Tiramisù

Such a simple, tasty, fairly easy to make dessert. No oven needed and the result is always a pleasure to serve. We rely on the recipe of an expert, in our case Dutch pastry chef Cees Holtkamp. Renowned for his excellent patisserie and his truly delicious croquettes. If you ever have the opportunity to visit the shop in Amsterdam, please do so.

After his retirement he started working on his book Dutch Pastry (De Banketbakker in Dutch). The recipes are very clearly written and easy to follow. One of the remarkable aspects of this book is that he prepared all pies, cookies, doughs etcetera in his own home kitchen with basic home cook utensils.

If you want to see his amazing technique and his gently style of creating wonderful patisserie, then visit FoodTube and enjoy how chef Cees Holtkamp and his granddaughter Stella Meijles prepare Pavlova, Black Forest Cake, Lemon Meringue Pie, Saint Honoré, Cheese Butterflies, Tiramisù and many more.

Dutch Pastry is available via the usual channels or via the publisher for 20 euro.

Liqueur

Let’s go back to the Tiramisù. It’s all about eggs, mascarpone, sugar, ladyfingers (savoiarde, sponge fingers or boudoirs) coffee and cocoa powder. Most recipes suggest adding a liqueur to the coffee, for instance rum, cognac, amaretto or marsala. Obviously, we want to add an Italian liqueur to our Tiramisù, so perhaps marsala? This is a fortified wine from Sicily, dry or sweet. A good choice but for some reason the idea of an almond based liqueur is tempting, perhaps because of its slight bitterness in combination with the coffee and the cocoa?

Unfortunately, most amaretto’s taste nasty and artificial. We decided to spend a bit more money and bought a bottle of amaretto produced by Lorenzo Inga. The distillery is located near Gavi, a city known for its amaretti cookies. They produce grappa, bitters and liqueurs such as sambuca and limoncello. Their amaretto is all about almonds. It has a soft structure with a sweet and full mouth feeling. We added it to our Tiramisù and the result was delicious.

Leftovers

The next day we noticed that we had some leftover ladyfingers and also some coffee-amaretto mixture. Why not combine them with whipped double cream and perhaps some vanilla sugar? Would that work? We followed the same approach and stored it in the refrigerator for half a day. We were pleasantly surprised!

  • Tiramisù ©cadwu
  • Amaretto Originale Lorenzo Inga
  • Cees Holtkamp

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

The Quiet Hunt

Antonio Carluccio’s The Complete Mushroom book is more than a cookbook. The first part of the book discusses foraging and collecting mushrooms, with clear descriptions of each mushroom and poisonous look-alikes. It’s a pleasure to read, but we’re not brave enough to start our own quiet hunt.

Fortunately, mushrooms are becoming more popular and greengrocers and supermarkets have started selling chestnut mushrooms, button mushrooms and shiitake. Asian supermarkets in most cases sell (king) oyster mushrooms, shiitake, enoki and shimeji.
Don’t be tempted to buy dried mushrooms: expensive, no aroma, nasty taste and not even close to a fresh mushroom.

Recipes

The second part of the book includes some 150 mushroom recipes, ranging from classic Italian dishes to culinary treats. Carluccio’s recipes are well written and informative. You’ll get the feeling that he lets you in on some of his secrets. And given he started foraging mushrooms as a young child, there are a lot of secrets to share!

One of our favourites is a salad made with maitake, fresh scallops, crab and shrimps. It’s an amazing result, with lots of pleasant flavours, also thanks to the cilantro, dill and parsley. Part of the fun is that the scallops are not seared but prepared like ceviche. Maitake is also available as a cultivated mushroom.

Caponata

More favourites? Of course! How about Mushroom Caponata or Tagliolini with black truffle? The caponata is a combination of mushrooms, egg plant and various herbs, so if you can buy button mushrooms and for instance shiitake, you’re ready to go.

Our all-time favourite from this book is the combination of fresh oysters with white truffle (bianchetti). A starter we prepare once or twice a year, depending on the availability of the truffle. Always a pleasure…

The Mushroom Book – the Quiet Hunt was published in 2001. It’s available (in most cases second hand) via channels such as Amazon and e-Bay for prices between 25 and 50 euro.

One of the very best books on mushrooms, written by a true expert.

Carpaccio

With A Twist?

Carpaccio has evolved into an anything-goes combination of something sliced (beef, veal, (smoked) salmon, beetroot) with a dressing and garnished with for instance pine nuts, cheese, lettuce, capers, tomatoes, spring onion etcetera, which is a pity because the original Carpaccio is actually rather perfect.
We’re not culinary puritans but nevertheless we were slightly shocked when we found the next version of Carpaccio in our local supermarket: with wasabi mayonnaise, teriyaki glaze and roasted sesame seeds. Help?

