Chicken Fajitas

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Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

The ingredients: for 4 persons

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  • 2 double chicken breasts
  • 2 red paprika
  • 3 onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 fajita seasoning mix
  • tortilla wraps  (3 medium sized or 2 larger ones per person)
  • cheddar
  • iceberg lettuce
  • 2 tomatoes
  • taco sauce (hot or mild)
  • sour cream
  • salt & pepper
  • harissa (optionally)

The work:

At home, we serve the fajitas with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheddar cheese, taco sauce and sour cream.

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As the toppings will be sprinkled on the chicken before the wraps are folded, you should make sure everything is cut in small sizes. Start by cutting 1 of the onions in small rings. Remove the seeds from the tomatoes and cut them in small dices. Grate the cheese. Put all these toppings in separate serving dishes, also the taco sauce and the sour cream. You can prepare this ahead of time.

P1000253For the fajitas, chop-up the chicken breasts and start frying them in a pan with salt & pepper. While you do this, crush the garlic, take out the seeds of the paprika and chop them up in larger pieces. Also cut the 2 remaining onions.
As the chicken starts to become a bit crispy, add the garlic, paprika’s and the onions. Pour the fajita seasoning
mix over all of this. Depending on the type of mix you’ve bought (a jar or a bag), you may have to prepare the mix beforehand by adding some water to the seasoning. Follow the instructions on the product label for this. Stir to mix all the ingredients.
After the seasoning mix has been added it’s a question of keeping the pan on the fire until the vegetables are cooked and most of the moisture has dries out. We are aiming for seasoned meat, not for seasoned soup.

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Heat up the wraps in the micro wave. Follow the instructions on the package.

P1000259Now you are ready to serve. Put one wrap on everyone’s plate. Position the fajita (sizzling) pan and toppings in the centre of the table and let everyone fill their own wrap. First add some chicken, then add some toppings, fold up the fajita and try.

The Tip:
First time fajita tasters typically make two beginners mistakes: they overload the wrap and just roll it up. An overly charged wrap you cannot eat without pieces dropping out of it. When trying to eat a rolled-up wrap, the sauce will drip out at the end. The trick is to fold a part of the back to the inside, over the meat, and then close the left and right side like a small envelope. When you then lift up the wrap, the sauce is caught in the wrap envelope, at least for while.

harissa

We tend to favour chicken fajitas, but you can make variants with scampi’s, steak, lamb, or even mixed.

If you want to make the fajita mix a bit more spicy, you can add some harissa.

Don’t choose between taco sauce and sour cream, try adding both, their blend is fantastic.

The Secret:

It was around 1997 that I was sitting in a Mexican restaurant next to Mark S., one of my former US colleagues. With his typical enthusiasm he ordered ‘sizzling fajitas’. I had never heard of fajitas before. The dish looked, smelled and tasted delicious! Back home I tried to explain how impressed I was with the small Mexican wraps, but at that time the fajita seasoning was nowhere to be found in our local Belgian shops.

Many years later when making a walk at the coast we spotted a café specialized in serving Fajitas. It was the ideal moment to drag in my husband and daughter. Hehe, yes! Afterwards we found the fajita mix more regularly in the supermarkets and endeavoured making our own version.

Sizzling fajitas is now one of our typical Sunday evening favourites. So is Scampi Diabolo, one of my earlier posts.

For the Belgium readers who would like to try fajitas first before making their own attempt, I can recommend café Carrello in Heist (Knokke-Heist), a family business specialized in serving great fajitas. Make sure to book your table.

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Home-made Mayonnaise

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By now you should master the art of making the Belgian fries, so high time to learn about mayonnaise.

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Preparation time: 5 minutes

The ingredients:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 0.5 tbsp.  mustard (dark mustard preferably)
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar, or lemon, or lime (according to taste)
  • salt & pepper
  • optionally cayenne pepper
  • corn germ oil

The work:

Take a round bowl and put it on a humid towel. This will prevent that your bowl starts skating on your kitchen counter when you start stirring the mayonnaise.
Put the egg yolk, the salt & pepper, the mustard and optionally the cayenne in the bowl. Stir so that the ingredients are mixed. Now slowly add oil while stirring. Don’t whisk! You use a whisk to stir, but always move in the same direction, not to fast, not to slow. An emulsion between egg and oil will start to form and so develops your mayonnaise. Stop adding oil when you reach the right consistency.
Don’t overdo it. One egg only fuels a large cup of mayonnaise.
When this is done you can add some vinegar, lime or lemon, according to taste to reach your best homemade mayonnaise flavour.

