Classic Cèpes

What better way to start the mushroom season than serving Classic Cèpes? The recipe is very simple and the result is about cèpes and cèpes alone. The stems a bit firm, the caps moist, the flavours intense and the taste rich and earthy, with a touch of freshness from the parsley. It’s a classic in Germany (Steinpilze auf klassische Art), France (similar to Cèpes a la Bordelaise), Italy and many other countries. 

Wine Pairing

If you want to enjoy the cèpes with a glass of white wine, then we suggest drinking one that is fresh, fruity, round and balanced, for instance of a glass of Bodegas Mocén Selección Especial made from verdejo grapes. A glass of rosé with similar flavours is also a good idea. The idea is to support the cèpes by adding fruitiness and freshness to the dish.

When you decide to drink a glass of red wine, then we suggest a full-bodied red wine with gently fruit and present tannins. 

What You Need

  • 200 gram Cèpes
  • Butter
  • One small Shallot
  • Parsley
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Clean the mushrooms and slice lengthwise. Finely chop the shallot and the parsley. Add butter to a relatively hot heavy iron skillet. Reduce the heat and fry the cèpes for a few minutes. Add the shallot. Cook on medium heat for 2 minutes. Add chopped parsley, add more butter, black pepper and stir. Serve on a warm plate.

Warm Tapenade

On one of the last, warm, long evenings of this summer we wanted to enjoy something with lots of flavours and depth, but we didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen. Then we remembered a tapenade like mixture that worked nicely with monkfish. Why not combine it with excellent beef? The result was what we hoped for: lots of flavours and we only needed 15 minutes to prepare it.

Wine Pairing

Enjoy with a glass of full-bodied red wine, for instance Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec. The tannins of such a wine will combine very well with the depth and richness of the tapenade and the beef.

We enjoyed a glass of Les Terrasses Occitanes Fitou produced by Mont Tauch from the Languedoc region in France, made with Grenache, Carignan and Syrah grapes. A not too complex, full bodied dry wine with aromas of red fruit and a lasting taste.

What You Need

  • 150 grams of Excellent Beef (Sirloin, Bavette)
  • For the Tapenade:
    • Shallot
    • Garlic
    • Black Olives
    • Capers
    • Thyme
    • Rosemary (optional)
    • Anchovies
    • Olive Oil

What You Do

Let the beef rest on a plate until it reaches room temperature. This could take an hour. Chop the shallot and the garlic, halve the black olives and remove the thyme leaves from the stalk. If using fresh rosemary, make sure to chop the leaves. Dry the capers with kitchen paper. Mash the anchovies with a fork until you have a paste-like substance. Warm a pan, add some olive oil and glaze the onions. After a few minutes add the garlic. Add the olives, the thyme, the capers and the anchovies. The result should be a rather chunky, rich tapenade.
Add olive oil to a hot skillet and quickly fry the beef. Leave to rest for a few minutes before serving with the warm tapenade. Add some black pepper.

PS

Not using anchovies is not an option. They bring umami and saltiness to the tapenade. One fillet is enough to have the right result.

Beef with Warm Tapenade ©cadwu
Beef with Warm Tapenade ©cadwu

Mushroom Season

Hurray! The mushroom season has started! Last Saturday we bought delicious cèpes and chanterelles. Such a treat. It does of course mean that summer is over, which makes us a bit sad, but it also means the joy of eating wonderful dishes such as Cèpes à la Bordelaise or Salad with Mushrooms and smoked Duck (see below). Last year we prepared a Pâté with bay boletes, which was both beautiful and delicious. Will we be able to buy them this year? Or perhaps the intriguing Japanese Matsutake? It’s been some time since we last saw them on the market, and we would really love to make Matsutake with Spinach and Ginger again. How about Caesar’s mushroom with Udon?

Books

If you’re looking for useful mushroom recipes, then we suggest Antonio Carluccio’s The Quiet Hunt or Mushroom by Johnny Acton and Nick Sadler. Or look at our list of mushroom recipes.

Wine Pairing

Combining wine and salad is never obvious. In the case of a salad with mushrooms and duck we need to consider umami (mushrooms, duck), a touch of sweetness (smoked or cured meat) and the acidity of the dressing. We choose Domaine de Rimauresq Côtes de Provence Cru Classé rosé. A classic wine from the French Provence with grapes such as grenache noirmourvèdreugni blanc and rolle. The wine comes with delicate fruity, fresh flavours and aromas. It is very well balanced, dry and mouth filling and it combines beautifully with all aspects of the salad.
In general you’re looking for a white or rosé wine that has complexity and length, without being overpowering.

