Salad with Various Beans and Swordfish

When in Valencia

The Mercat Central in Valencia is one of the largest markets in Europe. Its architecture is amazing, but even more stunning are the products: fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, wines, fresh meat, sausages, hams, herbs, spices, fish, bread, chickens, pickles, snails, weeds, offal, rice, nuts, beans: anything and everything you can dream of.
Albufera is a fresh water area not far from Valencia used for growing rice. It is of course the ideal rice for paella. If an original recipe of paella would exist, it would include rice, olive oil, rabbit, saffron and various beans such as broad beans, roget and garrofón.
Inspired by the classic Salade Niçoise we bought a slice of excellent swordfish, sweet onions, potatoes, eggs and of course: lots of beans. Shall we call it Salade Valençoise?

Wine Pairing

We served the salad as a main dish. Combining wine and salad is not straightforward because acidity is an important aspect of a dressing and therefore of a salad. In this case we have a range of flavours and textures so we would suggest a wine with a very present floral bouquet. The taste should be smooth and fruity. We enjoyed it with a glass of Albariño Rias Baixas 2018 produced by Bodegas Bouza do Rei, made from 100% Albariño grapes.
Another excellent choice would be Sericis, 2018 from the house of Murviedro. A wine from Utiel-Requena, so from the Valencia region. A wine made from 100% Merseguera grapes. Full bodied yet light, elegant and surprisingly low in its alcohol with only 12%. Well balanced acidity which is great when combining it with a salad.

What You Need

  • Mixed Salad
  • White Sweet Onion
  • Flat Beans (we also used the local red variety Roget)
  • Green Peas
  • Broad Beans
  • Garrofón (Lima Beans or Butter Beans)
  • Sword Fish
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Small (New) Potatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Vinegar
  • Mustard
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Start by pealing the broad beans, the green peas, the flat beans, the garrofón beans and the potatoes. Cook all five ingredients separately until al dente. Cook the eggs until just done. Let cool. Peel the broad beans and the garrofón beans again. Make a dressing by combining olive oil, vinegar and mustard. Slice the flat beans, the onion and the potatoes. Cut the egg in four. Fry the swordfish until just done. In parallel mix the salad with the onion, the flat beans, the green peas, the potatoes and the broad beans. Add the dressing and toss. Slice the swordfish and decorate the salad with egg, garrofón and swordfish. A touch of black pepper to finish.

Choucroute de la Mer with Riesling

Bofinger

The traditional Choucroute Garnie or d’Alsa­ce comes with various sausages, smoked pork belly, confit de canard, steamed potatoes and Dijon mustard. Combine it with a glass of Riesling and you will have a great dinner. Perhaps a bit heavy on the stomach, but the sauerkraut itself will make things lighter.
A very interesting variation is called Choucroute de la Mer. We have fond memories of restaurant Bofinger in Paris. They serve an excellent Choucroute de la Mer with haddock, salmon, sea bass, king prawns, boiled potatoes and horseradish butter. The haddock is actually smoked haddock, which works really well with the choucroute. The sharp horseradish is an excellent alternative for the Dijon mustard. When in Paris, go to Bofinger and order Choucroute de la Mer!

For some reason it’s hard to find smoked haddock where we live, so we tried smoked herring (kippers). Worked very well. And because we wanted to give the fish a deeper, fermented flavour (after all, the choucroute is fermented white cabbage) we marinated the fish in miso before frying it. Excellent result, deep and intense flavours and not to heavy on your stomach.

Wine Pairing

We very much enjoyed a glass of Riesling with our Choucroute de la Mer. We decided to buy a bottle of 2017 Riesling Kalkmergel, produced by Weingut Rings. It’s a classic, organic Riesling from the Pfalz in Germany. It is juicy and fresh with balanced acidity. Great combination with the sauerkraut, the fish and the umami from the miso.

What You Need

  • For the Marinated Fish
    • Salmon
    • Haddock
    • Miso
  • For the Choucroute
    • One Shallot
    • 500 grams of Sauerkraut
    • 10 – 20 Juniper Berries
    • Dry White Wine
    • Olive Oil
    • Bay Leaf
    • Butter
  • For the Horseradish Butter
    • Horseradish
    • Soft Butter
  • For the Mash
    • Parsnip
    • Jerusalem Artichoke
    • Parsley Root
    • Or a combination of these
    • White Pepper
    • Crème Fraiche
    • Olive Oil
  • 4 Large Shrimps
  • Kippers

What You Do

This recipe requires a bit of planning!
The fish needs to be marinated for five days. Use a shallow bowl, cover the bottom with miso and place the fish on top of it. Now cover the fish with miso, making sure it’s completely coated. It requires a bit of patience. Cover the bowl with foil and transfer to the refrigerator for 5 days. Check every day and if necessary add some miso. We use miso with less salt (and more flavours). After five days the salmon will have a deep red colour and the white haddock will be also have an beautiful red/brown colour. The miso marinate will also change the structure of the fish, so carefully monitor when frying. We have the best results with thinner pieces of fish.
Four days later (so one day before your want to serve the choucroute de la mer): taste the sauerkraut. If too much acidity, then squeeze and remove some of the liquid. Cut and slice a shallot. Crush the juniper berries (feel free to add a few more, we just love them). Now combine the sauerkraut with the shallot and the berries. Mix. Add white wine, a generous splash of olive oil and a bay leaf. Coat a heavy (iron) oven dish with butter and add the mix. Put aluminium foil on top of it, making sure you press it on the sauerkraut (as if it’s a cartouche). Leave for 4-6 hours in the oven on 80° Celsius or 175° Fahrenheit. Cool and store in the refrigirator for the next day.
Warm the dish in the oven (same temperature, let’s say one hour) and in parallel make the mash. Finish with some crème fraiche, a dash of excellent olive oil and white pepper. Keep warm.
Combine the soft butter with the grated horseradish. Taste and adjust. Set aside.
Clean the prawns without removing the head
Make sure you have three nice, warm pans. One heavy iron skillet for the prawns, two non-sticky ones for the salmon and the haddock.
Wash and dry the salmon and the haddock. Decide on the order of frying. We started with the salmon. We like to have a bit of caramelisation on the salmon.
In parallel (planning!) remove the skin from the kippers. Transfer to the the oven and grill two minutes on the former skin side. Turn, drizzle with some olive oil and grill for another three minutes.
Make sure salmon, haddock, shrimps and kippers are ready to be served at the same time.
Serve the sauerkraut on a warm plate and decorate with salmon, kippers, haddock and shrimps. Add the mash. And don’t forget the horseradish butter!

Choucroute de la Mer © cadwu
Choucroute de la Mer © cadwu

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.

Duck Breast with a Green Pepper Corn Sauce

Ignore The Obvious

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.

Wine Pairing

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.

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

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). 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.

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.