Five new regional products recognised in West Flanders
Let five delicacies, newly recognised as official regional products, lure you to West Flanders for a culinary tour
From split waffles to felled rolls
Five West Flemish products have recently been recognised by Flanders’ agency supporting agriculture and fishing (Vlam) as official regional products. Some of them can only be found in West Flanders.
Recognised regional products are sometimes only found in the region they originate, though often they are shipped to other outlets in Belgium or abroad. And some are simply copied by other bakers or caterers.
The mattentaart, for instance – also recognised as a regional product by the European Union – can only be named as such if it’s made in Geraardsbergen or Lierde, East Flanders. But bakers around Flanders make it and sell it by the same name simply because it’s immediately recognisable. (It’s delicious, by the way, a dense pastry made with buttermilk.)
The great equaliser
Another unmissable pastry, though you could think of it more as a dessert, is the Poperingse mazarinetaart, one of the new recognised regional products. The basic pastry – a mixture of flour, eggs, yeast and salt – is shaped into balls and baked. Once out of the oven, a hole is cut out of the centre. Then it is smothered in a syrup made from sugar, water and butter, which trickles inside the hole. A sprinkling of cinnamon, and it’s done.
The pastry was a great equaliser in the Poperinge of the past: while the well-to-do served it as a dessert at dinner parties and special occasions such as weddings and funerals, the “folk” ate it at the local fun fair.
Foodies of Ostend
On the coast in Ostend, meanwhile, Vanheste Bakery is churning out splitwafels, which find yummy fillings like vanilla or cherry cream sandwiched between waffle biscuits. In the same city, gekapte vloerpistolets (literally “felled rolls”) are now recognised as regional products. Decock Bakery is responsible for these simple bread rolls with slashes down the middle, so they can be easily separated to hold the sandwich fillings of your choice.
Ostend is home to yet another newly recognised regional product: filet d’Anvers on the basis of the West Flemish cattle known as rood ras. The smoked filet d’Anvers beef, already recognised as a regional product in Antwerp and Limburg provinces, is prepared using meat from the rood ras and then hung in the open air by Deschildre Streekproducten. (It is, by the way, a perfect filling for the vloerpistolet.)
Finally, Houtlandse coffee from Koffie Torenhof in nearby Ichtegem is now a recognised regional product. The Hanssens family produced a number of goods but began specialising in coffee after the Second World War. Their Dessert blend is the longest-running: Pieter Hanssens slow-roasts the Arabica beans himself at 220-230°C.
Tornhof also deals in tea, and you can buy the products to take home or enjoy them at the cafe on the coffee roaster site, which is a protected monument.
Photo: Terminus Restaurant in Watou serves its warm mazarinetaart in a bowl, with a scoop of ice cream at your request