Thursday, 28 May 2009

Durian : the inside story

After getting so many tips from my readers ( thanks everyone !)
I donned a pair of leather gloves and split the durian along the seams.

The insides reveal soft fruity nobs.

They taste very good, with a flavor that does not compare to anything else, nutty with hints of pineapple and banana and a soft texture like a very ripe banana .
The seeds inside are not very large , so you get quite a lot of fruit.
The hard part is stopping yourself from eating it all straightaway !

Kept inside a plastic container in the fridge , they'll keep for at least 4 days.
I haven't cooked the seeds yet, but I have drunk water from the hard shell in the traditional way : it picks up a little flavour from the inside : not bad.

I can understand why Malaysians go gaga about this fruit, it's very tasty.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

That's a what ? Can I eat it now ?

I bought this fruit I'd never seen before at an Thai food store despite it's high price ( 15 Euros for a kilo). The internet tells me it's a durian. I can eat the pulp and the seeds should be cooked or fried.
Hm! But when is it ripe enough to eat ? Plenty of recipes and what to do with the pulp, but WHEN IS IT RIPE ?

It is smelly, but not very. If I inhale the smell very deeply, it feels as though I'm becoming a bit short of breath.
I can see a crack on one side that opens when I force it open a bit and shows a clearer interior .
When I shake it, the inside clearly rattle as one solid block.
Do I keep it in the fridge or out in the open or do I eat it all at once?
Questions,questions. Anyone out there that can give me a few pointers ?

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Japanese Natto - Belgian Cheese

Of all the typically Japanese foods I have tried , I had not been able to try natto ( fermented soy beans) yet. No shop in Belgium has them and it wasn't until I travelled to London that I was finally able to buy some.

They have a lot of interesting articles at Japan Centre on Piccadilly , but no natto! Aaargh!

Fortunately a Japanese lady, living in London was so kind to tell me about a shop a few streets further on where they did have the REAL DEAL ! AT LAST !

Thanks to the cold weather I got home safe with my frozen treasures.

The smell ( which you read so much about on the Internet ) is not bad. I can identify the mustard, but the other two ? Too much kanji.

Sure , it looks a bit odd, with the sticky threads trying to hold the beans together, but so what ?
I eat half of the natto, just plain without any sauce, to make sure I know what they taste like.
They're rather soft, a bit crumbly ? but not bad. (click on the pictures for a better view !)

Together with the mustard and the green ( whatever it is ;) it tastes a bit more interesting.

The threads stick a bit to your lips and teeth , but nothing out of the ordinary.

I have no idea what the sauces are , because I can't read the kanji (yet) : any suggestions ?
Click on the picture to get a larger version

Frankly , I'm not disappointed, but I thought the smell and taste were going to be much stronger.
The smell and taste are about the same as this Belgian blue mould cheese 'Grimbergen'

but definitively less than for instance this French Roquefort.

I think a dislike of natto depends on what you are used to. We're always scared of what we're not used to. ( except for me , because I'm always : "What this food ? I don't know that ! I MUST TRY this ! )
Look at this cheese : it's a typical semi-soft cow's milk cheese from France ( we have them in Belgium too ) with a red crust. The red crust is a mould, which is a fungus.
( click on picture for a better view)

Mold is something you don't want on your bread or on your fruit , but in the case of such a cheese , YOU EAT IT !
Look carefully at the picture, there's also some white and grey mould there.

In Belgium ( and France ) we have many soft cheeses with white mould or red mould on the outside. If you're not used to it , I can imagine you'll go "Yuck!".
Same thing with Natto.

As for strong smell and strong taste: let me introduce you to one of our ancient and very local specialities ( only in Belgium ) , the world champion of smelly cheeses :
our traditional Brussels Cheese ! It's world famous ( especially in Belgium).

Almost all semi soft and hard cheeses are made from curdled milk, by pressing the curd into shapes and rubbing the outside with salt.

This cheese is made from skimmed milk. The curd is mixed with salt and hand kneaded, then the cheeses are dried on straw in freely circulating air ( the farmers used to do it in the loft under the roof) until it becomes dry and hard.
The crust will develop a shiny glaze because of the thin layer of bacteria growing on it.
Then it'll be ripened by humidifying it and rubbing with salted water for several months.
Before sale it'll be bathed for a few days in salted water and again in tepid ( in between warm and cold) water.

