It does bring back memories…. A local wineshop with a banner across the street Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrivé. It must have been the 1980’s. The young wine was immensely popular, and so Beaujolais and Primeur became one and the same. Which is of course a pity, because Beaujolais is so much more than a glass of Primeur. Just think about a balanced, fresh, elegant Fleurie or an intense yet delicate Moulin à Vent.
Beaujolais Primeur or Nouveau is made from the Gamay grape, using a technique called macération carbonique. The result is a fruity, light red wine, with little or no tannins. One that can’t be stored for too long. It was (and is) a very popular wine in many a French Bistro, served and enjoyed with lunch.
Over the years we became used to the idea of drinking the first French wine of the year and we started to pay more attention to the quality, only to notice that actually most of the primeur wines were thin, with a bit of acidity but without depth or length.
Today we will open a bottle of Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorées Beaujolais L’Ancien Primeur 2021. Jean-Paul Brun is a serious and excellent producer of beautiful, tasty Beaujolais wines. We’re sure this primeur will be pure pleasure and a true indication of the quality of the Beaujolais wines this year.
Such a pleasure to see courgette flowers in your garden or at the greengrocers. The young courgette is firm and tasty; the flowers a beautiful yellow. Simply stuff the flowers, fry in a pan or cook in the oven and you have a great side dish or starter. And then you start wondering: ‘Stuff with what? Cheese? Salmon? Mushrooms? Tomatoes? Ricotta? Vegetable Mousse?’ Earlier we described a simple, tasty vegetarian version. This recipe requires a bit more work, but the result is delicious and beautiful. Crab and courgette go together very well; it’s a well balanced combination with surprisingly delicate flavors.
Obviously a nice glass of Côtes de Provence Rosé is an excellent choice. But you could also go for a white wine, for instance a Macon-Villages as produced by Bouchard Père & Fils. In general a subtle wine that goes well with the gentle flavors of both the crab and the courgette.
What You Need
One Courgette (small and firm)
One Garlic Clove
Six Small Courgettes with their flower
What You Do
Wash the courgette, dry and grate coarsely. Warm a small cooking pan, add olive oil and the grated courgette. Fineley grate the garlic and mix with the courgette. Leave for 20 minutes minimum on low heat. When ready, set aside and let cool. Best is to use a leg of a fresh (littoral) crab, but you could also buy a can of most excellent crab. If using fresh crab, heat a pan with water, bay leaf and crushed black pepper corns; cook the crab for 10 minutes, remove from the water, set aside until cooler and then remove the meat from the shell. Be sure to remove all shards of shell. Set aside and let cool. Remove the stamens from the flowers. Remove the end of the small courgette. Use a very sharp knife to slice the courgettes lengthwise in 3, making it look like a fan. Heat water in a pan and poach the small courgettes (not the flowers!) for 60-90 seconds depending on the size. Add some crab meat to the courgette mixture and taste. Keep adding crab until you’ve reached the perfect combination (or the end of the crab). Add some black pepper. Stuff the flowers, close them by slightly twisting the leaves of the flower, sprinkle with olive oil, making sure they are completely coated with oil. Heat your oven to 200° C or 390° F. Using the grill is a good idea. Transfer to the oven and cook for 10 minutes. The flowers should be crisp and perhaps a touch golden. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
Think summer vegetables, think Ratatouille! Which is also the title of a film released in 2007 about a rat called Remy with a passion for cooking. If you want to see how he prepares ratatouille then simply go to 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. It combines very well with a simple sausage, with lamb, with grilled chicken. However you prepare your ratatouille, be sure to prepare it a day ahead. The taste becomes much more integrated after a day (or two) in the refrigerator. Unfortunately it doesn’t freeze well due to the eggplant.
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 with subtle tannins. A wine that brings summer to your glass.
What You Need (4 people)
1 Eggplant or Aubergine
1 Courgette or Zucchini
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Chili Pepper
4 Excellent Tomatoes
What You Do
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 and pits that remain in your sieve.
