We enjoyed this dish as a starter when in Milan, on a beautiful evening, eating al fresco and enjoying the wonderful combination of the sweetness and bitterness of the asparagus, the slightly caramelised sugars as a result of grilling the asparagus and the salty and sweet cheese. A glass of Pinot Grigio was all we wanted. In Milan we enjoyed grilled green asparagus, but it works equally well with white asparagus. This is typically a dish to prepare when the asparagus season is at its high and outside temperatures feel like summer.
Serve with a glass of Pinot Grigio, a Muscat or Pinot Gris from the Alsace region or a rosé with character. The wine needs to combine with a range of very diverse flavors so it should be a bit complex.
What You Need
3 Asparagus per person
What You Do
Peel the asparagus and cook or steam until slightly tender. Depending on the size we would say 10-15 minutes in the Russel Hobss steamer. Leave and let cool. Take a plate, add some oil to the plate and use it to coat the asparagus with oil. Heat the pan and grill the asparagus for 4*1 minute, making sure you have a lovely brown (not too dark) pattern. Or use a contact grill for 2*2 minutes. Serve on a plate, add some grated Parmesan cheese and pepper. Add a generous drizzle of very excellent olive oil.
The Fairy Ring Mushroom is a very common mushroom in many countries. The name is not very helpful since many mushrooms grow in the pattern of a ring. The German and Dutch names (Rasen-Schwindling and Weidekringzwam) are more helpful; these refer to the fact that they grow in meadows and lawns.
In France the Mushroom of Saint George is called mousseron and the Fairy Ring Mushroom faux mousseron. But becauseof the limited availability of the Mushroom of Saint George the faux (false) is dropped in the second name and the Fairy Ring Mushroom is often referred to and sold as mousseron.
It’s a small, very edible mushroom, available from early spring until late autumn. Its taste is a bit sweet and perhaps that’s why some people suggest using them to make sweet cookies. Hm, we think you can do better than that!
We combine the Fairy Ring Mushroom with excellent organic pork (also a touch of sweetness), cream, white wine, fresh sage and a splash of cognac to give the dish a nutty component.
We enjoyed our Fairy Ring Mushrooms and pork with a glass of Austrian Zweigelt, produced by Weingut Prechtl. This red wine is fruity and elegant with notes of blackberry and cherry. The tannins are well structured but not overly present. In general you’re looking for a full bodied red wine with fruit and not too much acidity.
What You Need
2 Organic Pork Chops with lots of nice fat (Sirloin or Shoulder)
Start by cleaning the mushrooms with kitchen paper. Remove the stems. Fry the caps in olive oil. When the liquid has evaporated, add some dry white wine and two finely chopped leaves of sage. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes or so. Add some crème fraîche and a few moments later a splash of cognac. Stir and leave to simmer for another 5 minutes. In parallel fry the pork chops until brown and leave to rest in aluminium foil. Remove the pork fat from the pan and deglaze with chicken stock. Reduce. Now add the liquid from the pan to the mushrooms, add more finely chopped sage and some black pepper.
Asparagus and eggs, it’s a match made in heaven. For instance à la Flamande(with boiled egg, butter, parsley and ham) or more exotic with Kimizu or with scrambled eggs, chives and shrimps.
Indeed, with small excellent shrimps, preferably freshly peeled; not used as an ingredient but as an element of flavour. The first time we tasted this combination we were surprised by the role of the shrimps. The salty, intense taste, balanced with the very rich eggs and the sweet-bitter asparagus is a very clever idea. The chives in the scrambled eggs lift the dish to a higher level. Unfortunately we don’t know who created it, so we offer the recipe with a caveat.
Preparing scrambled eggs, it seems obvious and simple, but actually we are looking for a version that is more like a sauce. Gordon Ramsey’s instructive and hilarious video shows you how to make scrambled eggs, so no need for us to explain. You need to stop a bit earlier, given it needs to have a sauce-like consistency.
We decided to drink a glass of Rivaner from the house Gales in Luxembourg. The aroma made us think of grapefruit, ripe melon and apple. The taste is elegant with a touch of sweetness, acidity and minerality. Ideal with our dish! The sweetness with the asparagus, the acidity in combination with the scrambled eggs and chives, the minerality with the shrimps. And the taste is surprisingly long lasting, which is perfect with such a rich dish.
What You Need
6 White Asparagus
A Few Small (unpeeled) Shrimps
What You Do
Peel the asparagus and steam for 20 minutes or so. They should have a bite. Prepare scrambled eggs à la Ramsay. Serve the asparagus with the scrambled eggs and just a few shrimps. Done!
Spring brings us several edible or even delicious mushrooms, such as the Mushroom of Saint George, Morels and the Fairy Ring Mushroom.
