Say hello to the ‘Veggie Capital of Europe’

In week 4 of our Step Up Route Recipes we’re in Ghent in Belgium as part of our Fairytale Route…

A picture of a mastellan, a ghent bread a bit like a bagel

Ghent - a cool and vibrant city with a passion for veggies

This (now) small city is one of Europe’s best destinations. It has a rich and vibrant history and today is known informally as the ‘veggie capital of Europe’ with more vegetarian eateries per capita than anywhere else in Europe.

The city has declared a Thursday to be Veggie Day and all the inhabitants are encouraged to go veggie every Thursday.

Culturally the city is famous for Van Eyck’s Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, one of the most famous pieces of art in the world and the most stolen piece of art in the history of art. The first large oil painting of its kind, it is known  as the Ghent Alterpiece (and features in the film The Monument Men). The City is also renown for its canals,  churches and gothic architecture.

St Hubert Buns - Mastellan is a Ghent speciality

For a city steeped in religious history and icongraphy, it is no surprise that one if its most significant dishes is named after a saint.

The mastel is a sort of bun that looks a bit like a bagel with a dimple in the middle. In medieval times the bun was consecrated by a priest and people ate it to protect themselves form hydrophobia or rabies on the feast of St Hubert on 3rd November. While mastellen are still blessed today, people no  longer believe in its protective powers.

The name comes from the mix of breads used to make it and the buns were traditionally flavoured with cinnamon in Ghent (other areas of Belgium tended to use aniseed).  You can find the recipe to try making mastellen here.