Pumpkin Soup (with Kombu Dashi)

It’s autumn, so obviously we want to cook pumpkin soup. A nice and warm combination of pumpkin, ginger, chilli and orange lentils for instance. Or with Jus de Truffe for a bit of extra umami and exclusivity.  Both are excellent vegetarian dishes, perfect for lunch with some crusted bread or as a starter.
Having recently prepared kabocha with shrimps, we decided to prepare a vegetarian soup with it. The basis of the soup is Kombu Dashi (made with dried Kelp). The dashi and the soy sauce bring saltiness and umami to the soup, which combines very well with the exceptional sweetness of the pumpkin and the mirin.

You could prepare the soup with the skin of the kabocha, but we love the intense orange colour of the inside.

What You Need

  • 20 grams of Kelp
  • 1 litre Water
  • 1 Kabocha
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Mirin
  • Purple Shiso

What You Do

Add the kelp to one litre of cold water. Put on low heat and wait until it has reached 80 °C or 175 °F. Overheating it will make the dashi bitter. In the meantime, wash and peel the kabocha, remove the seeds and dice. Remove the kelp from the pan, discard and add the kabocha. Allow to simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes until the kabocha is soft. Remove some of the liquid and blender the kabocha. Add liquid until you have the right consistency. In our experience you will need one litre of water to cook the kabocha but it might be too much liquid for a nice, velvety consistency of your soup. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of mirin and 1 or 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce.  It’s a matter of your preference, ripeness of the kabocha and the kelp.
Best to decorate with some purple shiso, or with sprouts (as we did), provided they’re not too spicy.

The Art of Sauces: Modern Tomato Sauce

We love a good sauce: it supports the flavours, it adds complexity to the dish and it brings components together. Orange sauce with duck, Béarnaise with beef, Sauce Mornay on a Croque Monsieur: the sauce is the key to the dish.

Marie-Antoine Carême (1784 – 1833) was the first chef to analyse sauces and create a classification. He identified four leading (mother) sauces and described how other sauces could be derived from these four. His four leading sauces are Espagnole (made with brown roux, roasted bones and brown stock), Velouté (white roux and light (veal) stock), Béchamel and Allemande (light roux with veal stock and thickened with egg yolks and cream). If for instance you want to make a Pepper Sauce, then you start by making a Sauce Espagnole.

Auguste Escoffier (1846 – 1935) refined the classification and replaced Sauce Allemande with Sauce Tomate as leading sauce. Later Hollandaise and Mayonnaise were added to the list of main sauces.

Sauce Tomate as prepared by Carême and Escoffier is very different from the sauce we use on pizza’s and pasta’s. It’s made with salted pork, veal stock, bones, various aromatic vegetables and of course tomatoes. Among the derived sauces are Sauce Portuguese and Sauce Provençal.
Next week we will share the Classic way of cooking Sauce Tomate in detail; today we share our modern (vegetarian) recipe.
The sauce freezes very well, so ideal to make a nice quantity.

What You Need

  • 4 – 6 Excellent Ripe Tomatoes (depending on the size)
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper (preferably grilled and peeled)
  • ½ Chilli
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Glass of Red Wine
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary, Bay Leaf)

What You Do

Wash the tomatoes and slice in chunks. Peel the onion and chop. Add olive oil to the pan and glaze the onion for 10 minutes or so. Stir and add the sliced bell pepper and the sliced and seeded chilli. Let cook on medium heat for 5 minutes or so. Reduce heat. Add the chopped garlic clove. After 5 minutes or so add the sliced tomatoes, the red wine and the bouquet garni. Leave for 2 hours minimum to simmer. Remove the bouquet garni and blender the mixture. Pass through a sieve and leave to simmer for another 2 hours. Cool and transfer to the refrigerator or freezer.

PS Grilling a bell pepper: slice the pepper in large slices. Set your oven to grill, put a sheet of aluminium foil on the baking tray, put the slices on the foil, skin up and transfer to the oven, as close to the grill as possible. Wait for 10 minutes or until the skin is seriously burned. Transfer the slices to a plastic container and close the lid. Wait for an hour. Using your fingers and perhaps a knife, peel of the skin. Store the bell pepper and the juices in the refrigerator. The taste is deeper and sweeter compared to raw bell pepper.

Pâté with Mushrooms

Let’s celebrate the season by preparing a Pâté! The combination of a crispy crust, a structured, colourful filling and various flavours is always a pleasure. Making a pâté (or better: a Pâté en Croûte) can be a bit intimidating (especially if you look at the pâté’s prepared during the World Championship!) but that should not stop you from giving it a try. It’s a pleasure to think about the ingredients, work on the construction and enjoy the wonderful aromas from your oven while baking the pâté. And the joy when slicing it: is the pâté as beautiful as you expected it to be?
Feel free to make your own puff pastry, but if you buy ready-made pastry, please check it’s made with butter, flower, salt and water only and not with rapeseed oil, palm oil, yeast etcetera.

