March 1, 2015

new food trends in Belgium: organic, box and truck - part 1: organic

What other consumer countries have already embraced a while ago, now is local to Belgium: eat organic , food boxes delivered to your door, and meet your favorite food-truck in town. Let me break down each trend for you.

Sebastien in Antwerp
Trend ONE: Organic and waste less:
Many a place in the countryside already invite you to pop in and buy potatoes or strawberries fresh from the field. Today a  near 100% organic shop or eatery in town is a booming trend.
You cannot hide from organic anymore; every magazine or food show reminds us to eat local, seasonal and organic. And if you missed it, they launched a national challenge to reduce the consumption of meat and fish from 18 February for 40 days. About 43.000 people signed up and committed this way to reduce their ecological footprint, waste of water and greenhouse gas emissions. It takes for 1kg of beef about 9kg of grain or soya, i.e. plenty of land, energy and water.

The stores: You can find plenty of gluten free options, but also a wide variety of fairtrade products. To me this is like a foodie Ali Baba’s cave: full of treasures to discover and experiment with. I like taking my time to walk the isles and read packaging and imagine what I can do with it. They also have fresh fruit and veg but those compare to produce found at the many markets in town.
Supermarkets are picking up the trend as well. Such as Delhaize, they promote “Respecting our Planet” where they promote selling local, seasonal produce and fairtrade but also focus on saving energy and reduce or recycle waste. A clear message of provenance and sustainability is also being promoted by Carrefour.

Robuust in Antwerp
I shop at the Farm near Merode and Label Green near Lepoutre in Brussels.  The Zero-waste shop Robuust in Antwerp is a bit out of the way to shop regularly but is a fun concept to bring your own container and fill it up with dry goods. 

The Belgian eateries: “Don’t’ panic, It’s Organic” is the slogan of Le Pain Quotidien who reinvented themselves to be 100 % organic and it works. “Exki” has been promoting quality fast-food with perfect insight into the ingredients, the composition and the nutritional value of the products since 1999. They donate a cup of coffee to the homeless with each purchase, already serving over 67 000 cups.
The Foodmaker is proud of their biodegradable packaging and donates leftover food to homeless organisations.
Café de la Presse and du Sablon, offer a large variety of fairtrade coffees and promote the provenance of their products on their FB page reporting from their trips to Panama and El Salvador, picking out the coffee beans themselves. They do seem to share that contemporary country look of untreated oak and black metal also like a little gem i found in Antwerp called Sebastien.

Farm in Brussels

How I like my organic? I definitely seek out to eat as much as possible produce in season and like to cut out wheat when possible. I love the many spelt pastas and breads you now can find everywhere now. Some gluten free crackers, cookies and chips also end up in my shopping basket. Currently I am making my way through testing several organic lemonades and sodas as I hope to find a calorie-less alternative for my afternoon Coke. I love Elderflower cordial and ginger beer, how British! but not readily available in Brussels. I don’t mind paying a bit extra for the quality you get in return but I don’t solely live organic and cutting out meat is hard but I do have at minimum 1 fruit and veggie only day per week. Does it matter to me I know where my food is coming from and how much energy it took, to be honest it’s a fun fact to know but I don’t actively search out those answers. To me those new stores feel like they are replacing the neighborhood shops this does not mean they automatically equal quality, one still needs to evaluate, compare and taste. 
Wasting less energy or generating less waste are becoming part of the next generation and so it should be if we wish to help our planet little bit longer. 

February 12, 2015

pasta and mussels : easy, simple and tasty

A bucket of fresh mussels at the fishmongers inspired me to cook this simple pasta.

need: 500 gr of fresh mussels cleaned and rinsed, chopped fresh flat parsley, pasta ( i choose linguini), a knob of butter, 250 ml of vegetable stock & 2 peeled and diced carrots

1. Add the vegetable stock and carrots to a pot and bring to the boil. Add the mussels, with the lid on boil for 6 minutes. Drain the mussels.

2. Boil the pasta and drain. Turn a knob of butter in the pasta.

3. Add to the pasta the mussels and parsley, adjust seasoning to taste and serve.

January 31, 2015

Restaurant "Chalet de la Foret" : it's all about truffles ....

Lots to celebrate: the new year, someone moving, someone having a baby, someone had a big birthday and great friendship  - how to honour it best ... of course with gorgeous food! 

This restaurant, adorned with 2 Michelin stars, has been a longtime on my must-eat list and it did not disappointed. 
The elegant chalet has embraced the modern facelift and I paused a moment while I took it all in. I am immediately in awe of the gold platted bar combined with neutral grey walls. The soft velvet gold and grey chairs in the lounge next to the fire look so inviting; the perfet crisp starched linen table cloths and the comfortable seating at the table exude a warm welcome and increase my curiosity about the food.  

With great anticipation I focus on the menu and daily specials. I sink deep into the menu, to me it's like reading a good book, i don't even hear the conversation at the table. I study, imagine what i would taste like and weigh what I like and what intrigues me help to decide what to eat. It is a process but it doesn't take me long to decide. I take picking what to eat very serious. I am seduced by the special of grilled oysters with spelt and the classic dish of sea bas with truffle. 

An exquisite variety of nibblings was served with our champagne, the star was the black crocket with truffles: a pure pleasure. My oysters were sublime. The Chef spoiled us with an extra treat of scallops with truffles.  And the sea bas was a truffle extravagance but perfectly balanced as not to overwhelm your pallet. No room for dessert but we devoured the sweets and the lemon cake was precious.

The food is modern classic, full of subtle flavours and combinations that are salivating. The modern plates enhance the dream feeling: like little clouds bringing us delish tableaux.

I find while enjoying great food like this, it sparks great conversation and although ladies need very little arm-twisting to dish girl-stuff; it is nice to forget work for a little hour and indulge in fantasy, stress-free pleasures. Thank God for places like this to remind me why i work so hard. 

January 25, 2015

it's all about beetroot: dips and crisps, juice and salads and much more

Winter months like January and February are the worst, it's grey, cold, damp and dark - I need food to cheer me up! 
I had some beetroot that appeared in my shopping bag and here is what i came up with: beetroot and peer dip with beetroot crisps.
Beetroot is so versatile: love it in salads, click here for recipe. Love it in juice with apple and ginger, and great in soup with bacon.
I also cured salmon with a beetroot marinade , recipe here

For the dip:
need: 3 small cooked beetroots, 1 very ripe peer, salt, chilli flakes, pepper
1. in a food processor / blender add the beetroot and peer, with the spices and blend till smooth. 
2. taste and adjust seasoning and serve.

For the crisps:
need: 1 large beetroot, salt crystals
1. slice with a mandolin thin beetroot slices. Damp them off with kitchen paper. add to baking tray with a drizzle of olive oil.
2. bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for about 15 minutes, keep an eye on them as depending on the size they may be done earlier.
3. toss in a paper bag with the salt and serve.

January 22, 2015

Favourite food moments of 2014

Moet's pink dinner in Brussels

Eton Mess at La Mercerie in Brussels

that amazing Florentine steak in Florence

so FAB Vitello tonnato at Ten Bogaerde in Koksijde, Belgium

sauce cooking class at mmmmh! Brussels

white peach Belinni at Granger in London

delish venison at Menus by Pierre Gagnaire in Moscow

Squid ink pasta at Bondi Beach in Sydney