Tourte de Blette

A Forgotten Vegetable

For many years Chard was a popular and cheap vegetable. It has many names, including Bietola (Italy), Blette, Bléa (France), Acelga (Spain), Krautstiel, Stielmangold, Mangold (Germany, Switzerland), Snijbiet (the Netherlands) and also Swiss Chard, Leaf Beet, Silver Beet, Spinach Beet and Seakale Beet.
Many names equals many recipes and easy to buy? Not at all. Nowadays it’s hard to find chard and the number of recipes is limited. According to Dutch Food Critic and Culinary Legend Johannes van Dam the chard leaves wither quickly, making it a difficult product for supermarkets. The image of chard is not positive: ‘Poor Man’s Asparagus’ for the stems for instance. Another reason is probably the fact that the leaves require a different preparation than the stems.
Johannes van Dam gives a number of recipes, including what he refers to as the primal recipe from Italy for Tourte de Blette and the recipe for Bledes amb panses I pinyons from Menorca.

Tourte de Blette

When in Nice we very much enjoyed our Tourte de Blette, locally known as Tourta de Bléa. It comes in two varieties: sweet and savoury. If you want to prepare the sweet one, please visit the inspiring Variations Gourmandes.

The crust of the Tourte de Blette is not straightforward. In most cases it’s a combination of flour, water, butter (or olive oil) and eggs. We were inspired by a dear friend who bases her Tourte on the Italian Torta Verde del Ponente Ligure. This is a very similar dish with zucchini, chard, basil, sage, rise, onion, Grana Padano or Parmesan and eggs. The dough of the Torta Verde is easy to work with and the result is both tasty and crunchy.

Back to the main ingredient of the Tourte de Blette: the chard. We found it on the Amsterdam Albert Cuyp market but were shocked by the price, so we had to look for an alternative. We decided not to use normal spinach because it doesn’t have the right structure. We choose water spinach (also know as Kang Koen or Ong Choy): a very popular vegetable in Asia. The leaves have lots of structure and the (hollow) stems are tasty and crunchy.

Wine Pairing

Obviously a wine from the region, for instance a Côtes de Provence (preferably rosé) or a more expensive Bellet Blanc.

What You Need

  • For the Dough
    • 200 gram of Flour
    • 100 gram of Water
    • 20 gram of Olive Oil
    • 2,5 gram of Salt
  • For the Mixture
    • 500 gram of Water Spinach
    • One Shallot
    • Olive Oil
    • 50 grams of Rice
    • 2 Eggs
    • Fresh Nutmeg
    • 75 gram Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

What You Do

Cook the rice and leave to rest.  Combine flour, salt, water and olive oil. Make the dough, kneed for a minute or so and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Remove the leaves from the stem and chop half of the stems. Best is to have the stem slices the size of cooked rice. Same for the shallot. Warm a large heavy skillet, gently fry the shallot. After 10 minutes add the chopped stems. Leave for 5 minutes and then add the leaves. Cook for a few minutes until done. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
Slice the leaves using a kitchen knife. Whisk the two eggs. Combine the vegetables, the egg, the rice and the freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Generously add freshly grated nutmeg.
Cut the dough in two, one part slightly bigger than the other. The bigger part will be the bottom, the smaller part the top. Roll out the bigger one with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. Coat a 22 cm or 9 inch round baking form with oil (or use a sheet of baking paper). Place the first disk in the baking form, add filling and close with the second disk of dough. Fold the edge of the top piece of dough over and under the edge of the bottom piece of dough, pressing together. Make holes in the top, allowing for the steam to escape. Transfer to the oven for 40 – 50 minutes on 180˚ – 200˚ Celsius or 355˚ – 390˚ Fahrenheit. Immediately after having removed the tourte from the oven, brush the top with olive oil. This will intensify the colour of the crust. Let cool and enjoy luke warm.

Duck Breast with Sichuan Pepper

Tingling Citrus

Why call something pepper when actually it is not hot and spicy like black pepper or chili? Perhaps because of the shape? The Chinese name is huā jiāo, meaning something like flower pepper. Actually it is a dried berry from western China. Other names are Szechuan Pepper, Chinese Prickly Ash, Mala Pepper et cetera. The quality may vary, depending on the actual species used. The taste has two components: the aroma of citrus and an intriguing tingling effect on the tongue.
The Sichuan cuisine combines it with chili pepper, star anise and ginger.

Wine Pairing

A cup of Jasmine Tea is an excellent choice. You could also go for white wine, for instance a German Riesling or Gewurztraminer. We decided to go for a Pinot Noir from La Cour Des Dames. In general you’re looking for a red wine with aromas of berries, floral notes and delicate wood. The tannins should be soft or well-integrated.

What You Need

  • Duck Breast
  • Sichuan Pepper
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Normal Soy Sauce
  • Mirin
  • Chicken Stock
  • Corn Starch

What You Do

Start by warming a non-stick frying pan. Add the Sichuan pepper (we suggest one or two teaspoons). Gently roast the peppers until you can smell their lovely aroma. Transfer the berries to a mortar and let cool. Take the duck breast from the refrigerator, clean it if necessary and transfer to the now hot non-stick frying pan. By starting with cold meat, you will get the best result: crispy fat, a golden brown colour and seignant meat. Fry the duck breast for 2 minutes, then reduce the heat, give it 10 more minutes on the fat-side and finish with 2 or 3 minutes on the meat-side.
Wrap the breast in foil, making sure the fat is not covered.
Crush half of the Sichuan peppers. Add stock to the pan, soy sauce, crushed Sichuan pepper and a teaspoon of mirin. Stir and add liquid from the duck. The duck must rest for 10 minutes, so occasionally add liquid and stir the sauce. Taste the sauce and adjust. When ready, make the sauce thicker using corn starch. Coarsely crush the remaining Sichuan pepper.
Slice the meat and serve with the sauce. Sprinkle the remaining Sichuan pepper on top of the meat.

We served the duck breast with a combination of stir fried (Chinese, napa or oxheart) cabbage, spring onion, chili pepper and sesame oil.

Duck Breast with Sichuan Pepper ©cadwu
Duck Breast with Sichuan Pepper ©cadwu

Cod with Kimizu Sauce

Fashion

Isn’t it interesting how our preferences for aromas and flavours change over time, influenced of course by producers, restaurants and chefs. In general we prefer dry white wine, we think a ragout made of pied de moutons, morels, Comté, oranges, bread crumbs and samphire is really intriguing and why not serve tea with your main dish?
Years ago we probably would have loved poached cod with Hollandaise Sauce and a small carrot sautéed in butter accompanied by a glass of Muscadet. But not today. No poached fish and no soft buttery carrots.
Fashion is about change; not improvement.

Let’s revisit the fish with Hollandaise Sauce and give it a ‘modern’ twist: we very gently fry the fish and serve it with a delightful Kimizu.

We mentioned Kimizu earlier when we wrote about White Asparagus. In this case we will make the sauce lighter by adding extra water. It’s wonderful to see and feel the consistency of the Kimizu in combination with the soft, opaque fish.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our fish with a glass of Chardonnay, produced by Antonin Rodet. The wine is made from 100% chardonnay grapes. Its aromas made us think of peach. It has clear floral notes. The taste is rich, with flavours of ripe fruit, subtle oak  and minerality.
In general we would suggest a chardonnay with a little oak and a long finish.

What You Need

  • For the Fish
    • Fresh Cod
    • Olive Oil
    • Butter
    • White Pepper
  • For the Kimizu
    • 2 Egg Yolks
    • 1,5 tablespoon of Rice Vinegar
    • 2 teaspoons of Mirin
    • 2 tablespoons of Water

What You Do

Warm a non-stick frying pan. Lightly coat the pan with olive oil and butter and then place the pan over medium-high heat. Gently fry until nearly done. Best would be to buy tail end with the skin on, allowing you to fry the fish on its skin. Turn it for a few seconds, allowing for a light golden colour. The fish is ready when the flesh has become opaque.
In parallel whisk the two egg yolks, add the rice vinegar, the mirin and the water. Whisk well. Now set your microwave to 90 seconds and 30% power. Give the mixture 10 seconds and whisk, Repeat this with 5 seconds of warmth followed by whisking. You will notice the change in the consistency. Depending on the size of the eggs, the temperature of the ingredients and the quality of your microwave this may take something like 60 seconds.
Serve the fish with white pepper and a generous helping of kimizu. And if it makes you smile, please add some carrots, sautéed in butter!

