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.

Fromage de Fribourg

When reading La Cuisine Niçoise d’Hélène Barale: Mes 106 recettes, we noticed that she uses only one kind of cheese in her recipes. Not Parmesan, not Pecorino, but Fromage de Fribourg. She adds it to her fish soup, to her ravioli, to her tourte de blette and to various other dishes. But what is Fromage de Fribourg?

It’s also known as Vacherin Fribourgeois and it originates from the region around the Swiss city Fribourg. It’s a semi-hard, creamy cheese made with raw cow milk. It matures for at least 6 weeks in a damp cellar. Its taste is aromatic, floral, full-bodied and lasting, with a touch of sweetness, bitterness and umami. It is used in a fondue called moitié-moitié (50% Gruyère and 50% Fribourg). It’s also possible to make a fondue with Fribourgeois only, using three ingredients: water, cheese and garlic.

Obviously we wanted to taste this cheese and we assumed that in the home town of Hélène Barale we would be able to buy it. We found a great cheese shop and bought a nice slice of this complex cheese. At home we decided to make an omelet with spinach, following a recipe from Hélène Barale for Omelette aux Blettes.

Omelet

For this omelet you need spinach, shallot, garlic, bay leaf, egg and freshly grated Vacherin Fribourgeois. No thyme, black pepper or salt. We were much surprised by the perfectly balanced flavours of spinach, cheese and eggs. Wonderful omelet.
You’ll find all the details you need in La cuisine niçoise d’Hélène Barale: Mes 106 recettes.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our omelet with a nice glass of Côtes de Provence Rosé. You could also enjoy it with an unoaked Chardonnay.
If you decide to eat the cheese as dessert, then we suggest a glass of full bodied red wine (Bordeaux, Côtes du Rhône etcetera).

PS

From a culinary point of view we think we understand why Madame Barale favored Fromage de Fribourg. If it’s her personal choice, something typical for the Niçoise cuisine, a culinary trend or perhaps because she was fond of Fribourg, that remains a mystery to us.

Zucchini with Oregano and Parmesan Cheese

Recently a friend who lives in Liguria, north-western Italy, gave us a Trombetta d’Albenga. This is a zucchini, shaped like an antique trumpet. What makes it interesting is related to its shape: the seeds of this kind of zucchini are in the bell of the trumpet only, meaning that most of the zucchini is free of seeds. Which makes it ideal for a salad or for frying, especially when it’s young. Older trombettas tend to be yellowish and firmer; more pumpkin-like.

It’s wonderful to prepare this starter with Trombetta d’Albenga, however they are hard to find outside of Liguria, so we prepared this dish both with a trombetta and with a young normal zucchini. The trombetta is firmer and its taste creamier, nevertheless in both cases it’s a healthy, very tasty, vegetarian starter, one to share and enjoy with friends. It’s crunchy, salty, full of flavours, soft and slightly bitter.

Wine Pairing

The most popular grape in Liguria is Vermentino, which is used to produce white wines. Don’t worry if you can’t find a wine made with vermentino. In general a glass of rosé or white wine will be nice with the zucchini, provided the wine is fresh, with a touch of acidity and notes of citrus or green apples.

What You Need

  • One Trombetta or Young Zucchini
  • Breadcrumbs or Panko
  • Dried Oregano
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Wash and slice the vegetable. If using a zucchini, drizzle with salt and mix. Let the mixture rest for two hours, allowing for the zucchini to lose water and become firm. Best way to do this, is by putting the zucchini in a sieve and let it rest above a bowl. Wash the zucchini.
If the dried oregano is not very fine, then use a kitchen knife to make the dried leaves smaller. Mix breadcrumbs or panko with a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and Oregano. Heat a non-stick pan with olive oil. Coat the slices of zucchini with the mixture and fry quickly until golden. When ready, leave for a minute or two and serve the trombetta warm.

Green Gnocchi

We love eating Gnocchi, preferably as a starter with some olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Tasty and rich. Perhaps sometimes a bit too rich and too filling, especially the ones you can buy at your local shop or supermarket. Therefore it’s best is to make your own gnocchi, which is not too difficult, just time consuming.