The result is a unique cheese that has 0 percent fat. ( Yes , ZERO ). Ideal for dieters.

It's also fairly salty and has a strong taste , so you can only drink strong black coffee with it , hehe , no other drink can stand up to its taste, wine would taste like tap water , beer like watered milk.
As for the smell, it's right up there with sweaty horses ( on a summer day after a long run ), old boxing gloves ( right after a long training ) , I LOVE IT. Have some for breakfast, you're instantly awake, haha.

Unfortunately, the last big producer of this original delicacy near Brussels has stopped and sold his factory ( the land on which it was built has become very expensive ! We can thank Europe for that ) and only a few small true cheese makers remain.

For you , my cherished readers, I have spared no effort , money or time to locate and buy one of these real traditional Brussels Cheeses!

Doesn't it look lovely ? (click on the pictures for a larger view ). If only I could post the wonderful strong smell !

If ever you visit Belgium , pay me a visit. We'll eat some together on a slice of my delicious home-baked bread and drink strong coffee with it.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Balletjes in biersaus ( Meatballs in beer sauce)

Spring is coming and summer isn't too far away, time for another traditional recipe.
This one comes from the center of Belgium, where the cooks use beer in the kitchen even more cheerfully than the French cooks use wine !

You need ( for 4 persons )

2 bottles or 0.75 liters of REAL BELGIAN gueuze ( there IS NO substitute )
( click on this picture to see it in large scale glory : you can almost smell it ;)

( try a dry lager if you can't find the real thing , the result will be good but different )

1 kilogram of lean mixed minced meat ( half pork and half beef )
2 egg yolks
1 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg
a slice of bread 1 cm thick
1/2 cup of milk
butter ( or olive oil )
1 tablespoon of beurre manié (butter and white flour)

I'm making this dish with about 600 grams of lean mixed minced meat
so I use only one yolk and a thinner slice of bread.
Trim the crusts of your slice of bread ( I prefer brown : it adds character! ^_^)

Let the bread soak in some milk .

Add your egg yolks to your minced meat.
Grate about a fifth of a nutmeg (I guess about 1,5 teaspoon ;)
on your meat and add some pepper. ( 4-5 turns of your peppermill )

Now squeeze most of the milk from your bread which should be nice and soggy by now, add it to the meat and knead it all firmly to a nice mix with your hands.

Use a spoon to scoop some mix into your hand and form into balls of a size you prefer.
Rub your hands with a little water, but not too much or you'll find the minced meat
slides around instead of rolling into balls! I use the spoon to scrape the meat of my palms every now and then. A spoon also lets you measure the same amount easier than when you try to scoop some up with your fingers.

I made mine about 4 cm thick and look at that, I got exactly 20 of them !

Melt some butter in a frying pan ( I used a non stick wok ) and on a fairly high heat ( 7 out of 12 electric) brown the balls on all sides in 2-3 minutes ( they shouldn't be cooked through yet ! )

When done , transfer them to a large pot , so they're all on the bottom.

Pour your bottle(s) of gueuze over them to make them happy , put the lid on and let them simmer on a low heat for half an hour.

The original recipe does it all in the same pot and then calls for
degreasing the sauce, which I find a bother.
My way leaves most of the fat behind in the frying pan so you don't have to do this.

Make a tablespoon of beurre manié by mixing a tablespoon of oil or butter with flour. Keep adding flour till the mixture becomes a smooth paste that is nearly starting to crumble. Try using a neutral oil ( first pressed virgin olive oil can be taste a bit too strong )

Scoop the balls out of the sauce and put in a warm dish.

Whisk the beurre manié lightly into the sauce to bind it ( it never gets really thick , but that's not what you aim for anyway so don't worry ). Beurre manié is the same mixture as roux , but roux is cooked by heating it and adding the liquid beforehand. Such as in white sauce. Beurre Manie is added after the cooking and binds for a shorter time , which is fine because you'll eat it right away.

Pour the sauce over the balls in a dish. Ready to enjoy!
(click on picture for a mouthwatering larger view O_O )

Because of the gueuze the sauce has a nice slightly tart taste (tart is slightly acid but nicer ;) which goes very well with the tenderly cooked meat (ah if only I could post the SMELL !)
You can cover this in foil and heat up later in a microwave but it is hard to resist eating it right away! Serve with ample slices of bread ( you will need them to mop up the sauce ! ).