Cod with Kimizu ©cadwu
Cod with Kimizu ©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 we should 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 dissolved. 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

Kohlrabi with Pickled Radish

A Vegetable to Remember

A cabbage or a turnip? Or both? Kohlrabi (or turnip-rooted cabbage, German cabbage) is a bit different from other vegetables. It’s the swollen stem of a plant. It looks like a turnip, but it actually grows above the ground, hence the leaves and the fairly thick skin. Kohlrabi is not the most popular of vegetables, probably because it requires rather long cooking and the taste is a bit bland. The good news is that when you prepare the kohlrabi in a hot oven, you will have an easy to peel and very tasty vegetable. Its flavour is sweet, it comes with a touch of spiciness and its texture is a real surprise: juicy and crunchy!
The thinly sliced and lightly coated kohlrabi in combination with pickled dried radish is a great vegetarian starter, one that you will remember.

Sake or Wine Pairing

Best choice is a mild, dry, floral sake but a glass of white wine is also a good idea. Go for a Pinot Blanc or a German Grauburgunder. In general a white wine with medium body and aromas of ripe white fruit and flowers.

What You Need

  • Kohlrabi
  • Light and Normal Soy sauce
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Mirin
  • Pickled Dried Radish

What You Do

Set your oven to 200˚ Celsius or 390˚ Fahrenheit. Transfer the kohlrabi to the oven without wrapping it in foil, so ‘as is’. Leave it for 60 minutes. Now turn your oven to 235˚ Celsius or 455˚ Fahrenheit for 15 minutes or until the kohlrabi is slightly charred (see picture). Let cool, transfer to the refrigerator and use the next day.
Start making the dressing by adding light soy sauce to a small bowl. Add a teaspoon of mirin and a teaspoon of rice vinegar. We also add a teaspoon of normal soy sauce to give the dressing a bit more oomph. Remove the skin of the kohlrabi (be generous) and thinly slice the kohlrabi, either with a mandoline slicer or with a cheese slicer. Now it’s time to improve the dressing: combine small slices of kohlrabi with the dressing, taste and keep adjusting (soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar) until you’re happy. Coat each slice with the dressing, plate up and serve immediately with the chopped pickled dried radish.

Artichoke Salad

Love Your Artichoke

A beautiful flower and an intriguing ingredient. A large artichoke with some mayonnaise, mustard and vinegar makes for a wonderful, relaxing starter. The smaller ones are great when turned into a salad or when served with tagliatelle as a starter.
Steaming is the ideal way to prepare artichokes. The flavour remains intact and the leaves will become soft yet firm.
Don’t be tempted to buy preserved artichokes hearts. In most cases these are only about marinade, vinegar, sugar and unidentified spices. Whereas artichokes should be about taste and especially texture. It’s a thistle you’re eating and not something white and fluffy from a jar.
Key to this salad is the combination of artichokes and thyme. Lots of thyme! Enjoy the light, earthy and slightly bitter flavour of the artichokes in combination with the aromatic thyme.

Wine Pairing

You can serve this salad to accompany an aperitif, or with some bread as a starter.

What You Need

  • 6 small Artichokes
  • Olive Oil
  • (White Wine) Vinegar
  • Mustard
  • Thyme
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Remove the stem of the artichokes and steam the artichokes for 30 – 45 minutes, depending on the size. Remove and let cool. Peel of the first layers of the outer leaves. Make the dressing by combining the oil and vinegar and then adding the mustard. Cut the artichokes in 6 or 8 parts. Add the dressing to the artichokes, mix well, making sure all artichokes are coated. Sprinkle lots of thyme and carefully mix again. Put in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Mix again, taste, add black pepper and perhaps some more thyme and serve!

