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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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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Think I Saw You Try

Argh drowning in paper work. Divorce paperwork..My kids think I have a new job as a kind of admin clerk thing.  I’m so behind on the stuff I do for a living! You know that thing that you do and then someone pays you! I am so not going into detail but round one happened yesterday and the second and final round will hopefully happen at the end of the month.

Anyway. Kids are happy and spanky, In between litigation and acrimonious back and forth crap. I actually managed to not only bake my pants off.. When it gets stressful over here, the pasta machine comes out and also suddenly my children become guinea pigs for the various variations of bread that I create. Tilda was completely enamoured of the  “left over muesli, rolled oats, half a bag of sunflower seeds and wait for it – dried fried onion bread.” You know the kind you get from Asian food stores. It was really good. Honestly I am not kidding.

I also had 2 wonderful distractions. I was invited to Lily Vanili’s Bakery. She is really lovely. It was a hilarious couple of hours. We made Cadbury Crispello Towers. Oh my god, edible glitter a go go. My creation looked like a an explosion in a glitter factory. I took it home and my kids demolished it in seconds.

I also had the most brilliant evening at Cafe Spice Namaste. British Turkey invited me to spend an evening with Cyrus Todiwalla. He demonstrated a ton of dishes using Turkey. The much neglected only used for Christmas meat. Cyrus was wonderful and his wife Parvin such amazing hosts. He made amongst other things a turkey egg masala omelette. He showed me how to do the flippy thing with it. I attempted to do it. It landed with a splat on the griddle, Really embarrassing…. Oh and the most brilliant dish!  He marinated and flavoured turkey neck and then cooked it in a pressure cooker. Divine. My plate was a pile of clean sucked bones. I think It has become  one of my favourite bits of a bird. My ex mother in law would make the best West Indian curry and she would always keep the neck for herself..Now I know why! I think I am going to try to recreate Cyrus’s recipe this weekend.

I leave you with some photos from the weeks adventures. I will be cooking up a storm this weekend so recipes a go go next week.

Rachelle x

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Maybe I Think Too Much

Easter came and went in a haze of chocolate! My god the Easter bunny totally went for it this year. It was so cold I told the girls I was postponing any the egg hunt until the temperature rises above freezing! We are still waiting.

Three children house bound due to freezing temperatures and high on chocolate. Oh how relaxing and stress free this Easter was. Pavilina (my children’s Nanny and my saviour) hugged me goodbye on Friday and wished me luck. I needed it.

Lola and Tilda are at the age where they literally bicker and argue over everything and I mean everything. Then, when I get involved they both gang up on me and are best friends. But still at least I have The Ru. He is still too young to truly realise the house of cards he is living in….

Every Easter I cook lamb, I know the whole world does but I rarely cook red meat (as you may have realised). I probably cook lamb about three times a year. I usually opt for the shoulder cut. It is reasonably cheap  and when slow roasted, sublime. The recipe I pretty much always do is based on the Sky Gyngell’s. It involves anchovies, lemon rind, oiive oil, rosemary and garlic all mashed up in a mortar and pestle and smothered over the joint then covered and slow roasted for about three hours.

This year I opted for lamb shanks. Again the same principal as the shoulder, they need a long slow roast. I braised them with red wine, tomatoes, rosemary, lemon rind, whole garlic and baby onions and seasoned liberally with salt and pepper. In a large cast iron dish, lid on, oven 170C 3 hours. Bloody hell its delicious!

I also made my traditional chocolate easter cake. It is based on the Nigella, cloud cake. I use a butter cream icing dolloped on top and then decorate with baby chicks and easter eggs. I took great pleasure this year in decapitating one of the chicks and shoving its wiry neck into a chiselled out chocolate egg! Stressed me? No not at all..

I leave you with some pics and my recipe for lamb shanks..

Happy half term to ya’ll

Rachelle X
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Braised Lamb Shanks

A bit of prep and then just chuck it in the oven. A perfect meal when  you have guests.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 lamb shanks
  • 4-5 small onions
  • 8 anchovies
  • 6 whole cloves of garlic (peeled)
  • Rind of 1 lemon
  • Large sprig of rosemary (finely chopped)
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 large glass of red wine (for the pot and for you too)
  • Olive oil (for browning the lamb
  • Salt and pepper

Serves 4/5 people

Method

Turn the oven on to 170C.

Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy oven proof pan which has a lid. Turn the heat to medium and season the lamb shanks liberally with salt and pepper. Brown the shanks in the pan sealing all sides and remove.