Cut the bell pepper into long slices and fry these in the pan with olive oil. Peel the courgette, slice in the way you sliced the aubergine and add 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 leave on low to medium heat for 60 minutes. Try not to stir too much; otherwise you risk creating mashed vegetables. Cool, set aside and store in the refrigerator. The next day: if you have excess liquid, remove the vegetables from the liquid, reduce it until thickened and transfer the vegetables back into the pan. Otherwise gently warm the ratatouille, add some chopped cilantro, mix gently and add more cilantro just before serving.
On a warm summer’s evening, sitting on your terrace, relaxing and sipping rosé, you wonder what to eat. Perhaps something that will make you think of the beautiful Cote d’Azur, with the chirping of cicadas and aromas of pine trees? A Salade Niçoise or something more substantial? That’s the moment to dive into your freezer and look for that last portion of Daube Provençale. Excellent beef, stewed in red wine and packed with flavours, olives and mushrooms.
Fortunately preparing Daube Provençale is not too much work (and it keeps well in the freezer). You can also be fairly flexible with the recipe. Well known chef Hélène Barale (La Cuisine Niçoise, Mes 106 Recettes) uses beef, veal and pork with tomatoes and dried mushrooms, Hilaire Walden (French Provincial Cooking) suggests marinating the beef in red wine and also adds orange peel and olives whereas the classic La Cuisinière Provençale published in 1897 and written by Jean-Baptiste Reboul suggests adding vinegar to the marinade but doesn’t use tomatoes, mushrooms or olives.
We prepared our daube with red wine from France, made from Cabernet Franc grapes and produced by La Tour Beaumont. In general you need a full bodied, fruity red wine, with a good structure. You could of course enjoy the daube with the same red wine, but the daube is flexible. Just remember that the flavours and aromas are intense.
What You Need (2 portions for 2)
750 grams of Excellent Marbled Beef (Blade Steak for instance)
Start by slicing the meat into nice, big cubes. Heat a heavy large pot through and through, add olive oil and fry the meat until brown. Probably you need to do this in two batches. Set the meat aside and fry the chopped shallot, the carrot and the garlic until smooth. Transfer the meat to the pot, stir well, add the red wine, the (halved) olives and the bouquet garni. Keep on low heat for 2 hours. Clean the mushrooms and add these to the pan. Keep on low heat for another two hours. Check if the meat is soft and tender. Quickly cool the pot and transfer the content to the refrigerator.
The next day label off some of the fat (we prefer not to do this, but feel free to do so). Divide the daube in two portions. One for the freezer, the other one to enjoy today. Warm the (halved) daube and remove some of the bigger mushrooms and four tablespoons of cooking liquid. Blender the liquid and mushrooms very fine and transfer back to the pan. This mixture will thicken the cooking liquid. Leave the daube to gently simmer for an hour. If the sauce has not yet reached the right consistency, then transfer cooking liquid to a separate pan and reduce on medium to high heat. Transfer back to the main pan and combine.
Serve with red bell pepper salad, pasta, polenta or boiled potatoes.
The French Périgord is the truffle heart of France. The region is also known for its culinary products, such as Confit de Canard, wines from Bergerac and Monbazillac, Foie Gras and Sauce Périgueux. This sauce is a classic in the French kitchen. Its basis is a white sauce made with shallot, a reduction of white wine, (goose) fat, stock and lots of truffle. The ‘original’ recipe of this truffle sauce can be found in La Bonne Cuisine du Périgord written in 1929 by La Mazille. The sauce works beautifully with Tournedos and Magret de Canard. And since white asparagus love truffles, why not combine them with Sauce Périgueux?
We don’t think a roux-based sauce will go very well with asparagus, so we combined two recipes: the flavors of Sauce Périgueux with the lightness and consistency of Japanese Kimizu.
We enjoyed our asparagus with a glass of Riesling, produced by Bott Geyl in the French Alsace. This fresh, aromatic, dry white wine with a hint of sweetness and high acidity combines very well with the sweetness of the asparagus and the intense, rich flavor of the sauce. The wine supports the dish perfectly.
