Duck with Soy Sauce and Mushrooms

In his book Yamazato, Kaiseki Recipes: Secrets of the Japanese Cuisine, author and Michelin Award winning chef Akira Oshima includes a recipe for breast of duck, marinated in a soy-based sauce, served with Belgian endive (chicory) and karashi (Japanese mustard). A mouth-watering dish. The book contains some 20 recipes that are technically challenging (at least, we think so) and well written.

In general the combination of duck and soy sauce works really well. It’s all about sweetness and umami. The Japanese mushrooms (shiitake, enoki, nameko and/or shimeji) add nuttiness and texture to the dish.
We use soy sauce and tsuyu: a mix of soy sauce, mirin and dashi, ideal for making a tempura dip and great to give extra flavor to the sauce.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our duck with a glass of gewurztraminer (full bodied and long lasting with aromas of lychees and roses) but there are many options in this case. Perhaps a nice rosé or a sake with a touch of sweetness?

What You Need

  • Breast of Duck
  • Japanese Mushrooms
  • Soy Sauce (preferably with less salt)
  • Tsuyu
  • Chicken Stock
  • (Olive) Oil
  • Mirin
  • (optional) Sake

What You Do

Start by cleaning the breast of duck and then fry it, straight from the fridge, for 12 minutes on the skin-side and 2 minutes on the meat-side in a non-stick pan. Wrap in foil, making sure the skin is not covered. Clean the pan with kitchen paper and fry the sliced mushrooms for 5 minutes or so in oil until ready. Set aside and keep warm. Add soy sauce, tsuyu and chicken stock to the pan and reduce. Add a splash of sake and some mirin. Add cooking liquid of the duck. Let simmer for a few minutes, add the mushrooms and make sure they are coated with the sauce. Slice the duck, add liquid to the sauce, stir and serve.

Duck with Soy Sauce and Mushrooms ©cadwu
Duck with Soy Sauce and Mushrooms ©cadwu

Grilled Asparagus with Parmesan Cheese

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.

Wine Pairing

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
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Black Pepper

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.

Asparagus with Scrambled Eggs and Shrimps

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.

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.

Scrambled eggs?

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.

Wine Pairing

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
  • 2 Eggs
  • Butter
  • Chives
  • Crème Fraiche
  • White Pepper
  • 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!

Saint George’s Mushroom with Pasta

Spring brings us several edible or even delicious mushrooms, such as the Mushroom of Saint GeorgeMorels 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.

Wine Pairing

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.

What You Need

  • 1 bunch of Udon
  • 150 grams of Saint George’s Mushroom
  • Fresh Ramson (5 Leaves and Flowers)
  • Chicken Stock
  • Black Pepper
  • Crème Fraîche
  • 4 Slices of Excellent Pancetta
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

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.

  • Saint George's Mushroom with Pasta ©cadwu
  • Saint George's Mushroom with Pasta - Ingredients ©cadwu
  • Saint George's Mushroom ©cadwu
  • Domaine La Prade Chardonnay ©cadwu

White Asparagus with Sauce Périgueux à la Kimizu

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 MonbazillacFoie 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.

Wine Pairing

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 Shallot
    • 1 Glass of Dry White Wine
    • 3 Black Peppercorns
    • ½ tablespoon Simple White Vinegar
    • Two Cubes of Jus de Truffe*
    • 2 egg yolks
  • White Pepper

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.

  • White Asparagus with Sauce Périgueux à la Kimizu ©cadwu
  • White Asparagus and Truffle ©cadwu
  • Bott Geyl Riesling ©cadwu
  • Jus de Truffes (Chabert-Guillot) ©cadwu

White Asparagus with Ham, Egg, Potatoes and Parsley

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.

Wine Pairing

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 Verde from 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
  • 2 Eggs
  • 100 gram Excellent, Organic Ham
  • Small Firm Potatoes
  • Parsley
  • Butter
  • White Pepper

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.

