Julie Van Rosendaal: 5 Belgian dishes to love
Recipes you can make at home that will rekindle your love for Belgian food
Although Belgium is not often considered a culinary hotspot, Belgians are believed to be the inventors of the french fry, moulesfrites (mussels and fries), and perfectly crisp, deep-pocketed waffles. They are known for their wonderful chocolate and make some of the world’s best beer. What more could you ask for? Here are five recipes you can make at home that will rekindle your love for Belgian food.
Who doesn’t love a thick Belgian waffle? In Belgium they’re yeast-leavened and are a popular street food or beach snack, topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream. This unique batter is partially stirred together the night before – all you need to do is whisk in the eggs and baking soda before cooking them. The result: unbelievably crisp, light waffles that are delicious however you want to top them.
Overnight Yeast-Raised Waffles
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 2 tsp. (or 1 pkg.) active dry yeast
- 2 cups milk, warmed
- 1/4 cup melted butter or canola oil
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
In a large bowl, stir together the water and yeast – let it sit for a few minutes to make sure it’s active. If it doesn’t get foamy, toss it out. Stir in the milk, butter, flour, sugar and salt and whisk to get rid of any lumps. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter overnight (at room temp).
Just before you make your waffles, stir in the eggs and baking soda. The batter will be quite thin. Heat up your waffle iron (spray it first) and cook your waffles the way you normally do, using as much batter as the manufacturer suggests or you deem appropriate. (I use about a ladleful per waffle.)
Makes 6-8 big Belgian-style waffles (I have a machine that makes deep, round waffles).
Moules frites (mussels and fries) are a very popular dish in Belgium - mussels being inexpensive and plentiful along the coast, and particularly good served with crisp Belgian fries.
Mussels with Garlic and Wine
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 lemon
- 1 lb. fresh mussels, scrubbed and debearded (toss any that are already open)
- a splash of white wine (optional)
- a splash of cream (optional)
- chopped Italian parsley, for garnish
In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the juice of half a lemon, the mussels and a splash of white wine (if you like) and cook for a minute, to reduce the liquid; add 1/2 cup cream, cover and simmer until the mussels are opened, which will take about 5 minutes.
Discard any that don’t open.
Divide between wide, shallow bowls; scatter with chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread or freshly cooked fries. Serves two.
Fries with Mayo
The Belgians apparently invented the French fry and subsequently perfected it. You can find them served in paper cones with dollops of mayo, but the good news is it’s possible to make a batch yourself at home.
Real Belgian Fries
(Adapted from Everybody Eats Well in Belgium by Ruth Van Waerebeek and Maria Robbins)
- 3 to 4 cups vegetable oil, for frying
- 2 lb Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, peeled
- salt to taste
Pour enough oil into a deep fryer to reach at least halfway up the sides of the pan, but not more than three-quarters of the way up. Heat the oil to 325°F. Cut the potatoes into sticks ½ inch wide and 2 ½ to 3 inches long. Dry all the pieces thoroughly in a clean dish towel. This will keep the oil from splattering. Divide the potato sticks into batches of no more than one cup each. Do not fry more than one batch at a time.
Fry the potatoes for four to five minutes per batch. They should be lightly colored, but not browned. If your fryer has a basket, simply lift it out the remove the fried potatoes. Otherwise, use a long-handled skimmer to lift out the potatoes. Be sure to bring the temperature of the oil back to 325°F in between batches. At this point the fries can rest for several hours at room temperature until you are almost ready to serve them.
When ready to eat, heat the oil again to 325°F. Fry the potatoes in one-cup batches until they are nicely browned and crisp, one to two minutes. Drain on fresh paper towels or brown paper bags and place in a warmed serving bowl lined with more paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and serve.
The Belgians are known for their superior chocolate making abilities. This simple pot de creme makes for a delicious delivery method from spoon to mouth.
Belgian Chocolate Pot de Crème
- 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
- 4 oz. dark or semisweet Belgian chocolate, chopped
- 1 tsp. instant espresso or coffee powder
- 6 large egg yolks
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
Position rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Arrange six 3/4-cup ramekins in a roasting or 9X13-inch pan.
In a medium saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat until it’s steaming. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate and espresso powder. Let sit for a few minutes, then whisk until smooth.
Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. When the chocolate mixture has cooled a bit, whisk it in. Divide the custard between the cups, and pour warm water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the custards are set but still just slightly jiggly in the middle. Cool, then refrigerate until well chilled – at least two hours, or up to a day or two. Serves six.
These are more Dutch than Belgian, but they’re tasty and can be sandwiched with dulce de leche in honour of the 39kg of the sweet spread that the Uruguayan team had confiscated by the Brazilians (according to the BBC), any soft caramel or Nutella.
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- pinch cinnamon
- soft caramel sauce, dulce de leche or Nutella
In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer for a minute or two, until pale and light. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder and cinnamon (if you’re using it) and stir until you have a stiff, sticky dough.
Preheat your stroopwafel or pizzelle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions and spray it with nonstick spray. Drop batter by rounded spoonfuls onto the iron. Close and cook for about 90 seconds, or until the steam stops. Remove with a fork and set on a wire rack to cool.
Once cooled, spread half the cookies with caramel or Nutella and top with a second cookie. Makes about a dozen sandwiches.