Stereotypes are often true when it comes to food in Europe: the French are crazy about cheese, the Italians wouldn’t be Italians without pizzas or pastas, the Spanish eat tapas or are too proud of their typical paella valenciana. As for the Greeks, they have a liking for grilled meat or fish and are absolutely unbeatable when it comes to their tzaziki. But, what about the Belgians?
Belgians, you know those people coming from that little piece of land between France, Germany and the Netherlands who seem to be fighting since the dawn of age about their language difference? What are these people about? Well, since I’m one of them I can tell you about the stereotypes that seem to follow us everywhere. We would usually be linked with that delicious treat called chocolate or maybe for those who drink, we’re the country with the most exquisite beers in the world. It is true, indeed. But concretely, what is a typical Belgian Dish? First and foremost, we beg you to stop saying “French Fries”. Fries are not French, they are Belgian as a matter of fact! We have invented those delicious crispy potatoes and no one in the world can reproduce the best fries that are eaten all over our small country. They were called ‘French Fries’ because of the way they are cut. Nonetheless, we’re pretty irritated every time we hear the term “French Fries”. Would you like it if the Chinese would claim that they created the tandoori recipe? Of course not. Therefore, now that you know, you have no excuse anymore. From now on, you should say Belgian fries.
But what do we eat with Fries? Well, to be honest, we’re kind of simple uncomplicated people when it comes to fries. We basically eat it with everything: steak, chicken or any other snack; quite similar to the Indian chaat that is found almost everywhere. But, we’re talking about food stereotypes over here. So what can we offer you today? Well today will be Belgian Fries and Mussels. Simple food, simple dish but absolutely gorgeous for us. Like I said, we’re simple people but we like good things. If you come to our seaside anytime soon, do try those Belgian Mussels cooked with a dry white wine and served with those fries. My grandfather would always finish off the dish with a piece of bread and butter in order to dip it in the remaining sauce. A killer dish, let me tell you that.
Ingredients:(For 4 persons)
• 3 to 4 Kg of mussels
• 250 grams of shallots or 2 white onions
• 2 branch of celery
• Black Pepper
• 300 ml of dry white wine
• 2 bay leaves
• 75 grams of unsalted butter
• 2 cloves of garlic
1. Cleanse the shells of your mussels, make sure that they remain close. Throw away any mussel which is already open or if it does not resist the small applied pressure of your fingers. Logically, they should remain closed.
2. Chop your shallots or onions very finely. Same with the garlic. Remove the leaves of your celery, and dice the stems or branches. Keep some of the celery leaves for decoration.
3. On a medium fire and a large cooking pot, melt your butter. When done, add your shallots (or onions) and sauté for three minutes. Add your garlic, add the pieces of celery and cook for another four minutes. When the onions are cooked, add 2tbsp of water, cover the pot and increase the intensity of the fire for a minute or two.
4. Add your mussels and mix well. The mussels will almost immediately release their salty juice which will result in wonderful flavours. After a minute or two, add your wine and the bay leaves and mix with the onion garlic celery mixture. Cover it as fast as possible and cook for a good four to five minutes just the time for the mussels to open and get that yellowish orange colour. Make sure all mussels have opened and add a good pinch of pepper. Remove from the fire.
5. Taste your sauce and add salt if necessary. It should be naturally salted with the juice of the mussels so you may not need to add any salt at all.
6. Mix well and serve with “Belgian Fries” and with a slice of white bread and butter for the juice, absolutely marvellous. When serving the mussels, make sure you add some of that wonderful juicy sauce to the mussels.
For the fries:
1. Cook the freshly cut potatoes in oil at 160 degrees Celsius for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove them from the oil and put them in absorbing kitchen paper to make sure the excess oil is gone and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
2. Heat your oil to more or less 180 degrees put your fries in and cook for another minute or two. Just the time needed for the fries to get a golden colour. Remove from the oil, use kitchen paper to remove the excess oil. Salt to taste and serve alongside your dish. This is how we do it in Belgium and we’re known for it.