Polenta and goats cheese stacks

I am not going to lie… cooking for 10 people (that you might not ever have met before) can be a harrowing experience… even more so if you are travelling the day before or on the actual day of a dinner party (or even just holding down a normal 9-5 job!). Meaning that your prep time is limited… or in my case – needs to be more of a “make-ahead” kind of recipe.

All of this could be a nerve-racking experience – but nothing in life is to be taken too seriously…. so I put on my thinking cap (aka “used google search”) and found the below recipe (which I would use as a starter) from the BBC Good Food Website. It ticked the boxes of make ahead (with the polenta/cheese stacks being able to be chilled up to 2days before use) as well as fulfilling the requirement of having a vegetarian option!

This was the starter for my recent Murder Mystery: Champagne Murders that was held through bookalokal.

Polenta & Goats Cheese Stacks

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400g creamed spinach (cooked)
1.5l vegetable stock
350g quick-cook polenta
50g butter (plus extra)
85g finely grated parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated)
200g goats cheese (round log type)
Rocket
Truffle Oil
Pomegranate Seeds
Balsamic reduction
Bresaola (an air-dried salted beef thinly sliced)

  • Prepare/cook your creamed spinach (I used the frozen version that needed to be placed into a pot with a tablespoon of water to melt the cubes)
  • Bring the stock to the boil in a large pan
  • Stir in the polenta in a fine, steady stream – to avoid lumps forming
  • Cook for 5min, stirring all the time, until thick
  • Stir in butter, parmesan, spinach, nutmeg & seasoning
  • Leave to cool
  • Slice each 100g goats cheese log into rounds
  • While polenta is soft, spoon into a large baking dish (this can be done the day before)
  • Bake at 180C for 20min, then place sliced goats cheese on top & return to the oven for a further 20min
  • Place rocket & balsamic reduction onto plates
  • Cut & serve
  • Top with pomegranate seeds, Bresaola & drizzle with truffle oil (obviously – without the Bresaola for the vegetarian)

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Champagne Tasting with AperiNostrum (Bookalokal)

Most of you are already aware of Bookalokal – right? And that I have attended and hosted dinners with them before – right? The concept is about connecting people over food in your own or holiday city. Essentially a pop-up restaurant/bar concept in the comfort of some ones home – a chance to try something new but also home-cooked!

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Well, this past week had me and others heading out to try a Champagne tasting hosted by AperiNostrum (booked through the bookalokal website) – where hosts Alessandro, Sergio & Frederico (all Italian stallions living in Brussels) shared an evening of bubbles, nibbles & fun in Sablon.

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We got the opportunity to try 3 different champagnes with 3 different courses

  • Champagne Blanc de blanc Grand Cru (100% chardonnay) with freshly baked focaccia and crispy fried  calamari
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  • Champagne Rosé de saignée (Premier Cru) – aka “True blood” with spinach & bacon topped tartlets, italian salsiccia lollipop, and potato slices seasoned with fresh rosemary & thyme
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  • And finally, Champagne Cuvée Prestige (50% chardonnay, 25% pinot noir, 25% pinot Meunier) served with a green tea tiramisu
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Within the 7 lovely ladies who tasted the 3 different champers – we all had a different favourite (mine was without a doubt the rosé)… and I adored the green tea tiramisu.

how I adore these Marilyn saucers....

how I adore these Marilyn saucers….

You can like both Bookalokal & AperiNostrum on Facebook

 

Amadeo – the place for Ribs in Brussels

I am forever grateful to Michelle of Very Hungry Explorer for organising a BXLFF team dinner – including Andreea of On Food & Wine, Alison of Cheeseweb and moi – along with our wonderful (long-suffering) husbands who have had to listen to our Brussels Food Friends planning sessions for the last year!

HIM & I arrived and realised that although we had been in the neighbourhood quite a lot … and had even been almost directly opposite the spot a week prior to that at Noordzee – we had never noticed AMADEO before – which I now realise means that I am not really that observant… because who can miss a stuffed cow at the entrance????

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On entering – you have the distinct impression that you have walked through the looking-glass (Alice in Wonderland) and entered into some bizarre scene from the Moulin Rouge (the movie – not the Parisian theatre show) – with bookcases on one wall, stuffed animal heads & enormous Indonesian statues on another, lots of hanging red lights and tables one on top of each other… crazy… but cosy.

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In all fairness – I don’t think that the 8 of us even glanced at the menu… and just smiled/nodded and agreed to the Ribs a volonte (all you can eat) for 15.95€ – served with a gorgeous baked potato (with a good dollop of curry butter) and a smidgen of “greens”.

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We washed this all down with wine – of which, there are 1l bottles on the table which you can help yourself to, and at the end of the meal – you only pay for what you consumed… needless to say, that we managed to empty 2 bottles. (I have to confess that the wine wasn’t great – but the more you ate/drink – the better it got).