What You Need

  • 150 grams of Mushrooms (Cèpes preferred but also great with Oyster Mushrooms or a mix of Champignon de Paris, Shiitake and others)
  • Mesclun
  • Dried or Smoked Breast of Duck
  • Olive Oil
  • Vinegar (Red Wine, Jerez or Raspberry)

What You Do

Clean and slice the mushrooms. Heat a heavy iron skillet and fry the mushrooms in olive oil. Make a dressing of oil and vinegar. Toss the mesclun and the dressing. Transfer the salad to a plate, add mushrooms and finish with 3 or 5 slices of duck.

Leek à la Wannée

Leek is such a tasty vegetable: essential when making stock, delicious when prepared in butter and served with a cheese sauce (Sauce Mornay) or when stir fried. Extravagant when served with a dressing (jus de truffe, lemon, mustard) and lots of summer truffle. A popular, tasty, aromatic and very affordable vegetable.

This was also the case in 1910 when Mrs. Wannée published her cookbook. A book dedicated to nutritious and inexpensive food. Or should we say cheap? She was teacher and director of the Amsterdam Huishoudschool, a school for domestic skills, aimed at training future maids and housewives. The book is currently in its 32nd edition and has sold over one million copies. It continues to be a popular cookbook because every new edition reflects the current views on food and nutrition.

We have a copy of the 14th edition (published around 1955?). It is beautifully illustrated (full colour pictures and drawings) and contains 1038 recipes. It probably very much reflects the 1910 style of preparing food. We followed recipe 451 for stewed leek with a corn starch-based sauce. Well, eh, honestly don’t do this at home. The texture of the leek was nice and soft, the taste gone and the sauce bland and gluey. Interesting as experiment but not worth repeating.

The recipe does not mention the use of pepper and/or nutmeg (both fairly obvious choices) which is part of a bigger problem. Another standard Dutch cookbook (Het Haagse Kookboek, first published in 1934) is also known for the very limited use of spices and herbs. Probably it is a reflection of the sober, Calvinist nature of the Dutch in the 19th and 20th century. Price over taste, quantity over quality.

This dominated Dutch cooking for many years. And in some cases it still does. As if Dutch food is over-cooked and under-seasoned.

Nonsense. When you read books by Carolus Battus or Mrs. Marselis you know that Dutch cuisine is absolutely about tasty and interesting food, using various herbs and spices.

What You Don’t Do

Wash and clean the leek. Slice it in 4 – 5 cm chunks. Cook these in salted water for 30 minutes. Drain. Use the liquid and corn starch to make a sauce. Add some butter to make the sauce richer. Transfer the leek back to the sauce and leave for 15 minutes.

We served the leek with organic pork loin in a creamy mustard sauce (yummy!)

Fennel

The bulb, the seeds, the leaves: fennel is such a generous plant! The bulb (the swollen base of the stem) can be cooked, grilled, stewed, used in salads or steamed. The leaves are great for decoration or in a salad and the crushed seeds can be used on their own or in a combination like five-spice powder. Overall fennel has an anise-flavoured, warm, sweet taste. 

We slow cook the bulb, capturing all the lovely flavours and creating a soft, fibrous texture. You could add star anise or some orange peel to the stew. We prefer adding a splash of pastis, because it adds depth to the fennel. We recommend pastis as produced by Henri Bardouin, because of its excellent, delicate taste.

We prepare the fennel using a cartouche. This way you get the tastiest moist fennel ever.

What You Need

  • Fennel Bulb
  • Pastis
  • Butter

What You Do

Use baking paper to make a cartouche. Remove the outer leave(s) of the fennel if so required. Slice the fennel in 4, from top to bottom. Slice every quarter in 3 to 6 segments, from top to bottom. The idea is that every segment looks a bit like a fan. Trim of parts that don’t look nice, but don’t remove the bottom. If you do remove it, the fan will fall apart.

Warm a heavy pan, add a very generous amount of butter, a splash of pastis and the sliced fennel. Cover tightly with the cartouche and leave on low heat for an hour or so, perhaps longer. Feel free to stir gently every 15 minutes. The fennel should be soft, sweet, anise-flavoured and rich. When serving, poor the remaining liquid over the fennel.
We served our fennel with Confit de Canard and enjoyed it with a glass of Bardolino.

Asparagus!

Only a few days left before the end of the asparagus season on June 24th! So dash off to your greengrocer and buy some lovely asparagus, white, green, purple, it’s all fine and great, as long as they are locally farmed and fresh.

