Bruges (Brugge), Belgium

This is a long overdue post on my trip to Bruges and Brussels… there were just so many photos to choose from that I have been putting it off! This post will mostly comprise of photos, as I believe that is the best way to do Bruges justice.

Bruges (Brugge) is one of the cities in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is a beautiful city, with canals running throughout the city – it is also known as the “Venice of the North”. It is easy to get to, as it is only an hour by train from Brussels Midi (where the Eurostar goes). It is a quaint city, complete with cobblestone pavements, horse drawn carriages, and of course… good food!

Grote Market – the main square in Bruges. (There were lots of people dressed in blue shirts there that day, along with lots of policemen. I still don’t know what that was all about…)

One of the best ways to see Brugge is by going on a canal boat tour. It costs around 5 euros (can’t remember exactly how much it cost), and lasts for approximately 30 minutes. The driver of the boat is also the tour guide, and imparts interesting little tidbits of information about the town.

This is where you board the boats, there are about four boarding points around the town. (You get off at the same stop where you get on).

A lovely view from the boat

One of the last remaining wooden buildings in Bruges – it is now a hotel (and a rather pricey one too!).

And of course, there was the food…

Coffee with a side of savoury biscuits (which I really enjoyed!).

The compulsory frites πŸ˜€

Delicious shrimp croquettes – creamy potato and shrimp pieces in a crunchy breaded casing… topped with more shrimps and chopped parsley. It’s a joy to cut through the crunchy-ness to reveal soft, gooey goodness.

A beef fillet which was cooked on the grill. This was good but not amazing.

The intricacy of the design on the some of the cakes truly amazed me… especially that cool geometric design on the Samba.

Cute chocolate penguins, I couldn’t resist taking a photo!

14Delicious looking chocolates

Chocolate lollies with nuts and dried fruit

Getting creative with chocolate! πŸ˜‰

Cakes from a small family-run cafe in Bruges (I can’t recall the name of the cafe though).

I spent a day and a half in this beautiful town, and I urge you to visit the next time you go to Belgium. You won’t regret it! And if you are still not convinced, I hope the following two photos of the most photographed corner in Bruges will convince you.

One more post on my Belgian trip to come up… of Brussels! πŸ™‚


Chocolate chip pancakes

I made these today, approximately 10 minutes after waking up. Why so soon after waking up? Well… I had a dream you see. A dream that I was eating pancakes. It was such a clear dream, and I could practically taste the chocolate chips in the pancakes in my sleep. Which is why I just had to make some for breakfast/brunch. I’m terrible, I know. πŸ˜›

I’m a huge fan of pancakes, and am always on the lookout for good pancake recipes. It took me a while (and quite a few failed attempts) to find a recipe that I liked, but I finally got there a year or so ago. I found this recipe on the BBC Good Food website, and have been using it ever since, as it always produces beautiful results.

Chocolate chip pancakes
Adapted from this recipe from BBC Good Food

  • 200g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 300ml milk
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • approx. 120g chocolate chips (use more if you have a sweet tooth, I usually just eyeball this)
  1. Add the lemon juice to the milk, and set aside.
  2. Mix the flour and baking powder in a large bowl.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the milk and the egg, and mix with a wooden spoon. (It’s okay to have some small lumps in the batter, I find that overmixing can sometimes lead to a dry and less fluffy pancake.)
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Heat some butter in a non-stick frypan under medium heat. Drop 1/2 cup of batter into the pan, and cook for approx 2 minutes until small bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake. (I like to make one pancake at a time, but you could always make 2-3 at the same time if you have a large frypan.)
  6. Once the bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake, flip it over, and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side.
  7. Stacking the pancakes are a handy way of keeping the pancakes warm. Alternatively, you can keep the pancakes warm in the oven.
  8. Serve with icing sugar or maple syrup, or with both!

Le Pain Quotidien, Belgium

I’m a huge fan of Le Pain Quotidien (translated as: Our Daily Bread) ever since I discovered it’s existence, and am a frequent customer at the branch on Great Malborough Street. I have to admit I didn’t realise that it was a Belgian establishment until I was researching places to eat in Bruges and Brussels.

From what I’ve observed, the Le Pain philosophy is simple – it’s all about organic food, fairtrade coffee, and being environmentally friendly. According to their website, they use reclaimed wood and recycled Gypsum in construction of shops, energy-efficient lamps, as well as environmentally friendly cleaning supplies and packaging. They also have one large communal table in their shops (the ones I’ve been to anyway), which is something I’ve always found quite nice.

That’s not why I’m such a huge fan though… I’m a fan because I love their food. πŸ™‚

There was a Le Pain near our hotel, so we went in search of it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find it after walking all along the road it was supposed to be on… After returning to the hotel to get directions, we realised why we didn’t notice the shop the first time around – it had a different name! Het Dagelijks Brood. Very different indeed. It still means “Our Daily Bread” though, it’s just in Dutch instead of French.

