Chocolate, Chips and Cordon Bleu in Belgium – Part 2
A brief history of the Belgian fries
The potatoe: brought back from South America to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, today the potatoes are grown nearly everywhere around the world.
In 1589, Sir Walter Raleigh, a British explorer famous for his expeditions was the first to bring the potatoe to England and to make a gift of the potato plant to Queen Elizabeth I.
The Belgian fries: in the 17th century, during harsh winters as the river Meuse in Belgium would freeze not allowing the locals to get the small fishes they used to, people from Dinant, the Namur region, Andenne, and Huy in Wallonia would cut the potatoes in the shape of fish and fry them. And that is why we say Belgian fries. Belgian national dish “les frites’ was wrongly given the name ‘French Fries’ by American servicemen when they arrived in Belgium at the end of the First World War. They named the fries after the French language spoken in Wallonia creating confusion with the invention’s nationality.
The Belgian Fries called “frites” are part of Belgium’s gastronomic and cultural heritage. You will find frites stalls everywhere while visiting Belgium.
The Belgian fries have their own sharter: the mesure of quality for good fries: first of all, don’t use frozen fries. Choose potatoes with a medium-firm consistance. Not too firm not too soft.
A good frite has to be 1 cm square, rectangular, and fried twice.
The first frying has to be made at 150° C and the second one at 175 ° C. The result is a golden fry that is crispy on the outside and and soft inside. Then you can add on the top some delicious sauces such as the mayonnaise, andalouse, pickels, samurai, cocktail, bolognaise, americaine, sauce riche, sauce chasseur, fromage (cheeze)…
The most populat topping is mayonnaise.
Not that there’s no tomato ketchup on the list!
Why is Belgian chocolate so special?
Belgium enjoys a reputation among chocolate aficionados that is only rivalled by Switzerland. Indeed, these two countries are the only places where the use of “chocolate” is legally restricted to products containing only cocoa butter, cocoa solids, sugar and milk. Today, around 172,000 tonnes of chocolate products are manufactured each year in Belgium, by around 500 different manufacturers, sold through 2,000 specialist shops. Average annual sales equate to 8kg per head of population, though many of these sales are to foreign tourists or are export sales.
The unique taste, “mouth-feel” and texture of Belgian chocolate is due to several factors: (i) the higher-than-average cocoa powder content (typically around 43%, compared to around 20% in the US and the UK), (ii) the longer conching (blending) process ensuring a smoother end product, and (iii) the top-quality training that most Belgian chocolatiers receive.
The origins of the Belgian passion for chocolate go back to the late Middle Ages, when it was part of the Spanish Habsburg empire. The practice of drinking chocolate had been observed among native Central and South American tribes by the conquistadores, who brought the habit back to Europe where it became fashionable among those rich enough to be able to afford this luxury product throughout the Spanish territories and all over Europe.
By the nineteenth century, Dutch merchants based in Rotterdam had cornered the market in cocoa beans imported from West Africa and Central and South America. They developed improved roasting, separating and grinding techniques to produce the chocolate nibs used by chocolatiers to make couverture, the liquid chocolate that could be moulded into bars and other shapes, or used to make pralines, the delicious filled chocolates invented in Brussels in 1912 by Jean Neuhaus, the son of a Swiss pharmacist. Today, Neuhaus still occupies its original shop in the Royal Galleries in Brussels, and it has around 1,000 other outlets worldwide.
The invention of the praline coincided with increased availability of cheap sugar and a surge in consumption of chocolate and other confectionary. Milk chocolate and white chocolate were developed as variations of dark or plain chocolate, and chocolatiers divided into artisans, who continued to make chocolates by hand, and larger, industrial-scale manufacturers who used machines. The larger manufacturers set up their own cocoa plantations and worldwide distribution networks.
In Belgium, working with chocolate became a key part of the training of pâtissiers (confectioners) who devised ever-more elaborate and decorative chocolate cakes, biscuits and desserts, many of them also making pralines. Today, both old firms such as Neuhaus (established 1857), Corné (1932), Godiva (1926), Wittamer (1910) and Leonidas (1913) exist alongside more recently founded chocolatiers such as Guylian (1960), Galler (1976), Pierre Marcolini (1994), Jean-Philippe Darcis (2001) and Laurent Gerbaud (2002).
The original pralines were filled with ganache (a mixture of chocolate and cream), gianduja (chocolate mixed with powdered hazelnuts) marzipan, caramel, nougat, nuts and candied citrus peel, and these continue to sell well. Recently, new pralines flavoured with exotic spices, tea and herbs have become popular, as has chocolate made with cocoa beans from specific countries or plantations.