We were pleasantly surprised when we found Green Gnocchi in Nice (France), made with Swiss Chard. The chopped leaves help improve the structure of the Gnocchi and add complexity and freshness to the dish. Yummy!

So all is good? Well, the name is a bit odd, to say the least. This Niçoise speciality is called Merda de Can, which translates into something from a dog – not very pleasant and certainly not something you want to eat. Very odd.

The name shouldn’t stop you from enjoying it. Merda de Can with Sage Butter is truly delicious.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Merda de Can with a glass of Saint Roman Sable de Camargue Rosé. In general you’re looking for a well-balanced, fresh wine. Given the butter and sage sauce you could serve a Chardonnay or perhaps an Italian white wine such as Gavi di Gavi or Soave

What You Need for 8 starters

  • For the Merda de Can 
    • 600 Grams of Starchy Potatoes
    • 300 Grams of Swiss Chard, Spinach or Water Spinach (cleaned and ready to use)
    • Olive Oil
    • Nutmeg
    • 1 Egg
    • All Purpose Flour
  • For the Sauce
    • Butter
    • Sage
  • Parmesan Cheese or (preferred) Vacherin de Fribourgeois)

What You Do

Best is to follow the instructions by a Niçoise chef. 
Or prepare gnocchi as you would normally. Quickly fry the leaves in olive oil, remove from the pan, chop finely and drain. Add to the potato mixture, add the beaten egg, add freshly grated nutmeg and combine. Now start adding flour until you have the right consistency. You’re looking for a flexible, non-sticky dough. Flour your hands and start making short, small, thin, sausage like pasta. (Perhaps this is the moment to think about a small dog. Or perhaps not.) Don’t worry about the shape, it’s okay if they are not very similar. Devein the sage leaves. Warm butter in a pan and add the sage. In parallel heat a generous amount of water. Add the pasta to the boiling water and wait until the pasta surfaces. Remove from the water, add the pasta to the pan with sage butter, coat the pasta and freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

PS

The Merda de Can we enjoyed was bought at a local Niçoise shop and had a more elegant shape.

Green Gnocchi (Merda de Can) ©cadwu
Green Gnocchi (Merda de Can) ©cadwu

Chervil (Pan-) Cakes

Maastricht is one of the Netherlands most beautiful cities. It’s located in the very south of the country, on both sides of the river Maas. It’s close to Germany (Aachen, Aix-La-Chapelle is only 30 km) and the Belgian city of Liège (25 km). Its culture and cuisine are strongly influenced by France. Maastricht is well known for its excellent local wines (Hoeve Nekum, Apostelhoeve), the hilly countryside and its ceramic.

In 1737 Marie Michon was born in Maastricht. In 1768 she married Albert de Milly. Both families were related to Hugenoten: protestant people who escaped from persecution in France because of their religion and moved (in this case) to the Netherlands in 1685. One of her daughters was Thérèse Elisabeth de Milly, who married the German Baron Friedrich Ludwich Behr in 1792. Clearly a rich and influential family. Mother and daughter wrote down recipes and practical households tips. There are two ‘cahiers’, known under the title ‘Natuurlijk Kookboek van Beproefde en Ondervonden Echte Recepten voor een Zindelijk Huijshouden’. The title would translate into something like ‘Natural Cookbook of Tried-and-Tested Real Recipes for a Proper and Clean Household’. In 2008 44 recipes were included in a book written by Marleen Willebrands.

In the Historisch Kookboek Vega written by Manon Henzen we noticed a recipe for chervil (pan-) cakes, based on one of the recipes of Marie Michon and Thérèse Elisabeth de Milly. Chervil, although its taste is delicate, was considered to be a very powerful and useful herb. It relieved symptoms of gout, high blood pressure, gas, eczema etcetera. The original recipe suggest frying the pancakes per 3. Which made us think of the traditional Dutch dish ‘drie in de pan’. These are small pancakes made with flour, yeast, eggs, milk and (optional) raisins. Fried per three, indeed.

