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Belgian Cuisine and Recipes

Information about Belgian Cooking plus lots of Belgian Recipes

Cooking by Country - June 2003



Go to:-  Belgium Featured Ingredient   |  Belgium Speciality Dish   |  Cooking by Country Main Page



Nestled amidst France, Luxembourg, Germany and Holland with a very small coastline on the North Sea, Belgium is situated in the temperate region of Western Europe. One of the most underrated world cuisines, it's a country where northern Germanic culture melds with Southern French culture, both of which are evident in its cuisine.





Ancient Times and Influences on Belgian Cooking


The region which now constitutes Belgium has been invaded and ruled by many people over the centuries including Celts, Romans in 56 BC who ruled for four centuries, Franks in 455 AD at which time the demarcation between the Flemish and Walloons was established, Vikings in 830 AD,  Spanish, Austrians and French in turn  and the cuisine of Belgium is a true reflection of its history.


Cooking techniques and ingredients were assimilated from all these cultures  as was the habit of farming and keeping domesticated animals: prehistoric "Belgians" were mainly hunter gatherers.


By the middle ages a distinct Belgian cuisine had taken shape and by  this time Belgium became the centre of the North European spice trade. Spices such as ginger, saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg, and peppercorns,  were  used to season many dishes and even beer - a practice which still exists in Belgium today. 


Talking of which, a special mention must be made about Belgian Beer which is not only the country's national drink, but also widely used in cooking, a fact to which many of the recipes featured on this page will testify. One reason for this perhaps,  is the aforementioned additions of spices and sometimes fruit to the beers brewed at this time, creating differences in flavour and making them perfect as an ingredient in recipes.


Vegetables played a large role in  Belgian cooking, with potatoes being a staple and featured heavily in meals. Brussels Sprouts were sold in the markets in Brussels as far back as the 1200's but it's the Belgian Endive  which has a more interesting history. It was accidentally discovered by a Belgian farmer, Jan Lammers, in 1830. Upon returning  from war he found his stored chicory which he'd previously grown and used for coffee,  had sprouted white leaves,  the taste of which he found very distinctive. You can read more about Endive in the Featured Ingredient section.


Then there's chocolate. Always held in the highest esteem in Belgium, it's not surprising that  in 1912,   they created The Praline - a chocolate shell with a delicious filling. 


Current Day Belgian Cuisine


Would it surprise you to know that Belgium has highest number of restaurants earning  Michelin stars per capita and that McDonalds (the fast food burger joints which have sprung up all over the globe) consistently lose money in Belgium? A testament to the Belgian's love affair with good food freshly prepared from the finest of ingredients.


Current day Belgian cuisine still has its roots firmly planted in homely Medieval cookery. Spices, mustard, vinegars and beer are still widely used in savoury and sweet recipes and whilst there is a definite French touch to many recipes, the dishes are generally more substantial comfort foods. Fresh herbs are also still extensively used,  in particularly chervil, tarragon, thyme, parsley, and chives.

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All types of Game and game birds, meat and charcuterie are popular and despite the lack of any sizeable coastline,  fish and seafood play a significant role in everyday cooking. Mussels are particularly well liked and are cooked and eaten in every possible form and much of the mussels used are imported from Holland which being just "next door", ensures the freshest quality.


As mentioned above, fresh vegetables are prized and above all,  the potato, for which the Belgians are enthusiastic to say the least. Indeed, street food in Belgium means frites sold from stands or handcarts, served in  paper cones with the obligatory mayonnaise, bearnaise or even curry sauce for dipping. Many consider Frites to be Belgium's national food.


Breakfast consists of bread, butter, jam, cheeses, charcuterie and sometimes eggs and is served with coffee or tea. Lunch is considered the main meal of the day with dinner often being somewhat lighter.



Belgian Recipes - Click here for lots of Belgian Recipes


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