Belgian chocolate enjoys an excellent reputation around the world, especially in the UK, whose population are allegedly the world’s largest consumers of chocolate, where Marks and Spencer’s luxury chocolate biscuits are made with Belgian chocolate. It has been said that you don’t need a calendar in Belgium, one look in the window of your local chocolate shop will tell you what time of year it is, as the displays change from Christmas to St Valentine’s, to Easter, to Mothers’ Day, to Fathers’ Day, to Belgian National Day, to Halloween!
. We also have another version, and other recipes, on our website http://belgiumtheplaceto.be/cuisine.php.
For 15 meatballs approx.
• 1 kg 200 of minced pork and beef (approx. 2.5 pounds)
• 2 chopped onions
• 1 clove of garlic
• 3 pinches of Provence herbs
• 2 pinches of nutmeg
• 1 egg
• 4 tbsps. of flour
For the brown sauce
• 1 litre of water (2 pints)
• 2 sliced onions
• 4 tbsps. Sirop de Liège
• 2 tbsps. white vinegar
• Sugar to taste
• 6 tbsps. corn flour
• Salt and paper
• 3 bay leaves
Preparation time: 30minutes – cooking time : 1hour
1. PREPARATION Meatballs
2. Mix the onions, garlic and mince together in a bowl
3. Add the herbs, nutmeg, salt and pepper and mix well with a fork
4. Add the egg and mix. Incorporate the breadcrumbs and mix to make a preparation that is not too sticky
5. Pour the flour onto a plate
6. Make the meatballs by rolling the mixture in your hands and coat each one entirely in flour
7. Cook the meatballs in a frying pan with a little butter until they are slightly browned and put aside
8. PREPARATION SAUCE
9. Bring the water and onions to the boil in a large pan,
10. Add the Sirop de Liège, bay leaves, and the meatballs. Cook them for 5 minutes
11. Add the vinegar and sugar (3 lumps, or according to taste). Cook for a further 15 minutes Taste and adjust by adding more Sirop de Liege or sugar if necessary. Add salt and pepper and bring to the boil.
12. Add the corn flour until right consistency is obtained
Serve with fries
SIROP DE LIEGE
For 1/2 kg of syrup
2 lbs apples
6 lbs pears
Wash the apples and pears and quarter them. No need to peel
Cook for 4 hours over low heat in a large pan
Once it has turned into a mush, pass through a muslin cloth, pressing to extract a maximum of fruit juice
Pour the juice into a jam pan and reduce for 3 hours on slow heat. Resulting syrup must be thick and glossy.
To test for thickness pour a drop of syrup into a bowl of cold water. If it stays solid then remove from the heat and pour immediately into dry glass jars pots that have previously been rinsed in boiled water/sterilised and seal. Keeps in a cool location (preferably the cellar) for years apparently!
Once opened use within 4 days…
True Belgian Waffles Recipe
MAKES : 5 servings
TOTAL TIME: Prep/Total Time: 20 min.
• 2 cups plain flour
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 2 eggs, separated
• 1-1/2 cups milk
• 1 cup butter, melted
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• Sliced fresh strawberries or syrup
1 serving (2 each) equals 696 calories, 41 g fat (25 g saturated fat), 193 mg cholesterol, 712 mg sodium, 72 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 10 g protein.
In a bowl, combine flour, sugar and baking powder. In another bowl, lightly beat egg yolks. Add milk, butter and vanilla; mix well. Stir into dry ingredients just until combined. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold into batter.
Bake in a preheated waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions until golden brown. Serve with strawberries, a fresh fruit mixture or maple syrup, or a topping of your choice, eg Cointreau with cream or ice-cream.
Of course, there are many different versions of this recipe. Every bar and restaurant has their own secret recipe.
• Preparation time: 10min
• Refrigeration: 2 to 3 hours
• 6 cups of strong coffee
• 2 oz sugar
• 1 pint of vanilla ice cream (can also be made with coffee ice cream)
• ½ pint of whipping cream
• 3 tbsps cold milk
• Chocolate coffee beans
1. Mix the coffee and the sugar. Keep in the fridge until very cold (2 to 3 hours)
2. Put one scoop of ice cream in each of 6 tall glasses, and pour over the coffee
3. Whip the cream together with the milk to make a Chantilly, and spoon over the ice cream
4. Add a few chocolate coffee beans for decoration
5. Serve immediately. Yummy!