Your Favourites in 2022

We have been baking our own bread for several years, based on the method of no-knead bread (see Jim Lahey’s book My Bread for more detail) and using the ingredients of the French Talmière. The technique is a bit challenging, so we were very pleased to test the simplified method described by Le Creuset. You were also pleased to learn about this easier method for No-Knead Bread, because it’s our number one post this year!

Kimizu is the classic, golden sauce from Japan, made from Egg Yolks, Rice Vinegar, Water and Mirin. The recipes for Kimizu and Kimizu with Tarragon continue to be very popular. Although this is a classic sauce, we use a microwave to prepare it. A great tool to be in control of temperature and consistency.

If you’ve been following this blog for a few months, perhaps years, then you’ll know we love mushrooms. We are especially interested in the seasonal ones, such as Morels, St. George’s mushroom, and Caesar’s Mushroom. We combine these with Japanese Udon, creating a very tasty starter, full of flavours and texture. Also one of our personal favourites.
Another favorite is the Bay Bolete. Actually a fairly common mushroom, as tasty as Cèpes, but much more affordable.
During the season we saw lots of interests in Bay Boletes and Caeser’s Mushroom, so next season we will publish new recipes with these two delicious mushrooms.

The classic Cèpes à la Bordelaise was also amongst your favourites. You can also use more available mushrooms for this great combination. Always a pleasure to serve, with eggs, with meat, with more present fish.

Ajerkoniak was a dish we looked into when we were exploring dishes/drinks based on egg yolks, such as caudle, eggnog and advocaat. Perhaps not our personal favourite, but why nog give it a try?

We wish you a happy and inspiring 2023!

Your Favourites in 2022 ©cadwu
Your Favourites in 2022 ©cadwu

Bouchot Mussels

When you buy champagne, Cornish Clotted cream, Parmigiano-Reggiano or Kalamate Olives, you want to be sure it’s really champagne, clotted cream, Parmigiano or a Kalamata olive. There are various ways of protecting food (and wine) for instance by law, by creating and protecting a brand, or by systems such as the Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) also known as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). AOP/PDO is based on unique aspects of a region. For instance, the AOP for Comté cheese reflects the use of milk from specific cows from a region in the French Jura with a unique flora. This determines the cheese, its flavour and quality.

Another system focuses on the way food is produced. If this is done in a unique traditional way, the product can be labelled with Spécialité Traditionnelle Garantie (STG) or Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG).

Bouchot Mussels carry both labels and they come with a special logo. Obviously, you wonder why.
The mussels grow in a unique way, benefitting from the large tide near Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy. They grow on ropes strung from wooden poles (so called bouchots) in the sea. During a significant part of the day the mussels sit above sea level and therefore they grow slowly. The influence of the tide makes the bouchot mussels typical for the region and the use of poles makes the way the mussels grow unique.

Perhaps you also wonder if these aspects have an impact on the mussel and its taste. The answer is yes. They are small, clean, very tasty, flavourful, juicy and meaty plus they are free of sand and grit.

Preparing bouchot mussels is very simple, because adding flavours will only interfere with the already delicious taste.

Perhaps a bit more expensive than other mussels, but given they are so very tasty and rich, we think it’s perfectly fine to buy less than usual.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Bouchot Mussels with a glass of Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Domaine Raphaël Luneau. The wine originates from the Loire Valley and is made with 100% Melon de Bourgogne. The wine is stored on its ‘lees’ for several months before bottling. Lees are leftover yeast particles. They add flavour and structure to the wine.
In general, you’re looking for a white wine with minerality, fruit, structure and expression. It must be aromatic with a long taste.

What You Need (Starter)

  • 500 grams of Bouchot Mussels
  • White wine
  • One garlic Glove
  • Parsley
  • Crusted Bread

What You Do

Finely chop the garlic and the parsley. Add white wine to a pan and add the garlic. Bouchot mussels don’t release much liquid when you cook them, so use a little more wine than you would do with regular mussels. Leave for 10 minutes. Clean the mussels. Cook the mussels as quickly as you can, lid on the pan, until they are open. Add the parsley and combine. Serve immediately on a hot (soup) plate.

