Farfalle with Ramson (or Wild Garlic) and Parmesan Cheese

Ramson

In a number of countries ramson is a protected plant, so we don’t suggest you run out of the door and start picking it. But if it’s not protected, feel free to start running!
Ramson is much-loved in Germany, Austria (Bärlauch) and other parts of Europe. Its taste is like a combination of onion and garlic, but much greener, more intense, longer lasting and with a touch of bitterness at the end. Works very well as a pesto, but equally nice with potatoes or gnocchi. Once we made ramson soup, but that was not the best idea ever.
The flowers may have (if you’re lucky) a touch of sweetness because of the nectar in the flower. Always taste the leaves and the flowers before using and feel free to adjust quantities.

Wine Pairing

We would suggest a Soave to go with the dish. The Garganega grape combines very well with the specific taste of the ramson, given the wine is fresh with a subtle bitterness.

What You Need

  • 20 or so leaves of Ramson
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Farfalle
  • Lemon Juice

What You Do

Cut the leaves in smaller bits and blitz the leaves with grated Parmesan cheese. If you want to soften the taste, now is the moment to add some toasted almonds or pine nuts. Slowly add the olive oil until blended and smooth. Maybe you want to add a bit of lemon juice.
Cook the farfalle and serve with the pesto and some grated Parmesan cheese.
You can store the pesto for a week or so in the refrigerator if you add some extra olive oil to the jar, covering the pesto.

Haddock with White Beech Mushrooms

Popular Fish

When you mention Haddock, Cod is never far away. Two of the world’s most popular fish. Many recipes and foodies describe the two as being very similar in terms of taste and preparation. We humbly disagree. We think Haddock is more flavourful and present compared to the mild taste of Cod. The structures differ as well, although both require your constant attention; they easily overcook.

Beech Mushrooms are more and more widely available, which is great. The slightly nutty  taste in combination with their texture makes them ideal for this dish. And the golden colour of the fried white beech mushrooms is perfect with the golden colour of the fried haddock.

Wine Pairing

Our choice was a bottle of Pinot Grigio made by MezzaCorona. This is a dry and crispy white wine with a beautiful deep yellow colour. It’s an elegant wine with just the right acidity to relate to both the fish and the mushrooms.

What You Need

  • 200 grams of Haddock (without the skin)
  • 100 gram of Beech Mushrooms
  • Butter
  • White Pepper

What You Do

Clean the beech mushroom with kitchen paper and half. Check the fish for bits you don’t want to eat. Fry the fish in butter. Both sides should be beautiful golden brown. In parallel gently fry the beech mushrooms in butter.
Serve the beech mushrooms on top of fish. Perhaps a touch of white pepper.

Haddock with white Beech Mushrooms © cadwu
Haddock with white Beech Mushrooms © cadwu

Homemade Bread

The Joy of Baking

We love baking in these challenging times. Baking no-knead bread is easy and straightforward and the result is amazing. Enjoy the homely and warm feel in your house after having baked a bread. Enjoy having lunch with freshly baked bread!
Baking is a great way of fighting stress and anxiety.

The perhaps oldest reference to no-knead bread is to Elizabeth Moxon who described a no-knead bread recipe in 1764 as shown in this nice instructive video. The recipe below is based on the recipe courtesy of Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery, New York. It was published in the New York Times in 2006 and can also be found in his book My Bread.

The recipe is about slow rise fermentation. One gram of yeast (!) in combination with 19+3 hours of rest will do a wonderful job. The dough will be perfect and kneading, as you would expect, is not required.

What You Need

  • 400 gram of Flour (we use 200 gram of Whole Grain Flour and 200 gram of Plain White Flour)
  • 25 gram Blue Poppy Seed
  • 25 gram Brown Linseed
  • 1 gram Instant Yeast
  • 4 gram Salt
  • 310 gram Water
  • Additional Flower
  • Bran

What You Do

Start 24 hours before you want to eat your homemade bread.
Mix flour, seeds, yeast and salt. Add water and using a fork or spoon create one mixture. Let rest in a bowl covered with foil for 19 hours. Dust your worktop with a generous amount of additional flour. Remove dough from bowl and fold 4 times. Let rest on a towel also generously dusted with flour and bran for 3 hours. Heat your oven (with the pot inside) to 235˚ Celsius or 455˚ Fahrenheit. We used a 20 cm Le Creuset Cast Iron Round Casserole. Put the dough, seam side up, in the (very hot) pot, close it and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for 15 minutes until it is nicely browned. Let cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing your no-knead with blue poppy seeds and brown linseed.
PS You can also follow the video as provided by the New York Times.

