Salad with Various Beans and Swordfish

When in Valencia

The Mercat Central in Valencia is one of the largest markets in Europe. Its architecture is amazing, but even more stunning are the products: fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, wines, fresh meat, sausages, hams, herbs, spices, fish, bread, chickens, pickles, snails, weeds, offal, rice, nuts, beans: anything and everything you can dream of.
Albufera is a fresh water area not far from Valencia used for growing rice. It is of course the ideal rice for paella. If an original recipe of paella would exist, it would include rice, olive oil, rabbit, saffron and various beans such as broad beans, roget and garrofón.
Inspired by the classic Salade Niçoise we bought a slice of excellent swordfish, sweet onions, potatoes, eggs and of course: lots of beans. Shall we call it Salade Valençoise?

Wine Pairing

We served the salad as a main dish. Combining wine and salad is not straightforward because acidity is an important aspect of a dressing and therefore of a salad. In this case we have a range of flavours and textures so we would suggest a wine with a very present floral bouquet. The taste should be smooth and fruity. We enjoyed it with a glass of Albariño Rias Baixas 2018 produced by Bodegas Bouza do Rei, made from 100% Albariño grapes.
Another excellent choice would be Sericis, 2018 from the house of Murviedro. A wine from Utiel-Requena, so from the Valencia region. A wine made from 100% Merseguera grapes. Full bodied yet light, elegant and surprisingly low in its alcohol with only 12%. Well balanced acidity which is great when combining it with a salad.

What You Need

  • Mixed Salad
  • White Sweet Onion
  • Flat Beans (we also used the local red variety Roget)
  • Green Peas
  • Broad Beans
  • Garrofón (Lima Beans or Butter Beans)
  • Sword Fish
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Small (New) Potatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Vinegar
  • Mustard
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Start by pealing the broad beans, the green peas, the flat beans, the garrofón beans and the potatoes. Cook all five ingredients separately until al dente. Cook the eggs until just done. Let cool. Peel the broad beans and the garrofón beans again. Make a dressing by combining olive oil, vinegar and mustard. Slice the flat beans, the onion and the potatoes. Cut the egg in four. Fry the swordfish until just done. In parallel mix the salad with the onion, the flat beans, the green peas, the potatoes and the broad beans. Add the dressing and toss. Slice the swordfish and decorate the salad with egg, garrofón and swordfish. A touch of black pepper to finish.

Matsutake with Ginger and Spinach

Autumn

A very special mushroom, to say the least. Well known throughout Japan, China and South Korea as a true delicacy.  Matsutake smells like a pine wood forest and its taste is intense, aromatic, lasting and unique. As if you could taste Autumn.
It’s an expensive mushroom (around 110 euro per kilo) with very limited availability. But if you happen to find it, be sure to buy it. Between 75 and 100 grams is fine for two.
The Matsutake makes this into an unforgettable dish. It will bring you back to earth in a split second. Smell it, taste it and feel how satisfying and relaxing it is.

Wine pairing

Best served with a dry sake. We prefer Junmai Taru Sake as produced by Kiku-Masamune. This fine sake is matured in barrels made of the finest Yoshino cedar. The aroma has indeed clear hints of cedar. The sake will clear your palate and allow for a more intense taste of the Matsutake.

What You Need

  • 75 – 100 gram of Matsutake
  • Some Spinach (preferably what is called the ‘wild’ version, cleaned and without the stem)
  • Ginger
  • Soy Sauce (reduced salt)
  • Olive Oil
  • Sesame Oil

What You Do

Clean the Matsutake and cut in small dices. The size you would like to eat them (Matsutake doesn’t shrink like many other mushrooms; it remains firm). Warm the soy sauce, add a touch of sesame oil and flavour with very small cubes of ginger. Fry the Matsutake gently in a skillet in some olive oil, no longer than 3 minutes. In parallel blanch the spinach in the liquid. Quickly drain the spinach and set aside. Reduce the liquid and taste. Add some excellent sesame oil and whisk. In parallel chop the spinach.
Put spinach on a plate, gently add some sauce and then sprinkle the Matsutake over the spinach..

Oden

A Traditional Japanese Dish

If we say ‘Japanese food’, you will probably think ‘sushi’, ‘sashimi’, ‘yakitori’, perhaps ‘udon’. But Oden? Probably not. Such a shame because Oden is a really wonderful dish. Oden for lunch or as a course in a typical Japanese menu: tasty, light and full of surprises. Oden is a stew that requires a bit more work than you would expect and of course time. It also requires some shopping, given some of the ingredients are not easy to find.
We are not from Japan so we humbly present our version of this (wintery) classic. We hope it inspires you to cook Oden and enjoy it as much as we did.

Wine and Sake pairing

We preferred a glass of Chardonnay with the Oden during our dinner; others preferred a glass of cold sake. The stew is rich in flavours, umami of course, but not spicy, so we would not suggest a Gewurztraminer of a Sauvignon Blanc. A Chardonnay (with a touch of oak perhaps) will be a good choice.

What You Need

  • For the Dashi
    • 20 grams of Dashi Kombu (Rishiri Kombu)
    • 25 grams of Katsuobushi (Bonito Flakes)
  • For the Stew
    • One Daikon
    • Chikuwa Fish Cakes
    • One Pack Konnyaku
    • One Pack of Gobo Maki Burdockroot Fish Cakes
    • 1 sheet of Hayani Kombu
    • 2 boiled eggs
    • Abura Age Fried Tofu
    • Mochi (Sticky Rice Cake)
    • Soy Sauce (preferably one with less salt)
    • Mirin
  • Karashi

What You Do

Start by making one litre of dashi. This seems simple but requires precision. Clean the kombu with a wet cloth and put into one litre of cold water. Gently raise the temperature to 80° Celsius or 176° Fahrenheit. Remove and discard the kombu. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the katsuobushi, bring to a boil and immediately set heat to zero. Wait 5 minutes or so. The katsuobushi will sink to the bottom of the pan. Now very gently pass the liquid through a wet towel. Do not squeeze, just give it time. The result will be a great, clean dashi. Cool and set aside.
Next step is to peel the daikon and slice it (2 centimeters is best). Now use a sharp knife to plane of the edge of the daikon. This improves the presentation and it is supposed to stop the daikon from falling apart. Cook the daikon for one hour in water. Drain and set aside.
Step three is to cut the konnyaku in triangles and cook these in water for 15 minutes. Konnyaku is made from the konjac plant and is specific for the Japanese cuisine.
Step four is to cook the sheet of Hayani Kombu for 5 minutes. This is young kombu and edible, different for the one you used when preparing dashi. Let cool a bit, slice and knot ribbons. Not sure why, but is looks great when you serve it.
Now it’s time to add the dashi to the pan (should be a clay pot, but we stick to our Le Creuset), add one tablespoon of mirin, one (or two, depending on your taste) of soy sauce, add the daikon, the konnyaku and the fish cakes.
We served our oden as a course during dinner, so we limited the number of ingredients. If served for lunch add boiled eggs, fried tofu and mochi. The last two ingredients have to be combined by putting the mochi into the tofu.
Allow to simmer for at least 2 hours. Best is, as always, to serve it the next day.
Serve with some karashi (Japanese mustard, which is different from wasabi by the way).

Oden © cadwu
Oden © cadwu

Veal Rib Eye with Morels

Morels or Not?

In January 2019 one person died and over 30 people became ill after having eaten at Riff, the one Michelin star restaurant in Valencia. Media were quick in their analysis and decided that it was caused by the morels in one of the dishes. Today (April 4th) it’s not yet clear what caused the catastrophe.

Most sources mention that Morels contain some kind of toxin, one that can be destroyed by heating the morels. So lesson one with morels is not to eat them raw; they must be sautéed for a few minutes. Luckily the taste improves when sautéing them a bit longer, let’s say 10 minutes, so the toxin should be gone by then. However… some people report an upset stomach after having eaten morels and drinking alcohol. If you’re not used to eating morels, it could be wise to eat just a few and see how you react.

Look-A-Likes

A clear risk with morels is the fact that some other mushrooms are true look-a-likes. For example the highly toxic early morel or wrinkled thimble-cap and other ‘false’ morels. So picking them yourself is not a good idea unless you are an experienced morel-hunter. If you buy them (like we do), then buy them fresh or dried from a reliable source.

China

Some media mentioned that the morels used at Riff were brought in from China. Is that a problem? Yes from a sustainability point of view and No from a morel point of view. Morels are found in abundance in North America, Australia, China, Poland, France, India, Pakistan and many other countries, so why distrust them when they originate from China?

Back to Riff

Our humble view is that morels are in the mushroom top three together with Cèpes and Truffle. We are perfectly happy to eat them, for instance combined with Veal. And we look forward to having dinner at Riff when we are in Valencia later this year.

Wine Pairing

We prefer a full-bodied red wine, for instance a Nero d’Avola. We enjoyed a glass of Vanitá Nero d’Avola Organico Terre Siciliane I.G.T. 2016. It goes very well with the rich flavours of the veal and the morels. The wine comes with raspberries, red fruits and just a touch of vanilla. It has medium sweetness and a hint of herbs and spices, almost cinnamon. A long aftertaste and light tannins.

What You Need

  • Rib Eye of Veal
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Morels
  • Veal stock
  • Spinach

What You Do

Fry the Rib Eye in a heavy iron skillet for a few minutes until (very) pink. Wrap in aluminium foil and allow to rest. Reduce the heat and if necessary add some extra butter to the pan. Add the cleaned and halved morels and sauté gently. Add some veal stock and juices from the rib eye. In a small pan heat some olive oil, add the dry spinach and stir constantly. Serve the rib eye with the sauce, the morels and the spinach. Spring on your plate!

Red Gurnard with Shrimps

Red And Blue

Such a beautiful fish! The Red or Tub Gurnard (or Roter Knurrhahn, Rode Poon, Galinette or Grondin Perlon) has a bright red body with blue, greenish pectoral fins. And isn’t the armoured head with the big eyes impressive? And on top of this they are capable of making a drumming, grunting sound.

