Le perroquet bleu?


In other news, our ancient wine opener caved in the other day. Well, to be honest, it was an accident waiting to happen given our excessive consumption of white and red ambrosia (and that's not including the prosecco we imbibe). There's no better wake-up call than a trip to the bottle dump... It's a true walk of shame in this household.

So the munchkin and I took ourselves over to one of the swankier home stores in the city, after deciding against the traditional Laguiole opener. Let's face it, you're talking to the woman who managed to stab herself in the leg with a Leatherman tool only last week in a feisty slapdown with a Disney toy. At this point, I'll take safety over tradition, any time.

As we walked in, and I gripped my wallet tightly, hoping to minimize damage on my credit card bill, my daughter pounced on a bright blue object in the display.

- Munchkin: Look mummy, it's a parrot!
-Me: Yes, dear, but can it open a bottle?
- Shop assistant: It *is* a wine opener. It's by Alessi. (she said that just a little too emphatically for my taste).
- Me: Alessi, did you say?
- Shop assistant: Yes, it only costs *nominal amount*.
- Me: (trying not to pass out, squeak)
- Munchkin: We'll take it.
- Me (glaring at the munchkin and coughing up the dough to the evil grinning shop assistant).

On a good note, it *is* indeed a wine opener and it does indeed open a bottle. Effortlessly. But why did it have to be a bright blue PARROT?

Ah Antwerp, how I love thee... and your beer...


Only in Antwerp will you see a tram like this - straight from the past, but more importantly, with a sign for Antwerp's own brewery, De Koninck, the brewery of the hand. I could tell you a lot about it, but all you need to know for now is that it is established in Antwerp since 1833, and that they make the 'bolleke'.

How should I describe this amber-coloured ambrosia, its velvety flavour and the rich foam which greets you as you lift the typical bolleke glas to your lips? Oh, and by the way, on tap, please, never from the bottle.

Drink it in one of Antwerp's brown caf├ęs and you will never want anything else. I recommend some cheese and mustard as a side.

PS - sadly the tram team did not have bollekes on board. Shame on them all!

You can never be too rich...


or have enough lobstah!

Especially when you're hitched to a New Englander.

My new kitchen wear


When I don't look like an Italian housewife from the 1940s, I simply wear an apron to cover up my daily garb.

My SO found me this little gem - matches the blue of our kitchen, and as far as I am concerned was made for me.

Pizza - the lazy way


In the same Italian vein as my previous post, one evening I decided that I needed pizza. Rather than venture out on a balmy evening to our local Italian charmer and his tiny, but hot pizzeria, I decided I would try to put together something similar myself.

But, I am the natural sloth. And a fan of the express way. So rather than slave over a ball of dough in order to create the right type of pizza base, I hemmed and hawed and pondered how to make life easier.

Now in Antwerp, we are fortunate to have our weekly double feature market - always a Moroccan or Turkish stand around, always some flatbreads to be had. Except that there is one stand, at the top of the theatre square, which not only serves good mint tea, but also sells a range of different flatbreads. More specifically, a flatbread, that resembles a pizza base.

Once I had my base, I realised that I would have to compensate for its foreign nature with some good Italian tomatoes. Thanks to La Tomaterie, I found some excellent hand-peeled San Marzano tomatoes from La Motticella; the true taste of old tomato varieties, that are grown organically and treated with love. The kind of jar that you open and when the scent hits you, you suddenly are transported to another country, to a country where slow is a way of life, and where ripe really means falling off the plant. These tomatoes are so good that you can eat them raw, and it was all I could do not to attack them.
With that, I had something to work with for a tomato base. Add some freshly grown basil, garlic, tomatoes, carrot and dried oregano (yes, we forgot to plant some!) and you almost have a pizza.

The last ingredient: mozzarella; shredded. Since this was an express pizza, I resorted to the bagged stuff from the supermarket. But it worked for us, and since I couldn't immediately lay my hands on the recipe for my dad's old cheese mix, it had to suffice.

Below is the finished result, pre-oven:

Given that there was none left to photograph afterwards, I would say it was a hit?

Purse, not purslane...


Some of you will remember my monster purse from last year... I still find it amazing that I lugged all that around, and that did not even include the curtain!

Well, the purse was entered in a competition and won a prize for messiest purse around: a purse organiser or a Hopper as it is known.

One year later, I would just like to share my purse with you:
What a vast improvement, wouldn't you say?
If you need some order in your life, go to www.organizeandstyle.com for your own.

Finally - the porchetta post


Where do I start?

The porchetta post took shape somewhere last year, when I realised that my local deli stocked porchetta. I hadn't eaten it in aeons and once I introduced my SO to this delicacy, she was of course convinced that I had been hiding this delectable pork dish from here on purpose.

Then we travelled to Italy and on my first day, I entered a little family restaurant, where they just served the last sandwich with porchetta. It was a weekend, I was hungry, my nostrils and taste buds suffered. We then hit up Dario Cecchini's butcher shop in Panzano, where I became convinced that I could and would give up an arm, a leg and maybe even my first-born for his arista di porchetta... subsequently, everywhere I looked during our trip, there was porchetta.... gorgeous pork, whole loins, shoulders of pork, whole pigs even, stuffed with fennel and other delicious herbs.

And thus, when I returned and realised that life in Belgium meant being separated from one of my favourite dishes in the world, I felt that I had to try my hand at it at least once.

Matters were complicated by the secret ingredient, fennel pollen, which is hugely expensive and naturally hard to find. Literally an hour, before I was ready to start preparing it, on a Sunday, I finally found the elusive stuff only to discover that I could lay my greedy hands on it on... Monday. A small defeat, but at least now I know where to get it.

And so, a pork loin was procured from the Irish organic butcher. It was butterflied and the fat removed.

I then proceeded to hem and haw for one day about which herbs I would or would not use. I finally decided rosemary was in, bay out and that my secret ingredient would be Dario's salt, which does contain fennel pollen.

After a slight battle with a loin and a lot of string, this is what the result looked like, pre-oven.

Don't be fooled by the clean kitchen surface. I actually did tidy everything up before daring to take this photo.

As the pork and the herbs started to do their magic in the oven, I realised, 1.5 hr in, that the scent of garlic and herbs was familiar to the scent of the fresh porchetta that I tried in a farmer's market in Florence.

And here you have it: the final product.

Served with loads of raw vegetables (fennel, celery, carrots, cherry tomatoes, good bread, olive oil and Dario's salt for dipping).

A delicious dinner was had by all.

Next time: with fennel pollen. And maybe a different cut of pork.



Once again I've been awfully remiss about updating this blog. For once, it is not due to my natural slothness. Instead, I've been trying to juggle work, a four-year old, and incredible summer weather over the last month, meaning we have literally lived on the street.

Did we eat? Yes, of course. Was the food delicious? Yes.

Coming up - a post on porchetta, another one making rose ice-cream, and one on the delicious drink known as Pimm's. I kid you not. I will be updating this blog in the next 48 hours.

In the meantime, I have a swimming-pool that is beckoning.


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