No-Knead Bread

Slow Rise Fermentation

The taste of fresh bread! The crust! What better to eat? We love a baguette, a croissant or a whole grain loaf of bread. Provided, of course, it’s not some kind of factory baked product with lots of unnecessary ingredients and E-numbers.

So why don’t we bake our own bread? Probably because it seems to be too much work as it would require baking 3 or 4 times per week.

But things have changed since we found a recipe for no-knead bread, 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. It’s time consuming (it’s nearly 24 hours from start to finish) but not labour intensive. It’s simple and straightforward with a great result. We truly love it.

The recipe is based on slow rise fermentation. With only one gram of yeast in combination with 18+2 hours of rest, the yeast will do a wonderful job. The dough will be perfect. And kneading, as you would expect, is not required.

Origin

The origin of the recipe is not very clear. Earlier references include 1999 (Suzanne Dunaway from California), 1972 (Albert E. Brumley) and numerous grandmothers in the UK, France and Germany. Perhaps the oldest reference is to Elizabeth Moxon who described a no kneading bread recipe in 1764 as shown in this nice instructive video.
Her recipe: To half a peck of flour, put a full jill of new yeast, and a little salt, make it with new milk (warmer than from the cow) first put the flour and barm together, then pour in the milk, make it a little stiffer than a seed-cake, dust it and your hands well with flour, pull it in little pieces, and mould it with flour very quick; put it in the dishes, and cover them with a warm cloth (if the weather requires it) and let them rise till they are half up, then set them in the oven, (not in the dishes, but turn them with tops down upon the peel;) when baked rasp them.
Interesting that she rasps the bread: she is not interested in the crust!

What You Need

  • 400 gram of Flour (we used 200 gram of Whole Grain Flour for a small bread. Also nice: combine 100 gram of Flour with 300 gram of Whole Grain Flour)
  • 1 gram Instant Yeast
  • 4 gram Salt (this is less than usual, most recipes for bread would say 6-8 gram)
  • 300 gram Water (we used 315 given the use of whole grain flour)
  • Additional Flower

What You Do

The easiest way is to read and follow the recipe and video as provided by the New York Times.

Or if you feel confident: mix flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and create one mixture. Let rest in a bowl covered with foil for 18 hours or so (24 hours is also fine, it simply depends on your planning). Remove from bowl, fold 4 times, dust with additional flour and let rest on a towel dusted with flour for 2 hours or until doubled in size. Heat your oven to 235˚ Celsius or 450˚ Fahrenheit. Make sure the pot is also hot. We used a 20 cm Le Creuset Cast Iron Round Casserole. Put the dough, seam side up, in the pot, close it and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for 15 to 30 minutes until it is nicely browned. Let cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing it.

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Pimientos de Padrón

Lovely and Simple Starter

Pimientos de Padrón are mild, sweet tasting and small green peppers, originally from the Galicia region in Spain, but now widely available in Spain and Portugal. Story has it that one in a hundred (or more?) is actually very spicy, but rest assured, we have eaten many more and never encountered a spicy one. Ask your greengrocer for these lovely peppers because we’re sure you will enjoy them.

Wine Pairing

We would suggest drinking a Vinho Verde with the Pimientos de Padrón. Vinho Verde is a wine from the most northern part of Portugal, between the Douro and Minho rivers. Verde refers to the fact that the grapes are harvested very early in the year. This implies that the grapes contain a fairly small amount of sugar. As a result of this the wine (in most cases) has a fairly low percentage of alcohol (think 10%). But don’t be surprised if you find one with a higher percentage.

About Vinho Verde

In general we feel Vinho Verde is undervalued. It’s a great, very taste wine; one that is not just wonderful on a summers evening.
Vinho Verde is not a wine to store, so make sure you buy one from the most recent harvest.
Most Vinho Verde wines are white. They tend to have a very subtle bubble. The taste is light, floral and the wine comes with some clear acidity.
We also found a rosé and a red Vinho Verde. Seldom have we seen a wine with such an intense colour! To balance the acidity of the red Vinho Verde you must be combined with fat meat or rich sauces. We combined it with grilled Secreto of Iberico pork, which is a treat in its own right. Secreto is a thin, juicy cut from acorn fed, free range Iberico pigs.

Secreto

As an extra: for two people buy 300 grams of Secreto. In a way the structure of the secreto resembles skate. One side of the secreto will look nice, fat and meaty, the other may look like if you have to remove extra fat. Which is exactly what you need to do! After having done that, heat a heavy grill pan (or the barbeque) and grill the meat for 4 times one minute, creating a nice pattern. The cuisson should be rosé. It’s not a problem if the thinner parts of the secreto are well done because the meat will be very juicy anyway, thanks to the fat. Serve with a sautéed courgette. The bitterness and the sweetness of the courgette combines really well with the juicy secreto. The red Vinho Verde will balance the fat and will turn the combination of secreto and courgette into an intriguing dish.