Mushroom Fricassee

A few weeks ago, we wrote about History on Our Plate (2019) written by food historian and award-winning author Peter G. Rose. She writes about America’s Dutch past and the influence of the Dutch settlers on today’s American food. She explains how the founders of New Netherland (1609 – 1664, currently the states of New York, Delaware, Connecticut and New Jersey) brought Dutch recipes, tools, herbs and fruit to the US. Most recipes are based on publications like Een Notabel Boecxken van Cokeryen (a Notable Little Book of Cookery, 1514) and the 13thcentury publication Le Viandier de Taillevent. Peter Rose includes both the original and a modern version, allowing you to recreate food from the 17th century. 

Two Recipes

We were intrigued by a recipe for Mushroom Quiche without a Crust that made us think of a savoury clafoutis. We were also intrigued by another mushroom recipe, called Mushroom Fricassee, partly because of the unusual combination of eggs, mushrooms, onion, marjoram, thyme, orange juice, sherry, nutmeg and (optional) beef juice. The recipe is included in a manuscript written by Anne Stevenson Van Cortlandt (1774- 1821). She was married to Pierre Van Cortlandt, a well-known influential family with Dutch origins. Anne Stevenson was born in Albany, a city linked to Dutch settlers until the British took over in 1664.
We tried this imaginative combination of ingredients and prepared an omelette. The result was tasty and beautifully balanced, with a nice twist thanks to the herbs, sherry and orange juice. Peter Rose suggests preparing it like scrambled eggs, which is probably a better idea. Turning the mixture into an omelette was a bit of a challenge.
You’ll find a detailed recipe in History on Our Plate.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Mushroom Fricassee with a glass of Conde Valdemar Tempranillo Blanco Rioja DOCa 2020, produced by Bodegas Valdemar. Its colour is slightly yellow with greenish tones. The wine has notes of tropical fruit (pineapple) and its taste is fresh and pleasantly persistent. A beautiful, unoaked white Rioja made with 100% tempranillo blanco grapes.
In general, you’re looking for a lean, dry, slightly fruity white wine with notes of lemon, melon and/or pineapple, preferably with a long finish.

Buy The Book

History on Our Plate is available via the well-known channels and your local bookstore for approximately 15 euro or 10 US$.

Guacamole

It’s very tempting to buy ready-made tapenade, guacamole, mayonnaise or fish paté. It’s easier, much quicker and you don’t need to worry about ingredients and recipes. Very true. On the other hand, we also know that most of these ready-made products contain far too much salt plus additives that shouldn’t be in there. For instance, we found a trout paté with rapeseed oil, vinegar, egg, salt, lemon juice, sugar and paprika. The ingredients in a jar with guacamole included mascarpone, cellulose gum, sugar (again) and coconut oil.

The good news is that making your own guacamole is very simple. The only challenge is to buy ripe and tasty avocados. When in doubt, ask your greengrocer.
Guacamole combines very well with nachos, chips and toast, but also with baked potatoes, fried fish and smoked salmon. We like to enjoy it with our beloved (Flemish) grey small shrimps.

Wine Pairing

If you serve guacamole with small shrimps as a starter, then we suggest a refreshing white wine, for instance a glass of Viognier. You could also serve a glass of dry rosé.

What You Need

  • 2 Ripe Avocados
  • Small Red Onion or Shallot
  • Small Garlic Clove
  • Red Chili Pepper
  • Lemon
  • Soy Sauce
  • 100 grams Small (Grey) Shrimps
  • Black Pepper
  • Cilantro (optional)

What You Do

Peel both avocados, remove the seeds and chop coarsely. Finely chop the shallot, the garlic clove and some red chilli pepper. How much you use depends on the spiciness of the pepper and your preference. Add one avocado to the beaker of your blender. Add the shallot, garlic and chili pepper. Add a small splash (start with half a teaspoon) of soy sauce and a bigger splash of lemon juice. Add the remaining avocado and blender until smooth. Taste and decide if you want to add more lemon juice or soy sauce. Transfer to the refrigerator.
Serve with small shrimps, black pepper and cilantro.

PS

We know, we start by mentioning that ready-made guacamole contains odd ingredients like mascarpone and then we suggest adding soy sauce to this typical Mexican dish. Inconsistent to say the least. Well, guacamole needs a pinch of salt. You could (of course) add regular salt, but by adding a drop of fish sauce or soy sauce, you also add some umami, which seems to work well with the avocado and the shrimps. 

