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The iconic Belgian fries

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French-fried potatoes are batons of deep-fried potato. They are served hot, either soft or crispy, and generally eaten as an accompaniment with lunch or dinner, or eaten as a snack. They are a typical fixture of fast food.

French or Belgian fries?Ella 020

It is claimed that fries originated in Belgium, and the on-going dispute between the French and Belgians about where they were invented is highly contentious, with both countries claiming ownership. The popularity of the term “French fries” is explained as a result of “French gastronomic hegemony” internationally, where the cuisine of Belgium was assimilated because of a lack of understanding.

Belgian journalist Jo Gérard (died in 2006) claims/ed that a 1781 family manuscript recounts that potatoes were deep-fried prior to 1680 in what was then the Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium), in the Meuse valley: “The inhabitants of Namur, Andenne, and Dinant, had the custom of fishing in the Meuse for small fish and frying, especially among the poor, but when the river was frozen and fishing became hazardous, they cut potatoes in the form of small fish and put them in a fryer like those here. The only problem that Gérard has not produced the manuscript that supports this claim, which, even if true, is unrelated to the later history of the French fry, as the potato did not arrive in the region until around 1735. Also, given 18th century economic conditions: “It is absolutely unthinkable that a peasant could have consecrated large quantities of fat for cooking potatoes, because at most they were sautéed in a pan.

Some people believe that the term “French” was introduced when British and American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War I and consequently tasted Belgian fries. They supposedly called them “French”, as it was the local language and official language of the Belgian Army at that time, believing themselves to be in France. At this time, the term “French fries” was growing popular; however, in the south of Netherlands, (bordering Belgium), they were, and still are, called Vlaamse frieten (“Flemish fries”) “Pommes frites“, “frites” (French), or “frieten”  became the national snack and a substantial part of several national dishes, such as Moules-frites, Flemish carbonade etc.

Many Americans attribute the dish to France and offer as evidence a notation by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. “Pommes de terre frites à cru, en petites tranches” (“Potatoes deep-fried while raw, in small slices”) in a manuscript in Thomas Jefferson’s hand and the recipe almost certainly comes from his French chef, Honoré Julien. In addition, from 1813 on, recipes for what can be described as French fries occur in popular American cookbooks. By the late 1850s, one of these uses the term French fried potatoes.

Belgian fries

French fries in Belgium are generally salted and, in their simplest and most common form, are served with a large variety of Belgian sauces and eaten either on their own or with other snacks such as fricandelle or burgers. Traditionally, fries are served in a cornet de frites (French), frietzak/fritzak (Dutch), or Frittentüte (German), a white cardboard cone, then wrapped in paper, with a spoonful of sauce on top. They may also be served with other traditional fast-food items, such as frikandel/fricadelle, (meatballs or croquette In the Netherlands, fries are sold at snack bars, often served with sauce mayonnaise or curry ketchup and in addition to them popular options are (also see on the picture):Xmas 2012 Belgium 243

Aioli, garlic mayonnaise

Sauce Andalouse – mayonnaise with tomato paste and peppers.

  • Sauce Americaine – mayonnaise with tomato chervil onions, capers and celery.
  • Bicky Dressing (Gele Bicky-sauce), a commercial brand made from mayonnaise, white cabbage, tarragon, cucumber, onion, mustard and dextrose.
  • Curry mayonnaise.
  • Mammoet-sauce – mayonnaise, tomato, onion, glucose, garlic, soy sauce
  • Peanut sauce– when combined with mayonnaise and optionally raw onion, this is called patat oorlog (“war fries”).
  • Samurai-sauce – mayonnaise with sambal oelek.
  • Sauce “Pickles” – a yellow mayonnaise-based sauce with turmeric, mustard and crunchy vegetable chunks, similar to Piccalilli.
  • Pepper-sauce – mayonnaise with green pepper, garlic, glucose.
  • Tartar sauce
  • Zigeuner sauce, a “gypsy” sauce of tomatoes, paprika and chopped bell peppers, borrowed from Germany

These sauces are generally also available in Belgian supermarkets. In addition to this, hot sauces are sometimes offered by friteries, including hollandaise sauce, sauce provençale, Béarnaise sauce, or a splash carbonade flamande stew from a constantly simmering pot, in the spirit of British chips and gravy.Ella 017

 

Stuffed kohlrabi

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Luca 019This recipe for stuffed kohlrabi is typical of Eastern Europeans’ love of hiding food in other food. Kohlrabi, red or white (pale green) is a favorite vegetable in Hungary. Some compare the flavor to radishes, but for me it’s more cabbage-y. And when it is stuffed, as in this recipe, it’s reminiscent of stuffed cabbage rolls. Minced beef or a combination of beef, pork can be used, and leftover ground meats work as well.

