Lentils with Cod and Cilantro

Lentils are healthy, easy to work with, not expensive, nutritious and high in fiber, protein and iron. Lentils have been around for a long time, so you would expect lentils to be popular, but for some reason they are not. Lentils can be used to prepare soups, salads, dahl, burgers, curry, biscuits (sablés) and so much more.
The three basic types are Green or Brown lentils, Red lentils and Black or Beluga lentils. Red lentils are often dehusked and then split, making them perfect for cooking soup.

In most cases we prefer Du Puy lentil from Sabarot because of their great taste and the fact that they hold their beautiful shape, even when cooked. Sabarot also produces lentil flour; ideal for biscuits, pancakes and waffles.

Beware of fake Du Puy lentils! They have names like ‘Le Puy lentils’ or ‘Dupuis lentils’. All nasty marketing. The real Du Puy lentils come with an Appellation d’Origine Controlee (Protected Designation of Origin).

Wine Pairing

We very much enjoyed a glass of Spanish Verdejo. In our case a bottle of Monteabellón Rueda 2019. In general wines made from the Verdejo grape combine very well with fish. The wine comes with the right acidity, giving freshness to the wine. It has floral aromas typical for the Verdejo grape. You may also recognize the aromas of banana and exotic fruit.

What You Need

  • Shallot
  • Olive Oil
  • Cilantro Seeds
  • Green, Du Puy or Beluga Lentils
  • Mild Fish Stock
  • Cod
  • Butter
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • White Pepper

What You Do

Chop the shallot (seize lentil) 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 lentils and the crushed cilantro seeds. Heat for a few minutes, as you would do with risotto rice. Add the mild fish stock and leave to simmer on low heat for approximately 20 minutes, depending on the size (and your preference of course). In parallel fry the cod in butter in a non-stick pan. Just before the lentils are ready, add half of the finely cut cilantro to the lentils and mix.
Timing is all. The lentils should be cooked, all liquid evaporated and absorbed and the cod just done. Meaning the cod is opaque and the flakes can be separated easily. And overcooked meaning you can see those nasty small white bits of egg white and the fish becomes dry.
Serve the cod on top of the lentils and sprinkle some cilantro over the lentils and cod. Maybe add a touch of white pepper.

PS In case you think cilantro tastes like soap, feel free to replace the fresh cilantro with parsley. Cilantro seeds do not trigger the soap-like taste.

Eggs Benedict with Kimizu

Preparing Eggs Benedict comes with two technical challenges: Hollandaise Sauce (Kimizu in our case) and Poached Eggs.
Poaching an egg seems simple and straightforward when you watch the video made by chef Jacques Pepin, But we know that they’re intimidating to make plus it’s really challenging to get them just right: especially the gooey, liquid yolk.

Chef Pepin makes some very important suggestions: the main protein in egg white is Ovalbumin and it sets at 84,5 °C or 184 °F . According to chef Pepin the egg white becomes rubbery when the water temperature is too high. And he is right! Keep the water hot, but not boiling, when ‘boiling’ or poaching an egg.
He also mentions that the eggs must be cold. Makes sense, because then the yolk will remain runny.
And finally he explains how to store pre-poached eggs, reducing stress in the kitchen.

But the challenge remains: poaching an egg requires skills and experience. Or an OXO good grips egg poacher. Yes, we know, it sounds like another disappointing, expensive, and silly kitchen tool, but it actually works really well. Easy to use, easy to clean and great results, again and again.

What You Need

  • For the Poached Eggs
    • 2 cold, organic Eggs
    • Vinegar
  • For the Kimizu
    • 2 Egg Yolks
    • 2 tablespoons of Rice Vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon of Water
    • 2 teaspoons of Mirin
  • English muffins or a slice of home made Bread
  • Salmon
  • Avocado
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Best to make the poached eggs in advance and store them in cold water. Just before serving warm them in a pan of hot water. With the OXO poacher it’s simple: fill a pan with water and add a splash of vinegar. Bring the water to a simmer and crack an egg into the centre of the each poacher. You could also crack the egg into a little bowl or cup and then drop it into the centre of the poacher. After 30 seconds or so you can remove the OXO poacher and use it for another egg. We poached our eggs for 3 minutes maximum. Dry the poached eggs with kitchen paper and trim the egg white if necessary. Serve with toasted muffin or bread, salmon, avocado and of course Kimizu.

