September 15, 2014

food festival in Brussels: EAT Brussels, DRINK Bordeaux!

For the 3rd year this event is hosted in the Bois de la Cambre, Brussels but for the first time it is not pouring rain making the lawn wet and muddy nor are we freezing our noses off, it was an agreeable temperature to dine al fresco with splendid view on the lake. 
This is my favourite food event Brussels puts on and this year BONUS they merged with the "Drink Bordeaux", so you get to try good food and good wines. 
This is a family event on weekends but a great after work hang out on Thursday and Friday.

You had to buy one of the food passes if you wanted to sample the wine, they give you a glass  and you get to try one wine per group and 2 "coup de coeur" tickets for 2 extra glasses of your choosing. The groups were: Bordeaux Superieur, Cotes de Bordeaux, Cremants de Bordeaux, Blancs secs & roses, St-Emilion, Fronsac & Pomerol, Sweet Bordeaux and Medoc & Graves. Indeed 10 glasses; it was way more than you could possibly drink and quite honestly overwhelming in choice. I regret that they didn't have more grower particular information and it was kind of a drag you can not buy any of these wines locally. I fail to see the point from a marketing point of view, as a consumer however it was great value for money.

20 some restaurants offer taster plates and also several foreign regions offered a taste of their cuisine such as: Mazovie (Poland), Rabat (Morocco), Quebec (Canada), Katanga (Congo) and plenty more. You get tokens with your food pass enough to cover 2 tasters, you buy extra tokens for food or bar purchases.
I sampled again La Truffe Noir taster plates of scrambled eggs, potatoes and fresh truffle shavings and their pistolet with beef tartare and fresh truffle shavings. It is simple and sooo good! I sampled twice the croquette of cheese of Brugge and truffle, it was super crispy on the outside and so creamy on the inside, i had to have seconds from Le Chalet Robinson. Also we had to sample their waffle with salted caramel sauce or fresh raspberry coulis.
We enjoyed sitting by the lake as night fell and the pink lights making the trees look like an enchanted forest. 

I can't wait for next year!

September 10, 2014

in season now: swiss chard

Late summer into fall this green leave related to the beet is in season. Love the bright colorful stems (I got pink this time) packing tons of iron, magnesium and Vitamin C, they are a power food. Swiss chard can be a great substitute for green beans or spinach side dishes or used in salads or casseroles and pasta dishes.

I sautéed them in some olive oil after i blanched the cut up stems to soften them.
You can add flavor and depth with a citrus fruit or with nuts or add some cream or cheese for unctuousness. I added sunflower seeds for extra crunch this time.

Serve with pork, poultry or beef. With fish add it to a papillotte (foil or paper parcel) with a white fish, add fennel or tarragon leaves and a splash of white wine and cook for 10-15 minutes in a preheated oven.

September 7, 2014

cooking class: stocks and sauces

I am an amateur self-thaught cook and have taken very few cooking classes as such but with all the cooking shows on TV one learns also. However sauces have always been a mystery to me and since i am a visual learner i just needed to see it done. I signed up at mmmmh! for one of their basic techniques class on sauces. It was a relaxed and informative class, the chef shared with passion all his tricks and tips and we had a delicious meal at the end. It was exactly what i needed.

spanish sauce (brown sauce): tail, veg and stock
Here the tips I picked up:

- shop bought stock: the cubes even liquid pods have as main ingredient salt, for real flavour make your own stock and freeze it

cook the bone all day and add water in 3 times vs in one large pot in one go
- use a veal foot for gelatine, use a veal knee joint with some meat on it for stock and use tail for the brown spanish sauce
-  each sauce consists of stock, gastric, gelatine with butter or cream 
- gastric (acid: wine, vinegar and shallots reduction) can also be frozen, base of every sauce
- beurre blanc sauce (my fave): add the butter off the heat at the end and turn the pot not in the pot

clarified butter and chicken stock

gastric, clarified butter and beurre blanc sauce
- béarnaise: whisk eggjokes and gastric with stock off the heat till mousse and than add to heat to whisk firmly for 2 minutes, remove immediately from the heat
- cast iron pans: deglaze with wine or vinegar and wipe clean, do not use detergent nor wash
- clarified butter prevents from burning the fish when cooking, keeps the golden colour

and a great taboule we made with saving the top of a purple cauliflower adding it to chopped up flat parsley, season and add olive oil - so pretty and delish!

September 2, 2014

In season now: guinea fowl and pears are first

I LOVE autumn for so many reasons; one is the gorgeous game (gibier) we get to savour.

Belgian Conference pears in season a few weeks earlier than last year

The season starts end August with guinea fowl and wild duck.

I cooked the guinea fowl simply in the oven. First i melted butter and olive oil in pot and browned the bird on all sides, generously salted the skin and cooked in a preheated oven at 180C degrees for about one hour. I used a thermometer to check if cooked through. The salt and browning the bird before cooking it in the oven, gives it a super crispy skin. I serve it with wood mushrooms cooked in butter and a pear compote, both just came in season too. 
As for leftovers it makes a great grilled gruyere cheese sandwich for lunch.

add leftover guinea fowl slice and grilled pear slice and gruyere cheese and grill the bread

Next in season from October is pheasant, venison and wild boar. Can't wait...

August 30, 2014

This is Belgian : Hot Chocolate

Maybe it is the cold and damp weather today, maybe I craved some comfort or maybe it was because I was given this amazing vintage coco set for 2 ( THANK YOU), but I needed hot coco. Here are 3 Belgian hot chocolate brands i tried:

Pierre Marcolini, infamous chocolatier, developed his "Primitive Chocolate" for hot chocolate but can also be used in baking or making truffles. The consistency is more like chocolate shavings versus powder. It tastes like a liquid chocolate bar. I felt like eating it with a spoon and forget about the milk (i actually did). Stirring is required to make a homogeneous drink.

Cafe-Tasse comes pure or flavoured such as the vanilla i tried. It is a dark powder and tasted like the coco I had at school, major nostalgia moment. Dissolved very quickly in the hot milk.

Bazaar Indian blend is a heavier grain powder but full of flavour. Spices like cinnamon, cardamon, chillipepper and coriander give it a real kick. Dissolved quickly but stirring is needed for it not to sink to the bottom of you cup.

My fave is the Indian blend from Bazaar, it warmed me up.

To know more about cocoa beans and chocolate check out Blyss tutorials. I truly learned a lot about the beans and well to say it plain, where chocolate comes from. Txs Lyss.