October 17, 2010

mussels in season

mussels, never used to like them; couldn t look at them, couldn t smell them, couldn t eat them

until two years ago, when Sam told me to at least try just one... "look at it, it s like a tiny tiny little chicken!" (wha...???) but i popped one in my mouth, and maybe it was the flavor of the liquor, the taste of the mustard sauce that they always give with the mussels (at least they do here in Antwerp, it s a regional thing) the fact that it didn t smell off at all, so the cook must have done a good job, or just the fact that i d grown up... i loved it!

since then i can t wait for the mussel season to start! which used to be from september to april (all the months with an 'r' in them), but these days it kicks off from about the third week of july... still, i d rather wait till september when the waters are colder and that just makes for better and sweeter mussels

yesterday we had our little mussels in the simplest, tried and tested, authentic Belgian version, just with some onions, celery and a dash of white wine... most people would go classic and just have that with crusty bread, but a lot of us like it with some French fries (i don t know why i have to call them French... allow me to be patriotic and say they re actually Belgian, but anyways...)

here s the recipe:

per person:

about 1 to 1.3 kilos fresh mussels, well cleaned
half an onion, sliced
one stick of celery, roughly chopped
a little knob of butter
lots of ground black pepper
NO SALT (there s enough in the juice of the mussels)
a splash of white wine

steam all the ingredients, except the mussels, in a special mussel pot (i do think they only sell them here in Belgium, or perhaps in the Netherlands too, otherwise a deep pot with a lid will do) for about 5 minutes
add the mussels and cook on high for another 3-7 minutes until all the mussels have opened, shaking the pot once in a while
serve with bread or French fries and some mustard dipping sauce

(for the sauce i just mix some mayo with mustard and yoghurt or sour cream to make a slighly runny sauce... taste, it should be a little acidic, you ll know what i mean when you try it with the mussels)

ps. when cleaning the mussels, discard any that don t close... once cooked, discard any that haven t opened!

SMAKELIJK!!! (that s bon appetit in Dutch)

OH, i almost forgot, the remaining stock in the bottom of the pan, there usually is a lot, is PERFECT as a base for leek soup, or fish stew, or...

October 14, 2010

macha dango

sometimes i get homesick and then i want something so authentically Japanese, but it s not sushi, or sashimi or sukiyaki or teppanyaki...

but a tiny little sweet savory dumpling named o-dango...

well, i found the best ever recipe on YouTube - Cooking with Dog
and i thought i might add some sweetened macha powder to make my dango


for the macha dumplings

equal quantities of glutinous rice flour and silken tofu (i used 125 grams of each)
a good tablespoon of sweetened macha powder

for the soy dumplings

equal quantities of glutinous rice flour and silken tofu
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)
1 tablespoon of sugar


mix the rice flour and the tofu (and the macha powder if you re making them too) and knead until you get a nice reasonably firm dough
if the dough is still too dry add a little water, but not too much, you ll know what i mean
divide the dough into little dumplings and boil for about 3 to 4 minutes
cool in icecold water
skewer between 3 and 5 dumplings on a bamboo stick
i brushed the macha dango some more sweetened macha powder mixed with a tiny bit of water
for the sweet soy sauce to put on the white dumplings, simply boil the soy sauce, mirin and sugar together until it thickens a bit and turn the dango in this syrupy mixture

hmmm! おいしい (oishii)! delicious... this always takes me back to my childhood... savory sweet and sticky

October 12, 2010

magret de canard my stylie

yesterday i didn t have much left in my fridge except for some celery and some red onions... yes, yes, i did have Japanese shortgrain rice too, but i always do have a lot of dry goods in my larder... anyway, so not much re fresh veggies.

however, i had a serious craving for duck breast, and since my taste buds are still suffering a bit, i needed something that had enough flavor, so i came up with this:


