Classic Cèpes

What better way to start the mushroom season than serving Classic Cèpes? The recipe is very simple and the result is about cèpes and cèpes alone. The stems a bit firm, the caps moist, the flavours intense and the taste rich and earthy, with a touch of freshness from the parsley. It’s a classic in Germany (Steinpilze auf klassische Art), France (similar to Cèpes a la Bordelaise), Italy and many other countries. 

Wine Pairing

If you want to enjoy the cèpes with a glass of white wine, then we suggest drinking one that is fresh, fruity, round and balanced, for instance of a glass of Bodegas Mocén Selección Especial made from verdejo grapes. A glass of rosé with similar flavours is also a good idea. The idea is to support the cèpes by adding fruitiness and freshness to the dish.

When you decide to drink a glass of red wine, then we suggest a full-bodied red wine with gently fruit and present tannins. 

What You Need

  • 200 gram Cèpes
  • Butter
  • One small Shallot
  • Parsley
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Clean the mushrooms and slice lengthwise. Finely chop the shallot and the parsley. Add butter to a relatively hot heavy iron skillet. Reduce the heat and fry the cèpes for a few minutes. Add the shallot. Cook on medium heat for 2 minutes. Add chopped parsley, add more butter, black pepper and stir. Serve on a warm plate.

Warm Tapenade

On one of the last, warm, long evenings of this summer we wanted to enjoy something with lots of flavours and depth, but we didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen. Then we remembered a tapenade like mixture that worked nicely with monkfish. Why not combine it with excellent beef? The result was what we hoped for: lots of flavours and we only needed 15 minutes to prepare it.

Wine Pairing

Enjoy with a glass of full-bodied red wine, for instance Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec. The tannins of such a wine will combine very well with the depth and richness of the tapenade and the beef.

We enjoyed a glass of Les Terrasses Occitanes Fitou produced by Mont Tauch from the Languedoc region in France, made with Grenache, Carignan and Syrah grapes. A not too complex, full bodied dry wine with aromas of red fruit and a lasting taste.

What You Need

  • 150 grams of Excellent Beef (Sirloin, Bavette)
  • For the Tapenade:
    • Shallot
    • Garlic
    • Black Olives
    • Capers
    • Thyme
    • Rosemary (optional)
    • Anchovies
    • Olive Oil

What You Do

Let the beef rest on a plate until it reaches room temperature. This could take an hour. Chop the shallot and the garlic, halve the black olives and remove the thyme leaves from the stalk. If using fresh rosemary, make sure to chop the leaves. Dry the capers with kitchen paper. Mash the anchovies with a fork until you have a paste-like substance. Warm a pan, add some olive oil and glaze the onions. After a few minutes add the garlic. Add the olives, the thyme, the capers and the anchovies. The result should be a rather chunky, rich tapenade.
Add olive oil to a hot skillet and quickly fry the beef. Leave to rest for a few minutes before serving with the warm tapenade. Add some black pepper.

PS

Not using anchovies is not an option. They bring umami and saltiness to the tapenade. One fillet is enough to have the right result.

Beef with Warm Tapenade ©cadwu
Beef with Warm Tapenade ©cadwu

Château de Bellet

The Riviera is a much-loved coast, with wonderful cities such as Genoa and Nice, and touristic hot spots such as Saint Tropez and Portofino. Blue seas, mild climate, culture (the film festival of Cannes), art (Léger, Picasso, Cocteau, Miró, Niki de Saint Phalle) and everything else you can dream of. Go to the beach, tour the hilly mountains and of course, visit the beautiful gardens and enjoy local food and wine. Taste Taggiasca olives, pesto, socca, tourte de blettes, merda de can, spumante.

The French part of the region is well known for its flavourful rosé wines. Well known wines such as Domaine Ott, wines from Cassis and Bandol, or more affordable wines from the Var region. In general the rosé wines are pale, fresh, fruity and delicate. Ideal for lunch, accompanying Fruits de Mer or pissaladière. Amongst the most popular grapes in the Provence are grenache, cinsault, syrah, mourvèdre and tibouren.

Bellet

Not far from the city of Nice you’ll find a relatively small and isolated wine area, named after the village of Saint Roman de Bellet. We had the pleasure of visiting Château de Bellet, a winery that was founded in the 18th century. We walked around the vineyard and enjoyed the view, from snowy mountains to the Mediterranean. The vineyard close to the tasting room (an old chapel) showcases special grapes such as Rolle (also known as Vermentino), Braquet and Folle Noire. Did we mention all wines are organic?

