Gastronomic Belgium is a giant topped with mussels and fries iROZHLAS

Bruges has a regular stopover on a trip to Britain. The truth is that I avoid it during the summer months, it is full of cameras, which are hunted by image hunters, the alleys are almost impassable and the shops are full of “peepholes”. I would still tolerate that, but the restaurants are without exception full from opening to closing, which is why I only stop there from fall to spring. This term suits me for another reason, to which I will return shortly.




Gastrogloss Dagmar Heřtová
Brugge

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The city is calmer, but its gastronomic part knows no rest and beats at a slower pace, but still at the same steady pace. My years of experience were confirmed by a recent visit, and again I couldn’t resist both the food and the Belgian beer. Who wouldn’t succumb, right?

Belgium is gastronomicý giant

In terms of population, Belgium is not a colossus. It has about 700,000 more than us, on the contrary, we are more than twice the size (30.7 thousand square kilometers compared to our 78.9 thousand square kilometers). Gastronomically, however, Belgium has eluded us as a sprint marathoner over the last 195 meters. I don’t like Michelin stars very much, but just to give an example, Belgium is fourth in the world in terms of Michelin stars per capita, with Japanese restaurants receiving the most.



Dagmar Heřtova

Food blogger and food journalist, who regularly contributes to print and online periodicals mainly with information on ingredients, their processing and recipes. On the Tastejourney website, he writes about food, new trends and shares gastronomic travel ideas.

If there was a queue of everyone in front of every starred restaurant in Belgium, 91,000 gourmets would be waiting. In our country, there would be two such queues, each with 5.35 million people, which shows that we have two Michelin-starred restaurants, compared to 127 in Belgium. I know the comparison is lame, but a bit telling to our detriment. Interestingly, 61,000 people are said to be waiting outside every Michelin-starred restaurant in Japan. Even so, I wouldn’t want to stay in that “shortest” queue.

Our gastronomic position seems quite pathetic compared to Belgium. At the same time, everything seems so simple: gastronomy is a set of culinary and culinary arts, preparation and serving of food.

Can’t we do something so simple? We lack a culinary history that we must know how to “fight”. Many of our traditional dishes and recipes have been appropriated by our neighbors, so they are hidden under Viennese, Austro-Hungarian and German dishes. But back to the gastronomic attractions of Brugg.

slandand fries

Moules-frites are mussels with fries and are the Belgian national dish. Mussels, a few ingredients, an enamel pot with a lid, traditional fries and a strong Belgian beer are enough to prepare it.

Mussels with basil and tomatoes are served in a pot in which they are prepared and accompanied by traditional Belgian fries | Photo: Dagmar Heřtová Source: Czech Radio

This simple combination is one of the most popular dishes in Belgium, but also in northern France and the Netherlands. It was originally the food of the poor. Shells were collected at the mouth of rivers flowing into the sea, which is the best condition for them. The most popular are the Scheldt (Escaut) mussels. They were affordable and cheap, and fries were a staple in every kitchen.


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Beer was brewed in all the forgotten corners of Belgium. This situation lasted for a relatively long time, but the mussels began to taste good to everyone, they were prepared in restaurants, inns and in every household. Consumption has increased sharply and the most popular food has become a luxury.

Belgian traders buy mussels from the Netherlands, where artificial cultivation is successful, so that they can “sweeten” demand by steadily raising prices and, more recently, supplying lower quality mussels (this is i.e. smaller). I will not act as arbitrator in this dispute, but I have observed no such thing.

So far, disputes have been avoided due to the fact that the mussel season is from autumn to spring (this is also the date of my visits), the grow rooms and the rivers can recover in the meantime and there is still something to add and something to look forward to. It seems not, but Belgium alone processes 60,000 tons of mussels each year, but most of them come from a farm in Zeeland in the Netherlands, one of the largest exporters of mussels from Europe.


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Restaurants in Belgian cities still have a myriad of mussels and fries in various flavors according to different recipes, and I can confirm this thanks to my visit to Brugg last week. I let myself be carried away by my appetite, I choose one among many others and I actually return to the scene, I was here a few years ago. Poules Moules is always a cozy restaurant and (not only) mussels can do great good here.

I walk around on Saturday evening, I still feel the taste of mussels with an Italian touch, excellent Belgian fries and dark beer. The sun has long since set in Bruges, it is dark, it is humid and the atmosphere is magical. The main square is lined with restaurants and customers are already seated outside. Illuminated pub windows and streetlights create lighting effects that only chance can conjure up. I should enjoy everything, but I’m already thinking about which recipe with mussels we are going to prepare so that you too have the opportunity to taste a piece of the famous Belgian gastronomy.

The atmosphere of Bruges in the evening is enchanting, the restaurants attract their guests | Photo: Dagmar Heřtová Source: Czech Radio

Himwiththe paradiseVSand you

You noticed that I didn’t mention the incredibly crummy advice that unopened shells are not eaten. Who would not know this information (but I prefer to remind him in stride).

So we will cook with the introduction that mussels can be purchased in our country without any problems today, thus avoiding poisonous remarks that it is not possible in our country. In winter, it stays cool for up to 6 days after fishing, and let’s face it, it’s not that far from the Netherlands.

I’m crazy about Scottish Loch Fyne mussels from the Hebrides, who specialize in golden conch mussels and oysters from the clear waters of Loch Roag on the Isle of Lewis. They are so fresh that there is not a single unopened shell left.

Himwiththe s rajVSaty like chilli

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg of fresh mussels
  • 20g butter
  • 2 medium shallots
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cans peeled sherry tomatoes or sliced ​​tomatoes
  • 1 smaller chili pepper (medium hot) or to taste
  • 2 dl dry white wine
  • a large handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • sea ​​salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ciabatta or other baguette to serve

Method:


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First we clean the molds from dirt. Put them in cold water and brush them one by one. Very carefully scrape off the glued eyelashes and all attached fibers (whiskers) with a knife. We inspect each case, if it’s open or otherwise damaged, cracked or broken, we throw it away.

Put the mussels in a colander and rinse with cold water. Then we put them in a bowl with fresh cold water, only while preparing the food, that is, only for 10 minutes, not for a few hours, we never store the molds in the water. Dissolve the butter in a medium sized saucepan, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat, then lower the heat slightly and add the finely chopped and peeled shallots, leaving the glass to glaze for about 5 minutes. Then add the peeled and crushed garlic and sauté for about 1 minute.

Pour two cans of candied and peeled tomatoes, the white wine, cover with half-chopped flat-leaf parsley, salt and pepper and mix lightly. Add the drained mussels and, stirring gently occasionally, simmer under the lid for about 5 minutes or until the mussels open wide. If there’s any left, we’ll fire her.

Add the sliced ​​chili without granules and mix lightly. Remove from heat, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately with slices of toasted baguette or ciabatta.

The mussels with tomato, white wine and peppers are a great delight. We serve them with grilled baguette or cibata Photo: Dagmar Heřtová Source: Czech Radio

Dagmar Heřtova

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