Ingredients:

1 medium kohlrabi per person

1 pound ground beef or ground leftover beef, veal, pork

  • 1 large finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150 gr of rice
  • 1 finely chopped garlic clove
  • 1 1/2 cups broth of choice
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Hungarian red paprika powder

 

Preparation:

 

  1. Peel away the tough, outer skin of kohlrabis. Cut a bit off the root end so they will stand straight. Cut off the tops and reserve, and scoop out the flesh of the bottoms and chop it finely. Put aside.
  2. In a medium skillet, saute onions and chopped kohlrabi in butter until tender. In an other skillet sauté rice with a bit of water (later) for 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, and combine with meat, eggs, garlic, onion mixture salt and pepper to taste. Coat a casserole dish with cooking spray. Fill kohlrabi bottoms with meat mixture, place in dish and place kohlrabi tops on. Pour the broth over the kohlrabi. Bake or cook for 40-50 minutes or until tender.
  3. Remove kohlrabi to a serving platter and keep warm. Skim fat off pan juices. Fork blend sour cream with flour. Temper with a few ladles of hot pan juices, whisking constantly. Pour tempered sour cream into pan juices and cook until thickened. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve stuffed kohlrabi with sauce on the side or ladled over.
  4. I also filled the leaves of the kohlrabi with the meat mixture and cooked them in broth similar to the Greek grape leaves the dolmades. The stuffed kohlrabis were divine!

Luca 018

Arbutus compote and Asian pear stuffed with arbutus

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Luca 020Arbutus unedo is native berry to warm temperate regions of the Mediterranean, western Europe, and North America. They are small trees or shrubs with red flaking bark and edible red berries. What is funny about this berry that the fruit development is delayed for about five months after pollination, so that flowers appear while the previous year’s fruit are ripening. North American members of the genus are called madrones, from the Spanish name madroño (strawberry tree) although this nomenclature is not used in Canada. The European species are also called strawberry trees from the superficial resemblance of the fruit to a strawberry; some species are sometimes referred to simply as “arbutus“. In the United States, the name “madrone” is used south of the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon/northern California and the name “madrona” is used north of the Siskiyou Mountains according to the Sunset Western Garden Book. In British Columbia, the trees are simply known by the name “arbutus” or “tick tree.” It is Canada’s only native broadleaved evergreen tree, they call mayflower or has an alternative common name of “trailing arbutus”.

Crazy for the arbutus?

The Arbutus unedo tree makes up part of the coat of arms, and moreover it is the symbol of the city of Madrid, Spain. In the center of the capital (Puerta del Sol) there is a statue (The Bear and the Strawberry) of a bear eating the fruit of the Madroño tree. The image appears on city crests, taxi cabs, man-hole covers, and other city infrastructure. The fruit of the Madroño tree ferments on the tree if left to ripen, so some of the bears become drunk from eating the berries.

The Arbutus was important to the Straits Salish people of Vancouver Island, who used arbutus bark and leaves to create medicines for colds, stomach problems, and tuberculosis, and as the basis for contraceptives. The tree also figured into certain myths of the Straits Salish.

Culinary use

The fruit is edible but has minimal flavour so that in Portugal, the fruit is sometimes distilled into a potent brandy known as Medronho. In Madrid, they call the distilled fruit Madroño, which is a sweet, fruity liqueur. In Corsica, Italy, the arbutus’s bright red color brings a splash of beauty to the brushland and is used to make jams, jellies and liqueurs as well as being a component of certain savory dishes. In France the arbutus bush is found mostly in the southern regions. The species, with its tough shiny leaves, was undoubtedly introduced into the region by monks. Its edible fruit was used to make liquor in medieval times.

Me and the arbutus

I fell in love with the arbutus at the first sight when I saw the first can in Münich’s best Asian supermarket circa 8 years ago. All right I haven’t written a poem to it like the Irish writer Alfred Perceval Graves (1846-1931) did (My love’s an arbutus by the set to music by his compatriot Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) but I was close to share his enthusiasm when I tasted. My zest went on so that I started to make research of it because I knew whom to turn to for more infos. It was Na Sun a young Chinese colleauge of my husband, who was quite knowledgeable of it and told me that in China it is called yang mei and most yang mei are deep red, but they can be white, orange, even purple as well. In Sanghai where she comes from on the markets carry them fresh, frozen and canned, and in jams, jellies, and preserves. Manufacturers also use them to flavor wines, candies, cold drinks, and liqueurs. She knew also that during the reign of the Sung Dynasty, these fruits were preserved in sugar or in honey. But arbutus should be dried before preserving, and years and years ago this was done in the sun. Then after drying, they can be stored for months and used in any number of ways. The fruits of all Arbutus cultivars take about a year to ripen. Most often, they are harvested by hand. According to some article none of them should be eaten raw but the Chinese do eat it on that way (perhaps it is because there are so many varieties, colors, and stories about them).

