Antwerp chocolate walk, the bold and the sweet…

Yesterday, for the first time, I attended one of the many activities organised by Samana, the division of CM health insurance, offering support, distraction and a variety of activities for chronicly ill patients and their caretakers. The activity that caught my eye was a culinary chocolate walk in Antwerp…need I say more?! As for the bold and sweet…just read till the end…

Neuhaus chocolates
Neuhaus chocolates
our guide and one of the Samana hosts

The walk comprised a guided tour along some Antwerp hotspots linked to chocolate or sugar and of course some tasty stops and according treats! Along the way the process of chocolate making from bean to the yummy stuff was explained and its history through time.

Did you know ‘Suikerrui’ one of Antwerp’s streets leading to the river got its name from the sugar (suiker in Dutch) that was stored in the below street-level canals (rui)?

Vlaeykensgang Hoogstraat Antwerp
Vlaeykensgang Hoogstraat
ok, but can we have a chocolate with that?

Luxury Belgian brand Neuhaus offered us two of their signature ‘pralines’ the ‘Caprice’ and ‘Tentation’ both created for the World exhibition held in Brussels in 1958 and named after a quote from Brigitte Bardot, mr Neuhaus himself being a fan of mme Bardot…

Neuhaus chocolates
Neuhaus chocolates

Apparently the colour of chocolate you choose tells something about your character, if you prefer dark chocolate, like me, you are rather tough and determined, the strong one!

No chocolate tour in Antwerp without stopping by Dominique Persoone’s ‘the Chocolate Line’ his company existing 25 years this year and innovative and enthusiastic as ever, he has every reason to celebrate!

Dominique Persoone
Dominique Persoone
chocolates The Chocolate Line
chocolates The Chocolate Line
The Chocolate Line shop Antwerp
Birgit, one of the participants, trying to choose
Chocolate truffles
Chocolate truffles

Well that’s all for now…enjoying my little goodie bag filled with yummy chocolate…didn’t I show enormous character not touching it on the bus ride home?! Must be true then, dark chocolate and being tough and strong!

You can find a list of the houses we visited below and another treat, curious if you will recognize him…

Till next time,

Ingrid

xxx

The Chocolate Line

Neuhaus

Sofie Sucrée

Elisa Pralines

Amylin’s Cupcakes & Macarons

De Zoete Verleiding

spotted him twice on our tour on different locations…maybe he has a sweet tooth too…

Ron Moss in Antwerp
Ron Moss in Antwerp

Luxury sea escape x royal the Hague – part two

city exploring the Hague

To continue my previous post, after a wonderful night’s rest and relaxing stay in The Pier Suites, we decided to leave early to make the most of our day ahead in the Hague. Next to being the political and royal heart of the Netherlands and city where the International Court of Justice houses, the Hague keeps it’s relaxed city vibe offering a wide range of highlights and attractions, on every level whether you are a lover of architecture, culture, food, history, nature, shopping, this city seems to have it all!  Time to discover!

You can not go exploring on an empty stomach, so we stepped into indoor shopping mall De Passage and had a quick boost of energy in Du Passage, perfect place for a quick or slow breakfast, lunch or anything in between. The Mall is Hollands oldest indoor shopping mall and the interior deco is stunning, think grandeur, spotless clean and a variety of exclusive and worth-discovering shops.

Passage, shopping mall, the Hague
Walk this way…

Our eye fell, what can I say, once a foodie, always a foodie, on the gigantic Dok Cookware store…it’s the real thing, I could have spent the whole day there exploring and spending those euros!

 

Den Haag
City Centre
Den Haag
Native Dutch?

Time to step into the historic centre…the so called ‘Binnenhof’ or Inner Court is the centre of Dutch Politics and also houses the House of Representatives and the office of the Prime Minister. There are tours to follow, however the Inner Court is freely accessible, as is the adjacent pond.

view on Mauritshuis and Inner Court, the Hague
view on Mauritshuis and Inner Court

We also enjoyed the walk along the ‘Lange Voorhout’ a beautiful tree-lined lane leading you to the iconic historic Hotel des Indes…celebreties, royals, when in the Hague, this is where they stay!

Hotel des Indes, the Hague
Hotel des Indes

Do not skip the Heulstraat with the wonderful interior and deco-shop Il Regalo and Denneweg, one of the city’s oldest streets and a must if you are into lifestyle, deco, fashion and food…just go there that means!

Did you know the Hague had its own Chinatown? Both entrances are marked with a gate, the area was originally a Jewish quarter, however after the Second World War it became more and more abandoned and in the 1970s the area became increasingly inhabited by the Chinese.

the Hague Chinatown gate

Are you in for some culture? 2017 marks the centenary of the founding of the Dutch art movement called De Stijl (the Style), which is known for its bold horizontal and vertical lines encasing blocks of primary colours. Best-known artist is Mondrian. This whole year is dedicated as tribute and special activities indoors and outside are planned…even if you are not a museum lover, the city will treat you no-charge on colour and art as with the world’s largest Mondrian painting replica on the city hall. And for those who are into musea and art, do not forget Vermeer’s famous Girl with the pearl earring is waiting for you in the ‘Mauritshuis’.

Mondrian pimped city Hall
Mondrian pimped city Hall

All roads lead of course to royal Palace Noordeinde, the Kings working palace, if the royal flags flies above the palace…the King is in the House! The gardens and stables are located behind the residence and gardens are open for visits accept during state or royal visits etc…the classy Noordeinde district is where you will find various stylish, exclusive shops.

Paleis Noordeinde the Hague

Den Haag

All this city exploring make’s you hungry, right?!

city exploring the Hague
where to next?

We had lunch at ’t Goude Hooft, the Hague’s oldest inn, right in the vibrant city centre and went for a sweet treat at Lapsang, breakfast, lunch and winebar.

Conclusion, a must visit! Like I started this post, this city has it all and we haven’t even explored half of what it has to offer during this short visit, we’ll be back!

city exploring the Hague
let’s explore!

 

Ingrid

xxx

Visit the Hague – tourism info, attractions and highlights

Dok Cookware store

De Passage – shopping in style

Il Regalo – interior and deco

‘t Goude Hooft – hotel and restaurant

Lapsang – breakfast, lunch and winebar

 

 

 

Tea and chocolate, a ‘matcha’ made in heaven!

Last week, during our stroll through Antwerp, my husband and I discovered a new hotspot for chocolate and tea lovers…my weary feet and aching back in much need for a rest were drawn in by the most wonderful smell of chocolate at the Japanese Royce’ shop located on Wapper square next to Pomax deco store, another fun shop by the way, if you are in search for home deco items or gifts. However, let’s get back to the neighbouring store! It appears Royce’ opened this flagship store end 2016 and is on a mission to promote Japanese-style chocolate. The store is located on the ground level floor of a lovely restaured building and on the first floor you will find the Blue Lounge, offering tea, coffee and Royce’ patisserie and chocolates of course.

Royce’ Flagshipstore Antwerp

Royce’s story began in 1983 in Sapporo, the capital city of Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido. With cooler climates and wonderfully natural terrain, it is the ideal location for sourcing the freshest dairy products. Over the years, Royce’ has become known for crafting unique chocolate products such as Nama (meaning ‘fresh’), maccha chocolates and potatochip shaped chocolates that are now enjoyed in over 14 countries outside Japan, and counting…

We both made our choice out of the patisserie assortment, tea for me, coffee for the husband and relaxed and enjoyed with all senses! I noticed a flyer announcing a tea workshop offered by Obubu Tea Farms matching their teas with the chocolates…no need to say I was interested! Therefore, a few days ago I headed back to Antwerp to immerse myself into the wonderful world of Japanese tea.

 

Instructors to guide us along this path were the vice-president of Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms mr Yasuharu Matsumoto and International Department Lead Simona Zavadckyte. Assisted by a translator when necessary they told us a little about the history of the company, the location of the farms and the importance of quality. As only 2-3 % of all Japanese tea is exported, it is their mission to bring their exquisite teas and enthusiasm and love for their produce to us and the world.

Obubu Tea Farms is a small Japanese tea company located in Wazuka, Kyoto, a historic tea-growing region where tea has been farmed for more than 800 years. Their teas are grown and processed by Obubu’s President and Lead Farmer, Akihiro Kita. In between the storytelling three different teas and accompanying sweets were served.

If ever in Japan, when visiting the region, and I was assured it is absolutely worthwhile, a Japanese tea tour can be arranged, visiting several fields in the surrounding mountains, tea tastings and hiking tours.

First we were offered the Hojicha amber tea with some Nama champagne chocolates,

followed by a  silky and smooth Samidori Matcha tea and delicious patisserie.

We ended with a Genmaicha, one of Japan’s most popular teas made by mixing Yanagi Bancha leaves with roasted rice. Must say this one was my favourite! It was accompanied by a little eclair and the Nama maccha, white chocolate mixed with grean tea.

Such an informative, lovely and very tasteful way this was to set off the weekend!