The dough of the chervil pancakes is a combination of eggs, all-purpose flour, bread crumbs, melted butter, yeast, sugar and cinnamon. Add lots of chopped chervil, allow to rest and fry in a pan. We also added chopped parsley and chives.
The pancakes looked very nice and inviting. When eating them we were slightly disappointed (a bit heavy, a bit dry). Perhaps we should have thought about a sauce?

More information (Dutch only) about the original recipes from 1785 can be found on the website of DBNL.

Chervil (Pan-) Cakes
Chervil (Pan-) Cakes ©cadwu

Inari Sushi

Sushi has become such a mainstream product! We all seem to enjoy Nigiri (sushi rice topped with fish or egg, sometimes held together with a ribbon of nori), Maki (rice and stuffing rolled in nori), Uramaki (as maki but with rice on the outside), Temaki (in the shape of a cone) and Oshi (pressed rice, in the shape of a block).

Inari and Nare sushi are clearly the less known kinds of sushi.
Nare Sushi is made with fish and is fermented for 6 months. Impossible to buy where we live.

Inari Sushi is made with a pouch of deep-fried tofu (inari age) and sushi rice, originally without a topping. The tofu pouch is fried in oil, then cooked in water to remove excess oil, then cooked in dashi with soya, squeezed to remove most of the cooking liquid and then stuffed with hand-warm sushi rice. Fortunately, the pouches you can buy are ready to be stuffed, so making inari sushi is not too much work. The challenge is of course in cooking the rice and turning it into shari (the vinegar seasoned rice that is the key to tasty sushi). Another challenge is eating Inari Sushi because the pouches tend to be rather oversized.

The art of cooking rice, regardless if you make risotto or sushi, starts with the right rice. Cutting corners will lead to a disappointing result. You need short grain Japonica rice (uruchimai) when making sushi.

Drink Pairing

A dry, cold, crisp sake will be very nice with your Inari Sushi.

Choosing the right wine is not straightforward. You could think of a sparkling wine (great with the sweetness of the sushi), for instance a prosecco from Italy. We would suggest a prosecco produced by Corvezzo. An affordable, vegan, organic wine with just a touch of sweetness.

Another approach is to serve a sweeter wine, for instance a glass of Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh from the Southwest of France. Wine that comes with aromas of fruit and honey. The wine has freshness and is well balanced.

What You Need

  • Tofu Pouches
  • Sushi Rice
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • (optional) Topping

What You Do

Gently wash the rice, until the water is clear. Leave to soak for 30 minutes. Cook the rice according to the instructions on the package but use less water. Leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Make awasezu by adding some salt and sugar to the vinegar. If it doesn’t dissolve, heat the mixture gently.
Now transfer the rice to a low bowl (a hangiri) and add the vinegar to the rice. After 30 seconds use a broad spoon (or spatula) to combine the rice and the vinegar. This is the moment to use a fan. According to some this is to cool the rice, according to others it should be done to remove excess vinegar. Leave the rice to rest at room temperature under a damp cloth for one hour.
Depending on the package you may want to wash or squeeze the pouches. Stuff them with rice, serve on a plate with the open side down and enjoy your traditional Inari Sushi.
We love to combine the rice with some sliced kimchi, stuff the pouch and top it with fish eggs.

PS

Ratios are very important when preparing shari. We suggest using the following:

  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 cup of water (or a bit less, depending on the instructions)
  • 30 cc of rice vinegar
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ – 1 tablespoon of sugar (depending on your taste)

Salmorejo

A delicious, rich, creamy, velvety, elegant, complex, delicious, cold tomato soup from Andalucía (southern Spain) with lots of generous flavours. It is ideal on a hot summer’s evening and great as a vegetarian starter. It is very simple to make: purée skinned, fresh, ripe tomatoes with stale, white bread, olive oil and garlic. Garnish with Jamón Serrano (also from Andalucía) and hard-boiled egg.

