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.

Fairy Ring Mushroom with Pork Chops

Spring brings us several edible or even delicious mushrooms, such as the Fairy Ring Mushroom, Morels and the Mushroom of Saint George.

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 because of 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.

Wine Pairing

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)
  • 100 gram of Fairy Ring Mushroom
  • Half a glass of Dry White Wine
  • Fresh Sage
  • Chicken Stock
  • Crème Fraîche
  • Splash of Cognac
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

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.

  • Fairy Ring Mushrooms with Pork ©cadwu
  • Fairy Ring Mushrooms ©cadwu
  • Zweigelt made by Weingut Prechtl

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!

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 Chervil

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.

Wine Pairing

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
  • White Pepper

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.

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

Chioggia Beet Salad

An elegant Starter

What better way to start a nice long dinner than a dish that is light, colourful, surprising and refreshing? A Consommé of Yellow Tomatoes for instance? Or Scallops with Winter Truffle? Or would you prefer a salad made with Bietola da orto tonda di Chioggia? Sounds exotic, but actually it’s a salad made with Chioggia beet: a delicious beet with deep pink and white spirals. It originates from Italy or, to be more precise, from the coastal town of Chioggia, not far from Venice. When cooking the beet its colours fade, creating an even more enticing dish.

Another forgotten vegetable that is worth remembering when you do your Christmas shopping.

Wine Pairing

The dressing comes with firm acidity, balanced by the sweetness of the beet and the spring onion. Wine pairing is a not straightforward because of this combination. Our suggestion would be a Sauvignon Blanc. We enjoyed a glass of Domaine La Tour Beaumont Haut-Poitou Sauvignon Blanc 2019. It has clear fruity and citrus notes and it is well balanced with a good combination of freshness and roundness.

What You Need

  • One Chioggia Beet
  • Excellent Olive Oil
  • White Wine Vinegar
  • Spring Onion (or Scallion)
  • White Pepper

What You Do

The day before wash the beetroot and wrap in aluminium foil. Leave in the oven on 180° Celsius or 355° Fahrenheit for 60+ minutes. Cool and store in the refrigerator.
The next day peel the beet and use a vegetable slicer (or mandoline) to make ridges. This will not only make the dish look more inviting, it will also enhance the taste given there is more coated surface and more air when chewing it. Make a simply, relatively acidic dressing with olive oil and vinegar. Thinly slice the spring onion; best to use the green part only. Test a small slice of beet with the dressing and adjust when necessary. Perhaps some fresh white pepper? If you’re happy with the combination, toss the slices with the dressing making sure everything is nicely coated. Plate up and sprinkle the sliced spring onion on top of it.

Salad of Chioggia Beet ©cadwu
Salad of Chioggia Beet ©cadwu

Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis

Cream, Cream and More Cream

Such a lovely and simple dessert! Provided of course it’s made the right way. So no milk, no yoghurt, no cream cheese, no whipped cream and most certainly no whipped egg white! Just cream. Cooked Cream. And preferably cream with lots of fat because then you will need less gelatine. 
Fresh raspberries are preferred, but no worries, the frozen ones are also very tasty and suitable for making a coulis.

What You Need (for 4)

  • For the Panna Cotta
    • 500 ml fresh Cream
    • 3,5 leaves of Gelatine
    • 1 Vanilla Bean
    • 25 gram Sugar
  • For the Raspberry Coulis
    • 250 grams of Raspberries
    • 25 grams of Sugar
    • 1 tablespoon of Water

What You Do

The recipe is for 6 panna cotta (actually we should say 6 panne cotte). Slowly bring the cream to the boil. Add the seeds of the vanilla but also add the remainder of the bean. Now keep close to boiling for 15 minutes. Stir when necessary. Remove from the heat and while stirring add the sugar until totally dissolved. Now pass through a sieve to make sure you remove all the bits you don’t want. Follow the instruction of the gelatine and add the leaves. Stir well until homogeneous. Cool the liquid somewhat before filling the forms. We used a silicone mold. Nice and easy! The only thing you need to do is to make the mold a bit moist with water. Let the panna cotta cool and then store in the refrigerator until set. Don’t forget to seal with cling foil, otherwise your panna cotta will absorb aromas from other food in the refrigerator.
Heat the raspberries with the sugar and water. Cook gently for 5 minutes. Pass through s sieve (if necessary twice) making sure you apply some pressure but not too much. You don’t want pips in your coulis! Let cool for 30 minutes before transferring to the refrigerator.

Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis © cadwu
Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis © cadwu

Ajo Blanco

Tasty, Simple and Rich

The talent of keeping things simple: that’s very true for Spanish Almond Soup. It should consist 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.

Blanc Manger

The use of almonds and almond milk to thicken liquid was well known in medieval times. In the classic Van Soeter Cokene (1971), professor Johanna Maria Van Winter describes four recipes for Blanc Manger, the oldest one (Blamensier) from Germany (14th century).  It contained white almonds, goat milk, chicken, lard, sugar and violets (for colouring). A similar dish was enjoyed by Royalty in England in the 15th century. Also from that century is Brouès d’Allemagne. It contained almond milk, ginger, cinnamon, onions, lard and many other ingredients making for a hearty dish. Blancmanger was also known in 15th century France, as a dish for the sick with almonds and sugar.

Ajo Blanco seems to have its origin in Roman time, others mention Moorish roots. The soup is linked to Málaga and Granada. Ajo Blanco survived and Blamensier became extinct. Perhaps because Ajo Blanco is tasty, simple and rich whereas Blamensier is rather tasteless with the consistency of porridge?

Gazpacho

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.

Ajo Blanco © cadwu
Ajo Blanco © cadwu

Clafoutis

Cherries, cherries, cherries!

We love them! The rich, sweet taste in combination with the right texture! They just want to be eaten, one after the other. So what better summer dessert than Clafoutis?
Fresh, small, black or dark red cherries are the best for Clafoutis. Don’t use anything canned or jarred.
Clafoutis is made with milk and eggs, so in a way familiar to Crè­me Brûlée and Far Breton. But in case of Clafoutis you only need to whisk and wait for it to bake in the oven. That’s all.
There are many recipes for Clafoutis, some with cold milk, some with hot. Some use milk and cream, others just milk. We use warm milk because you get a better feel for the consistency, but cold milk will also do the job.
Some add Kirsch and others add Vanilla. We can’t see the benefit of adding Kirsch when using tasty cherries. Vanilla is distracting, so not recommended.

Another decision to make: use whole cherries or pitted ones? Not removing the pits is less work (obviously) and it reduces the risk of a soggy Clafoutis. The pits contain amygdalin, a toxic compound that can also be found in almonds, apple seeds and apricot stones. Amygdalin tastes like almonds. In this recipe we pit the cherries and compensate for the lack of almond flavour by adding almond flour.
If you decide to pit the cherries, make sure you remove all of them!

Finally, yes, you can replace the cherries with fresh apricots, berries, peaches or prunes. Then it’s called a Flaugnarde. But nothing as tasty as Clafoutis made with fresh cherries!

What You Need

  • 2,5 dl of regular Milk
  • 2 Eggs
  • 30 grams of plain Flour
  • 10 grams of Almond Flour
  • 20 grams of Sugar
  • 500 grams of Cherries, pitted
  • 10 grams of Butter

What You Do

Pre heat the oven to 180° Celsius or 350° Fahrenheit. Whisk together the eggs, plain flour, almond flour and sugar. Bring the milk almost to a boil. Stir the milk into the mixture. Butter a large, shallow baking dish, add cherries to the dish and make sure the bottom is nicely covered with cherries. No need to have two layers of cherries. Pour the mixture over the cherries. Bake (lower third of the oven) for 20 minutes, add a few dots of butter, continue baking for another 20 minutes or until the clafoutis is golden. Leave to cool for 60 minutes or so, this will enhance the taste. clafoutis should be served luke-warm. You could decorate the clafoutis with icing sugar, but it’s not essential.