Original Version

Let’s go back to the original Carpaccio as it was created (in 1950) by chef Giuseppe Cipriani of Harry’s Bar in Venice for one of his regular guests, the Contessa Amalia Nani Mocenigo. Her doctor had ordered her to eat uncooked food, especially raw, red meat. Most likely she suffered from anemia. The poor Contessa was used to excellent food, so something raw on a plate wasn’t very appealing. Chef Cipriani created a special dish for her, which he named after, indeed, the Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio. Some say this was a tribute to the whites and reds as used by Carpaccio.

Sauce

The sauce is a very clever combination of mayonnaise, Worcester sauce, lemon juice, white pepper and milk. The velvety mayonnaise works very well with the lean meat, the acidity of the lemon is a perfect match for the sweetness of the beef and the Worcester sauce brings umami and depth. The milk gives the sauce the right consistency.

Next time when you think about preparing Carpaccio, why not try the original version and forget about all the extra’s.

Wine Pairing

We suggest enjoying your Carpaccio with a glass of Pinot Grigio or a Soave. It should be a fruity, not too powerful wine. Carpaccio is about the flavour of the meat. The sauce and the wine should simply support this. You could also go for a Pinot Noir, provided it has a light character.

What You Need

  • 50 grams of Excellent Tenderloin or Sirloin (per person) thinly sliced, cold but not frozen.
  • (Homemade) Mayonnaise
  • Worcester Sauce
  • Lemon
  • White Pepper
  • Milk

What You Do

Take one or two spoons of mayonnaise and add two teaspoons of Worcester sauce, one or two teaspoons of lemon juice and freshly ground white pepper. Taste and adjust until you have the perfect balance. Now add milk, creating a thinner sauce. Remove the meat from the refrigerator, flatten the meat if so required and transfer to a cold plate. Create a nice pattern with the sauce, using a sauce bottle. Serve immediately.

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 we enjoyed grilled green asparagus, but it works equally well with white asparagus.
This is typically a dish to prepare when the asparagus season is at its high and outside temperatures feel like summer.

Wine Pairing

Serve with a glass of Pinot Grigio, a Muscat or Pinot Gris from the Alsace region or a rosé with character. The wine needs to combine with a range of very diverse flavors so it should be a bit complex.

What You Need

  • 3 Asparagus per person
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

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 coat the asparagus with oil. Heat the pan and grill the asparagus for 4*1 minute, making sure you have a lovely brown (not too dark) pattern. Or use a contact grill for 2*2 minutes. Serve on a plate, add some grated Parmesan cheese and pepper. Add a generous drizzle of very excellent olive oil.

Pasta with Sage

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.

Wine Pairing

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

  • Pasta
  • Butter
  • Bunch of Sage
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Black Pepper

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.

Artichoke Pie

A few days after we published our recipe for Tourte de Blette a friend told us about the great taste of artichoke pie and how popular this dish is in Italy, especially in Liguria. Since we love artichokes, we dived into our cooking library, looking for recipes.
Interestingly most recipes refer to canned or marinated artichokes. But wouldn’t it be much better to use fresh, young artichokes? Other ingredients are cheese (Prescinsêua, or a combination of Parmesan or Pecorino and Ricotta, perhaps some Crème fraîche or even Feta), herbs (parsley, thyme or oregano) and eggs.
We like the combination of artichoke and thyme (as we did in our salad), but we could imagine oregano to be a good choice as well.
We remained close to Tourte de Blette and prepared a rustic, open pie, but feel free to create one with pastry on top.

Wine Pairing

It’s not straightforward to pair artichokes with wine. According to various researchers this is due to cynarin, a chemical especially found in the leaves of the artichoke. When the wine and the cynarin meet in your mouth, the natural sweetness of the wine is amplified, making it taste too sweet. So you have to pair freshly cooked or steamed artichokes with a bone-dry, crisp, unoaked white wine with clear, present acidity. For instance Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner or Albariño.
We enjoyed our Artichoke Pie with a glass of Château Pajzos Tokaj “T” Furmint, a dry, bright, fresh wine with zesty, nutty and mineral flavours made from the Hungarian Furmint grape. A unique wine and perfect in combination with the artichokes.
Cynarin and wine are not a match made in heaven but the good news is that cynarin seems to protect your liver and even helps it regenerate.

