Raspberry Vinegar

Many years ago, we had the pleasure of being regular guests at the Auberge des Seigneurs in Vence, France. In those days the restaurant offered a wide range of beautiful dishes from the days of King François I, such as blue trout, roasted chicken, quail with Pruneaux d’Agen and tender lamb cooked on a spit before an open fire in the dining room.
Ah, Madame Rodi, we treasure these evenings, the beautiful food, the local wine, your dog (known to regular guests as monsieur Tim) and your infinite hospitality. We also remember your wonderful Coca Cola Light, which you would serve after dinner. It came in a huge Biot bottle and to the surprise, astonishment, shock of most of your new guests it was everything but light. It was a strong grappa with Boutons de Fleur d’Oranger (orange blossom buds). We can still see the broad smile on your face when yet another guest would take too big a sip of your powerful concoction.

Adding fruit can be a disastrous idea (just think about strawberry tea or sole Picasso) but the touch of acidity of raspberries makes them ideal to combine with vinegar. We follow Madame Rodi’s approach when making raspberry vinegar: simply combine the two and enjoy.

Use the raspberry vinegar wisely, for instance combine it with strong flavours, preferably umami. We use it in our favourite autumn salad with Porcini and Smoked Duck. The colour, the aromas, the taste: the vinegar and the raspberries integrate perfectly.

What You Need

  • 250 grams of Excellent Organic Raspberries
  • 250 ml White Vinegar

What You Do

Clean the raspberries, crush them with a fork and combine with the vinegar. Put in a jar and transfer to the refrigerator for one week, making sure to stir at least once a day.
Pass the mixture through a sieve, applying light pressure only. Pass the vinegar through a white cloth, squeeze very gentle. The result is probably a bit cloudy, so leave for a few days before using.

Tomato Confit

A few years ago it was the obvious garnish to nearly every dish: oven roasted cherry tomatoes, preferably on the vine. It looks and tastes nice plus it is easy to make. Just heat your oven to 180 °C or 350 °F, add the tomatoes to a baking dish, sprinkle with salt, olive oil and 30 minutes later they’re ready to serve. When cold you can add them to a salad or a sandwich with soft cheese (mozzarella, burrata, ricotta). An alternative is to halve the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and quickly roast and dry them in the oven. Another tasty result.

We prefer a slow alternative: Tomato Confit. The idea is that the skin doesn’t crack, so the tomatoes remain intact, and at the same time they absorb the flavours of the oil, herbs and garlic. The result is not just a great sweet and juicy tomato, it’s a taste explosion!

We use Tomato Confit to brighten up a simple pasta or salad, or a more complex dish like Lobster Mushroom with Udon.

What You Need

  • Excellent Cherry Tomatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • 2 Garlic Gloves

What You Do

Wash and dry the tomatoes and add these to a baking dish. Chop the garlic. Add herbs, garlic and a generous amount of olive oil to the dish. No salt, honey or sugar required. Put in the oven for something like 2 hours on 90 °C or 200 °F. You could baste the tomatoes once or twice. Don’t forget to use the cooking liquid as well, it’s another pack of flavours!

  • Tomato Confit ©cadwu
  • Fresh Tomatoes ©cadwu

Lobster Mushroom with Pasta

The Lobster Mushroom is, obviously, bright reddish orange like the shell of cooked lobster. Not obvious is the fact that it’s actually a parasite that grows on certain mushrooms, making the host completely invisible and even changing its structure and taste. If you slice a lobster mushroom, you’ll see a beautiful red skin, as if the host mushroom is sprayed.
The taste of the Lobster Mushroom depends on the host. The ones we bought tasted fairly bland, but nevertheless the pasta turned out to be very tasteful and uplifting, partly due to the homemade tomato confit.

Wine Pairing

Enjoy a glass of white wine with your Lobster Mushrooms. We drank a Portuguese Vinho Verde, made by Cazas Novas. It comes with floral and fruit notes, has some acidity and a medium body with a good texture and a fresh aftertaste. In general you’re looking for a wine with freshness, minerality and some acidity. A wine that will go well with the intense flavors of the tomato confit and the creamy mushroom pasta.

