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.

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Turkey roulade

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Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes

The Ingredients: for 4 persons

  • 800 g turkey roulade
  • 400-500 g canned pineapple slices (in syrup or in juice)
  • butter
  • peanut oil
  • port wine
  • 1 cube chicken stock
  • corn-starch
  • salt & pepper

The work:

Heat a bit of butter and some peanut oil in a pot, and bake the turkey roulade on all sides nicely brown. Season the meat with salt and pepper.

Add the pineapple slices with the juice and a small glass of port wine (shot). Also add a cube of stock. Turn back the heat and close lid. The roulade is cooked when the inside temperature of the meat gets to 90°C. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, the time to cook a roulade will take about 50-50 minutes.

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Put the meat aside to cut it in slices. Take out the pineapple slices for a moment and thicken the sauce to your liking using cornstarch. Put the pineapple and the slices of meat back into the sauce to keep them warm.

Serve some slices of meat with some pineapple on top.

The tip:

Turkey is very light meat. So if you want this dish to be almost completely calorie free, then use pineapple in juice instead of syrup and serve the dish with a  cooked potato .instead of potato croquettes.

The secret:

Two secrets this time for novice cooks…

Always mix corn-starch in a small amount of water first before adding it slowly to the boiling sauce (e.g. 1 table spoon of corn-starch in a 3rd of a glass of water). This way you avoid clotting and you can control the thickness of the sauce you’re making exactly to your liking. Always stir while you add the corn-starch. The same process applies if you use potato starch instead of corn starch.

If you have to bake meat for a longer time then it is important to choose fat which can stand heat. This is why we use half butter half peanut oil. The peanut oil can resist heat much better and the meat browns but doesn’t burn.

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!

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.