Obubu teas can be bought at the Royce’ shop in Antwerp, for other points of sale or to see if there is a tasting workshop nearby planned soon, please check their website!

As always, hope you enjoyed,

Ingrid

Xxx

Obubu Tea Farms

Royce’

A cup of tea is a cup of peace (Sen Sshitsu XV)

 

 

When life brings you lemons…

…making lemonade is an excellent choice of course, but one needs to eat too, right, and food needs seasoning…we’re making herb salt!

img_4938
Herb salt

This is what you need:

  • +/- 250 gr salt
  • zeste of two lemons, chopped up
  • Leaves of two branches of rosemary, chopped up
  • Leaves of two or three branches of thyme, chopped up

 

This is what you do:

  • chop up the herbs
  • mix with the salt
  • let it dry out and place in a sealed container…that’s it!
img_4937
herbs and spices

You can do a little twist and use oranges instead of lemons or you can use more or other herbs. It tastes great with some roasted meat, use it when seasoning fish or chicken, etc…

Trust no one, unless you have eaten much salt with him (Cicero)

Enjoy,

 

Ingrid

Xxx

Open tuna burger

You don’t always need a large list of ingredients to make a savoury dinner or lunch, or sometimes you’re just in a hurry and don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen or you know that feeling that after an exhausting day your stomach and soul are just craving for some comfort food? Well, this dish ticks all the above boxes, how great is that! And no worries, though the list may seem long, most of the items are already in your kitchen pantry!

ingredients tuna burgers
Ingredients tuna burgers

 

This is what you need:

(will feed about 4-6 persons depending if you add some sides or not)

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 tins of tuna (natural brine)
  • 1 small tin of anchovies, chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika powder
  • A few drops of Worcestershire sauce
  • 3-4 grated cloves of garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • About 8-10 tbs of breadcrumbs
  • Ciabatta divided in smaller pieces or 8 small bread rolls
  • Olive oil
  • Some slices of mature cheese or whatever you prefer, I use cheddar

 

This is what you do:

  • Glaze the chopped onions in some olive oil and set aside. Meanwhile open your tuna tins, remove the excess liquid and transfer the tuna flakes to a large bowl. Add the eggs, the chopped anchovies, the paprika powder, the Worcestershire sauce and the onions. Flavour with the garlic, salt and pepper.

 

  • At this stage, you can either proceed of put aside in the fridge to use later in the day or in the evening when you get home from work. If you proceed, or after removal from the fridge, check the density and start adding the bread crumbs to absorb any leftover liquid. Make sure everything is mixed thoroughly and the mixture is moist however not wet.

 

  • Take your bread rolls or chopped up ciabatta and slice horizontally in half, brush them with some olive oil and grill in the oven. Take them out, start filling them up with the tuna mixture and end with a nice slice of cheese on top.

 

  • In the oven this goes, for about 15’ at a temperature of 200°C

 

There’s a whole lot of fish in the sea, but you’re one hot tuna!

You can serve this with a yummy green salad or just eat them as such…oh, and I know you can’t wait to take that first bite, but remember the quote and beware not to burn the palate…hot, hot, hot, let them cool off for just a few seconds!

davEnjoy!

 

Ingrid

xxx

A touch of frost

Any leftover cranberries after the festive season? Always fun to sugar-coat them…

3
sugar-coated berries in a row

Make a syrup of sugar and water, turn off the heat, add the berries and let them soak at least a couple of hours or overnight.  Point is to reduce the extreme sourness of the cranberries.

4
Cranberries in syrup

Then drain using a colander and make sure to keep the liquid as you can still use that when making cocktails!
Dry the berries lightly with a paper towel, they shouldn’t be completely dry, otherwise the sugar won’t stick.

Time for the fun part! Pour some sugar in a bowl, add some berries and toss them around until coated. Do not add too many berries at once, it will make the sugar clump and that’s not what you want at this point.

Leave them to dry on a rack or plate and that’s it!

5

2

 

I used mine decorating a chocolate mousse and added some in my morning oatmeal bowl.
 

image1

Sweet, sour and frosted instant happiness!

 

Ingrid

X

 

 

Chicken with a bonus

filled mozzarella chicken

No worries, I haven’t disappeared from the blogger’s great universe, just needed some mind and mainly body recovery time…when I know my mind is on food again and thinking of Christmas preparation and deco I know I’m on the mend…well at least for now, as that’s the curse of chronic pains, but hey, we’re in the up, so staying cheerful today!

A usual dinner conversation at our home always includes the options for the menu the next day…earlier this week this recipe came up. It had been ages since I made it, albeit in a slightly different version, so on general family members request, here we go!

