So in my quest to bring you meals from around the globe the next Country on my list was Belgium where I discovered the Belgian stew. Somewhere I have only paid a fleeting day visit, just once as a teenager. We went to Bruges on a school trip. In all honesty, aside from the canals I don’t think my 13 year old self took much else in whilst I was here, well at least I can’t remember much, apart from the naughty stuff everyone got up to!! Whilst I was at school I think this went down in history as one of the most rebellious trips that the school had. Put it this way, the students who went got a little carried away on the ferry and there were a lot of kids smoking and getting drunk! Do kids even know what smoking is these days? Oh how times have changed!
Anyway, I’m pretty sure I didn’t touch alcohol. It was about a year too early for me! However, I did sneak a few naughty ciggies on the top deck. This was pretty daring for me actually, because I was a bit of a scaredy cat when it came to breaking school rules and boy did I pay for it! When we went back to school we were all in serious trouble, each getting called the the headmasters office one at a time to explain our side of the story. Yikes, it was petrifying and I’m sure I learned my lesson because I remember not daring to leave the campsite when we went to the South of France on an adventure holiday later that year, just incase I got caught up in something else for fear of expulsion!
This craziness aside I think I’d really love Belgium if I went back now. I imagine it being similar to Amsterdam and possible Prague, two cities I absolutely adore. For this reason I wanted to still include this place on my list, so that I could learn more about it. Primarily the food of course…
With the wonders of social media and the six degrees of separation theory it turns out I had quite a few Belgian contacts (once removed), all of whom were very happy to help me in my research for the ultimate recipe for a ‘Carbonnade Flamande’ as well as opening up to let me know a little more about their love of Belgium food.
Oh hang on, some of you may be wondering what on earth a Carbonnade Flamande is! To enlighten you, it’s a traditional Belgium beef stew cooked in beer with a dark heavy bread spread with mustard added to the top, which slowly cooks into the sauce giving it a thicker consistency and intense flavour, that I’m sure you wouldn’t otherwise quite manage in the same way. I searched online and quizzed my new found Belgian friends and believe it or not there was no recipe the same, which posed me a dilemma as which way would I turn to create this dish myself? In the end I went with my own emalgamation of which I thought sounded like the tastiest options and I was slightly led by a couple of the ingredients choices I made whilst shopping for the meal. Namingly, for the bread I ended up with an organic dark rye and the beer I used was a dark coffee infused ale which I thought would give it an interesting twist. It did! Apologies to any Belgian folk reading this and disagreeing with my choices, I had trouble finding a good Belgian beer so giving it a British twist seemed like the next best thing. Please don’t hate me!
One of the lovely Belgian people that helped me in my voyage to all things tasty from this wonderful country was 25 year old, High School Educator, Karel Bonte. Here’s how he kindly answered my questions to give us an insight into his life of food…
Q. Where were you brought up in Belgium and where do you live now?
A. Born and raised in Bruges and still living there.
Q. What’s your favourite traditional Belgian meal?
A. French fries with carbonnade flamande
Q. What would your parents / grandparents class as a traditional Belgian meal if different to what you said?
A. Belgian stew
Q. Are there different popular meals dependent on what area of Belgium you are in?
A. Of course the French fries, also the waffles and chocolate
Q. So which areas specialise in these delicacies or are they all everywhere?
A. I think a lot of city’s in Belgium do waffles, French fries and chocolate. Bruxelles is more waffles I think, Bruges Chocolate!
Q. What’s your favourite food across the globe?
A. I really love Spanish tapas!
Q. Traditionally what do you eat on Christmas Day?
A. In Belgium we don’t really have a traditional dinner. That can be anything. For me it doesn’t matter what I eat on Christmas. If I have to choose I prefer meat of a deer or duck or something like that.
I have to admit I was slightly nervous about making this meal, being as it was something quiet different to anything I’d made before and I was worried about how it looked during cooking, as the consistency with the bread soaking into it could be confused for it splitting. Once finished though, I served it up to my little family and despite the usual groans from my typically fussy five year old we all devoured it, mopping it up with freshly baked warm baguettes. Even my baby son loved it and polished off several extra spoonfuls of the meat once he’d finished his original bowl full. I had two extra portions left over of which went into the freezer and although we enjoyed what we had eaten I have to admit to being hesitant to make a massive batch of this to sell, for two reasons… it doesn’t look particularly aesthetically pleasing and of course the British weather has thrown us a heatwave ever since I first made it, so the last thing I’d imagine anyone fancies sitting down to eat is a hot stew! It’s barbecues and salads all the way in our house at the moment anyway!
I’ve thought long and hard about this and have decided that if anyone particularly wants to try a portion of Carbonnade Flamande then I will happily make it, but as it is a pretty meat heavy dish it comes in at a slightly higher cost per portion of £5. Just give me a yell if you’re interested. Otherwise, I’m reverting to another Belgian classic and that’s the waffle! In fact, I’ve become quite obsessed with them over the past two weeks, creating a variety of different flavoured waffles, as well as many savoury and sweet toppings. I’m so excited about this that I am even considering launching ‘Waffle Wednesday’ at Kaori’s Kitchen, where the plan is each week to have a couple of savoury toppings ready to dish up and a variety of sweet yumminess too. Menu’s to be published next week, so watch this space and please let me know if you think take away, ready to eat waffles might be something you and your family would enjoy as a humpday treat…