What You Need

  • Pimientos de Padrón
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt

What You Do

Clean the Pimientos de Padrón and dry the peppers. Heat a heavy skillet, add olive oil and fry the peppers for a few minutes. Make sure they are fried but not cooked. Sprinkle some sea salt over the Pimientos de Padrón, fry for a few seconds making sure the salt is somewhat adsorbed in the olive oil. Serve immediately.

Gordon Ramsay’s Authentic Asian Cuisine

Lucky Cat

This spring Gordon Ramsay opened a new restaurant in London: the Lucky Cat. Offering Asian food in a restaurant inspired by Tokyo’s 1930s teahouses and Shanghai’s drinking dens. A pre-view opening night for critics and journalists triggered a debate about authenticity. Could Gordon Ramsey claim to offer ‘authentic Asian food’ or should he stick to mashed potatoes, fish and chips? Was Ramsay guilty of Cultural Appropriation (dominant cultures profiting from the preparations and traditions of other cultures while those cultures are unable to do the same)?

Which brings us to Authenticity. Can a country, a city, a culture claim ownership of food? Can Nice claim the Salade Niçoise, can France claim French Fries? Can Japan claim udon and soba?

Unfortunately the debate derailed because of the aggressive way people started to contribute (or contributed right from the start Gordon would say). A pity because it’s interesting to study the origin and background of food. Why do we eat the food we eat? Why do we cook the way we do? Why do we add certain herbs? What’s the origin?

Udon Noodles

Earlier this year we visited the inspiring city of Hakata, also to see the monument dedicated to Udon and Soba. There are not many food-related monuments, so this was special. The story is that Shoichi Kokushi (a Japanese Buddhist monk) returned from China in 1241 to Hakata where he founded the Joten-Ji temple. He introduced udon and soba (amongst other products) to Japan, notably to Hakata. People in Hakata claim to produce udon noodles based on Shoichi Kokushi‘s recipe. Authentic Udon Noodles.

Back to Gordon Ramsay

Cultural Appropriation is a nasty concept. It’s culinary theft based on perceived ownership. But in reality culinary traditions evolve and continue to evolve, for better and for worse. That’s how Udon became Japanese, that’s why you can order a Hawaiian pizza, that why some people prepare a Salade Niçoise with balsamic vinegar, cucumber, basil, croutons or even red bell pepper.

In the mean time Gordon Ramsay made a clever move: he dropped the tag ‘authentic’ and simply opened the doors of his restaurant.

(This week’s recipe: Caesar’s Mushrooms with Udon)

 

The Art of Sauces Part 2: Kimizu with Tarragon

Béarnaise

After having prepared Kimizu with White Asparagus, we continued our experiment by making Kimizu with tarragon, indeed, Béarnaise based on Kimizu. Great result! The taste was wonderful with the tarragon clearly present in combination with a touch of sweetness (shallot) and acidity (rice vinegar). The sauce is elegant on the stomach compared to Béarnaise, which can be rather filling (as a result of the butter) in combination with red meat.

Wine Pairing

Obviously we want to drink a glass of red wine with our steak and Béarnaise. In general the fattier or more marbled the meat is, the more robust the wine needs to be. A Côte du Rhône, Syrah or blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre is perfect with a rib eye. A Bordeaux with clear tannins would also be a good choice. With a leaner fillet we would serve a Pinot Noir or a Gamay (Beaujolais).

What You Need

  • Two Egg Yolks
  • 2 Tablespoons of Castrique
    • 2 Tablespoons of Rice Vinegar
    • 2 Tablespoons of Water (or White Wine)
    • 2 Tablespoons of Fresh Tarragon
    • 1 Shallot
    • 2 coarsely crushed peppercorns
  • Shopped Fresh Tarragon
  • Optional: Shopped Fresh Parsley and/or Chervil
  • Rib Eye
  • Olive oil

What You Do

Start by making the castrique. Basically this is a tarragon and shallot flavoured liquid with a some acidity that replaced the water in the Kimizu. Same difference between Hollandaise and Béarnaise. Thinly chop the shallot. Combine the vinegar, shallot, water, peppercorns and tarragon in a small pan and slowly reduce the liquid until you have two tablespoons of castrique. Check the acidity. If needed add an extra table spoon of rice vinegar and reduce again. Let cool and set aside.

Whisk the two egg yolks, add the castrique and whisk some more. Now transfer to the microwave and give it let’s say 10 seconds of 30%. Remove from oven and whisk well. Repeat. You will now feel the consistency changing. If not, don’t worry, just repeat the step. Towards the end of the cooking process, move to steps of 5 seconds on 30% power. Whisk, whisk again and feel free to find your own way. When the sauce is ready take it out of the microwave, continue whisking gently and cool slightly in a water bath.