One day just recently Na Sun approached me with a large smile on her face in the university and told me that that she had found some arbutus in the frozen food section of her favorite Chinese supermarket in Münich. Yeah let’s go there and buy some. I immediatelly shared her enthusiasm since I had only bought it in cans before. Then next day she also sent me an email in the attachment with some of her grandma’s arbutus recipe. She wrote me that there are only a few recipes exist with arbutus such as sherbets, sauces, and beverages, but that one is the best of her grandma’s. I gave a try for the Asian pear stuffed with arbutus recipe. I made it with a dark reddish purple frozen fruit. Everyone who ate them loved their looks, color, and their taste. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients: 4 Asian pears, tops cut off, cores removed 1 cup arbutus, each fruit cut in half 1/4 cup olive or pine nuts, toasted in dry fry pan, 1/2 cup rock sugar, small white crystals

Preparation: 1. Put pears in individual heat-proof Chinese soup bowls. 2. Divide yang mei evenly and put one-quarter into each pear cavity. 3. Mix nuts and rock sugar, and divide that evenly into each pear cavity; then put the bowls into a steamer over boiling water for half an hour. 4. Then reduce heat so that water barely simmers, and steam for another hour; then remove the bowls and serve one bowl to each person.

Luca 017Arbutus compote

Ingredients: 1 l strawberry juice, 1 l water, 500 gr arbutus, lemon

Pour into a saucepan the water and the strawberry juice and add frozen arbutus, flavor with lemon and cook for 15-to 20 minutes. Let it cool then garnish with some lemon melisse. It was really delicious!

Grilled radicchio on Italian way

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Chanterelle 044

I have never grilled trevisano or radicchio salad until last week. But since I have an Italian friend (collegaue of my hubby) Luca, from him I always learn something new about the Italian witches kitchen. This happened to me last week when he invited us for a pizza party. By the time we arrived at his parents’s they had already fired up the big pizza oven, that they have in the center of their living room and then later they proclaimed that from now everybody would make their own pizza with what one’s desire. I topped mine with cheese and ham but eagerly wanted to taste everybodie’s pizzas. I have to say all of the pies were great, but the one that was the best for me was topped with radicchio and a bit of blue cheese. When Luca’s mother saw how excited I was she had asked me whether I had ever eaten grilled radicchio since they’re not the most common vegetables in the world. -And if you don’t prepare them right, they can be bitter and unpleasant.-she added. I had to confess that that was my very first time I’d eaten it.

Then yesterday I wanted to experience the buzz once again so I grilled some radicchio of my own. I Have to say it was really spectacular when the shredded leaves turned sweet and nutty as they charred. It’s a magical transformation, and one that worked just as well without the pizza base. By the way I grilled the radicchio directly over the flames of the grill.

Now I know that whether you use radicchio (they look like oval-shaped purple cabbages at the supermarket) or Trevisano (a special variety of radicchio that’s similar in color, but shaped more like a head of Romaine lettuce, and far less common) the easiest way to do it, is to split the heads in half, leaving all the leaves attached to the core. You can then grill it directly over a moderate flame. At first the leaves will dry out and char a bit, and then they’ll start to release moisture as they continue to cook. Once you’ve flipped the heads and they’re totally tender (the leaves should be dark brown), with plenty of succulent juices that burst out when you bite into them. They’re good enough on their own with just a bit of salt and pepper, but some blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola, Rockfort does an excellent effect plus a drizzle of good olive oil.

Grilled radicchio with Gorgonzola or blue cheese

Light one half chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over half of coal grate. Alternatively, set half the burners of a gas grill to medium-high heat. Set cooking grated in place, cover gill and allow preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place radicchio cut side-down directly over the heat. Grill until lightly charred on first side, about 2 minutes. Flip and season the tops with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until second side is charred, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to cooler side of grill, cover, and cook until fully tender, about 1 minute long. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and saba. Serve immediately! I also prepared mashed celery, flavored with horse-radish( I cooked in water and milk mixture), and served with some sausage. It was excellent!