Red Mullet in Miso

It’s Tuesday morning and we are on our way to our favourite fish monger. No doubt we will be inspired by the fresh fish and seafood on offer. It all looks delicious and yummy, especially the red mullet looks wonderful. It’s such a beautiful fish; red, nearly crimson, with a lovely taste and a very delicate skin. There are actually two very similar kinds, the striped red mullet (rouget de roche) and the red mullet or goatfish (rouget de vase). Don’t worry too much, just go for it.

We will marinate the fillets in miso and then enjoy on Sunday evening as a starter. This technique is called Saikyo Yaki. Best to use is Saikyo miso which is a white, slightly sweet, low sodium miso from Kyoto. The marinated fish is grilled and served with pickled ginger. Originally a way to preserve the fish, it’s now much liked because of the umami and the intriguing combination of flavours and aromas.
We use a standard low sodium white miso and add a bit of sake. This makes the mixture easier to use and supports the flavour.

Sake Pairing

Best served with dry sake. We bought a bottle of  traditional Gekkeikan sake. This is a medium bodied, fresh sake with light floral aromas. In general you’re looking for a touch of acidity, freshness and not too much alcohol.

What You Need

  • Two Fillets of Red Mullet
  • White Miso (preferable with less salt)
  • Sake
  • Pickled Cucumber
  • Karashi (Japanese mustard, optional)

What You Do

Start five days in advance. Mix the white miso with sake, creating a thinner mixture. It must coat the fish for a few days, so don’t make it too thin. Put the fillets in a shallow plate and cover the fillets with the mixture making sure the fish is fully coated. Cover the plate with foil and transfer to the fridge. Check on a daily basis if the fish is still covered.
Using a small spoon carefully remove most of the miso. Rinse the fish with water and dry with kitchen paper. The white flesh should now be slightly orange. Heat a non-stick frying pan until warm, but not hot, through and through. If too hot, the fish will burn. We set our induction hob to 6 (where 9 is the maximum). Add a generous amount of olive oil. Fry the fillets on the skin side and try to keep the fish moving. This way the delicate skin will remain in tact. Turn and fry the meat side, also for 1 or 2 minutes. Serve on a warm plate with pickles and perhaps karashi.

Pasta with Sage

We love using wonderful Mediterranean herbs such as basil, thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, saffron and tarragon. So we couldn’t resist buying a large bunch of sage and cooking this very tasteful, simple and uplifting starter. Sage has been around for many, many years and is an essential ingredient in many countries, both for medicinal and culinary purposes. Its taste is somewhat soapy, with a touch of acidity, a little bitterness, subtle eucalyptus and slightly peppery. Did we mention unique?
Preferably use fresh, thin pasta or Japanese udon, lots of butter and your best olive oil when preparing this dish.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our pasta with a glass of Bianco di Custoza 2020, made by Monte del Frà from Italy. It is a well-balanced, dry white wine, with a fruity nose. Its colour is straw yellow, with pale green highlights. In general you’re looking for a light, aromatic dry white wine.

What You Need

  • Pasta
  • Butter
  • Bunch of Sage
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Melt the butter in a large pan, devein and chop the leaves, add the sage to the butter, stir. The butter should embrace the flavours and aromas of the sage. When the mixture is nearly ready (this will take only a few minutes) cook the pasta. Grate some fresh Parmesan cheese. Keep a glass of the cooking liquid of the pasta, drain the paste, add it to the pan, mix, add some olive oil, mix, add a spoonful or two of the cooking liquid and make sure the pasta is fully coated with sage, butter and oil. Perhaps some black pepper. Garnish with Parmesan Cheese and serve on a warm plate.

Canard a l’Orange

Preparing Duck is always a pleasure, whether with green peppers or with Szechuan, the result is tasty and your guests will be happy. So let’s revisit another classic from the 1960’s: Canard A l’Orange is a delicious combination of duck with a multi-layered orange sauce.

So what did we change compared to the 1960’s-recipe? We don’t use a whole duck, due to the lack of availability but also because cooking a whole duck is far more challenging than cooking a whole chicken or turkey. We also don’t use (caramelized) sugar and we use butter instead of flower or corn starch to create a nice, velvety sauce.