The first thing that struck me that the Belgian Le Pain menus are different from the London ones, in terms of food served. The menu can roughly be divided into a few sections: breakfast, salads, tartines, pastries, and specials. The breakfast and pastries are similar to the ones in London, but all the salads and tartines were different.

The specials/suggestion board

The communal table, under an open topped roof. Such a nice place to have a meal!

Cappuccinos, with a free chocolate on the side! The chocolate was a nice touch, they never do this in London! Hrmph.

R ordered the one of the breakfast meals – which was basically a basket of freshly baked breads, with a half boiled egg. This is served with a variety of fruit preserves and chocolate spreads to have with the bread.

This is how they the preserves and spreads are served, with a spoon in each jar. It works well though, as you get to choose which preserves or spreads you want, plus you get to have as much or as little as you like. The photo above shows their chocolate spreads… which are delicious. My favourite was the Brunette, which was a milk chocolate and hazelnut spread. Pure heaven, especially when paired with the freshly baked breads.

I ordered the smoked trout, grapefruit and guacamole tartine. The trout and grapefruit complemented each other surprisingly well, and I thoroughly enjoyed this. The flavour of guacamole was slightly overpowered by the other two main ingredients, but I think the tartine wouldn’t have been as nice without it.

I was craving for a polenta muffin for dessert, but they were unfortunately sold out. I had to settle for a pineapple meringue, pictured above. It’s basically two meringues, sandwiched with cream and pineapple chunks, with cocount bits on the top. It was very refreshing, and a revelation as I’d never thought of having pineapples with meringues!

As we enjoyed our meal so much, we decided to try out one of the Le Pain’s in Brussels as well. The one we went to was near Place du Sablon. It looked deceivingly small from the outside, but when we went in, we discovered that there was a huge area at the back with a glass topped roof. It was really nice, especially since it was a nice and sunny day.

We went for different drinks this time around. The red drink is a homemade raspberry iced lemonade. It is delicious, and I fell in love with it the moment I took a sip. I wonder if the London branches would consider adding this to their menu… The coffee in the background is a latte. No chocolates on the side for it though!

Sourdough bread is served with all salads on the menu.

Smoked salmon and organic cheese salad, with a polenta muffin on the side. This was partly to make up for the fact that I didn’t get to try the polenta muffin in Bruges… and I didn’t regret my decision. The muffin was delicious, with hints of parmesan cheese and parsely in every bite. I could eat quite a few in one go, I believe. I’m hoping that they bring the polenta muffin to London too! πŸ˜› I have to admit the salad paled in comparison to the wonderfulness of the muffin. Also, I prefer a variety of leaves in my salads, this one only used two types of salad leaves.

Smoked chicken salad, with fresh tomatoes, croutons and Parmesan shavings. The chicken was really nice, and went well with the creamy dressing provided.

I definitely enjoyed both my meals at Le Pain, and it was nice to have a different choice of food as compared to what I’m used to having in London. They have branches in quite a number of countries, so do consider visiting Le Pain Quotidien to try their food!

Le Pain Quotidien
Philip Stockstraat 21
8000 Brugge
TΓ©l : 050 33 60 50

Rue des Sablons 11 Zavelstraat
1000 Brussels
TΓ©l : 02 513 51 54

http://www.lepainquotidien.com/

Roast chicken with leeks

I never knew about the existence of leeks up till a few years ago, and even then, I never actually tried cooking it. This is where the food channel (UKTV Food, or Good Food as it is known now) came in handy. Leeks were used quite frequently in various recipes, and it didn’t take long to let curiosity get the better of me.

Watching leeks being used on tv taught me something important – how to clean them properly. I never knew this, but leeks grow in sandy soil, and naturally pick up a significant amount of dirt… which makes them rather tricky to clean. One good tip I learnt is to slice the leeks down the centre (which enables the leeks to “fan” out), and then to wash them under running water. This has worked well as I have yet to come across any random pieces of sand whilst eating leeks.

This marinade I used for the chicken is our favourite marinade for roast chicken, which we use on a regular basis. It is adapted from a marinade used byΒ  Ching He-Huang, whose food I have grown to like in the past year. I had a look at one of her cookbooks in Borders (Chinese Food Made Easy) and it looks good, with beautiful photos and simple instructions. An additional plus is the fact that her book is rated quite highly on Amazon. Definitely a cookbook I may purchase at some point. πŸ™‚

The leeks are inspired by what I saw Jun Tanaka cooking at Taste earlier this year, which I believe was a recipe from his (then) new cookbook. He mentioned that he always tries to cook vegetables in two ways, as it adds a different dimension to the dish. And I have to say he definitely has a point!