 

 

Chanterelle 045

Chanterelle with thyme and white wine

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Chanterelle 048In Germany we are for the chanterelle season because the German climat is perfect for them since they tend to grow in clusters in mossy coniferous forests, but are also often found in mountainous birch forests and among grasses and low-growing herbs. In central Europe, specially in Germany, Austria and Sweden the golden chanterelle is often found in beech forests among similar species and forms.

Chanterelle mushrooms as a group are generally described as being rich in flavor, with a distinctive taste and aroma difficult to characterize. Some species have a fruity -mirabelle, apricot odor, others a more earthy fragrance and still others can even be considered spicy. The golden chanterelle is perhaps the most sought-after and flavorful chanterelle, and many chefs consider it on the same short list of gourmet fungi as truffles and morels. It therefore tends to command a high price in both restaurants and specialty stores.

Cooking tricks with chanterelle

There are many ways to cook chanterelles. Most of the flavorful compounds in chanterelles are to sauté in butter, oil or cream. They also contain smaller amounts of water- and alcohol-soluble flavorings, which lend the mushrooms well to recipes involving wine or other cooking alcohols. Many popular methods of cooking chanterelles include them in sautés, soufflés, cream sauces, and soups. They are not typically eaten raw, as their rich and complex flavor is best released when cooked.

Chanterelles are also well-suited for drying, and tend to maintain their aroma and consistency quite well. Some chefs profess that reconstituted chanterelles are actually superior in flavor to fresh ones, though they lose in texture whatever they gain in flavor by becoming more chewy after being preserved by drying. Dried chanterelles can also be crushed into flour and used in seasoning in soups or sauces. Chanterelles are also suitable for freezing, though older frozen chanterelles can often develop a slightly bitter taste after thawing.

In the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, it is known as Sisi Shamu and is generally picked from the forests. During the season, it is cooked with cheese and chilies or cooked with meat.

And now I’d like to show a simple but elegant way to prepare the chanterelle:Chanterelle 050

Sautéd chanterelle mushrooms with garlic and thyme

Ingredients: 500 gr chanterelle, two cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter, rosemary sprig, chopped parsley, lemon juice or white wine (optional), 200 ml cream or 4 tablespoons of sour cream, salt and pepper, chopped parsley

I like when my chanterelles are “well done”, where just about all the water in them is fully cooked out and they take on a crispy texture.

Directions: First it’s important to wash carefully the chanterelle in order to get rid of the dirt. Then cut the mushrooms into fairly large pieces as they shrink a lot when cooked. So when you are ready with the cleaning and cutting process heat the butter and oil mixture in a frying pan, add the diced chanterelles, sear on one side, over medium heat (don’t move them around too much) until they are browned (about 10 minutes), then toss the mushrooms in the pan to expose the other side to the heat. The edges should be crispy like a chip and the texture firm.

Add the minced garlics and the fresh thyme leaves, rosemary sprig and let them cook for a few minutes until the garlic has softened, but not burned.

Pour over white wine and let it simmer. Two minutes before the chanterelles are tender enough add cream or sour cream to dish and let it cook for 2 minutes. You can also hit the mushrooms with a touch of lemon juice or vinegar at the end for a little acidity (but be careful if you use cream).

Taste and re-adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. I garnished my chanterelles with risotto, the rice was cooked in white wine and I flavored with a little bit of grated Parmesan. It was just perfect!

Bon appetit!

Grilled merguez

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pasta pesto 029Belgian cuisine is widely varied with significant regional variations while also reflecting the cuisines of neighbouring France, Germany and the Netherlands. It is sometimes said that Belgian food is served in the quantity of German cuisine but with quality of French food. But at over 4% of Moroccan population of Belgium, which is the highest percentagewise in Europe, we may not leave the Moroccan cuisine out of consideration which has made a great influence on the Belgian cuisine. But how is the Moroccan cuisine? It is known for dishes like couscous, pastilla, and others. Spices such as cinnamon are used in the Moroccan cooking. But my favorite product what I always buy whenever I am in Belgium is the merguez. It is a spicy mutton-beef or lamb-based fresh sausage (it is very important in the North African cuisine) and it is a mixture of minced and spiced meat stuffed into a lamb-intestine casing. It is also popular in the Middle East, in Europe having become particularly popular in France and Belgium by the closing decades of the twentieth century. Nowadays merguez sausage is available in all shops in Belgium however if someone has a chance to order a plate with merguez in a Moroccan restaurant will see the difference between the shop sausage and the restaurant one because in the Moroccan restaurants the merguez is heavily spiced with cumin and chili pepper or Harissa, which gives it its characteristic piquancy and red color, as well as other spices such as sumac, fennel, and garlic. Otherwise the merguez is eaten grilled or with couscous. Dried merguez is used to add flavor to tagines. It is also eaten in sandwiches and with french fries.

