Yesterday, for the first time, I attended one of the many activities organised by Samana, the division of CM health insurance, offering support, distraction and a variety of activities for chronicly ill patients and their caretakers. The activity that caught my eye was a culinary chocolate walk in Antwerp…need I say more?! As for the bold and sweet…just read till the end…
The walk comprised a guided tour along some Antwerp hotspots linked to chocolate or sugar and of course some tasty stops and according treats! Along the way the process of chocolate making from bean to the yummy stuff was explained and its history through time.
Did you know ‘Suikerrui’ one of Antwerp’s streets leading to the river got its name from the sugar (suiker in Dutch) that was stored in the below street-level canals (rui)?
Luxury Belgian brand Neuhaus offered us two of their signature ‘pralines’ the ‘Caprice’ and ‘Tentation’ both created for the World exhibition held in Brussels in 1958 and named after a quote from Brigitte Bardot, mr Neuhaus himself being a fan of mme Bardot…
Apparently the colour of chocolate you choose tells something about your character, if you prefer dark chocolate, like me, you are rather tough and determined, the strong one!
No chocolate tour in Antwerp without stopping by Dominique Persoone’s ‘the Chocolate Line’ his company existing 25 years this year and innovative and enthusiastic as ever, he has every reason to celebrate!
Well that’s all for now…enjoying my little goodie bag filled with yummy chocolate…didn’t I show enormous character not touching it on the bus ride home?! Must be true then, dark chocolate and being tough and strong!
You can find a list of the houses we visited below and another treat, curious if you will recognize him…
To continue my previous post, after a wonderful night’s rest and relaxing stay in The Pier Suites, we decided to leave early to make the most of our day ahead in the Hague. Next to being the political and royal heart of the Netherlands and city where the International Court of Justice houses, the Hague keeps it’s relaxed city vibe offering a wide range of highlights and attractions, on every level whether you are a lover of architecture, culture, food, history, nature, shopping, this city seems to have it all! Time to discover!
You can not go exploring on an empty stomach, so we stepped into indoor shopping mall De Passage and had a quick boost of energy in Du Passage, perfect place for a quick or slow breakfast, lunch or anything in between. The Mall is Hollands oldest indoor shopping mall and the interior deco is stunning, think grandeur, spotless clean and a variety of exclusive and worth-discovering shops.
Our eye fell, what can I say, once a foodie, always a foodie, on the gigantic Dok Cookware store…it’s the real thing, I could have spent the whole day there exploring and spending those euros!
de Passage mall, Dok cookware store
Paëlla, anyone?! Dok Cookware store
Dok cookware store, de Passage
Time to step into the historic centre…the so called ‘Binnenhof’ or Inner Court is the centre of Dutch Politics and also houses the House of Representatives and the office of the Prime Minister. There are tours to follow, however the Inner Court is freely accessible, as is the adjacent pond.
hofvijver, Binnenhof, pond Inner Court
Binnenhof, Inner Court
We also enjoyed the walk along the ‘Lange Voorhout’ a beautiful tree-lined lane leading you to the iconic historic Hotel des Indes…celebreties, royals, when in the Hague, this is where they stay!
Do not skip the Heulstraat with the wonderful interior and deco-shop Il Regalo and Denneweg, one of the city’s oldest streets and a must if you are into lifestyle, deco, fashion and food…just go there that means!
These colourful boots are made for walking
statue Louis Couperus, Lange Voorhout
Did you know the Hague had its own Chinatown? Both entrances are marked with a gate, the area was originally a Jewish quarter, however after the Second World War it became more and more abandoned and in the 1970s the area became increasingly inhabited by the Chinese.
Are you in for some culture? 2017 marks the centenary of the founding of the Dutch art movement called De Stijl (the Style), which is known for its bold horizontal and vertical lines encasing blocks of primary colours. Best-known artist is Mondrian. This whole year is dedicated as tribute and special activities indoors and outside are planned…even if you are not a museum lover, the city will treat you no-charge on colour and art as with the world’s largest Mondrian painting replica on the city hall. And for those who are into musea and art, do not forget Vermeer’s famous Girl with the pearl earring is waiting for you in the ‘Mauritshuis’.
All roads lead of course to royal Palace Noordeinde, the Kings working palace, if the royal flags flies above the palace…the King is in the House! The gardens and stables are located behind the residence and gardens are open for visits accept during state or royal visits etc…the classy Noordeinde district is where you will find various stylish, exclusive shops.
All this city exploring make’s you hungry, right?!
We had lunch at ’t Goude Hooft, the Hague’s oldest inn, right in the vibrant city centre and went for a sweet treat at Lapsang, breakfast, lunch and winebar.
sweet treat, arretjescake and cheesecake
Conclusion, a must visit! Like I started this post, this city has it all and we haven’t even explored half of what it has to offer during this short visit, we’ll be back!