 

Quail with Pruneaux d’Agen, Sage and Olives

Quail

We love our quails! They have a delicate taste, but they also allow you to add strong flavours like sage, bay leaf or black olives. We prefer small and tasty black olives (in oil) for instance Taggia olives from Italy. Prune-wise Pruneaux d’Agen are ideal, but in general the prune should be moist, sweet and full of flavours.

Wine Pairing

A medium bodied red wine, not too complex, will work very well; for instance a Shiraz. We enjoyed our quail with a glass of Puech d’Hortes from La Colombette made from syrah and grenache grapes. The wine should balance with the sweetness (sage, Pruneaux d’Agen), the nutty character of the pancetta and the bitterness of the olives and the sage.

What You Need

  • 2 Quails
  • 50 grams of Pancetta
  • Sage (fresh, 6 leaves or so)
  • 6 Pruneaux d’Agen
  • 10 or more Black Olives
  • Olive oil
  • Butter

What You Do

Make sure the quail is sufficiently fat, not damaged and not frozen. Clean the inside of the quails with kitchen paper and remove anything that’s left. We prefer it if the head is still attached to the body. This allows you to use the skin of the neck, after having removed the head and the spine. Cut 4 prunes, the pancetta, the sage and the olives in smaller bits and mix together. Now stuff the quail with the mixture and finish with a prune. Use kitchen string to close the quail. Pre-heat your oven to 220° Celsius or 430°  Fahrenheit. Put the quails in a skillet with olive oil. Put some butter on top of the quail. Make sure the breast is downward facing. This way the fat will go towards the breast, making sure these are nice and moist. Put in upper half of oven. After 10 minutes turn the quails and label fat over the breast. After another 10 minutes your quails should be ready and golden. This of course depends on your oven. You may want to give the quails a few extra minutes. Remove from the oven, cover the quails with aluminium foil and let them rest for 10 minutes. Remove the kitchen string before serving.

 

Oysters à la Antonio Carluccio

When It’s Spring

Combining ingredients and creating something new and tasty is difficult. On the one hand we have known combinations (tomatoes and basil, duck and thyme, macaroni with ham and cheese), on the other hand we want to be surprised by new combinations. Unfortunately many chefs don’t really have the required creative talent but they serve their unlikely combinations (gnocchi with kale, piccalilli, smoked oyster and black pudding) anyway.

Antonio Carluccio‘s combination of fresh oysters with a white wine sabayon and white truffle is spectacular. The combination of the distinct aroma of the white truffle with the oyster is intriguing. The sabayon brings everything together in terms of taste, consistency and structure. And just to show you how clever Carluccio’s combination is: the sabayon in itself is not pleasant.

Carluccio uses white truffles in his recipe, but given the costs we decided to go for the more affordable bianchetto. This truffle is available from mid January to the end of April, that’s why it is also called March truffle (marzuolo). Maybe less subtle, but the result is nevertheless wonderful.

The recipe (Ostriche con zabaglione e tartufo bianco) can be found in his Complete Mushroom Book. Best to use oysters with a mineral flavour and a mild brininess. Definitely not creamy oysters, given the richness of the sabayon.

Wine Pairing

With such a great dish you many want to drink a glass of Chablis or Champagne. We enjoyed a glass of Crémant de Bourgogne, produced by Vitteaut-Alberti. A refined wine, soft and with delicate fruit. The bubbles are small and pleasant.

Oysters a la Carluccio © cadwu
Oysters à la Carluccio © cadwu

Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis

Cream, Cream and More Cream

Such a lovely and simple dessert! Provided of course it’s made the right way. So no milk, no yoghurt, no cream cheese, no whipped cream and most certainly no whipped egg white! Just cream. Cooked Cream. And preferably cream with lots of fat because then you will need less gelatine. 
Fresh raspberries are preferred, but no worries, the frozen ones are also very tasty and suitable for making a coulis.