Wine Pairing

A classic wine from the Bordeaux region will be wonderful with your duck. We enjoyed a glass of Château Cap Saint-Martin Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux Le Cabernet d’en face 2017. This wine is made from 100% Cabernet-Sauvignon grapes, which is to be expected for Bordeaux wines from the left bank of the Gironde. Hence the d’en face (opposite or other side) in the name, because Blaye is situated on the right bank of the Gironde (where Merlot is the dominant grape for red wine).
In general you’re looking for a wine with soft aromas of dark berries, vanilla and spices. On the palette it should be round with present tannins. A wine that will combine with the sweetness and depth of the sauce in combination with the rich, juicy and slightly sweet duck meat and its crispy skin.

What You Need

What You Do

Check the breast of duck for remainders of feathers. Remove the vein on the meat side of the breast (and the odd membrane you don’t like). Put on a dish, cover and transfer to the fridge. Leave in the fridge for a few hours, making sure it’s nice, firm and cold.
Fry the duck (straight from the refrigerator!) in a hot, non-sticky skillet for 10-12 minutes on the skin side. Reduce the heat after a few minutes. You don’t need oil or butter, the duck fat will do the trick. Now fry for 2-3 minute on the meat side and remove. Cover with aluminium foil in such a way that the crispy skin is not covered. The foil should only cover the meat. The skin must remain crispy.
Clean the orange, make thin zest and press the orange. Remove some of the fat and add stock, a generous amount of zest, orange juice, garlic, thyme and Mandarin Napoleon. Stir and make sure the garlic becomes integrated in the sauce. Allow to reduce by half. Add liquid from the duck. Taste and adjust. Later on butter will be added  softening the taste so at this stage the flavours need to be clearly present. You may want to add some mustard to push the flavours and help the sauce emulgate. Add more of the duck’s liquid. Reduce the heat and add cubes of cold butter. Keep stirring, taste, add black pepper, perhaps extra thyme and plate up. We served the duck with green beans (olive oil, freshly grated nutmeg) and fried potatoes.

Canard a l'Orange
Canard a l’Orange ©cadwu

Onion Confit

In 2010 James Tanner published his inspiring book Takes 5: Delicious Dishes Using Just 5 Ingredients. Short shopping lists, easy recipes and tasty results: what more can you ask for! He could have included Onion Confit in his book, but he didn’t. Five ingredients: onions, olive oil, time and perhaps bay leaf and some water are all you need to create a condiment that is perfect with roasted meats and foie gras. It comes with subtle, natural sweetness and lots of umami.

Let’s first discuss the name: it is confit because it is cooked slowly, in fat, over a long period of time. It’s not chutney for the simple reason that it does not originate from India or Pakistan plus there is no need to add various herbs and spices. It’s also not marmalade because we don’t use the peel of the onion.

Onions contain a chemical substance called inulin (also to be found in for instance bananas and Jerusalem artichokes) and given time and warmth it will breakdown into fructose: fruit sugar. Vinegar stimulates this process. So it’s yes to adding vinegar and no to adding sugar.

So how to turn white onions into a deep brown confit? Obviously we don’t add brown caster sugar (as unfortunately so many recipes suggest). Perhaps use balsamic vinegar? Nice try, but no. The only thing you need to do is to cook the onions on very low heat for 8 hours or so.

Wine Pairing

We served our Onion Confit with Terrine de Foie Gras on toast and a glass of Coteaux du Layon produced by Château de la Roulerie. This is a slightly sweet, golden white wine, made from Chenin Blanc grapes. In general a late harvested, not too sweet wine will be an excellent choice but you could also go for a glass of Champagne or Gewurztraminer.

What You Need

  • 4 White (or Spanish) Onions
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon of Vinegar
  • Optional
    • Bay Leaf
    • Water

What You Do

Peel, slice and quarter the onions. Warm a heavy enamelled iron pan, add olive oil and add the onions. Allow to simmer on very low heat for 30 minutes. Add the vinegar and allow to simmer for an additional 8 hours. Check every hour, give a gentle stir and if needed add some water. Let cool and store in the refrigerator. It will last for a week.

Prawn Cocktail

Back in the 1960’s a Prawn Cocktail was a very popular hors d’œuvre. Simple and tasteful, always a pleasure. Today it’s not just unfashionable, it’s close to being hilarious (as far as food can be hilarious). A chef serving a Prawn Cocktail? You must be kidding me!

The two essential elements of a Prawn Cocktail are Prawns and Cocktail Sauce. Yes, indeed, another invention from the 1960’s: Cocktail Sauce. In most cases something in a jar or mayonnaise mixed with powder. But don’t underestimate Cocktail Sauce. It works really well with (cooked) seafood.