For some obscure reason they have a poor reputation in the kitchen. You may find them as an ingredient in a stew or soup, but on its own? Not really. A pity, because it’s actually a delicious fish with firm fillets that keep their shape when prepared. Perhaps the gurnard comes with a more acquired taste (meaning that it’s not the kind of fish that is suitable for people who enjoy eating fish fingers). Some say the taste reminds them of shrimps, which would be interesting, given the Gurnard feeds on crabs, shrimps and other invertebrates living in the sediment.

We combine the Gurnard with shrimps and a classic Bisque, made with the shells of unpeeled shrimps. Agreed, it’s a bit of extra work, but it’s worthwhile.

Wine Pairing

A glass of Pinot Blanc or Gris will be a nice accompaniment to the dish. Light and fresh with a touch of sweetness. Chablis will also be nice.

What You Need

  • 2 Gurnards (preferably cleaned)
  • Butter
  • For the Bisque
    • 200 grams of unpeeled small grey shrimps
    • 1 small Tomato
    • 1 Shallot
    • Olive oil
    • Bouquet Garni (thyme, bay leaf, parsley)
    • Cognac

What You Do

Start by peeling the shrimps. It’s a very simple, mindfulness exercise. Remove the heads and discard. Use the shells for the bisque and transfer the bodies of the shrimps to the refrigerator. Chop the shallot and the tomato. Gently glaze the shallot for 10 minutes or so in olive oil. Add the shells and increase the heat for a few seconds. Add the tomato, some water and the bouquet garni. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Pass the liquid through a fine sieve. Make sure you get all the lovely juices. Add a splash of cognac and reduce the liquid until it’s powerful. Cool and store in the refrigerator.
In a non-sticky pan heat some butter and fry the gurnards. Isn’t the colour beautiful? In parallel warm the bisque. Just before serving add the shrimps. Don’t cook them (cooking will make them rubbery), just a bit of warmth will do the trick.
Serve the gurnard on a warm plate and dress with the bisque and shrimps.

 

Mussels with Anise

A Recipe from Corsica

Mussels with Anise is light, tasty and refreshing; it is an excellent lunch, especially when overlooking the Mediterranean (as we did when we were in Corsica), but it’s also an excellent starter. Use crushed anise seeds for the sauce. Don’t use star anise, it has a much sweeter taste; something we don’t recommend for this sauce.
It’s possible (and recommended especially when you have guests) to cook the mussels the day before. It’s a matter of cooking until just ready and quickly removing them from the shell. Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator. The next day you simply add them to your sauce and warm the mussels.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our mussels with a glass of Picpoul de Pinet. Let’s explain the name: the grape is called Picpoul Blanc. And the vineyards belong to a village called Pinet; close to the Etang de Thau in the south of France between Narbonne and Montpellier. The terroir (think calcareous soil, clay, quartz) is influenced by the sea, which is reflected in the mineral taste of the wine. The story is that Picpoul could be read as pique poul which translates into something like ‘stings the lip’; a nice reflection of the high acidity of the grapes. This acidity guarantees a refreshing white wine, which is exceptional given the warm climate. The wine is bright yellow with a very subtle touch of green. It’s aromatic, floral and fruity. The taste has notes of citrus and hopefully some bitterness, which will make it into a really interesting wine. To be combined with oysters, mussels, fruit de mer, skate and fish in general.
We enjoyed our mussels with a glass of very nice Picpoul de Pinet AOP les Flamants.

What You Need

  • 1 kilo of Mussels (we prefer small ones)
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Garlic Glove
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Chives, Thyme)
  • White Whine for the Mussels
  • Fish Stock
  • White Wine for the sauce
  • Butter
  • Mustard
  • Cream

What You Do

Before you start, please read the basics about mussels.

Warm a fairly big pan and gently glaze the sliced onion in oil. Then add the chopped garlic and gently cook the garlic and the onion for another 5 minutes. Add a glass of white wine and the bouquet garni and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, allowing the tastes to integrate.

In parallel warm the fish stock and some white wine with the crushed anise seeds in a second pan. Add some mustard (to get a thicker sauce), butter and cream. gently warm the sauce on low heat for 5 minutes.

Turn the bigger pan to maximum heat and when really hot add the mussels and close the pan with the lid. Listen and observe: you will be able to hear when content of the pan is becoming hot again. You will see steam, more steam. Check the mussels, close the lid, listen and observe. Taste the sauce, maybe add a bit of the cooking liquid. Remove the mussels from the pan with a slotted spoon and quickly remove the mussels from their shells and transfer them to the sauce. Make sure the mussels are nicely coated with the sauce.

We prefer our anise seed mussels with crusted bread.

 

 

Antonio Carluccio’s Oysters with Zabaglione and White Truffle

Carluccio’s Caffè

This year we celebrate 20 years of Carluccio’s Caffè. Over 80 restaurants in the UK to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner and enjoy the food that Antonio Carluccio loved. With their integrated food shop the Caffè’s make the Italian gastronomy available to all. Antonio Carluccio was chef, author and ambassador of Italian Food. His many books will continue to be an inspiration.

Luxury Item

He once mentioned that white truffles were his luxury item. In The Complete Mushroom Book (published in 2001) he included a wonderful recipe for Oysters with Zabaglione and White Truffle. The oysters are served with a zabaglione made from butter, white wine, egg yolks and truffle oil with thinly sliced white truffle on top of the sauce. The dish is a true miracle because of the umami, the saltiness and the earthiness; its exquisiteness and mouthcoating feel in combination with the dryness of the oysters.

We prepared the dish with fresh Bianchetti truffles. A bit more outspoken than the white Alba truffle, but very, very nice in this dish. We used our favourite île de Ré oysters because they are lean and fresh (not creamy).

Remember Bianchetti truffles are harvested and sold between January 15th and April 30th, so don’t wait too long!

 

Let’s Mash!

We do like our mashed potatoes, for instance with a nice, hearty stew or with a wintery Choucroute. But isn’t it a bit too obvious, mashed potatoes?
Of course it is! Especially during the colder months your green grocer offers a range of vegetables that are ideally suited for making a purée.

A purée of Jerusalem Artichokes is savory, sweet, delicate and nutty. Great with game, pork stew and choucroute.
The mash of Celeriac and Lemon is a great accompaniment of many a dish. It’s fresh and light. Simply serve it whenever you think ‘let’s serve with mashed potatoes’. Give it a try when you want to eat roast cod.
A purée of Parsley Root and Parsnip has an intriguing taste. Yes, definitely parsley, but more complex, more lasting. Excellent when combined with a stew or roasted pork-belly.

Jerusalem Artichokes and Parsnips contain (like potatoes) a significant amount of starch, however different from potatoes you can use a blender when preparing the purée.

What you need

  • Jerusalem Artichokes and white pepper
  • Or Celeriac, four slices of Lemon and nutmeg
  • Or Parsley Root, Parsnip and white pepper
  • Cream

What you do

Clean and dice the vegetables and cook (with the lemon) until nearly soft. Drain (and remove the lemon) and add some cream to the pan. Leave on very low heat for 10 minutes or so. The idea is that the vegetables will absorb some of the cream. Mash (or blender) until smooth and pass through a sieve to make it perfect. Serve with white pepper and nutmeg (if required).

Parsnip, Celeriac, Parsley Root and Jerusalem Artichoke © cadwu
Parsnip, Celeriac, Parsley Root and Jerusalem Artichoke © cadwu

 

Chicken a la Carolus Battus

In the year 1593

The history of food is interesting for a number of reasons. Following old recipes provides you with the opportunity to discover new combinations, techniques and new flavors, or better said, forgotten combinations, techniques and flavors.
The University of Amsterdam is home to the Special Collections, the material heritage of the University. One of the collections is related to recipes, cookbooks, books on etiquette, nutrition, food et cetera. The oldest cookbook is Eenen seer schoonen ende excelenten Cocboeck, inhoudende alderley wel geexperimenteerde cokagien, van ghebraet, ghesoden, Pasteyen, Taerten, toerten, Vlaeijen, Saussen, Soppen, ende dier-gelijcke: Oock diversche Confeyturen ende Drancken, etc. by Carel Baten (Carolus Battus) published in 1593. The book contains some 300 recipes for a range of food and drink. It was published as an annex to his Medecijn Boec, after all he was a medical doctor.

In 2018 Onno and Charlotte Kleyn published Luilekkerland; a great book on 400 years of cooking in the Netherlands. They must have spent months at the Special Collections going through various cookbooks and manuscripts with recipes. Many thanks for creating ‘a magical mystery tour’ through the kitchens of the past.
In the book they describe one of the recipes of Carolus Battus: een sause op eenen gesoden capoen. Or in English: poached Capon with sauce.
The short version: make a poaching liquid with carrot, leek, celeriac and onion. Add the capon and poach it until it’s done. In parallel combine old breadcrumbs with white almonds, white wine, ginger powder and sugar. Create a sauce by gently warming the mixture with some of the cooking liquid and serve.

Capon is very expensive, so like Onno and Charlotte we go for chicken. Our recipe is for 2 chicken thighs, but we could also imagine making a roulade and then serving a slice of chicken roulade with the sauce as a starter.
The surprise is in the sauce: the combination of bread, ginger and almonds is tasty and complex. The sauce may appear to be filming and fat, but actually it’s not. The texture of the sauce is interesting as well: the bread will make the sauce a bit porridge like and the crushed almonds prevent the sauce from being smooth.
Our version of the recipe is a bit closer to 2018: we’re not the biggest fans of poaching and we don’t see the need for sugar. Plus why use powder if you can get fresh ginger?

Wine Pairing

Best is to go for a white wine with a touch of sweetness, for instance a Gewurztraminer. This will combine very well with the somewhat unusual flavors in the dish. If you go for a glass of red wine, then we would suggest a pinot noir, nice and earthy.

