This Time I’m Not Leaving Without You

I am having a total love affair with Brussels at the moment. Before Christmas I went to check out the Winter Markets I enjoyed myself so much that I decided to take a short break after a harrowing couple of weeks of moving home and dealing with divorce crap. I stayed in the same little studio in the red light district, I am resisting the urge to say “I really felt at home”. I do love this area of Brussels though. It’s right by the Turkish area and the majestic Puccini Church, its actually called something else but it is the church where Puccini’s funeral mass was held in Brussels. I made a concerted effort to not eat out a ton, but I had to have, in fact its compulsory when you are in Brussels, Frites of course and Belgian Waffles.

I went to apparently the most famous Friterie in Brussels Maison Antoine. It’s a hut in the middle of the EU district and it sells the most bloody delicious fries. No where to sit but you can hole up in one of the cafes or bars surrounding the stall and they will happily let you consume away with a beer or wine bought from them.  It was absolutely peeing down so of course we had to go to a bar to consume away. Right frites done! Waffles next. Off to Maison Dandoy the queue was out the door but we persevered.  We ordered both kinds of waffle, the Liege a soft doughy texture that tasted buttery and sweet and caramelly and needed nothing extra. The other Brussels waffle was not as plumfy, it was crispier, the batter was runny rather then a soft dough. It was really really good. Crispy and buttery and sweeter then the Liege but delicious all the same. On the way back to the studio I had to stop at this amazing cheese shop near the Grand Place, Fromagerie Langhendries. Its run by a lovely couple and the selection of cheeses was incredible. They had this amazing aged Edam. I think it was 14 years old and it was delicious, I then had to buy some Manchego and also a really smelly L’exqse Herve Cheese. This is a cheese made in Belgium washed with beer. It didn’t last very long!

Of course I cannot leave the country without arranging some kind of cooking demo or lesson. I had arranged to teach my friend’s son how to make sushi. I taught him how to make California Rolls and we made Nigiri and Maki. I really didn’t warm to the idea of traipsing around Brussels looking for sashimi grade fish. If you are going to eat fish raw it has to be specially bred for Sushi. Otherwise you can end up with some pretty nasty parasites in your stomach. I thought it would be a great idea to ceviche some mackerel. And use that for the Nigiri and also to go inside the Maki. It was a success and in fact I made so much we had ceviche mackerel for breakfast with scrambled eggs. Yum!

I leave you with a few photos of my trip and also my recipe for ceviche mackerel.

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WillSushi

Ceviche Mackerel

You don’t have to use this recipe for just sushi as I said it was delicious with scrambled eggs for breakfast or on its own for lunch or with a light peppery rocket salad. As usual I call it a recipe but the measurements are to do with your taste. Adjust the chilli or sugar to your demands. Just make sure you use enough lime or lemon juice to cover the fish so it “cooks’ in the fresh juice.

Ingredients

  • 2 fillets of fresh Mackerel de boned skinned and cut into bite size pieces
  • juice of half a lime
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 or 2 red chillis – chopped very finely
  • 1 clove of garlic – chopped finely
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • dash of soy sauce
  • tiny dash of wasabi paste (optional)

Place all the ingredients except the fish into a bowl and then stir well. Leave for 5 mins then taste, adding a little more sugar or lime or lemon juice if needed.

Place the fish gently into the mixture making sure every piece is covered. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 20mins.

If using for sushi then I take a piece of fish and use it for making Nigiri, placing it on top of a bite size piece of moulded rice.


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If You Give You Begin To Live

Just before Christmas I managed to wrangle a trip to Brussels. A solo, foodie inspired four days of fun.  Admittedly it took three weeks of organisation with childcare. friends and Pavlina playing relay with pick ups and drop offs and staying over. But Monday morning came and by some small miracle I was at St Pancreas International with an hour to spare.

My friend Gordon had the Ru and said to me as I dropped off the boy. “You know that nothing is going to be straightforward with your trip, something always goes wrong”. Well umm. Ok so I have rented a little studio, so I thought I should take a few little things to cook with. A wok, my Bialetti, a big giant chefs knife…..Oh and because I was seeing a friend out there and asked him what he would like me to cook for him. He said Malaysian (hence the wok) I also took a shed load of Chinese ingredients just in case I couldn’t source them out there. Well all would have be grand going through security, if I did not have the big giant chefs knife. Well any knife would have done it really. So yes Security were all over this action. Scanning the bag for bombs, only a tiny, tiny bit amused at the presence of a Wok and fermented soy beans and chilli oil amongst pants and bras.

I check in the knife separately and pay for the privilege. But manage to board the train on time. I arrive in Brussels and was met by my friend who was not only slightly bemused by the fact I was carrying half an Asian supermarket but also asked me if I was aware of where my studio was? No not really I just found it and booked it and the pictures looked nice. He is totally laughing as we wait for a cab. “Rachelle  if you had spent days researching and trying to find the sleaziest spot in Brussels, you still probably would not have come up with where your apartment is situated.” I had booked a room in the red light district! Yep right slap bang in the middle of the Gard du Nord area amongst the red neon lit windows displaying ladies of a certain disposition, was my little studio apartment.  Anyway, it was perfectly fine and after a day or so I kind of grew to love my little space amongst the whores.

Brussels at Christmas was magical. The Winter Market was so wonderful, hundreds, literally hundreds of stalls selling arts, crafts, food, everything you could possibly imagine. I walked through the Grand Place and sampled a couple of beers at La Taverne de la Brouette. The beer is like nothing I have tasted before. Strong but delicious and I learnt that each beer has its own bespoke glass. I also discovered the mixed platter. A plate of cubed cheese and cured meat, ham, sausage served with some salad veg, hot mustard and celery salt. Its so good and the perfect accompaniment to beer. I also had to visit the Place du Grand Sablon.  The place to go if you want to visit the majority  of Belgian Chocolatiers. Wittemers and Marcolini are amongst the most famous. I also discovered a French chocolatier Patrick Roger .  I walked into his shop and the smell of chocolate hit you. In the window he had 16 or so 3 ft high chocolate penguins. My kids would have loved me to bring one of those back with me.

On my last night my friend recommended a restaurant La Buca di Bacco. A small but perfectly formed restaurant in the Schaerbeek area. A totally cozy and intimate space and the maitre d’ was so welcoming. My friend ordered escargots, of which I have always been a little wary of. They arrived and they looked like button mushrooms. They were served with a parmesan crisp. I tried one and realised I have been missing out! So delicious. My steak was perfectly cooked and beautifully presented. I will definitely be visiting again.

I leave you with a few photos from my trip  and a photo of my attempt at the mixed platter.

Love Rachelle X

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