Earthly Delights

The Mushroom Book by Michael McLaughlin and Dorothy Reinhardt (Illustrator) is a lovely, small book with some 35 recipes and 60 very delightful full-colour wood-cut illustrations. Just look at the cover! It’s the kind of book that we bought because it looks good. A book you simply want to have.

Only later did we find out that it discusses the history and other interesting back ground information of various mushrooms, including information on choosing, storing and preparing them. The book offers an introduction to the joy of cooking with mushrooms such as button mushrooms, morels, oyster mushroom, truffle, trompette de la mort, chanterelle, shiitake, cèpes and huitlacoche, a Mexican mushroom that grows on corn.
Michael McLaughlin is also known as co-author of The Silver Palate Cookbook with recipes from Manhattan’s celebrated gourmet food shop.

Amongst our favourite recipes are Mushroom Tapenade and Raw Mushroom, Fennel and Provolone Salad.

The Mushroom Book was published in 1994. It’s available (in most cases second hand) via channels such as Amazon and e-Bay for something like 15 euro. Ii is an ideal and friendly introduction to the world of earthly delights. 

The Mushroom Book
The Mushroom Book

Fish Cakes by Jean Beddington

Jean Beddington: a culinary, passionate creative! She was chef at five restaurants, owned her own successful restaurant, and still is an inspiration to many. One of her motto’s is ‘seemingly simple’, not with the intention to impress but with the intention to surprise and enhance the sensation when enjoying her food and the way it is presented.

Background

In her book Absolutely Jean Beddington she writes about her background, her youth in England, her eagerness to cook, the holidays with her father when they would stay at budget hotels and eat at Michelin Star restaurants, her travels, her years in Japan and her education (she studied Arts and Chemistry). When she moved to the Netherlands, she decided to become a chef, which is the obvious choice for someone with such a talent. She was one of the first to bring new ingredients to the classic French cuisine. For instance, she began using cilantro and yuzu. She was also inspired by the Japanese way of presenting food: beautifully designed and served on a variety of plates. She began doing this when most guests still expected bread and garlic butter at the beginning of their lunch or dinner.

Books

She published several books. One is dedicated to stock: the basis of soups, sauces and dishes. She explains how to make stock and how to create delicious food, for instance green vegetables in stock with couscous, yogurt and harissa sauce. 

Her book Absolutely Jean Beddington is very dear to us. It has three main chapters: the first one is called Glossy with beautifully presented food, the second one is called Real Time with food as you could expect to eat at her restaurant (which is closed, unfortunately) and our favourite chapter is called Daily. Indeed, recipes that are easy to follow and help prepare tasty, wonderful food, every day.

Fish Cakes

We prepared her fish cakes with a beetroot, ginger, apple and onion chutney. The fish cakes are intriguing and the chutney is the perfect accompaniment. Yummy!

And The Winner Is…

The 2022 Johannes van Dam prize will be awarded to Belgian Chef Jeroen Meus during the Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food on February 11th. Jeroen Meus is well known for his inspiring daily TV program Dagelijkse Kost (Daily Food). In this 15 minutes program he shares the fun of preparing food, for instance crumble pie with pears and raisins, monkfish with a mustard crust or penne with chorizo and red bell pepper. His aim is not to cook on Michelin Star level, his aim is to help everyone prepare tasty, good food, every day of the week. His books and website (in Dutch only) support this goal in a very helpful way.

He is a true TV-chef in the sense that he is in contact with his viewers. He is entertaining, professional, funny and never arrogant. He balances traditional Belgian food with changes in our culture (more focus on vegetables, more variation, different cultures). His food reflects these changes and inspires us to follow his friendly culinary adventures.

The prize is named after culinary writer and critic Johannes van Dam who was not only known for his reviews of restaurants but also for his massive collection of books on food and drinks. The prize is awarded to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the dissemination of the knowledge on international gastronomy. Jeroen Meus, through his tv programs, books and website, has clearly done so. His cooking brings people together and broadens our culinary scope.

Previous winners of this prestigious prize include Yotam Ottolenghi, John Halvemaan, Carlo Petrini, Alice Waters, Claudia Roden, Harold McGee and Alain Passard.

Jeroen Meeus Atribution: Arne Aelterman, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Jeroen Meus – attribution: Arne Aelterman, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce

Poaching eggs in water requires a bit of technique or a nice tool. Poaching eggs in tomato sauce is slightly different: you want to keep the white close to the yolk, but it should not envelope it: the yolk must remain visible.