In parallel add olive oil to a hot iron skillet and quickly sear the rib eye. Once it has a nice colour and is saignant transfer it to some aluminium foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Don’t wrap the meat in the foil, because then the cooking will continue and the meat will be medium.
If you however prefer the meat to be medium, then reduce the heat after having seared the meat, add some butter to the pan and turn the meat for a few minutes.

Add chopped tarragon (and chervil and parsley) to the sauce, stir and serve with the steak, rib eye or fillet.

Rib Eye with Kimizu and Tarragon def

 

 

Sweetbread or Ris de Veau with Madeira and Truffle

A Starter to Remember

A culinary treat that is delicate, balanced and overwhelming yet subtle. In a restaurant you will probably get Ris de Veau that was dusted with flour (okayish) or breaded (awful idea, it’s not a Wiener Schnitzel). In some countries the Ris de Veau is grilled which is an interesting idea. We stick to a very traditional approach that works extremely well because it’s all about the taste of the sweetbread in combination with Butter and Madeira. You could add some grated fresh truffle to make it even better tasting.

The sweetbread should of course be hot and soft on the inside and brown and crispy on the outside. Just use your non-sticky skillet and a bit of butter for a beautiful result.

Ris de Veau should be between rose and well done. It requires a bit of attention, but it’s hard to overcook Ris de Veau. Although some restaurants are very capable of creating rubber.

It is essential to clean the Ris de Veau. For some reason the process of removing the membrane from sweetbread is intimidating, but don’t be put off.

Wine Pairing

First the Madeira: don’t be tempted to buy so-called ‘cooking Madeira’. This is some horrible, sweet liquid that is not even close to Madeira. One for the bin. We bought a bottle of Santa Maria Madeira, medium dry. It is perfectly suited for this recipe. The story behind Madeira is complex so if you get the chance to buy one that is 10 or 15 years old, please give it a try. Just sip and enjoy.

We’re looking for a wine that will be supporting the delicate taste and the sweetness, earthiness and the slight nuttiness of the sauce. If you want to drink a glass of white wine, then it should be a full-bodied Chardonnay, although not too oaky. Chablis will be a good choice. If you go for red, then we recommend a Beaujolais Cru (St. Amour or Fleurie) or a Pinot Noir. It’s about soft tannins, aromas like dark cherries and licorice and on the palate a lean texture and dry.

What You Need

  • 200 grams of Ris de Veau
  • Two leaves of Bay Leaf
  • Crushed black pepper
  • Shallot
  • Butter
  • Veal Stock
  • Madeira
  • Jus de Truffes
  • Winter Truffle

What You Do

Start by filling a big pan with water. Add the crunched pepper and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Now add the sweetbread and make sure the water remains close to a boil. Blanch the sweetbread for let’s say 3 – 5 minutes, depending on the size and shape of the sweetbread.
Transfer the sweetbread to a large bowl with ice-cold water and cool the meat as quickly as possible.
Now it’s time to clean the sweetbread. Remove the bits of fat, the fleeces, any membrane, the veins and anything else you don’t like. Best way to do this is with your hands and a very sharp small knife. Once your sweetbread is clean, you will be able to see how to slice it later on. But first put it on a flat plate, seal it with plastic foil, put a similar flat plate on top of it and put something heavy on top of the second plate. Transfer to the refrigerator and leave it for a few hours. The idea is twofold: on the one hand the sweetbread will be firm and easy to partition. And it will lose some liquid because of the weight.
With the sweetbread in the fridge it’s time to start thinking about your sauce. Cut the shallot in small bits and glaze in butter. Add veal stock and Madeira. Mix and reduce. Transfer to a blender and mix. Pass the mixture through a small sieve and warm what is the beginning of your sauce. Add Jus de Truffes. This is an essential ingredient because it brings volume and depth to the sauce. It’s not to be confused with Truffle Oil, which in most cases is some kind of horrendous chemical invention. Taste and perhaps add some more Madeira or stock. A pinch of pepper may also be helpful. Keep warm for 5 or 10 minutes, stirring regularly. You will notice that the sauce becomes more intense and mature, which is exactly what you want.
In parallel cut 2-3 cm thick slices of sweetbread. Fry them for 5 minutes or so in a very warm (but not hot), non-sticky skillet with butter. It’s simple: when the sweetbread is golden and beautiful it is ready to be served. If in doubt: there is bound to be a small slice, one that you can use to test. Remember it’s offal, so you don’t want to take a risk.
Take two warm plates, add sauce and carefully put the slices of sweetbread on the plate. Add grated winter truffle.

Red Gurnard with Shrimps

Red And Blue

Such a beautiful fish! The Red or Tub Gurnard (or Roter Knurrhahn, Rode Poon, Galinette or Grondin Perlon) has a bright red body with blue, greenish pectoral fins. And isn’t the armoured head with the big eyes impressive? And on top of this they are capable of making a drumming, grunting sound.