Roast chicken with leeks

  • 500g chicken drumsticks/breasts, skin on
  • Ingredients for marinade:
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons chinese five spice powder
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Shaosing rice wine
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 leeks
  • plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • dash of white wine
  1. Heat the oven to 160Β°C.
  2. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together, and rub on chicken. It can be done a few hours in advance and then left to marinade, but this is not necessary.
  3. Place the chicken in an oven proof tray (I use my Pyrex tray, which is brilliant) and cook for 1 hour, or till cooked.
  4. Whilst the chicken is cooking, prepare the leeks. Roughly chop all but half a leek into 2cm lengths, and put aside. Julienne the remaining half of the leek.
  5. Toss the julienned leeks in some plain flour (sparingly). Shallow fry these in hot oil – I use about 2cm of oil. (I’m not a huge fan of deep frying, but I’m think the leeks would taste nicer if cooked this way!)
  6. Heat another pan, and cook the non-julienned leeks in some olive oil. 1 minute before the leeks are done, add the butter and white wine (to taste).
  7. Get a clean plate, and pile the buttered leeks on one side of the plate. Place some deep fried leeks on top of them.
  8. Lastly, place a piece (or two) of chicken on the other side of the plate, drizzle with the oil from the tray, and season with pepper. Enjoy!

A question: I’ve noticed that some of my photos look somewhat ‘washed out’ on my blog/foodgawker – they look fine on my computer, and look fine when I upload them to my blog posts. But for some strange reason, the saturation seems to drop by about 30% when it’s viewed on the blog, leaving me with rather dull looking photos. I’ve tried bumping up the saturation to overcome this problem, which usually means I’m dealing with radioactive looking colours… but they look fine on the blog. Does anyone know if I’m doing anything wrong?

Pierre Marcolini

I’d never heard of Pierre Marcolini before last week… but all this changed when I was researching the food (and chocolates) of Belgium. I came across and article which said that he was one of best chocolatiers in the world, which obviously meant I immediately put it on my “to eat” list. πŸ˜€ According to his website, his main store was in Place du Sablon… so I marked it on my map, as I already knew that I had to try his chocolates.

Imagine my delight when I went to Place du Sablon, and not only saw the Pierre Marcolini store, but also a Godiva store (one of the few stores which sold Chocolixir – their chocolate drink), and a Nehaus store. Pure bliss for a chocolate lover such as myself! Needless to say, I consumed a LOT of chocolate in the 3 days I spent in Brussels and Bruges, and this does not include the chocolates I brought back to London! (Photos to come in a later post)

Pierre Marcolini not only makes chocolates, but also a whole range of other items such as macarons, biscuits and mini-gateauxs (I doubt this is the right term to describe them). Unfortunately, photos are not allowed in his stores, so all I have are photos of the window displays…

Lighter-than-air marshmallows (on the R), and fruit cubes (on the L). I did not try the fruit cubes, but the marshmallows were delightfully light – I tried the pistachio flavoured one and it was nutty with a hint of lemon. Unfortunately they are only sold in boxes of 35, which was dissapointing as I would have bought a smaller box had it been available.

A larger version of one of his mini-gateaux cakes

The mini-gateaux cakes I bought πŸ˜€

This was my favourite of the three – a chocolate based gateaux covered in a raspberry infused ganache. I’m afraid I can’t describe this in any more detail, as this was all the information I got from the man at the store… All I can say is that it was delicious, and the colour of this does make it rather attractive!

Java – a coffee based gateaux, with a dark and milk chocolate sabayon beneath all that orangey-ness. πŸ˜› If I remember correctly, there was also a thin layer of biscuit (feuilletine perhaps?) in it which added a good contrast of textures. And again, this was very good.

Envol – dark chocolate sabayon and a layer of orange flavoured creme brulee, topped with a dark chocolate ganache. This was also good, but I found it slightly less interesting compared to the other two. Needless to say, I still enjoyed it!

Yum.

I also tried his macarons as they looked too good to resist. He makes them in 5 flavours – pistachio (green), coffee (brown), vanilla (white), chocolate (red) and caramel (yellow). Having tried Pierre Herme and Laduree macarons in the past, I must say that Pierre Marcolini’s macarons are pretty good, especially the pistachio and chocolate flavoured ones. Texture wise, I found his macarons slightly on the soft side, and I must say I prefer the texture of Pierre Herme’s as there is slightly more ‘crunch’ when you bite into them. Pierre Herme also has a better range of macaron flavours.

Didn’t stop us from getting more macarons the next day though…

It took self control to stop eating the half eaten macaron so I could photograph it!

I also bought a tasting box of Marcolini chocolates, which I shall blog about in a future post as I’ve already gone slightly overboard with the photos. To those who have tasted his creations, I would be interested to know what you think of them. πŸ™‚

Pierre Marcolini
Rue des Minimes, 1
Place du Grand Sablon
1000 Bruxelles
Belgium
http://www.marcolini.be/#/en/home/