Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"River Cottage Veg Everyday" - Caramelised carrots with gremolata

For today´s recipe in my River Cottage Veg Everyday series, I chose the "Caramelised carrots with gremolata". This lovely side dish is the thirteenth post in my series. The carrot is a member of the parsley family and is related to the parsnip, celery and fennel. All fabulous vegetables but today the carrot is the star.

Carrots are extremely versatile. They are good for you if you enjoy them raw in a salad for example and they are also good for you when cooked and blended into in a carrot soup or roasted like they are in this recipe today. They are also easy to produce, easy to store and easy to find at your local farmers´ market. And they happen to be my favorite vegetable and the kids favorite vegetable too.

This recipe is extremely easy to make as Hugh Fearnley-Whittigstall so aptly points out “the contrasts of sweet, caramelized carrots and easy gremolata is brilliant – and it looks great too”. The steps to a delicious side dish are but a few. You simply put the carrots in a large roasting dish. Pour over the olive oil, season well with freshly ground pepper and sea salt and stir to coat. Roast for about 30 minutes while covered, than again for about 20 minutes uncovered until the are tender and golden brown in places. Meanwhile, you prepare the gremolata. Roughly chop a bit of garlic (I used one clove of a tender, fresh garlic), add the Italian parsley and lemon zest (organic, of course) to the board, and chop and mix until very fine. As soon as the carrots are roasted, toss with the gremolata with the carrots, so the heat ever-so-slightly takes the edge off the garlic. Add more salt and pepper, if needed, and serve straight away.

What´s not to like about this stunning side-dish – I have used the “first roast, then immediately toss with the gremolata method”, as I have taken to call this way of preparing and serving roasted vegetables, many times since I first saw it in the book. It is a simply fabulous method to add extra taste to your already delicious, naturally sweet roasted vegetables. Believe me, there will be no sharp taste from the garlic.

If you own the English edition of this family friendly vegetable cookbook, you will find the recipe for the “Caramelised carrots with gremolata” on page 355 in the chapter on "Roast, Grill & Barbecue".

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Visit to Antwerp (Belgium) - Part I

One of my favorite places to visit these days is the remarkably beautiful City of Antwerp, Belgium.

Antwerp is a city and municipality in Belgium and the capital of the Province of Flanders

Antwerp's population is about 512,000 making it the most populous municipality in both Flanders and Belgium. 

When you visit the city, you will notice the countless restaurants and bistros - one of our personal favorites is the adorable Bistrorant called "`T Hofke". Situated in an almost secret alleyway, the 16th-century Vlaeykensgang, this romantic little Antwerp restaurant with its antique interior also has an arched cellar, a lovely summer garden and the menue consists mostly of typical delicious French-Belgian bistro cuisine. And then there is also the well-known Restaurant "Sir Anthony van Dyck". This used to be a 2 Michelin Star-rated restaurant, until fabulously famous owner and chef Marc Paesbrugghe decided to change his concept in 1992. The restaurant was reopened and is still considered one of the leading, most popular dining establishments in Antwerp. It is named after Antoon van Dyck (his Flemish name) who was born in Antwerp. Sir Anthony van Dyck was a Flemish Baroque artist who became a leading court painter in England. Peter Paul Rubens referred to him as "the best of my pupils".

A visit to Antwerp will always be worth your while.

But one of the "must see" bulidings is certainly the Vleeshuis or "Butcher´s Hall". The plaque that is mounted on the outside wall next to the entrance refers to Herman de Waghemakere as the architect. 

This is a very impressive and elegant Gothic brick-built building sited a short distance to the North-West of the Grote Markt. Its facade was made of red brick with layers of white sandstone ("bacon layers" as it is locally known). It is certainly noteworthy that a Butcher's Hall was built here as early as in 1250. The building functioned as a meat market where butchers could sell their merchandise.

Construction of the new building started in 1501 and was completed in 1504. Originally used as a home for the Butchers Guild, the Butcher's Hall lost its prime function in 1810 when the French occupying forces abolished the guilds. During the 19th century the building was used as a storage depot and a theater.

The Butcher's Hall reopened in September of 2006 as the Vleeshuis Museum, a museum about the origins of music printing and the tradition of instrument builders. Concerts and operas are also being held here on a regular basis. In 2011, part of its collection was moved to the Museum aan de Stroom, a remarkable museum dedicated to the history of Antwerp.

The magnificent 16th century Stadhuis or City Hall dominates the relatively small city square. During the Spanish Fury in 1576, the new building was set on fire, leaving only the exterior walls standing. The City Hall was rebuilt three years later, in 1579.

Throughout most of the year, the main façade of the city hall is decorated with 87 flags. The central flags on the bottom row represent Antwerp, Flanders, Belgium, Europe and the United Nations. The other flags represent countries that are member of the European Union and nations that have a consulate in Antwerp.

A memorable way to get to know the city is by horse-drawn carriage.

Of course, our girls love those calm, impressive carriage horses.

The Onze Lieve Vrouwe Kathedraal or Cathedral of our Lady is a masterpiece of lace work in stone.
Begun in 1352, it is one of the finest gothic buildings in Europe. The church, which became a cathedral in 1559 replaced a Romanesque church built in the 12th century. 

