Waterzooi: Flemish Stewed Chicken

The Orangerie, Bruges
Canal Scene in Bruges – the Hôtel l’Orangerie is on my bucket list

Although I have only been to Belgium twice it is one of my favourite countries. At one stage I even had a grand plan to put life on hold for a brief period of time and make a comprehensive tour of Belgium’s breweries. That never got off the ground (for which I am sure my liver is thankful).

Belgian cuisine is not really that widely known. Yes, here in Adelaide we do have the Belgian Beer Café where you can try both mussels and this dish, waterzooi. The BBC serves a seafood based waterzooi, and while it may be more traditional, you’re more likely to find chicken waterzooi in modern Flanders. Indeed the waterzooi I enjoyed in Bruges was chicken (it followed a very traditional Belgian dish you won’t find at the BBC – eel in green sauce).


So when I borrowed Tolarno Bistro: The Life, Times and Recipes of a Remarkable Restaurant from the library (that’s a whole other story) and I was flicking through it for something to cook for dinner.  I spotted the waterzooi recipe and the decision was made.

But it would be remiss of me to not give the book a review too. Tolarno Bistro was, apparently, something of a Melbourne institution which closed in 2006, after over 40 years of service to St Kilda’s dining public. The original owners were Georges and Mirka Mora and in those 40 odd years it had just three owners – the last being Iain Hewitson (now ‘as seen on tv’), who took over in 1990 with his then wife.

This book, written by Hewitson and journalist Bob Hart, is more than just a recipe book. In fact, perhaps it is more appropriate to say that it is a memoir of the restaurant first and foremost, but a memoir liberally sprinkled with recipes.

Tolarno Bistro was a French restaurant so the recipes are not heavy on the innovation front. Anyone who is already in possession of a generous collection of cookbooks will find that Tolarno Bistro duplicates, in a fashion, a lot of material. Personally, it’s not a book I’d rush out and buy simply because of that – but I am most definitely not the target market. If you ever ate at, or were even one of the couples who married at, Tolarno Bistro then the book is for you.


While this waterzooi is based on that found in Tolarno Bistro, I added carrot (for some much needed colour and extra vegetables) and cut back on the cream/sauce component. The waterzooi I ate in Belgium, after a hefty entrée of eel, had been overwhelmingly saucy and rich.  I served with brussel sprouts and bacon.

The quantities given will serve 2, with some left overs for smaller members of the family to enjoy the next day.

Waterzooi: Flemish Stewed Chicken


  • 4 chicken thighs (skinless)
  • 6-10 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 thick slices of lemon
  • chicken stock (if bought, choose low fat)
  • unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 leeks, cut into thin rounds
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • cream
  • fresh chervil
  • 1 egg yolk
  • to serve: fresh pasta


  1. Place the chicken thighs in a saucepan with the peppercorns, bay leaves, lemon and chicken stock and simmer gently for approximately 20 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked.
  2. Remove the chicken (keep the stock) and allow it to cool slightly and then slice.
  3. In a separate pan, heat a generous knob of butter and gently fry off the onion, leeks, celery and carrot.
  4. Once the vegetables have softened, stir in the plain flour and cook (stirring) for a couple of minutes. Then add a generous ladle or two of the stock left over from cooking the chicken, and approximately 2 tbsp cream.
  5. At this stage, you really just want to get the sauce to the right consistency and richness for you. More stock and the sauce will be thinner but more of it. More cream and it will be richer.
  6. When ready to serve, stir through the chicken (if necessary, cook for a little while to ensure it's heated through) and some chopped chervil.
  7. Just before serving, remove the pan from the heat, beat the egg yolk in a separate dish, and then stir through the sauce to thicken.
  8. Serve on hot plates with fresh pasta.


Super Quick and Easy Chicken Wraps


Action shot! Another awful photo but I have just acquired a new phone … will you be able to tell the difference?!

I’m not sure whether I should be putting a disclaimer on this piece or not … I received this product in a goody bag at a totally unrelated event (albeit one that celebrated South Australian produce). So while I didn’t pay for it, I have no relationship with either the producer or its marketing/PR people.

Anyway, wraps in one form or another are always a great hit for an easy dinner here. You do have to make sure you buy a decent wrap: the wrong form of carbohydrate can either ruin the flavour of your dinner or leave it all over your lap. But once you have sorted the bread part, you just need to cook a little meat, chop a little salad and find a dollop of yoghurt and you are good to go.

Of course, you do need to get flavour into the meat (or filling). Making felafel – especially if you decide to crack out the deep fat fryer – can be time consuming and even whipping up a Mexican inspired filling can take a little while.

