The Nordic Fusionist vodkas had a magnificent day view at Phare du Kanaal Christmas market. The winter batches are now sold out, with Pearnilla (Pear, vanilla and cardamom) being the frontrunner. Thanks a ton to everyone who came, and keep an eye out for the spring creations. We are dreaming of fresh pine shoots, birch sap and lilac nectar. We will keep you posted here and on our facebook page.
| Guest post by Johanna | Sophisticated, slightly sweet and slightly sour, here is our take on an American classic – the Whisky Sour. This elegant drink looks smashing with your cocktail attire and is easy to make without compromising on taste or glam factor.… Read More
| Guest post by Johanna | In order to survive the long, grey Belgian winter or the even longer, dark and absolutely freezing Scandinavian winter, one develops certain survival techniques. Of these, my absolute favorite, has to be the consumption of a warm beverage with… Read More
Elderflower has a near mythical status in Sweden. Blooming in June, it dots the midsummer nights with a dusky light. Way back, women would make sacrifices to the bushes in an attempt to woo “hyllekvinnan” an elderflower godess of fertility. Most everything about the Swedish summer is centered around fertility. Here’s a great snaps to get it going.
10 large bunches elderflower
10 cm slice of lemon peel
2 tbsp brown sugar
35 cl vodka (Brännvin special, with a softer taste and slightly lower alcohol content is ideal, but near impossible to get a hold of abroad. Absolut or Smirnoff are acceptable.)
Some kind of sealed glass jar
Do not rinse the flowers, but pick the large bunches apart with your fingers to remove insects and leaves, making sure you put only flowers in your jar. Add the lemon peel and sugar, followed by the vodka. Stir, seal, and let it rest somewhere dark in room temperature for three days. Then filter the mixture through a siv or cheese cloth, gently crushing the contents to extract the flavour. Pour it into a glass bottle, but don’t fill it entirely, as the best place to store it is the freezer. Serve freezing.
Elderflower is great for many things, and often overlooked (at least in Belgium where tons of it grows in abandoned places). You can make the world’s best cordial from it, sorbet, or pick the berries to make fake capers (although my experience with making fake capers is to just let this one be). You get the most aromatic and floral notes from the first flowers of the early season. Look for it at the sunny fringes of the forest, in the bushel along train tracks, or in hedgerows between fields.
This is one of my favourite desserts of all time. While sticky toffee pudding has a very explanatory name, it is also a little banal, which is unfair to this total babe. The spicy, plump cake is soaked overnight in toffee sauce, then doused in more hot toffee sauce, and finally served with a scoop of ice cream. It’s lavish, and has everything a dessert needs – cream, butter, sugar, a little earthyness, and perfect consistency. And it’s messy.
- 250 g dates
- 175 g self-raising flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp bicarbonate soda
- 85 g butter
- 140 g brown sugar
- 2 tbsp treacle
- 100 ml milk
For the toffee sauce
- 175 g brown sugar
- 50 g butter
- 225 ml ful fat cream
- a small pinch salt
- 1 tbsp treacle
Start by soaking the de-seeded dates (cover them with boiling water in a small bowl). Cut the butter into small bits and let it soften on a plate. Whisk the eggs in one bowl. Mix the flour and the bicarbonate soda in another bowl. In a third, larger bowl, start combining everything, by mixing the sugar and butter. Add the eggs, bit by bit. Then fold in half of the flour, followed by half of the milk. Whisky lightly before adding the rest of the milk and flour. Add the treacle. Finally, mash up the soaked dates with a fork, and stir them into the mix.
Pour this into a buttered and floured form (or 10 small ramekins) , and put in the oven on 180 degrees for about 45 minutes (or 20 minutes for ramekins). While the pudding in baking, make the toffee sauce by melting the sugar and butter in a pan. Stir frequently, and keep an eye on it when it starts to bubble. After about two minutes of bubbling, add the treacle and half the cream and raise the temperature. Let it bubble away for an additional two minutes, then take it off the heat and stir in the rest of the cream.
Once the sauce is done, you just need to watch the pudding. It should be soft and sticky to touch, but not wobbly, when you remove it from the oven. You can slice up into pieces and serve right away, drowned in the toffee sauce and accompanied by some perfectly softened ice cream. If you want the pudding to be hyper-sticky, leave it soaked in the sauce overnight, then heat up the following day, doused with some additional hot toffee sauce. If you make them in ramekins, they are the perfect freezer dessert. All you need to do at a later date is make the toffee sauce, which you drizzle over the puddings once they’ve spent two minutes in the microwave. Desserts never were so easy, moreish, or sticky.
