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