A country with distinct Flemish (Dutch) and French influences, including language, it is sometimes said that Belgium serves food with the quantity of Germany and the quality of France.
Americans have for centuries looked toward Europe to find inspiration for their fine dining. Yet ironically, what is perhaps Europe's finest cuisine is truly its most enigmatic. The slow-cooked, nostalgic food of Belgium has until now been Europe's best-kept secret. With the Everybody Eats Well In Belgium Cookbook, Ruth Van Waerebeek reveals the bounty of recipes which are at the heart and soul of her native country. A native of Ghent, Belgium, Van Waerebeek draws on her professional experience as a restaurant chef, as well as the recipes from her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.
Everybody Eats Well In Belgium Cookbook reflects this country's passion for cooking, where everybody considers himself a food expert. In her book, Van Waerebeek captures the rich amalgam of flavors that comprise Belgian cuisine—a subtle mingling of foreign influences from the many countries that invaded Belgium: France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Spain, and Scandinavia. The Belgians are fond of saying that their food is cooked with French finesse—and served in portions of German generosity. The result is a lush cornucopia of recipes, such as Quiche with Gorgonzola and Asparagus or Cream of Belgian Endive Soup that blends ingredients indigenous to Belgium with those of her many European neighbors.
Belgian cooking also has deep roots in the Middle Ages, reflected in the use of mustards, herbs, and spices in recipes such as Roast Leg of Lamb with Pungent Mustard. and recipes such as Buttermilk Soup with Apples, and Braised Chicken with Grapes, illustrate the Medieval style of combining sweet-and-sour or sweet-and-salty in the same dish.
Belgians grow lots of endive (a well-tended acre will produce 10,000 pounds of Belgian endives in one season) and brew over 300 varieties of beer (their national drink) both of which are key components in Belgian cooking leading to such dishes as sautéed Monkfish on a Bed of Belgian Endives in Beer Sauce. There is no doubt, however, that Belgium is a most traditional meat-and-potato country. Veal Chops in Beer with Mushrooms and Chervil is a typical Belgian entree. Serve that with Spinach in Cheese Sauce and Parslyed New Potatoes and you have authentic Belgian cuisine without every leaving the USA.
"Belgium is a nation of potatophiles," says Van Waerebeek, who features potatoes in all of their beguiling guises from Belgian Fries ("better than any French fried potatoes you have ever tasted"). Deep-Fried Potato Croquettes, and Potato and Leek Pancake, to six recipes for Mashed Potatoes, including Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onion and Spinach Mashed Potatoes. And, if this is not enough to whet your appetite, there are Stuffed Baked Potatoes, Flemish Potatoes, and Celery Root and Potato purée.
Of course, a fine Belgian meal must end with a marvelous dessert. Enjoy Deep-Dish Custard Pie with a Praline Topping, Pears Poached in Spiced Rodenbach Beer, or, for a truly sinful Belgian treat, a Belgian Chocolate Ganache Tart or Chocolate Chestnut Truffle Mousse, and you'll understand why the Belgians have achieved a world-famous reputation for chocolate.
Until now, the Belgian's passion for cooking has remained for the most part unrecorded for, as Van Waerebeek explains, "In Belgium, the secrets of cooking are still handed down from mother to daughter to granddaughter." Eating in Belgium: in Flemish it's a feast, in French a fete, and for us, a feast—in any language, some of the very best food in the world.
Ruth Van Waerebeek is from Ghent in Belgium, where she chefed at two well-regarded restaurants, In Den Tinnen Pot and Flor. For her first two years in New York, she was the executive chef at the corporate headquarters of Joseph E. Seagram & Sons. She resides in Chile but frequently travels to New York City, where she teaches French and Belgian cooking at the Peter Kump Cooking School.
Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook
by Ruth Van Waerebeek with Maria Robbins
Illustrations by Melissa Sweet
Workman Publishing ISBN: 1-56305-411-6 (Paperback)
ISBN: 0-7611-0106-3 (Cloth)
Reprinted with permission
Belgium on Wikipedia
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This page modified January 2007
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