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If you’ve just started reading this week, then welcome to my tribute to lovely Belgian city of Brussels. Everyday this week is dedicated to sharing with you the delicious treats we found on our trip last weekend. Mussels and waffles have already been featured and today’s delight is a carbohydrate and sugar breakfast bonanza.
My friend Celine insisted that we go to Le Pain Quotidien for breakfast. We didn’t argue with her because we had just found out that she is 4 months pregnant (congrats!) and you should never argue with a pregnant woman. Never ever.
Le Pain Quotidien is a chain of cafes that bake their own organic bread, pastries and cakes as well as making various preserves and pickles. There are stores all over the world but the first ever one was opened in Brussels.
The cafes are famous for their communal dining tables which allow guests to share the many jams and spreads that are left open with spoons for serving. This concept sounds good in theory, but when I wanted more honey and the people at the end of the table had it, my warm and fuzzy sharing attitude was put to the test.
I don’t usually eat a large breakfast so this was a lot for me, but luckily I had a very hungry pregnant woman who really loves bread (she’s French) to help me out. We all ordered the traditional breakfast which was a large basket of bread (each!) served with a soft boiled egg, fresh orange juice, coffee and all the spreads you can eat.
The spreads are really amazing, so I’m going to take you through the ones pictured above so that you can know exactly what you are drooling over.
Clockwise Right to Left
Chocolate Spread – tasted like Nutella, but more chocolatey and not as sweet.
Plum Jam – was the consistency of vegemite but tasted like sweet plums.
Strawberry Jam – big chunks of fruit, exactly how I like it.
Milk Spread – tasted exactly like a Milky Bar that had been melted. Much too sweet.
Marmalade – I’m sorry to say that I didn’t even try it. I don’t like marmalade.
Eating breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien was a delight, and as I was leaving I spotted someone eating a fabulous open sandwich with aubergines and artichoke spread and I really want to try it. Actually, maybe I’ll try making one… keep your eyes peeled for the recipe!
This weekend we went to visit our wonderful friends Bi and Celine in Brussels. They were excellent hosts, tour guides and a whole lot of fun. They took us to all the great local places to eat and also to some very posh chocolate shops… but more on that in a few days. In fact, this whole week is dedicated to showing you the delights of the city of Brussels! Enjoy.
On Saturday, we took a drive to the lovely Belgian city of Gent; about half an hour from the Brussels city centre. The mussels above were actually eaten in Gent, but ‘Mussels in Gent’ doesn’t really have the same ring to it, don’t you agree? We walked around for ages trying to find the perfect place to eat, but then finally settled on a restaurant that looked a bit shabby from the outside but was fine dining inside – a very welcome surprise.
I had the mussels maison with frites (chips). Maison is a delicious sauce made of white wine and cream with big chunks of carrot, garlic and celery. As you can see there was a lot of mussels there – 1 kg to be exact – and sadly I couldn’t finish them all. I love the way they arrive in a big pot with a lid to keep them pipping hot and then as you eat the mussels you toss the shells into the lid. This makes it a much neater affair than eating most other shellfish such as lobster and prawns and gives the distinct advantage of being able to use the shells to scoop up the rich creamy sauce. Yum.
I really wanted to eat great mussels when I went to Belgium and luckily I did. But it wasn’t all savoury food, there were plenty of sweet treats too. Come back again soon to check them out.
Happy eating, Christie
Mussels with tarragon and cream by Nigel Slater
click here for the original recipe and article
500g cleaned mussels
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 thick slice of butter
a handful of tarragon sprigs
a few sprigs of thyme
Pernod or Ricard
2 or 3 tbsps double cream
Give the mussels the once over (they should be free of grit and sand and there should be no broken shells). Discard any that do not shut when you tap them firmly on the edge of the sink.
Cook the shallot and garlic in the butter in a deep pan (one for which you can find a lid). When the shallots are soft but barely coloured, tear the leaves off the tarragon and add most of them to the onion. Chuck in the thyme, too. Add the mussels and cover tightly with a lid.
Let the mussels steam for 3 minutes, shaking the pot from time to time, until they open. There may be a few that refuse to budge – throw them away. Scoop out the mussels with a slotted slice or spoon into a warm bowl. Tip the cooking liquor through a fine sieve into a bowl.
Rinse out the pan (be quick: the mussels are getting cold) then return the pan to the heat. Pour in the strained cooking liquor, a couple of glugs or tablespoons of Pernod, then pour in the cream and throw in the rest of the tarragon leaves. Let the sauce bubble for a minute or so, then tip over the mussels.
I know my last post was about chips but these two meals happened a week apart, promise.
A day trip on Saturday to the lovely English city of Oxford was made even better when I spotted this glowing fluorescent sign.* What I love most about it is the little man in the corner with the axe who declares ‘I’d kill for chips’ and judging by the look on his face, I’d say he’s not joking.