Prawns in this case must be grey shrimps, crevette grise, grijze garnalen, Nordseegarnele, quisquilla gris, the common shrimp also known as Crangon Crangon. Preferably home cooked and peeled, but home peeled is also fine. The peeled once have travelled half the world (because they were peeled in a low-wage-country), were twice frozen and treated with food preservatives leading to a loss of quality.

Basically there are two ways of serving the dish: serve the cocktail sauce in a champagne coupe with the prawns hanging on the rim of the glass or as a cocktail, so with multiple layers in the glass.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Prawn Cocktail with a glass of Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie produced by Domaine Raphael Luneau. This is a very aromatic wine with a strong flavour and a long finish, which goes really well with the taste of the shrimps and the velvety sauce. The term ‘sur lie’ indicates that during a few months the wine stayed in contact with the dead yeast cells left over after fermentation. This technique makes the wine more complex.
In general a fresh, light wine with a clear acidity, such as a Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, will go very well with seafood.

What You Need

  • 200 gram of unpeeled (and uncooked) Grey Shrimps
  • Black Pepper
  • Common Corn Salad
  • Walnuts
  • For the Cocktail Sauce
    • (Home made) Mayonnaise
    • Ketchup
    • Worcestershire Sauce
    • Horseradish (preferably fresh)
    • Lemon
    • Vinegar
    • Mustard
    • Tabasco Sauce

What You Do

Cook the shrimps for 2 or 3 minutes in water with a pinch of salt. Let cool. Peel the shrimps. This is time consuming! Feel free to keep the outer shell and the tails; they will make for excellent stock.
Combine two tablespoons of mayonnaise with three or four teaspoons of ketchup, two teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, one teaspoon of grated horseradish, one teaspoon of vinegar and one teaspoon of mustard. Now it’s a matter of tasting and adjusting. Feel free to add some lemon juice. The cocktail sauce needs a bit of a punch, so add a few drops of Tabasco sauce. The cocktail sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Coarsely crush two or three walnuts. Mix the shrimps with some black pepper.
Add some leaves of the common corn salad to the glass, sprinkle some walnut over the leaves, then a generous helping of cocktail sauce and finish with the peeled shrimps. Don’t forget to play some nice music from the 1960’s, for instance Helen Shapiro’s Walkin’ Back to Happiness.

Prawn Cocktail ©cadwu
Prawn Cocktail ©cadwu

Dashi with Nameko and Shrimps

Nameko (or Pholiota Nameko) is a very popular, cultivated mushroom in Japan. It’s used in stir-fries and miso soup. The taste is nutty, the color amber brown and the texture is firm, also after cooking. The flavor combines very well with (home-made) dashi and shrimps.  The kamaboko (made from processed seafood) and the mitsuba (Japanese parsley) add colour and extra flavour to the dish. Light, delicate and refreshing: a memorable starter.

Sake Pairing

If you want to serve a drink with the soup, then serve taru sake. This dry sake is characterized by its refreshing taste and the aroma of Yoshino cedar. The sake was stored in a barrel (taru) made of cedar. Taru sake is about skills, history, dedication and refinement. Yes, you guessed right, we simply love it. Our choice? The one made by Kiku-Masamune.

What You Need

  • For the Dashi
    • 500 ml Water
    • 10 gram Konbu
    • 10 gram Katsuobushi
  • 100 gram Nameko
  • 2 large Shrimps
  • Sake
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Yuzu
  • Kamaboko
  • Mitsuba

What You Do

Clean the shrimps and cut lengthwise in two. Let the shrimps marinade in two tablespoons of sake and transfer to the refrigerator for an hour. Clean the mushrooms with kitchen paper if necessary. Prepare the dashi; add a small tablespoon of sake and a similar quantity (or less) of soy sauce. Add the mushrooms to the soup. After a few minutes (depending on the size of the mushrooms) add four slices of kamaboko and the shrimps.  Taste and add some more soy sauce and or perhaps yuzu if necessary. Serve immediately when the shrimps are ready. If possible add some mitsuba.

Dashi with Nameko and Shrimps ©cadwu
Dashi with Nameko and Shrimps ©cadwu

Scallops with Cauliflower Purée

Three very different ingredients make for an excellent starter. The combination of seared scallops with soft, fluffy cauliflower purée and crispy grilled pancetta offers lots of flavours. For instance a touch of sweetness thanks to the caramelised scallops and the cauliflower plus lovely saltiness thanks to the scallops and the pancetta.