Although the statement is “all you can eat” – the reality is that you are served a plate of ribs (with your trimmings) – and the waiters walk around with trays holding additional ribs – which they offer to diners once they have finished the ribs on their plates…

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The boys managed to get through 3 racks of ribs in total (their original, plus 2 “re-fills”) and the girls probably each ate 2. Then the offer of “more” disappeared and we were asked if we wanted dessert or the bill… not because they didn’t want to feed us – but because they normally double (or triple) book each table for additional time slots – so if you get there early – there is a good chance that they will expect you to eat & leave within a certain period of time – in order to free up the table for more others. Which is absolutely fair!

all finished...

all finished…

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time to clean up….

Would I go back? Definitely – this is a great spot for a group of people who like meat. Reasonably priced and tasty. I would recommend making a reservation – as the queue of folks patiently waiting for a table to free up is pretty long. (HIM declared the ribs good – but said that Fin de Siecles were better)

Both Andreea & Michelle also wrote about our experience – which you can read here & here

AMADEO

address: 28 Rue sainte-catherine, 1000, Brussels, BELGIUM

telephone: +32 2 502 51 37

website: http://www.amadeo-brussels.com

email: info@amadeo-brussels.com

Opening hours: Mon-Thurs: 18h30-23h00, Fri-Sun: 18h00-23h30

Il Nobile (Brussels)

Don’t you love dinners where the number of guests grows exponentially as the evening gets started?

What started out as a catch up with the Senator & Mr Draper, then included respective significant others and friends… and soon – we went from 3 to 4 to 5 to 6 people… (at which point I felt it was necessary to make a reservation… not because I thought the place would be crazy busy, but because I know how difficult it can be to facilitate a table of 6 on short notice at 8pm …. even if it is a Tuesday evening)

However – I digress…

We landed up at Il Nobile (at the Senators suggestion) – which had also strangely enough been a restaurant that a colleague of mine had been raving about a few days before (coincidence????) and she had RAVED about their pizza’s … so my menu choice was essentially made before I even sat down!

We were greeted at the door and shown to our table inside (we might have been the only table inside – as everyone else choose to sit on the sidewalk terrace… but there wasn’t a table big enough (and available) to accommodate us out there) – the interior is what I would term as “Belgian Brasserie” – with wooden panelled walls, funky 1950’s lighting and no-nonsense table decor – as in – wooden table (no table-cloth), paper serviette & cutlery and the bare basics (nothing wrong with that!)…and my personal favourite – some pretty cool wall decorations (I loved the “Mamma Mia” picture & the glass inlay wall decor)

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We ordered 3 plates from the ENTRATE FREDDI/ENTRATE CALDI/INSALATE section of the menu (aka starters) – BRUSCHETTA DELLA CASA € 5,90 (FRESH TOMATOES, PESTO, AND PARMESAN ON BRUSCHETTA); CALAMARI FRITTI CON AIOLI € 7,90 (ROMAN STYLE CALAMARI WITH AIOLI) and INSALATA CAPRESE € 8,50 (MOZZARELLA, FRESH TOMATOES, AND ROCKET) – all 3 were delicious & repeat order worthy!

Please note that the boys have been told " not to touch, until I have taken a photo!" :)

Please note that the boys have been told ” not to touch, until I have taken a photo!” :)

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5 pizza’s & a calzone were ordered…  Sadly, the Calzone turned out to be a BIG disappointment (undercooked, cold in the centre and just a general ” blegh” consensus)… BUT the pizza’s were great!!! And of course, when you get to watch the pizza-man actually making them… you basically know that you are getting quality (with a capital K! :))

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Mr Draper & I both ordered the GUSTOSA € 13,00 (TOMATO SAUCE, MOZZARELLA, MASCARPONE, BRESAOLA, TRUFFLE OIL) – which was BY FAR the best pizza at the table… and a single point of advice would be to add a good crack of black pepper to bring all those tastes together – especially the sweet & creamy Mascarpone with the salty bresaola (which if you didn’t know – is a type of cured beef which has been sliced very thinly) *WINNER*

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HIM ordered the QUATTRO FORMAGGI € 12,50 (TOMATO SAUCE, MOZZARELLA, TALEGGIO, GORGONZOLA, PARMESAN) which he proclaimed as “quite good”  (which is high praise from him indeed), the Senator ordered the VENEZIA € 10,90 (TOMATO SAUCE, MOZZARELLA, ONION, EGG) & declared that it was delicious, and Sas got a VEGETARIANA € 12,50 (which looked beautiful, but didn’t stack up as well in terms of flavour to the Gustosa)

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Would I go back? Definitely… it is in walking distance from our home, tasty & reasonably priced and the staff were fantastically amusing!!! And they have a terrace out the back (not to mention having set up a side-walk terrace in the front)

Il NOBILE

address: Place Fernand Cocq 24, 1050 Ixelles, Brussels, BELGIUM

telephone: +32 2 540 8077

http://www.ilnobile.be

Biscuits

My birthday feels like it was ages ago (and it sort of was… as it was in May!) – but I was super lucky to get a whole array of amazing gifts from friends and family members!! With at least 90% of it being food or kitchen related!