What You Need

  • For the Panna Cotta

    • 500 ml fresh Cream
    • 3,5 leaves of Gelatine
    • 1 Vanilla Bean
    • 25 gram Sugar
  • For the Raspberry Coulis
    • 250 grams of Raspberries
    • 25 grams of Sugar
    • 1 tablespoon of Water

What You Do

The recipe is for 6 panna cotta (actually should we say 6 panne cotte).
Slowly bring the cream to the boil. Add the seeds of the vanilla but also add the remainder of the bean. Now keep close to boiling for 15 minutes. Stir when necessary. Remove from the heat and while stirring add the sugar until totally resolved. Now pass through a sieve to make sure you remove all the bits you don’t want. Follow the instruction of the gelatine and add the leaves. Stir well until homogeneous. Cool the liquid somewhat before filling the forms. We used a silicone mold. Nice and easy! The only thing you need to do is to make the mold a bit moist with water. Let the panna cotta cool and then store in the refrigerator until set. Don’t forget to seal with cling foil, otherwise your panna cotta will absorb aromas from other food in the refrigerator.

Heat the raspberries with the sugar and water. Cook gently for 5 minutes. Pass through s sieve (if necessary twice) making sure you apply some pressure but not too much. You don’t want pips in your coulis! Let cool for 30 minutes before transferring to the refrigerator.

Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis © cadwu
Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis © cadwu

Salade Niçoise

Pan Bagnat

The origin of the Salade Niçoise goes back to the days that life on the French Côte d’Azur was harsh. It was a remote and poor region and people tried making a living trough fishing, harvesting flowers for the perfume manufacturers and growing olives. Not a tourist in sight and no fancy lunches. Bread would be baked once every fortnight and people would soak the stale, day-old bread with water, olive oil or ripe tomatoes. Over the years this developed into what is known today as Pan Bagnat: bathed bread. Interestingly enough the stuffing became a dish in its own right: the Salade Niçoise.

Today’s Salade Niçoise is of course much more than water, olive oil and tomatoes. According to the founders of the label Nissarde Cuisine the Salade Niçoise is a combination of tomatoes, boiled eggs, salted anchovy, tuna in oil, spring onion, small black Niçoise olives, basil and olive oil. Optional ingredients are artichoke, broad beans, green pepper, garlic and radish.
And now I can hear you think: but how about the haricots verts and the potatoes? And haven’t you forgotten the vinegar?

Let’s start with the vinegar: a few drops are allowed but the idea goes back to the Pan Bagnat. So little or no vinegar and certainly no balsamic vinegar, mustard or mayonnaise. 

It was Auguste Escoffier who introduced the haricots verts and the potatoes as ingredients of the Salade Niçoise. For the guardians of the Nissarde Cuisine this is clearly a ‘no go’ (also because Escoffier was not from Nice). We were brave and did a small experiment by preparing both variations.

We expected the Escoffier version to be the winner of our small competition, but the stars clearly go to the Nissarde version: elegant, light, full of flavours and a tribute to the ingredients. Forget about haricots verts, potatoes, vinegar and grilled fresh tuna!

What You Need

  • Tomatoes
  • Salted Anchovy
  • Tuna in Oil
  • Spring Onion
  • 2 Boiled Eggs
  • Small Black (Niçoise) Olives
  • Basil
  • Olive oil
  • Optional
    • Artichoke
    • Broad Beans
    • Green Pepper
    • Garlic
    • Radish
  • Version Escoffier
    • Haricots Verts
    • Potatoes
    • Mesclun
    • Vinegar
    • Black Pepper

What You Do

For the Nissarde Cuisine version: cook the eggs until nearly set, clean the vegetables, wash and slice the anchovy. Then combine quartered tomatoes, sliced spring onion, tuna, anchovy, olives and basil. Drizzle with excellent olive oil and garnish with eggs. Toss briefly to make sure all ingredients are coated with oil.
For the Escoffier version: briefly cook the haricots verts and cool in cold water. Cook the potatoes until done. Cook the eggs until nearly set. Wash and slice the anchovy. Clean the vegetables. Combine quartered tomatoes, sliced spring onion, tuna, anchovy, olives, cubed potatoes, haricots verts and basil. Mix olive oil and vinegar. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with eggs. Toss briefly to make sure all ingredients are coated with the dressing.
For a more luxurious version replace the canned tuna with grilled tuna.