What You Need

  • 100 grams of Lobster Mushroom
  • Shallot
  • Garlic
  • Thyme
  • 1 Bunch of Udon
  • 10 Small Tomatoes (confit or roasted)
  • Stock (Chicken, Veal or Vegetable)
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Clean the Lobster Mushroom. This is a bit time consuming due to the structure of the mushroom. Slice the shallot and the garlic. Strip the leaves of the thyme. In a large iron skillet gently fry the shallot in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic. After a few minutes add the sliced lobster mushroom (chunks). Add the thyme. Leave on low heat. In parallel cook the udon for 10 minutes or until ready. Drain the udon but keep some of the cooking liquid. Add stock, just to have more liquid in the pan. Add the tomatoes, mix gently. Now add the udon to the pan, mix, making sure the tomatoes remain intact. Add cooking liquid to get the right consistency. Finish with a splash of excellent olive oil, black pepper and finely grated Parmesan Cheese.

  • Lobster Mushroom with Pasta ©cadwu
  • Lobster Mushroom ©cadwu

Cod and Horn of Plenty

The magic of a great combination: only two ingredients supported by butter, olive oil and white pepper. It made us think of James Tanner’s inspiring Take 5 Ingredients. Sometimes you need various cooking techniques and lots of ingredients. Sometimes the combination of only 5 ingredients is all you need to make a perfect dish.

Why perfect? Both the fish and the mushroom are clearly present and nicely balanced. As if the combination brings out the best of both. The butter supports the richness of the fish and the aromas are delicate. The texture of the cod is soft and a touch flaky; the Trompettes de la Mort have a more fibrous and chewy texture. Excellent mouthfeel!

Wine Pairing

You’re looking for a wine that has minerality, a touch of oak and has sufficient body and length, for instance a Chardonnay.
We enjoyed our Cod and Horn of Plenty with a glass of Chablis, Antonin Rodet, Premier Cru, Montmains. It has a clear and pale gold colour. It comes with mineral notes and a touch of lemon. The taste is delicate and persistent with aromas of fresh citrus. It goes very well with the ‘long’ taste of the dish and the citrus is ideal with the cod and butter.

What You Need

  • 150 grams of Cod
  • 100 grams of Horn of Plenty
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • White Pepper

What You Do

Make sure the mushrooms are fresh and dry. They become soggy and smelly easily. Clean the mushrooms thoroughly with a piece of kitchen paper. This can be time consuming. You may want to cut the cod in two. Fry the cod in olive oil with some butter in a non-stick pan. In a second pan fry the mushrooms in olive oil. This may take 5 minutes or so. Transfer the mushrooms from the pan to a warm plate with kitchen paper. When the cod is ready, serve immediately on a warm plate with some white pepper and sprinkle the mushrooms on top.

  • Cod and Horn of Plenty ©cadwu
  • Horn of Plenty ©cadwu

Fleurs de Courgettes Farcie

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? Mushrooms? Tomatoes? Ricotta? Vegetable Mousse?’
Earlier we described a simple, tasty vegetarian version. This recipe requires a bit more work, but the result is delicious and beautiful. Crab and courgette go together very well; it’s a well balanced combination with surprisingly delicate flavors.

Wine Pairing

Obviously a nice glass of Côtes de Provence Rosé is an excellent choice. But you could also go for a white wine, for instance a Macon-Villages as produced by Bouchard Père & Fils. In general a subtle wine that goes well with the gentle flavors of both the crab and the courgette.

