Brussels is a great city which is often overlooked. It’s small compared to most capital cities but its mix-match of industrial grunge and Romanesque architecture make it a must see. Beer and chocolate is plenty and the streets are filled with markets and vendors during a weekend visit. Brussels also has great street art and the views from atop the Palais de Justice can’t be missed.
Whatever your plans are for Brussels, visiting the Grand Place is a must. You’ll be spoilt for choice as cafes and restaurants encircle the main square and the Brussels museum of History is brilliant full of paintings, statues and tapestries as well as giving visitors insight into Belgium’s grim colonialism.
If its beer you’re after – close to the Grand Place is the Museum of Belgian Brewers. Here you can get a taste of the beer of Belgium and explore the history and culture of the city and its love-affair with the hop-py nectar of the Gods.
Visit: 1000, Grand Place 10, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
You’d be mad not to try chocolate in Brussels. It would be inexcusable, nonsensical, a travesty! … you get the idea. As there are many chocolatiers to choose from, I really can’t say, as a non-expert where to go for Brussels’ finest. Have fun exploring and you’re sure to find the smell of that coco-goodness that will draw you in.
The one I visited you’d be sure to come across yourself as Le Comptoir de Mathilde is in the heart of the city. The chocolate was delicious and catered to all budgets – A Chocoholic’s haven.
Visit: Rue au Beurre 38, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
During my stay in Brussels along with the beer and the chocolate. I made sure to try a city favorite. Belgian meatballs makes for a great lunch with salad or a hearty meal with some creamy mashed potatoes.
I’m not going to deceive you. This recipe is fiddly but it’s easy to make. It just takes some prep time but is a great meal to gather a few friends over as it can feed many and is the type of homey cooking which I love.
I’ve altered the recipe (when do I never?!) adding chocolate as a twist. I think it works wonderfully but if you prefer to honor tradition, simply add a teaspoon of sugar to the sauce instead.
Serves 4 people (3 meatballs per person)
2 lbs of lean beef mince meat 1 lbs of pork mince 1 shallot 1/2 white cabbage 1 red onion 2 large eggs 1/2 cup of milk 2 cups of breadcrumbs (I suggest a crusty brown loaf) A pinch of ground nutmeg 3 tablespoons of salted butter 5-6 cubes of milk chocolate A hand full of Parsley 2 tablespoons of plain flour 1/2 a bottle of beer of choice (use a Belgian variety if available) 1 & 1/2 cups of beef or chicken broth/stock. Olive oil Salt & Pepper to taste.
- In a large bowl soak breadcrumbs in milk and leave for 10 mins. Squeeze breadcrumbs dry with your hands and decant the milk into a cup to be used later.
- Finely dice the shallot, the red onion and parsely but remember to leave some of the herb for a garnish later.
- Finely shred and dice the cabbage into bite-sized strips or pieces.
- Combine the ground meats, diced shallot, breadcrumbs, eggs, nutmeg and a pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl.
- Form mixture into 12 round balls and dust them with flour.
- In a large hot deep pan, heat some olive oil with 1 tablespoon of butter and add the meatballs. Turning them constantly for about 5 mins until the meatballs are browned on all sides. If you don’t have a large pan, you may have to cook in batches. Once browned, take them out of the pan and leave them aside & keep warm.
- In the empty pan, add the rest of the butter and add the diced onion and cabbage. Cook over a low heat for about 10 mins. Stirring constantly.
- Melt chocolate in a mug in the microwave and spoon the melted chocolate into the pan with a little salt and some pepper. Add the milk set aside earlier to pan too and stir.
- Add the tablespoons of flour to the onion, cabbage and chocolate and stir once more over the low heat until the flour dissolves into the chocolate and vegetable mixture.
- Add the stock and the beer and turn the heat to a boil. Scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and continue to stir.
- Lower the heat to a simmer and add the meatballs into the pan. Keep pan on a low heat and partly cover. Cook for 45 mins.
- With a ladle, spoon meatballs and sauce atop creamy mash potatoes in a bowl and serve garnished with parsley.
I admit that it requires some fuss but don’t let that put you off! It’s a great dish and although it takes messy hands and some watching over the stove – once simmering, that thick meaty sauce is well deserved. Perfect comfort food.
Tip: For real decadence, try grating some mature cheddar on top of the meatballs and mash. It’s a real beaut …