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.

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!

White asparagus with Egg, Ham, Parsley and Butter

A Classic

White asparagus is such a great vegetable! In this recipe we describe the classic way of serving asparagus: A la Flamande. This way you will be able to taste the slight bitterness and sweetness of the asparagus. The butter and egg bring a feeling of velvet to your palate, which is ideal to taste the asparagus. The parsley and white pepper give a touch of sharpness to the dish.

Wine Pairing

Serve the white asparagus with a dry Muscat from the Elzas. The delicate, slightly sweet but dry taste, the hint of bitterness and the rich aromas work very well with white asparagus. Muscat to us means the smell of fresh fruit. When drinking it is if you’re tasting the original grape. Wonderful wine and wonderful combination.
We recently combined the asparagus with a Riesling (2015, Trocken, Meulenhof) from the German Mosel region. Worked very well.

What You Need

  • 3 or 5 White Asparagus per person
  • 2 Eggs
  • 100 gram Ham
  • Parsley
  • Butter
  • White Pepper

What You Do

Steam the white asparagus and cook or steam the eggs medium, making sure the yolk is not set but also not running. Peel the egg and cut in four. Chop the parsley. Serve the asparagus and eggs warm on a plate. Dress the plate with ham (please make sure it has a bit of fat) and butter; sprinkle the parsley over the plate. Add some white pepper.
As an alternative warm the butter and pour it gently over the asparagus.

White Asparagus with Egg, Ham and Parsley
White Asparagus with Egg, Ham and Parsley

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.

 

 

 

White Asparagus with Summer Truffle

From Spring to Summer

Time to celebrate! Summer has just begun and the Asparagus season has come to a close. So let’s bring the two together in this slightly extravagant dish. It is earthy, slightly bitter and sweet, velvety and complete.
The Summer Truffle (Tuber Aestivum) is not as intense and overwhelming as the Winter Truffle. It should be used immediately and preferably grated. It loses its taste when heated, so don’t use it for your Tournedos Rossini. This dish should be luke warm, so an excellent environment for a Summer Truffle. Take your time to appreciate the delicate combination in your plate.

Wine Pairing

We drank a glass of Italian Gewürztraminer with our Asparagus with Summer Truffle. This wine has a distinctive fruity flavour with hints of aromatic herbs. The area where the grapes are grown (Alto Adige) is relatively cool and sunny. As a result of this the Gewürztraminer grapes ripe well without losing their freshness. So the wine brings fruit, freshness, warmth and aromatic herbs, which works well with the earthy, aromatic truffle and the sweetness and bitterness of the asparagus. Parsley is essential because it brings freshness to the dish; nicely balanced with the velvety taste of the egg and butter. And butter is the ideal bridge between egg, asparagus and truffle.
In general a glass of Gewürztraminer is ideal with this dish, provided it has a touch of sweetness only. Sometimes Gewürztraminer is simply too sweet. This will not only ruin the hints of aromatic herbs in the wine; it will also ruin the delicate combination of asparagus with truffle.

What You Need

  • 4 Asparagus
  • 2 Eggs
  • 25 grams of Butter
  • 25 grams of Summer Truffle
  • Parsley
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Cook or steam the asparagus. Make sure they are just done. Cook the eggs for 8-9 minutes. The yolk should not be completely firm. Cool the eggs in cold water, peel and mash with a fork. Add the finely chopped parsley and some black pepper. Taste. Melt the butter.
Put two asparagus per person on the plate, pour the warm butter over the asparagus, making sure they are fully covered, add the egg and finish by sprinkling the grated truffle. Poor a glass of excellent Gewürztraminer and enjoy the start of summer by eating the very last of this years asparagus.

 

Omelet with Black (Winter) Truffle

Omelet with Black (Winter) Truffle with a glass of Kuentz-Bas Alsa­ce Pi­not Blanc

It’s mid March so still some time left to enjoy tasty winter food. Treat yourself to Choucroute with pork, sausage and Confit of Duck. Or pumpkin soup with ginger and jus de truffes.
Talking about truffles, black truffles are harvested from November to March, so be extravagant and buy one before the season closes. The one we bought was 17.6 grams, so you could imagine how happy we were to find it. When buying truffle, please ask if it’s okay to smell them, because the aroma will tell you everything you need to know about the quality.
Black truffle combines really well with warm purée of potatoes, risotto and egg.
Hint: if you need to store a black truffle for a day or so, please store it in a small box with some rice and an egg. The rice will prevent the truffle of becoming too wet and the egg will embrace the aromas of the truffle and become a treat in its own right.
We used our truffle to make one of the simplest and tastiest truffle dishes ever: an omelet with truffle and Parmesan cheese.

A white wine goes very well with this omelet, best would be a classic Pinot Blanc or Riesling from the Alsace region (for instance Kuentz-Bas AOC Alsa­ce Pi­not Blanc Tra­di­ti­on). Think fruity aromas, floral characteristics, minerality and a touch of sweetness. If you want to drink a red wine, then go for a blend like Feteasca Neagra with Syrah as produced by Radacini from Moldavia. Sounds a bit exotic, so if you can’t find it go for a fruity (ripe cherry, plum), spicy red wine with a velvety structure; serve it slightly cooled.

Here is what you need

  • 2 Eggs
  • Butter
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • 10 grams or (budget permitting) more Black Truffle
  • White Pepper

Clean the truffle if necessary. Take a fairly small iron skillet and make sure the pan is warm through and through but not hot. Using a fork (a spoon is even better) whisk the two eggs together. Add butter to the pan and wait until it is melted. It should not change colour or sizzle. An omelet should not be fried; the bottom must remain yellow. Add the whisked egg to the pan and wait until the egg is beginning to set. Check the consistency with your fingers. There is no alternative to baveuse! Take your time.
Serve the omelet on warm dishes with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, white pepper and grated black truffle.