The Secret:

In Flemish history there is much wisdom about what can make your mayonnaise fail. Women will not succeed making mayonnaise during the time of their period… If you stir left AND right the mayonnaise will clot…

The Tip:
One thing is for sure. If you want to succeed, the secret is that your ingredients need to have the same temperature. So take your eggs out of the fridge a while ahead.

When it happens that your mayonnaise starts to clot, try adding a small bit of cold water (about 1 or 2 tbsps.), continue to stir and if you are lucky it will repair itself.

If you want to use another oil, please do. But use oil which doesn’t have an imposing taste. Olive oil is nice, but it will definitely change the original taste of the true Flemisch mayonnaise.

At the beginning we gave away that you can add some cayenne pepper to the recipe. This is in preparation to make ‘cocktail sauce’ instead. When you have the mayonnaise done, add cayenne if you haven’t already done so, add ketchup and a drop of your good whisky (2-3 tbsps.). Stir and voilà, all done!

Witloof with ham

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The ingredients: for 4 persons

  • 8 stumps of witloof
  • 8 slices of cooked ham
  • 1 L milk
  • 50 g flower
  • 50 g butter
  • 300 g grated cheese
  • nutmeg
  • salt & pepper

The work:

Clean the witloof by removing the outside leafs and take out the heart at the bottom of the stumb. The heart of the witloof is what leaves a bitter taste. Steam the witloof until the stumbs are tender and let them leak out.

Melt the butter (don’t let it become brown) and add the flower while stirring with a whisk. Continue stirring until the flower is cooked a bit. Add 0.5 l milk and keep on stirring slowly until the sauce starts to boil. Flower and milk combinations have the tendency to burn on the bottom of the cooking pot, so don’t put the heat too high. When the sauce starts boiling, it thickens, now add more milk while stirring until you reach the preferred consistency. Add pepper, salt and lots of grated nutmeg. This sauce is also called a béchamel.
Remove the pot from the fire and melt the cheese into the sauce while stirring. Leave some cheese to cover the platter later.

Roll up each stump of witloof in a slice of cooked ham and arrange them nicely side by side in a baking dish. Poor the cheese sauce over the witloof and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
Put the dish in a preheated oven of 180°C. Cook it about half an hour until you start to see cooking bubbles rising from the bottom of the dish, and then grill it for about 10-15 minutes to crisp the top.

Serve with mashed potatoes.

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The secret:

This is one of our best kept secrets. We eat this with a drop of ketchup. Yes, ketchup! You’ll be surprised how the tastes of the mashed potatoes, the witlof, the ham and the cheese blends with the tomato taste.

With love…

Scampi “Diabolo”

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Aka spicy prawns

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

The ingredients for 2 persons:

  • 8-10 scampi (prawns, langoustines)
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • 250 ml cream
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1-1,5 fresh chili peppers
  • 0,5 cubes fish broth
  • tomato paste
  • oil
  • pepper and salt

The work:

Cut the shallots, garlic and peppers very small and braise them in some oil. Add a glass of white wine and let this boil down a bit.
Add the fish broth and a bit of water. Let sauce reduce.
Add the cream and let reduce some more.
Season with salt and pepper and add a small bit of tomato paste to colour the sauce orange.
Peel the scampi’s and remove the intestines (=black thread in the length of the scampi). Bake the scampi in some oil in a separate pan. The baking time is very short, make sure you don’t leave them too long, or they will become hard and chewy. Add the scampi to the sauce and you’re ready to serve.

The tip:

Chili peppers are unpredictable in their spiciness. Be careful not to overdo, certainly if you double the recipe to for instance 4 people.

Served with fresh French bread this is one of our favourite Sunday evening dishes in front of the telly. Some last hours of quality time together before everyone leaves again for a week on early Monday.

Belgian Fries – “Frietjes”

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Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

The secret:

The world calls them ‘French fries’. Nothing hurts us Belgians more than giving the French credit for fries. It is common knowledge here in the low countries that the people who make fries best and have friet stalls (frietkot, frieture, frieterie) on street corners  are the Belgians. By the way, if you ever come to Belgium, treat yourself on a ‘pakje frieten’ (pack of fries) ‘with mayonnaise in a ‘frietkot’.

The secret for good fries lies in the recipe. Even though you would think it just a matter of cutting up potatoes and frying them, the real ‘friet’ is cooked with patience. It is fried not once, but twice.

The ingredients:

  • Potatoes
  • Oil

This is a simple one. The only thing you need are potatoes and oil.  You have to choose your potatoes wisely. If you can’t find potatoes for fries, select large potatoes which are very flowery (have a lot of starch).
For the oil we personally prefer vegetable oil. Select oil which can stand high heat like peanut oil.