You don’t always need a large list of ingredients to make a savoury dinner or lunch, or sometimes you’re just in a hurry and don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen or you know that feeling that after an exhausting day your stomach and soul are just craving for some comfort food? Well, this dish ticks all the above boxes, how great is that! And no worries, though the list may seem long, most of the items are already in your kitchen pantry!
This is what you need:
(will feed about 4-6 persons depending if you add some sides or not)
1 chopped onion
2 tins of tuna (natural brine)
1 small tin of anchovies, chopped
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons of paprika powder
A few drops of Worcestershire sauce
3-4 grated cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper
About 8-10 tbs of breadcrumbs
Ciabatta divided in smaller pieces or 8 small bread rolls
Some slices of mature cheese or whatever you prefer, I use cheddar
This is what you do:
Glaze the chopped onions in some olive oil and set aside. Meanwhile open your tuna tins, remove the excess liquid and transfer the tuna flakes to a large bowl. Add the eggs, the chopped anchovies, the paprika powder, the Worcestershire sauce and the onions. Flavour with the garlic, salt and pepper.
At this stage, you can either proceed of put aside in the fridge to use later in the day or in the evening when you get home from work. If you proceed, or after removal from the fridge, check the density and start adding the bread crumbs to absorb any leftover liquid. Make sure everything is mixed thoroughly and the mixture is moist however not wet.
Take your bread rolls or chopped up ciabatta and slice horizontally in half, brush them with some olive oil and grill in the oven. Take them out, start filling them up with the tuna mixture and end with a nice slice of cheese on top.
In the oven this goes, for about 15’ at a temperature of 200°C
There’s a whole lot of fish in the sea, but you’re one hot tuna!
You can serve this with a yummy green salad or just eat them as such…oh, and I know you can’t wait to take that first bite, but remember the quote and beware not to burn the palate…hot, hot, hot, let them cool off for just a few seconds!
Any leftover cranberries after the festive season? Always fun to sugar-coat them…
Make a syrup of sugar and water, turn off the heat, add the berries and let them soak at least a couple of hours or overnight. Point is to reduce the extreme sourness of the cranberries.
Then drain using a colander and make sure to keep the liquid as you can still use that when making cocktails!
Dry the berries lightly with a paper towel, they shouldn’t be completely dry, otherwise the sugar won’t stick.
Time for the fun part! Pour some sugar in a bowl, add some berries and toss them around until coated. Do not add too many berries at once, it will make the sugar clump and that’s not what you want at this point.
Leave them to dry on a rack or plate and that’s it!
I used mine decorating a chocolate mousse and added some in my morning oatmeal bowl.
The word foodie, you see or read it a lot nowadays, right?! It seems to me lately everyone with a latte or salad posting a pic adds the foodie hashtag. And that’s just fine by me as long as you are savouring it with inner joy and an even bigger outer smile!
‘Foodie: onewhohas an ardent or refinedinterest in food; a gourmet.Alsocalledfoodist.’
If this definition is the standard, then yes, I tick the box, consider me a foodie…when in a book store, I head straight for the new releases on cookbooks, I adore tv shows mixing food and origins and culture like the Rick Stein series and The Two Greedy Italians. I love it when a recipe doesn’t only show the ingredients and how to proceed but tells a background story, like for example in Nigella’s books or Flemish Pascale Naessens, oh and need I say I adore cooking and baking, that is when my back allows me, and do not forget the eating experience!
Yep, I’m probably an addict: when breakfast I already think about lunch or dinner, when throwing a party, putting together all the pieces of the food puzzle gives me joy and thrill, and okay I admit stress too sometimes, and drop me on a farmers market or a food store or in a restaurant and I’m in heaven!
Even the small town I live in has the luxury to have access to farmer market produce, due to the rising awareness that we are what we eat. Food isn’t just about keeping us alive, keeping our body engine up and running, it’s so much more than that: it brings us together, that moment around the table, the great expectation, all the senses on sharp as to not to miss the aromas and colours revealed when the dish is served! That’s what gives me joy, it’s the total package: the food, the table setting, the company, the occassion: it may be just your daily lunch or dinner or a family or friends get together, make it something special, food shoul be fun! If the mood is perfect, any dish prepared with care and love tastes great!