The mushroom of Saint George (Calocybe gambosa) is usually the first edible mushroom to appear. Its name derives from St George’s Day, 23rd April, by which date it can be found in the UK. Its French and Italian name (for instance Tricholome de la Saint-Georges in France) also refer to this day. Its Dutch name (Voorjaarspronkridder) and its Swedish name (Vårmusseron meaning spring mushroom) refer to the fact that the mushroom is available for a short period only.
Famous chef and author Jane Grigson isn’t a fan of the mushroom. In her classic book The Mushroom Feast she writes “I have omitted one or two which our mushroom books follow each other in praising too highly. One of these is the Saint George’s Mushroom.”
Perhaps because the smell is so rare? Some say the mushroom smells of cucumber; others say melon rind or refer to a mealy scent. We think it’s more like overripe zucchini or even ghee that is a bit offish. In all cases, a not-very-pleasant-smell to remember. The good news is that the smell disappears as soon as you heat the mushrooms.
The mushroom of Saint George is clearly a spring-mushroom, but we think that you will have some reminiscence of autumn when eating this dish. A hint of earthiness. Intense but not overwhelming. However, the combination of ramson and Saint George’s mushroom is 100% spring.
Confused? Perhaps that’s part of the fun of eating Saint George’s mushroom.
We suggest an oaked chardonnay, for instance Domaine De La Prade from the Languedoc region in France. The wine has a pale, yellow colour, aromas of ripe tropical fruit and its taste is intense, buttery and comes with a touch of oak. The wine has a long lasting taste.
Feel free to go for a US or Australian Chardonnay. A full-bodied, gently oaked chardonnay will go very well with the mushroom and the udon.
Clean the mushrooms with kitchen paper and if necessary clean the stems with a sharp knife. Slice the pancetta in small slices. Heat a heavy iron skillet, add olive oil and quickly fry the pancetta. Transfer to a plate with kitchen paper and keep in the oven on 60° Celsius or 140° Fahrenheit. Slice the mushrooms, fry them gently in the pan and reduce the heat. Add chicken stock. Add some crème fraiche. In parallel cook the udon for 10 minutes. Drain the udon and keep some of the cooking liquid. Add the udon to the mushrooms in the pan, add black pepper and stir gently, making sure all pasta is covered. Add some cooking liquid to make sure it’s nice and moist. Add the pancetta and the sliced leaves (lengthwise, remove the vein) of ramson, mix and serve immediately. Decorate with a ramson flower.
The French Périgord is the truffle heart of France. The region is also known for its culinary products, such as Confit de Canard, wines from Bergerac and Monbazillac, Foie Gras and Sauce Périgueux. This sauce is a classic in the French kitchen. Its basis is a white sauce made with shallot, a reduction of white wine, (goose) fat, stock and lots of truffle. The ‘original’ recipe of this truffle sauce can be found in La Bonne Cuisine du Périgord written in 1929 by La Mazille. The sauce works beautifully with Tournedos and Magret de Canard. And since white asparagus love truffles, why not combine them with Sauce Périgueux?
We don’t think a roux-based sauce will go very well with asparagus, so we combined two recipes: the flavors of Sauce Périgueux with the lightness and consistency of Japanese Kimizu.
We enjoyed our asparagus with a glass of Riesling, produced by Bott Geyl in the French Alsace. This fresh, aromatic, dry white wine with a hint of sweetness and high acidity combines very well with the sweetness of the asparagus and the intense, rich flavor of the sauce. The wine supports the dish perfectly.
What You Need
6 White Asparagus
1 Small Truffle
For the Sauce
1 Glass of Dry White Wine
3 Black Peppercorns
½ tablespoon Simple White Vinegar
Two Cubes of Jus de Truffe*
2 egg yolks
What You Do
Chop the shallot, crush the peppercorns coarsely, add to a pan and add a glass of white wine. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes. Add a splash of white vinegar. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the two cubes of jus de truffe and leave to simmer for another 10 minutes. Pass through a sieve. If all is well you should have 4 tablespoons of liquid. If necessary reduce. Set aside and leave to cool. Peel the asparagus and steam for 20 minutes, depending on the size. When there is still 10 minutes on the clock, start working on the sauce. Whisk the two egg yolks well, add the 4 tablespoons of liquid, mix and heat in the microwave on 30% power. Start with one interval of 10 seconds, stir, followed by an interval of 5 seconds, stir and continue with intervals of 5 seconds until you have the right consistency. Total time in the microwave will be approximately 60 seconds. Allow to cool for a minute or two. In the meantime grate the truffle. Serve the sauce over the asparagus, add some white pepper and sprinkle the truffle over the sauce and the asparagus.
* Best to buy a can of jus de truffe and freeze the content in an ice cube bag.
A salad can be an excellent starter of your lunch or dinner, provided it’s one with lots of flavour and gentle acidity. For instance a Salade Niçoise, a Salade Caprese or a salad of White Asparagus and Chervil.