What You Need
6 White Asparagus
1 Small Truffle
For the Sauce
1 Glass of Dry White Wine
3 Black Peppercorns
½ tablespoon Simple White Vinegar
Two Cubes of Jus de Truffe*
2 egg yolks
What You Do
Chop the shallot, crush the peppercorns coarsely, add to a pan and add a glass of white wine. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes. Add a splash of white vinegar. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the two cubes of jus de truffe and leave to simmer for another 10 minutes. Pass through a sieve. If all is well you should have 4 tablespoons of liquid. If necessary reduce. Set aside and leave to cool. Peel the asparagus and steam for 20 minutes, depending on the size. When there is still 10 minutes on the clock, start working on the sauce. Whisk the two egg yolks well, add the 4 tablespoons of liquid, mix and heat in the microwave on 30% power. Start with one interval of 10 seconds, stir, followed by an interval of 5 seconds, stir and continue with intervals of 5 seconds until you have the right consistency. Total time in the microwave will be approximately 60 seconds. Allow to cool for a minute or two. In the meantime grate the truffle. Serve the sauce over the asparagus, add some white pepper and sprinkle the truffle over the sauce and the asparagus.
* Best to buy a can of jus de truffe and freeze the content in an ice cube bag.
We love using wonderful Mediterranean herbs such as basil, thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, saffron and tarragon. So we couldn’t resist buying a large bunch of sage and cooking this very tasteful, simple and uplifting starter. Sage has been around for many, many years and is an essential ingredient in many countries, both for medicinal and culinary purposes. Its taste is somewhat soapy, with a touch of acidity, a little bitterness, subtle eucalyptus and slightly peppery. Did we mention unique? Preferably use fresh, thin pasta or Japanese udon, lots of butter and your best olive oil when preparing this dish.
We enjoyed our pasta with a glass of Bianco di Custoza 2020, 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. In general you’re looking for a light, aromatic dry white wine.
What You Need
Bunch of Sage
What You Do
Melt the butter in a large pan, devein and chop the leaves, add the sage to the butter, stir. The butter should embrace the flavours and aromas of the sage. When the mixture is nearly ready (this will take only a few minutes) cook the pasta. Grate some fresh Parmesan cheese. Keep a glass of the cooking liquid of the pasta, drain the paste, add it to the pan, mix, add some olive oil, mix, add a spoonful or two of the cooking liquid and make sure the pasta is fully coated with sage, butter and oil. Perhaps some black pepper. Garnish with Parmesan Cheese and serve on a warm plate.
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. “Yes 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: simple, tasty and 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 is simple; knowing where you can do this is a 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. The meat of the tellines is soft and moist and they come with a nutty, savoury flavour.
Obviously a glass of Côtes de Provence rosé will be a great choice, for instance anEstandonfrom the Var region.
What You Need
300 grams of Tellines
one Garlic Glove
What You Do
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 may 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. No cutlery needed!
Moules Marinière, Mosselen met Look, Mussels in Beer, Mussels with Piri Piriand Mussels with Anise, served with crusted bread, with French Fries or just a glass of wine, as a starter or for lunch: mussels are great to combine. And did we mention delicious? Preparing Moules Marinière is not difficult at all. Make sure you buy tasty mussels (we prefer small ones) and lots of tarragon and parsley. Don’t simply add the herbs; create a simple sauce. You want to coat the mussels with the powerful flavour of tarragon and parsley. A drop of Henri Bardouin’saward winning Pastis is recommended.
White wine of course: Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, perhaps Pinot Gris or Riesling. In general a fresh, dry white wine with medium acidity and fruit aromas like citrus. Mussels are very flexible, both in preparation and accompagnement.
What You Need
1 kilo of Mussels
1 Garlic Clove
Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Bay Leaf, Thyme)
What You Do
Start by finely chopping the shallot and the garlic. Take a large, heavy pan and heat the oil. Add the shallot and the garlic, cook for 5 minutes until soft and glazed. Add a glass of white wine and the bouquet garni. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes. In parallel clean the mussels. Increase the heat to (nearly) maximum, add the mussels, close the lid and cook until all mussels are open; perhaps 4 minutes. Shake the pan during the cooking process or give the mussels a quick stir with a wooden spoon. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate and put in a luke warm oven. Discard the bouquet garni, add chopped parsley and tarragon, a splash of pastis, some black pepper and leave to simmer for 1 or 2 minutes. Transfer mussels to two warm (soup) plates and pour the sauce over the mussels.