Lentils with Confit of Duck

A Nice Lunch

Think France, think a small restaurant in a small street, nice and simple, no Michelin star in sight. It’s 12.30, time for a quick lunch. You enter the restaurant, take a seat and order today’s dish, the plat du jour. It turns out to be a generous helping of lentils with confit de cuisse de canard and parsley. After having enjoyed your lunch, you think about the joy of good food and the beauty of lentils. Lentille Verte du Puy, such a treat! The combination of the confit, the lentils and the parsley with the sweetness of the shallot and the garlic is elegant, moist and full of flavours.

Feel free to buy ready-made confit. You could of course make it yourself but it is fairly time consuming and not something you would do for two confits only. In our experience most of the confits you can buy (tinned or vacuumed) will be fine. If you’re lucky your local butcher will make his or her own confits. We have included an alternative recipe below.

Wine Pairing

We suggest a glass of not too complex red wine; a well-balanced wine with notes of red fruit, gentle tannins and not too oaky. We enjoyed a glass of Bordeaux-Supérieur, Château Picon.

What You Need

  • 3 Shallots
  • 1 Garlic Glove
  • Coriander Seed
  • Lentils (Lentille Verte du Puy O.P & A.O.C. from Sabarot)
  • Chicken Stock
  • 2 Confits de Canard
  • Olive Oil
  • Parsley
  • Black Pepper
  • Optional: Green Salad

What You Do

Finely chop one shallot and glaze gently in olive oil. In the mean time check the lentils for small pebbles; wash them. Once the shallot is glazed add the crushed coriander seed and the lentils. Heat and stir for one minutes, as you would do with risotto rice. Add some chicken stock and water (the stock is only intended to give the lentils a small push) and leave to simmer on low heat. When the lentils are nearly done, finely chop the other two shallots and glaze gently in olive oil and in the fat that comes with the confit. In parallel warm the two confits. After a few minutes add the finely chopped garlic to the shallot. Chop the parsley. When the garlic and shallot are nicely soft and sweet, add the parsley, some black pepper and then mix with the lentils. Remove the skin from the confit and serve the duck on top of the lentils. Perhaps serve with a simple green salad.

Alternative Way of Making Confit of Duck

Start by crushing a nice amount of juniper berries. Take a sheet of strong aluminium foil, add some crushed berries, a bay leaf and put one duck leg (skin side up) on top. Drizzle with plenty of olive oil. Add the remainder of the berries and a second bay leaf. Wrap the meat in foil, making sure it is tightly closed and the foil intact. If not sure wrap with a second piece of foil. Transfer to a warm oven (90° Celsius or 200° Fahrenheit) for at least 8 hours.

Lentils with Confit of Duck © cadwu
Lentils with Confit of Duck © cadwu

The Art of Cooking

Culinary Art

For most of us cooking is something we do on a more or less daily basis. We cook rice, fry meat, prepare a salad and when we want to make something special, for instance Tournedos Rossini or Pêche Melba, we follow a recipe.
For a few people cooking is about combining flavours, colours, textures and temperatures. Cooking is all about creativity; cooking has become an Art. Chefs invent dishes and utensils, they set the standard for regional cuisines and they guide us. Their artefacts are dishes and recipes; their art is Culinary Art.

The Escoffier Museum

Unfortunately there are not many musea dedicated to the Culinary Arts: in Napa, California (the The Culinary Institute of America), in Marrakesh (Museum of Moroccan Culinary Art) and in the beautiful French village of Villeneuve-Loubet: the Escoffier Museum of Culinary Arts. It is housed in an authentic Provençal style home from the 18th century: the birthplace of famous chef Auguste Escoffier.

The Escoffier Museum was founded in 1966 and is home to an intriguing collection, ranging from a Provençal kitchen (with a grill in front of an open fire), a predecessor of the mandoline (invented by Escoffier), a room with the most amazing sculptures made from sugar and chocolate, a room with Escoffier’s desk and a library with over 3000 books, a video room, a room with over 300 menus and a room dedicated to other great chefs.