I don’t have to convince you of the benefits of healthy food, enough studies have been published on that and there are people far more qualified than I am to tell you something on those topics. I am not a fanatic, not in my general everyday life and behavior and not in my food. I don’t buy the expensive so-called superfoods, I believe in a balanced food plan, I like my piece of dark chocolate when I drink my afternoon tea, I appreciate a glass of red wine by the fireplace. Like another Flemish cook and author Jeroen Meus, recently said, it’s all about using your common sense. Keep it in balance, there’s no harm in eating a cookie or two or a piece of cake, just not the whole cake! Invite some friends over to share and enjoy the goodies of life 😉
That being said, all this food thinking made me really hungry, so made some of Jeroen Meus’ apple muffins today, the recipe is in dutch, however think it’s pretty clear and if not, just ask me, then I’ll translate for you. The apples have been diced and caramelized in a bit of butter and maple syrup before adding to the batter. The recipe mentions brown sugar, but I used half brown, half white, only because I was running low on brown sugar and it is pouring outside so another run to the shop was no option.
From all desserts made in this home over the past many, many years, I think clafoutis definitely ranks number one when it comes to made most often. It definitely wins when it comes to easiest and quickest one, that is if you cheat a bit and use a jar of sour cherries. Personally, it ranks absolute top on comfort food too!
Traditionally made with cherries but you can use apples or, one of my personal favourites, the green reine claude plums…you get the idea: just use what’s in season! But let’s get back to the real thing! As the name gives away, we are talking a French dessert, mais oui, finding its origin in the Limousin region where local griottes, sour cherries, are used. The name is said to come from the Occitan dialect word ‘claufir’, which means to cover or fill. you can find many recipes on the internet or in culinary magazines or books, some use butter, some don’t, this is how I make it…The combination of fresh juicy fruit and the sweet batter will transport you to dessert heaven, promised, so head towards your kitchen!
What you need:
1 round baking dish and a little butter or oil to grease
4 large eggs
4 tbsp of flour
100 gr sugar + extra 2 tbsp for baking dish
185 ml cream
125 ml milk
+/- 400 gr cherries
I usually add a little Kirsch too
Optional: a few drops of almond essence, two or three, just to give a hint, you don’t really need to flavour
What to do:
Preheat the oven to 180° C.
Grease a baking dish large enough to hold the cherries in one layer, add two tbsp of sugar. Spin the dish round to coat the inside with the sugar, remove any excess if any, then set aside.
Mix the dry ingredients, then add the milk and cream and next add the eggs.
Layer the cherries in your baking dish. If you use a jar, let them go through a sieve first, but catch the liquid, you can use this for a nice gelato sauce or to accompany your clafoutis.
Pour the liquid (not to worry, it’s a very liquid batter) over the cherries and place in the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden and puffy.
Dust with icing sugar and serve lukewarm or lightly chilled depending on your own preference.
The other day I got inspired by a recipe in a German magazine called ‘Frau und Familie Ratgeber’. Well, I am a woman, I have a family and never say no to some good advice, especially if it involves desserts and some sweetness in life!
The article covered some desserts that didn’t need any baking: just your two hands, some time to spare and in the fridge it goes…sounds easy right?!
The cover showed a delicously looking blueberry layered cheesecake, well, had to test that one, being full berry season now!
If you’re thinking it might be just the thing for you to try, get your hands on the below ingredients and follow the instructions!
5 slices of pumpernickel bread (or use a mixture of cookies/chocolate or cookies/ speculoos like I did)
60 gr butter
2 tbsps honey
6 gelatine leaves (or 7 if you think your mixture is rather runny)
1 bio lemon (orange is an option too)
200 ml cream
500 gr cream cheese
250 gr quark cheese
1 vanilla pod
120 gr Sugar
4 cl Cointreau or another liquor based on oranges or just use oranje juice
500 gr blueberries or a mixture of red fruits as to your own taste or like
Line a springform pan(24 diameter) with parchment paper, break the bread into pieces and mix it with the melted butter and honey. Replace the bread by cookies if you prefer a sweeter cake bottom. Press with your fingers or the back of a spoon so the mixture is spread evenly and set aside in the fridge.
Dissolve the gelatine leaves in cold water and whip the cream up until stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese, quark cheese, vanilla, sugar, lemon or orange juice and zeste until you have a smooth mixture. Heat the Cointreau in a small bowl or pan, just gently, it doesn’t need to boil and then press out any water from the gelatine and place it into the liquor mixture. Add two big spoons of your cheese mixture to the liquor, mix and then transfer to the big bowl with the cheese and sugar mix in it. At this point you can add the whipped cream, making sure you have a smooth mixture without lumps in it. Transfer to your springform, spread evenly and set aside for at least 4 hours. You can add the fruit just before serving.
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Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Note1: preparation time is about 35-40 minutes, quicker if you make the cake bottom the day in advance and you can start straight away with the filling and topping.
Note2: I used 400 gr Philadelphia light and 350 gr cream cheese, as that was what I had in fridge at that moment, works fine!
Note 3: fun too, instead of using a large classic springform, to use tiny cups, great if you’re hosting a party as no fuss about who’s to cut the cake and gets the yummiest fruit parts…