Grilled merguez plate with cooked corn and French baguette

Ingredients: 1/4 cup mayonnaise +1 tablespoon harissa, caramelized onion, manchego cheese, 8 links merguez, 1 French baguette, 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1 bunch fresh cilantro, rocket

Methods: Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill merguez over hot side of grill until browned all over and cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes total. Transfer to plate. Prepare onion rings, caramelize them with a bit of sugar.
Slice baguette into four 6-inch portions and halve each portion lengthwise. Brush cut side of each baguette with oil. Grill baguette over hot side of grill, cut side down, until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Remove to plate.
Top bottom half of baguette with 2 merguez links, about 2 tablespoons of caramelized onions, manchego cheese, and a few sprigs of cilantro. Spread harissa mayo on top half of baguettes and place on top of each sandwich
Transfer to a plate or tray and serve immediately with the cooked corn.
I also prepared guacamole with a bit of mayonnaise:
Ingredients: 1 ripe avocado, salt, pepper, 2 small cloves of garlic, chopped onion,  1 teaspoon of carraway seeds, 1 teaspoon of red chilli pepper powder (Hungarian), 2-3 spoon of lemon, cilantro, and 1 teaspoon garam masala, 4 spoon of yoghurt or mayonnaise
Methods: Using a fork, roughly mash the avocado. (Don’t overdo it! The guacamole should be a little chunky.) Sprinkle with salt and lime (or lemon) juice. The acid in the lime juice will help delay the avocados from turning brown. Add the chopped onion, cilantro, black pepper, and chilles. Chilli peppers vary individually in their hotness. So, start with a half of one chilli pepper and add to the guacamole to your desired degree of hotness. Be careful handling the peppers; (wash your hands thoroughly after handling and do not touch your eyes or the area near your eyes with your hands for several hours). Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation from the air reaching it. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Before to serve add yoghurt or mayo. Chilling tomatoes hurts their flavor, so if you want to add chopped tomato to your guacamole, add it just before serving.

CIMG1802

 

CA PHE SUA DA-Vietnamese ice coffee

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imagesice coffeeTo prepare ice coffee from the best coffee it depends on what kind of coffe you purchase because there are various brewing methods, with the fundamental division being cold brew– brewing the coffee cold, yielding different flavor, but not requiring cooling – or brewing hot and then cooling, generally by simply pouring over ice or into ice cold milk. In case of hot brewing this can be normally brewed coffee (drip, press pot), or espresso. In case of hot brewing, sweeteners and flavorings are often mixed into the hot coffee before cooling, due to higher solubility in hot water. Alternatively, syrup (sugar pre-dissolved in water) may be used. Pre-packaged iced coffee is available as a grocery item in several countries. Regardless of brewing method, iced coffee is generally brewed at a higher strength than normal coffee, due to the dilution caused by the ice. Iced coffee is a cold variant of coffee. The iced latte and iced mocha are examples.

But for instance in India ice coffee usually consists of instant coffee mixed with cold/frozen milk in a blender, producing a thin, coffee-flavored smoothie or often mixed with vanilla for icy thick experience. South Australians, especially in Adelaide, are also known for this. A more upscale version is popular in the espresso bar chains Barrista and Cafe Coffee Day. This is made with a shot of espresso and cold milk, similar to a latte.

Vietnamese iced coffee, also known as Ca phe da or cafe da (literally “ice coffee”) is totally varies from the abow mentioned ones. Because- at its simplest, -Ca phe da is made with coarsely ground Vietnamese-grown dark roast coffee individually brewed with a small metal French drip filter into a cup containing about a quarter to a half as much sweetened condensed milk, stirred and poured over ice. The coarse grind allows the use of the cà phê phin.

Ingredients for four glasses: 8 teaspoons of coffee powder/isntant coffee, 600 ml water, sweetened condenced milk

Methods: Prepare coffee. Fill the half of the glasses with shaved ice or ice cubes. Pour over ice the hot coffee and add 2-to 4 sweetened condenced milk. Stir it well with a coctail stick. It may be served already chilled, or poured hot over ice. Because sugar does not dissolve readily into cold liquids, it must be added either directly to the hot base, or to the finished product in the form of syrup.