Flan with Tofu, Dashi and Ginger

An Asian Coddler

Serving food prepared in a coddler is always good fun. Turn of the lid and be surprised! In this case it’s a light and elegant starter; one that you can prepare the day before. The ginger and spring onion bring spiciness and freshness, the dashi brings umami and the flan a velvety, rich feeling. Making the dish comes with two challenges: the flan should be smooth and the gel not too firm.

Sake Pairing

Sake is best with this dish. The taste of the flan is subtle with a nice fresh touch because of the ginger and spring onion. The gel is a bit salty, given the dish a nice edge. The sake should be straight and crisp (and cold of course).

What You Need

  • For the Flan
    • 8 Small Coddlers (so-called standard size)
    • 100 gram of Silken Tofu (light and soft)
    • 1 Egg
    • 1 Egg Yolk
    • 50 ml Dashi (preferably home-made)
    • Touch of Soy Sauce
    • 1 Teaspoon of Mirin
    • Butter
    • Dill
  • For the Gel
    • 75 ml Dashi
    • Cornstarch
    • Fresh Ginger
    • Spring Onion

What You Do

In a bowl mix the egg and the egg yolk. Use a blender to smoothen the tofu. After blendering it should look like yoghurt. In a second bowl mix the tofu, 50 ml dashi, a touch of soy sauce and mirin. Now combine the content of the two bowls and mix gently. Pass through a sieve. It’s important that the mixture is very smooth, so no lumps or bits of white from the egg. And no bubbles. If not, pass through a finer sieve.
Apply a very thin layer of butter to the coddler, just enough to cover the inside. Pour the mixture in the coddlers, but nor more than 2/3. The mixture will set but not raise (or only a little bit). Close the coddlers, but not too tight. You want to test one during the cooking process and you don’t want to burn your fingers.
Set your oven to ‘classic’ and to 170° Celsius or 340° Fahrenheit. Put the coddlers in a large oven tray and add boiling water. The water should reach ¾ of the coddler, leaving ¼ free. Once in the oven reduce the temperature to 120° Celsius or 250° Fahrenheit and cook for 25 to 30 minutes. The coddlers are done when a metal pin comes out clean.
Remove the coddlers from the oven and allow to cool. You can do this by putting them in cold water, but you can also give it a bit of time. Make sure you dry the inside of the metal lid (condense).
Reduce the dashi. The taste should be relatively strong because the cornstarch will soften it. Better to use agar agar, but cornstarch is perfectly fine in this case. Thicken the sauce with the starch and let it cool. It should work as a gel on top of the flan.
Grate the ginger and very thinly slice both white and green of the spring onion.
Put a bit of ginger in the middle of the flan; sprinkle the onion over the top of the flan and finish by pouring a bit of the gel. Ideally this will cover the top (and the ginger and spring onion) and flow between the coddler and the flan.
Put the coddlers in the refrigerator and let cool. Half an hour before serving take them out of the refrigerator, remove the lid, dry it and put it back on again. Decorate with dill.

Duck with Ginger, Mirin, Soy Sauce and Yuzu

So Many Possibilities

Obviously Breast of Duck is great when combined with an orange sauce (or even better, with Mandarine Napoléon). Or combined with a Green Pepper Sauce, or with hoisin, soy sauce and five-spice powder (as used for Peking Duck). We combine the duck with fresh ginger (a bit spicy, but since the ginger is cooked in the sauce it will be very mild), yuzu (citrus fruit originaly from Japan, Korea and China) and sweet mirin and soy sauce. The cabbage comes with tamari and sesame oil, so this dish is full of wonderful flavours. Have we mentioned the pickled cucumber?

Wine Pairing

You could combine the duck with white wine, provided it has lots of character, for instance a Gewürztraminer. A red wine is the more obvious choice: a rich, warm Carignan will do nicely. The wine needs to combine with the richness of the dish and of course the sweetness of the soy sauce and the mirin. Duck is somewhat sweet in its own right and the sauce amplifies this. The wine should be fruity (plum), spicy and definitely not too woody.

What You Need

  • 2 Small Breasts of Duck or 1 Large One
  • Soy Sauce (we prefer the version with less salt)
  • Mirin
  • Yuzu
  • Ginger (fresh)

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 refrigerator. Leave in the refrigerator for a few hours, making sure it’s nice, firm and cold. We want crispy fat, so we need to fry the meat relatively long. In order to get the right cuisson, we start with cold meat (so not your normal room temperature).
Fry the duck in a hot, non-sticky skillet for 12 minutes on the skin side. 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 minutes on the other sides. Remove from the pan and cover with aluminium foil in such a way that the crispy skin is not covered. The foil should only cover meat.
You may want to remove some fat from the pan. Add some water and a generous amount of grated ginger (let’s say 3 – 4 centimetre), stir, add mirin and soy sauce. Keep warm. Add liquid from the duck to the sauce.  After 10 minutes or so the ginger should be soft and the falvours integrated. If not, just give it a few more minutes. Remove the breast from the foil and slice. Make sure that any liquid left is added to the sauce. Quickly stir the sauce, add a bit of Yuzu to bring acidity to the sauce, heat a bit more, dress on a plate and put the slices of duck on top of it.

Serve with…

  • Vegetables
    • Oxheart or Chinese cabbage
    • Olive Oil
    • Tamari
    • Sesame Oil
  • Rice
    • Whole Grain Rice
    • Pickled Cucumber

Grate the cabbage. Fry in a warm skillet in some olive oil. Add some tamari. Taste and adjust if necessary. Before serving add some excellent sesame oil. In parallel cook the rice and add some chopped pickled cucumbers to the rice.