We especially enjoyed the red wine from Château de Bellet. The wine is dark, ruby red, with aromas of berries and cherries. Elegant, fresh, balanced and with soft tannins.
Some wines from the Provence suggest a flavour called garrigue. The term refers to a shrubby vegetation with plants such as thyme, lavender, rosemary, heather and kermes oak, a vegetation that is very common in the Mediterranean hills and mountains.
Next time you sip a glass of Côtes de Provence, remember to think of garrigue and see if you recognise it!

Food Pairing

We combined our glass of Château de Bellet with lamb chops (thyme, garlic) and fried (waxy) potatoes.

What You Need

  • Lamb Chops
  • Thyme
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Potato (we used Agata)
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Use a fork to pinch small holes in the potato. Transfer to the microwave and set to 4 minutes on full power, depending on the size and shape of the potatoes. Let cool.
Fry the chops for a few minutes in olive oil until beatifully golden-brown. Reduce heat, wrap the chops in aluminium foil and add thyme and roughly chopped garlic to the pan.
In parallel slice the potato lengthwise in 4 and fry the potatoes in olive oil and butter until the potato is crispy and golden. Serve with freshly grounded black pepper.

Green Gnocchi

We love eating Gnocchi, preferably as a starter with some olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Tasty and rich. Perhaps sometimes a bit too rich and too filling, especially the ones you can buy at your local shop or supermarket. Therefore it’s best is to make your own gnocchi, which is not too difficult, just time consuming.

We were pleasantly surprised when we found Green Gnocchi in Nice (France), made with Swiss Chard. The chopped leaves help improve the structure of the Gnocchi and add complexity and freshness to the dish. Yummy!

So all is good? Well, the name is a bit odd, to say the least. This Niçoise speciality is called Merda de Can, which translates into something from a dog – not very pleasant and certainly not something you want to eat. Very odd.

The name shouldn’t stop you from enjoying it. Merda de Can with Sage Butter is truly delicious.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Merda de Can with a glass of Saint Roman Sable de Camargue Rosé. In general you’re looking for a well-balanced, fresh wine. Given the butter and sage sauce you could serve a Chardonnay or perhaps an Italian white wine such as Gavi di Gavi or Soave

What You Need for 8 starters

  • For the Merda de Can 
    • 600 Grams of Starchy Potatoes
    • 300 Grams of Swiss Chard, Spinach or Water Spinach (cleaned and ready to use)
    • Olive Oil
    • Nutmeg
    • 1 Egg
    • All Purpose Flour
  • For the Sauce
    • Butter
    • Sage
  • Parmesan Cheese or (preferred) Vacherin de Fribourgeois)

What You Do

Best is to follow the instructions by a Niçoise chef. 
Or prepare gnocchi as you would normally. Quickly fry the leaves in olive oil, remove from the pan, chop finely and drain. Add to the potato mixture, add the beaten egg, add freshly grated nutmeg and combine. Now start adding flour until you have the right consistency. You’re looking for a flexible, non-sticky dough. Flour your hands and start making short, small, thin, sausage like pasta. (Perhaps this is the moment to think about a small dog. Or perhaps not.) Don’t worry about the shape, it’s okay if they are not very similar. Devein the sage leaves. Warm butter in a pan and add the sage. In parallel heat a generous amount of water. Add the pasta to the boiling water and wait until the pasta surfaces. Remove from the water, add the pasta to the pan with sage butter, coat the pasta and freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

PS

The Merda de Can we enjoyed was bought at a local Niçoise shop and had a more elegant shape.

Green Gnocchi (Merda de Can) ©cadwu
Green Gnocchi (Merda de Can) ©cadwu

Macaron à l’Ancienne

A few weeks ago we stayed at the French city of Toulouse, a city on the banks of the river Garonne and well known for its impressive Place du Capitole and for the use of red bricks to construct houses and buildings. We walked through the old city centre, along the Canal du Midi, visited the beautiful Japanese garden and explored Carmes, a very nice neighbourhood with lots of small shops and restaurants. One day per week you’ll find a market with local products on the Place Du Salin. We saw very nice vegetables, dried sausages, cheese and Macaron a l’Ancienne, produced by Maison Boudiou from Saïx. The macarons came in various flavours, such as pistachio, orange, chocolate, natural and rose. All incredibly yummy.