I am not normally a fan of pre-prepared spice mixes because you are, by and large, paying for salt, salt, a bit more salt and then a few other bits and pieces. I’m fortunate to have a well stocked spice drawer and the inclination to mix-my-own which is not only more satisfying but also more cost effective.

However, Outback Pride’s Tanami Fire is a spice mix that I am not inclined to make myself and that both Andy and I have decided we would definitely part with our hard earned for.

For those not in the know, the Tanami Desert is 26 million hectares of desert in Australia’s Northern Territory and it is home to several endangered species.

Tanami Fire is described as a ‘hot spice sprinkle’ which is made from a variety of native Australian plants I can almost guarantee you won’t have kicking around your spice cupboard. The list of ingredients reads: ground Tanami apples, native pepperberry, lemon aspen, garlic, ginger, chilli flakes, salt and saltbush flakes. The label notes that the native Australian ingredients have been grown in a bio-dynamic environment. Outback Pride is a South Australian company that involves the state’s traditional communities in production and provides not only jobs but training in associated industries such as horticulture.

So it’s an all round feel good story.

Of course, that matters not a jot if the end product is not tasty. But tasty it is. We’ve used it several times now in different capacities, but by far the easiest has been to create a quick and tasty filling for a wrap.

No proper recipe today – simply dice or slice your meat (in our case, chicken) and sprinkle generously with the spice mix. A marinade for half an hour or so, if you can afford it, and then fry up. Serve in the wrap on top of salad and with some yoghurt. If you really want to do a bit more chopping, mix some finely minced garlic through that yoghurt!

The Tanami Fire mix has a citrussy spicy flavour – it is quite hot so if you’re a bit averse to chilli go easy. We’ve been thrashing it a bit and come BBQ time it will be perfect as a marinade or to use after the fact to jazz up some meat.

Rachel Allen’s Leek and Fennel Roast Chicken


More cooking (yep, those restaurant reviews are still percolating) – and while this dish looks unspectacular it’s incredibly tasty and easy to do.

If you’re a cook who’s a little frightened by the idea of roasting a whole chicken, or just someone a bit short on prep time (that’s me!) then this dish is fantastic because it’s quick, requires just the one dish (the one it’s cooked in) and can be all prepped in advance, meaning you just need to put it in the oven about 50 minutes before you want to eat.

This is a Rachel Allen recipe that has been on my to-do list for ages. As is so often the case, the cooking time given is woefully inadequate and, with the oven up so high, you do need to be wary of the vegetables in particular burning. However, that is easily solved by popping a lid on part way through cooking. This has the bonus of creating some very tasty sauce that can be served with the dish.

Sadly, it is a bit anaemic looking (not just the fault of my photography this time!). If you were so inclined you could flash the chicken thighs on a grill pan prior to serving (being careful not to dry them out though!) but I suggest that if you’re particularly worried about appearance, serve it with a bright winter salad.

Potato-wise, we used the most beautiful, tiny kipfler potatoes that Andy picked up in Blackwood from the excellent Waggon Wheels (no website). This always busy fruit and vege shop stocks all the standards but also manages to squeeze in a range of varieties that you won’t find in supermarkets or even other fruit and vege shops. It’s one of my favourite places to buy veggies.

Do not be tempted to omit (or peel!) the cloves of garlic. After cooking, the skin comes away easily and the garlic cloves are so soft and so mellow in flavour that they add real depth and warmth to the finished product.

This was a big hit – and if you need to throw something together over Easter, I recommend it.

Quantities below are for 2 people, with tons of leftovers.

Rachel Allen’s Leek and Fennel Roast Chicken


  • 4 chicken thigh fillets
  • 1 bulb of fennel
  • 1 large leek
  • 6-8 large cloves of garlic, skin on
  • 8-10 small potatoes
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C fan (220°C conv).
  2. Take a large baking/roasting dish - preferably one that has a lid - and put a splash of olive oil in the bottom.
  3. Chop the leek into 1-2 cm chunks and roughly chop the fennel.
  4. If the potatoes are not evenly sized, cut them into even sized pieces. You want them reasonably small (smaller than a golf ball) so they cook!
  5. Add leek, fennel and potatoes to the baking dish with the garlic, season and toss through the olive oil.
  6. Finally add the chicken thighs and toss through, ensuring they are also coated in oil.
  7. Bake uncovered for about 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on it to make sure that nothing is burning and then cover with lid and bake for another 20 or so minutes, until the chicken and potatoes are cooked.
  8. Serve hot on its own or with a garden salad.