The classic way of preparing asparagus is to cook (or better: steam) them. You can pair the steamed asparagus with kimizu (the beautiful, light, golden Japanese sauce made with egg yolks and rice vinegar) Hollandaise, morels or scrambled eggs with shrimps. Classic way to serve them is à la Flamande (mimosa of egg, butter, parsley and nutmeg). You could add boiled eggs, ham and new potatoes to have a nice dinner. Or if you want to spent more money, then you serve them with summer truffle or with Sauce Périgueux.

Grilling the asparagus is also possible, simply serve them with excellent olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese.

Parhaps as a salad on a summers evening? Of course, with a delicious dressing made of white wine vinegar, olive oil, a touch of honey and lots of chervil.

A more exotic way of is to fry the asparagus with black olives and basil. Goes very well with lamb.

Wine Pairing

The obvious choice is a glass of Pinot Blanc, although we actually prefer a dry Muscat in combination with a classic preparation such as à la Flamande. Depending on the dish it could also be a Verdicchio, an Albariño or perhaps even a Portuguese Vinho Verde. Feel free to experiment; yesterday we enjoyed our asparagus with a glass of wine made of muscat and picpoul grapes. Delicious combination! The wine comes from the Pont Du Gard region (near Nimes, France) and is produced by Château Mourgues du Grès.
A more serious rosé is a perfect choice when you grill the asparagus, for instance a glass of Domaine Vico Corse Le Bois du Cerf Rosé 2021. This exceptional rosé from Corsica is made of grenache and sciacarello grapes. It is medium bodied and fresh with aromas of red fruit with a complex, long and fruity taste.
A pinot noir or grenache based wine is great when you fry the asparagus, depending on the preparation of the meat.

Asparagus ©cadwu
Asparagus ©cadwu

Mushroom Caponata

There must be hundreds of recipes for Caponata. The dish originates from Sicily and should contain (at least, we think so) eggplant (aubergine), celery and vinegar. Sugar is often added to enhance the sweetness and intensity. Nowadays it’s often a combination with tomatoes, shallot, capers, olives and perhaps raisins, pine nuts, oregano and basil.
The flavour of caponata should be slightly bitter (the eggplant) with a touch of sweetness (sugar, onion), acidity and saltiness (celery). The texture should be moist, but not sauce-like.
We love to enhance the flavours by adding mushrooms. And since we’re not keen on using sugar, we make sure the onions bring sufficient sweetness.

Enjoy your caponata as an appetizer, for instance with some crusted bread or bruschetta. A nice glass of white wine or rosé will be perfect with it. It’s also great as a side dish, with fish or even merguez.

Whatever the combination, caponata must be made one day ahead.

What You Need

  • 1 Aubergine
  • 200 grams of Mushrooms (preferably a mix with Shiitake)
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 1 cm Red Chilli Pepper
  • Parsley
  • Celery
  • 2 tablespoons of White Wine Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Fine Salt

What You Do

Wash the eggplant and slice. We slice the eggplant lengthwise in 8 and then we slice these strips. Salt them generously, transfer to a sieve and allow to drain for one or two hours. The more liquid they lose, the better! Rinse the eggplant with cold water and dry them with a kitchen cloth. Fry the aubergine in a heavy iron skillet until nicely golden brown. Set aside. Slice the red onion, clean and chop the mushrooms. Chop the garlic and the chilli pepper finely. Add some olive oil to the pan and fry the onion. Remove and set aside. Now fry the mushrooms. After 5 minutes or so add the garlic and the chilli pepper. After a few minutes add the mushrooms and the eggplant to the pan. Add chopped parsley and celery. Mix well. Add two spoons of white wine vinegar and leave on low heat for 10 minutes. Add black pepper to taste. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Keep in the refrigerator for the next day.

Takes 5

You can’t have enough cookbooks. Some make you think back of a holiday, others are written by chefs you admire, and some are technical or about specific ingredients. There is always room for just one extra cookbook.

Once in a while, when you’re looking for inspiration, you browse through a number of books, look at the pictures, read recipes and you think: ‘far too many ingredients, far too complicated’ for a not very inspired evening.

James Tanner

Fortunately, you remember one very special cookbook: James Tanner Takes 5: Delicious Dishes Using Just 5 Ingredients with over 90 recipes, ranging from Roasted Red Bell Peppers with Anchovies to Scones. Short shopping lists, easy recipes and tasty results: what more can you ask for! Isn’t it great, Chocolate MousseFigs with Honey or Toad-in-the-hole

James Tanner (1976) is a British chef and author. Together with his brother Chris he runs a restaurant in Kent, The Kentish Hare. He appeared as a tv-chef on shows like Ready Steady Cook (remember The Quickie BagGreen Pepper and Red Tomato?).