So I decided to try these chips people will apparently kill for and I’m happy to report that they were good. Really good. A bit on the oily side (as you can see on the paper), but made from real potatoes that had been cut up and fried. Eat your heart our Mr McCain.
The best thing is the way they are served here in the UK – with the top open. So that you can dig straight in with your fingers or use the cute little wooden forks they leave on the counter. I chose to use my fingers because I can’t stand to touch flat wooden paddle pop sticks, they give me the shivers… but that’s another story.
Happy eating, Christie
135 High Street
*Sorry for the crappy photo of the sign, but the shop was down a dark alley.
After a very busy morning shopping on Oxford Street, I thank my lucky stars I used to work in Central London, because I know exactly where the Soho locals go for a hearty feed. I slip off the main drag and into Poland Street where the best American style BBQ house is patiently waiting for me… behold, Bodean’s BBQ Smokehouse Restaurant. As I enter I notice the cute pig faced handle on the door, and I feel glad to be back.
I’m warning you, DO NOT go here if you are not absolutely starving (I think the picture above can clarify this). The portions are stupidly big, tasty and excellent value – if you like meat that is, lots and lots of meat.
On this visit, the Bear and I had our old favourite, The Soho Special. This is basically a massive soft white bun* filled with a mountain of slow cooked and shredded pork and beef (no, one type of meat is not enough!) mixed with barbeque sauce. It’s served with pickles and really crispy chips. The pickles are so good, I could even forgo the chips; they have a complex sweet and sour flavour that really compliments the meat. The Bear hates them, so I got his too. No complaints there.
Other than this delicious meal, I can whole heartedly recommend the ‘Pig out for a Tenner’ meal. I found it impossible to finish. But the guys that I went with last time had no troubles at all. For £10 you get 1/2 rack of spare ribs along with 200 grams of pulled pork served with coleslaw and fries and the choice of a house beer or soft drink. The coleslaw for me had a bit too much mayonnaise, but the ribs are fantastic, they have lots of meat on them and are really juicy and flavoursome.
The only downside is the blaring TV in the corner playing American Football. It’s loud and sporty and not my cup of tea. Oh, did I mention they have unlimited drink refills? Oh yes, as much Coca Cola as you can drink! Heaven for a sugar sensitive gal like me and reminiscent of trips to Pizza Hut when I was younger where the drink and dessert bar refills were disgracefully abused. Those were the days.
Bodean’s BBQ Smoke House Restaurant
10 Poland Street
London, W1F 8PZ
Ph: 020 7287 7575
*Now, you know I hate white bread. I think it’s the devil and never ever eat it if I have the option for wholemeal. But in this case, it’s the whole experience of hardening your arteries with all that meat, potato and fat that I may as well go the whole hog with some extra white bread. Besides, it’s my sacrifice for you, my dear reader. I’ll do anything to provide you with good content. Even eat white bread (very occasionally).
It’s a big call, I know. But these are without a doubt the best falafels in all of Sydney. Perfectly crunchy on the outside and soft and nutty on the inside – almost as good as my late grandmother’s, bless her soul.
The lovely people at La Roche Restaurant in Lakemba won’t part with their recipe (I don’t blame them!) so here is a recipe from one of my favourite websites Epicurious to tide you over. Or better still, take a trip to Lakemba, you won’t regret it (their address is under the recipe).
If you think you know a better place for falafel, or somewhere just as good, leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you and then we can all know a back up place to go!
Happy eating, Christie
makes 6 main course servings
1 1/4 cups dried chickpeas
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup finely chopped onion (1 medium)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
About 6 cups vegetable oil
Soak chickpeas in cold water to cover by 2 inches in a bowl at room temperature at least 12 hours. Drain well in a colander.
Purée chickpeas with all remaining ingredients except oil in a food processor until as smooth as possible, about 2 minutes. Spread purée in a 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan and let dry, uncovered, 1 hour.
Scoop 2 tablespoons of purée onto a long sheet of wax paper, then press and pat with your fingers into a 2-inch-wide patty. (Pressing the purée will help the patty hold together when frying.) Make a small hole in center of patty with tip of your pinkie finger (to help cook evenly). Make more patties in same manner, arranging them in 1 layer on wax paper.
Heat about 1 inch oil in a large heavy pot (preferably cast-iron) until a cooking thermometer registers 170C. Working in batches of 4, gently drop patties into hot oil, then fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, and transfer to paper towels to drain. Return oil to 170C between batches. Serve falafel warm or at room temperature.
Original recipe from Epicurious can be found here.
La Roche Lebanese Restaurant & Takeaway
Shop 5, 61-67 Haldon Street, Lakemba NSW 2195
Ph: 9759 9257