Belgian Classics (9): waterzooi (chicken broth) from Ghent

Sandra Slawinski 2nd October 2019 1 comment

I was born and raised in Ghent, and although I ve not lived there the last 25 years it still feels like my hometown and just love the food.

A classic is waterzooi , this chicken broth with carrots, leeks and potatoes is simple but on the scale of comfort food like off the charts good on a rainy dark day.

As part of a series of Belgian dishes posted every first Wednesday of the month, I vow to demystify these uber Belgian classics for you. Step-by-step I will show you what to do, this will have you successfully recreate those gorgeous rustic Belgian flavours you discovered In Belgium.

GHENT ( GENT – GAND) – my hometown, born and raised, lived till 19 there, my family still lives there. It is the capital of East Flanders ( one of the 9 Belgian provinces). It has a rich history with the port flourishing  textile commerce in early 1300 and again in 19th century, it was know was a leading city in Northern Europe. Many wars have been fought and Ghent has been conquered by Vikings, the French, The Spanish , The Dutch and the Germans. This has left us with a city rich in architecture and art.

We love our sweet treats like cuberdons ( a jelly filled candy)  and mastellen (a brioche bun) and our strong mustard.  The city promotes Thursday veggie day and has the worlds largest number of vegetarian restaurants per capita ( as per wikepedia).

We love to party and our Genste Feesten in July are world renowned and gets about 1.2 million visitors in 1 week. For more info on Ghent , click HERE .

WATERZOOI – this stew is typical form Flanders and the word comes from an old Middle Dutch meaning to boil in water. The original version apparently was with fish ( now more knows as Waterzooi from Ostend) but when the river in Ghent became to polluted and fish disappeared they started using chicken. It is rumored to ve been a favourite of King Charles V.

FLAVOUR BOMB – you need quality products to begin with to create flavour and you need time. I buy the whole chicken and cut it in 6 pieces from the carcass and than use the carcass to make the lovely full of flavour stock. The creamy broth is soooo yum that you are going to want to mash the potatoes in it to soak it all up.

STEP 1: make a kick ass stock with veg and chicken carcass and herbs

STEP 2: clean and slice the carrots.

STEP 3: clean and slice the leeks.

STEP 4: sieve the stock

STEP 5`; boil the chicken in the stock, remove the skin afterwards and reserve.

STEP 6: sauté the veg in some butter.

STEP 7: Add to the stock the chicken and veg. with the cream, egg yolks and season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Serve with sprinkle of parsley ( forgot on the pic) with potatoes.

My waterzooi from Ghent ( chicken broth)

Yield 4 portions


  • 1 chicken, whole
  • 3 medium size carrots, scrubbed clean with a veg brush (compost the foliage)  
  • 2 leeks, compost the ends and cut the darker leaves from the leeks, rinse thoroughly
  • 6 medium size potatoes, peeled, cut in 6 chunks ( compost the peels ) 
  • 2 celery storks, chopped in chunks with foliage
  • 1 onion, diced in chunks with skin
  • 1 bouquet garni ( baie leaves, rosemary and thyme)
  • butter
  • 200 ml cream
  • 2 eggs, separate the yolk, freeze the egg whites for later use in desserts
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper 
  • 1 bustle parsley, chopped


  1. Cut the chicken in 6 pieces : 2 filets, each leg cut in half with skin and reserve in the fridge. 
  2. To make the chicken stock: Add to a large stock pot 3 litres of filtered water, season the water with salt. Add the chicken carcass, onion, celery, 1 leek and the dark leaves from the leeks, 1 carrot chopped in chunks, bouquet garni. Let simmer for 2 hours. Sieve the broth, discard of the carcass and boiled veg, they gave their best! If you ve chicken stock, you will need about 400 to 600 ml .
  3. Add butter to the to a cast iron pot, add the chicken cuts, brown for a few minutes and top with the chicken stock till covered by 1 cm, simmer for 20 minutes on medium heat so the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken, remove the skin and reserve the chicken. Let the chicken stock boil and reduce by 1/3.
  4. Slice the carrots in thin rounds. Cut the leeks in fine julienne. Add to a frying pan a table spoon of butter and toss the veg into the pan, sauté them for a few minutes on medium heat to give colour. Reserve them. 
  5. The chicken stock has been reduced, add the carrots and leeks and the reserved chicken.
  6. Separately boil the potatoes till cooked, sieve and reserve.
  7. Fill a small bowl with 2 ladles of chicken stock, and make a "liaison": add to the bowl with stock the cream and the 2 egg yolks and whisk them with a fork. Add the liaison to the rest chicken broth and stir over medium heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  8. To serve ladle the waterzooi in deep soup dishes, sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve with the boiled potatoes. 


on by Sandra Slawinski

My version deviates a little from the “classic” recipe :

  • I add a good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg to the broth, i just love that flavour
  • I serve potatoes used for mash, they are more fluffy, as I like to crush them into the broth.

Written and photographed by Sandra Slawinski without commercial deals. Thank you Pascale for the gorgeous vintage heirloom Royal Boch plates, love them! –  table runners Dille& Kamille – silver vintage from my parents restaurant