J and I just returned from Ghent (or Gent), a delightful medieval town approximately 50 minutes from Brussels. Last Friday I spent a good number of hours doing some exploring while J was at the university attending a seminar and giving a lecture at the end of the evening. So I was pretty much left alone for a whole day. The tram journey into the town centre was so much fun, although I was practically stuck to my map counting the stops. Everything was in Dutch. But hey, I was up for a little adventure. The weather was so rotten however, that my plans for major exploring/walking/taking-plenty-of-photos went down the drain. All was not lost though; I found a charming salad bar and sandwich shop (tucked away in between the touristy restaurants and shops) which I almost missed. LKKR is a small family business run by Dahlia and her husband, both lovely and friendly. This is the place where to have a healthy, delicious, homemade lunch, plus coffee, of course. You could also have a cookie if you wish like I did on that rainy morning. I liked the place so much that I just had to take J for lunch there on Saturday. I felt so in-the-know! It was so cold that he ordered a soup. I had a chicken curry sandwich. Just what I needed. If you’re in Ghent, do yourself a favour and go. Prices are reasonable and if there’s no seating inside, you can take a table outside, people-watch while wrapped around a cozy pink blanket you will find on your chair. Nice. The frites, mussels, fish stews and waffles can all wait until you arrive in Brussels. Even nicer.
Shall I state the obvious? I think I will. If you don’t like beef and/or anchovies just don’t bother. Mmm…don’t like the sound of that so let me rephrase. If you like beef but you or anyone you’re feeding is not so keen on anchovies, to put it mildly, try this recipe. Adding them does make a difference. You will not be able to taste them, but they give a depth of flavour that you won’t get with anything else.
You know you have a winner when you cook something again and again without minding that much. This is one of my go-to recipes whenever I don’t want to think about fancy dishes or when I’ve had a tiring day. There is some prep work involved and some stirring, but you could always get someone to help with that! You can use a mixture of fresh mushrooms and it’s even better with some dried porcini soaked in a little hot water. (Don’t even dream of using the canned stuff, and if you do please don’t tell me.) I like to use chestnut mushrooms because they are tastier than the white button mushrooms. (I don’t buy porcini often!) Anyhow, you will get more flavour from the grated cheese and fresh parsley later. This is a simple but delicious winter dish. Serves 4.
- 250g chestnut mushrooms, chopped
- 250g arborio
- knob of butter (approx. 25g)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- 1 litre hot vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
- 2 tablespoons grated cheese (Pecorino or Parmeggiano)
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
- Pour the olive oil and butter in a large-ish saucepan and add the onions, garlic and mixed spice. Stir until everything is coated by the melted butter.
- Add the arborio and 1 ladle of stock, and stir until this is absorbed by the rice. Continue to add 1 ladle full to 2 of vegetable stock at a time while stirring often. Add the mushrooms when you have used around half of the amount of stock. When you have finished adding the stock and the rice has absorbed it you should end up with a creamy consistency. If it is too dry try adding more stock.
- Remove it from the heat, add the grated cheese and parsley and mix these into the rice. Call everyone to the table and serve at once.
A note on something completely different: I will be away for a couple of weeks, but will be back with some new recipes as soon as I’m back in Surrey, just in time for the run-up to Christmas. Enjoy!