Cream of Celeriac Soup with Wheat Beer and Bacon

Chef Jeroen Meus

I’ve found the Jamie Oliver of Belgium and it’s Jeroen Meus! He’s young, wears cool sneakers, has funky hair, and approaches cooking in a casual way. Oh, and he is an amazing chef! He has his own cooking show called Dagelijkse Kost ( or in English “Daily Grub”) and a great website full of recipes. His descriptions of cooking are lively and sprinkled with Leuven slang that make him very fun to watch. Lately, Billy and I have been turning to Jeroen’s website and cooking tutorials when we are out of our own ideas. He has an array of recipes that range between 15th century Belgian classics to Thai Green Curries.

Celeriac… ugly but tasty.

This week, Billy and I were looking to make a dish with a Belgian winter veggie. Belgium has a WIDE array of winter vegetables. Sure, Belgium is wet and cold in the winter but it only occasionally frosts therefore the growing season is much longer here compared to that of Canada’s. Belgian endives (witloof), parsnips, and celeriac are popular vegetables for Belgian winter dishes. Yesterday, we decided to try a dish with celeriac and found Jeroen’s recipe for Knolseldersoep met witbier, cheddar, en geroosterde pancetta. It is such a great recipe that I have to share it with my English-speaking friends. This is also good opportunity for me to work on translating Dutch text to English. See, everybody is learning!

Cream of Celeriac Soup with Wheat Beer, Cheddar, and Smoked Pancetta
A warming autumn soup that tastes rich but will only cost around €2 per bowl! This recipe is huge and will easily serve 6 people. See his video tutorial here.

Ingredients
Soup:
2 1/2 litres of Chicken Broth
1 Celeriac
3 big Onions
1 small clove of Garlic
2 cans of Hoegaarden (Wheat Beer)
1 squirt of olive oil
Couple of Bay Leaves
Couple sprigs of Thyme (dried Thyme works too for those who don’t have fresh herbs growing)
Couple of Parsley Stems

Garnish:
6 slices of pancetta (spanish smoked ham) or smoked bacon
150 grams of cheddar
A bit of Thyme

Finishing Touch:
200 g Cream
Pepper
Salt
Nutmeg

How To Make It
1. Make chicken broth and pour into a large pot over medium heat.
2. In a separate deep-frying pan, heat up olive oil and toss in your chopped onion and garlic. Be sure to stir frequently here, so the onions do not brown because then you will lose the pale velvety colour of your soup.
3. Wash the celeriac and then peel the outside. Dice into pieces and toss them in with the simmering onions. The the vegetables simmer here for 5 minutes.
4. If you have fresh herbs on hand, gather the thyme and parsley into a bouquet by tying them together with some twine, and toss it in the pot. If not, add your onions and celeriac to the chicken broth in the big pot and then add your dried spices.
5. Add the beer to the big pot and bring to a boil for 10 minutes (this removes the alcohol from the beer).
6. Turn the heat down to low heat, put the lid on, and let the soup simmer for 20 minutes.
7. To make your garnish, grill the pancetta or the smoked bacon, chop up thyme, and grate the cheddar cheese. Set aside.
8. After 20 minutes are up, its time to blend the soup with a mixer. Remove from heat and slowly add cream in between mixing to get a velvety and smooth soup. Taste your soup and add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.
9. Serve in bowls garnished with grated cheddar cheese, bacon (or pancetta), and thyme. Enjoy!

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Lazy Man’s Cabbage Roll Casserole

I’ve never had an actual cabbage roll. I was a fussy child and there was something about Cabbage Rolls that made me uneasy, I think it was the combination of tomato sauce and rice. It seems ridiculous now after I’ve had the essential ingredients of cabbage rolls in a thick stew and in a casserole. My first encounter with Lazy Man’s Cabbage Rolls was in Canada by my roommate’s Mom who came by for a visit and made us a giant stew pot of man-meal goodness. Back when I was in Edmonton I lived with two burly men, my friends Darek and Darren, who also happen to be brothers. They were raised in big family full of great cooks and together we had a household full of glorious dinners and parties. Their love for food, cooking, and restaurant exploration was a big influence on me and the home we shared is where my cooking skills really began to blossom.

My Edmonton Home

Lately, I have introduced more Canadian-influenced dinners to my second home in Belgium. I love hearty Alberta recipes that are not too fancy or fussy. A lot of our dishes have influences from our early settlers; British, French, Ukrainian, Norwegians, Chinese, Greek, Indian… and so on. Of course, different recipes change over time and many have been adapted to save time for the fast-paced lifestyle in the Prairies. Don’t be fooled by the appearance of some meals as these dishes taste damn good and will fill that big hole in your stomach after a hard days work. Best of all, for clean-up there are hardly any dishes; a big plus in my books since we don’t have a dishwasher in our 30 m2 studio apartment.