Wine Pairing

A red, medium bodied wine will be a great accompaniment of this Pâté en Croûte. In general you’re looking for a red wine with aromas of black fruit, floral notes and delicate wood. The tannins should be soft or well-integrated. We enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir from La Cour Des Dames

What You Need

  • 150 grams of Cèpes
  • 250 grams of Champignon de Paris
  • 1 small Shallot
  • Handful of Spinach
  • Half a cup of Rice
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Parsley
  • One Egg
  • Puff Pastry
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Start by cooking some rice, you will probably need a tablespoon of cooked rice. Clean the cèpes and see how they best fit in the pâté baking mould. Perhaps you need to trim the stems or the caps to have the best result when it’s ready. Set the cèpes aside.
Clean the champignons and wash the spinach. Peel and finely chop the shallot. Warm a heavy iron skillet, glaze the shallot, add the cleaned and lengthwise halved mushrooms (and the leftovers of the cèpes) and cook them on medium heat for 10 minutes or so. In parallel blanch the spinach, drain and squeeze. Also in parallel, coat the mould first with baking paper and then with puff pastry. Make sure you have some extra pastry to create the lids for the chimneys. Chop the cooked mushrooms. Chop the spinach. Add the egg to a large bowl and whisk. Add the cooked mushrooms to the bowl, add some black pepper, chopped parsley and finely grated Parmesan Cheese. Add some spinach, just to have some extra colour. Add the rice. The rice will help absorb additional juices from the cèpes, so how much rice you need is a matter of looking at the mixture and the cèpes.

Now it’s time to build the pâté: start by creating a bottom with the mixture, position the cèpes and add the remainder of the mixture. Make sure the mixture envelops the mushrooms. Close the pâté with the pastry. Make two holes in the roof of the pâté and use baking paper to create 2 chimneys. Transfer to the oven (180 °C or 355 °F) for 45 minutes. Use the remainder of the puff pastry to make 4 mini cookies that will function as lid on the chimney (of course, you only need 2, but baking 4 allows you to choose the best). After 45 minutes add the 4 cookies, bake for another 10 minutes. Mix some egg yolk and coat the pâté and the cookies. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. The duration and temperatures very much depend on the shape of the mould and the pastry.

Transfer from the oven, remove the chimneys, glue the lids on the chimneys using some egg yolk and let cool. Once cool, remove from the mould, transfer to the refrigerator and wait until the next day. 

Raspberry Vinegar

Many years ago, we had the pleasure of being regular guests at the Auberge des Seigneurs in Vence, France. In those days the restaurant offered a wide range of beautiful dishes from the days of King François I, such as blue trout, roasted chicken, quail with Pruneaux d’Agen and tender lamb cooked on a spit before an open fire in the dining room.
Ah, Madame Rodi, we treasure these evenings, the beautiful food, the local wine, your dog (known to regular guests as monsieur Tim) and your infinite hospitality. We also remember your wonderful Coca Cola Light, which you would serve after dinner. It came in a huge Biot bottle and to the surprise, astonishment, shock of most of your new guests it was everything but light. It was a strong grappa with Boutons de Fleur d’Oranger (orange blossom buds). We can still see the broad smile on your face when yet another guest would take too big a sip of your powerful concoction.

Adding fruit can be a disastrous idea (just think about strawberry tea or sole Picasso) but the touch of acidity of raspberries makes them ideal to combine with vinegar. We follow Madame Rodi’s approach when making raspberry vinegar: simply combine the two and enjoy.

Use the raspberry vinegar wisely, for instance combine it with strong flavours, preferably umami. We use it in our favourite autumn salad with Porcini and Smoked Duck. The colour, the aromas, the taste: the vinegar and the raspberries integrate perfectly.

What You Need

  • 250 grams of Excellent Organic Raspberries
  • 250 ml White Vinegar

What You Do

Clean the raspberries, crush them with a fork and combine with the vinegar. Put in a jar and transfer to the refrigerator for one week, making sure to stir at least once a day.
Pass the mixture through a sieve, applying light pressure only. Pass the vinegar through a white cloth, squeeze very gentle. The result is probably a bit cloudy, so leave for a few days before using.

