Mushroom orgy at Café des Spores, Brussels

Tomato, watermelon and mushroom salad

Last week my best friend and I discovered a little gem in Saint Gilles called Cafe des Spores. It’s a restaurant specialising completely in mushrooms. We thought it sounded quirky, as well as brilliant – we are both mushroom lovers. But we didn’t expect it to be exquisite gourmet food.

Truffle soup

The meal began with three little dishes: truffle soup, fried mushroom dumplings and stuffed champignons. The truffle soup was delicious, and as expected with truffle, the smell was divine. The dumplings were nice, but probably my least favourite part of the meal – indeed tasty, but rather simple.

Ginger and mince stuffed champignons

However, the stuffed champignons were spectacular, on many levels. First of all, they arrived sprinkled in some sort of dried fish flakes, which fluttered like butterflies in the heat for several minutes. Marianne and I were so freaked out about it that we had to ask the waitress if part of the food was alive. She just giggled at us. Having overcome our fear, we dug in and were shocked by the taste explosion. Tangy ginger, umami-fishy flakes, rich meaty stuffing and mellow mushroom mixing wildly. Perhaps that sounds weird, and it was, but it was also absolutely delicious.

Mushroom gnocchi

For starters we had a salad of watermelon, tomato and mushroom (pictured at the top of the post). It was very refreshing as the sweet and sour flavours came together with the dense mushrooms rather unexpectedly. But it was very tasteful, and we scooped everything off the plate rather quickly. We also has mushroom gnocchi, which was mellow and autumnal, tasting of porcini (although, as can be seen from the picture, it was some other sort of mushroom – I’d never tried it before). It wasn’t as sensational as the salad, and the gnocchi were a bit too soft, but it was still nice.

Duck with girolles

For mains there were two choices: duck with girolles and a salmon dish. As salmon is more staple than chicken in Sweden, we both opted for the duck, especially as it was accompanied by our favourite mushroom. The duck was perfectly pink inside, and the girolles packed with flavour. While it looks like a rather small main, it was just the perfect size at this point.

Truffle pecorino

Since none of us are dessert people, we opted for the cheese with cherries instead of mushroom-infused sweet stuff (which would perhaps be the most intriguing part of the menu). The truffle pecorino was very strong, and tangy to the point where it almost hurt our mouths. It was again something of a taste sensation, and a perfect finish to the meal.

Le café des spores

These unexpected taste trips coupled with high-quality house wine, friendly service and nice atmosphere meant it was a lovely food experience, perhaps the best I’ve had in Brussels so far. The bill, which came at 71 euros, felt perfectly reasonable given the high quality of the food. I will definitely be going here again. Nine meatballs out of ten.

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Spicy Beef Noodle Salad

This is a really easy and healthy salad which will make you forget you are actually eating something healthy. The important thing here is the sauce. I mean you could do without the beef (but who would want to?!?) and change up the vegetables but the sauce really just brings everything together. For this amazing sauce you will need:

  • Ginger (minced)
  • Lemongrass (minced)
  • Soy Sauce (half cup)
  • Fish Sauce (one big tablespoon)
  • Sriracha Chilli Sauce or chillies (as much as you like)
  • The juice of one lime (and more if needed)
  • Garlic (minced)
Mix all the ingredients together and keep tasting until it feels right – it should be salty and tangy. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour to infuse all the flavours…The best is to do a big batch and use it throughout the week in different salads, it will keep well for at least five days.
For this salad you will need:
  • Beef, seared and then sliced finely
  • Red Peppers, chopped.
  • Spring Onions, chopped.
  • Noodles, cooked according to instructions, chilled (I used thai bean vermicelli, but this would be nice with some thicker thai noodles).
  • Coriander, chopped finely.

To prepare it..well it’s a salad! So just mix everything up, add as much sauce and you want go eat this amazing tangy,spicy, fake salad.