The combination of tomato sauce and egg seems to be a bit odd, but the rich, runny egg in combination with the slightly acidic, aromatic tomato sauce is really nice. Great suggestion for lunch or a hearty breakfast. Feel free to create your own version of this dish, for instance by adding some parsley or cheese. Serve with crusted bread.

In most cases the result is shown in a pan. For good reasons: it does not look very attractive when served on a plate. The fun is definitely in the flavours and aromas.

What You Need

What You Do

Warm the tomato sauce and reduce. Increase the heat until the sauce is nearly boiling, gently add the eggs (as you would do when poaching eggs in water) and reduce heat. Using a small spoon make sure the white remains close to the yolk, without covering it. Wait until the white is set. Perhaps add some freshly grounded black pepper.

Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce ©cadwu
Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce ©cadwu

Mushroom Soup with Pancetta and Thyme

This morning when we looked outside, we saw a grey, foggy city. Knowing it would take hours for the fog to clear, we started thinking about something warm for lunch. Perhaps some soup with crusty bread? We opened our refrigerator. Various mushrooms, thyme, rosemary, cream, a carrot, some left over stock. Yes! We knew what we wanted to cook for lunch: Mushroom Soup with Pancetta. A hearty, rich soup, ideal for a cold, grey day. The combination of mushrooms, pancetta and cream works very well; the celery and leek add complexity and the thyme brings character.

Wine Pairing

It was much later that afternoon before the fog left the city, but since we also had some left over Chardonnay in the fridge, which we enjoyed with our soup, we didn’t mind that much.

What You Need

  • Pancetta
  • Shallot
  • Mushrooms (Best is a Mix of Champignons, Shiitake etcetera)
  • Celery
  • Leek
  • Carrot
  • Garlic
  • Stock (Chicken or Vegetable)
  • Bouquet Garni (Thyme, Rosemary and Bay Leaf)
  • Black pepper
  • Cream
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Keep two strips of pancetta apart (to be grilled just before serving). You probably need 4-6 strips in total. Slice the remaining pancetta and fry in olive oil on medium heat. Remove the pancetta from the pan, chop the shallot and glaze it in the fat and perhaps some extra olive oil. Clean and slice the mushrooms, slice half a stalk of celery, half a leek, a small carrot, chop two gloves of garlic and add this to the shallot. Gently fry for a few minutes. Add the pancetta, the stock and the bouquet garni. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni. Blender the soup, pass through a sieve and leave on low heat for 10 minutes. The mushrooms will emulgate the soup, so no need to add a roux. Now it’s time to taste the soup and perhaps add some black pepper. Add cream and fresh thyme and leave for another 5-10 minutes. In the meantime grill the two strips of pancetta until brown and crispy. Cut the stripes in five pieces depending on the size. Serve the soup in a warm bowl with the pancetta on top of it.

Culinary Trends

Suppose we would publish a recipe that would include instructions such as “Coat cubes of pork meat with curry and microwave these for 2 minutes”, and “Combine oil, chilli, garlic and onion, heat for 1 minute on 100% power, add chicken stock, soy sauce and corn starch, stir and heat for 2 minutes on 50%”, you would of course think you are back in the 1980’s.

It’s fascinating that what we buy, the way we prepare it, and even how we serve and eat it, is constantly changing. Just look at the pictures in a 1950’s cookbook and try not to smile. Impossible.

Knowing that our culinary habits are constantly changing is one thing, understanding why they change is much more complex. 

Influence

A great example of a supplier influencing their customers is a magazine called Allerhande, published by leading Dutch supermarket Albert Heijn. The magazine, first published in 1954, is not your ordinary flyer with an overview of discounted articles, it’s a reflection of culinary trends (linked of course to what’s available in the supermarket) and trends in society with a focus on the individual.

Dutch author Klaartje Scheepers was brave enough to read all issues since 1954 and in her excellent book Van Aardappel tot Avocado (available in Dutch only) she describes how closely food is linked to our daily life and the world we live in. She writes about the 1950’s housewife struggling to keep her family happy and well-fed, about the introduction of the tv-dinner, about nutrition, the need to have a refrigerator, a blender, a microwave, an electric tin opener, about how we started to embrace dishes from other countries, including something odd called pizza, about diets and of course, about how supermarkets are closely monitoring these developments.
Reading Van Aardappel tot Avocado is a pleasure, not only because of the interesting insights, but also because it helps you recognize today’s trends. And of course it’s also a fun trip down memory lane. Highly recommended!

Your Menu

Why not sit back, take a sip of wine and wonder how your Seasonal menu is influenced by your local supermarket, by well-known chefs, culinary influencers and blogs. What made you decide? Availability? Recipe on the internet? Price? Friends? As seen on Youtube?
Interesting, isn’t it?