What You Need

  • One Courgette (small and firm)
  • One Garlic Clove
  • Olive Oil
  • Six Small Courgettes with their flower
  • Crab
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Wash the courgette, dry and grate coarsely. Warm a small cooking pan, add olive oil and the grated courgette. Fineley grate the garlic and mix with the courgette. Leave for 20 minutes minimum on low heat. When ready, set aside and let cool.
Best is to use a leg of a fresh (littoral) crab, but you could also buy a can of most excellent crab. If using fresh crab, heat a pan with water, bay leaf and crushed black pepper corns; cook the crab for 10 minutes, remove from the water, set aside until cooler and then remove the meat from the shell. Be sure to remove all shards of shell. Set aside and let cool.
Remove the stamens from the flowers. Remove the end of the small courgette. Use a very sharp knife to slice the courgettes lengthwise in 3, making it look like a fan. Heat water in a pan and poach the small courgettes (not the flowers!) for 60-90 seconds depending on the size. Add some crab meat to the courgette mixture and taste. Keep adding crab until you’ve reached the perfect combination (or the end of the crab). Add some black pepper. Stuff the flowers, close them by slightly twisting the leaves of the flower, sprinkle with olive oil, making sure they are completely coated with oil. Heat your oven to 200° C or 390° F. Using the grill is a good idea. Transfer to the oven and cook for 10 minutes. The flowers should be crisp and perhaps a touch golden. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

  • Fleurs de Courgettes Farcie ©cadwu
  • Macon Villages and Cotes de Provence ©cadwu

Cold Soup: Ajo Blanco

It’s September, time fo buy fresh almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts; time to make Spanish Almond Soup. It’s made of white almonds, water, old bread, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and perhaps a pinch of salt. And trust us, there is no need to add anything else. No cucumber, green apples, jalapeño, chicken stock, pepper, flowers, white grapes, milk, aioli, Balsamic vinegar, raisins, cream, yoghurt, pine nuts or melon. We love creativity, but the ingredients people suggest to brighten up Ajo Blanco, it’s amazing. Especially because there is no need to add anything to the original.

Mention Ajo Blanco and someone will say ‘white gazpacho’. Because both are cold soups, because both are from Spain? We can’t think of any other reason, so please, please don’t even think about gazpacho when you serve Ajo Blanco.

What You Need

  • 70 gram White Almonds
  • 200 ml ice-cold Water
  • 30 gram old stale White Artisanal Bread without the crust
  • 1 medium Garlic Clove
  • 1 tablespoon Jerez Vinegar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 70 ml Olive Oil
  • 10 gram of Roasted Almonds

What You Do

Buy excellent almonds, so not the soft, bland ones from the supermarket. Start by very, very lightly roasting the white almonds in a dry non-stick pan. Let cool. Soak the bread for 10 minutes. Roughly chop the garlic. Using a heavy blender or food processor whizz the almonds, the garlic and some of the water until nearly smooth. Squeeze out the bread. Add bread and remaining water to the mixture. Continue blending. Add vinegar and salt. Check the mixture for taste and smoothness. It should be very smooth, cream like; this may take 1 minute on turbo! When happy with both smoothness and taste, slowly add olive oil with the blender running on low speed. Transfer the mixture to the refrigerator for at least two hours. Also cool the bowls you want to use.
Just before serving crush some roasted almonds and sprinkle these on the soup.

Ratatouille

Think summer vegetables, think Ratatouille! Which is also the title of a film released in 2007 about a rat called Remy with a passion for cooking. If you want to see how he prepares ratatouille then simply go to YouTube (or buy the DVD if you’re old fashioned like us).
Ratatouille brings back memories of summer, of the South of France, of the Mediterranean. It combines very well with a simple sausage, with lamb, with grilled chicken.
However you prepare your ratatouille, be sure to prepare it a day ahead. The taste becomes much more integrated after a day (or two) in the refrigerator. Unfortunately it doesn’t freeze well due to the eggplant.

Our recipe is very much the recipe of a dear friend. She taught us how to make ratatouille in her summer kitchen, overlooking the pool and the garden with herbs and vegetables. Indeed, fond memories.
To our surprise she added cilantro (you would expect thyme or basil) and many years later we are still grateful for this twist. The cilantro enhances the feeling of summer and it supports the various vegetables in a beautiful way.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our ratatouille with a glass of simple, red wine with lots of red and black fruits. Spicy with subtle tannins. A wine that brings summer to your glass.