Pelikan is a legendary Stockholm establishment I’ve longed to visit for ages. It’s been around for as long as any living person can remember, and has the same air of grand old lady as Judi Dench. I’m currently reading a book about poor Stockholmers at the turn of the century where Pelikan was the place to go if you wanted to splash out a little. Pelikan serves traditional Swedish food in style of Den Gyldene Freden but at truly huge portions, and a more digestible price. It’s now one of my favourite places in Stockholm.
We visited on a busy Friday night, but the service was impeccable (contrary to stories I’ve heard from previous guests). Pelikan’s staff are little older than the average Stockholm waiters, and they take great pride in their work. This, as far as I understand, means they can be very grumpy sometimes, but also brilliant. My brother’s starter was a delicious trio of herring, with wonderful cumin cheese and crisp bread. My starter, gubbröra, is a Swedish classic of anchovies, red onion, fresh herbs in sours cream on dark, sweet rye bread, which was also delicious. The most insane starter was Fredrik’s shrimp sandwich, which was about the size of two mains. It was great, but should really have been presented as a main (to share).
The mains were great, both in size and taste. Filip’s ham hock was the size of a cauliflower head, servedwith hutspot and three different kinds of mustard. A true classic. My meatballs were also huge, with lovely lingonberry and proper salted cucumber in cream sauce. As far as meatballs go, I prefer the ones served at Den Gyldene Freden, but these still tasted very Swedish. Fredrik’s salmon was luckily smaller than his starter, and slipped down easily. Pelikan is as much about the food as the ambience: the huge old beer hall transports you back to old times lost. Enjoying traditional herring in the light of candles and the pale Stockholm night is quite a treat. Just be prepared to bring a doggy bag home.
Pelikan, Blekingegatan 40, 116 62 Stockholm. 08-556 090 90. Reservation recommended.
Ever wondered what it would be like to slowly trundle through the messy streets of Brussels on a white tram whilst bow-tied waitors bring you champagne and delicacies? Look no further. This niche interest has gained quite a following through the Tram Experience, where a tram in Brussels has been decked out with fancy white leather, Michelin-starred chefs and its own timetable.
It’s pricey, but a perfect and weird excursion if you want to treat yourself. The food is beautiful and exquisite, if perhaps not quite as excellent as I’m sure it would be in the home restaurant of Michelin-starred chefs Luigi Ciciriello and Bart De Pooter. The wine pairing is nice, and you are offered generous glasses of champagne as soon as the tram starts its rickety ride from Palais de Justice. Upon departure, our table was set with three tasty hors d’oeuvres and amusing, hard bread balls on sticks, attached to a slab of stone: everything on the table had to be attached, in order to avoid accidents.
The three mini-strarters included a foie gras brûlé, a tomato doused in caramel, and pickled beetroot-coloured onion. We devoured them merrily, whilst waving like royals to the confused and bemused people we passed on the streets outside. The starter was a black truffle ravioli with meat consommé, delicate and delicious.
My main was juicy Holstein beef with mushroom terrine and chocolate sauce. The meat was cooked to perfection, but the chocolate pairing was a little odd. The fish main was beautiful like a painting, but had been left too long and was a bit dry. Chocolate sauce was served also to this, and again it was a slightly odd pairing. But the sweet, full red wine went down a real treat, and we were given a little food rest to enjoy the view as we made our way further out from the city, towards Tervuren.
For dessert we were given a trio of ice cream, rice pudding and a plum in spices. Being rather tipsy at this point, I don’t remember anything remarkable about the desserts, other than that they disappeared very quickly. Quite giggly as we rounded Tervuren and rolled back into the city, we lamented that the excursion was coming to its end so quickly. This tram trip was a bit like I imagine old extravagant traveling the ways its portrayed in Wes Anderson films. A quirkiness suitable for Brussels.