After you have browned all the lamb. Add a little more oil if need be and throw in onion, garlic, rosemary, lemon peel. Toss in the oil for a few minutes until fragrant. Pour in the glass of wine and tomatoes and really scrape the bottom of the pan so all the meat flavour is incorporated into the sauce. Add the lamb shanks and toss them in the sauce. Put the lid on and place in the oven for 3 hours. Check after 2 hours and give them a little stir. I then leave the lid off for the last half an hour to reduce the sauce a bit.

Serve with you sides of choice. I served mine with roasted  cauliflower with paprika and roast potatoes.

 


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Not Enough Fairy Lights in the World

I think I have reached maximum fairy light capacity in my house. If there are any stray Santa’s out there that need a grotto, drop me a line, you can totally use my place.  Its been a bit of a weird week. I have a ton of work lined up from January but the next couple of weeks are of course quiet. I am suffering from cabin fever. This  is the longest I have not been booked for work. I should be relaxing shouldn’t I? I should be preparing for Christmas, enjoying the kids, doing all those jobs that I have been putting off….etc etc etc…..NOOOOOOO I prepared for Christmas last week, I did it in a day and half. I cannot be more prepared. Christmas could arrive tomorrow with 7 hours notice I could make it happen….

In order to make my ‘cabin’ more bearable I filled it totally with fairy lights. Its magical, I totally love my bedroom/office. I have (not so secretly) always wanted to put a Christmas tree in my bedroom. I remember visitin my father in France at Christmas and instead of sleeping in my room I slept on the sofa so I could see the tree…No I wasnt 12, I think it was probably 8yrs ago! This year the tree is in my bedroom. I am happy. Just to clarify I live in a ground floor live/work apartment. My bedroom is also an office. I didn’t schlep it upstairs..I’m not that weird!!

This week I also attempted to make a Tunis Cake. I had never heard of it until 3 or 4 years ago when my friend asked me to pick one up for her. I believe McVities used to make it. I think I brought it from Tesco. Its a sponge cake topped with a thick chocolate icing (that cheap gacky icing that you can only get on a brought cake). The cake is finished off with three pieces of marzipan fruit. It is truly horrible but wonderful at the same time. It has been discontinued. My friend asked me to make one. I did. It didn’t really work out. I googled it, found a recipe. I strayed from the path and added too much buttermilk (not in the recipe). It wasn’t sweet enough and also for the topping I melted a couple of chocolate bars, milk and dark. But it was just too posh, didn’t have the claggy consistency. The marzipan fruit was probably the only success.

Anyhoo, I leave you with a festive recipe for edible tree decorations. A bit Nigella and a bit me….

Happy Christmas

Rachelle x

 

 

 

Edible Christmas Tree Decorations

This is based on a recipe by Nigella. I use it every year. This year I added some stem ginger.

For the biscuits

  • 320 gram(s) plain flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon(s) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon(s) ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoon(s) black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 100 gram(s) butter (soft)
  • 100 gram(s) soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 large egg(s) (beaten)
  • 2 tablespoon(s) honey (runny)
  • 3 tbs stem ginger (chopped)
  • 2 tbs stem ginger syrup

For the icing and trimmings

Icing sugar mixed with fresh squeezed lemon juice

Edible glitter or whatever you choose to decorate with

Method

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and pepper in a food processor and, with the motor on, add the butter and sugar, then, slowly, the beaten eggs and honey and chopped stem ginger with juice though don’t use all of this liquid if the pastry has come together before it’s used up.

Form 2 fat discs and put one, covered in clingf ilm or in a freezer bag, in the fridge while you get started on the other.

Then dust a work surface with flour, roll out the disc, also floured, to about 5mm and cut out your Christmas decorations with cutters of your choice, which could include fir-tree shapes, angels, stars, snowflakes, and so on.

Re-roll and cut out some more, setting aside the residue from this first disc, well covered, while you get on with rolling out the second. When you’ve got both sets of leftover clumps of dough, roll out and cut out again, and keep doing so till all the dough’s used up.

Now take a small icing nozzle and use the pointy end to cut out a hole just below the top of each biscuit (through which ribbon can later be threaded).

Arrange the pastry shapes on the lined baking sheets and cook for about 20 minutes: it’s hard to see when they’re cooked, but you can feel; if the underside is no longer doughy, they’re ready. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Make up the icing. Make it thick enough to use in a disposable piping bag. If you dont want to use a piping bag just use a fork and make the icing runny enough to drip from the ends of the fork. I use this method loads and it looks fab.

Carefully ice the cold decorations, using a teaspoon (the tip for dripping, the back for smoothing), and scatter sparkles or sprinkles as you like. When the icing is set, thread ribbon and hang on the tree.

 


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