Salmorejo and Gazpacho are very different soups. Gazpacho comes with red bell pepper, chili and onions; Salmorejo is purely about tomatoes and is much creamier and softer, because bread is a key ingredient. It’s nice to decorate gazpacho; Salmorejo must be garnished. Salmorejo is a beautifully balanced soup.

Removing the skin is mandatory when making Salmorejo. The idea to roast the tomatoes is a twist that enhances the flavours of the tomatoes, but it is not part of the original Salmorejo, so feel free to skip this step.

What You Need

  • 500 grams of Excellent Ripe Tomatoes
  • Slice of stale White Artisanal Bread without the crust
  • 1 small Garlic Clove
  • 1 tablespoon of Jerez Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 hard-boiled Egg
  • (optional) diced Serrano Ham
  • Black Pepper
  • (optional) Salt

What You Do

Peel the tomatoes. Soak the bread in water for 10 minutes. Optional: slice the tomatoes in two and transfer to an oven (200 °C or 390 °F) for 15 minutes and let cool. Chop the garlic clove. Blender the tomatoes, the bread (and the water) and the garlic until very smooth. It should be really smooth, cream like; this may take 1 minute on turbo! On low speed add the vinegar and slowly add the olive oil. Taste, add salt and pepper if required and perhaps some more olive oil. Allow to cool for at least 2 hours.
Serve in cold bowls and garnish with roughly chopped hard-boiled egg and diced Serrano ham.

PS

If you enjoy cold soups as much as we do, then we have more recipes for you: Gazpacho, Ajo Blanco and Avocado and Cucumber Soup.

Salmorejo ©cadwu
Salmorejo ©cadwu

Pasta with Mushrooms

Most historical recipes are about meat, fish and poultry, using a range of herbs and spices. Vegetables were not considered to be a healthy (slimy and wet) or were seen as food for the poor. Afterall, the recipes were to be used by cooks and chefs for the upper class and the gentry. Eating meat, drinking wine and using spices also illustrated wealth.

Today’s food culture is very different: meat is seen by many as the most important aspect of a meal, we tend to eat far too much of it and we’re not willing to pay a decent price for it. Go to your local supermarket, visit your local snack restaurant and feel sorry for the animals. From happy pig in the mud to intensive farming where the animals are kept in gestation crates.
On the other hand, hurray, we see more and more vegetarian alternatives, with lentils, beans, vegetables etcetera inspired by, for instance, traditional vegetarian cuisine from India.

We were pleasantly surprised when Manon Henzen and Jeroen Savelkouls published their Historisch Kookboek Vega, discussing historical vegetarian cuisine. The book includes 14 recipes, for instance dishes like Surprise Honey Cake and Chick Pea Soup. Plus one for Pasta with Mushrooms. Sounds very much 21st century but is actually based on a Venetian recipe from the 14th century. It’s a nice combination of homemade pasta (a bit chewy perhaps), mushrooms and spices. We tweaked it a bit. The original recipe is included in the book which is available via the webshop for €12,50 (Dutch only). On the website you will also find a range of videos, helping you to cook historical vegetarian food.

Wine Pairing

You can be flexible in this case. We enjoyed a glass of Côtes de Provence rosé with our pasta, but a glass of not too complex, red or white wine will also be fine.

What You Need

  • Dough
    • 125 grams of All Purpose Flour
    • 2 Eggs
    • 50 grams of Parmesan Cheese
  • Spices
    • Black Pepper
    • 3 Cardamom Seed Pods
    • Cinnamon Powder
    • Laos Powder
    • Nutmeg
  • Shallot
  • 150 grams of Mixed Mushrooms
  • 4 Sage Leaves
  • Parsley
  • White Wine Vinegar
  • White Wine
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Crush and combine the spices. Add 2 teaspoons of the mixture and the grated Parmesan cheese to the flour and mix. Whisk two eggs and add these to the mixture. A bit of kneading is required to make the dough. Set aside for an hour or so.
Knead the dough a bit more, flour your hands and make finger-long, thin pasta.
Chop the shallot, glaze in a large heavy iron pan, add the sliced mushrooms and fry these gently for a few minutes. Now add half of the deveined sage leaves and roughly chopped parsley plus some white wine. You could add a splash of white wine vinegar. Cook the pasta in a pan with boiling water for 10 minutes or until done. It behaves very similar to gnocchi. Five minutes before serving add the remaining sage and parsley. Drain the pasta, add to the pan and combine. Serve with some extra Parmesan cheese.

