Brighten up your day

“…qui fleurit sa maison, fleurit son Coeur…”

An old French proverb and believe me, it is true.
There’s nothing like flowers to brighten up your day, your house, your heart…
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These are roses from my own garden

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Decorating the living room now

 

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Moules Marinéres a la Belge

A real winter treat!

 

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When I smell  black mussels cooked in beer, I am immediately back in old Amsterdam, where one of the better restaurants – quite close to the university – had a little booth in the street outside. There, one of their cooks prepared “Mussels to go”, just like they do at the Sunday market in Brussels. And the delicious smell on a cold, grey winters’ day always made me hungry…

Making this famous dish is not difficult; you need

  • Fresh black mussels (large or jumbo size), count on 1,5 Kg per person;
  • 3 – 4 bottles Belgian beer (NOT the bitter tasting Pilsner type);
  • 500 – 750 gr winter vegetables (depending on the amount of mussels)
    for instance a carrot, some leek, sprigs of celery, onion, chopped but not too finely
  • a large pan to cook them in
    (Tip: If you have to cook a large quantity, cook a fresh batch when the first one is nearly gone…)

Nowadays, only “clean” mussels are sold. If you’re lucky enough to be able to gather them yourself or buy them straight from the ship, you’ll have to clean them first.
Preparing them is easy:
– cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of vegetables
– put in a layer of mussels
– spread another layer of vegetables on top of the mussels
– repeat the process until the pan is full;
(Don’t forget to leave some space between the last layer and the lid!)
– pour in the beer
– put the pan on the cooking range and bring the contents to the boil

11dd960b-9b98-4e44-8795-d723f183024dThe dish is ready when the juice (beer + mussels) is bubbling and the topmost mussels are open . Take the pan from the fire. And now comes the only tricky part:
Put the lid back on the pan, close firmly and shake, to hustle the mussels around, making sure they’re all cooked evenly., then put the pan on the table.

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It is a wonderful finger food!
Use the shells for cutlery – as everyone in Belgium and France does.
Or buy some ‘Mussel cutlery” (see picture) if you can find it!
Serve with a nice crusty “Baguette” , maybe some dipping sauces and of course a well chilled glass of Chardonnay or (Belgian) Beer.

Enjoy!

 

 

Amsterdam – first promise of spring

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Darkness slowly falls and the old part of Amsterdam ignites its lights and puts on its most alluring face for a quiet night under a clear sky. Smells of delicious food are carried on the wings of a balmy wind from the south that brings the first promise of spring.  The age old buildings look benevolently down on lovers strolling by hand in hand, whispering sweet nothings to each other, embraced by the shadows of this timeless, precious, priceless place…

Lemon – Parmesan Cod

A nice and healthy way to prepare cod.

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All you need is:

  • some nice pieces of cod – count on 150 gr per person
  • a nice big lemon
  • grated parmesan cheese (10 – 15 gr per person, according to taste)
  • breed crumbs (15 gr per person)
  • olive oil
  • some black pepper and garlic (fresh or powdered)

Pre-heat the oven at 200 c (390 F).
Grate the lemon rind (a tablespoon for each piece of cod)
Mix the grated lemon, parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, garlic and pepper
Arrange the fish in  a greased oven tray and lightly baste the fish with olive oil
Cover the pieces with the mixture and press firmly until well coated
Bake for 10 – 15 minutes
Put each fillet on a pre-warmed plate and garnish with a slice of lemon
Serve with pasta or fried potatoes, a green salad and a nice white wine!

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Smoked Salmon or the joy of simple food

I must confess I love simple food. The original taste, not swamped by heavy sauces. Or obliterated by all kinds of (sweet) condiments. I know I am going against the trend. And yes, I also know it that each day it is getting harder to find food like that.
So once again, if you can’t find it, make it!

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There are few nicer ways of preparing fresh salmon – and it is ridiculously easy. All you need is one of those little smoke-ovens you can find in outdoor shops or on the internet. All you have to do is buy some nice pieces of salmon and salt them for about four hours. Wipe them clean and put them on the griddle.
Sprinkle 2 – 3 tablespoons woodchips on the bottom of the oven, close the lid tightly, light the (spirit) burners and let the fish smoke for 30 minutes.

Serve your freshly smoked salmon warm, with a green salad, some lemon and a French loaf (Baguette).
Enjoy!

The North Sea – In Winter

When people talk about the sea, they think of golden beaches under a warm, smiling sun. Of cocktails and snacks and swimming and sleeping under a parasol. Few of them realize that same sea has a totally different face, a face  only the professional seamen know…

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A face distorted by a force 6-7 gale, by driving rain and sleet and snow. With waves sending curtains of spray over the bows of the ship, soaking the oilskin-clad deckhands that longingly look at the lights of the port, just peeping over the horizon.

A tough life.