One of which, was a biscuit maker from my mom… which I used a short time afterwards and have been meaning to post about for ages… so here it is!

This recipe was adapted from the Snowflake Book of Baking that mom had given me in 2001 (so you see – there are some things that REALLY last :))

Biscuits for a biscuit maker

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250g butter
100g sugar
2 eggs
10ml vanilla essence
350g cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
cherries (for decoration)

biscuits ingredients

  • Cream butter & sugar together
  • add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition
  • Add vanilla essence
  • Sift dry ingredients together
  • Add to creamed mixture
  • Mix well
  • Place dough into the biscuit maker and press onto a greased baking tray (as you can see – I tried loads of different shapes)
  • (you can add a piece of cherry to the centre of each unbaked biscuit/cookie now before the tray goes into the oven)
  • biscuits tray
  • bake for 10min at 180C
  • (I baked in batches – and did 4 trays in total)
  • Cool & store in an air tight container
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A Cheese Bread Wreath (SRC)

It is SRC (Secret Recipe Club) reveal day…. woohoo

For those who aren’t aware – I joined the Secret Recipe club a few months back – whereby bloggers are allocated to a group and on a monthly basis, we get allocated another bloggers website for which we need to find a recipe, re-create it and publish it on an assigned date (and time)!

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This month – I got the amazing Chef in Disguise… Seriously, this woman had me in absolute awe!

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Not only is Sawnson a orthondondist (fancy dentist :)) but she is also an amazing cook & baker – with her blog showcasing some amazing technical skill! PLUS she is also mom to 2 children… so basically wonderwoman…. full-time job, mom AND phenomenal in the kitchen! Just to prove my point – she is part of clubs called the “daring cooks” & “daring bakers” – whereby they challenge each other to make “more” difficult bakes than the average person can handle – particularly impressed with her chimney cake, Nutella twists & Schichttorte (layered cake).

I really can’t describe how difficult it was for me to decide on which recipe from her blog to choose…. but I finally got won over by her delicious looking cheese bread wreath…. however, my biggest mistake was not using her recommended egg wash and therefore my egg wash made my wreath a lot browner than it should have! I did also only use one type of cheese (cheddar) while her recipe called for 2 types… But all in all – it looked slightly different (aka – not as professional as hers, but I can still say that it tasted Great! A bit of a brioche experience with the surprise savoury influence in the inclusion of the cheese & herbs … Mmm

I would definitely make this again – but I would either use her proposed egg wash or omit having an egg wash at all…

CHEESE BREAD WREATH

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1/4 cup (60 ml) warm water
3/4 cup warm milk
1 egg
1/4 cup (57 gram) butter, softened
1/4 cup (50 gram) white sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
450 gram all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (8 grams) dry yeast
1 egg
2 cups grated cheese (I used an English cheddar cheese but you can also use Mozzarella or any firm salty cheese)
sprinkling of mixed herbs

  • In one bowl whisk egg, milk, water, sugar, butter and yeast. Set aside
  • In another bowl sift the flour with the salt
  • Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and knead until you get a smooth dough. (it starts out quite wet, but I added another sprinkling of flour and it came together beautifully after about 5-10min)
  • Place the dough in a bowl brushed with some oil.
  • Cover the dough and leave it in a warm place to double
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface & using a rolling pin, roll into the shape of a rectangle
  • Spread cheese into rectangle (leaving about 2cm around the edges)
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  • Roll the dough up (starting from the long side) until you make a long roll
  • Join the ends together (and attempt to pinch together)
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  • Using a knife (or scissors) – cut the dough at 5-8cm spaces about 2/3rd of the way through
  • Turn the slices so that the circles face upwards (approx. 90 degrees)
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  • Brush the dough with your egg wash
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  • Allow wreath to rest for 15min
  • Bake for 270C for 5min & then reduce temperature to 200 C for a further 15-20min

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My top went brown very quickly in the first 5min – so I placed a piece of foil on the top for the rest of the baking.

click here fora 1pager printer friendly version.


Linking to the HOST

http://secretrecipeclub.com/

Seafood in Brussels (Noordzee)

With a visiting friend from Canada & a whole week of holidays to enjoy with HIM – we finally made it to Noordzee (La Mer du Nord) on St Catherine in Brussels (just around the corner from our normal “town” stomping ground) on a school day (aka Tuesday).