Sauce Gribiche is a classic French sauce, made with boiled egg yolks, oil, various herbs (chives, chervil, parsley, tarragon), cornichons and capers. Sauce Gribiche is ideal with cold meat and fish. It’s a great combination of flavours and textures, also thanks to the chopped egg white. As with mayonnaise the oil is an important ingredient. The range of flavours in Sauce Gribiche allows you to use a combination of oils, depending on the dish it should accompany. For instance olive oil or grapeseed oil with a more neutral oil like sunflower or arachis (peanut) oil. In this case we use chives only because especially tarragon would be too much for the asparagus. Chives give it a touch of onion, which is exactly what the sauce needs.
We enjoyed our Asparagus with sauce Gribiche with a glass of Macon (Louis Jadot Mâcon Villages Grange Magnien). The wine (100% chardonnay) comes with some gentle acidity and minerality, which is great with the acidity of the Sauce Gribiche. It’s fruity with a floral scent.
What You Need
Dijon Mustard (1 tablespoon)
(White Wine) Vinegar (1 tablespoon)
Oil (100 ml)
Capers (in brine)
What You Do
Start by boiling the eggs, making sure the yolk is completely set. Depending on the size add them to boiling water and leave them in simmering water for 12 minutes. We steamed them for 15 minutes. Cool quickly, peel and separate the white from the yolk. Once cool cut the white in very small bits and store. Push the egg yolk through a sieve. It should be a powder-like substance. Add the mustard and the vinegar and stir well until it’s a smooth paste. Continue stirring and very slowly add the olive oil, as if making a mayonnaise. Which is basically what you’re doing anyway! Main difference is that cooked yolk is less powerful when it comes to emulsifying. So the amount of olive oil you can add is limited and the process is more challenging. Once you’ve added the olive oil, add some lemon juice, taste and decide if more mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, pepper or lemon is needed. Now add the chopped egg white, the finely chopped chives, the drained and chopped capers and the thinly sliced cornichon. The sauce should be ‘stable’ so feel free to store in the refrigerator. Steam or cook the white asparagus and enjoy! PS It’s actually a very tricky sauce, one that splits easily. If it does, no worries, just add a tea spoon of (home made) mayonnaise and the problem is solved.
We love our quails! They have a delicate taste, but they also allow you to add strong flavours like sage, bay leaf or black olives. We prefer small and tasty black olives (in oil) for instance Taggia olives from Italy. Prune-wise Pruneaux d’Agen are ideal, but in general the prune should be moist, sweet and full of flavours.
A medium bodied red wine, not too complex, will work very well; for instance a Shiraz. We enjoyed our quail with a glass of Puech d’Hortes from La Colombette made from syrah and grenache grapes. The wine should balance with the sweetness (sage, Pruneaux d’Agen), the nutty character of the pancetta and the bitterness of the olives and the sage.
What You Need
50 grams of Pancetta
Sage (fresh, 6 leaves or so)
6 Pruneaux d’Agen
10 or more Black Olives
What You Do
Make sure the quail is sufficiently fat, not damaged and not frozen. Clean the inside of the quails with kitchen paper and remove anything that’s left. We prefer it if the head is still attached to the body. This allows you to use the skin of the neck, after having removed the head and the spine. Cut 4 prunes, the pancetta, the sage and the olives in smaller bits and mix together. Now stuff the quail with the mixture and finish with a prune. Use kitchen string to close the quail. Pre-heat your oven to 220° Celsius or 430° Fahrenheit. Put the quails in a skillet with olive oil. Put some butter on top of the quail. Make sure the breast is downward facing. This way the fat will go towards the breast, making sure these are nice and moist. Put in upper half of oven. After 10 minutes turn the quails and label fat over the breast. After another 10 minutes your quails should be ready and golden. This of course depends on your oven. You may want to give the quails a few extra minutes. Remove from the oven, cover the quails with aluminium foil and let them rest for 10 minutes. Remove the kitchen string before serving.