What you need

  • 2 chicken thighs
  • Chicken stock and optional
    • Leek
    • Carrots
    • Celeriac
    • Onions
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • 15 grams of white Almonds
  • 1 – 2 cm of Fresh ginger
  • 1 dl of Dry white wine
  • Slice of toasted Bread

What you do

If your chicken stock needs a boost, then add the vegetables and let simmer for 15 minutes or so. In a small skillet heat the butter and olive oil. Fry the chicken until nearly done. In parallel blender the almonds and the toasted bread. Grate the ginger. Add the white wine and the ginger to the mixture and blender. Add some stock and blender for a few seconds. Transfer the mixture to a pan and warm over medium heat. It requires attention, so keep an eye on the sauce and stir every minute or so. The sauce will thicken so you will probably need to add more stock. Transfer the chicken to a warm oven and let rest. Deglaze the pan with some stock and add this liquid to the sauce. Stir well. Now it’s time to taste. Remember the taste is new, so take your time. Almonds? Bread? Hint of acidity? Ginger? Chicken? Overall? Serve the chicken with the sauce.
We enjoyed the chicken as a main course with some Brussels sprouts, olive oil and nutmeg.

 

Lamb Shank with Rosemary

When In Paris…

A few years ago when attending a business lunch in Paris (the things we have to endure in life…) we were overwhelmed by the menu. We quickly decided to go for Lamb and told the waiter in our very best French we would like to taste Souris d’Agneau au Vin Rouge et aux Herbes, although not exactly knowing what a Souris might be. So during that lunch we discovered the joys of Lamb Shank.
Most recipes recommend preparing lamb shank in a hot oven (200 °C or so) but that’s actually not the best way to do it. Too hot, too fast, too dry.

Lamb shank has a generous amount of fat which makes it ideal for slow cooking. Our preferred option is to use a pressure cooker. Within 45 minutes the lamb shanks will be perfectly cooked, tender and moist.

Wine Pairing

We would suggest drinking a glass of Bordeaux with the lamb shank. The Bordeaux is in general a classic blend with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The wine should be well structured with lots of fruit. It should support the sweetness of the dish (carrots, lamb, leek). Soft tannins, a smooth texture and sufficient length. We very much enjoyed a glass of Chateau Beaulieu (2012) with our lamb.
Remember to use the same wine for cooking the lamb!

What You Need

  • 2 Lamb Shanks (with fat, please!)
  • 2 Shallots
  • Carrot
  • Leek
  • Celeriac
  • 2 Garlic Gloves
  • Olive Oil
  • Bouquet Garni, for instance:

    • Bay Leaf
    • Parsley
    • Thyme
    • lots of Rosemary (and 2 extra sprigs)
  • Red Wine
  • Water
  • Black Pepper
  • Brussels Sprouts or Carrots

What You Do

Start by colouring the lamb shanks in olive oil. Transfer to a plate and then gently fry the shopped shallot, the leek, the carrot, the celeriac and the garlic. When ready add the red wine and some water, depending on your taste. Add the generous bouquet garni with extra rosemary and some cooked garlic. Transfer the lamb shanks back to the pan and close the pressure cooker. Cook for 30 – 45 minutes depending on the size of the shanks. Transfer the shanks to a warm plate, pass the cooking juice through a sieve (discarding the vegetables), check the sauce, reduce if necessary,  and serve the shanks with a classic branch of rosemary, Brussels sprouts and some bread.
If you want to emphasize the natural sweetness of the dish, then serve with glazed carrots.

 

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin

Such a simple, tasty, inexpensive and vegetarian soup! What more can you ask for? A bit of jus de truffe maybe?
Make sure to buy organic pumpkins. This allows you to use the skin; so two benefits: there is no need to peel the pumpkin and the soup will be better tasting.
Red lentils will become completely soft when cooked for 30 minutes; very different from green or black lentils. We add the lentils not only because of their taste, but also because they improve the texture of the soup.
Give the soup a finishing touch by adding pumpkin seed oil, jus de truffe or truffle flavoured olive oil (for instance produced by Moulins de la Brague).

Here is what you need

  • Small Pumpkin
  • Red Onion
  • Two Garlic Gloves
  • 6 cm Fresh Ginger
  • 2 Chilli Peppers
  • Tablespoon or more Red Lentils
  • Water
  • Olive oil
  • Pumpkin Seed Oil, Jus de Truffe or Truffle Flavoured Olive Oil
  • Cilantro

Chop de red onion in smaller but equal sized bits and put in a pan with olive oil. Put on moderate heat and give it some 5 to 10 minutes. Now add the chopped and seeded chilli pepper, the garlic and stir. Continue for 5 minutes on moderate heat. Add the chopped pumpkin and the lentils and stir for another 5 minutes. Peel the ginger, cut in cubes and put on a small wooden stick. This way you can easily remove the ginger later on. Now add boiling water and leave for 30 minutes to simmer or until the pumpkin is very, very soft.
When done remove the ginger. Taste the ginger and decide how much ginger you want to add to the soup. We just love fresh ginger so we would add most of it. Blender the remainder into a smooth soup. You could pass it through a sieve to make sure it’s like a lovely velouté. Cool and transfer to the refrigerator for the next day.
Warm the soup and add a splash of truffle flavoured olive oil or pumpkin seed oil and lots of cilantro before serving.
You can also make a milder version by reducing the amount of chilli and ginger. Then add jus de truffe, a bit of olive oil and maybe some pepper before serving.

Pumpkin Soup © cadwu
Pumpkin Soup © cadwu

Bay Boletes with Brussels Sprouts and Tenderloin

Bay Bolete

The Bay Bolete is a tasty, fairly common mushroom. Its cap is chestnut (bay) brown. They are easy to find under pines and other conifers in Europe and North America (but we’re not mushroom hunters) and unfortunately not so easy to find on the market. The main season for the Bay Bolete is late summer and autumn. Bay Boletes are rarely infested with maggots. They dry very well.
When comparing the taste of Bay Boletes and Cepes we think that Cepes have a more powerful and complex taste whereas Bay Boletes are nuttier.

We remember Brussels sprouts from our youth: over- cooked, greyish, soggy and oh-that-smell (it’s sulphur actually)! Once in a blue moon we take a trip down memory lane and cook them this way, but we prefer a more modern approach, for instance steamed and served with a drizzle of olive oil. Nutmeg is a must by the way.

Wine

We very much enjoyed a glass of Portuguese Segredos de São Miguel, a full-bodied, warm red wine, made from grapes such as Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira. You will taste lots of fruit and a touch of toast. A juicy wine with nice acidity and smooth tannins. Fresh and vigorous finish.

You could also go for a Malbec. Taste wise the mushrooms and the sprouts are very powerful, so you’re looking for a wine that will clearly support the beef and will also combine with the nuttiness of the mushrooms and the touch of bitterness of the sprouts.

Here is what you need

  • Boletes
    • 150 grams of Bay Boletes
    • Olive Oil
    • Butter
    • One glove of Fresh Garlic
    • Parsley
  • Brussels Sprouts
    • 200 grams of Brussels Sprouts
    • Butter
    • Nutmeg
  • 150 grams of excellent Beef (Tenderloin is best in this case)
  • Black Pepper

Let’s Start Cooking

We begin with the Brussels sprouts: clean them (don’t cut in half as so many do nowadays) and cook or steam them until they are nearly okay. Set aside and let cool. Clean the mushrooms with a brush and/or kitchen paper. Slice (not too thin). Heat a skillet, add olive oil and butter. Add the sliced mushrooms and fry gently over medium heat. In parallel warm a pan with some butter and add the sprouts. The idea is to coat them with butter and warm them, giving them just the cuisson you prefer. Heat a second skillet with olive oil and butter, fry the beef and let rest for 5 minutes or so in aluminum foil. Season the sprouts with some nutmeg. Back to the mushrooms: add chopped garlic to the pan. Wait a few minutes and then add chopped parsley. You could make a jus in the skillet you used for the beef. Serve on a hot plate with extra nutmeg and black pepper.

Monkfish with Tomato Olive Sauce

Not the kind of fish you want to meet when swimming in the sea, but definitely one you want to meet when shopping at the fishmonger. Make sure you bring some money because monkfish tends to be expensive. Great meat, delicate yet distinctive taste and not difficult to prepare as long as you’re not in a hurry.
The sauce has to be made a day in advance. It needs time to cook and time to integrate.
You will need to remove the skin of the monkfish. There seem to be several layers of skin and one is (when cooked) really rubbery and inedible. So take you knife, start at the tail end and move forwards, thus removing the membrane. You will find useful videos on the Internet. Unfortunately these videos suggest removing the main bone of the fish, which is a mistake for three reasons. You lose taste and meat plus you lose a natural indicator of the cuisson of the fish.
Pitted black olives. Sounds simple but isn’t simple at all. Buy quality, for instance Niçoise or Kalamate and stay away from cheap and canned. Dry-cured black olives (the wrinkly ones like Nyon) can be overpowering.
Monkfish is an essential ingredient of Zarzuela because of its texture and taste. In this recipe we combine the obvious: monkfish and tomato. We add a bouquet garni consisting of rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. The black olives give the required twist to the sauce and the dish as a whole.

We suggest a glass of Chardonnay to accompany the monkfish, provided the wine is not too woody; a light touch of oak will be best. Soave could also be a good combination.

Here is what you need

  • one Shallot
  • one Garlic Glove
  • Olive Oil
  • two Tomatoes
  • Pitted Black Olives
  • Bay Leaf
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Monkfish (200 gram per person, bone included)
  • Black Pepper

Start by making the sauce. Gently fry the chopped shallot in a splash of olive oil. After a few minutes add the chopped garlic. Now add the chopped tomatoes and the pitted black olives (depending on their taste we suggest between 10 and 15). Add the bouquet garni and allow to cook on low heat for a number of hours. Make sure to check on a regular basis. When ready, remove the bouquet garni and transfer to a blender. Pass the mixture through a sieve. The sauce should be as smooth as possible. Transfer to the refrigerator and use the next day.
Use a heavy iron skillet to fry the monkfish in olive oil. When nicely coloured, reduce the heat and start adding the sauce. Since the sauce is cold, you need to do it spoon by spoon. Coat the fish with warm sauce, again, and again. Use your knife to try separating the meat from the bone. When this is possible without applying too much pressure, the fish is nearly perfect. Remove the bone, turn the fish on the side that was connected to the bone and cook for one or two minutes. Taste the sauce; maybe you want to add some fresh black pepper.
Serve on a warm plate with some crusted bread.

Pissaladière

Pissaladière is a very tasty combination of onions, local French herbs, anchovies and black olives. It originates from the South of France (Côte d’Azur) and many a local boulangerie will offer their home-made, original pissaladière. We compared many recipes, enjoyed lots of slices of Pissaladière when in France and are pleased to present our version. It does not include tomatoes, milk, almonds, sugar, coconut oil and is not made with puff pastry.

Best is to make your own pastry (especially because it’s very simple) and use fresh yeast. Since it’s more and more difficult to buy, we use dried yeast. Key to making pissaladière is time. The onions need an hour, they need to cool and the dough needs to proof twice. But we’re not in a hurry!

We combined our pissaladière with French charcuterie; think Paté en Croûte (recipe to follow), Rossette (from Lyon), Rillettes d´Oie, Jambon persillé and cornichons. You could also combine pissaladière with a nice simple green salad.

We enjoyed our Pissaladière with a glass of Cô­tes de Pro­ven­ce ro­sé made of Cinsault, Grenache and Shiraz grapes. Dry, with a touch of grapefruit and wonderfully pale pink.

Here is what you need

  • 600 grams of White Onions (or a combination of White Onions and Shallots)
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Bay Leaf
  • Anchovies
  • Halved Black Olives
  • Pastry
    • 125 grams of Flour
    • 2 grams of Yeast (depending on the yeast you use)
    • 75 ml of Water
    • Dash of Salt
    • Some Olive Oil
    • Herbes de Provences (or thyme)

Start by caramelizing the onions. Peel the onions, cut in 4 and slice. Not too thin, the onions will shrink. Fry gently in olive oil and butter. When starting to color reduce the heat, add the bay leaf and allow to simmer for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Check the taste, the bay leaf can be overpowering. Let cool and set aside (for instance until the next day).
Mix flour, yeast, salt and herbes de Provences. Add water and olive oil and knead for 10 minutes. Let proof for 2 hours. Transfer to kitchen top and create a thin rectangular pastry. Coat a baking plate with oil and transfer the pastry to the plate. With a fork make small holes in the pastry (not in the edge). This is important given the fact that the onions are cold and moist. Now add the onions and make a nice pattern with the anchovies and the halved olives. Bake in a hot oven (top half, 220˚ Celsius or 430˚ Fahrenheit) for 15 minutes. Serve warm (or cold) but not hot.

Chicken with Tarragon, Leek and Nero d’Avola

Some combinations are made in heaven. Chicken and Tarragon is such a combination: it simply works brilliantly. Tarragon is a very powerful, aromatic herb, full of flavors such as anise and licorice. It’s the key ingredient of the sauce Béarnaise and it is of course wonderful when combined with vinegar and mustard. For kitchen purposes you need to buy French tarragon. The other well-known variety is called Russian tarragon. It’s a nice plant for your garden or balcony, with flowers and lots of leaves, but the taste is very bland, so not one to use in the kitchen.

We use butter to carry the taste of the tarragon to the chicken and to the sauce. It’s the principle behind enfleurage and maceration in the perfume making industry: fat is used to absorb the fragrance. So yes, you need an excellent chicken with lots of fat under the skin.

This recipe works with a whole chicken, with breasts and legs, provided they come with a skin. The crux of this recipe is to create a layer of tarragon butter between the meat and the skin, allowing for a crispy skin in combination with rich, flavored meat. You can stuff the chicken in the morning or the day before. Ideal when you’re having guests!

The sauce is very rich, so instead of using flour or cream, we create an emulsified sauce by blendering the mixture. The result is a velvety, filming sauce.

We enjoyed our chicken with a glass of Inycon Nero d’Avola. The wine is elegant, fruity, not too full bodied and it has soft tannins and a gentle acidity. You will also taste licorice, which is a nice reflection of the tarragon and the Pastis. The balance of the acidity of the wine and the filming structure of the sauce is essential to the dish.

Here is what you need

  • 2 Chicken Legs
  • 8 Sprigs of Tarragon
  • 20 + 10 grams of Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Pastis
  • Chicken Stock
  • Optional: Leek, olive oil and water

Strip the tarragon leaves from the stem and chop. Let’s say you need one or two sprigs of tarragon per chicken leg. Use a fork to make the tarragon butter. Use your fingers to create space (a pocket) between the skin and the meat. Start for instance in the middle of the leg (outside) or at the rear of the whole chicken. Be careful not to open the edges, otherwise the tarragon butter can’t do its work. Put some of the butter between the skin and the meat and use your fingers to create a thin layer by pressing the butter to the sides. Coat the bottom of a shallow baking pan with olive oil.
Transfer the chicken legs to the pan. Add some additional butter to the pan (not on top of the chicken). Also add the sprigs you haven’t used. Put the pan in an oven of 200˚ Celsius or 390˚ Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
Transfer the chicken legs and two sprigs of tarragon to a plate and keep them warm in the oven (just switch it of and keep the door open). Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and Pastis. Deglazing simply means that you add a liquid and then by stirring the mixture you capture the residue in the pan. As if you are cleaning the pan. Blender the mixture and poor through a sieve into a small saucepan. You now have a homogenous, emulsified sauce. Warm the sauce and stir occasionally for five minutes. Serve the chicken with the sauce, the fried sprigs of tarragon and the briefly cooked leek.

(P.S. Clean the leek, making sure you have removed the sand and dirt. Slice thinly and cook with some olive oil and a drop or two of water. Five minutes maximum should do the trick.)

Neck of Lamb with Star Anise, Ginger and Djeroek Poeroet

We can hear you thinking, ‘Shouldn’t that be rack of lamb?’.
Isn’t it interesting how much we are focused on specific parts of an animal? We love our steak, but what to do with an oxtail? We love pork loin, but how about the pig’s nose? And we enjoy grilled rack of lamb, but how about the lamb’s neck?
Supermarkets and butchers know all about our focus. So if you would like to cook pig’s feet (or trotters), kidneys, liver, sweetbread or lamb’s neck: where to go? Try finding a ‘real’ butcher, one that buys the whole animal, not just the parts that can be sold directly.

Lamb’s neck is very underrated, inexpensive and tasty. Some feel it’s okay for your dog only, but we completely disagree. When cooked slowly for hours it is great. Tasty, well structured, juicy and tender.

Feel free to replace the neck of lamb with 2 lamb shanks.

The obvious way to prepare the lamb is to fry it briefly in oil en butter and then cook for hours in red wine with a bouguet garni of rosemary, thyme, parsley and sage. Maybe add a small tomato to help the sauce. We take a different approach by adding strong tastes like ginger, cilantro seeds, star anise, soy sauce and the leaves of the Kaffir lime (also known as Djeroek poeroet or Djeruk purut). You will get a full, complex sauce in combination with lovely, aromatic meat.

We very much enjoyed our Neck of Lamb with a glass of Alsace Gewurztraminer, Cave de Beblenheim, 2016. The wine has a beautiful gold colour, and an expressive nose with rose notes. The palate presents a nice structure with a fruity and spicy association which of course goes very well with the oriental twist to the stew. In general we suggest an aromatic white wine with just a touch of sweetness.

Here is what you need

  • 300 grams Neck of Lamb
  • Shallot
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh Ginger (4 cm, depending on your taste)
  • 1 red Chili
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • Noilly Prat
  • Cilantro Seeds
  • Star Anise
  • Low Salt Soy Sauce
  • 4 leaves of Djeroek Poeroet

Cut the meat in cubes. Not too small since they will shrink during the cooking process. Fry the meat in butter and oil, giving it a nice colour. If so required, do so in multiple batches. In the mean time cut the shallot, peel the ginger and slice, remove the seeds from the chili and cut the garlic glove (but not too fine). Remove the meat from the pan and glaze the shallot, chili, ginger and garlic. Add the Noilly Prat, crushed cilantro seeds, star anise, some low-salt soy sauce and the djeroek poeroet. Stir. Transfer the meat back to the pan and add some water, making sure the meat is just covered. Leave to simmer for 6 hours in total. Check the pan every hour and add water is so required. Also check if the djeroek poeroet is not overpowering (this very much depends on the quality of the leaves). After 5 hours check the taste, add soy sauce, remove the djeroek poeroet or the star anise if so required. After 6 hours cool the stew and transfer to the refrigerator. You could also decide to transfer it to the freezer for use at a later date.
The following day remove as much of the fat as you prefer. Warm the stew, check taste and tenderness and continue to simmer if so required. When the meat is ready you may want to reduce the liquid.
Serve with steamed Pak Choi, tossed with sesame oil.

Caesar’s Mushrooms with Udon

Caesar’s mushroom (or Amanita Caesarea) is a true delicacy, especially when eaten very young. And raw. Since the young ones have the shape of an egg, they are called ovoli in Italian. It is not recommended to pick these young ones yourself, unless you’re an expert. The young Caesar’s mushroom looks very similar to young Fly Agaric, Death Cap or Destroying Angels. Ones we would not like to see on (y)our plate. The mature Caesar’s mushroom looks very distinct from these very dangerous mushrooms, so fewer risks involved.
When you’re in North America, you will probably be able to buy Amanita Jacksonii or Amanita Arkansana, which seem to be very similar, but not completely. As far as we know eating cooked Amanita Caesarea and Arkansana is not a problem; eating them raw could be.

The classic recipe for ovoli is to include them in a salad, with shaved white truffle, parsley, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Another option is to add them to your risotto.

In this recipe we combine the delicate flavour of the Caesar’s mushroom with lots of thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, a touch of garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Best would be to use Calamintha Nepeta, but using thyme will also do the trick. A garlic glove must be added because the garlic will turn black if your mushrooms are poisonous (not a story to rely on).

Ideally served with Japanese udon because the noodles will be nicely coated with the cooking juices, but feel free to use good pasta as an alternative. One of the benefits of udon is that it is really white, allowing for the yellow of the mushroom to be more present.

We enjoyed our Caesar’s mushrooms with a glass of traditional Burgundy wine from France (100% pinot noir). The wine should have delicate fruit aromas (black cherries, plum) and some earthiness. The wine should be medium bodied and have a crisp acidity. Not too much oak, because oak will overpower the mushrooms. The pinot noir should also be relatively light, allowing for herbal and floral tones.
Pinot Noir wines from the new world are in general rounder and higher in alcohol, making these wines more like Syrah or Malbec. We don’t recommend these wines, however tasty, in combination with the dish.
A glass of Chardonnay is also an option provided it’s fresh with just a touch of oak and butter.

Here is what you need

  • 200 grams of Caesar’s mushrooms
  • Olive Oil
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Bay Leaf
  • Garlic glove
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Japanese Udon (for instance from Hakubaku)

Clean the Caesar’s mushrooms and remove the white veil (or volva). Make a bouquet garni with lots of thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf. Start by making flavoured olive oil by warming the olive oil in a large skillet and adding the herbs and the garlic glove. Not too hot, you only want the flavours and essential oils to be added to the olive oil. After 15 minutes or so remove the garlic and the bouquet. Now add the sliced Ceasar’s mushrooms and very gently fry them. Just cooked is perfect. In parallel cook the udon. When ready (12 minutes in our case, you don’t want the udon to be al dente), drain the udon but keep some of the cooking liquid. If there is too much starch on the pasta, then think Japan and wash your pasta with cold water. This will remove the starch and allow for a better result. Remove the Caesar’s mushrooms from the pan and keep warm. Add the pasta to the pan, stir and make sure the pasta is fully coated. Add a spoonful or two of the cooking liquid to the pan. Add some grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Transfer the Caesar’s mushroom back to the pan and stir very gently, making it into one yellow, tasty mixture. Just before serving sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese.

Clafoutis: A Summer Classic

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?
Small, black or dark red cherries are the best for Clafoutis. We used very taste Dutch cherries, but these can be a bit oversized (but so tasty!). Don’t use candied cherries, Maraschino or 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 has the taste of almonds. In this recipe we pit the cherries and compensate for the lack of almond taste by using some 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!

Here is 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

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.

Fried Large Prawns

Enjoying the Sea

Shrimps and Prawns, delicacies from the sea, just like lobsters, scampi and crabs. Popular food in many countries, just think shrimp cocktail, paella, salad with shrimps, pasta with seafood, stuffed eggs with shrimps, curry with prawns and of course, fried shrimps with garlic and lemon.

We think shrimps and prawns are as subtle, delicate and tasty as lobster. The prawn should be at the center, not just another ingredient of your fish soup. Not hidden by loads of garlic and lemon. Or even worse, wrapped in bacon (whoever came up with the idea of wrapping prawns and oysters (angels on horseback) in bacon is not a seafood lover).

We will use the shell, the legs and the so-called swimmerets of the prawns to create a sauce; a bisque like sauce.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our fried large prawns with a glass of rose. This Italian rose (from Garofoli) is made from 100% Montepulciano. It comes with beautiful scent of cherries and peaches. The flavor is full, velvety, present and balanced. A great companion for seafood. Other options are Chablis and Soave. A Viognier will probably be too fruity.

What You Need

  • Two large Prawns, either wild or organic
  • One small Shallot
  • Chili Pepper
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Armagnac or Cognac
  • Garlic
  • One Cherry Tomato
  • One Saffron Thread
  • Water
  • Bouquet Garni (Thyme, Parsley)
  • Black Pepper
  • Crusted Bread

What You Do

We start by making a bisque-like sauce, using the shell of the prawns.
Chop the shallot and a bit of chili pepper and glaze gently for 10 minutes in butter and olive oil. In parallel use scissors to cut the shell of the prawn. Start behind the head and cut towards the tail. Just before the tail turn 90 degrees and make a cut around the prawn. This allows you to remove the shell and the legs of the body but keep the head and the tail on the prawn. Remove the black vein (the prawn’s intestines) and the slurry in the head (if any). Since you serve the prawn with the head (and tail) it is essential that the prawn is clean. You could gently rinse the prawn if you want to be absolutely sure about this. Transfer the prawns to the refrigerator.
Break the shell into smaller chunks. Add these to the pan and fry for a few minutes until red. Add a small splash of Cognac or Armagnac and flambé. Never do this when using the exhaust or range hood. Add one garlic glove, water, the quartered cherry tomato, the bouquet garni and the saffron. Stir well, cover the pan and let rest on low heat for 30 minutes.
Remove the bouquet and the shells from the pan and using a spoon and a sieve squeeze the juices from the bouquet and the shells, then discard. Blender the mixture and pass through a sieve. Taste the mixture, add pepper if so required. Leave for another 30 minutes on very low heat, allowing for the flavors to integrate and for the liquid to reduce.
Dry the prawns and fry them in a skillet in oil (depending on the size maximum 4 minutes in total) on both sides and on the back. Use warm plates, and serve the prawn on top of the sauce. Touch of black pepper on the prawn is fine. Enjoy with crusted bread.

Tellines with Parsley

This Week’s Special

Many, far too many years ago we were walking along the Mediterranean coast, enjoying the sea, the sun and the company of a dear friend. She asked us if we would like to eat tellines for dinner. Of course, we replied, but what are tellines? She smiled and said I’ll show you. She walked to the sea and kneeled down, just where the sand and the sea meet. All you needed to do was move your fingers through the sand, just under the surface and feel. She harvested a few tellines, opened them with her fingers, washed them in the sea and that’s how we enjoyed our very first tellines, fresh from the sea. So simple, to tasty, so good.
We harvested many more and went back to her house where we cooked the tellines in a hot skillet and enjoyed them with a beautiful local ro­sé.

Harvesting tellines (or in France tenilles) is simple; knowing where you can do this is the challenge. Fortunately you can (occasionally) find them on the market.

It’s possible to use other small clams, but the fun of tellines is that they open quickly when in the pan, making sure they remain juicy.

Here is what you need:

  • 300 grams of tellines
  • one Shallot
  • one Garlic glove
  • Olive Oil
  • Parsley
  • White Wine
  • Black Pepper

Wash the tellines, preferably using salted water. Discard ones with a small hole and ones that are broken. Chop the shallot (you probably need half of it) and the garlic very fine. Heat the skillet, add the oil, the shallot, the garlic and the tellines and cook until the tellines are open. You probably want to add a splash of white wine during the cooking process. Serve the tellines on a warm plate with black pepper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Enjoy with a glass of Cô­tes de Pro­ven­ce ro­sé, for instance an Estandon from the Var region. No cutlery needed!

 

 

 

 

 

Salad of White Asparagus with Chervil

A salad can be a very rewarding starter of your lunch or dinner on a nice summer’s day, provided it’s one with lots of flavour and gentle acidity. Salade Ni­çoi­se, Salade Caprese or a salad of White Asparagus with Chervil.

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.

Chervil is a very delicate herb. Its taste is like anise, but much more refined. The salad needs to be prepared well in advance, allowing the chervil to be overall present. Chervil looses it’s taste almost immediately when heated, so one to be used in cold dishes.

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 white 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.

Here is what you need:

  • 2 White Asparagus per person
  • Excellent Olive Oil
  • White Wine Vinegar or Verjuice
  • Lots of Chervil
  • Touch of Honey
  • White Pepper

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.

 

 

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 they served us green asparagus, but it works even better with white asparagus.
This is typically a dish you would make when the asparagus season is at its high and outside temperatures feel like summer. You could drink a Pinot Grigio, a Muscat from the Alsace region or a Rose with character. Remember the wine needs to combine with a range of very diverse flavours in the dish.

Here is what you need:

  • 2 Asparagus per person
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Black Pepper

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 cover the asparagus in oil. Heat the pan and grill the asparagus for 4*1 minute, making sure you have a lovely brown (not too dark) pattern. Serve on a plate, add some grated Parmesan cheese and pepper. Add a generous drizzle of very good olive oil.

 

 

 

Last Week’s Special-20

Rape a la Marinera or Monkfish Spanish Style with Verdejo (Monteabellon Rueda 2016)

In October 2016 Jamie Oliver was criticised for making paella the wrong way. He dared adding chorizo to one of the most Spanish dishes ever. Paella should be rabbit, snails, chicken, beans, saffron and rice. How dare he insult all of Spain by adding chorizo to such a traditional recipe! Naked chef or not, ambassador of healthy food or not, no one touches Paella.

Which triggers the intriguing question what is actually traditional and original. Isn’t traditional sashimi salmon, tuna and sea bream? Isn’t it?
In the 1970s, Japan did not import a single piece of fish. Salmon would first be marinated in sake and then salted or dried before being grilled. In these days in Japan salmon was always wild salmon and not eaten raw because of the possibility of parasites in raw wild salmon. So salmon was not used for sushi and sashimi. That all started to change in the 1980s after a Norwegian seafood delegation visited the country and Project Japan started. In 1980 the first salmon was imported and it took until 1995 for the public to accept raw salmon for sushi and sashimi. Today salmon is the sushi fish of choice among young Japanese.

Going back to Paella: how often did you have snails in your paella?

Rape a la Marinera is among our favourites because it’s all about monkfish, which is such a tasty fish. It can be compared with lobster (but we admit, you need a bit of imagination). The monkfish is presented with a generous tomato sauce, gamba, vongole’s and bread. What better way to enjoy life!

We very much enjoyed a glass of Spanish Verdejo. In our case a bottle of Monteabellon Rueda 2016. 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 recognize the aromas of banana and exotic fruit.

In this recipe we will probably do a few things very wrong, but never mind, simply don’t tell you Spanish friends.

The day before serving Rape a la Marinera we make the tomato sauce.

Here is what you need:

  • 4 Excellent Ripe Tomatoes
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • ½ Chilli
  • 1 Onion
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • ½ Glass Red Wine
  • 1 Anchovy Fillet
  • Few Black Olives
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary, Bay Leaf)

Prepare the tomatoes by peeling them, removing all the pits and slicing the remaining meat. What’s left over goes into a sieve and with a spoon you squeeze out the juices. You will be amazed how much juice you will get (and how little is left from the tomatoes). Peel the onion and cut in smaller bits. Add olive oil to the pan and glaze the onion for 10 minutes or so. Add the chopped garlic clove. Stir a bit and then add the sliced bell pepper and the sliced chilli. Let cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes or so. Add the halved olives, the sliced anchovy fillet and the sliced tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes, add the tomato juice, the red wine and the bouquet garni. Leave for 2 hours to simmer. Reduce is so required.
Remove the bouquet garni, blender the sauce and transfer to the refrigerator.

Now for the Rape a la Marinera:

  • Monkfish
  • Olive Oil
  • Optional
    • Bay Leaf
    • Saffron
  • 2 Gamba’s (large Shrimps)
  • Vongole (clams, Vongola Veraci)
  • White wine
  • Bouquet Garni

Start by cleaning the monkfish and removing the skin where necessary. Clean the gamba’s by removing the intestinal tract. Leave the head and the tail. Check the vongole and discard ones that are broken. In general vongole don’t need much cleaning. As for spaghetti vongole, buy clams that are a touch sweet and juicy. Vongola Verace is best for both dishes.
In a large skillet fry the monkfish. When coloured add the sauce. Cook the fish by warming the sauce and covering the fish with the sauce. Maybe you want to add a bay leaf or two. A bit of saffron is a great addition but be careful; saffron can be very overpowering. In parallel add some white wine to a pan with a bouquet garni, let cook for 5 minutes. This is the cooking liquid for the vongole.
Now it’s about timing: add the gamba to the sauce and cook fish and gamba to perfection. Just before that moment, add the vongole to the pan with white wine, close the lid, cook for a few minutes until you see steam coming from the pan, remove the lid, check the vongole, add some vongole juices to the sauce with the monkfish and gamba’s, stir, taste, maybe add a bit more vongole juices and finally add a touch of pepper.
Serve with crusted bread.

 

 

Salade Niçoise

Pan Bagnat

The origin of the Salade Niçoise goes back to the days that life on the French Côte d’Azur was harsh. It was a remote and poor region and people tried making a living trough fishing, harvesting flowers for the perfume manufacturers and growing olives. Not a tourist in sight and no fancy lunches. Bread would be baked once every fortnight and people would soak the stale, day-old bread with water, olive oil or ripe tomatoes. Over the years this developed into what is known today as Pan Bagnat: bathed bread. Interestingly enough the stuffing became a dish in its own right: the Salade Niçoise.

Today’s Salade Niçoise is of course much more than water, olive oil and tomatoes. According to the founders of the label Nissarde Cuisine the Salade Niçoise is a combination of tomatoes, boiled eggs, salted anchovy, tuna in oil, spring onion, small black Niçoise olives, basil and olive oil. Optional ingredients are artichoke, broad beans, green pepper, garlic and radish.
And now I can hear you think: but how about the haricots verts and the potatoes? And haven’t you forgotten the vinegar?

Let’s start with the vinegar: a few drops are allowed but the idea goes back to the Pan Bagnat. So little or no vinegar and certainly no balsamic vinegar, mustard or mayonnaise. 

It was Auguste Escoffier who introduced the haricots verts and the potatoes as ingredients of the Salade Niçoise. For the guardians of the Nissarde Cuisine this is clearly a ‘no go’ (also because Escoffier was not from Nice). We were brave and did a small experiment by preparing both variations.

We expected the Escoffier version to be the winner of our small competition, but the stars clearly go to the Nissarde version: elegant, light, full of flavours and a tribute to the ingredients. Forget about haricots verts, potatoes, vinegar and grilled fresh tuna!

What You Need

  • Tomatoes
  • Salted Anchovy
  • Tuna in Oil
  • Spring Onion
  • 2 Boiled Eggs
  • Small Black (Niçoise) Olives
  • Basil
  • Olive oil
  • Optional
    • Artichoke
    • Broad Beans
    • Green Pepper
    • Garlic
    • Radish
  • Version Escoffier
    • Haricots Verts
    • Potatoes
    • Mesclun
    • Vinegar
    • Black Pepper

What You Do

For the Nissarde Cuisine version: cook the eggs until nearly set, clean the vegetables, wash and slice the anchovy. Then combine quartered tomatoes, sliced spring onion, tuna, anchovy, olives and basil. Drizzle with excellent olive oil and garnish with eggs. Toss briefly to make sure all ingredients are coated with oil.
For the Escoffier version: briefly cook the haricots verts and cool in cold water. Cook the potatoes until done. Cook the eggs until nearly set. Wash and slice the anchovy. Clean the vegetables. Combine quartered tomatoes, sliced spring onion, tuna, anchovy, olives, cubed potatoes, haricots verts and basil. Mix olive oil and vinegar. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with eggs. Toss briefly to make sure all ingredients are coated with the dressing.
For a more luxurious version replace the canned tuna with grilled tuna.

Lentils with Confit of Duck

A Nice Lunch

Think France, think a small restaurant in a small street, nice and simple, no Michelin star in sight. It’s 12.30, time for a quick lunch. You enter the restaurant, take a seat and order today’s dish, the plat du jour. It turns out to be a generous helping of lentils with confit de cuisse de canard and parsley. After having enjoyed your lunch, you think about the joy of good food and the beauty of lentils. Lentille Verte du Puy, such a treat! The combination of the confit, the lentils and the parsley with the sweetness of the shallot and the garlic is elegant, moist and full of flavours.

Feel free to buy ready-made confit. You could of course make it yourself but it is fairly time consuming and not something you would do for two confits only. In our experience most of the confits you can buy (tinned or vacuumed) will be fine. If you’re lucky your local butcher will make his or her own confits. We have included an alternative recipe below.

Wine Pairing

We suggest a glass of not too complex red wine; a well-balanced wine with notes of red fruit, gentle tannins and not too oaky. We enjoyed a glass of Bordeaux-Supérieur, Château Picon.

What You Need

  • 3 Shallots
  • 1 Garlic Glove
  • Coriander Seed
  • Lentils (Lentille Verte du Puy O.P & A.O.C. from Sabarot)
  • Chicken Stock
  • 2 Confits de Canard
  • Olive Oil
  • Parsley
  • Black Pepper
  • Optional: Green Salad

What You Do

Finely chop one shallot 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 crushed coriander seed and the lentils. Heat and stir for one minutes, as you would do with risotto rice. Add some chicken stock and water (the stock is only intended to give the lentils a small push) and leave to simmer on low heat. When the lentils are nearly done, finely chop the other two shallots and glaze gently in olive oil and in the fat that comes with the confit. In parallel warm the two confits. After a few minutes add the finely chopped garlic to the shallot. Chop the parsley. When the garlic and shallot are nicely soft and sweet, add the parsley, some black pepper and then mix with the lentils. Remove the skin from the confit and serve the duck on top of the lentils. Perhaps serve with a simple green salad.

Alternative Way of Making Confit of Duck

Start by crushing a nice amount of juniper berries. Take a sheet of strong aluminium foil, add some crushed berries, a bay leaf and put one duck leg (skin side up) on top. Drizzle with plenty of olive oil. Add the remainder of the berries and a second bay leaf. Wrap the meat in foil, making sure it is tightly closed and the foil intact. If not sure wrap with a second piece of foil. Transfer to a warm oven (90° Celsius or 200° Fahrenheit) for at least 8 hours.

Lentils with Confit of Duck © cadwu
Lentils with Confit of Duck © cadwu

The Art of Cooking

Culinary Art

For most of us cooking is something we do on a more or less daily basis. We cook rice, fry meat, prepare a salad and when we want to make something special, for instance Tournedos Rossini or Pêche Melba, we follow a recipe.
For a few people cooking is about combining flavours, colours, textures and temperatures. Cooking is all about creativity; cooking has become an Art. Chefs invent dishes and utensils, they set the standard for regional cuisines and they guide us. Their artefacts are dishes and recipes; their art is Culinary Art.

The Escoffier Museum

Unfortunately there are not many musea dedicated to the Culinary Arts: in Napa, California (the The Culinary Institute of America), in Marrakesh (Museum of Moroccan Culinary Art) and in the beautiful French village of Villeneuve-Loubet: the Escoffier Museum of Culinary Arts. It is housed in an authentic Provençal style home from the 18th century: the birthplace of famous chef Auguste Escoffier.

The Escoffier Museum was founded in 1966 and is home to an intriguing collection, ranging from a Provençal kitchen (with a grill in front of an open fire), a predecessor of the mandoline (invented by Escoffier), a room with the most amazing sculptures made from sugar and chocolate, a room with Escoffier’s desk and a library with over 3000 books, a video room, a room with over 300 menus and a room dedicated to other great chefs.

Three Great Chefs

The museum owns a very nice portrait of Antonin Carême and a picture of Eugénie Brazier (1895 – 1977), also known as Mère Brazier. She was one of the ‘mothers’ in Lyon and she brought local cooking to the level of Gastronomy. She founded her first restaurant Mère Brazier in 1921 at the age of 26. She was the first to be awarded 6 Michelin stars for two restaurants. She truly is the founder of the regional Cuisine Lyonnaise. Indeed, the cuisine made famous by Paul Bocuse.
Antonin Carême (1784 – 1833) was very likely the first modern chef, an influential author and inspiration to chefs. He introduced the toque, he was a dear friend of Gioachino Rossini and very likely the creator of the tournedos Rossini. He started his career as patissier and became chef to Napoleon, the later George IV and Tsar Alexander I.
And of course Auguste Escoffier (1846 – 1935), chef in Paris, Monte Carlo and London. Together with César Ritz he created the luxury hospitality trade. He introduced behavioural and organisational standards in the kitchen. He stressed the importance of personal hygiene of kitchen staff and encouraged the further education of his employees. He developed the brigade system with party leaders and designed kitchen utensils. He introduced fixed price menus and developed Bouillon Kub with Julius Maggi. But above all he created many beautiful dishes and was chef to the rich, the famous and to royalty. And he was an author, of course, most notable of the Guide Culinaire (1903).
In 1910 (when working in London) he published about a project to extinct pauperism in the UK. Two years later he organised the first fundraising dinners to support charitable causes. His social interests went far beyond the rich and the famous.

Pêche Melba

The menus make you think about all these no doubt wonderful dishes, about the richness of the dinners and lunches, the extravagance of the food and wine served. Wouldn’t it be interesting to taste some of it? A slice of Filet de Boeuf a la Chartreuse? A piece of the Gateau Soufflot? The real artefacts of Culinary Art can be found in restaurants. Which creates an interesting dilemma. Pêche Melba was created by Auguste Escoffier for the famous opera singer Nellie Melba in 1893. The final recipe is a combination of peaches, vanilla ice cream and raspberries. Where can we taste Pêche Melba as if made by the great chef himself? Many restaurants offer Pêche Melba with additions such as whipped cream, mint, dried almonds or replacements such as strawberries and canned peaches. Very much not what Escoffier intended. So we can read the original recipe as written by Escoffier (on display and sale in the museum) but where to taste the real Pêche Melba?

Fortunately the museum offers a free tasting of Pêche Melba to all visitors between June and September. Indeed, depending on the availability of fresh, ripe, juicy peaches.

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Stuffed Courgette or Zucchini Flowers

A Tempting Flower

Such a pleasure to see courgette flowers in your garden or at the greengrocers. The young courgette is firm and tasty; the flowers a beautiful yellow. Simply stuff the flowers, fry in a pan or cook in the oven and you have a great side dish or starter. And then you start wondering: ‘Stuff with what? Cheese? Salmon? Tomatoes? Egg? And how to make a filling that remains inside the flower and isn’t too firm?‘.
We prefer a simple approach: stuff the flowers with a perfect combination: courgette, thyme, shallot, garlic and Parmesan cheese. Firm, tasty and all about zucchini. Enjoy as a starter or combine the stuffed flowers with grilled lamb or chicken.

What You Need

  • Small Courgettes with their flower
  • One Courgette (small and firm; you need 1 small courgette to stuff 4 flowers)
  • One Shallot
  • One Garlic Clove
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Thyme or Herbes de Provence
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Remove the stamens from the flowers. Peel the additional courgette, slice the shallot and the garlic very thinly. Warm a heavy iron pan and gently glaze the shallot. After a few minutes add the garlic. Remove the seeds from the courgette and grate coarsely. When the shallot and the garlic are sufficiently glazed, add the grated courgette and the thyme or Herbes de Provence. Mix and warm for 15-20 minutes, making sure the liquid evaporates. Try to keep the structure of the coarsely grated courgette. Add finely grated Parmesan cheese, mix and taste. Adjust with cheese, black pepper and thyme or Herbes de Provence. Set aside and let cool.
Heat your oven to 180° Celsius or 360° Fahrenheit. Stuff the flowers, close them and transfer to the oven, sprinkle with olive oil and cook for 15 – 20 minutes. Depending on your oven you may need to use ‘traditional’ or a combination with a small grill. You want the flowers to become crisp. Allow them to cool for a few minutes before serving.
PS In case the grated courgette looses its structure and the mixture becomes too dense, then beat an egg white until very firm and gently spoon this through the cold mixture before stuffing the flowers.

 

Vegetables With Couscous

Couscous Bidaoui

A classic dish from the Moroccan cuisine: Couscous Bidaoui. It very likely originates from Casablanca. Making couscous is all about steaming the semolina in a couscoussier and while doing this create a rich broth and cook the meat (lamb or beef) and the vegetables with various herbs and spices. It doesn’t work with instant couscous, so what to do in case you don’t have a couscoussier? Our challenge is to cook something that somewhat resembles a classic dish without having the essential equipment.

Let’s talk about things we do have: lots of vegetables! The classic couscous Bidaoui contains vegetables such as onions, turnips, carrots, chickpeas, tomatoes, courgette, pumpkin and cabbage plus herbs like parsley and cilantro. That shouldn’t be too difficult so let’s start cooking!

Wine Pairing

A wine from the French Alsace, for instance a Gewurztraminer (an aromatic white wine with a touch of sweetness) will be very nice with the vegetables and the spices. You could also go for a glass of Rosé (Côtes de Provence for instance) or a red wine, provided it’s not too powerful. Pinot Noir would be good choice.

What You Need

  • Onions
  • Turnips
  • Carrots
  • Chickpeas
  • Courgette
  • Cabbage
  • And we added Red Bell Pepper, Garlic, Red Chilli and Eggplant
  • Turmeric Powder
  • Cumin Seeds
  • Cinnamon Stick
  • Vegetable Stock
  • Preserved Lemon
  • Couscous (one cup)
  • Butter
  • Black Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Black Olives
  • Cilantro

What You Do

If using dried chickpeas: soak these overnight. Start by slicing and cutting the vegetables. In a large heavy pan glaze the onions. Then add the garlic, followed by the carrot and the turnip. Make sure they are nicely coated with olive oil. Continue by adding the chickpeas, the courgette, the bell pepper, a bit of chilli and the eggplant. Crush the cumin in a mortar. Add stock, cumin, cinnamon stick and turmeric and let simmer for 30 minutes at least. Use plenty of stock because you will need one cup for the couscous. When the vegetables are nearly ready, add the roughly chopped cabbage and a few slices of preserved lemon. In parallel make the (instant) couscous (this will normally take 5 minutes) using one cup of the cooking liquid. When ready use a fork to make the couscous fluffy and add some butter. Create a ring of couscous and add the vegetables to the centre. Perhaps some black pepper. Sprinkle with cilantro and add a few olives.

Risotto With Squid

A Tasty Bonus

Combining rice with squid is an excellent idea. Just think about Arroz Negro, the black rice from Valencia. We combine rice (Acquerello, of course!) with fresh (or frozen) squid. Cleaning squid can be a bit intimidating, but it’s not difficult at all. The result is much better than the already cleaned frozen tubes you can buy plus you get the tentacles as a tasty bonus. Becky Selengut’s video is very helpful. This is how we do it:

  • Start by removing the head from the body. When you do this gently, you will also remove most of the internal organs of the squid. You may want to secure the ink for later use.
  • Just below the eyes, cut off the tentacles using a knife or scissors. Remove the beak (located at the base of the tentacles). Discard internal organs and beak. Transfer the tentacles to a bowl.
  • With your fingers remove the cartilage (this is the part that looks like it is made of plastic).
  • Now you have a choice: you could leave the skin on; it does add extra colour to the stew. But you could also remove the skin of the tube and fins. Best is to start in the middle and then gently pull the skin towards the top and bottom.
  • Remove the fins and transfer to the bowl.
  • Turn the tube inside out by pushing the top into the tube. This allows you to remove all internal organs and the membrane.
  • Turn the tube outside in by pushing the top into the tube. Transfer to the bowl.
  • Wash the tube, fins and tentacles with cold water.

Wine Pairing

Best is to combine this seafood risotto with a light, aromatic white wine. One that is fresh and dry. We enjoyed our risotto with a glass of Bianco di Custoza 2018, made by Monte del Frà in Italy. It is a well-balanced, dry white wine, with a fruity nose. Its colour is straw yellow, with pale green highlights. It is made from a variety of grapes: Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano, Trebbianello and Cortese. An excellent combination with the seafood risotto.

What You Need

  • For the Squid Stew
    • 500 grams of Squid (to be cleaned)
    • Olive Oil
    • Shallot
    • 2 Garlic Gloves
    • 200 grams of Tomatoes (peeled, seeded and cut in chunks)
    • 1 Red Chilli
    • Red Wine
    • Two Fresh Bay Leaves
  • For the Risotto
    • 100 gram of Risotto Rice (Acquerello)
    • Fish Stock
    • Shallot
    • Butter
    • Parmesan cheese
    • Black Pepper
    • Crispy Japanese Seaweed

What You Do

A day before serving the risotto, prepare the stew: use a heavy, iron skillet. Cut the shallot in small bits and glaze gently in olive oil. Once the shallot is glazed add the garlic and the deseeded, chopped red chilli. After a few minutes add the squid (chopped tube and fins, tentacles ). Fry for a few minutes, add the tomatoes, a glass of red wine and the bay leaf. Allow to simmer for 4 hours. If necessary add a splash of water. Stir every 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, cool and store in the refrigerator.

The next day start by peeling and chopping the shallot. Add butter and olive oil to a pan and glaze the shallot. In another pan bring the light fish stock to a boil. After 5 minutes add the rice to the pan with the shallot and coat for 2 minutes. Add the squid stew and mix. Start adding the stock, spoon by spoon and stir the rice frequently. When using Acquerello rice it takes 18 minutes. Check the rice. When okay, transfer the pan to the kitchen counter top and leave to rest for 2 minutes. Add chunks of butter, stir, add a bit more butter and grated Parmesan cheese. Stir, a bit of black pepper, add more butter or Parmesan cheese if so required. Serve immediately with some crispy Japanese seaweed.

Risotto with Squid © cadwu
Risotto with Squid © cadwu

Tournedos Rossini

The First King of Chefs

Gioachino Rossini (1792 – 1868) was a gifted, talented and great composer. Not only did he compose some 40 operas, many songs and the beautiful Petite Messe Solennelle, he was also an expert with regard to food. Perhaps expert is not the right word: he was a gourmand, an excessive eater and drinker plus a culinary inspiration. Chefs would name dishes after him, such as Filets de Sole Rossini (poached Dover sole wrapped around goose liver and truffle served with a white wine sauce), Cocktail Rossini (strawberries and prosecco), Macaroni Soup alla Rossini (a soup with partridge quenelles and Parmesan cheese) and many others.

The soup was created by Marie-Antoine Carême, a very dear and close friend of Rossini. He was Roi des Cuisiniers et Cuisinier des Rois having been chef to Napoleon, the Prince of Wales (the later King George IV), Tsar Alexander 1st and Baron de Rothschild. He created the concept of the four mother sauces (Allemande, Béchamel, Espagnole, Velouté) and was an essential inspiration for Auguste Escoffier. Marie-Antoine Carême is one of the most influential chefs ever, a brilliant  patissier and author of several books on cookery, including L’Art de la Cuisine Française.

Very likely it was Escoffier who came up with the word tournedos, but the combination of bread, meat, goose liver, truffle and Madeira was a creation by Marie-Antoine Carême, inspired by and prepared for his friend Gioachino Rossini.

Tournedos Rossini is a culinary pleasure. It’s elegant, full of flavours and exquisite. It’s simply gorgeous.

Wine Pairing

A classic red Bordeaux will be a perfect match. Dry, full-bodied and fruity. We enjoyed a glass of Château Gaillard Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2015. This is a dry, cherry-red coloured wine. It features medium woody, fruity and vegetal scents and offers a broad texture as well as medium tannins.

What You Need

  • 2 Tournedos (Fillet Steaks)
  • Butter
  • Madeira
  • Fresh Goose Liver
  • Winter truffle
  • Stock (Chicken or Veal)
  • 2 Slices of Old Bread

What You Do

Originally you would need demi-glace sauce, but we take a short cut. Make sure you have everything ready. The oven should be at 70° Celsius (160° Fahrenheit), one heavy iron pan and one non-sticky pan both warm, nearly hot, through and through. Make sure the meat is at room temperature. We prefer a small steak (75 gram). Start by frying the two slices of bread in butter until golden. Transfer the bread to the oven. Clean the pan with kitchen paper and add butter. Quickly fry the meat, it must be saignant (no options here). Wrap in foil and set aside. Reduce heat. Add stock to the pan and deglaze. Add Madeira. Thinly slice the fresh winter truffle (no options here). Add the smaller slices and crumbles to the sauce. Put the beef on top of the bread. Keep warm. Fry the goose liver for just a few seconds in the hot non sticky pan until golden/brown. Now plate up: the bread with the beef and the goose liver on top. Pour over the sauce, add the bigger slices of truffle and serve immediately.

Tournedos Rossini © cadwu
Tournedos Rossini © cadwu

 

Seared Scallops with Truffle and Potato Mousseline

Truffles Are a Chef’s Best Friend

Truffles range from affordable summer truffles (€100 per 100 gram) via expensive winter truffle (€150 per 100 gram) to extremely expensive white truffles (starting at €375 per 100 gram). Cultivated truffles are considerably less expensive but unfortunately they have less flavour and taste.

Commercially it’s a clever idea to introduce high end products like Risotto with Truffle, Truffle Mayonnaise, Crisps with Truffle, Butter with Truffle Flavour or Black Angus Truffle Burger. The addition of truffle allows the producer to charge more compared to the regular product. So you wonder, how much truffle is actually added? Well, don’t be surprised: it ranges from hardly any truffle to absolutely no truffle at all.

The risotto rice for instance contains 0,2% of truffle per 100 gram. Probably it will be a cultivated truffle, so the impact of the 0,2% is zero. Especially if you take into account that summer truffle (and white truffle to be complete) loses its flavour when heated. Let’s look at the figures: the truffle risotto rice comes at €8,50 per kilo (containing 98,8% of rice) and the same rice without truffle at €2,75 per kilo. So for nearly 6 Euro difference you buy 2 gram of cheap truffle, 8 gram of porcine, parsley, garlic and chives. Yes, indeed, it’s Liza Minnelli singing Truffles makes the world go round, the world go round!

But I Did Taste Truffle!

Of course you didn’t. You imagined you tasted it because it said so on the pack and because the producer most likely added 2,4-dithiapentane, a synthetically produced, aromatic molecule. Products containing 2,4-dithiapentane taste and smell like a bad chemical version of the real thing. It’s especially sad because people confuse the smell of 2,4-dithiapentane with the smell of real truffle.
If people say they don’t like truffle they actually say they don’t like 2,4-dithiapentane, which is great.

Life is simple and truffles are expensive. So get rid of the truffle flavoured rice, oil, mayonnaise, preserved truffle and what have you and enjoy spending some real money on a good product!

An Exciting Combination

In this recipe we combine winter truffle with scallops and potatoes. Winter truffle improves in taste when warm. And it loves potatoes. Perhaps because both grow underground and have a similar odd shape?

Wine Pairing

You need a medium bodied wine to match the powerful taste and flavours. One that brings freshness, citrus, purity and character. We enjoyed a glass of Costieres de Nimes Nostre Pais 2016. You could also go for a Chardonnay with a touch of wood. Combining it with a Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris or Picpoul de Pinet is not a good idea because you then miss out on the necessary earthy tones in the wine.

What You Need

  • 3 Fresh Scallops (preferably in the shell)
  • 1 Starchy Potato
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • White Pepper
  • Salt
  • 10+ Gram of Black (Winter) Truffle

What You Do

Start by making the mousseline: peal the potato and cook until done. Make a mash with a fork or a potato squeezer. Optional: pass potatoes through a fine sieve. Warm the milk and add to the mash. Add a generous amount of butter. Use a whisk to make the mousseline. Add white pepper. The mousseline must combine with the intense taste of the scallops, so a touch of salt is also needed. Keep warm. Half the scallops and fry quickly in a touch of butter in a non sticky pan. When nearly ready, grate the truffle. Take two warm plates, dress with the mousseline, add the three scallops and top with black truffle.

Seared Scallops with Truffle and Potato Mousseline © cadwu
Seared Scallops with Truffle and Potato Mousseline © cadwu

Quail with Pruneaux d’Agen and Bay Leaf

Fond Memories

Many years ago we enjoyed dinner at a restaurant called Auberge des Seigneurs in Vence, France. The menu included classic dishes such as blue trout, chicken, tian and tender lamb cooked on a spit before an open fire. Ah, Madame Rodi, we fondly remember those evenings, Monsieur Tim and your infinite hospitality.
One of the items on the menu was quail with prunes and bay leaf. Since that day we love our quails! They have a delicate taste, with a nice touch of fattiness. For some reason the meat goes very well with strong flavours like bay leaf, black olives, sage et cetera.
Make sure the quail is sufficiently fat and not frozen. We prefer it if the head is still attached because it allows you to use the skin of the neck, after having removed the head and the spine.
Buying Pruneaux d’Agen could be a challenge, but other prunes will be fine too, provided they are moist and tasty.

Wine Pairing

At the Auberge we enjoyed the red Rimauresq Classique, A.O.P. Côtes de Provence – Cru classé. In general a red wine will go very well with the quails, provided it comes with a bit of fruit and it is not too complex. It should balance with the sweetness and nuttiness (prunes, pancetta) of the dish and the beautiful smell of bay leaf.

What You Need

  • 2 Quails
  • 50 grams of Pancetta
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 6 Pruneaux d’Agen
  • Olive oil
  • Butter

What You Do

Clean the inside of the quails with kitchen paper and remove anything that’s left. Check the skin for feathers and hollow shafts. Cut 4 pruneaux and the pancetta in smaller bits and mix together. Now stuff the quail with a bay leaf, then the mixture and finish with a pruneaux. Use kitchen string to close the quail. Pre-heat your oven to 200°-220° Celsius (390°-430° Fahrenheit). Put the quails in a skillet with olive oil. Put some butter on top of the quail. Make sure the breast is downward facing. This way the fat will go towards the breast, making sure these are nice and moist. Put in upper half of oven. After 15 minutes turn the quails, label fat over the breast and after another 10 minutes your quails should be ready and golden. Remove from the oven and let the quails rest for 5-10 minutes.
Remove the kitchen string and serve with seasonal vegetables from the oven.

 

 

André Daguin

A Grand Chef

Le chef gascon André Daguin, roi du magret de canard, est mort.
André Daguin died earlier this month in Auch, France. From 1960 to 1997 he was owner and chef of the Hôtel de France in Auch. He was awarded two Michelin Stars and more importantly for us he put Gascogne
on the culinary map. He was one of the leaders of the nouvelle cuisine and a master of foie gras. He was much appreciated by other French chefs and was elected President of Union des Métiers et des Industries de l’Hôtellerie, the French association of people working in hotels, restaurants and bars. His most significant and unparalleled contribution was the invention of Magret de Canard or grilled Duck Breast in 1959. It is one of many reasons why he was a grand chef.

A True Invention

The best known preparations of duck are confit de canard (the legs of the duck cooked in goose fat) and magret de canard, smoked or grilled. As if preparing the whole bird is not something you want to do. When you look for recipes in classic cookbooks like La Cuisinière Provençale by J.- B. Reboul (published in 1897) and in La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiare Bene by Pellegrino Artusi (publihed in 1891), then you will notice that all recipes are for complete birds. Braised if a young animal, stewed if older and larger. With olives, chipolata (small sausages), oranges or onions.
One day in 1959, after a busy lunch, a sales man arrived at the Hôtel. Not much was left in the kitchen, but André Daguin wanted to serve lunch to his late guest. He took a raw magret (ready to be made into confit) and prepared it quickly, like a steak. No doubt the surprised guest loved it. A nice and unconfirmed story.

Today grilled duck breast is one of France’s most popular dishes and many chefs offer recipes for it. With an orange sauce, with a green pepper sauce or with an Asian twist.
The original (!) by André Daguin is with foie gras. Obviously!

Breast of Duck with Thyme © cadwu
Breast of Duck with Thyme © cadwu