Pasta with Mushrooms ©cadwu
Pasta with Mushrooms ©cadwu

Mussels with Dashi and Kimchi

A few weeks ago we enjoyed dinner at l’Épicerie du Cirque “under the Palm Trees” in Antwerpen (Belgium). The restaurant is owned and run by Dennis Broeckx and Ellen Destuyver and offers contemporary Flemish cuisine with a focus on local products. Excellent choice of wines, great service, very original menu. One of the dishes was a combination of dashi, homemade kimchi, wasabi and Belgian mussels topped with foam. Lots of umami and great textures.

Back home we tried to replicate the dish, but the result was disappointing. The foam is a crucial aspect of the dish and sadly our foam collapsed after 2 seconds. But we did manage to buy some very tasty, mild Korean kimchi so the next day we prepared a dashi-based soup with mussels instead. Very tasty and the combination works really well.

What You Need

  • 500 ml of Dashi
  • Handful of Mussels
  • Kimchi (mild)
  • ½ tablespoon of Sake
  • Light Soy Sauce

What You Do

Prepare the dashi. Clean the mussels and discard broken ones. Quickly cook the mussels, add kimchi, sake and a drop of light soy sauce to the dashi, keep warm, remove the mussels from the shell and add to the soup. Serve immediately on warm plates.

Spanish Tortilla

We have fond memories of the Mercat Central in Valencia, one of the largest markets in Europe. Its architecture is amazing, but even more stunning are the products on sale: fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, chicken, fresh meat, sausages, hams, herbs, spices, fish, bread, wine, pickles, snails, weeds, offal, rice, nuts: anything and everything you can dream of.
And of course various bars with the tastiest tapas ever. We would go shopping early in the morning, buy what we needed that day (perhaps a bit more than just that) and buy two bocadillos de tortilla: a small crunchy roll with tortilla made with egg, onions and potato. We would run back to our apartment, make coffee, sit down and enjoy the rich, velvety, long taste of bread and tortilla.
Fond memories indeed.

Making Spanish tortilla is a matter of combining the best ingredients and being patient.

What You Need

  • 200 grams of Potato (waxy ones, we used Roseval)
  • 1 large Spanish (White) Onion
  • ½ Grilled Red Bell Pepper
  • 4 Eggs
  • Black Pepper
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Heat a pan and gently fry the thinly sliced potatoes, slowly, in plenty of oil. You don’t want crunchy, golden potatoes, they should be nearly done, that’s all. In a separate pan glaze the quartered and sliced onion, also for let’s say 15 minutes. Let both cool. Dry the sliced grilled red bell pepper with kitchen paper. Beat the eggs and add potatoes and onions. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. For some reason this is a crucial step, one that should not be skipped. Add sliced red bell pepper and fresh black pepper. Warm a medium sized non-stick pan (22 cm or 9 inch), add oil and fry the tortilla until the top is slightly set. It could take 20 minutes so please don’t be tempted to increase the heat. Transfer to a plate, put the pan on top of the tortilla and flip. Fry a few minutes.
Serve lukewarm, perhaps with some chopped parsley and a crunchy roll.

PS

You could peel a fresh red bell pepper, but better is to clean it, slice in 4 to 6 chunks, flatten these and grill for 10 minutes. This should char the pepper significantly. Transfer to a plastic container and close. Leave for a few hours. Now you can easily remove the skin. This way a bell pepper has a richer, more complex taste and is easier to digest, but it is of course not as crunchy as a fresh bell pepper.