A three course homecooked Belgian Dinner Party was the last thing we expected when walking through the door of our new host Matthieu at his swanky studio apartment in the heart of Brussels. Turns out it was just the cure we needed after the longest overnight bus ride of our lives.
That 20 hour bus ride from Edinburgh to Brussels seemed like a good (read: cheap) idea at the time of booking, but boy were we glad to see the tail lights of that bus by the time we jumped off. Two large coffees, snacks and plenty of movies on the laptop had helped to keep us sane until we met our next host Matthieu, who had planned the perfect cure… A magnificent Belgian Dinner Party, full of home cooked deliciousness and paired with flowing wine.
Did we miss our stop and end up in foodie heaven?
Turning the key on the huge wooden door we stepped through into the old courtyard of Matthieu’s apartment building, a renovated ex-factory/warehouse building on the outskirts of town. Then up the concrete stairs and through the door, into his massive studio apartment. We couldn’t get over the funky exposed brick, old authentic wooden slat floor and huuuuuge windows looking out over the roofs of the buildings next door.
Seriously, can we live here? Please?
Wine glasses quickly replaced the heavy packs in our hands as we all set to work in the kitchen to bring this Belgian Dinner Party to life.
To keep the tummy grumblings at bay until main course was ready, Matthieu casually whipped up a batch of Radish Leaf Pesto and a homemade mushroom dip with grissini breadsticks which we happily nibbled on, sipping our wine and feeling very spoilt all the while. Turns out you can make pesto with almost anything you have at hand, as long as you follow The Pesto Rule. And here we were thinking only basil could be used in pesto. We have so much to learn!
A strange dance of pots and pans commenced while knives and chopping boards twirled their way around the kitchen. Apples, onions, potatoes, mince meat, milk, garlic… we tried to guess which dish would materialise from the ingredients we could see being prepared.
What in the world was going on?
Slowly we began to understand the plan.
Although entree still had us guessing til it reached our plates fully formed.
Rocking up at our table was a cheery little brioche toast with lightly fried black sausage (yep!) topped with caramelised apple pieces. This is a dish we would never have come up with on our own, but just one bite was enough to assure us that Matthieu had it all figured out.
Now if you’ve never tried black sausage (also known by the delightful name of blood pudding) you might be a little hesitant to try this one. Don’t let the unknown stop you, be adventurous and try everything you can. You might just find your next favourite food.
With entree out of the way it was time to focus on the main course. Big potatoes became soft little cubes became mashy pillows of goodness, mixed through with cottage cheese, chives, radish slivers and a selection of seasonings. So far so good, we thought. But what we saw next made our eyes pop and our jaws drop. Matthieu upended a bottle of Belgian Beer and poured that in the mix too. What the?
This innocuous bowl of mashed potatoes was upgraded before our eyes to fully fledged Radish Stoemp and now we’ll never look back.
And then it was time for the pièce de résistance of the evening.
It was the juiciest, most tender-yet-crispy Belgian Meatloaf we’d ever eaten in our lives.
Sliced at the table, the meatloaf reached our plates alongside a generous helping of stoemp, with a dainty dollop of mustard on the side and Matthieu’s signature edible flower on top. Bon Appétit!
Seriously, how in the world could something taste so good?
One final surprise awaited us though.
Because what is a meal without dessert? Nothing, that’s what. This one turned out to be surprisingly easy, the only difficult part was waiting for it to set.
Blanc Manger is an oldie by a goodie, said to have originated in the Middle Ages. A simple mixture of milk and cornflour, it was often flavoured with almond, or, for reasons we simply can’t understand… chicken!
Thankfully however, Matthieu used his own pre-prepared dried melilot petals to infuse the dessert with a subtle vanilla flavour.
All that remained after waiting for the Blanc Manger to set was to top it with fresh homemade blackberry coulis.
What an incredible meal, full of authentic flavour and natural ingredients. From the very first bite, that long crazy bus began to fade from our memories, becoming a distant memory.
To Matthieu and his wonderful friends, thank you for the food, the wine, the conversation and the laughs til well into the evening. You sure know how to throw a dinner party!