Recently in Belgian Category

Stoemp (Mashed potatoes with vegetables and sausage)

Stoemp (Mashed potatoes with vegetables and sausage)

My recent trip to Belgium caused a strong craving for food based on potatoes, which I have been trying to deal with for the past week or so. Then I finally gave in today and cooked my first leek and carrot stoemp. It turned out quite delicious.

Here's what I cooked. The recipe serves two, possibly three if you add a third bratwurst and they're not too hungry.

  • 500g potatoes, peeled & diced
  • 1 large leek
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • ½ cup milk
  • salt
  • pepper
  • nutmeg
  • 2 bratwursts (roast sausages, preferably of Belgian origin)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Boil the potatoes in plenty of salted water until they're soft.

While the potatoes are cooking, remove the hard outer leaves from the leek, rinse it well, then chop it. Grate the carrots.

Melt the butter in a pan, then add the leek and carrots. Simmer for about 5 minutes over low heat, make sure that they don't brown.

Add the chicken stock, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and roast the bratwursts.

Mash the potatoes or squeeze them through a potato press.
Drain the vegetables, but keep the liquid.
Put the liquid back in the pan, let boil over high heat until it has been reduced to about half.
Mix the potatoes and vegetables with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring and slowly add the liquid from the pan to give the stoemp a softer texture.

Per plate, use half of the stoemp and one bratwurst. First put the stoemp on the plate, then the bratwurst on top of it.

Veggie option: Eat the stoemp without the bratwurst.

Moules nature (Mussels)

Moules nature (Mussels)

This is really simple, so up to now I didn't think it would warrant an entry on this weblog, but since many people seem to think it's a lot more difficult, I decided to publish it nevertheless.

Make sure you get good quality live mussels. Usually you'll get the best mussels between September and March. Frozen mussels only have a fraction of the taste and a somewhat rubbery consistency, so avoid them unless you have no other choice. Also prepare them as soon as possible after buying them. They'll keep one or two days in the fridge if put in an open(!) bowl without(!) any water in it, but they're best when freshest.

Fresh mussels should not really smell of anything other than sea water. Stay clear of them if they have a fishy or even ammonia-like smell.

Unless served as a starter, the ingredients are per person:

  • 1kg live mussels
  • 1 celery stick, sliced
  • 3-4 shallots (depending on size), sliced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 small bunch fresh green parsley, chopped

If you bought uncleaned mussels, clean the shells with a stiff kitchen brush. Pull out the hairy beard (byssus).

Better still, buy pre-cleaned mussels. They're more expensive, but it'll save you an hour of pretty tedious work.

Rinse under water and throw away all mussels with broken shells, open mussels and half-open mussels that don't close within a minute when you tap on the shell. Also check for beards and remove if necessary.

Put some water into a large pot. How much water is a matter of taste and testing, but you'll need a lot less water than you'd think at first. I usually use a 3-litre pot and fill in 1.5 cm (approx. 400-500ml) water. The mussels will lose a lot of water during the cooking process, so you really don't need more, and it doesn't taste nice if it becomes too watery.

Add the shallots, celery, parsley, salt, pepper and cleaned mussels. Stir, so that the ingredients are well mixed in the pot. Put the lid on and bring to the boil.

Once the water is boiling you'll notice immediately if you have enough water, as the pot will be on the brim of overboiling. Reduce the heat so that it doesn't, and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Remove from the heat and serve immediately, in the pot. As a side dish, serve French bread or French fries. Do NOT eat any mussels that have not opened.

Variations (all variations are based on the ingredients above):

  • for moules au vin blanc, use 200ml water and 250ml white wine and add a twig of rosemary.
  • for moules à l'ail, add 3 finely chopped cloves garlic.
  • for moules provençales, leave away the celery, use 150ml water and 250ml white wine and add 2 chopped skinned tomatoes, 2 chopped cloves garlic, half a small diced fennel bulb, 1 twig thyme and 1 twig rosemary.
  • for moules crème, use 300ml water and 125ml crème fraîche.

Asparagus with shrimps

Asparagus with shrimps

A refreshing dish for a hot day like today. Serves 2.

  • 500g asparagus spears
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme or 1 teasponn dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped onion
  • 1 finely chopped clove garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • pepper
  • 25ml red wine vinegar
  • 25ml olive oil
  • 50ml sunflower oil
  • 3 teaspoons finely chopped chives
  • 150g shrimps without shells

Cut the base of the asparagus stalks and peel them until about half way up the stalks. Tie them together with string and cook them for about 15 minutes in salted water. Get them out of the pan, rinse under cold water, then put them in the fridge to let them cool down.

In a bowl, mix the mustard, thyme, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and vinegar. Slowly pour the two oils over the mixture, whisking vigorously all the time to produce a smooth vinaigrette.

Mix the shrimps and the chopped chives.

Arrange half the asparagus stalks on a plate, pour half the vinaigrette over it, then put the half the shrimps on top of it. Serve with some bread and a fresh white wine.

As the asparagus season is almost over, this dish can also be prepared with leeks instead of asparagus. Simply remove the dark green leaves from the leeks, boil them for 20 minutes, season with lemon juice and let them cool down in the fridge. Then proceed as with the asparagus recipe.