Favourite

Our personal favourite is a small chicken (preferably a coquelet, a young rooster) with a paste made of red peppers, pure creamed coconut (santan), lime and cilantro. It’s easy to make and the result is very tasty. Serve it with some bok choy in oyster sauce and you have a lovely meal. He enjoys it with a cold beer, we prefer a glass of rosé, for instance Chiaretto di Bardolino DOC made by Monte del Frà from Italy. A pale, pink wine with floral and fruity aromas. Dry with medium acidity, limited tannins and delicate flavours. Excellent with the chicken and the coconut.

Takes 5: Delicious Dishes Using Just 5 Ingredients was published in 2010 and is available (probably second hand) via the well-known channels for something like 20 US dollar or Euro.

Mushroom Tapenade

Years ago our favourite green grocer was the shop of Joop and Trudi Petersen, close to Amsterdam’s China Town. Not only did they sell the tastiest vegetables, fruit and mushrooms, but they also sold homemade mash (the one made with potatoes and rapini (or broccoli rabe) was wonderful), desserts, ravioli with pumpkin and Trudi’s mushroom tapenade. When Joop turned 65 in 2008 they retired and closed the shop. Obviously, we asked for the tapenade recipe, but alas, all we got was a nice, friendly smile.

In our post about the Mushroom Book by Michael McLaughlin and Dorothy Reinhardt (Illustrator) we mentioned that the recipe for Mushroom Tapenade is amongst our favourites. His tapenade is a combination of mushrooms, garlic, various herbs, red wine, anchovies, black olives and capers. Very nice, tasty and powerful, but not as delicious as Trudi’s version.

Mushroom tapenade comes with lots of umami, thanks to the mushrooms and the olives. Thinking back of Trudi’s tapenade, we’re pretty sure she enhanced the umami flavor, probably by adding some oyster sauce from the toko next door. We think that the recipe below is very close to what she created.

What You Need

  • Fresh Button Mushrooms and Shiitake (ratio 2:1)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • Olive Oil
  • Thyme and Rosemary
  • White Wine
  • Black Olives
  • Excellent Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper
  • Half a teaspoon of (Thai) Oyster Sauce

What You Do

Don’t use dried mushrooms. In general they have a nasty, bitter taste, not even close to the flavor, aromas and textures of fresh mushrooms.
Clean and chop the mushrooms. Finely chop the rosemary, the thyme and the garlic. Fry the mushroom in olive oil in a heavy iron skillet. Reduce heat, add herbs and garlic. After 10 minutes add a splash of white wine. Continue on low heat and wait until the wine and juices have evaporated. No rush. Chop a few black olives. Transfer the mushroom mix to a plate, let cool and add the olives. When cool, transfer to a kitchen aid and on low-speed start adding excellent olive oil. The result should be a tapenade, so not smooth and not oily. Add black pepper to taste. Add a small amount (1/4 teaspoon to begin with) of (Thai) Oyster Sauce. Be very careful, it should only enhance the umami.
Store in the refrigerator for at least one day before using.

Season’s Greetings

Perhaps you’re looking for some extra inspiration menu-wise for the Holiday Season? Let us help you with a few suggestions.

Apéretif

It’s of course great to serve a glass of Champagne, but why not start with a glass of Crémant de Bourgogne or Alsace? Or a Spanish Cava? The fun is that you can buy a slightly more expensive Crémant or Cava and enjoy a refined sparkling wine. Serve with Terrine de Foie Gras on toast or with a small prawn cocktail, served in a peeled tomato.

Starter

Scallops with fluffy cauliflower purée is a wonderful combination of flavours. The practical advantage is that you can prepare the purée a day ahead and grilling the pancetta is also something you can do in advance. Serve with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Dry, some acidity, touch of fruit.

Main Course

Canard à l’Orange, served with steamed Brussels sprouts and potatoes fried in butter: a dish that supports the festive character of your evening: sweetness, a touch of bitterness and crispy, rich potatoes. Enjoy with a beautiful Bordeaux. In general you’re looking for a powerful red wine, with aromas of berries and a touch of oak. The flavour must be round and long with subtle tannins.

Cheese

We tend to go for the classic combination of Stilton and Port. Spend some money and buy a Late Bottled Vintage Port.

Dessert

Continue the British tradition and enjoy a slice of Christmas Pudding with a coffee and a glass of Cognac or Calvados. No need to serve the pudding with brandy butter.

Season’s Greetings 2021 ©cadwu
Season’s Greetings 2021 ©cadwu