Duck with Ginger, Mirin and Soy Sauce © cadwu
Duck with Ginger, Mirin and Soy Sauce © cadwu

 

Matsutake with Ginger and Spinach

Autumn

A very special mushroom, to say the least. Well known throughout Japan, China and South Korea as a true delicacy.  Matsutake smells like a pine wood forest and its taste is intense, aromatic, lasting and unique. As if you could taste Autumn.
It’s an expensive mushroom (around 110 euro per kilo) with very limited availability. But if you happen to find it, be sure to buy it. Between 75 and 100 grams is fine for two.
The Matsutake makes this into an unforgettable dish. It will bring you back to earth in a split second. Smell it, taste it and feel how satisfying and relaxing it is.

Wine pairing

Best served with a dry sake. We prefer Junmai Taru Sake as produced by Kiku-Masamune. This fine sake is matured in barrels made of the finest Yoshino cedar. The aroma has indeed clear hints of cedar. The sake will clear your palate and allow for a more intense taste of the Matsutake.

What You Need

  • 75 – 100 gram of Matsutake
  • Some Spinach (preferably what is called the ‘wild’ version, cleaned and without the stem)
  • Ginger
  • Soy Sauce (reduced salt)
  • Olive Oil
  • Sesame Oil

What You Do

Clean the Matsutake and cut in small dices. The size you would like to eat them (Matsutake doesn’t shrink like many other mushrooms; it remains firm). Warm the soy sauce, add a touch of sesame oil and flavour with very small cubes of ginger. Fry the Matsutake gently in a skillet in some olive oil, no longer than 3 minutes. In parallel blanch the spinach in the liquid. Quickly drain the spinach and set aside. Reduce the liquid and taste. Add some excellent sesame oil and whisk. In parallel chop the spinach.
Put spinach on a plate, gently add some sauce and then sprinkle the Matsutake over the spinach..

Chicken a la Carolus Battus

In the year 1593

The history of food is interesting for a number of reasons. Following old recipes provides you with the opportunity to discover new combinations, techniques and new flavors, or better said, forgotten combinations, techniques and flavors.
The University of Amsterdam is home to the Special Collections, the material heritage of the University. One of the collections is related to recipes, cookbooks, books on etiquette, nutrition, food et cetera. The oldest cookbook is Eenen seer schoonen ende excelenten Cocboeck, inhoudende alderley wel geexperimenteerde cokagien, van ghebraet, ghesoden, Pasteyen, Taerten, toerten, Vlaeijen, Saussen, Soppen, ende dier-gelijcke: Oock diversche Confeyturen ende Drancken, etc. by Carel Baten (Carolus Battus) published in 1593. The book contains some 300 recipes for a range of food and drink. It was published as an annex to his Medecijn Boec, after all he was a medical doctor.

In 2018 Onno and Charlotte Kleyn published Luilekkerland; a great book on 400 years of cooking in the Netherlands. They must have spent months at the Special Collections going through various cookbooks and manuscripts with recipes. Many thanks for creating ‘a magical mystery tour’ through the kitchens of the past.
In the book they describe one of the recipes of Carolus Battus: een sause op eenen gesoden capoen. Or in English: poached Capon with sauce.
The short version: make a poaching liquid with carrot, leek, celeriac and onion. Add the capon and poach it until it’s done. In parallel combine old breadcrumbs with white almonds, white wine, ginger powder and sugar. Create a sauce by gently warming the mixture with some of the cooking liquid and serve.

Capon is very expensive, so like Onno and Charlotte we go for chicken. Our recipe is for 2 chicken thighs, but we could also imagine making a roulade and then serving a slice of chicken roulade with the sauce as a starter.
The surprise is in the sauce: the combination of bread, ginger and almonds is tasty and complex. The sauce may appear to be filming and fat, but actually it’s not. The texture of the sauce is interesting as well: the bread will make the sauce a bit porridge like and the crushed almonds prevent the sauce from being smooth.
Our version of the recipe is a bit closer to 2018: we’re not the biggest fans of poaching and we don’t see the need for sugar. Plus why use powder if you can get fresh ginger?

Wine Pairing

Best is to go for a white wine with a touch of sweetness, for instance a Gewurztraminer. This will combine very well with the somewhat unusual flavors in the dish. If you go for a glass of red wine, then we would suggest a pinot noir, nice and earthy.

What you need

  • 2 chicken thighs
  • Chicken stock and optional
    • Leek
    • Carrots
    • Celeriac
    • Onions
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • 15 grams of white Almonds
  • 1 – 2 cm of Fresh ginger
  • 1 dl of Dry white wine
  • Slice of toasted Bread

What you do

If your chicken stock needs a boost, then add the vegetables and let simmer for 15 minutes or so. In a small skillet heat the butter and olive oil. Fry the chicken until nearly done. In parallel blender the almonds and the toasted bread. Grate the ginger. Add the white wine and the ginger to the mixture and blender. Add some stock and blender for a few seconds. Transfer the mixture to a pan and warm over medium heat. It requires attention, so keep an eye on the sauce and stir every minute or so. The sauce will thicken so you will probably need to add more stock. Transfer the chicken to a warm oven and let rest. Deglaze the pan with some stock and add this liquid to the sauce. Stir well. Now it’s time to taste. Remember the taste is new, so take your time. Almonds? Bread? Hint of acidity? Ginger? Chicken? Overall? Serve the chicken with the sauce.
We enjoyed the chicken as a main course with some Brussels sprouts, olive oil and nutmeg.

 

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.