First published in 1996 (and selling over 50,000 copies) but out of print for many years, now back by popular demand is Ruth Van Waerebeek’s wonderful compilation of Belgian recipes. For this brand new edition, Ruth teamed up with Miss Foodwise (Regula Ysewijn), who delivered some absolutely stunning photos for this book. Since I am from Belgium and do enjoy my fair share of Belgian food, it’s my absolute pleasure to put this special book in the spotlight as this month’s ‘Book tip of the month’. I hope this book will show those who aren’t from Belgium that although it might be a small country, we do have a big variety of dishes we love to eat other than waffles.
Ruth Van Waerebeek & Regula Ysewijn
Ruth Van Waerebeek is an adventurous traveller, international chef and cookbook author from Belgium. She was born and raised in the medieval town of Ghent where she learned to cook at the side of her mother, grandmother and her great-grandmother. She was a chef in two leading restaurants in Ghent before she set off travelling round the world. In the 90s she worked in full time teaching at a school of culinary arts in NYC. Since 2000 she has been the brand ambassador and the house chef of Chile’s most important Winery Concha y Toro. She travels regularly to the company’s major events in Europe, Russia, USA, Latin-America and Asia. She now runs the Mapuyampay Hostal Gastronomico & Cooking School in the heart of Chile’s wine country. Her cooking classes have been profiled in Gourmet Magazine as one of the 50 best cooking vacations in the world.
Regula Ysewijn was the photographer on this book. A former graphic designer, she was born and raised in Antwerp, Belgium where she went to art school and taught herself to cook. In her photography she is inspired by Dutch and Flemish Renaissance paintings, one of which she grew up with hanging in her parents’ dining room. She travels Europe and Britain in particular for her photography assignments and she is also busy working on her first book. When she is not photographing, she is giving workshops and lectures on topics of food photography, cooking and graphic design.
Belgium is a country that boasts more three-star restaurants per capita than any other nation including France. It’s a country where home cooks and everyone, it seems, is a great home cook spend copious amounts of time thinking about, shopping for, preparing, discussing, and celebrating food.
Apart from food, Belgium is also very well known for its beers so it should come as no surprise to you that we do often use beers in our dishes, like carbonnade Beef & Beer stew or rabbit in Geuze beer. Unfortunately, I’m a bit of a sucky Belgian cause I simply don’t like drinking beer, but when it comes to our Belgian chocolate, endive and fries (sorry, they simply are the best in the world!) I am a die hard fan! What’s also very typical for Belgian food is that our food is sometimes inspired by our neighbors, like vol-au-vent which has its origins in France. In Flanders the pastry is filled with a chicken, meatball and mushroom sauce and is actually one of my favorite Flemish dishes.
With its hearty influences from Germany and Holland, herbs straight out of a Medieval garden, and condiments and spices from the height of Flemish culture, Belgian cuisine is elegant comfort food at its best slow-cooked, honest and comforting. It’s the Sunday meal and a continental dinner party, family picnics and that antidote to a winter’s day.
The book contains 250 delicious recipes, depicting some of the best recipes from the Belgian cuisine, like: Veal Stew with Dumplings, Mushrooms, and Carrots, Smoked Trout Mousse with Watercress Sauce, Braised Partridge with Cabbage and Abbey Beer, Gratin of Belgian Endives, Flemish Carrot Soup, Steak-Frites, Steamed Mussels. Of course there also desserts (waffles included), some using the best chocolate on earth: Belgian Chocolate Ganache Tart, Almond Cake with Fresh Fruit Topping and Little Chocolate Nut Cakes.
As the Belgians say, since everybody has to eat three times a day, why not make a feast of every meal?