This is what you need:

  • chicken breasts filets (1 normal sized per person should do)
  • seed mustard
  • mozzarella cheese
  • a few slices other cheese like old Gouda or you can use Parmesan too
  • bacon to wrap it up
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • oven dish

This is what you do:

  • Preheat your oven at 200°C and oil your baking dish
  • butterfly the chicken breasts and spread them with seed mustard
  • layer with mozzarella cheese, season with pepper, and another layer with cheese of your choice
  • close the filets and wrap them with bacon
  • give them another seasoning with (a little salt) and pepper
  • finish in the oven for about 30-40′ depending on thickness of the filets

I serve them with grilled green asparagus and cherry tomatoes.

 

Some cheese will run out, that’s the yummy part, if you don’t like that, stick with the harder cheeses or use thinly sliced mozzarella.

Make some hours in advance and put in the oven when your guests arrive, easy! This dish leaves you several opportunities to mix and max and play with the stuffing:

  • use pesto, mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes
  • add spinach
  • drop the cheese stuffing, use lots of herbs and pesto or sun-dried tomatoes and cover the filled filets in egg and panko before putting in the oven and you’ll have a yummy tasty crunch
  • replace the bacon with Parma ham
  • add herbs like sage or basil or other flavour makers of your choice

 

Enjoy your meal!

Ingrid

X

Foodie tales: good food is good mood!

Apple muffin

The word foodie, you see or read it a lot nowadays, right?! It seems to me lately everyone with a latte or salad posting a pic adds the foodie hashtag. And that’s just fine by me as long as you are savouring it with inner joy and an even bigger outer smile!

‘Foodie: one who has an ardent or refined interest in food; a gourmet. Also called foodist.’

If this definition is the standard, then yes, I tick the box, consider me a foodie…when in a book store, I head straight for the new releases on cookbooks, I adore tv shows mixing food and origins and culture like the Rick Stein series and The Two Greedy Italians. I love it when a recipe doesn’t only show the ingredients and how to proceed but tells a background story, like for example in Nigella’s books or Flemish Pascale Naessens, oh and need I say I adore cooking and baking, that is when my back allows me, and do not forget the eating experience!

Cookbooks
Finding inspiration in one of the 50 something cookbooks at home

Yep, I’m probably an addict: when breakfast I already think about lunch or dinner, when throwing a party, putting together all the pieces of the food puzzle gives me joy and thrill, and okay I admit stress too sometimes, and drop me on a farmers market or a food store or in a restaurant and I’m in heaven!

Even the small town I live in has the luxury to have access to farmer market produce, due to the rising awareness that we are what we eat. Food isn’t just about keeping us alive, keeping our body engine up and running, it’s so much more than that: it brings us together, that moment around the table, the great expectation, all the senses on sharp as to not to miss the aromas and colours revealed when the dish is served! That’s what gives me joy, it’s the total package: the food, the table setting, the company, the occassion: it may be just your daily lunch or dinner or a family or friends get together, make it something special, food shoul be fun! If the mood is perfect, any dish prepared with care and love tastes great!

Proper Food
Proper Food, discovered on our recent trip to SF has an excellent food philosophy: fresh, local and organic

I don’t have to convince you of the benefits of healthy food, enough studies have been published on that and there are people far more qualified than I am to tell you something on those topics. I am not a fanatic, not in my general everyday life and behavior and not in my food. I don’t buy the expensive so-called superfoods, I believe in a balanced food plan, I like my piece of dark chocolate when I drink my afternoon tea, I appreciate a glass of red wine by the fireplace. Like another Flemish cook and author Jeroen Meus, recently said, it’s all about using your common sense. Keep it in balance, there’s no harm in eating a cookie or two or a piece of cake, just not the whole cake! Invite some friends over to share and enjoy the goodies of life 😉

That being said, all this food thinking made me really hungry, so made some of Jeroen Meus’ apple muffins today, the recipe is in dutch, however think it’s pretty clear and if not, just ask me, then I’ll translate for you. The apples have been diced and caramelized in a bit of butter and maple syrup before adding to the batter. The recipe mentions brown sugar, but I used half brown, half white, only because I was running low on brown sugar and it is pouring outside so another run to the shop was no option.

Apple muffins
Dagelijkse Kost Jeroen Meus Apple Muffins

You can find the recipe here caramelized apple muffins

Always buy your products in season, locally, enjoy preparing, and remember:

good food is good mood, but it cuts both ways!