Lazy Man’s Cabbage Roll Casserole
Recipe adapted from Yummly

2 lbs ground beef
1 onion (chopped)
3 garlic cloves (minced)
700 g tomato sauce
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dill weed
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups rice (uncooked)
4 bacon strips (chopped + uncooked)
1 head shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. In a large skillet, cook the beef, onion and garlic over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in one can of tomato sauce and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat: cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in rice and bacon; heat through. Remove from the heat

2.Layer a third of the cabbage in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish. Top with half of the meat mixture. Repeat layers; top with remaining cabbage. Pour remaining tomato sauce over top.

3.Cover and bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with cheese. Bake 10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

*This recipe is on my old website… please come and visit curiousmeredith.com for new recipes and travel articles in the future! Thanks for stopping by!*

Homemade Pasta

It’s another rainy day in Belgium. We have become quite accustomed to rain showers and clouds since this summer has been labeled “the worst rainy summer on record”. This is typical luck for me because Canada is going through a heat wave while I have started to carry an umbrella in my purse. But on this day, the rain isn’t terrible news but rather a perfect excuse for Billy and I to stay inside and cook.

A week ago, we borrowed Billy’s dad’s pasta roller and now we have the time to dedicate ourselves to learning the tricks of a scrumptious homemade pasta. So we went out, found some pasta flour from our local Italian eatery, and began the pasta challenge. It turns out making pasta dough is not as hard as it seems… Ok, so we didn’t successfully make our whole meal in 6 minutes, like Jamie, but that is the magic of TV.

After a quick read of his recipe, we were kneading and rolling in no time. We followed Jamie’s portion recommendation of 100 grams of flour and 1 egg for each portion to make our flour nest & hollow. After some intense kneading, our ball of dough was ready for the machine.

For the first-timers, there are a couple of trouble spots that might be encountered. We found our pasta sheets were developing holes after passing through the press due to sticky pasta dough. To fix this problem, lightly sprinkle pasta sheet with flour and then roll through the machine again.

Be careful not to hastily adjust the ‘thinness’ setting while putting pasta sheets through the press because this seems to increase the chance of the pasta sheet falling apart. To make it easier, we ended up splitting the dough into 2 separate dough balls and ran each through the machine. It’s helpful to have two people, so there will be one to feed the pasta sheet through the machine and the other to catch the sheet on the other end. Most importantly, it’s more fun to cook and eat with someone else!

Teamwork makes tasty pasta

The best part about making your own pasta is being able to decide the thickness and size of the pasta. Once our sheets were satisfactory, they were loosely folded into a roll and then cut as we saw fit.

The pasta doesn’t take long to cook. According to Jamie, it will be around 45 seconds; ours took about 1 minute and 30 seconds after being dropped in boiling water.

Billy made a homemade pasta sauce with strong aromas of tomato, thyme, onion, and bacon that were dancing around in my nose and teasing my taste buds. To say that I was anxious for supper is an understatement. At first, we were so hungry our portion amount didn’t seem like enough. And then, it was so tasty that our greedy tummies wanted more.

After the meal was finished, we took a full 20 minutes of digesting time after which both of us felt satisfied and not sickly full. Thank goodness… because the pasta is quite heavy and I think the food hangover would have been similar to the feeling after an Easter dinner. I try to keep the intense food hangovers for family holidays, when it’s acceptable to nap face down on the living room floor.

Slowly, but surely, I am learning to combine food control and total enjoyment in this delectable nation.

Immense Healthy Lasagna

After waking up to snow and wind in Edmonton on April Fools, it’s hard to believe that the day before was a beautiful spring day that brought the city out of hibernation.

On Saturday, Billy & I made the most of the sunshine and went for a walk in the River Valley. After, we managed to catch the last hour of the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market. It was Billy’s first time to the Farmer’s Market and we scooped up all sorts of goodies: fresh eggplant, local honey, local organic chokecherry wine, Moroccan chicken sausage, sirloin meat pie, a huuuge purple onion, and a little bunch of pussy willows for a kitchen table decoration. To finish off our shopping trip, we grabbed a smokey from the Fat Frank’s stand, complete with Dijon mustard, to eat in the park. It’s days like these that I fall in love with Edmonton; a nice reminder that life is pretty good in our northern city.

To make use of our special Farmer’s Market ingredients, we decided to make a hearty lasagna with our own little twist. Whole wheat lasagna noodles, cottage cheese, eggplant, roasted peppers, purple onion, and Moroccan spice chicken sausage. The recipe came out very flavourful and satisfying. I keep stealing bites of Billy’s giant-sized lasagna lunch while I write because it is so tasty!

