Chocolate Mousse

2015-05-25 chocolate moussePreperation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour (includes 30 mins cooling time)

The ingredients:
– 300 g chocolate
– 2 eggs
– 3 tbsp. rum
– 0,5 l wipping cream

What you need:
Normally i don’t make a habit of listing how many pots and pans you need to make a recipe, but since you really need a lot of equipment for this one, here goes: 2 pans, a measuring cup, a small ovenproof bowl, a bowl, a cutting board, a whisk, a knife, a tabelspoon, an electric hand mixer and a spatula.

The work:
Whip the cream stiff and put it in the refrigerator.
Cut the chocolate in pieces so that it melts easy. Put the chocolate pieces in the smaller pan and melt using a bain-marie (water bath). The water should never reach the boiling point.

2015-05-23 09.20.132015-05-23 09.20.322015-05-23 09.24.34Once the chocolate is melted, now put a bowl with the 2 eggs and rum in the water bath and whip the mixture using the mixer. Poor the chocolate together with the whipped foamy egg mixture. Stir gently using a whisk or a spatula until you get one smooth mixture. Now poor this mixture with the whipped cream and stir gently until you get an even mousse. Be gentle so you don’t ‘break’ the fluffyness of the mixture.

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2015-05-23 09.26.542015-05-23 09.27.43 2015-05-23 09.30.30If you wish you can poor the mousse in one serving bowl or in different smaller ones, depending how you plan to serve. Cool the mousse in the fridge.

The secret:
The main secret of good chocolat mousse is good chocolate. We allways buy pure Callebaut chocolate, nothing beats a mousse with that base. But you can use milk chocolate if you rather fancy a slightly less outspoken taste.

The tip:
You will find that the mousse really stiffens very well. So the mousse can easily be served using an ice cream scoop, potentially as part of a dessert plate. You can make it a really small or a really big treat.
If you read the recipe and think its a lot of work and a lot of washing up… it’s worthet.

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Vol-au-vent

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Preperation time: 60 minutes
Cooking time: 1:30 minutes

We recommend to make this dish in a larger quantity. Cooking vol-au-vent is rather messy and greasy. Once you’ve done the vol-au-vent, you can easily freeze it in portions per person.
The ingredients: (for 18 persons)

  • 2 chickens
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 3 – 4 chicken legs
  • 1 kg minced meat
  • 2 kg mushrooms
  • 400 g cooked or steamed ham
  • 3 lemons
  • 4 leaks
  • 6 stalks of celery
  • 4 carrots
  • 3 onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1l cream
  • 3 cubes chicken stock
  • 250 g butter
  • 250 g flour
  • 4 bay leafs
  • 4 cloves
  • fresh or dried thyme
  • salt & pepper

The work:

Put the cleaned and coarsely cut- vegetables (onion, celery, leak, garlic, carrots), the herbs (thyme, cloves, bay leafs, pepper & salt) and the chicken stock in a big cooking pot and add enough water so that not only the vegetables, but later also all the chicken will be covered with the stock you are now starting to make. Boil the stock until the vegetables are soft.

P1010882P1010878While your stock is cooking, you can roll balls of the minced meat (2-3 cm diameter). Cut the mushrooms in 4 and stew them in olive oil with pepper and salt. When they are starting to change color and going brown, sprinkle the juice of one lemon over the mushrooms to keep their light color. Turn of the heat when the mushrooms are ready.

P1010883Put a couple of spoons from the stock (which is in the making in your large cooking pot) in a smaller cooking casserole to boil the meatballs just for a couple of minutes until they are cooked. This fluid we will not use further because it becomes greasy from minced meat. So use not more than needed.

When the vegetable in the stock are tender, add all the chicken you have and cook for one hour. Check the chicken tenderness; it should be coming of the legs easily.
Now take out all the chicken of the stock and cut the chicken into pieces. If you don’t like bones at all, peal the meat from the bones. We tend to leave in the legs and the skin of the chicken in the stew, but that’s a personal preference. We like the chicken pieces rather large than cut to bite size. The breasts we cut up (or tear-up) a bit smaller.

Choose a new large pot. In this pot you will make the vol-au-vent sauce, so it should be bit enough to take the mushrooms, the meat balls, all the chicken and the ham. Start by making the roux for the sauce. Melt 250 g of butter (make sure it doesn’t burn), add flower gently and stir with a whisk. You will see that the mixture becomes dryer as you add more flower. The roux should smell like a pastry dough, like the French ‘bisquit’ dough. Watch out not to burn the roux. Don’t stop too early with the flower. 250 g of flower will be too much, look at the consistence of the roux while stirring to determine when to stop adding flower.

Use a large spoon to transfer stock from you large pot to the pot with the roux and stir constantly. The sauce will start to tie when the substance cooks. When it starts to thicken, add cream until it is nice and white. Make sure you control the heat, dim the fire if necessary and don’t forget to stir. Add more stock to come to the right thickness of the sauce.