Guacemole ©cadwu
Guacamole ©cadwu

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

Spanish Tortilla

We have fond memories of the Mercat Central in Valencia, one of the largest markets in Europe. Its architecture is amazing, but even more stunning are the products on sale: fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, chicken, fresh meat, sausages, hams, herbs, spices, fish, bread, wine, pickles, snails, weeds, offal, rice, nuts: anything and everything you can dream of.
And of course various bars with the tastiest tapas ever. We would go shopping early in the morning, buy what we needed that day (perhaps a bit more than just that) and buy two bocadillos de tortilla: a small crunchy roll with tortilla made with egg, onions and potato. We would run back to our apartment, make coffee, sit down and enjoy the rich, velvety, long taste of bread and tortilla.
Fond memories indeed.

Making Spanish tortilla is a matter of combining the best ingredients and being patient.

What You Need

  • 200 grams of Potato (waxy ones, we used Roseval)
  • 1 large Spanish (White) Onion
  • ½ Grilled Red Bell Pepper
  • 4 Eggs
  • Black Pepper
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Heat a pan and gently fry the thinly sliced potatoes, slowly, in plenty of oil. You don’t want crunchy, golden potatoes, they should be nearly done, that’s all. In a separate pan glaze the quartered and sliced onion, also for let’s say 15 minutes. Let both cool. Dry the sliced grilled red bell pepper with kitchen paper. Beat the eggs and add potatoes and onions. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. For some reason this is a crucial step, one that should not be skipped. Add sliced red bell pepper and fresh black pepper. Warm a medium sized non-stick pan (22 cm or 9 inch), add oil and fry the tortilla until the top is slightly set. It could take 20 minutes so please don’t be tempted to increase the heat. Transfer to a plate, put the pan on top of the tortilla and flip. Fry a few minutes.
Serve lukewarm, perhaps with some chopped parsley and a crunchy roll.

PS

You could peel a fresh red bell pepper, but better is to clean it, slice in 4 to 6 chunks, flatten these and grill for 10 minutes. This should char the pepper significantly. Transfer to a plastic container and close. Leave for a few hours. Now you can easily remove the skin. This way a bell pepper has a richer, more complex taste and is easier to digest, but it is of course not as crunchy as a fresh bell pepper. 

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.

Mushroom Cream Sauce from 1790

This recipe for a rich and tasty sauce is included in Het Receptenboek van mevrouw Marselis (the recipe book of Mrs. Marselis), published in the Netherlands in 1790. The combination of mushrooms, cream and nutmeg works remarkably well. One to prepare more often!

Mrs. Marselis doesn’t mention what the sauce is supposed to accompany. In this case we decided to combine it with pasta, making it a nice vegetarian dish, but we could also imagine combining it with veal or chicken. 

Wine Pairing

We suggest drinking an excellent rosé with the sauce, one with flavour, fruit, depth and refreshing acidity. For instance Monte del Frà Bardolino Chiaretto. This is a very affordable, tasty rosé with just the right balance between serious flavours, freshness and fruitiness.

What You Need

  • Mushrooms
  • Nutmeg
  • Flour
  • Chicken Stock
  • Cream
  • One egg
  • Butter
  • Lemon
  • Spaghetti

What You Do

We used yellow chanterelles, but you could also use Champignons de Paris. Clean and chop the mushrooms (we didn’t peel them, sorry Mrs. Marselis) and glaze them in butter. When glazed, sprinkle some flour over the mushrooms and stir. After a few minutes, slowly start adding chicken stock to make the beginning of a sauce. Add cream to the pan and some freshly grated nutmeg. Leave on low heat for at least 10 minutes. Beat one egg yolk. Slowly add the mixture from the pan to the egg yolk (marrying the sauce). Then add the egg yolk and cream mixture back to the pan. Warm carefully, otherwise it will split, or you just cooked an omelette. Taste and add a drop of lemon to make the sauce a touch fresher and lighter. No need for pepper or parsley.

We served the sauce with spaghetti and used the cooking liquid to give the sauce the right consistency.