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What promised to be a fun new experience was dampened by the cold & rain and more in particular, the fact that eating takes place outdoors around a bar table while standing! So definitely no long boozy lunches here!! The entire experience would have been far more enjoyable if the weather had been sunshine & warmth – however, we made the best of the situation and 4 of us huddled around a table under the outdoor umbrella’s like penguins trying to keep out of the rain, wind and other people’s way.

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The place has some seriously good reviews – so much so, that they didn’t have any calamari left at 13h30 (clearly a popular choice and something that I had been craving) – but we did get enough of other plates to make sure that I didn’t walk away hungry. The prawn croquettes were pretty decent (and we ordered 2 plates as each portion only provides 2 pieces … thus making sure that we each had our “own”). We also ordered the tuna steak, battered fish and prawns done in 2 different ways.

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Would I return? Only on a sunny day or early enough to avoid the bustling crowds (because, come rain or shine, I always favour being under an umbrella!). If you love seafood and aren’t able to get to the seaside – this is probably the best place in town to find it.

NOORDZEE/ LA MER DU NORD

address: Rue Sainte Catherine 45, 1000, Brussels, BELGIUM

telephone: +32 (0)2 513 11 92

website: http://www.vishandelnoordzee.be/en/noordzee/

email: info@vishandelnoordzee.be

Focaccia Making Course (Bookalokal Brussels)

I have had the pleasure to attend & host a few bookalokal dinners – but I had not yet been to any of the cooking workshops that are on offer … vowing that I would… Also – having met the lovely Arianna from Un altro colore at numerous other events – and having tasted her delicious baking, jams & breads – I knew that I wanted to be in one of her workshops!

So, when a fellow foodie visitor from Canada was in Brussels, I dragged HIM and her along to one of the focaccia making courses (which included tasting & aper0-pizza) that Arianna was hosting.

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For a mere 28euro per person – you get involved in an interactive workshop, nibbles beforehand (which included the most amazing sweet Apricot sourdough focaccia) and pizza & drinks afterwards!!! Not to mention the fact that you get to take home your proofing dough as well – so another meal!! What I would call an absolute bargain – and SO much fun!

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Arianna is Italian & speaks French & English… and this girl really knows her stuff when it comes to baking…  and running a workshop – i.e. she provided sufficient time (and patience) to answer our questions, while still making the workshop more of fun experience than a “school book learning” one.

As we were 3 people in the same household attending – we decided that HIM & I would only do half of the recipe each, while our friend did a full recipe – meaning that we went home with 2 large bowls – ready for the oven (or in our case, the fridge, because we decided to bake it the following day).

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We had 4 distinct toppings prior to baking (all of which were more-ish)

  1. goats cheese & fried red onions
  2. tomato & basil
  3. rosemary & salt
  4. ham & olive tapenade

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If you can’t find an already planned workshop date that suits you, you can always use the bookalokal site to request one of your own….and even better if you can get a group together.

We give this a 5/5 rating & highly recommend it!

Knees to Chin (Brussels)

I keep having to remind myself that I am not a hipster… but I do love Instagram… I do… I just can’t help it… being able to drool over others food photo’s makes me happy!

Plus it is a great way to find out what is new & happening in the world of Food in Brussels… (that is how I found out about King Kong & Forcado!)

Having seen some delicious looking Rice Paper rolls from Knees to Chin pop up on my screen… I knew that I had to check them out. PLUS – they are a 5min walk from our little home and a neat half-way meeting point between Mr Draper’s & mine – which is why it was the perfect meeting place for a quick catch-up with Mr Draper prior to his whirlwind travels.

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We both ordered 3 of the rolls (3.80€ per roll = 11.40€ per person) – but they do offer lunchtime “offers” which are cheaper & include a side (i.e. rice or cabbage salad)

marinated prawns, mango, avocado, fresh mint – avocado sauce
satay chicken,
pear, fried shallots, rocket – light peanut sauce
sweet potato,
pineapple, fresh mint – avocado sauce

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I was in heaven… they are fresh and super tasty… and the perfect meal for a hot summer day (be it lunch or dinner)… AND even better still, is the fact that you can grab & run (aka take-aways) – although – having said that – I really think that their interior is cool (and hipster-ish) :)

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Would I return? Yes – yes – yes… this could easily become a new favourite

KNEES TO CHIN

address: rue de Livourne 125, 1000, Brussels, BELGIUM

telephone: +32 2 644 18 11

email: info@kneestochin.com

Opening hours (summer): Mon-Fri: 11h30-21h30, Wed: 11h30-15h00 & Sat: 12h00-18h00

http://www.kneestochin.com