Sun! Oh god, the sun!


A quick photo post from my lair because I have spent most of this week in the sun, on the streets, on the squares of Antwerp, smelling lilacs, admiring the leaves of linden trees, hearing children play in squares and rediscovering my city.

So I leave you with some impressions, as I settle down for a relaxing evening.

The Facade Building around my corner: a Flemish author leaves here, hence the lemma for the word, facade, on the building.

The Boat House in the Museum district, which we bike by every morning and evening.

An installation on mobile living on the quays by the Scheldt, near the munchkin's school.

The Scheldt, and the port as seen from the Left Bank (we live on the right bank, where the cathedral is).

Although I love the port and its industrial structures, I am extremely aware of its impact on the countryside around it. At the moment, the inhabitants of Doel are fighting a desperate battle to protect their village from progress. I posted something on this last year here.

I took some photos in Doel last year in November. The quality is not excellent because they were taken at dusk. I chose to add these because last Sunday, when we drove through it, we found a changed village.

The former restaurant in the photo above, the white structure with the cars parked in front of it, has now gone. It has been demolished.

The mill is a heritage site, so they will have to either take it down and transport it brick by brick to the heritage park on the other side of the country. Or their other choice is to leave it there, so it can sit amongst the containers, like the dehallowed church of Wilmarsdonk, as seen below.

Photo courtesy of Hotlar on Flickr.

Either way, you can tell the residents of Doel are now under pressure to make way for the containers and cranes as progress looms on the horizon...

Something to think about on a nice, sunny evening...

Tradition and taste


Forgive my inebriated ramblings (thank, Blogger, for installing a spellchecker so I won't be making too big of an arse of myself) but tonight's post is on taste.

It was prompted as I stood over my kitchen sink, feeling like an ordinary scullery maid scouring the pots and pans that I used for tonight's dinner. As I dried off the pots, I realized that this evening, I had taken out my dad's pasta cauldron (for lack of a better word) to boil our conchiglie rigate. Not only does it contain half a swimming pool's worth of water, it also comes to a rolling boil much faster than any of the pots that I own.

On top of it, in the pic, or rather inside of it, sits my newest favourite, my sauté pan. It took some time before I started loving it, and a rather explosive incident with the lid and some ragu stood between us for the longest time, but now I have wholeheartedly embraced it. I use it for sauces, oven preparations and risotto. Ah, risotto, how long since we have had some. Must have some this week.

But above all, I must mention Giorgio Locatelli. Because in buying his book, it is as if my father is once again around the house, fiddling with ingredients, insisting on taste, aroma, on using all the senses when cooking. The clanging of stainless steel in the kitchen as he prepared pasta. The steamy windows. The visits to the market. The confrontations over fish, as we children railed against his restaurant choices and demanded, oh sacrilege, chicken or hamburgers. Little did we know that one day we would all come around to his views; that we would be instilling them on the next generation.

And so tonight, we rediscovered tomatoes and pesto. The beefsteak tomatoes of my youth, which my mother prepared with meatballs in the oven. Cuore di Bue. Coeur de Boeuf. Taste sublimated. Basil ground to pesto, with good salt, toasted pine nuts, an organic mature Parmigiano cheese, elephant garlic, and the best extra virgin oil. Pasta. Conchiglie rigate, chosen because they capture the sauce within, revealing it as you bite down on them. Boiled in salty water. 12 minutes. Al dente. No checks required. You simply remembered that that was how it was done.

It's all about taste. Because taste is what matters. You can dine on the simplest ingredients and still feel like a king. The smell of freshly baked bread. Of tomatoes ripening next to apples. Of a watermelon in summer, sitting in a market stall. Of cheese, that has been made lovingly. Of peaches so ripe that the juice runs down your chin. Rucola, the scent of which permeates your kitchen as you bring it in, freshly cut and washed.

Live. Eat. Taste. Love.

My creed.



and smell the flowers.
My munchkin did yesterday... Photo courtesy of my SO, who was there to witness this. I... was working. Sigh.

Reader's letter! The Reluctant Blogger asketh...


oooh! I got my first 'Dear Abby' letter!

No, seriously, I thought the Reluctant Blogger asked a very good question!

"I'm no domestic goddess, but when it comes to entertaining, the food creation falls to me - I like doing meals, if not baking. BUT, when I do the cooking, then I'm always worried, and distracted. Then I can't enjoy having our guests. When it's all over, I'm tired and grumpy and I don't have a good time.