The cathedral was the tallest structure in the Low Countries for several centuries.(Note: "Low Countries" make up a coastal region in north western Europe, consisting especially of Belgium and the Netherlands). Even now, the 123 meter (405ft) tall spire reigns over the city. Partly due to height restrictions in Antwerp, it is still the tallest building in the city.

The containers that were placed in the market square in front of the Cathedral are part of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Fashion Department of the Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten van Antwerpen or Royal Academy of Fine Arts. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp is one of the oldest of its kind in Europe. It was founded in 1663, thus exactly 350 years ago.

The Fashion Department offers one of the most prestigious fashion courses in the world. Its 50th anniversary plus the 350th anniversary of the Academy is an ideal occasion for an exhibition at the Mode Museum or Fashion Museum that looks at its history and at the related success story of Antwerp fashion. The theme of the current exhibition is "Happy Birthday Dear Academie".

Pier poetry. The so-called "Kaaigedicht van Peter Holvoet Janssens" is actually 3 kilometers long.

Angels watching over the visitors at one of the many outdoor Cafés.

Of course, Belgium without those delicious fries would not be Belgium - we believe they are the most delicious fries you can find anywhere in the world.

But there is also streetfood vans to be found in Antwerp. The vendor in this truck offered fries with mayonnaise sauce, Belgian style. 

Cupcakes and coffee were sold from this wonderful pink food truck - a refurbished French firetruck.

When we visited, there was a rather long military parade which included this vintage-style milk truck...

...with all those wonderful milk bottles that were used to collect and deliver fresh milk a long time ago.

But these trucks are still fascinating.

Antwerp is also known as the city of bikes and bicycles - this one is packed with books and on display in front of a local bookstore, the "Othello Boekhandel"...

...and this pretty colorful one was parked right under a sign that states "Verboden Fietsen te plaatsen" - meaning that is "forbidden to park your bicycles here"...

...and you could also "rent-a-bicycle-for-a-day" - these bright red bicycles with a high recognizability factor, can be found parked and for rent throughout the city. At this particular bike rental there was a wonderful modern mural in the background.

There is also a bicycle stand in front of my all time favorite kitchenware store called "DILLE & KAMILLE". These stores can only be found in The Netherlands and Belgium. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you might have noticed that I did a blog post a while back on the Dille&Kamille store in Middleburg, The Netherlands. I also visited the Dille&Kamille store in Brugge, Belgium  in August of this year.

A personal favorite of mine are the mailbox slots made of stone ...

...that you can find throughout the city. So very different from and so much more pretty than the usual mailboxes.

This lovely doorbell belongs to the "Antwerp Kookhuys", another amazing cookware store not to be missed when visiting.

Another modern mural that attracted our attention.

How about those traditional streetcars.

Very charming indeed although this one was not named "desire".

Another view of the Tower of the Cathedral. It was finished in 1518. Of the two planned towers, only this northern tower was finished

As I already mentioned, Antwerp is known for its many fabulous cafés and restaurants - if you have a moment you could visit the Brasserie "´t Ogenblik" at the Grote Markt...

...or the Restaurant "Het Vermoeide Model" where you can enjoy classic Belgian fare such as mussels in a white wine sauce.

Next to the Cathedral, you will find this very interesting "Kathedraalcafé Restaurant" called "Het Elfde Geboed", meaning "The eleventh Commandment".

It is packed with old statues of saints and angels like the ones you will find in old catholic churches in the Low Countries.

Here you can enjoy many kinds of traditional Belgian beers with many wonderful and interesting names such as "St. Bernardus". On the menue you will also find a very good choice of local dishes. 

The collection of statues took my breath away.

A nostalgic look at a "Deux Chevaux" parked in front of the city hall on a Saturday morning.

Let us nor forget about "The Adventures of Tintin" -  a series of comic albums created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi (1907–1983), who wrote under the pen name of Hergé. The series is one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century. This scene was taken from "The Blue Lotus".

No real surprise that I liked this lovely lionhead doorknocker.

Statues at the corner of many buildings are colorful...

...and elegant.

When you leave the city center to go down to the Scheldt river,  you will come across a statues of the goddess Minerva. Minerva is the Roman goddess of crafts, wisdom, medicine, science and trade and also war, commonly identified with the Greek goddess Athena. 

There is also a statute of a lion that seems to be guarding the city - he seems to have a nice view of the city with our Lady’s Cathedral in the background.

While we were visiting, the Amerigo Vespucci was docked at the pier.

The Amerigo Vespucci is a tall ship of the Marina Militare, named after the explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Its home port is La Spezia, Italy, and it is in use as a school ship. Very impressive.

When you leave beautiful Antwerp after a long day of visiting, do make sure to take a last look at this marvelous city at night. And start planning your next trip - even if it is only for one day.

Part II of my series focuses on the International Exotic Market in Antwerp and can be found herePart III will focus mainly on one of the most beloved and utterly delightful cookie bakeries in Antwerp as I also continue on my "cookie crumb trail" in Belgium. My first stop back in August of 2013 revolved around those famous Speculoos cookies in Brugge. If you are interested, take a look at my blogpost here. The second stop will revolve around an Antwerp cookie specialty. So make sure to look out for Part III.