Tomato Confit

A few years ago it was the obvious garnish to nearly every dish: oven roasted cherry tomatoes, preferably on the vine. It looks and tastes nice plus it is easy to make. Just heat your oven to 180 °C or 350 °F, add the tomatoes to a baking dish, sprinkle with salt, olive oil and 30 minutes later they’re ready to serve. When cold you can add them to a salad or a sandwich with soft cheese (mozzarella, burrata, ricotta). An alternative is to halve the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and quickly roast and dry them in the oven. Another tasty result.

We prefer a slow alternative: Tomato Confit. The idea is that the skin doesn’t crack, so the tomatoes remain intact, and at the same time they absorb the flavours of the oil, herbs and garlic. The result is not just a great sweet and juicy tomato, it’s a taste explosion!

We use Tomato Confit to brighten up a simple pasta or salad, or a more complex dish like Lobster Mushroom with Udon.

What You Need

  • Excellent Cherry Tomatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • 2 Garlic Gloves

What You Do

Wash and dry the tomatoes and add these to a baking dish. Chop the garlic. Add herbs, garlic and a generous amount of olive oil to the dish. No salt, honey or sugar required. Put in the oven for something like 2 hours on 90 °C or 200 °F. You could baste the tomatoes once or twice. Don’t forget to use the cooking liquid as well, it’s another pack of flavours!

  • Tomato Confit ©cadwu
  • Fresh Tomatoes ©cadwu

Cold Soup: Ajo Blanco

It’s September, time fo buy fresh almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts; time to make Spanish Almond Soup. It’s made 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.

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.

Ratatouille

Think summer vegetables, think Ratatouille! Which is also the title of a film released in 2007 about a rat called Remy with a passion for cooking. If you want to see how he prepares ratatouille then simply go to YouTube (or buy the DVD if you’re old fashioned like us).
Ratatouille brings back memories of summer, of the South of France, of the Mediterranean. It combines very well with a simple sausage, with lamb, with grilled chicken.
However you prepare your ratatouille, be sure to prepare it a day ahead. The taste becomes much more integrated after a day (or two) in the refrigerator. Unfortunately it doesn’t freeze well due to the eggplant.

Our recipe is very much the recipe of a dear friend. She taught us how to make ratatouille in her summer kitchen, overlooking the pool and the garden with herbs and vegetables. Indeed, fond memories.
To our surprise she added cilantro (you would expect thyme or basil) and many years later we are still grateful for this twist. The cilantro enhances the feeling of summer and it supports the various vegetables in a beautiful way.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our ratatouille with a glass of simple, red wine with lots of red and black fruits. Spicy with subtle tannins. A wine that brings summer to your glass.

What You Need (4 people)

  • 1 Eggplant or Aubergine
  • 1 Courgette or Zucchini
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 Chili Pepper
  • 4 Excellent Tomatoes
  • Cilantro
  • Olive oil

What You Do

Start by cutting the aubergine in small but not too small chunks. Drizzle with salt and mix. Let the mixture rest for a few hours, allowing for the aubergine to loose water and become firm. Best way to do this is by putting the aubergine in a sieve and let it rest above a bowl.
The tomatoes require some attention as well. You could peel them, but that’s optional. What is not optional is to separate the tomato meat and juices from the pits. First step is to remove the internal hard bits and the pits and put these aside. You now have the outer part of the tomato, which you can slice. Cut the remainder of the tomatoes roughly, add to a sieve and by using the back of a spoon make sure you capture the juices. Be surprised about the volume of tomato juice and the small amount of tomato bits and pits that remain in your sieve.

Cut the bell pepper into long slices and fry these in the pan with olive oil. Peel the courgette, slice in the way you sliced the aubergine and add to the pan. Continue frying. Add the finely chopped chilli pepper (not the seeds of course). Add the firm aubergine after having removed the remaining salt with water. After a few moments add the tomato chunks, fry a bit more, add the tomato juice and leave on low to medium heat for 60 minutes. Try not to stir too much; otherwise you risk creating mashed vegetables. Cool, set aside and store in the refrigerator.
The next day: if you have excess liquid, remove the vegetables from the liquid, reduce it until thickened and transfer the vegetables back into the pan. Otherwise gently warm the ratatouille, add some chopped cilantro, mix gently and add more cilantro just before serving.

Ratatouille ©cadwu
Ratatouille ©cadwu

Fig Jam

Sometimes we dream of having a small garden, with perhaps a few roses, herbs, peonies and definitely a fig tree. Being able to pick figs, all summer long, and enjoy the abundance of the tree, it sounds like magic to us. Figs don’t do well in a pot on a balcony, so we depend on greengrocers and the market. And that’s where we struggle: when you want to buy figs, you’ll notice they’re fairly expensive and hard to find. The ones we bought yesterday were individually wrapped in paper, as if they were very exclusive chocolates. But since we love fig jam, we simply had to buy them.