How can I provide a nice time for guests, but still have fun for myself as well???? Do you, Oh Miss Domestic Goddess, have an answer for me?????"

My answer:

I think you'll find that everyone is stressed out and exhausted when cooking for company. In my case, cooking for my family involves cooking for one trained chef, a specialist in French cuisine and my SO, who grew up in a restaurant... Enough to have my hair on end, flour flying, and to warrant a lot of curses and expletives as I cook.
At the end of the day, I just opt for easy meals, and an open kitchen helps - when guests are present, you can't do all of the above. You're supposed to look cool and put together, be charming and above all, behave yourself.
Oh, and did I mention cocktails? Alcohol is really helpful. Invest in any sparkling wine, moderately priced, designed not to give you a headache, and not deemed plonk, and shower your guests, and more importantly, yourself with it.
I guarantee you happy cooking.

Voilà, my pearls of wisdom for today!

Carry on!

Happy Easter!


Largely photos, as I am simply knackered.

But, just wanted to mention that on my foray to the butcher yesterday, I picked up some of Heston Blumenthal's beef burgers. I don't think I want to ever eat another burger again. Sinfully good. Taste and structure remastered. Yum!

On shoes, spice, and all things nice.


No, do not expect a post on Scary Spice et al, although I will readily admit that I too zigga' zig' aahed through part of the nineties. And of course there was this song:

But that's not the point of this post. Spring is in the air, people. It's time for a major overhaul. Time to do weird and wacky things. Paint your kitchen walls the colour of moondust. Buy purple shoes, for example. I did the other day.

For some reason, I am feeling a big fifties vibe at the moment, as I wear boxy cropped jackets, with ridiculously large floral brooches, etc. I want to wear pretty skirts, and look like a fifties' housewife, with florally or stripy dresses from Edith and Ella and a cocktail in one hand, with a cigarette in the other. Wait, maybe I don't really care for the cigarette.

Or how about bringing back sweater girls? I bought this little item the other day, only to be told by my significant other that she thought my gran of 88 would look acceptable in it. Paired with a pair of baggy jeans, and some 1930's white tennis shoes and the aforementioned jacket, it works though.

And what about jazzing up those tried and tested favourites, like cauliflower? This evening we partook of some spicy cauliflower soup, courtesy of Alice Waters.

Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large saucepan. Peel and dice a large carrot and an onion and toss in the oil, with 1 tsp of crushed cumin and coriander seeds, 1/2 tsp of turmeric, some chilli or cayenne (depending on what's available), chili flakes. Stir around over medium heat until your veg are soft (but not brown, mind). Then add a good handful of chopped cilantro. Trim and chop up a large head of cauliflower. Toss in, with 3 cups of water and 3 cups of chicken stock. I also used half a cabbage, as I only had a small cauliflower. Bring to the boil and then cover, and simmer until the cauliflower is nice and tender. Purée your soup with a blender. Some people like to leave some roughage in it; I prefer a nice smooth soup. Add water or stock if necessary. Top up your seasoning. Serve with some cilantro. And there you go: a classic vegetable, but which has been spiced up for delectable flavour.

So what was the point of all this bla bla? I am asking you to spice up your life! Because you know you're worth it.

Steak Tartare!


Just a quick post on a long-standing favourite of mine. I have been eating this since I was 7 in the old Parisian-style brasseries of Antwerp. (American readers, don't bother, as I know you have a fetish about the words 'raw', 'egg' and 'meat' when combined).

The meal is of course steak tartare. Ingredients as seen below:

250 g of raw ground beef. 1 onion. Some Hellman's mayonaise (cheating, I know, but I like it better that way). Organic Heinz ketchup. Ground pepper (red, white, black). Maldon salt. Worcestershore sauce. And I should add capers, but since I only actually like apple capers and I was out of them, I didn't use them.

Give the beef another good mincing. Chop and add onions. Crack egg, reserve yolk (and use the egg white for a Pavlova). Then the good stuff is added and you mix and blend until you have perfected the taste. The finished product sits below: unfortunately no French fries, since we are still on the hunting and gathering path, so I used celery stalks instead, which I sprinkled with some cayenne pepper for the hotness.

Et voilà: lunch is served. And it was delish! Try it, you might actually like it.

Two caveats: a good restaurant will let you prepare this yourself, bringing the equivalent of the middle photo and all the condiments to your table. And you always need to be very careful about the origin of your meat and eggs. Think about your sourcing, people!

Enjoy your Sunday.

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