Klaartje Scheepers - Van Aardappel tot Avocado
Klaartje Scheepers – Van Aardappel tot Avocado

Sauce Provençale

Based on one of the leading (mother) sauces this is a quick, tasty and uplifting sauce with olives, capers and Herbes de Provence. The success of this sauce depends on the use of the intense, flavorful classic tomato sauce. Sauce Provençal has a good structure and comes with a variety of flavors, making it very much an accompaniment for grilled chicken or fish. If you use modern tomato sauce, then the result will be nice, but not as spectacular.

Herbes de Provence is a mixture of dried herbs such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, savory and perhaps sage and lavender. Feel free to create your own mixture. If you buy a ready-made mixture, make sure it has character, aromas and structure.

What You Need

  • Classic Tomato Sauce
  • One shallot
  • Two Tomatoes
  • One Glove of Garlic
  • Teaspoon of Herbes de Provence
  • Capers
  • Black Olives
  • Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Peel the tomatoes, remove the seeds and cut in small cubes. Finely chop the shallot. Wash and drain the capers. Crush the garlic and slice the olives in two. Heat a heavy iron skillet and gently glaze the shallot. Add tomatoes, garlic and herbes de Provence. Leave on low heat for 5 minutes. Now add the classic tomato sauce, the capers and the olives. Leave for 5-10 minutes. Stir the mixture gently. You want to keep the structure of the tomatoes. Taste and perhaps add some black pepper.

Sauce Provençal with Grilled Chicken ©cadwu
Sauce Provençal with Grilled Chicken ©cadwu

The Art of Sauces: Modern Tomato Sauce

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

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

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

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

What You Need

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

What You Do

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

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

Duck with Figs

Preparing Duck is always a pleasure, whether with Green Pepper Corn, with Sichuan, with Mirin and Soy Sauce or as Canard A l’Orange: the result is always tasty and your guests will be happy.
Today we combine duck with figs. Not the most obvious combination because the figs are relatively dry and perhaps not as sweet as the combination requires. We clearly need a bridge between the meat and the fruit. The first idea was to use port, perhaps with some veal or chicken stock. Great idea because of the sweetness and light acidity of the port, but perhaps a bit too much for the figs. Aceto Balsamico comes with acidity and sweetness, so we decided to use it as the base of the sauce, in combination with some stock. While preparing it we noticed that it needed more sweetness, so what to do? Sugar, honey? But couldn’t we add something that would bring sweetness, fruitiness and even tartness? Of course! Good old Cointreau, great idea!

Aceto Balsamico

We probably need to say a few words about Aceto Balsamico. You may think it’s overrated and overpriced, this sweet, sugary, dark and mild vinegar. But if you taste original Aceto Balsamico, the one made from grape must and aged for many (25!) years in wooden barrels, then you will be surprised by the intense, concentrated flavour and the dark colour. Always look for I.G.P. (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) or D.O.P. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta). If this is not mentioned on the bottle, don’t buy it.

Wine Pairing

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

What You Need

  • Breast of Duck (preferably organic)
  • Lots of Thyme
  • 3 Figs
  • Stock (Chicken or Veal)
  • Aceto Balsamico
  • Cointreau
  • Butter
  • Black Pepper
  • Fresh Green Peas

What You Do

Check the breast of duck for remainders of feathers. Remove the vein on the meat side of the breast (and the odd membrane you don’t like). Put on a dish, cover and transfer to the fridge. Leave in the fridge for a few hours, making sure it’s nice, firm and cold.
Fry the duck in a hot, non-stick skillet for 10-12 minutes on the skin side, straight from the refrigerator. Reduce the heat after a few minutes. You don’t need oil or butter, the duck fat will do the trick. Now fry for 2-3 minute on the meat side and remove. Cover with aluminium foil is such a way that the crispy skin is not covered. The foil should only cover meat. This way the skin remains crispy.
Wash the figs and cut in half. Remove some of the fat and fry the figs until lightly caramelised. When ready, remove from the pan, transfer to a plate and keep warm in the oven. Add stock, thyme, Aceto Balsamico and Cointreau. Probably two spoons of Aceto Balsamico and three spoons of Cointreau. Taste and adjust. You may want to add some butter to push the flavours and create a lovely velvety mouthfeel. Add duck’s liquid. Reduce the heat, add black pepper, taste, adjust, add the figs, coat them with the sauce and plate up. We served the duck with fresh green peas because they have this lovely light sweet flavour that combines very well with the other ingredients.

  • Breast of Duck with Figs ©cadwu
  • Fresh Figs ©cadwu

Fig Jam

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

Wine Pairing

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

What You Need

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

What You Do

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