The history of the macaron goes back a long time, perhaps to the 8th century. This kind of macaron, also known as TraditionnelAmaretties or Macaron Italien, is made with almonds, sugar and egg white. Indeed, exactly the same ingredients as today’s popular macaron. The main difference is that in case of the Macaron à l’Ancienne the egg white is only slightly beaten, and not turned into meringue. The egg white is used to connect the sugar and the grounded almonds.
Its taste made us think of marzipan, obviously, and a Dutch biscuit called bitterkoekje. No filling required and surprisingly simple to make.

What You Need

  • 150 Grams of Fine Granulated (or Caster) Sugar
  • 150 Grams of Almonds
  • 2 Egg Whites
  • 4-6 teaspoons of Orange Blossom Water

What You Do

This is a recipe for some 20 macarons. We use relatively little sugar; feel free to add more.
Preheat your oven to 180°C, upper and lower heat (the fan function will make the macarons dry and crunchy on the outside). Finely ground the almonds or (much quicker) use pure almond flour. In a bowl, mix the sugar and the almond powder. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until lightly foaming. Gently add the egg whites into the bowl and then fold them in until you have a batter. Add the orange blossom water, taste and if necessary, add some more. Make balls the size of a walnut. Place them on parchment paper and leave in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes, depending on the shape and color. Let cool on a rack.

Fennel

The bulb, the seeds, the leaves: fennel is such a generous plant! The bulb (the swollen base of the stem) can be cooked, grilled, stewed, used in salads or steamed. The leaves are great for decoration or in a salad and the crushed seeds can be used on their own or in a combination like five-spice powder. Overall fennel has an anise-flavoured, warm, sweet taste. 

We slow cook the bulb, capturing all the lovely flavours and creating a soft, fibrous texture. You could add star anise or some orange peel to the stew. We prefer adding a splash of pastis, because it adds depth to the fennel. We recommend pastis as produced by Henri Bardouin, because of its excellent, delicate taste.

We prepare the fennel using a cartouche. This way you get the tastiest moist fennel ever.

What You Need

  • Fennel Bulb
  • Pastis
  • Butter

What You Do

Use baking paper to make a cartouche. Remove the outer leave(s) of the fennel if so required. Slice the fennel in 4, from top to bottom. Slice every quarter in 3 to 6 segments, from top to bottom. The idea is that every segment looks a bit like a fan. Trim of parts that don’t look nice, but don’t remove the bottom. If you do remove it, the fan will fall apart.

Warm a heavy pan, add a very generous amount of butter, a splash of pastis and the sliced fennel. Cover tightly with the cartouche and leave on low heat for an hour or so, perhaps longer. Feel free to stir gently every 15 minutes. The fennel should be soft, sweet, anise-flavoured and rich. When serving, poor the remaining liquid over the fennel.
We served our fennel with Confit de Canard and enjoyed it with a glass of Bardolino.

Lamb Gascogne

It was not your ordinary butcher, not your ordinary delicatessen, it was something very, very special. It said slagerij (butcher) on the window, but it was so much more, so very special. It was the only place in Amsterdam where you could buy Wagyu and truffles before they became popular, foie gras, quails, Spanish veal, bread from Paris, oysters with wasabi sabayon, Iberico pork, capon and home-made black pudding and pastrami. Expensive, delicious and always of the highest quality. Owners Yolanda and Fred de Leeuw and their staff were clearly passionate about what they did, what they sold and what they prepared. And if it wasn’t busy, they would gladly tell you how to prepare sweetbread or how to make sure you got the perfect cuisson for your bavette.

Expensive? Yes. But as Fred explained, quality meat was, is and will always be expensive, so it’s better to enjoy quality once a week than to eat industry produced meat 7 days per week. “And if you want to know why”, they said in 1999, “just read the papers”.
Which is, unfortunately, still very true in 2022.

In 1999 chef Alain Caron and author Lars Hamer published a book about the shop, the meat, the patés, the sausages, the salads and the dishes they prepared on a daily basis. 

Truffle Salad

One of our favourite recipes is for Yolanda’s truffle-egg salad. Beautiful, intense flavours and so much better and tastier than the ready-made misery that’s being sold today. Her salad is easy to make and only requires mayonnaise, eggs, truffle oil and yes, of course, lots of summer truffle!