What You Need (4 people)

  • 1 Eggplant or Aubergine
  • 1 Courgette or Zucchini
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 Chili Pepper
  • 4 Excellent Tomatoes
  • Cilantro
  • Olive oil

What You Do

Start by cutting the aubergine in small but not too small chunks. Drizzle with salt and mix. Let the mixture rest for a few hours, allowing for the aubergine to loose water and become firm. Best way to do this is by putting the aubergine in a sieve and let it rest above a bowl.
The tomatoes require some attention as well. You could peel them, but that’s optional. What is not optional is to separate the tomato meat and juices from the pits. First step is to remove the internal hard bits and the pits and put these aside. You now have the outer part of the tomato, which you can slice. Cut the remainder of the tomatoes roughly, add to a sieve and by using the back of a spoon make sure you capture the juices. Be surprised about the volume of tomato juice and the small amount of tomato bits and pits that remain in your sieve.

Cut the bell pepper into long slices and fry these in the pan with olive oil. Peel the courgette, slice in the way you sliced the aubergine and add to the pan. Continue frying. Add the finely chopped chilli pepper (not the seeds of course). Add the firm aubergine after having removed the remaining salt with water. After a few moments add the tomato chunks, fry a bit more, add the tomato juice and leave on low to medium heat for 60 minutes. Try not to stir too much; otherwise you risk creating mashed vegetables. Cool, set aside and store in the refrigerator.
The next day: if you have excess liquid, remove the vegetables from the liquid, reduce it until thickened and transfer the vegetables back into the pan. Otherwise gently warm the ratatouille, add some chopped cilantro, mix gently and add more cilantro just before serving.

Ratatouille ©cadwu
Ratatouille ©cadwu

Maitake Soup

Welcome to the wonderful world of the Dancing Mushroom, better known as MaitakeHen of the Woods or Ram’s Head. Enjoy the powerful, intense and nutty flavours and be intrigued by the aroma. No wonder it’s a much loved culinary mushroom!

Legend has it that maitake got its name because foragers danced with happiness when finding it. Nowadays maitake can be wild or cultivated. Both are fine; we actually prefer the cultivated ones. Make sure you cook maitake through and through, otherwise you may upset your stomach (and other parts of your body).

Maitake combines very well with beef and thyme. It is also great when combined with shrimps, crab, coquilles St Jacques, coriander, dill and parsley; a salad created by Antonio Carluccio and published in 2003 in the Complete Mushroom Book. The book has a wealth of wonderful, simple recipes.

Our soup is perhaps a bit odd, because it’s a thickened soup, something you would perhaps not expect given dashi is the base of the soup. It’s a gentle soup, with some umami and bitterness. The fried maitake amplifies the flavours.

What You Need

  • For the Dashi
    • 500 ml Water
    • 10 grams Konbu
    • 10 grams Katsuobushi 
  • 150 grams of Maitake
  • 5 cm Fresh Ginger
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sake
  • Mirin
  • Tablespoon of Cooked Plain Rice
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Prepare the dashi. Remove the base of the maitake. Set a few ‘leaves’ aside (to be fried later). Peel and quarter the ginger. Add the remaining ‘leaves’ of the maitake, the ginger and the cooked rice to the dashi. Leave for 20 minutes on low heat. Remove the ginger and use a blender to create a smooth mixture. You will notice that the maitake doesn’t thicken the soup, as a classic Champignon de Paris would do. The rice should do the trick. Pass through a sieve. Keep on low heat for another 10 minutes. Add a tablespoon of sake, some soy sauce and mirin. Taste and adjust if necessary. The quanities very much depend on the flavour of the maitake and your personal taste. You’re looking for umami, bitterness and depth. Leave for another 10 minutes on low heat. Add olive oil to a small heavy iron skillet and fry the remaining maitake; initially on medium heat, later on low heat. This may take 5 minutes. Use the blender for the second time to make sure the soup is perfectly smooth. Serve in a miso bowl.