The Recipe:

1 eggplant, sliced 1/4″ thick
3 peppers (Red, Yellow, Orange), sliced and seeded
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large purple onion, diced
3 carrots, sliced
4 cloves of pressed garlic
4 medium chicken sausages, taken out of casing
1 bag of spinach
1 jar of Portobello mushroom pasta sauce
a dash of rosemary, oregano, basil, and black pepper
10 strips of whole wheat lasagna noodles
500 grams of cottage cheese
250 grams of parmesan cheese
250 grams of mozzarella cheese
2 medium fresh tomatoes

Instructions

1. Use tinfoil over 2 different baking sheets. On one, lay slices of eggplant and then drizzle with olive oil and spice with salt and pepper. On the other, lay slices of sliced peppers skin side up, drizzle with olive oil. Throw in the oven at 400 F for about 40-45 minutes.

2. Pour some olive oil in a skillet, then add diced onion, pressed garlic, and sliced carrots. Saute until veggies start to brown. Add chicken sausage, brown until cooked.

3. While browning veggies and chicken, use another deep skillet to cook lasagne noodles, as per package directions. When cooked but firm, drain and rinse with cold water.

4. Throw spinach leaves into veggie skillet and cover until leaves shrink down. Then add jar of pasta sauce. Cook until aromatic, add spices such as rosemary, oregano, pepper, basil until satisfied.

5. Lightly cover a large, deep baking dish with olive oil. Lay noodles to cover the bottom. Then, add a layer of eggplant slices and roasted peppers. Next, a layer of chicken pasta sauce. Finish with a layer cottage cheese. Repeat again in the order of noodles, roasted veggies, sauce, and cottage cheese.

6. Cover the layers with the remaining noodles, sprinkle with olive oil and do final layer of mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Garnish with fresh sliced tomatoes to add moisture and flavour.

7. Bake in oven for 30 minutes at 375 F or until cheese is lightly browned. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Slice and serve! Makes 8-10 servings.

Japanese Chicken Wings: Comfort Food for Wanderlust

I must begin this post with an apology for not posting recently, and when I say recently I actually mean an entire month of nothing. Shameful. I’ve been home in Canada since February 4th and it took longer than I thought to get my bearings. I was thisclose to ending ‘curiousmeredith’ as my trip is finished to focus on the task of looking for a “grown-up job” and finding somewhere to set up my bed in Edmonton. Then, I got into a funk after realizing that settling back into the routine of home is almost harder than leaving and starting up somewhere new. But this week I was pulled up and out of my funk by reading Dianne Jacob’s “Will Write for Food”. I am reading it to improve my blog writing and as result this book has inspired me to keep up with my blog while pursuing the elusive “grown-up job”.

I really enjoy being back home with friends and family but part of my adjustment struggle is that my wanderlust is still alive and kicking. So many of my adventurous friends are currently traveling and I enviously oggle the photos they have posted online. This week I saw my friend Barry’s photos of Macaque monkeys bathing in a steamy hot spring in Japan from his recent snowboarding trip.

Photo taken (and used with permission) by Barry Truss


To subdue the travel daydreams these pictures triggered I felt I should put that energy into cooking Japanese chicken wings, a family favourite, and use food to blend my dreams of travel and home together. Someday I will be there snowboarding in champagne powder and enjoying Japanese cuisine… until then I will enjoy these sticky, sweet and sour wings with my family.

Warning: These are not healthy but are worth the indulgence. Just go to the gym tomorrow… no harm done.

Japanese Chicken Wings at the family table about to be devoured.

Japanese Chicken Wings adapted from my Mom’s recipe card (allrecipes.com?)

3 lbs of chicken wings
2 beaten eggs
1 cup of flour
1 cup of butter (or half butter and half vegetable oil)

Sauce:

3 tbsp soya sauce
3 tbsp water
1 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of white vinegar
1 tsp of salt

Cut wings in half (discard wing tip). Dip in egg, then flour, fry until deep brown & crisp.
Put in shallow roasting pan and pour sauce over wings. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, baste occasionally.

The wings will come out of the oven tender, gooey, and juicy with sweet and spicy aromas rising and floating over the table. A nose-wiggling and mouth-watering chicken wing!

Useful Links:

Learn how to eat a chicken wing without wasting meat at JapanNewbie

Another take on Tebasaki (Japanese for Chicken Wing) that looks uber yummy at Shizuoka Gourmet

Waterzooooooi!

Eating canal side

My first encounter with Waterzooi was in Gent. I was sitting beside my sweetie on a terrace overlooking a water canal and enjoying a nice glass of wine coupled with my stew during a warm summer evening. Waterzooi is centuries old soup/stew that originated in Gent. In the beginning, it was prepared with fish that were plentiful in the city’s network of rivers and canals.

