (serves 4)

• 350gr rigatoni
• 350gr white asparagus
• 1 broccoli, cut into florets
• 2 shallots, finely chopped
• 30-40 prawns, peeled
• 200ml single cream
• 100ml vegetable stock
• 1 tbsp curry powder
• Fresh parsley
• 3 tbsp mascarpone

Method:

1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the rigatoni and cook according to packet instructions.
2. Clean the asparagus and cut them into 2cm pieces. Steam them until they are just tender.
3. Blanche the broccoli florets.
4. Fry the shallots in a some olive oil, add the cream and vegetable stock and season with salt and pepper. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes.
5. Toss the prawns in the curry powder and some salt and pepper and grill them on a hot grill for one minute on each side.
6. Put all the al dente vegetables, pasta and prawns in the pan with the creamy sauce and stir through the fresh parsley and the mascarpone. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Sprinkle on some grated parmesan and dig in!

Sicilian pasta with a Belgian twist: yes, it is possible! Spaghetti alle acciughe with amazing Brussels sprouts

Published March 29, 2013 by The Feminist

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Thank goodness for Sicilian food! And thank goodness for my best friend who speaks fluent Italian so I don’t have to consult a dictionary every time I want to cook something Italian! Of course, I could just say “spaghetti with anchovy” but that just sounds really boring. “Spaghetti alle acciughe”, on the other hand, sounds like summer on a plate, reminiscent of the hot weather on the island of Mount Etna.
I am big fan of Sicilian food and I especially adore the combination of sweet and salty in their pasta dishes. However, this is not your typical Sicilian dish. In fact, most Sicilians will probably get a heart attack merely from looking at the title of this blog post. (Jeeez, such wussies!)
So to all the Italian/ Sicilian/ “Do not mess with classic dishes”-ian people out there: don’t read on! To all the rest: try the recipe, it is a true delight! 😉
This simple whole wheat pasta dish combines the classic flavours of Sicily (raisins, anchovy, lemon) with the typical gutsy ingredients Belgium is so renowned for (Brussels Sprouts). If I had to compare this dish with a Hollywood couple, it would be Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling. Hot and steamy. But also very robust and mysterious. Oh yes, this dish is Eva and Ryan intertwined in one big bowl of pasta… I better stop with this comparison because it is getting a bit out of hand 😉

Spaghetti alle acciughi with Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients :

• 350gr wholeweat spaghetti or linguini
• 500gr Brussels sprouts, trimmed
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
• Handful of raisins
• Zest and juice of half of lemon
• Handful of roasted flaked almonds
• Parmesan, grated
• 25 anchovy fillets, in oil

Method:

1. Bring a large pan of water to boil, add plenty of salt and cook the pasta according to packet instructions. (Save some of the starchy cooking water for the pasta sauce)
2. Meanwhile, blanche the Brussels sprouts for a couple of minutes and then rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Cut the al dente Brussels sprouts in half.
3. Heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and fry for three minutes until the onion has softened.
4. Then stir in the cooked pasta, Brussels sprouts, anchovy fillets and raisins.
5. Add some of the cooking water from the pasta to give the pasta a glossy look and smoother texture.
6. To finish, stir through lots of grated parmesan cheese, sprinkle some lemon juice and zest over the top and garnish with some crunchy almond flakes.

“God gave the angels wings, and he gave humans chocolate.”

Published November 4, 2012 by The Feminist

I live in Belgium. The best country in the world to live in when you have a love affair with chocolate.
I am addicted to chocolate in all its forms: dark, milk, white and nutty. Chocolate bonbons, with praline filling or oozing liquor. Chocolate truffles. Hot chocolate.
I simply cannot pick a favorite! But then again, I don’t need to. Why choose, when you can have and – more importantly – eat them all?
I opted for an overdose of chocolate today. At this little hidden gem in my hometown Ghent, called “Huize Collette” , I treated myself to a “chocolate indulgence” : a milk hot chocolate with extra honey and chili. Accompanied by a cake stand of brownies, chocolate cookies, small chocolate drops, marshmallows, Maltesers and whipped cream.

It was pure chocolate heaven!

And remember: Don’t wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty!