Lamb Shank with Rosemary

When In Paris…

A few years ago when attending a business lunch in Paris (the things we have to endure in life…) we were overwhelmed by the menu. We quickly decided to go for Lamb and told the waiter in our very best French we would like to taste Souris d’Agneau au Vin Rouge et aux Herbes, although not exactly knowing what a Souris might be. So during that lunch we discovered the joys of Lamb Shank.
Most recipes recommend preparing lamb shank in a hot oven (200 °C or so) but that’s actually not the best way to do it. Too hot, too fast, too dry.

Lamb shank has a generous amount of fat which makes it ideal for slow cooking. Our preferred option is to use a pressure cooker. Within 45 minutes the lamb shanks will be perfectly cooked, tender and moist.

Wine Pairing

We would suggest drinking a glass of Bordeaux with the lamb shank. The Bordeaux is in general a classic blend with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The wine should be well structured with lots of fruit. It should support the sweetness of the dish (carrots, lamb, leek). Soft tannins, a smooth texture and sufficient length. We very much enjoyed a glass of Chateau Beaulieu (2012) with our lamb.
Remember to use the same wine for cooking the lamb!

What You Need

  • 2 Lamb Shanks (with fat, please!)
  • 2 Shallots
  • Carrot
  • Leek
  • Celeriac
  • 2 Garlic Gloves
  • Olive Oil
  • Bouquet Garni, for instance:

    • Bay Leaf
    • Parsley
    • Thyme
    • lots of Rosemary (and 2 extra sprigs)
  • Red Wine
  • Water
  • Black Pepper
  • Brussels Sprouts or Carrots

What You Do

Start by colouring the lamb shanks in olive oil. Transfer to a plate and then gently fry the shopped shallot, the leek, the carrot, the celeriac and the garlic. When ready add the red wine and some water, depending on your taste. Add the generous bouquet garni with extra rosemary and some cooked garlic. Transfer the lamb shanks back to the pan and close the pressure cooker. Cook for 30 – 45 minutes depending on the size of the shanks. Transfer the shanks to a warm plate, pass the cooking juice through a sieve (discarding the vegetables), check the sauce, reduce if necessary,  and serve the shanks with a classic branch of rosemary, Brussels sprouts and some bread.
If you want to emphasize the natural sweetness of the dish, then serve with glazed carrots.

 

Chicken with Tarragon, Leek and Nero d’Avola

Some combinations are made in heaven. Chicken and Tarragon is such a combination: it simply works brilliantly. Tarragon is a very powerful, aromatic herb, full of flavors such as anise and licorice. It’s the key ingredient of the sauce Béarnaise and it is of course wonderful when combined with vinegar and mustard. For kitchen purposes you need to buy French tarragon. The other well-known variety is called Russian tarragon. It’s a nice plant for your garden or balcony, with flowers and lots of leaves, but the taste is very bland, so not one to use in the kitchen.

We use butter to carry the taste of the tarragon to the chicken and to the sauce. It’s the principle behind enfleurage and maceration in the perfume making industry: fat is used to absorb the fragrance. So yes, you need an excellent chicken with lots of fat under the skin.

This recipe works with a whole chicken, with breasts and legs, provided they come with a skin. The crux of this recipe is to create a layer of tarragon butter between the meat and the skin, allowing for a crispy skin in combination with rich, flavored meat. You can stuff the chicken in the morning or the day before. Ideal when you’re having guests!

The sauce is very rich, so instead of using flour or cream, we create an emulsified sauce by blendering the mixture. The result is a velvety, filming sauce.

We enjoyed our chicken with a glass of Inycon Nero d’Avola. The wine is elegant, fruity, not too full bodied and it has soft tannins and a gentle acidity. You will also taste licorice, which is a nice reflection of the tarragon and the Pastis. The balance of the acidity of the wine and the filming structure of the sauce is essential to the dish.

Here is what you need

  • 2 Chicken Legs
  • 8 Sprigs of Tarragon
  • 20 + 10 grams of Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Pastis
  • Chicken Stock
  • Optional: Leek, olive oil and water

Strip the tarragon leaves from the stem and chop. Let’s say you need one or two sprigs of tarragon per chicken leg. Use a fork to make the tarragon butter. Use your fingers to create space (a pocket) between the skin and the meat. Start for instance in the middle of the leg (outside) or at the rear of the whole chicken. Be careful not to open the edges, otherwise the tarragon butter can’t do its work. Put some of the butter between the skin and the meat and use your fingers to create a thin layer by pressing the butter to the sides. Coat the bottom of a shallow baking pan with olive oil.
Transfer the chicken legs to the pan. Add some additional butter to the pan (not on top of the chicken). Also add the sprigs you haven’t used. Put the pan in an oven of 200˚ Celsius or 390˚ Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
Transfer the chicken legs and two sprigs of tarragon to a plate and keep them warm in the oven (just switch it of and keep the door open). Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and Pastis. Deglazing simply means that you add a liquid and then by stirring the mixture you capture the residue in the pan. As if you are cleaning the pan. Blender the mixture and poor through a sieve into a small saucepan. You now have a homogenous, emulsified sauce. Warm the sauce and stir occasionally for five minutes. Serve the chicken with the sauce, the fried sprigs of tarragon and the briefly cooked leek.

(P.S. Clean the leek, making sure you have removed the sand and dirt. Slice thinly and cook with some olive oil and a drop or two of water. Five minutes maximum should do the trick.)

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.

Last Week’s Special -39

Skate with Capers

When you Google for skate with capers you will find many recipes with capers and brown butter. We think you can do better!
The trick in this recipe is to clarify butter and then deep fry the capers in the clarified butter. The result is a crunchy and salty caper with clear acidity from the brine. This of course works brilliantly with the meaty, fatty skate.
Butter is an emulsion of butterfat, water and proteins. The process of clarification means breaking down the emulsion. The goal is to have pure butterfat, which will not burn and which allows for deep-frying. The water will simply go when you warm the butter. The trick is to remove the proteins. Start by melting the butter and wait until you see the white foam and until the water is gone. Now pour the fat into a jar or cup, carefully keeping the foam in the pan. Option two is to continue warming the butter until the white foam becomes brown. Be careful not to burn it, this will ruin your butter. The now brown foam will sink to the bottom, which makes it easier to pour the butterfat in a jar or cup. If you want to be even more sure of the quality, use a cheesecloth when pouring. The idea is that using the second option will give the clarified butter a more nutty taste.
Please don’t use flour to coat the skate. Simply use a non-sticky pan and a nice combination of oil and butter.

The skate goes really well with a glass of classic Chardonnay with a touch of oak. The chardonnay comes with a velvety taste which is great with the skate and its consistency. The touch of oak combines very well with the fried capers.

Here is what you need

  • Skate wing (let’s say 200 grams for 2 persons)
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper
  • Capers (in brine)
  • 75 grams of butter (to be clarified)

Clarify the butter and set aside. Fry the skate in a non-sticky pan for 5-10 minutes or so, depending on the size and shape. Please notice that there is more meat on one side then on the other side, so it’s not 10=5+5. Transfer the skate to a warm plate. Heat the clarified butter to frying temperature and in parallel wash the capers and dry them with kitchen paper. Fry the capers until crispy. Serve the skate with some black pepper and sprinkle the capers on top of the skate.

 

Last Week’s Special – 36

Squid with Tomatoes and Red Wine

Don’t you love crispy Calamari with a glass of Pinot Grigio? A summer evening is ideal, but they are equally nice on a cold, winter’s evening. Such a wonderful combination, fried squid and crispy white wine. That is, if your Calamari is made of squid.

Go to your local supermarket and look for frozen Calamari. Interesting. All perfectly shaped, all perfectly the same size. Now go to your local fishmonger and buy (frozen) squid. How to cut perfect, similar sized rings from squid? Simple, you can’t.

Another interesting question: what happened to the tentacles?

If you prepare your own Calamari from fresh squid you will have rings (made from the mantle) in various sizes and shapes plus you will have tentacles and fins.
If you buy factory-produced ready to fry or eat Calamari you could be eating the real thing, but you could also be eating a fried mixture of left over squid, octopus, fish, flower and E-numbers. And to reduce your appetite for Calamari even more: factories treat the squid with sodium bicarbonate (and probably other chemicals) to make the meat softer. Bon Appétit!

Time to start cooking

The stew is a combination of squid, tomatoes, red wine and bay leaf, supported by shallot and garlic. The red wine in combination with the natural colour of the squid will help create a dark velvet red colour. This will take some time, but that’s fine, in the mean time the meat of the squid will become nice, tasty and soft. Bay leaf is essential. Feel free to add more. We finish the dish with parsley, just to give it an extra sharpness.

We enjoyed our stew as a starter with a glass of Inycon Estate, made of Viognier and Chardonnay. Inycon Estate is an international brand of Cantine Settesoli, a Sicilian wine producer. They produce a nice range of affordable wines, such as Nero D’Avola, Pinot Grigio and Shiraz. The combination of Viognier and Chardonnay works really well. The wine is both fruity, fresh and full-bodied.
When you eat the stew as a main, you could go for a light, cool, red wine. Not too complex because the stew is rather powerful.

Preparing squid

Buy a kilo of squid. In most cases the squid will be frozen, but that’s fine. The process of cleaning squid is simple and a bit messy. Not smelly by the way.

  1. Start by removing the head from the body. When you do this gently, you will also remove most of the internal organs of the squid.
  2. You may want to secure the ink for later use.
  3. Just below the eyes, cut off the tentacles using a knife or scissors. Remove the beak (located at the base of the tentacles). Discard internal organs and beak. Transfer the tentacles to a bowl.
  4. With your fingers remove the cartilage (this is the part that looks like it is made of plastic).
  5. Remove the skin of the mantle and fins. Best is to start in the middle and then gently pull the skin towards the top and bottom. Discard the skin.
  6. Remove the fins and transfer to the bowl with tentacles.
  7. Turn the mantle inside out by pushing the top into the mantle. This allows you to remove all internal organs and the membrane.
  8. Turn the mantle outside in by pushing the top into the mantle. Cut the mantle into rings and transfer to the bowl.
  9. Wash the rings, fins and tentacles with cold water.

Here is what you need

  • 1 kilo Squid (to be cleaned)
  • Olive Oil
  • Shallot
  • 2 Garlic Gloves
  • Red Chilli
  • 500 grams of Excellent Red Tomatoes (peeled, seeded and cut in chunks)
  • Red Wine
  • Two Fresh Bay Leaves
  • Black Pepper
  • Parsley

Use a heavy, iron skillet for this stew. Cut the shallot in small bits and glaze gently in olive oil. Once the shallot is glazed add the garlic and the chilli. After a few minutes add the squid (rings, tentacles and fins). Let the liquid reduce for a few minutes, and then add the tomatoes, a glass of red wine and the bay leaf. Allow to slowly simmer for 4 hours. If necessary add a splash of water. Stir every 15 minutes. Just before serving add black pepper (be generous) and some parsley.
Serve with crusty bread (as a starter) or with red rice.

Last Week’s Special-32

Duck Breast with a Green Pepper Corn Sauce

Duck is often combined with a sweet ingredient. Think fruit (orange, clementine, apple and even peach), with honey, Port Wine or Marsala. All these combinations make sense because the idea is to relate to the taste of the duck. In this case we ignore the obvious and combine it with a green pepper corn sauce. The thyme is the bridge between the duck and the sauce. The garlic brings a touch of sweetness to the sauce. The combination works beautifully!
Green pepper corn is available dried and in brine. We prefer the brine version because it integrates better with the other ingredients of the sauce. The dried corns work well after leaving them in a nice vinegar for 24 – 48 hours.

A simple Bordeaux wine will work very well. But Syrah, with its hint of spiciness, will be the perfect wine with this dish. If available go for an Australian Syrah because of the full-bodied character.

Here is what you need:

  • 2 small Breasts of Duck or 1 large one
  • Thyme
  • Chicken stock
  • Garlic
  • Single or Double Cream
  • Green Pepper Corn in Brine (slightly crunched)
  • Mustard

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). Cut the skin (not the meat!) in a crosshatch pattern, let’s say 1-2 centimeter apart. Doing this helps the fat render and it will give a crispy result. Put thyme in the pattern. Put on a dish, cover and transfer to the fridge. Leave in the fridge for a few hours, making sure it’s nice, firm and cold.
Fry the duck in a hot, non-sticky skillet for 10-12 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 2-3 minute on the meat side and remove. Cover with aluminum foil is such a way that the crispy skin is not covered. The foil should only cover meat.
Remove most of the fat from the pan, but not all. Add chicken stock, garlic and thyme. Stir and add the crunched green pepper. We like their taste so we tend to add quite a few. Now start building the sauce by adding juices from the duck. Maybe you want to add a bit of mustard. This will not only add complexity to the sauce, it will also make it thicker. Add the cream but please remember that cream needs a few minutes to integrate in the sauce. If you add cream last-minute, you will, indeed, taste cream.
After 10 – 15 minutes it’s time to carve the duck. Make sure to add all the juices to the sauce. Cut the duck in slices (we like fairly big slices, you may prefer thinner ones) and place these on top of the sauce when serving.
If you have a bit of extra time, pass the sauce through a sieve, removing the thyme and other bits, before adding the green pepper.

Last Week’s Special – 24

Lamb Shank with Rosemary

A few years ago when attending a business lunch in Paris (the things we have to endure in life…) we were overwhelmed by the menu. We quickly decided to go for Lamb and told the waiter in our very best French we would like to taste their Souris d’agneau au vin rouge et aux herbes, although not exactly knowing what a Souris might be. So during that lunch we discovered the joys of Lamb Shank.
Most recipes recommend preparing lamb shank in a hot oven (200 °C or so). That’s actually not the best way to do it. Lamb shank requires more attention and basting than expected.

Lamb shank has a generous amount of fat and the structure is ideal for slow cooking. The first option is to colour the lamb shank in a skillet and then wrap the shank in aluminium foil (with lots of herbs and garlic) and then slow cook it for hours on a low temperature.
Our preferred option is to use a pressure cooker. Within 45 minutes your lamb shank will be perfectly cooked, tender and moist.

We would suggest drinking a glass of Syrah (or Shiraz) with the lamb shank. The Syrah is hearty and spicy; it is intense and has the right tannins.

Remember to use the same wine for cooking the lamb!

Here is what you need:

  • 2 Lamb Shanks (with fat, please!)
  • 2 Shallots
  • 2 Garlic Gloves
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Bouquet Garni
    • Bay Leaf
    • Chives
    • Parsley
    • Thyme
    • Rosemary (and 2 extra sprigs)
  • Red Wine
  • Garlic
  • Water
  • Black Pepper

Start by colouring the lamb shanks in the butter and olive oil. Transfer to a plate and now gently fry the shopped shallot and garlic. When ready add the red wine and some water, depending on your taste. Add the generous bouquet garni and some cooked garlic. Transfer the lamb shanks back to the pan and close the pressure cooker. Cook for 30 – 45 minutes depending on the size. When done, check the sauce, maybe reduce it a bit and serve the shanks with a classic branch of rosemary. Serve with Brussels sprouts and some bread.

 

Guineafowl with Morels and Gnocchi

Guineafowl

Preparing guineafowl can be a bit of a challenge. Easily overcooked and easily prepared the wrong way. Given its size you could think it should be prepared like chicken but that’s not the case. Compare chicken with guineafowl and notice the difference: the meat of a guineafowl has much more structure, it’s fatter and firmer.
Cooking quineafowl requires some liquid (oil, butter, wine, stock) but not too much. Cooked like coq au vin it’s a disaster. Spit-roasted guineafowl? Not a good idea.

In The River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook (written by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers) you will find a great recipe of guineafowl with grappa, junipers, white wine and pancetta. The combination of grappa and junipers is amazing and the idea to have these two support the guinea fowl is simply stunning. The combination emphasises the wild and nutty taste of the guinegowl. Buy the book and start cooking!

