Tonight I’m having a real Belgian meal in a real Belgian restaurant, Les Brassins! I already know what I will order: a blanche (wheat beer or just translated directly from French; a white beer) with stoemp et saucisse. Stoemp is mashed potatoes mixed with some kind of vegetable, it can be carrots, leek, or spinach – my favourite is with spinach. Saucisse is a sausage of course, but a real meaty one, almost like a German wurst. It’s a heavy meal but I like it, especially when it’s a bit cold and rainy outdoors – like today!
Other Belgian specialities are:
- Frites – French fries are not French, they are Belgian! In the Netherlands they are called vlaams fritten/fritjes – Flemish fries (please correct my spelling if needed!). They are preferably eaten with mayonnaise but you can also choose from sauces called Andalouse (O’s favourite), Cocktail, and hm… I always take mayonnaise and/or Andalouse so I can’t think of any other sauces (if you have once had fries with mayo it’s difficult to go back to ketchup, I assure you!). The best fries in Brussels are supposedly from La Maison Antoine on Place Jourdan – there is always a long queue infront of the friterie. However, you can find a friterie/frituur/frietkot in almost every square in Belgium. You can read more about the Belgian fries on this web-site.
- Moules frites – that is not deep-fried mussels as I first thought when I arrived to Brussels, it is mussels and fries! I don’t eat mussels so I am not really an expert but I have learnt that you shouldn’t eat mussels in a month which doesn’t contain an -r, i.e not May, June, July or August. The best mussels are from Zeeland, in the Netherlands so the very Belgian dish is actually not very Belgian (the fries are probably made from Belgian potatoes though?!). The mussels are served in their shells in a big, black pot – cooked in cream & white wine is the most traditional way I think. Lots of fries on the side of course.
- Carbonnade – (stoofvlees in Flemish) is a stew made with dark beer and eaten with… you guessed it – frites! O loves it and will chose this dish even if he is eating in the fanciest of Belgian restaurants! It’s typical Belgian husmanskost (everyday, traditional food) -like the stoemp, heavy and warming.
- Waterzooi is also a stew but made with cream and vegetables. There is a fish version and a poultry version.
- Pitta (kebab) is very popular as well, and has almost taken over the traditional, Belgian friteries. Close to the Grand’ Place in Brussels there is a street which is nowadays called Pitta Street because it is full with pitta places – either Gree/Cypriot or Turkish. They are open until late in the night so perfect for anybody who needs a night-time snack before heading home after a night out. A traditional (?) pitta place is Le Perroquet close to Sablon, it has a nice art-nouveau decor. I am not a big fan of pitta as I have already mentioned, I prefer my dürüm falafel…
Well, one thing is sure – in Belgium you eat very well! I have been meaning to buy the Everybody eats well in Belgium Cookbok – it has been in Waterstone’s for as long as I can remember but a few weeks ago when I finally wanted to buy it, it turns out that it is out of print!! What a bummer! And there are no other comprehensive Belgian cookbooks – I am so disappointed! It is so popular that second hand copies are being sold on amazon.co.uk from as much as £ 38.28 which is just a little bit too much for me!
Have a great weekend and I hope that you will all eat well tonight!
PS My sister is at the Annual Swedish Book fair in Gothenburg at the moment, she works for a publishing house called Bra Böcker and she keeps sending me messages that she has spoken to Niklas Strömstedt (Swedish singer), Leif Pagrotsky (former minister) and Margot Wallström (Swedish Commissioner – I have been working in Brussels for the Commission for 5.5 years and I have never spoken to her, seen her yes… life’s unfair!). Arrghh, I hope that she at least brings back some free books for me 😉