It’s been a couple of months hiatus on this project. Henry spent most of that in Peru, with his family in Trujillo and working in Lima – he was invited along with one of the lead dancers in his dance company to come up and give a series of seminars. Making a large pot of soup and a loaf of bread just wasn’t on my radar. But, let’s dive back in, as we head next to Belgium!
Let’s go first to the bread, a simple light rye bread, and quite common. I also just happen to love a good rye bread, you know?
It’s not as hard as most people seem to think, at least to make a good light rye. Sure, there are all sorts of fancier and more complicated versions, but this is quick and easy. Here I have 150 grams of light rye flour, 3 grams of salt, and a packet of instant yeast. You’ll also need somewhere around 125-150 ml of warm water, depending on how it absorbs into the particular flour you use. Proof the yeast in about a 1/4 cup of the water, then add the flour and salt. Mix, and add water as needed until you have a soft, easily kneadable dough that isn’t so wet that it’s sticky. Think play-doh for texture. Knead for five minutes.
Put it in a covered bowl in a warm spot and let rise until doubled in volume. Then shape as you like – I went with a sort of baguette form. Let rise, covered, again until doubled. Then bake in a hot oven until browned and you get that nice hollow sound when you lightly thump it on the bottom.
Let cool. Slice and eat!
Let’s move on to the soup…. Probably the most iconic Belgian soup is Waterzooi, albeit traditionally from just one region of Belgium. Still, it’s probably more recognizable than any other soup in the Belgian repertoire. Originally a soup made from the freshwater fish and shellfish found in the river around the town of Ghent, it’s origin, these days it’s more typically made with chicken. There are, as with so many iconic soups, a zillion recipes to pick from.
I went back to the fish and shellfish version. This is a fairly straightforward and easy to make soup. Here we have shrimp, mussels, fish (any good meaty whitefish is fine, in this case I used cod, as I couldn’t find a decent fillet of a freshwater whitefish), leek, celery, carrot, small potatoes, and vermouth. Not pictured – salt, white pepper, egg yolks, cream, butter or oil.
Chop or slice the vegetables and saute them in a little butter or oil with salt and white pepper, until they start to soften. Add a good splash of dry vermouth and let it absorb into the vegetables. Then top up with either water or fish/shellfish stock deep enough to hold all the fish and potatoes. Add the potatoes, quartered, at this time as well. Simmer away until the potatoes are soft. Then add in the fish (diced) and shellfish and cook for just a few minutes to cook them through.
Put some egg yolks in a mixer or mixing bowl and…
…whisk until light and thick. Basically, we’re making a savory sabayon here. This isn’t really the traditional way to do it, but it works for me!
With the mixer still going on high speed, ladle in a couple of ladles full of the cooking liquid. Then pour into the soup pot, add a dollop of cream (optional), and mix it all through. Don’t continue to simmer at this point or the yolks will curdle. Serve hot along with a couple of slices of our crusty rye bread!
Next time we head to Central America for the first time in this series, and Belize!