When the sauce is made, add the juice of 1 to 2 lemons. Taste is the key here. The lemon should lift the sauce, but should not dominate the taste. Cut the ham and add the ham, the chicken, the mushrooms and the meatballs to the sauce. Done!

The secret:

Don’t be afraid to spice the stock. Pepper & salt, herbs from the garden, are indispensable to flavor and deepen the taste of the stock.

The tip:

Minced meat is well spiced with salt & pepper in Belgium. If you know the minced meat in your country is not spiced, then make sure to mix it up with enough salt & pepper beforehand.

The rest of the stock you can pass through the kitchen sieve and use as a basis for soup.

Vol-au-vent sauce you can make really thick or runny, depends on how you like it.
Vol-au-vent is often served in a puff pastry, but that’s optional, you either like it or you don’t. You can serve vol-au-vent with cooked potatoes, croquettes,… but for a Belgian it is inevitable to serve with Belgian fries and mayonnaise.

Currysauce

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Preperation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

The ingredients:

  • 1 apple (preferably Granny Smith)
  • 1 cube chicken stock
  • 1 to 1,5 l milk
  • 1 onion or 2 shallots
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsps. curry powder
  • 1 tsps. celery salt
  • 50 g butter
  • 50 g flour
  • salt & pepper

The work:

P1000969Peel the apple, remove the core and cut in in small pieces. Peel and grate the garlic, peel the onion and cut small. Braise the onions in the butter. Add the apple and the garlic and braise for 4-5 minutes making sure not to burn the mix, make sure it does not get brown.

Sprinkle the curry powder with the celery salt and the flour over the onions. Braise for another short time, 2 minutes or so, continuously stir slowly now since this will burn fast.

Add 0,5 milk and the chicken stock. Bring the milk to boiling while stirring. When it cooks, add milk to get to the right sauce thickness. Let the sauce simmer until the apples are soft.

Mix the sauce and add pepper to your liking. Most of the times, no salt is needed because of the herbs and the chicken stock.

The secret:

Definitely the secret to the recipe is the pinch of celery salt.

The tip:

We started to mix the sauce for our daughter, when she was young she didn’t like onions. When you mix the sauce, the apples make it kind of velvety. We love this sauce with white Tai rice and ‘chicken in the pot’ from an earlier post or grilled chicken.

I dedicate this recipe to my dearest friend who reads my blogs so carefully and kindly points out all my spelling mistakes.

2x Spare Ribs on the BBQ

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Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Now that we finally are getting some sun in Belgium, after all it is only June 3rd … the barbecue can come out of the garden shed.

A BBQ meal ever so successful for the lover of meat, are grilled spare ribs. Like the Americans say ‘the rack of ribs’. In Belgium the rack of ribs is actually cut in half lengthwise and one rack is about 10-15 cm wide and 30-40 cm long. Just the size an average person can dispatch during an evening diner.

Ribs are always great, served as ‘finger food’ with the aperitif as appetizer, or as a main dish served with a jacked potato with some sour cream or garlic butter, and a simple green salad and tomatoes. Simple, cheap and a definitely a treat deluxe.

The following post is not about grilling, it is about marinating. If you want to surprise your audience, marinate your spare ribs in advance. These are 2 of the summer marinades my hubby specifically developed for ribs.

The Ingredients: marinade for about 2 rib racks

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Chinese spicy ribs:

  • ketchup
  • Chinese (or Asian) pili-pili (bottle)
  • 2 gloves of garlic
  • salt & pepper

‘Distinguished’ ribs

  • 1 lime
  • 2 tsps. smoked paprika powder
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 globes of garlic
  • salt & pepper

The work:

Cut the garlic, squeeze the lime and mix the marinade ingredients and smear them on the ribs. Cover up the ribs and keep them in the fridge to marinate at least 2 hours before you grill them. You can even prepare this the evening beforehand.

When it is time, grill the ribs and use the left over marinade to baste the meat from time to time while you are grilling. You can use one of these modern heat resistant kitchen brushes.

Et voilà, you can discover for yourself how different the 2 preparations taste.

The tip:

I you can’t find the smoked paprika, you can improvise by mixing regular paprika powder with cayenne pepper.

The secret:

Each year we dedicate our first weekend of summer to contribute to one of our town’s festivals ‘de Zomerfeesten’. Our contribution is limited the hard work of serving mojito’s for 3 days. Depending on the weather, mojito sales vary from good to extremely good. In one of these not so extremely good years we ended up with a lot of left over limes. After having preserved a large part for use in the winter tagines, my husband kept on searching what he could do with them. Apart from the obvious lime sorbet, the ‘distinguished’ marinade was invented.

Hei, but if you ever need the recipe for mojito…

Mussel packets on the BBQ

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Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

The Ingredients: for 4 persons

  • aluminium foil
  • 1 kg mussels
  • 2 onions
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 small glass of white wine
  • 1 cube fish stock
  • leaf parsley (optional)
  • 0,5 clove garlic (optional)
  • 1 lemon
  • salt & pepper

The work:

Wash and clean the mussels. It is very important to wash the mussels in plenty of water multiple times to make sure all sand and dirt is gone. As you poor the fresh mussels in a basin with ample water to rinse them, the mussels which do not sink to the bottom or remain open are the ones which are bad. So throw those away. After cleaning the mussels, leak them out for a short moment in time.