1 nice big piece of magret de canard or 2 small ones, approx. 600 grams
4 or 5 celery sticks, cut into 2 cm pieces
1 large red onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced very thinly
1 tablespoon groundnut oil
4 tablespoons soysauce
3 tablespoons mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
some ground black pepper


score the skin/fatty side of your duck breast
heat your wok WITHOUT any oil until nearly smoking and start frying the duck breast skin side down
you will notice there will be a lot of fat coming out of the duck breast, discard before this starts to burn
once the skin is crispy, turn the duck breast over and leave to cook for about 3 minutes... then take the breast out to rest (it will still be raw in the middle, but that s fine, because it will be added to the cooked veggies and left to cook a little longer)
clean out the wok with some kitchen paper so as not to leave any burnt bits from frying the duck breast
add a little groundnut oil and start stir-frying the onions, then add the celery pieces, the garlic and the seasoning... turn the heat on low and cover... leave to steam for about five minutes until the celery is just al dente
slice the duck and add to the vegetables, leave to cook for another 2 minutes and serve with a steaming bowl of rice

i was very pleased with the result, seeing as i could taste every ingredient... i m guessing you could try this with carrots and onions, different kinds of mushrooms... quick and simple

October 10, 2010

risotto to soothe the senses

i have an allergy... i only recently found out, but now i do and it s not nice...

so in order to feel a bit better, and because it s the only thing i now seem to be able to taste, i made us a risotto for dinner... creamy, tender but with a little bite, with hot-smoked salmon and watercress and some young spinach leaves...

the ultimate comfort food!

apparently everyone has their own special recipe, and this is mine:


1.5 liters light chicken stock, kept very hot
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
400 grams of carnaroli or arborio rice
1 small wineglass of Noilly Prat vermouth
2 hot-smoked salmon filets, flaked
very large handful of watercress, roughly chopped
very large handful of young spinach leaves
ground black pepper and a pinch of seasalt
a drizzle of light olive oil
a little bit of cream
pecorino cheese


drizzle some light olive oil in a thick-bottomed deep pan and heat.
add the chopped onions and fry lightly until glassy, then add the celery and fry gently until nearly tender, then add garlic
now add the rice and stir until well-coated with the oil and onion celery mixture
add the Noilly Prat and stir until absorbed
then start adding the stock, one ladleful at a time, stirring in between, only adding more stock when the rice has absorbed most of the liquid... keep doing this until the rice is creamy but still has a little bit of bite to it (but no hard core!)
you may not need all the stock, it depends a bit on how the rice reacts...
then add the chopped watercress, the spinach, and the flaked smoked salmon and a tiny bit of cream
adjust your seasoning with some black pepper, since the salmon is salty you may not want to add too much salt
serve immediately with some pecorino cheese to grate for those who want it...

buon appetito

ps. ofcourse i like to play with ingredients and one of my other favorites is wild mushrooms... the method is quite the same as the above, although instead of adding salmon and watercress and spinach, i add sautéed wild mushrooms at the end and loads of chopped parsley...

pps. i like adding Noilly Prat instead of white wine, it s a little less harsh... although i know some recipes that call for red wine too

September 10, 2010

it's been a long summer

indeed, it has been a long summer!

it all started out perfectly, i had passed my jewellery course exam in May, enrolled for the next course... so everything was in order, and i was going to enjoy the summer months.

let me tell you, life can throw quite a bit of surprises at you...

July was hot hot hot... so not too much cooking got done, and if there was any cooking at all, it was mostly Sam who did it, cuz he was home too in the evenings due to the summer holidays, and he does enjoy trying out new recipes or adjusting old favorites.

August, like last year, was a very rainy month, and as if it was an omen for bad things to happen, they actually did... it wasn t pretty, but we ll survive.

meanwhile, i tried making cinnamon rolls which didn t quite come out as i expected, but the perfect recipe will be found! we had corn tempura (corn must be my most favorite vegetable, crunchy and sweet, since i was 4 years old). my mother-in-law made a beautiful tomato pilau rice dish (will post recipe soon). oh, and wonderful mackerel in mustard sauce, totally scrumptious. well, we did have quite a few yummy foodie days...

instead of posting the pics on this blog, i did share them with my friends on FB, sorry...

so, here we are already and once again in September. and the true mussel season has started here... so many ways to prepare mussels!

the new schoolyear has also started (yihaa), i m saving for a new camera (either a CANON or NIKON SLR) and i promise i will be consistent and post something at least once a week, with pictures and recipes...

