You might be thinking that it’s time to start learning to cook like a local, rather than just getting an online delivery every time. Here are a few ideas on where to find the best ingredients and how to learn from the local experts. LEARN TO COOK LIKE A LOCAL
Roll up your sleeves and learn to cook like a professional chef at one of the group classes organised by La Cuisine de Flore. Founded ten years ago, the cooking workshops are held in a bright Scandinavian-style space in Ixelles, not far from Porte de Namur. Classes are normally given in French, but the chefs can also explain their techniques and tricks in English. After the cooking class, you sit down with the group to taste the results.
If you are familiar with the Flemish beef stews (Carbonades à la flamande), you’ll not be surprised that Belgians also like to use beers as special ingredient in the dishes. However, it’s of course important to pair the right beer with the right food. At the cooking classes of Mmmmh! – yes that’s their name – they teach a popular class on the use of beer in cooking. One of the favourites is the magret de canard cooked with cherries and Belgian Kriek beer. It goes well with young carrots and sliced crispy potatoes.
Or you can learn to cook a special meal with Mediterranean chef Simona El-Harar and restauranteur Tim Grosvenor. During the class, they tell you where to shop, how to pick the best ingredients and how to put it all together into a delicious Mediterranean meal. The three-hour class at Kitchen 151 ends with everyone sitting around the table to taste what you have just cooked. You also get to take home a little book of Simona’s Secret Recipes.
And how about signing up to a class that will teach you how to create the cake of your dreams? The friendly team at La Cucina delle zie regularly organise classes that demonstrate the art of cake baking. They take you through three different cake recipes and teach you how to make some very stylish creations.
DO-IT-YOURSELF: FAMOUS BELGIAN RECIPES
From chips and meatballs to slow cooking stews, there are some traditional Belgian dishes, that you should try if you live here. Many of them build on century old recipes, designed to comfort during a cold rainy winter day. Here is a link with recipes of some typical (and delicious) Belgian dishes that you can easily do yourself at home.
EAT – AND DRINK – LIKE A BELGIAN
Everyone knows that Brussels has a lot of good restaurants, but where do you go to find authentic Belgian cooking? The foodies at Visit Brussels tourist office have come up with a short list of 18 places that have been awarded the Brusselicious label. They include old favourites like La Belle Maraîchère on Place Saint Catherine, the hidden cellar restaurant Kelderke on Grand’Place and the glittering Brasserie de la Roue d’Or. The list also highlights trendy new spots such as meatball joint Ballekes, hidden secret Madame Chapeau and quirky sandwich bar Pistolet Original.
SUPPORT YOUR ORGANIC FOOD STORE
The neighbourhood grocery store is enjoying a revival in Brussels as foodies hunt for local, organic and sustainable ingredients. The Färm cooperative with its trendy Scandinavian house style has opened several food stores in locations like Quai au Bois à Brûler, Rue de Linthout and Chaussée d’Ixelles. Several small initiatives have also arrived in town like the Epicerie Les Filles grocery store near Parc Tenbosch, run by the talented women behind downtown restaurant Les Filles.
Not far from the EU Quarter, Roots is a new crowdfunded initiative by two young women who focus on local produce and zero waste. The store stocks fruit and vegetables grown within a 30km radius of Brussels, along with organic products from 16 local farms. You can take along your own jars to fill up and leave organic waste in a container outside the shop.
MAKE CHOCOLATE LIKE A PRO
Chokolate classes at Laurent Gerbaud’s workshop
When Belgium gets round to appointing a chocolate ambassador, Laurent Gerbaud could be the perfect candidate. This friendly local chocolate maker shares his passion with a small class every Saturday morning. He explains the different flavours of chocolate, the use of moulds and the ingredients he adds to create his stunning taste sensations. You get to fill the moulds, create your own inventions and take them home in a beautiful box.
FIND THE BEST FOOD STORES
You want to show off your cooking skills, but first you need to find the best food shops in town. If the recipe calls for meat, head down to Rue Sainte Catherine where Flemish butcher Hendrik Dierendonck sells the finest cuts from suppliers across Europe, including Limousin steaks and Iberian pork. Or you might decide to join the local chefs who hunt out the best products in the tiny food market Le Marché des Chefs, hidden down a back street near Avenue Louise.
If you are looking for a good selection of quality Belgian artisanal products, check out Le Comptoir Belge on the way to the Parvis St-Gilles. Local Belgians and expats alike love this shop for its impressive variety.
Brussels has a network of shops dedicated to different expat communities. You can find tasty Italian hams, pasta and wine at Italia Autentica supermarket in Drogenbos, excellent Hungarian pork at Hungarom in Ixelles and Greek specialities at Ergon deli.
But the city’s network of specialised food shops goes beyond the EU border. The Japanese expat community find the ingredients and cooking equipment they need at Tagawa, off Avenue Louise, while the friendly Vietnamese store Tinie’s has a wide range of Asian food.
The Boitsfort Tram
You are living in a country that is world famous for its fries, but where do you take your visitors to taste the best Belgian fries in Brussels. The eager eaters at Visit Brussels tourist office have put together a list of 12 places dotted around the city that meet their high standards. The list includes old favourite Maison Antoine, where Angela Merkel famously bought fries for her staff, along with the popular Frit-Flagey. But you are also encouraged to try the fries at Friterie de la Barrière in Saint Gilles and the charming Le Tram de Boitsfort, located in an old yellow tram outside Boitsfort town hall.
By Derek Blyth