Fold a long leaf of aluminium foil double lengthwise. The idea is to make bags for the mussels, so you need a length of about 30-40 cm.

Add a handful of mussels in the centre of the foil. Fold the foil as if you will close it as a bag, so that a pit is formed to capture the ingredients and liquids which you will start adding to the mussel-bag.

In each mussel bag sprinkle some onion, some celery, some leaf parsley and optionally some garlic. Poor in the bag some white wine – a bottom will do since the mussels contain enough water in their shells to cook them.

Sprinkle some of the crunched fish stock cube in each bag and add salt & pepper.

Now close the bags smartly. The bags should be easy to grip with the barbecue tongs and all the moisture should remain in the bag until serving. It’s a challenge the first time, but once you’ve thought about it, I’m sure you’ll fold your own favourite bag shape.

When the bags are closed you can put them on the BBQ. Since no BBQ has equal fire everywhere, you should move the bags half way through the cooking time. Move the bags on the outside of the fire to the inside and vice versa. A mussel only needs 10 minutes to cook. Out of experience we know it takes a bit longer on the BBQ, but it will depend on your BBQ on how long they will need before done. Cooking time may easily go up to 20-30 minutes, depending. The solution is to peek from time to time. Take a bag from the fire, open it carefully and look if all the mussels are open and they don’t look glazy anymore. If some of the shells are still closed, close the bag and put it back on the fire for 5 minutes and repeat the sneak peek process.

Put the bag on a plate and serve with a piece of lemon on the side and brown bread. Let your guests discover the content of the bags themselves. The aroma escaping of such a bag is delicious. The cooking juices are great for dipping a good piece of brown bread.

Be careful, if you serve with bread some of your guests will turn this starter into a main course. In summer time this makes a great light lunch.

The secret:

Don’t look for the largest mussels. The small French Bouchot mussels are much more tasteful and are often less expensive than the larger ‘jumbo’s’ which are reserved for restaurants.

The tip:

Handle the aluminium bags always by lifting them up vertically. Don’t shove them over the grill; this will damage the bottom of the bag and let the cooking moisture escape. It is exactly that juice in the bag which steams and flavours the mussels.

Do not be tempted to put too many mussels in a bag!

You can develop many nuances to this recipe flavouring the mussels to your personal or regional taste. For instance you can add a slice of lemon in the package, or a drop of Ricard (anisette), or add some extra spices or herbs, or replace the wine with beer…these are only a handful of ideas.

Cleaning up after a mussel diner is not the nicest job. If everyone closes the packs again after eating, you can punch some holes in the bottom of the bag to leak out the left over juices. After some time, press out the bags and put them in the bin.

Chicken in the pot

Also known as ‘Steamed Chicken’

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Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes

The ingredients: for 4 persons

  • 1 chicken
  • chicken seasoning
  • 1 cube low fat chicken bouillon
  • margarine
  • salt & pepper

The work:

Smear the chicken richly with the chicken herbs. Make sure you throw a lot of seasoning inside the chest cavity and be generous with the herbs.

Melt the butter in a cooking pot and bake the chicken brown on all sides.

By the time the chicken is nicely browned, your fat will be burned and blackened. Take out the chicken, put it aside, get rid of the burned fat and clean the pot.

Put the pot back on the fire and add a small cube of margarine, let it melt and put the chicken back in. Season with salt & pepper. Add a half a cup of water. You should have about 1 cm of water in the bottom of the pan or pot. Crunch the cube of chicken bouillon and sprinkle it around the chicken in the water. Close the pan with a lid and reduce your hot plate to a very weak fire. The water should boil softly to make the steam in the pot. Leave your chicken like that for 45 minutes to 1 hour, take a peek from time to time to see if there is still a bottom of water. In case the water dries out, add some more.

By the time the chicken is soft and done, a syrupy sauce will develop automatically based on the water, the bouillon and the fat coming out of the chicken. ET voilà, you made a chicken to impress.

The secret:

I invented this recipe by accident because i simply don’t know how to brown a chicken without burning the fat.
The chicken herbs will determine the taste here. In Belgium and Holland I know you can get ‘Verstegen kruiden’, for me they are the best. But feel free to leave your comments on your local good seasoning providers. Don’t forget to add your country or region.
Each time I am amazed how fantastic this naturally developed sauce tastes.

The tip:

Even simpler than the recipe are the belonging tips.
If you don’t want to wrestle with a whole chicken, this magic works as fine with chicken legs as well.
You can throw in a half onion at the bottom of the pot or extra herbs to spice up the sauce. But the recipe doesn’t need it at all.
I tend to use Soya baking fat, since it has no effect on the outcome of the total taste, and I’m always looking to cut some calories.
The favourite Belgian way of serving this is definitely with apple sauce and cooked potatoes.

And last but not least… even if you are a novice cook, this will work like a charm!

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…

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?