A blog about cooking with a surprise set of ingredients.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tacos para Mexico... (or a failed president)

Quite a fishy bag...

The starting point for this bag was the fabrication of a trip to the fish shop to entertain the smaller boy, and a very clear request from the bigger boy to eat fried squid for dinner. So off to Hasymar on Rue Malibran we went. As well as the squid, we bought a variety of different small fish (including red gurnard, on which see Monsters in Megeve, from back in 2011). Stopping off at the greengrocer next door, we picked up some coriander and mint, tomatoes, harissa and a mango, and added a jar of tomato flesh and some polenta from the cupboard at home. I’m thinking bouillabaisse, and am intrigued to see what Henrik will do with the polenta – I have never really liked it, either home-cooked or in the nicest slow-food restaurants in Italy. Will he be able to convert me to the cause? Game on, Henrik!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Oscar the Octopus and a Seventies classic

Oscar and his Companions

This is now slightly in the wrong order, as I have not yet writen up on my Bag from Florence that Hazel gave me last Sunday, but I'm sure you can forgive this faux pas. So instead of attacking the keyboard, I ventured out in the Brussels Sunday morning rain to find a suitable challenge. It was quite clear to me that it would have to be something from the sea so I went to the good fishmonger (the one that doesn't smell of fish) and saw something that could even beat certain politicians when it comes to... The fishmonger said his name was Oscar, so here you go Hazel, Oscar is yours!

My first thought on seeing this bag of food, and in particular Oscar, was of relief that he (or she) was at least dead. This is not a given, as those who have read this blog before will know (have a look at "Who Killed Lenny the Lobster", from way back in 2012). My second thought was "what on earth are those root vegetables?" And my third thought was a fond one of pineapple upside down cake, and whether we had any custard powder in the back of a cupboard (we didn't).

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A cardinal sin (don't tell Isabella Lövin)

I fear I have made a terrible faux-pas - when I went to the fishmonger I made a mental note not to buy the cod or the mackerel (lovely though they looked) in the interests of fisheries conservation and all that. I was very pleased to see eel, on the other hand, and bought a big chunk, along with some little squid. Only when I got home did Him Indoors, filled with Fisheries Committee fervour, tell me that I'd bought the marine equivalent of a baby panda. Anyway, hope it tastes good, at least. To help it along the way, I picked up some silver onions, globe courgettes, peas, spinach, flat-leaf parsley, mango and kiwi fruit. Happy cooking, Henrik!

I did get the fear when I saw that Hazel had bought eel. It is on the brink of collapse

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A moist tart

We had not done a bag in a while and in the meantime, Christmas had filled our bellies. As a consequence, my eyes did not really seek out the large pieces of pork or beef when I went to the super market to get the content for Hazel’s challenge. Nor was I tempted by the last turkeys on sale. But organic trout from the Ardennes caught my attention. Would Hazel be able to make the light airy dishes I clearly needed according to the scales in our bathroom, or would she will turn it into a savory Christmas pudding? Let’s see.  

As soon as I saw the mushrooms and the goat's cheese, I had the idea of making some kind of tart as a starter (bringing back memories of the Festival Theatre Cafe in Edinburgh, which in my student days advertised its snack lunches to passers-by under the unforgettable heading "Moist Tarts and Well-Filled Baguettes").

I started off by making a short-crust pastry and putting it to chill in the fridge, then getting some leeks on to stew in some butter with nutmeg and thyme. I then fried off some of the wood mushrooms separately with salt and pepper. Rooting about in the cupboard for some appropriate dishes to make the tarts in, I found two of the nice bowls that come with St Felicien cheese and got the pastry in to blind bake at 200 C for 10 minutes or so. Once it looked ready I added a base layer of leeks, some mushrooms, then a round of goats cheese and then some salt with flowers and herbs on the top. I put them back in the oven for about 20 minutes, and made a salad of the lamb's lettuce, coriander, basil and spring onions, with the idea to balance the richness of the tart with quite a sharp salad. 

On to the trout. I found a recipe for trout with leeks and riesling which sounded nice and light: it also seemed quite low on the effort scale, so ideal for my post-Christmas laziness. The basic idea is to line a baking dish with chopped leeks, then put the trout on top, season, then slosh in some Riesling. To give it a bit of extra kick I also made a herb stuffing of coriander, basil, chives and spring onion to flavour the trout from inside. After the 20 minutes in the oven specified, the trout was done (possibly slightly overdone, in fact, for Him Indoors) but the leeks were not. I took the leeks out and gave them another 10 minutes in a pan with some butter and more wine, after which they softened down nicely. The recipe recommended a reduction of the cooking liquid as a sauce - I made that, but also a tomato, radish and orange sauce to liven it up a bit. 

Result: the tart was quite good, I thought (I will try it next time we have vegetarians round), the fish was nice, although despite my attempt at a tangy sauce I thought it was slightly cloying, and would have needed a bit more lemon or something to cut the flavours. (For dessert, by the way, we had oranges. Not prepared in any way, just oranges: a month of heavy eating has taken its toll on the waistline, and desserts will remain fruit-based for a while yet....!)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A dollop of scallops

I have given Hazel quite some sturdy things to cook in the past, although maybe the smoked goat she once gave me is still top of the league (which reminds me that I have not yet taken revenge for that... I must do that soon, but don't tell Hazel). This time I found some lovely scallops in the super market (even a normal super market on a Sunday evening is quite civilised here in Brussels). For the rest, I kept it green, or white as the cheese, or purple as the plums, but they can go as green too. Good luck, darling!

I was, I must say, rather apprehensive about the scallops. Him Indoors is relentlessly

Friday, October 5, 2012


I was inspired this week by the excellent (albeit rather pricey) dinner we had at The Bowery earlier in the week, where my lovely Slovenian companion chose turbot and I wished I had chosen the same. So I made my way to the fish-shop and bought a rather large turbot, which was so spectacular that I thought I wouldn't complicate things too much. In a minimalist frame of mind, I bought a big round aubergine, some small white turnips (revenge at last....), white courgettes and some plums. I'm expecting some kind of Scandi-chic extravaganza as a result - right, better go and watch some Wallander to get in the right frame of mind.........

I got inspired by the Brussels weather—yes, that can happen. On this very day,

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Immaculate conception via a blonde in a broom cupboard

This bag started in Valenciennes where Magnus and I had gone to buy insulation for the house we are renovating. The house is too big, which means too much renovation, and in its turn too much new insulation. Buying too much insulation takes time, so Magnus (and I) got hungry. Luckily there was a Carrefour nearby so we went there and bought a fried chicken – Magnus ate a leg, and I the rest, I'm afraid. My defence is that I did buy a lot of insulation. As well as fried chicken, they were touting pork belly that looked so nice I could not resist it. I later added galang, chillis, sweet basil, purple glutinous rice, dried shiitake mushrooms, green mango, dragon fruit, coconut milk, ginkgo beans and some caramelised kumquats. Good luck, darling!

Thanks to Prince Harry, when I saw the slice of pork belly in this week's bag of food,