Pork Loin Tacos with Black Beans and Leftovers Healthy Salad

I will start by saying that this recipe is AMAZING and that you need to go and do it now and that the photo really does not do it justice… Also I understand that for students pork loin comes a bit on the pricey side, but you can easily substitute it for pork shoulder or pork belly and just cook it slower. Anyway what’s important here is the marinade! Spicy, sweet, smoky and tangy all at the same time. For a medium size pork loin, you will need:

  • 3 chipotle chillies in adobo, with two teaspoons of adobo ‘sauce’ that comes with them. You can buy these at Whole Foods, Borough Market, Cool Chile and other shops/supermarkets that sell Mexican products. These chillies are incredible: not too spicy and very smoky. Once you try them you’ll want to put them in everything you cook… which I do!
  • 3 tablespoons of your favourite bbq sauce.
  • 1 tablespoon of ketchup.
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed.
  • enough salt to season your piece of meat (not much needed if you are using pork belly or shoulder)
  • half a lemon’s juice.

Put all of this in a ziplock bag, get your pork loin in there and chill in the fridge for a few hours. Now on to the black beans! You will need (for a generous serving):

  • 2 cups of uncooked black beans which you will soak overnight (or buy some canned black beans, but it’s definitely not as good. If you are using canned beans skip to step 2.).
  • 2 bacon rashers or pancetta, sliced finely (you can also use spanish spicy chorizo, tastes great!).
  • half an onion, finely chopped.
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced.
  • one chipotle chili (see here they are again!) finely chopped.
  • salt and pepper for seasoning.
  1. Start by cooking the soaked black beans in their soaking water (adding more if needed) on a medium heat until they are fully cooked. Take them from the stove and reserve (you can do this hours in advance and then start from step one just before you want to eat your beans).
  2. Now heat some oil in a heavy pan and fry the bacon for a few minutes until it starts to render fat. Add the onions and garlic and fry for a bit until they become soft. 
  3. Add the chilli and the beans and cook on a very slow heat, adding water if needed. The beans should be getting soft and soupy. 
  4. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. There you go, ready for your tacos!
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Now it’s time to go back to that amazing marinade:

  1. While the beans are simmering away take the pork loin from the bag and brown it on both sides, until it’s quite dark. Move it to an oven-proof dish, along with the marinade, cover it with foil and cook it for 30-35 minutes in the oven at 180 degrees. 
  2. After the pork has been cooked, leave it to rest on a cutting board and take out the marinade into a blender. Add some more lemon juice, some coriander and blend it into a sauce. 
  3. Slice the pork into thin slices and serve with the beans, coriander and your preferred salsa on corn tortillas (the best are from Cool Chile – no they don’t endorse me in any way… but if they want to, I’m more than happy with that!)
  4. Now eat those amazing tacos and curse the time when you didn’t know about chipotle chillies or this marinade!
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Now if you weren’t greedy enough last night and there are still some slices of pork loin around and some of that spicy sauce, it is a good idea to turn them into a salad. For that you will need: 
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  • A mix of cooked grains and pulses (I used quinoa, bulghur, red rice and Puy lentils).
  • Two handfuls of salad leaves per person.
  • A mix of crunchy vegetables (all I had were spring onions and celery…).
  • Some chopped herbs (here I used coriander).

Mix all the ingredients together, incorporate the spicy sauce so that it’s coating everything and add the cooked pork loin on top.


Hot smoked salmon salad with apple and dill

Here comes another post about Swedish food, as I’ve been stuffing myself with it for the last month. Seafood is central in Nordic cuisine, and one of my favourite everyday fishes, described as “salmon candy” by the people at The Local, is hot smoked salmon (varmrökt lax). It is supposedly the inferior, cheaper version to what is known as smoked salmon (or gravadlax if you’re eating somewhere pretentious where they a) can’t spell to gravlax and b) are trying to overcharge you for something that tastes and looks just like smoked salmon). But despite its pitiful wikipedia entry, hot smoked salmon is in fact WAY better than cold smoked salmon. It is less greasy, less oddly textured, less likely to leave an unpleasant smell on your fingers. And it is more fully flavoured, richer, warmer in its toners and just generally more moreish. Incidentally, it also goes incredibly well with tangy apples and buttery King Edward potatoes in a creamy dill and dijon dressing. So here is the best salad I’ve tried for at least a year.
You need:
  • 500 g hot smoked salmon
  • 5 king Edward potatoes (or some other soft kind, this is important as it draws up the dressing)
  • 3 large green apples
  • 1 lemon squeeze (for the water you put your apples in if they’re waiting around to be mixed in the salad)
For the dressing
  • 5 tbsp rapeseed oil (as mentioned in previous posts, olive oil is not at home with Swedish flavours)
  • 2 tbsp white vine vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 large bunch fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 pack of chives, finely chopped