Wine Pairing

Homemade fig jam combines very well with Foie Gras, toasted bread and a glass of Sauternes, for instance this very affordable Dourthe Grands Terroirs. This wonderful, sweet wine from the French Bordeaux region made from late-harvest grapes affected by noble rot, comes with flavors like apricot, tropical fruit, honey and gently toast. Drinking Sauternes has become less popular, also because it’s often positioned as a wine to accompany your dessert. A concept that seems to be a bit old fashioned. Why not try a glass of Sauternes with some excellent blue cheese, a chocolate cake or simply on its own as aperitif?

What You Need

  • 500 grams of Fresh Figs
  • 100 grams of Sugar
  • 1 Lemon

What You Do

We recommend using only 100 grams of sugar, so 20% of the weight of the figs. Therefore the jam must be stored in the refrigerator and the jar must be finished shortly after opening it. That’s why we prefer using small jars and cooking small quantities of jam.
Start by washing the figs. Remove the stems. Cut the figs in small chunks, add to a pan. Add the sugar and the juice of one lemon. Put on medium heat, for at least 60 minutes, no lid needed (but be careful if the fruit is not ripe). During the cooking process the jam will become bright red. Use a fork to mash some of the figs. We think using a blender ruins the texture.
Make sure your jars are perfectly clean. Fill the jars, close the lid and cool in a cold-water basin. When cool, transfer to the refrigerator.

Time To Replace Your Non-Stick Pan

We all know that every few years we need to replace our non-stick pans. The surface has become less smooth, there are small scratches in the coating and it has become semi non-stick. Time to buy a new pan.
Perhaps you wonder what happened to your pan? Well, the truth is that not only have you eaten lovely fried food, you have also eaten bits of your pan.

Which is not great, because the coating contains PFAS. This substance may have very harmful effects, to your health and to the environment.

The abbreviation PFAS stands for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances. These (artificial) substances don’t decompose, and once present they will not disappear and continue to be harmful.

Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden announced the intention to submit a restriction proposal for PFAS to the European Chemicals Agency by July 2022. A restriction proposal is a first step towards a European ban on PFAS.

Great news for your health and the environment, but how about your beloved non-stick pan?

Fortunately, we have found an excellent alternative. The ceramic non-stick Prime-cook pans are 100% free of PFAS, PTFE, PFOA, GenX and nickel plus they are suitable for all cooking hobs. And given they last longer, it’s a sound investment.
Having tested it, we are convinced this is the future of healthy non-stick frying.

Bring your non-stick pan to the hazardous chemical waste disposal and buy a Prime-cook pan!

non-stick pan Prime-Cook ©cadwu
non-stick pan Prime-Cook ©cadwu

Field Peas with Summer Savory

Seasonal products, we simply love them! Fresh field peas are available for a few weeks in June and July only. They are easy to recognise by their purple pod. An old and forgotten vegetable, perhaps because the (older) peas tend to be starchy and not very tasteful.
Young field peas, however, are sweet and moist with a good texture. Combining them with summer savory is a great idea, but if you want to give your field peas a more modern twist, then replace the savory with fresh oregano.
Field peas, different from fresh green peas, require some fat or oil. The combination with for instance crispy fried pork belly works really well. Simple, a bit old fashioned and delicious.

Wine Pairing

We combined our field peas with pork fillet. The dish is robust, so we decided to drink a red wine from the Dão region in Portugal, to be more precise we enjoyed a glass of Prunus as produced by Gotawine. One of our favourites! It has lots of dark fruit (plums, blackberries, cherries), it is lightly oaked and its taste is fruity, long and well balanced. Grapes include Jaen (also known as Menci), Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional. In general you’re looking for a medium bodied, not too complex, yet elegant red wine.

What You Need

  • Fresh Field Peas
  • Sprigs of Summer Savory
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Shell the peas and steam them for 4 minutes maximum. Let cool and set aside. Heat a small skillet, add olive oil, reduce heat and very gently fry the peas. Add some finely chopped summer savory. Mix. Just before serving add the remaining chopped savory, mix and serve.

If you combine the field peas with pork fillet, then use excellent organic fillet only. Fry the fillet in a heavy iron skillet until nearly done. Wrap in foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Add the meat juices to the pan, add some mustard and (vegetable, veal or chicken) stock. Reduce. Add some cold water to help the emulsification. Slice the fillet. It should be a touch pink. Serve with some black pepper and the jus.

  • Field Peas with Summer Savory ©cadwu
  • Fresh Field Peas ©cadwu
  • Prunus Label ©cadwu