  • Katsuobushi and Konbu ©cadwu
  • Heating Konbu ©cadwu

Time To Replace Your Non-Stick Pan

We all know that every few years we need to replace our non-stick pans. The surface has become less smooth, there are small scratches in the coating and it has become semi non-stick. Time to buy a new pan.
Perhaps you wonder what happened to your pan? Well, the truth is that not only have you eaten lovely fried food, you have also eaten bits of your pan.

Which is not great, because the coating contains PFAS. This substance may have very harmful effects, to your health and to the environment.

The abbreviation PFAS stands for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances. These (artificial) substances don’t decompose, and once present they will not disappear and continue to be harmful.

Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden announced the intention to submit a restriction proposal for PFAS to the European Chemicals Agency by July 2022. A restriction proposal is a first step towards a European ban on PFAS.

Great news for your health and the environment, but how about your beloved non-stick pan?

Fortunately, we have found an excellent alternative. The ceramic non-stick Prime-cook pans are 100% free of PFAS, PTFE, PFOA, GenX and nickel plus they are suitable for all cooking hobs. And given they last longer, it’s a sound investment.
Having tested it, we are convinced this is the future of healthy non-stick frying.

Bring your non-stick pan to the hazardous chemical waste disposal and buy a Prime-cook pan!

non-stick pan Prime-Cook ©cadwu
non-stick pan Prime-Cook ©cadwu

Lentils with Sausage and Beetroot

Think France, think a nice small bistro in a small street, off centre, nothing posh, 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, fried sausages, mashed potatoes and mustard. A beer works beautifully with it. After having enjoyed your lunch, you think about the joy of good food, French mustard and the beauty of lentils. Time for a coffee. And perhaps a glass of Calvados?

In our recipe for Cod with Lentils and Cilantro we mentioned the joy of lentils, especially the joy of eating Lentille Verte du Puy A.O.P & A.O.C. from Sabarot.

We’re not too keen on mashed potatoes so we decided to combine the lentils and sausage with a beetroot salad.

Sausage wise we suggest coarsely ground (so not minced) organic porc sausages with sage, for instance Lincolnshire sausages. The texture of the sausages is great in combination with the size of the lentils. 

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our lentils with a glass of red Pays d’Oc wine, with grapes such as Grenache and Syrah. The Syrah brings an intense colour, aromatic strength and structure. The Grenache reveals red berry flavours. For instance wine from Domaine La Colombette. This producer is well known for its innovative light wines and its Super Bio wines, made with grapes (Cabernet Noir, Souvignier Gris) that have a natural resistance to various diseases, meaning that no pesticides are needed in the vineyard.

What You Need

  • For the Lentils
    • Shallot
    • Olive Oil
    • Green or Du Puy Lentils
    • Parsley
  • For the Sausages
    • 2 or 4 Sausages (organic pork with sage, coarsely ground)
    • Olive Oil
  • For the Salad
    • Beetroot
    • Spring Onion
    • Vinegar (plain and white wine)
  • French Mustard

What You Do

One day before serving, wash the beetroot, wrap in foil and put in the oven on 180° Celsius or 365° Fahrenheit for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size. Transfer, remove foil and let cool.
Cut the shallot in small bits and glaze gently in olive oil. In the mean time check the lentils for small pebbles; wash the lentils. Once the shallot is glazed, add the lentils and heat them for a few 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. Fry the sausages in olive oil in a heavy iron skillet. Remove the skin of the beetroot, slice the beetroot and combine with thinly sliced spring onion and vinegar. Mix. Drain the lentils, chop the parsley and add to the lentils.
Serve the sausage on top of the lentils. Definitely a good dash of French mustard on the side!

  • Lentils with Sausage and Beetroot ©cadwu
  • Du Puy Lentils AOP AOC © cadwu