Moules Marinière

A Delicious Classic

Moules Marinière, Mosselen met Look, Mussels in Beer, Mussels with Piri Piri and Mussels with Anise, served with crusted bread, with French Fries or just a glass of wine, as a starter or for lunch: mussels are great to combine. And did we mention delicious?
Preparing Moules Marinière is not difficult at all. Make sure you buy tasty mussels (we prefer small ones) and lots of tarragon and parsley. Don’t simply add the herbs; create a simple sauce. You want to coat the mussels with the powerful flavour of tarragon and parsley. A drop of Henri Bardouin’s award winning Pastis is recommended.

Wine Pairing

White wine of course: Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, perhaps Pinot Gris or Riesling. In general a fresh, dry white wine with medium acidity and fruit aromas like citrus. Mussels are very flexible, both in preparation and accompagnement.

What You Need

  • 1 kilo of Mussels
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • Olive Oil
  • White Wine
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Bay Leaf, Thyme)
  • Tarragon
  • Parsley
  • Pastis
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Start by finely chopping the shallot and the garlic. Take a large, heavy pan and heat the oil. Add the shallot and the garlic, cook for 5 minutes until soft and glazed. Add a glass of white wine and the bouquet garni. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes. In parallel clean the mussels. Increase the heat to (nearly) maximum, add the mussels, close the lid and cook until all mussels are open; perhaps 4 minutes. Shake the pan during the cooking process or give the mussels a quick stir with a wooden spoon. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate and put in a luke warm oven. Discard the bouquet garni, add chopped parsley and tarragon, a splash of pastis, some black pepper and leave to simmer for 1 or 2 minutes. Transfer mussels to two warm (soup) plates and pour the sauce over the mussels.

Moules Mariniere ©cadwu
Moules Mariniere ©cadwu

Tagliatelle with Artichokes, Pancetta and Parmesan Cheese

The Joy of Artichokes

We’re true fans of artichokes. Although available throughout the year, we especially love them in Summer. They come with various structures and flavours, an interesting shape and a beautiful flower. Have you noticed that the heart and the leaves have a similar yet different taste?
Artichokes also come with a challenge: how to serve them in an elegant way? One way of serving the small ones is as a salad; another way is using them as an ingredient in a pasta dish.
Let’s talk briefly about Pancetta: this is cured and dried pork meat, so not smoked. You could replace it with traditional bacon, but be careful not to use something heavy oak smoked.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our pasta with a glass of Italian Corvina from the Verona region. This is a fruity wine, think red fruit (strawberries, cherries), only a hint of acidity, not too much tannins. We bought a bottle from Torre del Falasco. Great buy!

What You Need

  • 4 Small Artichokes
  • 75 gram of Pancetta
  • 1 Garlic Glove
  • Thyme
  • 100 gram of Fresh Tagliatelle
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Steam or cook the small artichokes. Let them cool, peel them and cut of the upper half. Cut the remainder in 6 or 8 chunks. Cut the pancetta in slices. Take a large skillet and warm. Add some olive oil and glaze the pancetta. It’s not the idea to fry the meat, the fat should not melt, only glaze. Now add the thinly chopped garlic and warm until the garlic is slightly soft. This may take a few minutes so an occasional stir is required. Now add the artichokes and the thyme. Stir very gently because the idea is that the artichokes remain intact.
Cook the tagliatelle (probably 4 minutes) and drain but keep some of the cooking liquid. Sprinkle a bit of Parmesan cheese over the artichokes, stir, very gently, add one or two spoons of the cooking liquid, add more Parmesan cheese and more liquid. Now add some olive oil and the tagliattele. Check if this looks fine to you. If not add more liquid. Add a generous amount of black pepper. Serve on a warm plate with some extra Parmesan cheese.

