Culinary Travelogue: Belgium
Belgian cuisine is widely diverse with significant regional variations, while also reflecting the cuisines of neighboring France, Germany, and Netherlands. It is often described that Belgian food is served in the quantity of German cuisine, but with the quality of French food.
The Belgian menu is characterized by a variety of rich, hearty soups. The so-called waterzooi are the most typical—Waterzooi de Poulet, based on chicken, and Waterzooi de Poisson, on fish. Chicken is prepared in numerous ways. It is popular in Brussels that the nickname Kickefetters, meaning chicken eaters, is applied to the citizens of Flemish compatriots. Flemish Beef Stew or CarbonadesFlamandes, is a staple item on the menu in almost any restaurant all over the country. Faro, a Belgian beer that is almost reddish in color lends to the dish a very distinctive flavor.
A national specialty is Mouleset Frites, mussels and French-fried potatoes, frequently sold from pushcarts. It is a popular “in-between-meal snack” street food. Other “delicacies” on these ambulating food carts are Caricolles (snails from the sea), crabs, andScholles (sun-dried plaice, a North Atlantic flatfish or flounder). Belgium is rich in seafood located at the Atlantic seaboard. The skill in preparing different fish dishes is impressive. Wild boar is still being hunted and delectably served in local restaurants.
An interesting feature of Belgian eating habits is the dominance of the potato. This almost takes the place of bread and is rarely missing at any meal.
Smaller restaurants sometimes invite their patrons to a special party called Kermenes au boudin. The culinary summit of this gay spree is the eating of a whole meat carcass together with entrails. The ingenuity of the cook and the pure gourmandize spirit on these occasions may well be said to be typical of the wholehearted appreciation of the pleasures of the table displayed by most Belgians.
Belgium has enriched our table with a special type of salad vegetable called Witloef chicory (Witloef means “white leaves”) commonly called endive. In Belgium this salad is tossed with oil and vinegar and garnished with pimiento. It is also eaten plain with a sprinkling of salt as a relish. Brussels sprouts is another popular vegetable, which has been grown in the vicinity of Brussels for centuries. A third popular vegetable is asparagus, due to its superior quality and a main ingredient in many delicious dishes.
Another Belgian product of great repute is Limburger cheese, which derives its name from the town of Limbourg where it was first made. In type it is similar to Liederkranz but has a stronger odor and taste. Belgium is best known for its chocolate, waffles, fries and beer.
Asperges A La Flamande
- 1kg fresh asparagus
- spring onions, blanched
- 4 pcs large eggs
- 1/2 cup butter
- salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Clean and trim asparagus. Tie them into four bundles with spring onions. Put in boiling salted water. Simmer until tender about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain.
- Hard-boil eggs. Remove yolks and mash them.
- Melt butter and mix little by little with egg yolk mash. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot, one bundle asparagus and some sauce on each individual serving plate.
In Belgium, each guest is served a soft-boiled, shelled egg. Melted butter, salt, and pepper are on the table, and sauce is fixed individually.
Flemish Puree Of Brussels Sprouts
Puree Flamande De Choux De Bruxelles
- 1kg brussels sprouts
- salted water
- 1/2 cup butter
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 pcs medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 1/2 cup hot milk
- salt and pepper, to taste
- croutons fried in butter
- Parboil Brussels sprouts in salted water for 5 minutes. Drain.
- Melt half of butter in skillet and stew sprouts gently for two minutes. Add potatoes and chicken broth. Cover pan and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
- Rub through fine sieve and heat puree. Remove from heat and add the hot milk and remaining butter. Season to taste. Serve soup with croutons fried in butter.
Flemish Beef Stew
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1kg boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2“ cubes
- 1/3 cup butter
- 4 pcs medium onions, sliced
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 pcs bay leaf
- 1/8 tsp thyme
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 bottle dark beer (equivalent to 1 1/2 cups)
- beef stock
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- Combine flour, salt, and pepper in a paper bag. Add meat pieces and shake well.
- Melt butter and sauté onion on low heat until tender. Do not brown then set aside.
- Heat butter again and brown meat on all sides. Add onions, herbs, and sugar. Pour beer over. Add stock little by little as needed and keep covered. Simmer over low heat 1 1/2 hours or until meat is tender. Just before serving add vinegar.
- Serve hot with boiled potatoes and vegetable salad.
- 2 bundles endive, cut into 1/4” slices
- 1 cup peeled, cubed, and boiled potatoes, cooled
- 1 pc onion, chopped
- 2 fillets salt herring, soaked in water and cut into cubes
- 4 tbsp salad oil
- 2 tbsp vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 3 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 tbsp chopped chervil or Italian parsley
- Combine endive, potato, onion and herring. Blend well.
- Mix dressing ingredients and pour over salad.
- Serve well chilled.
Gaufres A La Flamande
- 3 tbsp warm water
- 2 tbsp yeast
- 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cream
- 1/4 cup butter
- 6 pcs eggs, slightly beaten
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup brandy or cognac
- Dissolve yeast in water. Mix thoroughly with 1 cup flour. Let rise for about 15 minutes.
- Heat cream, add butter, and allow to melt.
- Blend all ingredients well and leave in a cool place for 2 1/2 hours.
- Bake in batches in well-greased waffle-iron until nicely brown on both sides. Sprinkle with sugar and serve hot.