Another great recipe is for Lamb Cascogne-style. The anchovies add saltiness and umami to the meat, the garlic brings lovely aromas and the spring onion sweetness. Use the cooking liquid to make a simple jus and you have a perfect meal. Some recipes suggest coating the lamb with tomato puree, others suggest making a tomato sauce with carrots, celeriac and the cooking liquid, but we prefer serving the lamb with tomato confit.

Het Vleesboek (Dutch only) by Alain Caron and Lars Hamer is out of print. A second-hand copy will probably cost around 10 euro.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed a glass of Pontificis, a red wine produced by Badet Clément in France. It is made of the classic combination of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes (GSM). In general you’re looking for an aromatic red wine, with tones of red fruit and a touch of oak. Medium bodied and well balanced.

What You Need

  • Leg of Lamb (boneless)
  • Anchovies
  • Young Garlic
  • Spring Onion
  • Olive Oil
  • Tomato Confit

What You Do

Slice the meat, allowing you to press bits of anchovies, garlic and onion into the meat. Heat your oven to 180 °C or 355 °F. Fry until the centre is 60 °C or 140 °F. Allow to rest under aluminium foil for at least 10 minutes.

PS

You may think this is a rather low temperature. In the US it seems that 145 °F is the bare minimum for leg of lamb. The temperature in the centre will of course increase during the resting period. Feel absolutely free to go for 145 °F before removing the meat from your oven. Fred and Yolanda sold only the very best of meat, so serving it a touch seignant was never a problem.

Escargots à la Bordelaise

For some reason we had booked a hotel in Coutras, some 65 kilometres from Bordeaux. A nice enough city, on the borders of the river Dronne, but not as interesting as nearby city Libourne with its castles, parcs and rivers (the Dordogne and the Isle). In all fairness, we could easily have forgotten our stay at Coutras, if it wasn’t for the dinner at La Table Du Buffet. It was a warm welcome, a nice plat du jour made with lots of local products and served with very nice local wine, obviously.
One of the dishes was Escargots à la Bordelaise, made with small snails. The taste was great although we think the snails could have been cleaner, but that’s a minor detail. The dish was a revelation: not the standard combination of snails, butter, garlic and parsley, but a rich tomato and wine sauce that supported the snails perfectly. Delicious with some crusted bread. We decided to prepare the dish as soon as we were back home.

Snails

Buying the right snails is not simple at all. The snail used for the classic Escargots de Bourgogne is called Helix Pomatia. Excellent taste, expensive and hard to find.
There are three alternatives: Helix Aspera (either the small one called Petit Gris or the large one called Gros Gris) and Helix Lucorum. The last one is considered to be less tasty than the other three, but when prepared well, it’s a very nice, affordable alternative.

Sometimes it simply says ‘Escargots’ and ‘Gros’ on the tin. Sounds good, doesn’t it? In most cases these ‘escargots’ are cooked and chopped large (sea) snails. The term ‘Gros’ is supposed to make you think of the Gros Gris. Don’t be fooled: these ‘escargots’ are rubbery, tasteless and a waste of money (and snail).

Fast Snails

And now for the sad part: as you know snails are slow. Very slow. And during winter they are even slower. They simply sleep 3 or 4 or 5 months before becoming active again. Some (most?) farmers are not that patient, so they turn up the light and the heat, pushing the snails towards a faster life, forcing them to skip hibernation and become fast snails.
Even the poor snails are turned into manageable products.
Let’s focus on the honest exception: some farms allow the snails to be slow, to sleep through winter, to be their natural self. Hurray!

Wine Pairing

Given the name of the dish (and the flavours of course) we suggest a red Bordeaux wine. Not too complex, not too expensive. We enjoyed a Côtes de Bordeaux produced by Château Cap Saint Martin in Blaye. In general you’re looking for a red wine with grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Rich in fruit, limited in tannins and acidity.

What You Need

  • 12-18 Snails
  • 50 grams of Pancetta (bacon is also fine)
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • Parsley
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Red Wine
  • Olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • Crusted Bread

What You Do

Chop the shallot, the garlic and the parsley. Slice the pancetta. Warm a heavy iron skillet. Gently fry the shallot. After a few minutes add the garlic. Add the pancetta and fry for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce, some red wine, the chopped parsley and allow to reduce, thicken and integrate, let’s say 15 minutes. Longer is fine; the consistency of the sauce is important. Add snails and cook for 10 minutes on a very low heat. Serve immediately with crusted bread.

Escargots à la Bordelaise ©cadwu
Escargots à la Bordelaise ©cadwu

Tartelette aux Framboises

A few weeks ago, we made lemon curd using kaffir limes. The curd is sweet, smooth, rich, tart and slightly floral. It made us think of tarte au citron, or even better of tartelette aux framboises. What a delicious idea! Lemon and raspberries are a match made in heaven.

However, we must admit, we’re not too familiar with patisserie. We searched the internet a bit, opened a few cookbooks and to our surprise we found a range of suggestions for the dough of the tartelette. Typical the moment to make life simple and rely on the choice of an expert. In our case Dutch patissier Cees Holtkamp. Renowned for his excellent patisserie and his truly delicious croquettes. If you ever have an opportunity to visit the shop in Amsterdam, please, please do so. His book (in English it’s called Dutch Pastry) is available via the well known channels.
You could of course also rely on a French classic, for instance Tarte Tatin by Ginette Mathiot.

Back to our plan: we made pâte sucrée for our tartelette with fresh raspberries. The result looks good and tastes even better.

What You Need

  • Pâte Sucrée
    • 125 grams of Butter
    • 125 grams of Flour
    • 40 grams of Sugar
    • Pinch of Salt
    • 1 Egg
  • Lemon Curd
  • Fresh Raspberries

What You Do

We use tartelette moulds with a diameter of approximately 7 centimetres (2,75 inches). The butter must be soft but not warm (18 °C or 65 °F). Beat the egg. Combine flour, sugar and salt. Dice the butter and knead with the mixture. When well mixed, add the egg and knead until you have a nice dough. Leave to rest in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Coat the moulds with butter. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Place it on a floured surface and roll it out with a rolling pin. Perhaps dust the dough with flour. Divide the dough into 6 portions and make small circles. Press the pastry onto the bottom and to the sides. Cut of overhanging dough. Transfer to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 175 °C or 350 °F.
Line with parchment paper and use dry beans to fill the moulds. Blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove the paper and the beans. Bake for another 10 minutes. When golden brown, remove the tartelette from the mould and let cool on a grid.
When cool, add the lemon curd and decorate with the raspberries.

Omelet with Artichoke

We love artichokes! It’s such fun to serve a steamed artichoke with a nice dipping sauce made of mayonnaise, whole grain mustard and some lemon juice. Thoroughly relaxing food. And when we have time on our hands, we prepare them à la barigoule.
Recently we wrote about la Cuisine Niçoise d’Hélène Barale. In this very informative book about the traditional food of Nice, you will find a recipe for an omelet with artichokes. We liked the idea, did our shopping and followed the instructions. Unfortunately, sorry Madame Barale!, we were not too happy with the result. The recipe suggests frying the omelet on medium heat on both sides. We think that’s a bit too much: in our case the flavours of the fried egg overwhelmed the subtle taste of the onion, artichoke and garlic. We tweaked the recipe (see below) but that shouldn’t stop you from buying the book and preparing the original.

The taste of the omelet is sweet thanks to cynarine, an intriguing chemical especially found in the leaves of the artichoke. Cynarine will enhance even the slightest trace of sweetness, in this case the sweetness of the onions and the cooked garlic. The taste of the artichoke is also nutty and bitter in a gentle way, which works really well with the eggs.

Wine Pairing

The cynarine will also enhance any sweetness in your wine, so you need a bone-dry, crisp, unoaked white wine with clear, present acidity. For instance a Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner or Albariño.

What You Need

  • 1 Large Artichoke
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 2 Eggs
  • Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Clean the artichoke, steam for 45 minutes depending on the size and let cool. Use a spoon to remove the ‘meat’ from the leaves (bracts) of the artichokes. Use a fork to make a chunky mash of the heart. Set aside.
Chop the shallot. Warm a heavy iron skillet, add olive oil and gently fry the shallot. Add the artichoke, mix and leave for 10 minutes on low heat. Mash the cooked garlic and add to the mixture. Add some black pepper. Beat two eggs, a bit longer than usual. Add the eggs to the mixture and allow to set, very slowly, making sure the omelet is baveuse (moist, warm and soft).