For some obscure reason they have a poor reputation in the kitchen. You may find them as an ingredient in a stew or soup, but on its own? Not really. A pity, because it’s actually a delicious fish with firm fillets that keep their shape when prepared. Perhaps the gurnard comes with a more acquired taste (meaning that it’s not the kind of fish that is suitable for people who enjoy eating fish fingers). Some say the taste reminds them of shrimps, which would be interesting, given the Gurnard feeds on crabs, shrimps and other invertebrates living in the sediment.

We combine the Gurnard with shrimps and a classic Bisque, made with the shells of unpeeled shrimps. Agreed, it’s a bit of extra work, but it’s worthwhile.

Wine Pairing

A glass of Pinot Blanc or Gris will be a nice accompaniment to the dish. Light and fresh with a touch of sweetness. Chablis will also be nice.

What You Need

  • 2 Gurnards (preferably cleaned)
  • Butter
  • For the Bisque
    • 200 grams of unpeeled small grey shrimps
    • 1 small Tomato
    • 1 Shallot
    • Olive oil
    • Bouquet Garni (thyme, bay leaf, parsley)
    • Cognac

What You Do

Start by peeling the shrimps. It’s a very simple, mindfulness exercise. Remove the heads and discard. Use the shells for the bisque and transfer the bodies of the shrimps to the refrigerator. Chop the shallot and the tomato. Gently glaze the shallot for 10 minutes or so in olive oil. Add the shells and increase the heat for a few seconds. Add the tomato, some water and the bouquet garni. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Pass the liquid through a fine sieve. Make sure you get all the lovely juices. Add a splash of cognac and reduce the liquid until it’s powerful. Cool and store in the refrigerator.
In a non-sticky pan heat some butter and fry the gurnards. Isn’t the colour beautiful? In parallel warm the bisque. Just before serving add the shrimps. Don’t cook them (cooking will make them rubbery), just a bit of warmth will do the trick.
Serve the gurnard on a warm plate and dress with the bisque and shrimps.

 

Mussels with Anise

A Recipe from Corsica

Mussels with Anise is light, tasty and refreshing; it is an excellent lunch, especially when overlooking the Mediterranean (as we did when we were in Corsica), but it’s also an excellent starter. Use crushed anise seeds for the sauce. Don’t use star anise, it has a much sweeter taste; something we don’t recommend for this sauce.
It’s possible (and recommended especially when you have guests) to cook the mussels the day before. It’s a matter of cooking until just ready and quickly removing them from the shell. Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator. The next day you simply add them to your sauce and warm the mussels.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our mussels with a glass of Picpoul de Pinet. Let’s explain the name: the grape is called Picpoul Blanc. And the vineyards belong to a village called Pinet; close to the Etang de Thau in the south of France between Narbonne and Montpellier. The terroir (think calcareous soil, clay, quartz) is influenced by the sea, which is reflected in the mineral taste of the wine. The story is that Picpoul could be read as pique poul which translates into something like ‘stings the lip’; a nice reflection of the high acidity of the grapes. This acidity guarantees a refreshing white wine, which is exceptional given the warm climate. The wine is bright yellow with a very subtle touch of green. It’s aromatic, floral and fruity. The taste has notes of citrus and hopefully some bitterness, which will make it into a really interesting wine. To be combined with oysters, mussels, fruit de mer, skate and fish in general.
We enjoyed our mussels with a glass of very nice Picpoul de Pinet AOP les Flamants.

What You Need

  • 1 kilo of Mussels (we prefer small ones)
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Garlic Glove
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Chives, Thyme)
  • White Whine for the Mussels
  • Fish Stock
  • White Wine for the sauce
  • Butter
  • Mustard
  • Cream

What You Do

Before you start, please read the basics about mussels.

Warm a fairly big pan and gently glaze the sliced onion in oil. Then add the chopped garlic and gently cook the garlic and the onion for another 5 minutes. Add a glass of white wine and the bouquet garni and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, allowing the tastes to integrate.

In parallel warm the fish stock and some white wine with the crushed anise seeds in a second pan. Add some mustard (to get a thicker sauce), butter and cream. gently warm the sauce on low heat for 5 minutes.

Turn the bigger pan to maximum heat and when really hot add the mussels and close the pan with the lid. Listen and observe: you will be able to hear when content of the pan is becoming hot again. You will see steam, more steam. Check the mussels, close the lid, listen and observe. Taste the sauce, maybe add a bit of the cooking liquid. Remove the mussels from the pan with a slotted spoon and quickly remove the mussels from their shells and transfer them to the sauce. Make sure the mussels are nicely coated with the sauce.

We prefer our anise seed mussels with crusted bread.