White Asparagus with Ham, Egg, Potatoes and Parsley ©cadwu
White Asparagus with Ham, Egg, Potatoes and Parsley ©cadwu

Spicy Grilled Octopus

We have all experienced chewy, fibrous and tasteless octopus, so how to make sure your octopus is juicy, tender and full of flavours?

Since octopuses don’t have bones, they have very tough connective tissue (collagen) between the muscles. When heating the octopus for a few hours, the collagen will break down into soft gelatine and the meat will become tender and juicy, just as you would like it to be.

‘How to speed up the process’, you wonder?
You could add vinegar to the cooking liquid, you could prepare the octopus by storing it in brine for a few hours, you could beat and pound the flesh, you could freeze the octopus for a few days, you could try adding a wine cork to the cooking liquid (hilarious!).
Unfortunately none of these short cuts make a significant difference.

The best method is to stew the octopus in a large pot or in the oven. This may take 4 hours or more. Octopuses contain a fair amount of juices and you want to capture these and their lovely flavours, which is exactly what you do when stewing an octopus.
Cooking an octopus in water for hours means losing these flavours; not something you want to do.

There is only one alternative to slow cooking: buy (frozen) baby octopuses. Marinate them for a few hours, grill them for 2 minutes and enjoy with a glass of wine or a nice cold beer.

What You Need

  • 6 Baby Octopuses
  • For the Marinade
    • Neutral Oil
    • Soy Sauce
    • Sweet Soy Sauce (Kecap Manis)
    • Fresh Ginger
    • One Garlic Glove
    • Teaspoon of Cumin
    • Tablespoon of Chilli Bean Sauce (Toban Djan)
    • Water (optional)
  • Chinese or Japanese pickles

What You Do

Clean the octopuses and remove the beak. Grate the ginger, chop the garlic and combine with the other ingredients. You’re looking for a powerful marinade with lots of chilli and (sweet) soy sauce. Allow the octopuses to marinate for a few hours.
Heat your grill, dry the octopus and grill for 2*1 minute. We prefer using a non-stick contact grill. Cut of the mantle and slice the tentacles in two. Serve on a warm plate with pickles and share.

Cod with Bleu d’Auvergne

Bleu d’Auvergne is amongst our favourite cheeses. It’s creamy, semi-hard, moist, powerful, pungent and not too salty. It was created around 1850 in France when a farmer combined cow milk curd with the mould of rye bread. He also noticed that the cheese benefits from increased aeration using needles (similar to the process used when making Stilton cheese). Nowadays Bleu d’Auvergne is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), just like the other excellent cheeses from that region (for example Saint-Nectaire and Cantal).
For some reason Bleu d’Auvergne combines extremely well with cod. We tried other combinations, experimented with adding butter, cream or crème fraîche but we always return to this one. It’s a tribute to both the fish and the cheese.

Wine Pairing

The combination may be very specific; wine pairing is not too difficult. In general a fairly present, white wine will be great choice. Could be a Verdejo from Spain, a mildly oaked Chardonnay or a glass of your favourite white wine. No reason to open a bottle of Chablis; the flavours are too bold for a really elegant wine.

What You Need

  • Skinless Cod Loin
  • Bleu d’Auvergne (preferable mature)
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Heat a heavy cast iron skillet through and through, add olive oil, dry the cod with kitchen paper and fry on the firm side (where the skin used to be) until it’s nice and golden. Flip the fish, reduce the heat and start adding chunks of cheese. It will melt, but make sure you still have these blue bits in there. Baste the fish with the melting cheese. Check the cuisson of the cod (the fish must be opaque and flaky) and serve on a warm plate.

  • Cod with Bleu d’Auvergne ©cadwu
  • Blue d'Auvergne ©cadwu

Langoustine

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.

Wine pairing

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)
  • Mixed Salad
  • Olive Oil and Vinegar
  • (home-made) Mayonnaise

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.

Langoustine ©cadwu
Langoustine ©cadwu

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.