Start by peeling and cutting your potatoes into the salad size you prefer, then boil under a careful eye as they really shouldn’t be overcooked – King Edward is a sensitive sort for this. In the meantime peel, core and and thinly slice your apple slices, and put them in a bowl of water with little lemon juice in it to keep them from browning. Make your dressing by mixing everything but the finely cut herbs in a jar, and give it a good shake. Then add the herbs, and put to one side. If the potatoes are done at this point, you may want to mix them with your drained apples and softly mix in the dressing (be careful not to crush the potatoes whilst doing this). If you want the salad to look pretty, cut out a beautiful part of the salmon and place on top of your potatoes and apples, with some dill decorating it. However, it tastes better if you – again, carefully – mix it all together as the round smokiness of the salmon then infuses with the apple.

Serve with some rye bread and blonde beer. Enjoy.

Just look at that beauty.


Beetroot & liquorice salad

Nutty and sweet but very messy-looking salad.

Swedish weather at the moment (if you click twice on this picture you can even see the snowflakes in the air).

Being back in Sweden for a month with blizzards and temperatures reaching -5, making healthy salads to become beach fit has felt very far away. Instead I’ve been stuffing myself with hearty stews and kebabs (Malmö kebabs are legendary).

However, I found an interesting ingredient in my dad’s fridge: Sweet liquorice sirup. I have no idea what it is but think it’s meant to go on ice cream. However, I found out it also works as a great ingredient in salad dressings. With some inspiration from this dish, I decided to make a beetroot and liquorice salad, warm, weird and filling in the windy Swedish spring, but also very healthy.

Mixing beetroot with liquorice gives a very interesting flavour and it might not be to everyone’s liking, however it is definitely worth a try. I’ll be making this again.

You need:

  • 5 beetroots
  • The leaves of those beetroots, cleaned with the stems cut off
  • Some salad leaves – I used some crispy iceberg.
  • 2 eggs
  • Bulgur or cous cous
For the dressing:
  • 2 tsp liquorice sirup
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil (I prefer rapeseed oil for Swedish cooking. Olive oil doesn’t go well with this, as the flavour is too strong)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • some ground ginger
  • the zest of half a lemon

Start with chopping off the leaves and ends of the beetroots, quarter them and then put in plenty of unsalted water to boil for about 40 minutes.

In the meantime, make your dressing by mixing everything that goes in it. The liquorice sirup is very sticky and can be difficult to mix with the rest. I solved this by putting the container I was making the dressing in in a hot water bath. So if you use a jam jar, Jamie Oliver-style, for making your dressing, just lower the bottom end into the boiling beetroot water for 20 seconds and then give everything a good shake. Cook your bulgur in some salted water and drain. When the beetroots are coming close to being done, blanche the leaves in some salted water so they soften. Then mix the beetroots, salad leaves, beets leaves, bulgur and dress it whilst it’s still warm. Fry two eggs in a pan and place on top of the salad. Done!


Smoked salmon pie (Sveas laxpaj) with beetroot & blue cheese salad

This is perfect summery picnic food as it’s almost more delicious cold than hot. Smoked salmon pie is my farming gran Svea’s recipe, but it’s been quite changed here to adapt for what’s available in England. It is still delicious, though. Large cubes of gravad lax is too expensive in London to make pie out of – or to be eaten by students full stop – so we made it with sainsbury’s smoked salmon trimmings instead. The pie crust was the same Read the rest of this entry »


Grape, halloumi and pomegranate salad

It’s basically summer in London! So me and Miss Salted Cod had a stroll around Ridley Road market (bit more info about that market in the middle of this post if you fancy going) and enjoyed the sunshine bashing down on Hackney’s back alleys. The result of our little shop is this delicious salad Read the rest of this entry »