The first time we read about Grains of Paradise (or Melegueta Pepper) was when we prepared Sauce Cameline. The grains are common to the North and West African cuisine and were brought to Europe in the thirteenth century. According to some as a cheap substitute for black pepper. Recently we were fortunate to buy them and now we are impressed by their flavour: spicy, citrus and a touch of vanilla. When used in a stew it becomes less pungent. They gave a delicious and complex boost to the redd bell pepper soup.
Grains of Paradise are used to give flavour to craft beers, especially dark, seasonal beers. It can be a component of Has el Ranout. American chef Alton Brown uses Grains of Paradise in a stew with Okra and Tomatoes, in Apple Pie and in Lentil Soup.
For some reason it’s crucial to combine grains of paradise and lemon juice, As if the acidity amplifies the flavour of the grains?
What You Need
2 Red Bell Peppers (or 1 Red and 1 Orange)
2 Garlic Cloves
5 cm Carrot
10 cm Celery Stalk
250 ml Vegetable Stock
5 cm of Fresh Rosemary
¼ teaspoon of Grains of Paradise
What You Do
Clean the bell peppers and cut in 4. Transfer to the oven and grill or roast for 10 minutes or until well charred. When still hot, put the bell peppers in a plastic container and close it. After one hour it’s easy to remove the skin of the bell pepper. Chop and set aside. Chop the shallot, the garlic, the celery and the carrot. Add olive oil to a pot and add the shallot. Glaze. Add the carrot, the celery and the garlic. Leave on low heat for a few minutes. Add the bell pepper. After a few minutes add the stock, the rosemary and the crushed grains of paradise. Leave on low heat for one hour. Remove the rosemary. Use a blender to make a smooth soup. Pass through a sieve. Taste the soup and decide if you want to add some extra grain of paradise. Leave the soup on low heat for 30 minutes. Just before serving add one or two teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, depending on the flavour and your taste. The soup should be smokey, aromatic, a touch spicy and refreshing. You could add more crushed grains of paradise, that will make the soup spicier. Make a swirl with crème fraîche an serve.
Easy to make, tasty, and most people love them. You only need a few simple ingredients such as hard boiled (organic) eggs, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, vinegar (or lemon juice) and black pepper. Sprinkle some paprika on top and they’re ready.
Alas, we’re not huge fans of paprika. Why would you ruin lovely ingredients like egg, mayonnaise and mustard by adding a spice that is at best a touch sweet and in most cases bland?
Paprika (powder) is made from dried red peppers and probably originates from Mexico. When it was brought to Europe, local versions were created, for instance a hot Hungarian version (essential when making goulash) and a smoked Spanish version (pimentón, key ingredient of chorizo and paella). Local peppers were used, including red bell pepper, and the flavours ranged from mild and sweet to hot. By the way, the term ‘deviled’ refers to the spiciness of the dish. Unfortunately, nowadays factory produced paprika seems to be used for its red colour only.
We combine a bit of everything by adding roasted bell pepper. It adds depths, smokiness, complexity and flavour.
What You Need
6 organic Eggs
Red Bell Pepper
What You Do
Grill the bell pepper in your oven until nicely burned, perhaps 10 minutes. Transfer to a plastic container and close the lid. Wait a few hours before peeling the bell pepper. Use a sharp knife to mash the bell pepper. It’s fine if the mash has a bit of structure. Boil the eggs and let cool. Slice the eggs lengthwise, remove the yolk. Use a fork to crumble the yolks (mimosa) and then combine with mayonnaise, mustard and mashed bell pepper. Add lemon juice and black pepper to taste. Remember the stuffing should be ‘devilish’. Add mixture to the egg whites. Decorating with parsley gives an extra twist to the deviled eggs.
Udon is such a wonderful noodle. What better comfort food than a warm soup made with dashi, vegetables, tofu, udon and thinly sliced spring onions? Perhaps some tempura on top of the soup? Or would you prefer a very simple dish, called Mori Udon? The cold udon is served with a sauce of mirin, dashi and soy sauce on the side. Udon is also a great alternative to Italian pasta, for instance with Caesar’s Mushrooms.