‘A recipe has no soul, you as a cook, must bring soul to the recipe’ (Thomas Keller)

 

Ingrid

xxx

 

 

oui, oui, clafoutis!

From all desserts made in this home  over the past many, many years, I think clafoutis definitely ranks number one when it comes to made most often. It definitely wins when it comes to easiest and quickest one, that is if you cheat a bit and use a jar of sour cherries. Personally, it ranks absolute top on comfort food too!

Traditionally made with cherries but you can use apples or, one of my personal favourites, the green reine claude plums…you get the idea: just use what’s in season! But let’s get back to the real thing! As the name gives away, we are talking  a French dessert, mais oui, finding its origin in the Limousin region where local griottes, sour cherries, are used. The name is said to come from the Occitan dialect word ‘claufir’, which means to cover or fill. you can find many recipes on the internet or in culinary magazines or books, some use butter, some don’t, this is how I make it…The combination of fresh juicy fruit and the sweet batter will transport you to dessert heaven, promised, so head towards your kitchen!

What you need:

  • 1 round baking dish and a little butter or oil to grease
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tbsp of flour
  • 100 gr sugar + extra 2 tbsp for baking dish
  • 185 ml cream
  • 125 ml milk
  • +/- 400 gr cherries
  •  I usually add a little Kirsch too
  •  Optional: a few drops of almond essence, two or three, just to give a hint, you don’t really need to flavour
clafoutis
clafoutis

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 180° C.

Grease a baking dish large enough to hold the cherries in one layer,  add two tbsp of sugar. Spin the dish round to coat the inside with the sugar, remove any excess if any, then set aside.

Mix the dry ingredients, then add the milk and cream and next add the eggs.

Layer the cherries in your baking dish. If you use a jar, let them go through a sieve first, but catch the liquid, you can use this for a nice gelato sauce or to accompany your clafoutis.

Pour the liquid (not to worry, it’s a very liquid batter) over the cherries and place in the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden and puffy.

Dust with icing sugar and serve lukewarm or lightly chilled depending on your own preference.

 

Bon appétit, mes amis!

Ingrid

xxx

Blueberries x Cheesecake

The other day I got inspired by a recipe in a German magazine called ‘Frau und Familie Ratgeber’. Well, I am a woman, I have a family and never say no to some good advice, especially if it involves desserts and some sweetness in life!

The article covered some desserts that didn’t need any baking: just your two hands, some time to spare and in the fridge it goes…sounds easy right?!

The cover showed a delicously looking blueberry layered cheesecake, well, had to test that one, being full berry season now!

If you’re thinking it might be just the thing for you to try, get your hands on the below ingredients and follow the instructions!

  • 5 slices of pumpernickel bread        (or use a mixture of cookies/chocolate or cookies/  speculoos like I did)
  • 60 gr butter
  • 2 tbsps honey
  • 6 gelatine leaves                                      (or 7 if you think your mixture is rather runny)
  • 1 bio lemon                                                  (orange is an option too)
  • 200 ml cream
  • 500 gr cream cheese
  • 250 gr quark cheese
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 120 gr Sugar
  • 4 cl Cointreau or another liquor based on oranges or just use oranje juice
  • 500 gr blueberries or a mixture of red fruits as to your own taste or like

 

Line a springform pan(24 diameter) with parchment paper, break the bread into pieces and mix it with the melted butter and honey. Replace the bread by cookies if you prefer a sweeter cake bottom. Press with your fingers or the back of a spoon so the mixture is spread evenly and set aside in the fridge.

Dissolve the gelatine leaves in cold water and whip the cream up until stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese, quark cheese, vanilla, sugar, lemon or orange juice and zeste until you have a smooth mixture. Heat the Cointreau in a small bowl or pan, just gently, it doesn’t need to boil and then press out any water from the gelatine and place it into the liquor mixture. Add two big spoons of your cheese mixture to the liquor, mix and then transfer to the big bowl with the cheese and sugar mix in it. At this point you can add the whipped cream, making sure you have a smooth mixture without lumps in it.  Transfer to your springform, spread evenly and set aside for at least 4 hours. You can add the fruit just before serving.

Note1: preparation time is about 35-40 minutes, quicker if you make the cake bottom the day in advance and you can start straight away with the filling and topping.

Note2: I used 400 gr Philadelphia light and 350 gr cream cheese, as that was what I had in fridge at that moment, works fine!

Note 3: fun too, instead of using a large classic springform, to use tiny cups, great if you’re hosting a party as no fuss about who’s to cut the cake and gets the yummiest fruit parts…

Enjoy, smakelijk, bon appétit, Guten Appetit!

 

Ingrid