Three Great Chefs

The museum owns a very nice portrait of Antonin Carême and a picture of Eugénie Brazier (1895 – 1977), also known as Mère Brazier. She was one of the ‘mothers’ in Lyon and she brought local cooking to the level of Gastronomy. She founded her first restaurant Mère Brazier in 1921 at the age of 26. She was the first to be awarded 6 Michelin stars for two restaurants. She truly is the founder of the regional Cuisine Lyonnaise. Indeed, the cuisine made famous by Paul Bocuse.
Antonin Carême (1784 – 1833) was very likely the first modern chef, an influential author and inspiration to chefs. He introduced the toque, he was a dear friend of Gioachino Rossini and very likely the creator of the tournedos Rossini. He started his career as patissier and became chef to Napoleon, the later George IV and Tsar Alexander I.
And of course Auguste Escoffier (1846 – 1935), chef in Paris, Monte Carlo and London. Together with César Ritz he created the luxury hospitality trade. He introduced behavioural and organisational standards in the kitchen. He stressed the importance of personal hygiene of kitchen staff and encouraged the further education of his employees. He developed the brigade system with party leaders and designed kitchen utensils. He introduced fixed price menus and developed Bouillon Kub with Julius Maggi. But above all he created many beautiful dishes and was chef to the rich, the famous and to royalty. And he was an author, of course, most notable of the Guide Culinaire (1903).
In 1910 (when working in London) he published about a project to extinct pauperism in the UK. Two years later he organised the first fundraising dinners to support charitable causes. His social interests went far beyond the rich and the famous.

Pêche Melba

The menus make you think about all these no doubt wonderful dishes, about the richness of the dinners and lunches, the extravagance of the food and wine served. Wouldn’t it be interesting to taste some of it? A slice of Filet de Boeuf a la Chartreuse? A piece of the Gateau Soufflot? The real artefacts of Culinary Art can be found in restaurants. Which creates an interesting dilemma. Pêche Melba was created by Auguste Escoffier for the famous opera singer Nellie Melba in 1893. The final recipe is a combination of peaches, vanilla ice cream and raspberries. Where can we taste Pêche Melba as if made by the great chef himself? Many restaurants offer Pêche Melba with additions such as whipped cream, mint, dried almonds or replacements such as strawberries and canned peaches. Very much not what Escoffier intended. So we can read the original recipe as written by Escoffier (on display and sale in the museum) but where to taste the real Pêche Melba?

Fortunately the museum offers a free tasting of Pêche Melba to all visitors between June and September. Indeed, depending on the availability of fresh, ripe, juicy peaches.

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Stuffed Courgette or Zucchini Flowers

A Tempting Flower

Such a pleasure to see courgette flowers in your garden or at the greengrocers. The young courgette is firm and tasty; the flowers a beautiful yellow. Simply stuff the flowers, fry in a pan or cook in the oven and you have a great side dish or starter. And then you start wondering: ‘Stuff with what? Cheese? Salmon? Tomatoes? Egg? And how to make a filling that remains inside the flower and isn’t too firm?‘.
We prefer a simple approach: stuff the flowers with a perfect combination: courgette, thyme, shallot, garlic and Parmesan cheese. Firm, tasty and all about zucchini. Enjoy as a starter or combine the stuffed flowers with grilled lamb or chicken.

What You Need

  • Small Courgettes with their flower
  • One Courgette (small and firm; you need 1 small courgette to stuff 4 flowers)
  • One Shallot
  • One Garlic Clove
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Thyme or Herbes de Provence
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Remove the stamens from the flowers. Peel the additional courgette, slice the shallot and the garlic very thinly. Warm a heavy iron pan and gently glaze the shallot. After a few minutes add the garlic. Remove the seeds from the courgette and grate coarsely. When the shallot and the garlic are sufficiently glazed, add the grated courgette and the thyme or Herbes de Provence. Mix and warm for 15-20 minutes, making sure the liquid evaporates. Try to keep the structure of the coarsely grated courgette. Add finely grated Parmesan cheese, mix and taste. Adjust with cheese, black pepper and thyme or Herbes de Provence. Set aside and let cool.
Heat your oven to 180° Celsius or 360° Fahrenheit. Stuff the flowers, close them and transfer to the oven, sprinkle with olive oil and cook for 15 – 20 minutes. Depending on your oven you may need to use ‘traditional’ or a combination with a small grill. You want the flowers to become crisp. Allow them to cool for a few minutes before serving.
PS In case the grated courgette looses its structure and the mixture becomes too dense, then beat an egg white until very firm and gently spoon this through the cold mixture before stuffing the flowers.