Did you know that the best way of taking revenge on being burned by at nettle is to eat its relatives? In Sweden it’s common practice. They are picked by high and low in early spring, and used mostly for nässelsoppa (nettle soup) but also as a healthier substitute to spinach (and even added into smoothies). Nettles contain lots of iron and are a great vitamin boost, and taste like a mild, grassier form of spinach. It’s one of my favourite things to forage, because it grows in abundance just about everywhere and it difficult to confuse with anything else. And as long as you wear gloves, the stinging isn’t a problem.
They key thing is to be out early – they should be tall enough to be easily pickable, but not so big that they’ve grown large leaves. If picked too late, their consistency is too wooden and stringy. However, should you miss the first leaves, you can also settle for picking only the youngest leaves at the top – however never after the nettles have bloomed. Avoid picking them from ditches and busy parks, as they tend to grow where chemicals and other fluids abound.
The consistency may not be to everyones liking, but as long as you have a powerful food blender that shouldn’t be a problem. It’s a good way of picking your own tender spring greens for free. In Sweden, nettles are mostly used to make nettle soup (nässelsoppa). It’s easy, tasty and nutritious, and always served with a poached or softly boiled egg. For 4 servings, you need:
– 5 litres newly picked nettles
– 1 small yellow onion
– 1 tbsp butter
– 1 litre vegetable stock
– 1 tbsp flour
– 1 dl creme fraiche
– 2 eggs
Chop the onion finely, then fry it in the butter until soft. Add the nettles and make them wilt, adding some water. Once the mix has softened, blitz it with a blender or food processor until it’s a fine paste. Add the flour and let it fry with the nettle mix for a little while. Add the vegetable stock and get it simmering for a few minutes until it has combined somewhat (although it will naturally separate after stirring, due to the high amount of nettles). Whilst the soup is simmering, soft-boil or poach your eggs. Add creme fraiche, salt and pepper to the soup, and then serve up on four plats. Carefully add half a soft-boiled egg or an entire poached egg on top. Sprinkle with some newly crushed black pepper and chives. Serve.
Tiny and busy, Bottega no. 3 is already a neighbourhood favourite in Chatelain. It’s the perfect alternative Italian, with slightly kitsch decor, personable service and good music – not to mention great pasta. Despite the tiny kitchen, they also manage to cater for larger groups by serving three big antipasti platters to a company of twelve, and then a selection of the chef’s pasta – all to share on oddly matched china.
The scrumptious antipasti platter is packed with all kinds of delicacies, like truffle infused salami, mustardy ham, broccoli soufflé and several kinds of cheese – the nutty, tangy kind that almost stings a bit. Matched with good wine, and nice music streaming out from the huge speakers in the window, it’s a snug place to see an evening away.
The pasta we were served came in three formats: one for the veggies with truffle and mushroom, some with salmon and capers, and some with duck and ginger, all served on three huge platters to us to scoop from. They were all of perfect consistency, and the sauces well-paired. The unconventional duck was my favourite, but the vegetarians were also satisfied with their slightly more limited selection. The final of the evening, tiramisu and apple cake, set the comfort tone high. Bottega No. 3 is a little pricey, but serve reliably tasty pasta, and everything surrounding the eating experience is very pleasant. We left satisfied and in high spirits.
Bia Mara is a neat little fish and chips place near the sleezier streets around Boulevard Anspach. They have a simple concept: doing cheap, sustainable fish and chips, and doing it really well. Having visited a couple of times, I’ve found the weekly special at 12€ to be innovative and tasty, even though one would think fish and chips is a rather basic, and perhaps limited, concept. Recent combinations have included Korean Style Ling with hot red pepper crust and kinchee sauce, Rogan Josh crusted special with lime, mint and coriander sauce, and Malaysian Special Sea Bream with sambal and tamarind sauce.
Last time I visited, we tried sea bass with truffle mayo, and it was just the perfect thing for a slightly hungover sunny stroll on town. Their penchant for curry feels like a true reflection of modern cuisine from the British Isles (although this in my opinion is true for England – I can’t speak for the quality or popoularity of Irish curry houses).
The owner is incredibly friendly in that nice, Irish way, and makes me wish I had that special skill of making effortless small talk. The menu changes weekly depending on what fish is available, and great care seems to be taken to ensure that the fish is sourced by sustainable methods. In addition to this, they serve lemon Pellegrino and a beer of the week from a local Belgian brewery. On Sundays, they serve Brunch from 12-16 which consists of their weekly special and a bloody mary. So many good things!
Bia Mara can be found here on the map: