Last Week’s Special -39

Skate with Capers

When you Google for skate with capers you will find many recipes with capers and brown butter. We think you can do better!
The trick in this recipe is to clarify butter and then deep fry the capers in the clarified butter. The result is a crunchy and salty caper with clear acidity from the brine. This of course works brilliantly with the meaty, fatty skate.
Butter is an emulsion of butterfat, water and proteins. The process of clarification means breaking down the emulsion. The goal is to have pure butterfat, which will not burn and which allows for deep-frying. The water will simply go when you warm the butter. The trick is to remove the proteins. Start by melting the butter and wait until you see the white foam and until the water is gone. Now pour the fat into a jar or cup, carefully keeping the foam in the pan. Option two is to continue warming the butter until the white foam becomes brown. Be careful not to burn it, this will ruin your butter. The now brown foam will sink to the bottom, which makes it easier to pour the butterfat in a jar or cup. If you want to be even more sure of the quality, use a cheesecloth when pouring. The idea is that using the second option will give the clarified butter a more nutty taste.
Please don’t use flour to coat the skate. Simply use a non-sticky pan and a nice combination of oil and butter.

The skate goes really well with a glass of classic Chardonnay with a touch of oak. The chardonnay comes with a velvety taste which is great with the skate and its consistency. The touch of oak combines very well with the fried capers.

Here is what you need

  • Skate wing (let’s say 200 grams for 2 persons)
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper
  • Capers (in brine)
  • 75 grams of butter (to be clarified)

Clarify the butter and set aside. Fry the skate in a non-sticky pan for 5-10 minutes or so, depending on the size and shape. Please notice that there is more meat on one side then on the other side, so it’s not 10=5+5. Transfer the skate to a warm plate. Heat the clarified butter to frying temperature and in parallel wash the capers and dry them with kitchen paper. Fry the capers until crispy. Serve the skate with some black pepper and sprinkle the capers on top of the skate.

 

A Classic for you – 1

Ratatouille

Think summer vegetables, think Ratatouille! Which is also a comedy released in 2007 about a rat called Remy with a passion for cooking. If you want to see how he prepares ratatouille then simply enter Remy cooks ratatouille as search term in 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. Or for some, of their youth. It combines very well with a simple sausage, with lamb, with grilled chicken.
However you prepare your ratatouille, be sure to use courgette or zucchini, aubergine or eggplant, tomato and bell peppers. Also make sure you prepare it a day ahead. The taste becomes much more integrated after a day (or two) in the refrigerator.
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.

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

Here is what you need:

  • Aubergine
  • Courgette
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Chili Pepper
  • Tomatoes
  • Cilantro
  • Garlic (optional)
  • Olive oil

If you combine 1 of each, with the exception of 3 tomatoes, this will serve 4 people.
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 that remain in your sieve.
Peel the courgette, slice in the way you sliced the aubergine and fry over medium heat in olive oil. In the mean time cut the bell pepper into long slices and add these 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 the optional garlic) and leave on a medium heat for 30 minutes. Try not to stir too much; otherwise you risk creating mashed vegetables. Cool, set aside and store in the refrigerator.
The next day gently warm the ratatouille, add some chopped cilantro, mix and add more cilantro just before serving.

 

 

Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta

Such a lovely and simple dessert provided it’s made the right way. So no milk, no yoghurt, no cream cheese, no whipped cream and most certainly no whipped egg white! Just cream. And preferable use cream with lots of fat because then you will need less gelatine.

Here is what you need:

  • 500 ml fresh Cream
  • 3,5 leaves of Gelatine
  • 1 Vanilla Bean
  • 25 gram Sugar
  • Candied Orange

Slowly bring the cream to the boil. Add the seeds of the vanilla but also add the remainder of the bean. Now keep close to boiling for 15 minutes. Stir when necessary. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until totally resolved. Now pass through a sieve to make sure you have removed all the bits you don’t want. Follow the instruction of the gelatine and add (in our case) 3,5 leaves. Stir well until homogenous. Cool the liquid somewhat before filling the forms. We used a silicone mold. Nice and easy! The only thing you need to do is to make the mold a bit moist with water. Let the panna cotta’s cool and then store in the refrigerator. Maybe you need to stir a few times to make sure the vanilla seeds don’t and up on the bottom (later on top) of your panna cotta. Don’t forget to seal with cling foil, otherwise your panna cotta’s will absorb aromas from other food in the refrigerator.
You can serve the panna cotta after a few hours (or the next day) with a rich strawberry or raspberry sauce, but we prefer to enjoy the panna cotta with a bit of candied orange zest, simply because we want to balance the sweetness and richness of the panna cotta with the acidity and bitterness of the orange. Home made is preferred, see the recipe for an Orange Flan.

Panna Cotta © cadwu
Panna Cotta © cadwu

Omelet with Oyster Mushrooms and Nasturtium

Try This at Home

Oyster mushrooms were among the first mushrooms to be cultivated. They grow very well on straw so great to grow at home. See pictures!
The vast majority of oyster mushrooms are grey, but we have seen and tasted the yellow and sensational pink oyster mushroom. Since you can eat oyster mushrooms raw, the pink and yellow variety is great in a salad. Oyster mushrooms can be a bit watery, which impacts the taste. A pity because the taste is delicate and soft anyway. Not a mushroom to combine with more powerful mushrooms like shiitake. Oyster mushrooms cook quickly, so great to use in a stir-fry or a soup. You can try using them in a stew, but make sure your chunks are not too small.

Wine pairing

A crisp, floral white wine goes very well with this omelet. Best would be a Pinot Grigio or a combination of Chardonnay and Viognier.

What You Need

  • 250 grams Oyster mushroom
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 Spring Onion
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper
  • Chives
  • Nasturtium

What You Do

Harvest your oyster mushrooms or buy really fresh and tasty ones. Tear the mushroom into smaller but not too small chunks. Slice the spring onion in small rings. Fry the oyster mushrooms in olive oil and butter for 3 minutes or so until slightly cooked. Add the white of the spring onion. Perhaps you want to add some butter to the pan. Now make sure the pan is nice and hot. Whisk the eggs well, add the green of the spring onion and add to the pan. After a few seconds reduce the heat to very low and wait 5 to 10 minutes until the egg is nearly set. Take your time but keep an eye on the surface and the consistency. Check with your fingers if the omelet is beginning to set. A good omelet must be baveuse so Timing is All. There is no alternative to baveuse!
Serve the omelet on warm dishes with black pepper, chives and nasturtium (not just for fun, also for the peppery taste of the nasturtium leaves).

Guineafowl with Morels and Gnocchi

Guineafowl

Preparing guineafowl can be a bit of a challenge. Easily overcooked and easily prepared the wrong way. Given its size you could think it should be prepared like chicken but that’s not the case. Compare chicken with guineafowl and notice the difference: the meat of a guineafowl has much more structure, it’s fatter and firmer.
Cooking quineafowl requires some liquid (oil, butter, wine, stock) but not too much. Cooked like coq au vin it’s a disaster. Spit-roasted guineafowl? Not a good idea.

In The River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook (written by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers) you will find a great recipe of guineafowl with grappa, junipers, white wine and pancetta. The combination of grappa and junipers is amazing and the idea to have these two support the guinea fowl is simply stunning. The combination emphasises the wild and nutty taste of the guinegowl. Buy the book and start cooking!

Dried mushrooms: expensive and actually not very tasty. Not even close to the real thing. With the exception of dried morels: these are as tasty as fresh ones.
Also important: unlike most mushrooms, morels are to be found (and bought) in Spring. So the best season to cook this dish is in Spring, but given dried morels are equally tasty, it doesn’t really matter.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our guineafowl with a glass of Bergerac, La Vaure, 2015. This is a full-bodied wine with a hint of oak, red fruits and great flavours overall. Made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. A mature Bergerac with a lasting taste.

What You Need

  • 2 legs of Guineafowl
  • 10 gram of dried Morels
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Chicken Stock
  • Mustard
  • Cream
  • Black Pepper
  • Gnocchi

What You Do

Pre-heat the oven to 180 ˚Celsius. Add the two legs of guinea fowl to a shallow dish with butter and olive oil. Cook for 10 minutes. In the mean time add the morels to hot water. Soak for 15 minutes. Turn the legs upside down after 10 minutes. Cook for another 10 minutes. Turn them a second time, skin up. Add the morels to the dish, leaving the skin free. In parallel start preparing the sauce using chicken stock and some morel-water, but not too much. Taste the water before adding. The legs should be ready after 30 minutes. Add the cooking juices to the sauce, grill the legs quickly if the skin is not yet nicely coloured and keep the morels warm. Add mustard and pepper to the sauce, stir well, add some cream and allow to heat through and through for 5 minutes. Taste the sauce and if necessary add more mustard or morel-water.
Serve with gnocchi.

 

Last Week’s Special – 18

Mussels with Anise

Moules marinière, Mosselen met Look, Mussels in Beer, Mussels with Piri Piri and Mussels with Anise, served with crusted bread or with French fries: mussels are great to combine.

But first let’s talk mussel basics:

  • They must be alive when you cook them. Like oysters, there is no alternative.
  • It’s seafood; so don’t put them in fresh water. If you want to wash them, then add salt to the water.
  • Clean the mussels thoroughly. It takes a few minutes but it essential for the quality of the sauce. Simply scrape of all the nasty bits.
  • When cleaning the mussels: throw away broken ones. Also throw away ones that won’t close, even after a gently tap.
  • In this case the sauce will be all over the mussels, so make sure they are really clean.
  • Add the mussels to the very hot cooking liquid and then close the pan with a lid: you don’t want your mussels to suffer any longer than necessary.
  • Cook the mussels until they are open. Don’t use a timer, don’t think they have to be cooked through and through: it will only turn them into rubbery non-tasty things.
  • Don’t eat the ones that are not open after cooking.
  • Some suggest using the cooking juices as cheap stock. Don’t.

Mussels with Anise is light, tasty and refreshing; it is an excellent lunch, especially when overlooking the Mediterranean, but it’s also a beautiful 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.

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.

(No Belgian connection here! A flamant is a flamingo, the light pink to bright red bird living in the Camargue.)

Here is what you need:

  • 1 kilo of Mussels (we prefer small ones)
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Garlic Glove
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Chives, Thyme)
  • White Whine
  • 10 grams of Flour
  • 10 grams of Butter
  • Cream

Warm a fairly big pan and gently glaze the sliced onion in oil and butter. Then add the chopped garlic. 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 make a roux with the flour and butter. Make sure the flour is cooked, otherwise your sauce will not be as tasty. Add the crushed anise seeds. Now start adding the cream, bit by bit (it’s cold and you don’t want to lower the temperature of the roux too much), creating a nice sauce, one that is actually too thick.
Turn the fairly big 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. That’s the moment to use some of the juice to finish your sauce. And it also allows you to check the status of the mussels. Close the lid, listen and observe. Taste the sauce, maybe add more liquid. Remove the remainder of the juices from the mussels, then poor the sauce over the mussels and give the pan a good shake before serving, making sure the sauce covers the mussels. We prefer our anise seed mussels with crusted bread. 

 

 

Last Week’s Special – 6

Pimientos de Padron

Such a lovely and simple starter! Pimientos de Padron are mild, sweet tasting and small green peppers, originally from the Galicia region in Spain, but now widely available in Spain and Portugal. Story has it that one in a hundred (or more?) is actually very spicy, but rest assured, we have eaten many more and never encountered a spicy one. Ask your greengrocer for these lovely peppers because we’re sure you will enjoy them.

We would suggest drinking a Vinho Verde with the Pimientos de Padron. Vinho Verde is a wine from the most northern part of Portugal, between the Douro and Minho rivers. Verde refers to the fact that the grapes are harvested very early in the year. This implies that the grapes contain a fairly small amount of sugar. As a result of this the wine (in most cases) has a fairly low percentage of alcohol (think 10%). But don’t be surprised if you find one with a higher percentage.

In general we feel Vinho Verde is undervalued. It’s a great, very taste wine; one that is not just wonderful on a summers evening.

Vinho Verde is not a wine to store, so make sure you buy one from the most recent harvest.

Most Vinho Verde wines are white. They tend to have a very subtle bubble. The taste is light, floral and the wine comes with some clear acidity.
We also found a rosé and even a red Vinho Verde. Seldom have we seen a wine with such an intense colour! To balance the acidity of the red Vinho Verde you must combine it fat meat and rich sauces. We combined it with grilled Secreto of Iberico pork, which is a treat in its own right. Secreto is a thin, juicy cut from acorn fed, free range Iberico pigs.

As an extra: for two people buy 300 grams of Secreto. In a way the structure of the secreto resembles skate. One side of the secreto will look nice, fat and meaty, the other may look like if you have to remove extra fat. Which is exactly what you need to do! After having done that, heat a heavy grill pan (or the barbeque) and grill the meat for 4 times one minute, creating a nice pattern. The cuisson should be rosé. It’s not a problem if the thinner parts of the secreto are well done because the meat will be very juicy anyway, thanks to the fat. Serve with a sautéed courgette. The bitterness and the sweetness of the courgette combines really well with the juicy secreto. The red Vinho Verde will balance the fat and will turn the combination of secreto and courgette into an intriguing dish.

Here is what you need:

  • Pimientos de Padron
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt

Clean the Pimientos de Padron and dry the peppers. Heat a heavy skillet, add olive oil and fry the peppers for a few minutes. Make sure they are fried but not cooked. Put on a plate and sprinkle some sea salt over the Pimientos de Padron, to enhance the flavour.