The work:

Peel the potatoes and cut them in fries. Our local fries are only 1 cm thick.

You can choose to wash and dry the potato before you cut them. Or you can peel and cut, and then wash and dry the fries with a kitchen towel.

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Pre heat the frying pan up to 150-160° C. Fry the fries at this temperature until they are cooked but not crispy and brown. Check if the fries are cooked by squeezing them. They have to be just smash able. Make sure not to overcook them at this time, otherwise your fries will get very dry.

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Take the fries out of the frying basket and let them cool down.

Just before you want to serve, fry the fries for a second time at 170-180° C. This is a very fast process, don’t walk away.
Always make sure your frying fat is preheated before you drop them in, and use small quantities otherwise your fat cools down and you don’t have control over the temperature anymore. Shake the basket in the beginning, so that the fries don’t stick. Your fries will turn brown. Cook them as dark as you wish. You can actually hear a sizzling sound appear when they are done. When your fries start singing, then they are ready.

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Once they are done, we tend to serve them on top of paper towel, because it makes us think we extract the extra fat like that:-)

The tips:

Please sprinkle with salt and preferably serve with freshly made mayonnaise. How to make the mayonaise? A topic for future blog time perhaps?

Zucchini Soup

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Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes

The ingredients for 6 portions:

  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cubes of low fat chicken bouillon
  • salt & pepper
  • water

The work:

Wash the zucchinis, remove both ends. Cut the zucchinis in blocks.
Peel the onions and cut those in blocks too.
Put this all together in a cooking pot. Add the 2 cubes and a liter of water.
Cook for 20 to 40 minutes, depends on how long the zucchini needs.
Mix the soup and season with salt and pepper.

The tips:

I you like a lot of pepper in your soup and you like to put some portions in the freezer, remember the pepper will enforce. So it will come out of the freezer much spicier than you’ve put it in.

The story:

This recipe was handed over during a lunch conversation from woman to woman. Thank you Hildegard, you may not remember this conversation, but I’m still cooking and enjoying this regularly.

Lamb Stew with Tagliatelli

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Preparation Time: 1 hour

The ingredients for 3-4 portions:.

  • 750 g lamb shoulder
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a couple of rosemary sprigs
  • 3 tbsp. of oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 small can tomato paste (70 g)
  • ½ cup meat broth
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 tbsp. water
  • 300 g tagliatelle
  • parmesan cheese

The work:

Cut the meat in chunks; make sure you watch out to remove small bone fragments while cutting the meat.
Peel the garlic, wash the rosemary and dry it with paper towel.
Cutter the garlic, rosemary, broth and tomato paste with the blender.
Fry the meat on all sides in the hot oil. Then throw away the fat from frying.
Add the meat, the butter and the mix in one pan and add salt and pepper.
Let the ragout simmer for about 30 minutes. Keep the lid on.
Cooking time can run easily up to 1 hour, depending which lamb.
Cook the tagliatelli in a lot of water, just as you usually do, when your stew is almost ready.
Serve on a large plate: pasta with some stew on top, finished with a sprig of rosemary and grated parmesan.

Enjoy!

The tips:

Green pasta fits perfectly with this dish, so does a fresh green salad.
We have the habit of removing the fat which builds up at the surface while the stew is cooking.

The story:

We’re three people in our household: a man, a women and a daughter. Initally 2 out of 3 voted against lamb. It may sound funny, but this happened ages ago. At a certain moment the one voting for, went shopping, cooked the dish, didn’t disclose it was ‘the’ lamb dish, and served it. It became an instant hit. Our simple lamb stew is one of our family favourites. Funny how prejudices can prevent us from trying new tastes.

Woohoo, i have a blog

Finally!

I’ve promised so often to friends that i would publish our favourite home recipes. The idea of publishing a cookbook is great, except you need so much content before you can start. I had a feeling I would never get around to it. So I diverted to digital!

The goal of this blog is to share with you recipes we like.

Some background:

My husband is a great cook. Although we both originate from small towns in West-Flanders (Belgium) and we grew up under the church tower, our business activities have given us the opportunity to travel. This had an immense effect on our cooking over the years.

We started out very conventional, but over the course of time other dishes were discovered, other herbs, other styles,… We see our cooking as a combination of real old fashioned Belgium cooking with exotic influences, hence Belgianfusion.

I won’t promise I will keep this up, but I’ll try.

Hope you get a great taste out of it.

Petra