June 19, 2010

The Gallo-Roman museum and pizza

what do you do when you have a partner who snores and the noise actually wakes you at 4.30am? go on Facebook and catch up with friends, agonize, try to go back to sleep, or sulk...? well, i try to put on a smile and get on with it, although it isn t always easy ;-)

however, it was a dreary day, sun then rain, rain then sun... so what to do on a saturday like this... get in the car and drive. where to? to Tongeren... a small but old city in Limburg, Belgium, about 100km from Antwerp, which was originally settled by the Romans... to visit the Gallo-Roman museum. i had thought there might have been more about what the people wore in those days (to get some inspiration for my jewellery, as usual) but it was more of a tour thru the ages from the Neanderthal period right down to the first Christian king in this neck of the woods.
it was still very impressive, and amazing the finds they uncovered!

when we got back, i think the 'Italian' influence was still in the air, so Sam went into pizza-making mode. see, i don t always do the cooking, as i must have already mentioned in my earlier posts.

here s what he came up with:

for the pizza dough, Sam relies on Jamie Oliver and this recipe comes from his book: Jamie s Italian:


800 gr strong white bread flour
200 gr fine ground semolina flour
1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
14 gr dried yeast
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
+/- 650 ml lukewarm water


pile the flour onto a clean surface and make a well in the center. add the yeast and sugar to the tepid water, mix and leave for a few minutes until it starts to bubble, then pour into the well.
using a fork, slowly bring the flour to the center and start to mix it with the yeast/water mixture. it will look like porridge but keep mixing...
once it becomes a bit too stodgy to mix with the fork, start using your hands and, after flouring your hands, begin to knead the dough. keep kneading for a good ten minutes until you have a soft springy dough.
form this dough into a ball, lightly dust with flour, put in a bowl and cover with clingfilm and let it rest for about half an hour at room temperature.
once it has been rested you should be able to divide the dough into six pieces, although you could make smaller pizzas or even larger ones.
time-wise, it s good to roll out the dough about 10 to 15 minutes before cooking it.
when you re ready to cook, pre-heat the oven to maximum capacity, most home-ovens will go up to 250°C, but if you can even higher, do so.

now that was the dough.

Sam then made up a tomato sauce by frying in some olive oil; a small chopped onion, one chopped garlic clove, 400 ml of tomato passata, and a good handful of mixed chopped fresh thyme, rosemary and marjoram.

he then went on to top the pizzas; for himself he added some anchovies and sliced mozarella, for me some scampi and mozarella...

have a look:

preparing the pizza pan





and how can you not forgive him for a little snoring, when he makes you something this tasty? you can t not love him, right? it s not only with men that love goes through the stomach, i m sure the same goes for women... it does for me LOL

and i love him to bits!

ps. here s the link to the Gallo-Roman museum we visited:

June 3, 2010

more time

i ve been busy the past few days. busy meaning, besides my day job as a receptionist, i ve finally been able to catch up a little on all my housework since my jewelry course ended two weeks ago.

this also means that i ve had quite a lot more time to concentrate on cooking and trying out new recipes. although, what i often do forget is to take photos of what i make. i notice a lot of foodie blogs contain incredibly beautiful pics... well, i always intend to take some, but before i know it, the food is placed on the table and eaten, no time to whip out the camera...

oh well, i hope this doesn t matter too much, as long as i get some recipes posted?

usually i only need to cook dinner... in our house, i m up first and leave between 7.30 and 8 am to go to work, Sam wakes about an hour later and is off to his atelier, and Ken, when he s with us every other week, keeps his own schedule with school and free time. this means that we only share breakfast together in the weekends (is this the case with others too i wonder).

anyway, that s how it is, and now that i do have some more time in the evenings, i try to make something special every day. Ken once told me that he d like something more traditional once in a while (meaning Belgian: meat and potatoes and some veg), because i always tend to veer towards Italian, French, Spanish, Thai, Chinese and Japanese... which doesn t mean i don t like traditional Belgian food... i just like to experiment, and i love trying out new things.

so, at the beginning of the week we went Moroccan: a merquez tagine with couscous, on tuesday we had Italian: spaghetti carbonara with a twist (i added some tiny meatballs), and yesterday we had a French-style puy lentil salad with smoked mackerel and pickled red onions (onion recipe was posted by my friend Yanghwa on her blog: GOT SOME VEG?)... i m still thinking about what i could make this evening... since we re having some real good weather here these days, i think it ll be aspargus a la flamande (that s white asparagus with a butter sauce and egg-mimosa) and some salad from the garden (since the asparagus season is almost at its end and the salad leaves have to be picked now before they go over)

tomorrow i ll be joining 3 other moms i know since our kids were together in kindergarten, to go out and have dinner together at Zaowang (a fusion Japanese-Thai-Chinese restaurant) in the old part of Antwerp...

must remember to take my camera along... for taking pictures of the food ofcourse ;-)

oh, and i will try to really get my act together and post more recipes (tagine, spaghetti and lentil salad ones coming up soon!)

ps. YangHwa, if you re reading this... the pickled red onions were amazingly moreish!