The combination of these three is not new and many recipes have been published. Various ingredients are added, for instance basil, lemon, capers, an infused oil (with for instance curcuma and fennel), a vinaigrette, apple beignets et cetera. But why would you add something if the combination is already close to perfection? And not difficult to make!

Wine Pairing

Best to combine with a wine with long, fruity aromas. Given the complexity of the combination the wine should be fresh and light. A Chardonnay with just a touch of oak could also be interesting because it will combine very well the grilled pancetta and seared scallop.
We enjoyed our scallops with a glass of Chateau Mourgues Du Gres Rosé. A wine with an intense pink colour, aromas that made us think of strawberries and lemon and with a fruity, long taste with a hint of pepper.

What You Need

  • For the Seared Scallops
    • 6 fresh Scallops (best if in their shell)
    • Olive Oil
    • White Pepper
  • For the Cauliflower Purée
    • One Cauliflower
    • Excellent Olive Oil
    • Crème Fraîche
    • White Pepper
  • For the Crispy Pancetta
    • 6 slices of Pancettta

What You Do

Clean and steam (or cook) the cauliflower until nearly done. Using a blender combine the cauliflower and some olive oil. When smooth pass through a sieve. Add some crème fraîche and fresh white pepper. If you’re happy with the purée, keep it warm and ready. You could prepare the purée a day in advance. Clean the scallops. In parallel set your oven to grill. Transfer the pancetta to the grill. 4 minutes? Heat a non stick pan and fry the scallops quickly. Add a last drop of excellent olive oil to the purée, mix with a spoon and plate up. Perhaps some white pepper on the scallops.

Artichoke Pie

A few days after we published our recipe for Tourte de Blette a friend told us about the great taste of artichoke pie and how popular this dish is in Italy, especially in Liguria. Since we love artichokes, we dived into our cooking library, looking for recipes.
Interestingly most recipes refer to canned or marinated artichokes. But wouldn’t it be much better to use fresh, young artichokes? Other ingredients are cheese (Prescinsêua, or a combination of Parmesan or Pecorino and Ricotta, perhaps some Crème fraîche or even Feta), herbs (parsley, thyme or oregano) and eggs.
We like the combination of artichoke and thyme (as we did in our salad), but we could imagine oregano to be a good choice as well.
We remained close to Tourte de Blette and prepared a rustic, open pie, but feel free to create one with pastry on top.

Wine Pairing

It’s not straightforward to pair artichokes with wine. According to various researchers this is due to cynarin, a chemical especially found in the leaves of the artichoke. When the wine and the cynarin meet in your mouth, the natural sweetness of the wine is amplified, making it taste too sweet. So you have to pair freshly cooked or steamed artichokes with a bone-dry, crisp, unoaked white wine with clear, present acidity. For instance Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner or Albariño.
We enjoyed our Artichoke Pie with a glass of Château Pajzos Tokaj “T” Furmint, a dry, bright, fresh wine with zesty, nutty and mineral flavours made from the Hungarian Furmint grape. A unique wine and perfect in combination with the artichokes.
Cynarin and wine are not a match made in heaven but the good news is that cynarin seems to protect your liver and even helps it regenerate.

What You Need

  • For the Dough
    • 100 gram of Flour
    • 50 gram of Water
    • 10 gram of Olive Oil
    • 1 gram of Salt
  • For the Mixture
    • 4-6 young Artichokes
    • One Shallot
    • Olive Oil
    • 30 grams of Rice
    • 2 Eggs
    • Fresh Thyme
    • 20 gram Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
    • Black Pepper

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.
Clean the artichokes, steam for 30-45 minutes depending on the size and let cool. Chop the shallot. Warm a heavy skillet, add olive oil and gently fry the shallot. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Using a spoon remove the ‘meat’ from the leaves (bracts) of the artichokes. Chop the hearts in four. You may need to remove the centre choke (the hairs). Strip a generous amount of thyme.
Whisk two eggs and combine with the artichokes, the shallot, the rice, the thyme and the freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Add some black pepper.
Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. Coat a 15 cm or 6 inch round baking form with oil (or use a sheet of baking paper). Place the dough in the baking form and add the filling. Transfer to the oven for 40-50 minutes on 180˚-200˚ Celsius or 355˚-390˚ Fahrenheit. Immediately after having removed the pie from the oven, brush the outside with olive oil. This will intensify the colour of the pastry. Let cool and enjoy luke warm.