May 28, 2015

What are we eating tonight? a week of food

I have a fulltime job and like everyone else I face the “make-it-to-the-grocery-store-before-closing” struggle during the week. Hence I sometimes come home exhausted and find nothing much left in the fridge. Then I rely on my strategically well-stocked freezer and pantry. I seldom call for take-out delivery as I can whip something up very quickly and more satisfying.

Here a week in food:

gaspatcho of fresh tomatoes, mint, oregano and sunflower seeds

roasted veg: carrots, leeks and potatoes

pizza with tomatoes, spring onions and mozzarella 

grilled chicken with salt flake crispy skin, serve with rice and curry sauce

Linguini pasta with bacon bits, cream and oregano 

May 21, 2015

Cauliflower-cakes with smoked trout : fresh and full of Vitamin C

Inspired by the recipe in "Libelle Lekker" of May I tried these cauliflower cakes and they were soooo yummy. Thank you Ann Van der Auwera, food editor of the mag. 

need: 1/2 cooked cauliflower, 2 large eggs, 100gr spelt flower, fresh herbs of your choice: i used oregano, spices: cumin and curcuma, salt and pepper, a bit of soy cream and olive oil, lemon juice.

go: in a large bowl mash the cauliflower with a fork, add the 2 eggs, flower, spices and herbs and mix. add a little soy cream to combine better if needed. Heat the olive oil in the pan and ladle the mixture the size of small pancakes. Cook 2 minutes on each side and drain the excess oil on paper towels.

serve: i served it with smoked trout, olive oil, mango vinegar and oregano and a squeeze of lemon. In the magazine they serve it will a greek yoghurt dip.

May 16, 2015

Do you Culinaria? The Belgium effect...

S. Pellegrino Chef taster
Culinaria is at its 7th edition and continues to make every foodies dreams come true. This year’s theme is: Belgium effect, celebrating Belgian gastronomy. 37 Belgian and 5 international Chefs, a total of 34 Michelin stars amongst them, give us a taste of their best and a peak behind the scenes. Belgian and international products are happy to show off and sponsors compete for your attention with all kinds of shiny things. However one really needs strong time management skills in order to get the maximum out of the event. One small distraction and you miss out on yummy tastings of products or chefs showing off their tricks. Your menu choice is vital as well; so I go by which chefs I want to try, not by the dish nor ingredients. Also book a VIP passport, please…, it is €30 more for many, many free drinks quenching your thirst.

Asparagus and mozzarella by Chef Petitjean
Cabbage by Chef Sigurdarson

I loved the art work of the students of the Executive Master in Food Design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Brussels, they gave a new and inventive interpretation to dining a la belge . I loved the blue and crystal table. We can be proud of the Belgium effect

I was not so keen on the layout; splitting up in several halls was confusing and simple too far and away. I needed the map to be able to find my dishes and because of that didn’t follow the order as I gave up when I realized the next dish was again on the other side of the hall. It was not conducive to a great atmosphere either, it felt like having a BBQ in a garage, not really a great culinary experience.  However I was happy to see more seating and the VIP lounge had a great outdoor space with live music… and plenty of perfectly chilled champagne.

fish and carrots by Chef Bouchery
Bacon and foie gras by Chef Elias
Having said all this,  what really matters is the food. One is pleasantly surprised by some, excited by others and licking the plate over and over again while plotting how to get an extra plate without a ticket.  I certainly would have loved eating Chef Kobe Desramaults main course of potatoes again and again, actually he was the reason I selected that menu anyway. I did have Chef Sang-Hoon Degeimbre ‘s dessert of pain perdu with potato mousse and caramelized salsify twice, it was out of this world.

potato by Chef Desramaults

I followed a presentation by Petrossian caviar and learned about variety and flavor. On my shoping list: tarama and a dried caviar grinder, simply FAB. I tasted Vranken and Pommery Champagne while the speaker shared his misogynistic opinions. It was a buzz kill for me but regardless I drank his free champagne but none of them made it to my shortlist of favorites.

Another observation I had was about product endorsing, the new livelihood of Chefs. Today you have made as a Michelin star chef, you sell your name to a product and you cook when they say go.

So we had the honor of having Chefs Michel and Cesar Troisgros come all the way from Roanne, France to show us how to cook salmon in the Samsung kitchen. You spend 30 minutes watching him cook and then trying a little yourself. You can ask questions, but only the brave would interrupt a 3 Michelin star chef, so no one does except the moderator/interviewer. I feel this is an outdated and uninspiring concept.

Chef Sang-Hoon Degeimbre used Magimix blenders, ice cream maker and whatnot to make his dessert. It seems people are eager, even, very eager to get up and cook with the Chefs. I prefer to watch but when the Chef asks you for the 2nd time if I really don’t want to help, you get up and help dress the plates of course.

