Thus far I’ve made a point of touring outside of Belgium for my Quarantine Kitchen series: Hungary, Spain, France, Portugal, Italy and Slovenia were my previous destinations. As Belgium settles into Phase 2 of the easing of lockdown restrictions and the country gradually reopens to its own citizens and residents, it felt fitting to plan a menu inspired by one of my favorite places within Belgium itself.
The Gaume region of southern Belgium was a suitable choice as it was the last place we visited before the COVID-19 lockdown measures went into place across the country. We truly enjoyed our February visit to the Orval Abbey and Château de Bouillon, not to mention our stay at Jacqueline’s B&B in Rossignol (Tintigny). Our first tastes of the local cuisine from this corner of Wallonia had our mouths’ watering and us longing for another opportunity to top our waffles with Sirop de Liege, snack on Orval cheese and dig into the hearty Pâté Gaumais.
The Pâté Gaumais is a large leavened dough pie stuffed with pork that dates back to the end of the 19th century. It has been certified by the European Union as a regional quality product, and as one of the five food products from French-speaking Belgium benefiting from the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) label. This means that the labelling of a product as Pâté Gaumais is regulated. Officially, this pie should have a minimum diameter of 15 cm and weigh at least 200 g, and the pork that encompasses the substance of the pie is marinated in wine and/or vinegar, with spices and herbs according to the cook’s family recipe. Since the middle of the 20th century, this protected pie has also been the subject of the annual King of Pâté Gaumais eating competition held in Virton on December 26th.
Though unprepared to partake in a formal Pâté eating contest, I was ready and willing to undertake the task of assembling this sizable pie for our leisurely consumption thanks to a recipe from Wallonia Belgium Tourism.
The dough of the Pâté Gaumais is made with yeast while the pork filling is derived from fatty pork chops chopped into smaller pieces; it should be consumed while drinking an Orval beer. I failed in locating yeast, fatty pork chops and Orval beer at the grocery store, so I resorted to baking soda, minced (ground) pork and Westmalle instead. Of course, this led to a little apprehension about how well the dough would rise and some improvisation when it came time to marinate the meat, but I’m pleased to confirm that even with the substitutes, the Pâté Gaumais still turned out tasty!
Brushed with egg yolk and adorned with a steam vent, the meaty meal went into the oven and emerged 90 minutes later with a tantalizing aroma and perfectly crisped crust. Unlike the disappointment we felt upon taking our first bites of the Francescinha sandwich from my Portugal Quarantine Kitchen menu, the Pâté Gaumais exceeded my expectations. Dan even managed to eat most of his serving with his hands as he was instructed to do when he first had it at Au Coeur de la Gaume restaurant.
Plating the Pâté Gaumais
I was indecisive when deciding what to make for dessert. Yeast seemed to be a key ingredient for many of the pastries prevalent in the Gaume region, but I didn’t think it wise to push my luck by excluding or substituting it in yet another recipe. I kept returning to my memories of the breakfast spread at Jacqueline’s B&B, and while waffles with Sirop de Liege would have been my first choice, I wasn’t sure how successful I would be without that most important waffle-maker tool. Still, I fixated on the sticky, sweet Sirop de Liege, a molasses made from the cooking and reduction of apple and/or pear juice. I also recalled the fresh apple cider we had tasted on our visit, and as though knocked on the head by a falling fruit, decided apples would be the centerpiece of my Gaume inspired gosette (chausson) aux pommes.
In Belgium, a gosette is a semi-circular pastry made from pie dough that contains a fruit filling. It is found in Wallonia, Brussels and Ghent. The word “gosette” originates from the Walloon word ” gozå “, which is an apple pie covered with a layer of dough. As an American, I know these portable pies as apple turnovers.
The recipe for my Belgian gosette (chausson) aux pommes called for few and simple ingredients. Apples and sugar were heated together on the stove to create the compote that filled the (store-bought) puff pastry. It may have been store-bought, but that doesn’t mean I had it any easier while molding the pastry into turnovers. It’s (still) clear that I have yet to master the proper technique in shaping any type of dough – pasta, pastry, or dumpling.
A poorly shaped gosette still tastes good, especially with the addition of an egg yolk glaze before being baked. These lightly browned pies are often eaten cold, but we enjoyed ours (very) hot from the oven.
In line with our Belgian themed menu, we are enjoying exploring more of Belgium over a few holidays and on some time off. We kicked our adventures off with a 25-mile round-trip bike ride to Tervuren Park just outside Brussels. I actually cycled there first on my road bike and then a second time a few days later accompanied by Dan, the both of us on Villo! bikes. Villo! bikes are not the best choice for ascending big hills and traversing unpaved forest paths, but ice cream is a good motivator when you’re pedaling so slow you may as well be going backwards.
This was just the first of a few social distancing acceptable activities we have planned for the week ahead. Restrictions will be further eased as the country prepares to reopen restaurants and cafes on June 8th, with some seating and capacity restrictions in place. International travel outside of Belgium is still off-limits as we head into June, but we’re finding there’s plenty to see and explore in our current country of residence.