May 24, 2010

Italian sunday

what a lovely morning...

i can see through my windows again (since i cleaned them yesterday)... so enjoying the sunshine streaming in, along with a cup of steaming hot café au lait and some cantuccini biscotti i baked yesterday.

besides chocolate chip cookies and ginger biscuits, nutty cantuccini are also one of my favorites.

i adapted a recipe by Tessa Kiros from her book TWELVE like so:



60 gr softened butter
250 gr golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
400 gr plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
75 gr almonds with skin still on
75 gr pistachios
50 gr chopped candied peel in all colors
3 tablespoons of vin santo or marsala wine


1. pre-heat the oven to 180°C
2. beat the butter and sugar until creamy
3. beat in the eggs and lemon zest
4. add the sifted flour and baking powder along with a pinch of salt
5. then work in the nuts and the candied peel and the wine
6. lightly flour your worktable and hands and roll the dough into 3 flat sausages approx. 5 cm wide and 3 cm thick
7. put them on a baking sheet already prepared with baking paper
8. bake for twenty minutes, until lightly golden but still quite soft
9. take them out of the oven, and slice in 2cm pieces with a very sharp knife. use a sawing motion to cut through the crust and then cut in one fluid motion, because the dough is not quite cooked yet
10. lay the biscotti on their side and bake again for about 10-15 min until dry.
11. leave to cool completely before putting them in an airtight container where they should keep for about 3 weeks.

no better way to spend a sunday afternoon than baking...

but ofcourse i couldn t leave it at that, so i had to make my own pasta as well.



100 gr plain flour (if possible tipo 00) per person
1 egg per 100 gr flour


1. mix the eggs with the flour (i used 400 gr flour with 4 eggs) and knead well
2. wrap in clingfilm and leave to chill for minimum one hour
3. if you have a pasta making machine, roll the dough thru the machine at the widest setting a few times until shiny, then roll thru lower settings until the right thickness is achieved. remember to dust with flour once in a while so the dough doesn t stick (if you don t have a pasta machine, then just roll the dough to the required thickness with a rolling pin)
4. cut into fine tagliatelle or papardelle
5. cook in boiling salted water for about 3 minutes, fresh pasta cooks really quickly so keep watching it
6. serve with your favorite sauce

i got Sam to help me roll the dough thru the pasta machine

i made up my sauce with tuna, aubergine, onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes and kalamata black olives.

after that baking and cooking, enjoying this al fresco with a glass of wine was a perfect ending to an unusually good weekend...

May 23, 2010

quiet saturday

yesterday we went to the garden center to get some flowering plants. the sun was shining and spring is definitely here now.

when we got back, as my mom-in-law and Sam lounged in the garden, i started making my take on 'stoofvlees', which is just a meat stew usually made with beef, but i made it with pigs cheeks. please believe me when i say this, i had never used pigs cheeks before, but i don t think i ll ever be using any other cut again for making this stew... the meat becomes so wonderfully tender after 3 hours braising, and is so flavorful.

well, here s how i did it...



1 kg of pigs cheeks, cut into halves or quarters
4 medium sized onions, roughly chopped
6 medium sized carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
6 rashers of bacon, cut into small pieces
half bottle of good red wine, i used Côtes du Rhône
300 ml water
two large sprigs of thyme, two large sprigs of rosemary and a good handful of sage
pepper and salt
olive oil
beurre manié (30 gr butter mixed with 30 gr plain flour)


1. in a braising pan, sauté the pigs cheeks in hot olive oil until browned. do this in batches so the cheeks don t cook, but caramelize!
2. remove the cheeks from the pan, then lightly sauté the bacon pieces with the onions, garlic and carrots.
3. return the pigs cheeks to the pan, add the wine and the water, add the herbs (some might want tot tie the herbs together but i keep it very rustic), add salt and pepper (not too much, best to adjust the seasoning when it s cooked) and leave to simmer on a very low heat for at least 3 hours, but 4 would be good too.
4. when nearly done, add the beurre manié, and leave to thicken a bit, then adjust seasoning.

serve with fries (traditional) or crusty bread to soak up the gravy, and a simple green salad and homemade mayonnaise.