Fennel, Radish and Tarragon Salad

The Third Ingredient

Fennel and radishes go together very well. Radishes come with a spicy, piquant flavour; fennel comes with the flavour of anise. Both have a touch of sweetness and a lovely crunchy texture. Combine with a simple dressing of oil and vinegar and you’ll have a tasty salad.
But, yes, agreed, something is missing. What to add? Search the Internet and you’ll find additions such as lemon (zest and juice), cucumber, apple, Parmesan cheese et cetera. All very nice, but we think the not-very-obvious third ingredient is tarragon. It supports the anise flavour and unites the fennel and the radishes, especially after two of more hours in the refrigerator.

When on the Internet you will also see that most chefs put the vegetables in ice-cold water to make them extra crispy and that using a mandoline slicer is required. We much prefer coarsely dicing the ingredients in order to create one, flavourful, refreshing salad. By dicing the ingredients and letting the salad rest, the flavours will be much better distributed. Take your time to chew, allow the salad to linger in your mouth and enjoy the development of the flavour.

Food Pairing

Fennel and tarragon point in the direction of fish, which is indeed a good idea, provided the fish is one with lots of flavours. Think monkfish, skate, mackerel, red gurnard et cetera. You could also think of a home-made burger with first class beef, mustard, spring onion, a splash of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, black pepper, capers and dill.

What You Need

  • One small Fennel
  • Ten Radishes
  • Three sprigs of Tarragon
  • Olive Oil
  • White Wine or Cider Vinegar

What You Do

Cut the fennel and radishes into small cubes. Cut a large amount of tarragon leaves; similar size. Make a dressing with olive oil and vinegar. Don’t make the dressing very oily and don’t make too much dressing, it should only coat the ingredients. Combine in a bowl, mix well and store in the refrigerator for at least two hours.  Just before serving taste the salad. You may want to add some vinegar.

Fennel, Radish and Tarragon Salad © cadwu
Fennel, Radish and Tarragon Salad © cadwu

Tamagoyaki (Japanese Omelette)

Rolled Omelette

Tamagoyaki is best described as a Japanese rolled omelette and it is often served for breakfast or included in a bento box. It’s made by rolling multiple thin layers of egg; let’s say the concept of a Swiss roll but with much thinner layers. Making Tamagoyaki requires years of practice and a special rectangular pan (a makiyakinabe) using chopsticks only. But we, as western cooks with little patience, we use a round small, non-stick pan and two spatulas. The result is very tasty and it will make you think of a real Tamagoyaki.

The ingredients are a bit of a puzzle. Eggs, soy sauce and mirin for sure. Other ingredients include sugar (for a sweet version), sake and dashi (for a savoury version called Dashimaki Tamago).

The technique of rolling thin layers of egg is a great way of making an omelette. Feel free to replace the Japanese ingredients with some chicken stock and finely grated Parmesan cheese. You will love it!

Wine Pairing

Tamagoyaki comes with some umami thanks to the dashi and a touch of sweetness. Enjoy with a sparkling wine, for instance a Crémant de Bourgogne. Our choice was a glass of Blanc de Blanc Brut made by Vitteaut Alberti. Its aromas are fresh and flowery; the flavours suggest honey and pear. You could also serve a dry Riesling or Sylvaner.
Serving sake is also a good idea; our choice would be a Ginjo-Shu because of its delicate and light flavour.

What You Need

  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons of (Light) Dashi
  • 1 Teaspoon of Mirin
  • 1 Teaspoon of Light Soy Sauce
  • Oil

What You Do

Heat a small non-stick pan (10 -15 centimetre) until warm but not hot. Whisk the eggs, add dashi and mirin. Use kitchen paper soaked with oil to coat the pan. Use a (small) sauce spoon to add a bit of the mixture. Make sure you can repeat this as often as possible, so it has to be a really thin layer of egg. When nearly set, roll it up and move to the side. Coat the pan with oil. Add some of the mixture, make sure it connects to the roll, wait until nearly set and roll it up. Repeat until the mixture is used up. The tamagoyaki should be yellow with perhaps a touch of golden brown.
When done, feel free to shape the tamagoyaki by rolling it in a bamboo sushi mat. Slice and serve, perhaps with some grated daikon on the side.