Chervil is a very delicate herb. It tastes like anise, but it is much more refined. Chervil looses its taste almost immediately when heated. The salad needs to be prepared well in advance, allowing for the flavours to be well integrated.
Honey can easily ruin a salad (and sugar will always ruin a salad). In this case we use only a touch of honey to create an environment for the sweetness of the white asparagus. The honey should act as a trigger.
The salad is a great example of the complexity of white asparagus: you will taste the sweetness and the freshness of the asparagus. The mouth feel of the salad is very nice, because the asparagus will be both juicy and crispy, with the chervil, honey and vinegar in a supporting role.
After having mixed the salad you will notice that the asparagus and chervil absorb the dressing. During the time in the refrigerator the asparagus will loose some juices, which is actually the beginning of a great dressing.
Combining salad and wine is not straightforward. Especially the acidity of the dressing creates a challenge. One solution is to use verjuice and not vinegar. Verjuice is made by pressing unripe grapes. The idea is that verjuice links to wine, whereas classic vinegar or lemon juice would compete with wine. In this case we choose a wine that reflects the flavours of the salad: a hint of anise, a touch of sweetness and florality. Typical notes you will find in a wine from the Alsace region, for instance a Pinot Blanc or a Pinot Gris.
What You Need
2 White Asparagus per person
Excellent Olive Oil
White Wine Vinegar or Verjuice
Lots of Chervil
Touch of Honey
What You Do
Steam the asparagus for 10 minutes. Let cool. Dry with kitchen paper if needed. Prepare a dressing with the olive oil and vinegar. Chop the chervil and add to the dressing. Add a touch of honey and stir well. Add some white pepper. Taste the dressing: it should be a balance, meaning that none of the ingredients is overly present. Now slice the asparagus in nice chunks, let’s say 3 centimetres long. Mix, cover and transfer to the refrigerator for 6 hours. Mix the salad every two hours. Check the taste after 4 hours, you may want to adjust. Mix the dressing just before serving.
Finally, it’s spring. The season of white asparagus, morels and many more primeurs. This dish brings together white asparagus with eggs, excellent ham, butter, small potatoes and parsley. Taste the slight bitterness and sweetness of the asparagus, the umami of the potato and enjoy the velvety feeling on your palate as a result of the butter and the egg. Don’t be tempted to boil white asparagus in water with butter, lemon, sugar or salt. Steaming is by far the best way to prepare them. We love our Russel Hobbs food steamer! Simple, straightforward and the result is a tribute to spring.
Ideally we would serve a dry Muscat from the Elzas with our asparagus. The delicate, slightly sweet but dry taste, the hint of bitterness and the rich aromas work very well with white asparagus. Muscat to us means the smell of fresh fruit. As if you taste the original grape. A wonderful wine and a wonderful combination. Fortunately asparagus are fairly flexible when it comes to wine: a Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris will also be fine.
We opened a bottle of Vinho Verdefrom Portugal. A light and vibrant wine with clear notes of citrus and floral aromas that combined rather well with the flavours of the asparagus. Not the most exquisite combination, but it worked for us.
What You Need
6 or 10 White Asparagus
100 gram Excellent, Organic Ham
Small Firm Potatoes
What You Do
Peel the asparagus and steam them for 20 minutes. Steam the eggs medium (10 minutes), making sure the yolk is firm but not dry. Wash the potatoes and steam them for 15 minutes. Timing depends on the size. Melt the butter. Peel the egg and cut in four. Chop the parsley. Serve the asparagus and eggs on a plate. Coat the potatoes with butter and parsley. Dress the plate with ham (please make sure it has a bit of fat) and potatoes. Poor the remaining melted butter over the asparagus. Sprinkle the parsley over the egg. Add some white pepper.
One of the most delicious aspects of spring: fresh morels. They combine really well with asparagus, calves’ kidneys and chicken. Jane Grigson offers two recipes for morels and chicken in her classic The Mushroom Feast, but her recipe for Flan with Morels à la Crème genuinely inspired us. It combines pastry with Mornay sauce and morels. Mornay sauce is a béchamel sauce with grated, hard cheese (preferably Gruyère). Very old fashioned of course and a modern chef will not touch it. Which is a pity, because béchamel sauce is worth exploring. One of the more intriguing stories is that the sauce was created by Marquis Louis de Béchameil who served at the court of Louis XIV at Versailles. It’s probably more realistic to think that chef François Pierre de la Varenne created it in the 17th century. He would have made a white stock (veal or chicken and lots of herbs) and used egg yolks and flower to get the right consistency. Many years later Antonin Carême described the use of a roux and added not only egg yolks but also cream. It was Auguste Escoffier who changed the recipe and created the béchamel sauce as we know it today. The béchamel sauce as it was made by Antonin Carême is rich, velvety and full of flavours. Let’s pay tribute to the great Carême and cook his version of this sauce!