I did a little barter of my own, as I didn’t sign up for the workshop, a gentleman gave up his seat for me and in exchange I offered him my leftover beer and gin coupons. He was happy to watch from the back with a big GT grin. 
So at the end of the workshop, you end up with a great tasting dish you helped make, a charismatic chef posing for photos and … well yes, sticky fingers. A better concept, obviously popular but I can’t imagine this is how Chefs prefer to spend their time. Is this how chefs make a living now? A necessary evil? Or is the public demanding this type of exposure and wanting to bridge the gap between gastronomy and cook-it-yourself?

French toast with potato and salsify 
It does remind me of an interview my dad gave some 25 years ago where he said: “The future of fine dining lays in the hands of the house wife and the food-education she gives her children.” Right you were, daddy!

Now what?
Will I go again next year? but of course.
Can it be better? but of course.
Can we be proud of the Belgium Effect ? … absolutely!

April 27, 2015

Ode to the leek, you are a fine vegetable

Today i commemorate my dads passing with a leek quiche, his favourite vegetable.

need: 3 leeks, short pastry, 100gr feta, 1 egg and 110 ml milk

go: place the pastry in the tin and prick with a fork, bake for 20 min at 180C. Boil or steam the leeks until tender. Cut the boiled leeks length wise and layer the crust from outside in. You can also cut the leeks in small pieces, but i tried it this way. Sprinkle the feta over the leeks. Place the tin into the oven, pour the egg and milk mixture over the leeks and feta. Bake for 20 to 30 min at 180 C. Season with salt and pepper either the egg and milk mixture or like me, serve some salt flakes on the side.

Rest in peace, dad! 
Hope you are having a hell of a cook-off up there! 
miss you 

Willy Slawinski 27 April 1992

April 19, 2015

Paris: what to do in one day?

I love Paris for so many different reasons; food being one of them of course. But i never pass up an opportunity to  see an art expo at Le Grand Palais, my favourite museum. As there was a close friends birthday to be celebrated, we took the party to Paris.

my survival kit: train tic, Paris Moleskine,
motion sickness meds, fan,
water mist, metro tics, Paris Wallpaper and notepad
Jean Paul Gaultier, a living legend in French fashion, shared his most iconic and transcending pieces of the past 40 years . He explained his grandmother was an important influence in his design and his teddybear Nana, was his first model for his iconic underwear-outerwear. He is also the trendsetter of masculine-feminine fashion,  think of Madonna in her music video "Vogue": those men suits combined with the pink undergarments, whaw...

I loved his reply to criticism of showing a skirt for men in '84: "a fabric has no sex, it is the interpretation we give it that makes it feminine or masculine." 3000 of the men skirt sold and mostly to straight men who rocked the garment.

We stopped by the "Americans Icons" expo as well, where a few contemporary pieces from the San Francisco museum were borrowed like Liechtenstein and Warhol. I loved the comment with the Warhol of Liz Taylor : "Once you become an icon, you are no longer a person; you become a commercial product and can be advertised the same as a can of soup" 

After a stroll on Avenue Montaigne, we had lunch at l'Avenue. Known for where the beaux monde lunches and where the food is exquisite. I loved the super fresh smoked salmon and homemade blinis. My friend had the Peking duck and fries. Those tin fries, absolutely fab. We toasted with a glass of Billecart-Salmon Rose champagne.

We shopped at the grandes boutiques LaFayette and Printemps but were chased away by the many, many Asian tourists. To be honest, it felt more like being in a mall anywhere in the world rather than in a fine high-end parisian department store. It had been years since i had been and i don't think i will go back again. I prefer rive gauche and Faubourg St Honore shops showing a more unique collection and still have Parisian flair.

As the weather was sublime, we took a walk along the Seine from pont des invalides, through the tuilleries gardens and stopped on Faubourg St Honore at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel to cool down in their zen garden courtyard with a glass of Billecart-Salmon sous bois champagne; we loved the black truffle nuts.

A quick stop at Fauchon to pick up a few essentials such as madeleines and calissons. Also a chilled bottle of Billecart-Salmon brut for the train ride back. We picked up a Saint Honore a la rose from Laduree as birthday cake.

Before we got on the late, late train home, we had one more stop at Le Forum near place Madeleine for a cocktail: a Bellini for me and a dirty martini for my friend. It's a great cocktail bar stating clearly on the menu's first page they are not a wine, beer nor champagne bar. Fair enough.

on the train home

It was a long but relaxing day in Paris, we had great food, saw beautiful art and admired the fashion. We enjoyed the sun and the beautiful Parisian architecture and each others company. We were exhausted but returned to Brussels with recharged batteries.

A bientôt Paris!