In this recipe we combine udon with roasted bell pepper and Trompettes de la Mort. We’re not sure why, but this combination works really well. Is it because of the smokey aroma of the roasted bell pepper mixed with the aromas of the mushroom? The crispy pancetta in combination with the soft textures of the other ingredients, including the udon? The overall richness and umami thanks to the Trompettes de la Mort?
We enjoyed our pasta with a glass of Bianco di Custoza, made by Monte del Frà from Italy. It is a well-balanced, dry white wine, with a fruity nose. Its colour is straw yellow, with pale green highlights. A glass of Soave, made from the Garganega grape, will also be an excellent choice. In general you’re looking for a fresh, aromatic dry white wine.
Clean the bell pepper and cut in 4. Transfer to the oven and grill or roast for 10 minutes or until well charred. When still hot, put the bell pepper in a plastic container and close it. After one hour it’s easy to remove the skin of the bell pepper. Slice lengthwise to make nice strips. Set aside. Slice the mushrooms in two and clean them with a soft brush. Check carefully for grit and other things you don’t like to eat. Fill a large pan with water (no salt!) and bring to a boil. Add the udon and cook it according to the instruction. When nearly done, add some cooking liquid to a cup and set aside. Drain the udon. In parallel heat a large heavy iron skillet, add olive oil and fry the mushrooms. Once they become a bit dryer, add the sliced bell pepper. Add the cooked garlic, crush it with a fork and mix. Now add the udon and continue mixing. Add cooking liquid until the pasta is sufficiently moist. Also in parallel: grill the strips of pancetta (perhaps 5 minutes). Add some black pepper to the pasta and serve with the grilled pancetta.
The Portuguese kitchen is not known for its subtleness or refinement. But that should not stop you from enjoying it! Portuguese cuisine comes with powerful flavours, lots of fish of course, bacalhau, Caldo Verde, octopus, cuttlefish, and the well known chicken piri-piri and pastel de nata. Same for Portuguese wine: perhaps not the most subtle wine (apart from Madeiras and Port wines), but how about an excellent Vinho Verde, a red wine from the Dão region made with Touriga Nacional or a red wine from Alentejo? We love flavors and we very much enjoy the bold dishes from Portugal.
Recently when in Brussels we booked a table at Chez Luis, a Portuguese Bar à vin and Restaurant. Tasty dishes like Pasteis de bacalhau, Cassolette de palourdes and Polvo lagareiro. Served with Portuguese wine, of course. And Chez Luis has an excellent choice! So we drank a vibrant espumante and a refreshing Vinho Verde (Longos Vales Alvarinho 2016). The Polvo made us think of one of our favorites: Octopus with summer vegetables. And since one octopus is way too much for two people, we simply bought two cooked tentacles. Feel free to buy a whole octopus, clean it, cook it, braise it and then follow the recipe below.
A Portuguese white wine will be a excellent choice, for instance a Vinho Verde like we enjoyed at Chez Luis. You could also go for a Spanish Verdejo from Rueda. Look for characteristics like fresh, fruity, clear acidity, subtle bitterness and full bodied.
What You Need
2 Octopus Tentacles (cooked)
1 Red Bell Pepper
2 gloves of fresh Garlic
1 Spring Onion
What You do
Clean the red bell pepper and slice in 4 to 6 chunks. Grill it in your oven until nicely burned. Transfer to a plastic container and close the lid. Wait a few hours before peeling the bell pepper. Slice it into cubes (not too small). Remove the pits from the tomato. Slice in similar cubes. Slice the garlic (again, not too small). Slice the spring onion. Mix the vegetables and fry gently in a hot pan with olive oil. Set to low heat. In parallel heat your grill pan. Remove the gelatinous substance from the tentacles, dry them, coat with olive oil and grill for 4*2 minutes, creating a nice brown criss-cross pattern. It will not be very visible, but it will be crunchy. Just before serving the dish, add some Jerez vinegar to the vegetables, turning it into something like a salsa. Perhaps some parsley and black pepper. Serve the hot tentacle on the vegetables and add a slice of lemon.
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.
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.