The wine needs to accompany the subtle sweetness in the sauce and the nuttiness, umami, pancake-like taste of the morels. We suggest a fruity, well balanced, red wine, for instance a French Merlot, a Spanish Bobal, a Zinfandel or a Gamay.
Chop 5 centimetre of carrot, one small shallot and the stems of the morels. Melt butter in a pan and let the ingredients become tender. Add flour (same quantity as the butter), combine and warm well, without colouring the mixture; let’s say 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, bit by bit and create the interim sauce (the velouté). Keep it warm for at least 15 minutes because this will improve the taste and the consistency. Half an hour is better. In parallel clean the morels and slice lengthwise in 2 or 4. Add to a pan with butter and warm for 10 minutes or more. Also in parallel fry the chicken in olive oil. This may take 15-20 minutes. When the chicken is nearly ready, put the morels on a sheet of kitchen paper and keep warm in the oven. Feel free to add some of the cooking liquid to the sauce. Pass the interim sauce through a sieve. In a glass bowl whisk together a tablespoon of cream and the egg yolk until smooth. Slowly add the warm sauce into the mixture of egg and cream, whisking constantly. When this is done, transfer the sauce back to a clean pan and warm the sauce until it starts to thicken. Be careful because otherwise the sauce will curdle. Taste the sauce and add white pepper. Warm it through and through. Slice the chicken. Serve the chicken with the sauce and the morels on a hot plate.
Such a delicious starter! Perhaps it makes you think of Italy or France. A Plateau de Fruit de Mer, with oysters, shrimps, lobster, clams, periwinkles and langoustines. The name sounds French, so perhaps the langoustine is local to the Mediterranean Sea? Not really. Its Latin name (Nephrops norvegicus) is a nice indication of its habitat. Langoustines live in the North-Eastern Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea from Norway to Portugal. The langoustine-catch is very important for the Scottish fishing industry.
So why is it that so few people in countries around the North Sea enjoy langoustines? Difficult to prepare? Difficult to eat?
Let’s start with how to eat a langoustine. You begin by pulling away the head and claws, then you squeeze the belly to crack the shell. Start from the belly side and peel away the shell. Then de-vein by running a sharp knife along the back and remove the black vein (the intestinal tract). With a lobster cracker and a lobster curette you remove the meat from the claws. A bit of extra work, but it’s truly delicious.
So they’re easy to eat and, see below, very easy to prepare.
We enjoyed a glass of Château Pajzos Tokaj Furmint 2019. This dry, white wine made from the well-known Hungarian Furmint grape is fresh, clean and slightly floral. It supports the langoustine beautifully. In general we would suggest a white, clean, dry wine. It could be a German Riesling, a Sauvignon Blanc (a French Sancerre for instance) or an unoaked Chardonnay.
What You Need
6 Langoustines (preferably fresh)
Olive Oil and Vinegar
What You Do
Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Some chefs add salt or lemon. No need for this. Add the langoustines and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Make sure you don’t overcook them. Smaller ones (like the ones we bought) require no more than 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and use a colander to drain them. We like to cool them quickly with a splash of cold water, to stop the cooking process. The meat must be moist and soft, not firm and rubbery. Leave the langoustines on a plate with kitchen paper while making a simple dressing. Toss some salad with the dressing. Serve the warm langoustines with the salad and a generous helping of mayonnaise.
Black truffles are harvested from November to March, so be extravagant and buy one before the season ends. When buying a truffle, please ask if it’s okay to smell them, because the aroma will tell you everything you need to know about the quality. Black truffles combine really well with a warm purée of potatoes, with scallops, risotto and everything eggs. We used our truffle to make one of the simplest and tastiest truffle dishes ever: an omelet with truffle and Parmesan cheese. If you store a black truffle for a day or so, then please store it in a small box with some rice and an egg. The rice will prevent the truffle of becoming wet and the egg will embrace the aromas of the truffle and become a treat in its own right.
A not too complex white wine goes very well with this omelet, best would be a classic Pinot Blanc or Riesling from the Alsace region (for instance produced by Kuentz-Bas). Think fruity aromas, floral characteristics, minerality and a touch of acidity and sweetness.
What You Need
10 grams or (budget permitting) more Black Truffle
What You Do
Clean the truffle if necessary. Take a fairly small iron skillet and make sure the pan is warm through and through but not hot. Using a fork (a spoon is even better) whisk the two eggs together. Add butter to the pan and wait until it is melted. It should not change colour or sizzle. An omelet should not be fried; the bottom must remain yellow. Add the whisked egg to the pan and wait until the egg is beginning to set. Check the consistency with your fingers. There is no alternative to baveuse! Take your time. Serve the omelet on a warm dish with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, white pepper and grated black truffle.