Cooking Soup

We simply love soup! A traditional soup like Londonderry or Queen’s Soup, a rich Tomato Soup, Clam Chowder, perhaps a more challenging soup like Lettuce Soup or a refreshing Ajo Blanco.
If you would look at our shelfs with cookbooks you would expect books like The Ultimate SoupbookThe Essential Soupbook or Soup of the Day. No doubt these are excellent books with great recipes, but we have only one book specific on soup: Cooking Soups for Dummies by Jenna Holst.

Why? Well, to be honest, it is one of these few cookbooks that is truly about ingredients, methods and recipes, with the aim to cook a tasty soup.
Most cookbooks are a collection of recipes. Not this one. The first chapter of the book is about tools and utensils, basically explaining what equipment you need to make a soup. The second chapter is about the ingredients (spices, herbs, basic items) you need and where and how you should store them. Fun to read, good to know, especially because it’s very well written, comprehensive and clear. The third and fourth chapter are about basic techniques, and the fifth chapter explains how to make a broth (chicken, beef, vegetarian, fish, clam). Chapter six is about storing soup (again well written and very helpful) and then we move towards making fresh soup from the garden (Tomato Soup, Sweet Potato Bisque etcetera).

You could skip the background information and only look at the index of recipes. You’ll find lots of interesting recipes, ranging from Mulligatawny Soup to Cantaloupe-Orange Soup, but also less exotic ones like Creamy Potato Leek Soup and Split Pea Soup.

We bought the book many years ago and have always found it helpful and inspiring. What better way to start dinner, or lunch, than with soup? Let’s buy some fresh beets and cook Herbed Beet Soup. Yummy!

Cooking Soups for Dummies is available via your local bookstore or via the well-known channels for approximately US$ 30,00 or € 20,00. You’ll find specific recipes on Dummies.

Fish Cakes

They are so tempting! The crunchy crust, the flaky texture and the flavour, especially when combined with mayonnaise and lemon. When we see them at the supermarket or at the fishmonger, we can’t always resist buying them. But we should resist the temptation because most fish cakes should be called salty potato cakes. Hardly any fish, limited herbs, the structure of mashed potato and lots of salt to disguise the lack of real flavour.

It’s not a lot of work to prepare your own fish cakes, so be brave and ignore the factory-made ones. The recipe is very flexible, you could make a Thai version (Tod Mun Pla) with lemon grass, red curry, onions and garlic, a traditional version with stockfish, or cakes with salmon, with shrimps etcetera. To be served with Tartar sauce, sweet chili sauce, dill sauce or perhaps hoisin. We prefer Jean Beddington‘s fish cakes (served with a beetroot chutney) or a more traditional version that focuses on the fish, with herbs and black pepper in a supporting role, breaded with our home-made breadcrumbs.

Wine Pairing

Let’s be flexible, a nice glass of beer or a not too complex white wine, it’s all fine. The salad, its dressing and the lemon will be rather present. Perhaps a Verdejo, Pinot Blanc or a Picpoul de Pinet?

What You Need

  • For the Cakes
    • 225 grams of Haddock
    • 100 grams of Potato
    • 1 egg yolk
    • Parsley
    • Chives
    • Black Pepper
    • Butter
  • 1 Egg
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Olive Oil and Butter
  • Salad with a dressing made of Olive Oil and White Wine Vinegar
  • Mayonnaise
  • Lemon

What You Do

It’s best to make the mixture one day ahead. This allows for the flavours to integrate.
Gently fry the haddock in butter. You’re looking for a light golden color, just to give it some extra flavour. When nearly done, transfer to a plate and let cool. Cook the potato until soft. Let cool. Use a fish knive to make fish flakes. Use a fork to mash the potato. Chop lots of parsley and chives. Combine fish (and its juices), potato, egg yolk, herbs and a generous amount of black pepper. Let cool and store in the refrigerator until the next day.
Beat the egg, add a few drops of lemon to the mayonnaise and heat a heavy iron skillet or a non-stick pan. Make 4 fish cakes. Coat them with egg, then cover with breadcrumbs and fry in butter and/or olive oil on all sides. In total 6-10 minutes. Serve with a salad, mayonnaise and a wedge of lemon.

PS

Making your own breadcrumbs is simple and worthwhile. The breadcrumbs at the supermarket are made of cardboard; yet another product you shouldn’t buy. Toast slices of old bread and let cool. Cut in smaller bits and then use a cutter or blender to make the crumbs. Done. They keep very well in the freezer.