What You Need

  • For the Dough
    • 100 gram of Flour
    • 50 gram of Water
    • 10 gram of Olive Oil
    • 1 gram of Salt
  • For the Mixture
    • 4-6 young Artichokes
    • One Shallot
    • Olive Oil
    • 30 grams of Rice
    • 2 Eggs
    • Fresh Thyme
    • 20 gram Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
    • Black Pepper

What You Do

Cook the rice and leave to rest.  Combine flour, salt, water and olive oil. Make the dough, kneed for a minute or so and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Clean the artichokes, steam for 30-45 minutes depending on the size and let cool. Chop the shallot. Warm a heavy skillet, add olive oil and gently fry the shallot. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Using a spoon remove the ‘meat’ from the leaves (bracts) of the artichokes. Chop the hearts in four. You may need to remove the centre choke (the hairs). Strip a generous amount of thyme.
Whisk two eggs and combine with the artichokes, the shallot, the rice, the thyme and the freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Add some black pepper.
Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. Coat a 15 cm or 6 inch round baking form with oil (or use a sheet of baking paper). Place the dough in the baking form and add the filling. Transfer to the oven for 40-50 minutes on 180˚-200˚ Celsius or 355˚-390˚ Fahrenheit. Immediately after having removed the pie from the oven, brush the outside with olive oil. This will intensify the colour of the pastry. Let cool and enjoy luke warm.

Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis

Cream, Cream and More Cream

Such a lovely and simple dessert! Provided of course it’s made the right way. So no milk, no yoghurt, no cream cheese, no whipped cream and most certainly no whipped egg white! Just cream. Cooked Cream. And preferably cream with lots of fat because then you will need less gelatine. 
Fresh raspberries are preferred, but no worries, the frozen ones are also very tasty and suitable for making a coulis.

What You Need (for 4)

  • For the Panna Cotta
    • 500 ml fresh Cream
    • 3,5 leaves of Gelatine
    • 1 Vanilla Bean
    • 25 gram Sugar
  • For the Raspberry Coulis
    • 250 grams of Raspberries
    • 25 grams of Sugar
    • 1 tablespoon of Water

What You Do

The recipe is for 6 panna cotta (actually we should say 6 panne cotte). Slowly bring the cream to the boil. Add the seeds of the vanilla but also add the remainder of the bean. Now keep close to boiling for 15 minutes. Stir when necessary. Remove from the heat and while stirring add the sugar until totally dissolved. Now pass through a sieve to make sure you remove all the bits you don’t want. Follow the instruction of the gelatine and add the leaves. Stir well until homogeneous. Cool the liquid somewhat before filling the forms. We used a silicone mold. Nice and easy! The only thing you need to do is to make the mold a bit moist with water. Let the panna cotta cool and then store in the refrigerator until set. Don’t forget to seal with cling foil, otherwise your panna cotta will absorb aromas from other food in the refrigerator.
Heat the raspberries with the sugar and water. Cook gently for 5 minutes. Pass through s sieve (if necessary twice) making sure you apply some pressure but not too much. You don’t want pips in your coulis! Let cool for 30 minutes before transferring to the refrigerator.

Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis © cadwu
Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis © cadwu

Tagliatelle with Artichokes, Pancetta and Parmesan Cheese

The Joy of Artichokes

We’re true fans of artichokes. Although available throughout the year, we especially love them in Summer. They come with various structures and flavours, an interesting shape and a beautiful flower. Have you noticed that the heart and the leaves have a similar yet different taste?
Artichokes also come with a challenge: how to serve them in an elegant way? One way of serving the small ones is as a salad; another way is using them as an ingredient in a pasta dish.
Let’s talk briefly about Pancetta: this is cured and dried pork meat, so not smoked. You could replace it with traditional bacon, but be careful not to use something heavy oak smoked.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our pasta with a glass of Italian Corvina from the Verona region. This is a fruity wine, think red fruit (strawberries, cherries), only a hint of acidity, not too much tannins. We bought a bottle from Torre del Falasco. Great buy!

What You Need

  • 4 Small Artichokes
  • 75 gram of Pancetta
  • 1 Garlic Glove
  • Thyme
  • 100 gram of Fresh Tagliatelle
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Steam or cook the small artichokes. Let them cool, peel them and cut of the upper half. Cut the remainder in 6 or 8 chunks. Cut the pancetta in slices. Take a large skillet and warm. Add some olive oil and glaze the pancetta. It’s not the idea to fry the meat, the fat should not melt, only glaze. Now add the thinly chopped garlic and warm until the garlic is slightly soft. This may take a few minutes so an occasional stir is required. Now add the artichokes and the thyme. Stir very gently because the idea is that the artichokes remain intact.
Cook the tagliatelle (probably 4 minutes) and drain but keep some of the cooking liquid. Sprinkle a bit of Parmesan cheese over the artichokes, stir, very gently, add one or two spoons of the cooking liquid, add more Parmesan cheese and more liquid. Now add some olive oil and the tagliattele. Check if this looks fine to you. If not add more liquid. Add a generous amount of black pepper. Serve on a warm plate with some extra Parmesan cheese.