1 egg yolk
1 heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard
pepper and salt
white wine vinegar
rapeseed oil


i do this a l'occhio (meaning, measurements are not quite so important here...)
start by beating the egg yolk and the mustard
slowly, slowly add the oil in a very thin stream while beating the egg mustard mixture
it will emulsify and become thicker, and you can then add more and more oil as is needed
when the mayo has become quite thick, add a teaspoon of white wine vinegar and pepper and salt to taste (instead of vinegar, adding lemon juice is also very good)
please never ever add sugar!
if and when the mayo should split just add a few drops of hot water to the mix, and beat, it should emulsify again quite quickly.

voilà, made for a great traditional Belgian meal... and after dinner another glut of watching Jamie's Italy and feeling completely contented...

and today is sunday...

May 14, 2010

being lazy

the past few days, i have been lazy. it happens.

reason was, i was studying for my exam, and i just couldn t think about cooking. i did think about food, as i said before, i always do. but i couldn t be bothered to think up something to make for dinner, go to the store to get the fresh ingredients, and cooking.

which brings me to Sam. so good to have a partner who likes to cook as well.

yesterday, since i had taken my exam the day before, we just upped and went to the seaside, just for the day, only a 100km away from where we live, so that was good. it was also a holiday, so no stores were open and when we got back, we only had eggs, some green asparagus, some spring onions and herbs from the garden. Sam thus made us a simple omelette... it was delicious.

so, i can afford to be lazy... sometimes.

YangHwa posted some really good recipes on her blog: GOT SOME VEG? and i m thinking of trying those out.

the sun is finally shining again, after a week of grayness and rain, i m off to the store!

May 10, 2010

how lucky we are

my good friend YangHwa reminded me that having a small fridge could just be a blessing in disguise. and she s probably right.
at least i have one!

at least i can also pop into my nearest supermarket or grocers and get whatever i want, fresh, whenever i want, even if i m not really hungry (although, to be fair, i always am thinking of food).

so, just to make a point, i m thankful that i was born lucky; lucky to have been born in a wealthy country, lucky to have had a good education, lucky to have a job, lucky to be able to do whatever i want to do (like making my jewellery, like cooking...) and not having to really worry too much. seriously, my kind of worries are just peanuts compared to what i ve been seeing the past few decades on the news: famines, wars, are we really in the 21st century... what s going on?

my grandmother used to tell me: you better finish your dinner, because so many other people aren t getting what you have!
i will finish my dinner, gratefully...

anyway, no more complaints from me...
just good cookery ideas that i might be able to share with others.

ps. i am not going to feel guilty.

simple dinner tonite: farmhouse sausages with sautéed new potatoes and a fresh tomato salsa with a papaya twist.

May 8, 2010

every day dilemma

having a small fridge must be one of the most terrible things in life when one loves eating and cooking. i have a small fridge. which means i have to go to the store nearly every day for fresh ingredients.

sure i have my store-cupboard stuff, dried pasta s, rice all sorts, spices, dried herbs, oils and vinegars, and thank god my partner Sam is a keen gardener who s inventive use of our very small garden means i have some fresh herbs and seasonal veg to hand.

still, it isn t easy, i love to cook, i wish i could cook better... having no extra cash (because my jewellery work is taking up so much at the moment) means i can t get a bigger fridge, which could make life a little easier.
still, we get on with it, i seem to be able to produce a good meal most days, be it 'ready, steady, cook!'-like (putting something edible on the table in 20 minutes flat after a 'hard' day at work) or gentle and easy one-pot slow food (mostly weekends).
it s just because of having that small fridge, having to think up something to concoct every single day can get daunting.

well, at least i get a lot of inspiration from my friends, my cookery books, the www (who d ever thought i d become an afficionado of this medium LOL), so, perhaps the everyday dilemma of deciding what to put on the table is not too hard after all.

i just wish i could have a bigger fridge!