Dried mushrooms: expensive and actually not very tasty. Not even close to the real thing. With the exception of dried morels: these are as tasty as fresh ones.
Also important: unlike most mushrooms, morels are to be found (and bought) in Spring. So the best season to cook this dish is in Spring, but given dried morels are equally tasty, it doesn’t really matter.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our guineafowl with a glass of Bergerac, La Vaure, 2015. This is a full-bodied wine with a hint of oak, red fruits and great flavours overall. Made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. A mature Bergerac with a lasting taste.

What You Need

  • 2 legs of Guineafowl
  • 10 gram of dried Morels
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Chicken Stock
  • Mustard
  • Cream
  • Black Pepper
  • Gnocchi

What You Do

Pre-heat the oven to 180 ˚Celsius. Add the two legs of guinea fowl to a shallow dish with butter and olive oil. Cook for 10 minutes. In the mean time add the morels to hot water. Soak for 15 minutes. Turn the legs upside down after 10 minutes. Cook for another 10 minutes. Turn them a second time, skin up. Add the morels to the dish, leaving the skin free. In parallel start preparing the sauce using chicken stock and some morel-water, but not too much. Taste the water before adding. The legs should be ready after 30 minutes. Add the cooking juices to the sauce, grill the legs quickly if the skin is not yet nicely coloured and keep the morels warm. Add mustard and pepper to the sauce, stir well, add some cream and allow to heat through and through for 5 minutes. Taste the sauce and if necessary add more mustard or morel-water.
Serve with gnocchi.

 

Last Week’s Special – 19

Lentils, Sausage and Cauliflower

Think France, think a nice small bistro in a small street, off centre, nothing posh, no Michelin star in sight. It’s 12.30, time for a quick lunch. You enter the restaurant, take a seat and order today’s dish, the plat du jour. It turns out to be a generous helping of lentils, two fried sausages, mashed potatoes and mustard. A beer works beautifully with it. After having enjoyed your lunch, you think about the joy of good food, French mustard and the beauty of lentils. Time for coffee. And maybe a glass of Calvados?

In our recipe for Cod with Lentils and Cilantro we have described the lentils in detail. Also in this case we will use Lentille Verte du Puy A.O.P & A.O.C. from Sabarot.

We’re not too keen on mashed potatoes so we decided to combine the lentils and sausage with pureed Cauliflower.

Sausage wise we suggest Lincolnshire sausages because they are coarsely ground (so not minced) and the sage in the sausage works very well with the lentils. The texture of the sausages is great in combination with the size of the lentils. The picture however shows traditional smoked pork sausage with nutmeg. Which is of course a nice link to the cauliflower!
If you prefer lamb sausage (thyme, rosemary, sage) that’s fine too.

We enjoyed our lentils with a glass of red Pays d’Oc whine, with grapes such as Grenache and Syrah. The Syrah brings an intense colour, aromatic strength and structure. The Grenache reveals red berry flavours. For instance Domaine La Colombette, Puech d`Hortes 2015.

Here is what you need:

  • Shallot
  • Butter
  • Green or Du Puy Lentils
  • Chicken Stock and Water
  • 4 Sausages (preferably pork, coarsely ground)
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Parsley
  • Black Pepper
  • French Mustard

Cut the shallot in small bits and glaze gently in butter. In the mean time check the lentils for small pebbles; wash them. Once the shallot is glazed add the lentils and heat them for a few minutes, as you would do with risotto rice. Add some chicken stock and water (the stock is only intended to give the lentils a small push) and leave to simmer on low heat. In parallel prepare the cauliflower mash. Fry the sausages in butter and olive oil in a heavy iron skillet.
Serve the sausage on top of the lentils. You could sprinkle some parsley over the lentils and sausage. Grate some extra nutmeg over the cauliflower. Maybe add a touch of black pepper. Definitely a good dash of French mustard on the side!

Lentilles with Sausage © cadwu
Lentilles with Sausage © cadwu