Gent water canals with restaurants all around to enjoy

Now, Waterzooi is often made with either fish or chicken. Both are delicious, but for this post I choose chicken because it is cozier for the “brisk” weather I have been hearing about in Alberta… a chilly -30 degrees celsius!

The recipe makes a BIG pot so invite some friends and family over for a fun, not fussy, dinner party. Maybe someone will bring over a loaf of homemade bread to soak up the last drop of stew? hint hint…

Chicken Waterzooi adapted from The Food and Cooking of Belgium

Ingredients
1 free-range (farm fresh) chicken about 1.6kgs/3.5lbs
Chicken stock, to cover the meat (see instructions)
a couple of dashes of Thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cardamom seed
a couple of dashes of ground pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
40g/3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 carrots, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 leeks, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
3-4 medium potatoes, sliced
2 egg yolks
200ml/scant 1 cup of heavy cream
salt and ground black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
handful of fresh parsley, chopped to garnish

Instructions

1. Rinse the chicken and trim off any excess fat. Place the whole bird in a large pot and pour over chicken stock to two-thirds cover. Add thyme, bay leaves, pepper, and crushed garlic. Bring to a boil.

2. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 1.5 hours or until the chicken is cook and the meat begins to fall from the bones.

mmm chicken!

3. Lift the chicken out of pot. When it is cool enough to handle, remove the skin, take the meat off the bones and cut into bite-size pieces. Put these in a bowl, cover, and set aside. Skim the fat from the surface of the stock, the pour it into a large jug (or bowl) and set aside.

sautéed veggies

4. Pour the vegetable oil into a clean, deep pan. Add all of the vegetables except the potatoes and fry over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened. Pour in the reserved stock and the potatoes, bring to a boil and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

5. Mix the egg yolks and cream in a bowl. Remove the pot from the heat and gradually stir the cream mixture into the soup/stew. Add the chicken pieces. Return to the heat and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes until thickened. Do not let it boil!

6. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add lemon juice if you like; I prefer to cut up a fresh lemon to let the person eating decide. Ladle into bowl, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Not to brag or anything, but I think this is one of the best dishes I have ever made. I couldn’t be happier about how it turned out 😀 I would definitely make a batch on the weekend to have in the fridge during the week for a warm, yummy lunch or supper. It’s perfect for those on the fly or those who are just feeling lazy.

Waterzooi = Brain food for studying!

Flemish Beer Stew

It was a chilly Sunday afternoon and the only plan set in stone was that we were going to make a stew. I felt I needed the aromas of beef, beer, and mustard surrounding me while I snuggled under a blanket and read Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut. If that doesn’t sound like an awesome, relaxing Sunday afternoon I don’t know what would.

Flemish Beer Stew made with Leffe Christmas Beer

Traditional Flemish Beer Stew A rich and hearty meal for the hungry man (or woman)

Recipe from The Food and Cooking of Belgium by Suzanne Vandyck

This stew is one of the most famous traditional Flemish dishes. The taste will vary depending on what type of beer is used to flavour and tenderize the meat. The taste also changes depending on the type of bread spread with mustard that is placed on top of the stew, where it then dissolves to thicken the stew and to add flavour.

500 grams of stewing beef or chuck steak, cubed
20 grams (3 tbsp) All-purpose flour for dusting
25 grams of butter
30 ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
330 ml Dark Belgian beer (we used Leffe Christmas Edition)
30 ml (1 tbsp) soft light brown sugar
30 ml (1 tbsp) red wine vinegar
1 tsp of thyme and other spices you want to include
2 slices of rustic bread (white, dark brown, or spice cake)
30 ml (1 tbsp) Dijon mustard
Some chopped spring onions
Salt and ground black pepper

Serve with fries, mashed potatoes, or breads.

Instructions

Frying Stew meat to lock in the juices

1. Generously season beef cubes with salt & pepper, then coat them in flour.

2. Heat a large, heavy frying pan. Melt the butter and the oil over medium to high heat for about 4 minutes to seal in the juiciness of the beef cubes. As each batch browns, remove the cubes from the pan and chuck them in the stew pot where the onions, carrots and garlic are being cooked.

3. After all your meat has been browned, drain the excess fat in the pan.

Then pour the beer into the pan to be heated to just below boiling point.

Warming Beer for the Stew


Add the spices, brown sugar, vinegar. Pour into the stew pot with meat and veggies. Spread 1 slice of bread with mustard and chuck them mustard side down on top of the stew.

Bread with Mustard, mustard side down, to thicken and flavour the stew


Cover the pan, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until meat has become tender.

4. After 1 1/2, prepare the 2nd slice of bread with mustard and place this on top of the stew. The stew should already have thickened a bit, but this slice of bread will absorb some of the pan juices and dissolve to make the stew even thicker.

5. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve and enjoy!