Chicken Waterzoi


Recipe from Belgium

Belgium is a country I don’t think a lot about but in which my wife and I have had some wonderful gastronomic experiences. You can gorge yourself to death in the Ardennes, if you like, whilst on the Channel coast you can find a perfect Dover sole and lots more besides. Whilst in Brussels you eat incomparably well, especially if you like fish and seafood. Just off the legendary Grande Place are streets full of terrific eating places, in several of which (“Chez Leon” for example) dishes like Moules Marinière, Stuffed Mussels and Moules Provencales are without peer. We sometimes stayed at a restaurant with rooms (to bed up very steep stairs; tricky to negotiate after a fulsome dinner) called Chez Callens, where the food was good (great grills, fish and calorific potato dishes), the staff and atmosphere old-fashioned and eccentric, the wine cellar comprehensive and the prices most reasonable. All over the city from Alsatian to Yugoslavian you could eat well.

Having people to meet in various towns, we used to take our car across and got to know Belgium pretty well. One evening, housed by a client at a quite small Holiday Inn near Gent, we ventured to the hotel restaurant, hungry but with not much anticipation. There were two other diners; the place had a somewhat down-at-heel look about it and the waitress didn’t improve the ambience much. But she brightened when we asked if there were any Belgian dishes on the menu. ‘The dish-of-the-day is Waterzoi’, she said. Pressed further she said it was chicken and vegetables. We decided to take a chance.   And we were rewarded with a delicious, rich but not too rich casserole. Was it authentic we asked my wife’s sister and her husband, permanent residents of Belgium, a day or two later. That night Erwin cooked Waterzoi for us and we could say both were good, and if Erwin’s was genuine, so was the Holiday Inn’s. A simple and authentic recipe is below.

Ingredients for 4 servings

One chicken weighing about 1.4 kilos / 31/2 lb (or eight chicken pieces totalling the same weight)
2 medium sized carrots
2 small – medium sized leeks
1 stalk of celery
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 litre / 1 pint of chicken stock
2 tbsp dry breadcrumbs
2 egg yolks
Salt and black pepper to taste


  1. If using a whole chicken, cut into eight pieces and season.
  2. Rub butter over bottom and sides of a large, heaving casserole.
  3. Spread the vegetables evenly over the bottom of the pan.
  4. Arrange the chicken pieces on top.
  5. Cook without lid on a very low heat for about 15 minutes.
  6. Pour over the chicken stock.
  7. Cover and simmer very gently for 1 1/2 hours.
  8. Lift out the pieces of chicken with a slotted spoon and remove the bones if you wish. Set the chicken aside and keep warm.
  9. Stir the breadcrumbs into the casserole. Beat the egg yolks and then add them with one tablespoon of water.
  10. Stir over low heat until the sauce has thickened slightly and then put the chicken back into the pan
  11. Garnish with the parsley.

You may serve your Waterzoi from the casserole or from a large deep serving bowl, with mashed potatoes. Belgians like bread and butter with it, too.

The Wine Match

This dish is easy to make in Cyprus, but its origin being Belgian I would choose a white wine from fairly northern climes. My grape would be Gewurztraminer and this one will suit: Domaine Schoffit, “Cuvee Caroline”, €10.50 from La Maison du Vin.

If you feel a more regional Gewurtz is desirable, look no further than the lovely round and fruity one from Cypriot-born Greek winemaker Tselepos.

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