Chef sotto il Portico

The fourth edition of Chef sotto il Portico included our first Belgian participation, a nice cooking event in the belly of Italy, Emilia-Romagna.

It is undeniable to claim Italian cuisine to be one of the most authentic ones of Europe, maybe even of the world. This being said I appreciate the simplicity of the kitchen which strongly builds on the pure flavours of the produce they work with, and frankly, they’ve got the sun favourising them quite a bit. Nevertheless I notice a growing interest for the genuine local cuisine throughout the whole world. Fortunately, because it engenders a greater respect for traditions by reviving them, and grows the consciousness around local and seasonal quality food, benefiting peoples and nature’s health accordingly.

For the fourth time, Al Vecchio Convento, the hotel and restaurant where I had the chance to do a stage in the kitchen two years ago, organized a cooking event where they invited about 7 chefs from different countries in Europe to prepare a typical dish. And I was lucky to be one of them. Italians being rather picky I was challenged to prepare a vegan dish, meaning I could use neither dairy products nor any other product of animal origin. Challenge accepted I searched for a course where Belgium and Italy could meet in harmony and at the same time lift the plate to a higher level. Fortunately I got help from the charming Italian Marina, and from a Dutch adolescent doing a stage at the hotel.

After two long days of prepping I was very proud and satisfied, I feel like I’ve pushed myself to a new level in the kitchen, cooking a vegan dish to me was a first, but I truly enjoyed it. And what about the dish you will ask? On the bottom we served little dots of potato puree flavoured with green lemon rasp and olive oil, and dots of carrot crème seasoned with cumin and coriander. To balance the structures we added grilled carrots and scorched cauliflower, partly steamed to keep a nice bite. The peeled cherry tomatoes in a white wine and Balsamico vinegar added the acidic twist to balance the sweetness of the carrots. Finally we finished the dish with crispy baked croutons and fried carrot leaves, a nice suggestion of the Swedish Chef Titti Quarnstrom to replace the chervil we couldn’t find. And this is what made this experience even more interesting then it already was. You might perhaps find me in Malmö in Sweden in a one of the next episodes, thanks Titti for the kind invitation…

Try out the carrot crème yourself, it's a straightforward recipe I got from Nicolas Decloedt, chef at Eat Love restaurant in Ghent (Belgium).

Some interesting links:
The hotel/restaurant that organised the event:
Titi's restaurant in Malmö, Sweden:

Our first participation surely is one to remember, it got captured and eternalised by a local newspaper...