The Gilt-Head (Sea) Bream, better known as Daurade, Dorade (Royale) or Orata is a popular fish in France, Greece, Italy, Spain and many other Mediterranean countries. Delicious when stuffed with herbs such as thyme, rosemary or marjoram, grilled and served with a slice of lemon. The firm, juicy meat is aromatic and a culinary treat. Serving a whole fish can be a bit uncomfortable. You must remove the head, dissect the fish and look carefully for hidden bones. Serving a fillet makes enjoying fish much easier. The downside is that a fillet is less tasty and perhaps a touch dry. When you buy a fillet, make sure it’s fresh and enjoy it the same day. We combine the Dorade with typical Mediterranean ingredients. A combination that is both light and tasty.
The dish is full of flavours, so we would suggest a glass of Spanish Verdejo or Italian Custoza. In general you’re looking for a full, fragrant dry white wine with a fruity aroma and a round, long, full and dry taste.
What You Need
200 grams of Dorade Fillet
2 ripe Tomatoes
1 Garlic Clove
Capers (in brine)
What You Do
Remove the pits from the tomato and dice. Chop the garlic. Coarsely slice the capers. Add olive oil to the pan, heat the garlic for a few seconds, add tomatoes. Leave for a few minutes, add the capers. Taste and adjust. One minute before serving add half of the basil. Add black pepper. In parallel fry the dorade until golden. Serve on a hot plate and add the remaining basil. PS When you use salted capers, wash these thoroughly to remove the salt. You need lemon juice to get the right acidity.
There must be hundreds of recipes for Caponata. The dish originates from Sicily and should contain (at least, we think so) eggplant (aubergine), celery and vinegar. Sugar is often added to enhance the sweetness and intensity. Nowadays it’s often a combination with tomatoes, shallot, capers, olives and perhaps raisins, pine nuts, oregano and basil. The flavour of caponata should be slightly bitter (the eggplant) with a touch of sweetness (sugar, onion), acidity and saltiness (celery). The texture should be moist, but not sauce-like. We love to enhance the flavours by adding mushrooms. And since we’re not keen on using sugar, we make sure the onions bring sufficient sweetness.
Enjoy your caponata as an appetizer, for instance with some crusted bread or bruschetta. A nice glass of white wine or rosé will be perfect with it. It’s also great as a side dish, with fish or even merguez.
Whatever the combination, caponata must be made one day ahead.
What You Need
200 grams of Mushrooms (preferably a mix with Shiitake)
1 Red Onion
1 Garlic Clove
1 cm Red Chilli Pepper
2 tablespoons of White Wine Vinegar
What You Do
Wash the eggplant and slice. We slice the eggplant lengthwise in 8 and then we slice these strips. Salt them generously, transfer to a sieve and allow to drain for one or two hours. The more liquid they lose, the better! Rinse the eggplant with cold water and dry them with a kitchen cloth. Fry the aubergine in a heavy iron skillet until nicely golden brown. Set aside. Slice the red onion, clean and chop the mushrooms. Chop the garlic and the chilli pepper finely. Add some olive oil to the pan and fry the onion. Remove and set aside. Now fry the mushrooms. After 5 minutes or so add the garlic and the chilli pepper. After a few minutes add the mushrooms and the eggplant to the pan. Add chopped parsley and celery. Mix well. Add two spoons of white wine vinegar and leave on low heat for 10 minutes. Add black pepper to taste. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Keep in the refrigerator for the next day.
Thyme, Oregano, Basil, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage: all powerful Mediterranean herbs. Oregano, or Wild Marjoram, is an interesting one. Probably best known as the herbal ingredient of pizza. A dried herb, one to store in a jar, forget about and then use beyond its ‘use-by date’ and be disappointed. Such a pity because fresh oregano is aromatic, slightly bitter, pungent and perhaps chemical, depending on the variety, of course. Great to combine with lamb, a tomato salad, grilled fish and of course chicken. It’s also great to flavour olive oil with oregano. So ask your supermarket or local greengrocer for fresh oregano!
We enjoyed our chicken and oregano with a glass of Rioja Paternina Reserva 2015 produced by Marques de la Concordia. Reserva means that the wine ages for a minimum of 3 years, with at least 1 year in oak barrels. The grapes are tempranillo, mazuelo and garnacha; very typical for Rioja. It’s a powerful, full-bodied red wine with aromas of black cherries and touch of vanilla and various spices. The wine goes very well with the velvety chicken and the very present flavours of the oregano.
Halve the thighs, heat a heavy iron skillet, add olive oil and quickly fry the meat on all sides. Reduce the heat and add two third of the chopped oregano. Keep on low to medium heat for 10 minutes or so. Add some chicken stock, just to deglaze the pan. You will notice that the juices becomes green thanks to the oregano, so please coat the meat with the cooking liquid. Just before serving add the remaining oregano, some freshly ground black pepper and mix. Serve with green beans, cooked in water with fresh garlic, wrapped in pancetta (after having grated some nutmeg over the beans) and then fried for 5 minutes in some olive oil.
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.
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
Bunch of Sage
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.
Mussels with Anise is light, tasty and refreshing; it is an excellent lunch, especially when overlooking the Mediterranean (as we did when we were in Corsica), but it’s also an excellent starter. Use crushed anise seeds for the sauce. Don’t use star anise, it has a much sweeter taste; something we don’t recommend for this sauce.
It’s possible (and recommended especially when you have guests) to cook the mussels the day before. It’s a matter of cooking until just ready and quickly removing them from the shell. Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator. The next day you simply add them to your sauce and warm the mussels.
We enjoyed our mussels with a glass of Picpoul de Pinet. Let’s explain the name: the grape is called Picpoul Blanc. And the vineyards belong to a village called Pinet; close to the Etang de Thau in the south of France between Narbonne and Montpellier. The terroir (think calcareous soil, clay, quartz) is influenced by the sea, which is reflected in the mineral taste of the wine. The story is that Picpoul could be read as pique poul which translates into something like ‘stings the lip’; a nice reflection of the high acidity of the grapes. This acidity guarantees a refreshing white wine, which is exceptional given the warm climate. The wine is bright yellow with a very subtle touch of green. It’s aromatic, floral and fruity. The taste has notes of citrus and hopefully some bitterness, which will make it into a really interesting wine. To be combined with oysters, mussels, fruit de mer, skate and fish in general. We enjoyed our mussels with a glass of very nice Picpoul de Pinet AOP les Flamants.
Warm a fairly big pan and gently glaze the sliced onion in oil. Then add the chopped garlic and gently cook the garlic and the onion for another 5 minutes. Add a glass of white wine and the bouquet garni and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, allowing the tastes to integrate.
In parallel warm the fish stock and some white wine with the crushed anise seeds in a second pan. Add some mustard (to get a thicker sauce), butter and cream. gently warm the sauce on low heat for 5 minutes.
Turn the bigger pan to maximum heat and when really hot add the mussels and close the pan with the lid. Listen and observe: you will be able to hear when content of the pan is becoming hot again. You will see steam, more steam. Check the mussels, close the lid, listen and observe. Taste the sauce, maybe add a bit of the cooking liquid. Remove the mussels from the pan with a slotted spoon and quickly remove the mussels from their shells and transfer them to the sauce. Make sure the mussels are nicely coated with the sauce.
We prefer our anise seed mussels with crusted bread.
Many, far too many years ago we were walking along the Mediterranean coast, enjoying the sea, the sun and the company of a dear friend. She asked us if we would like to eat tellines for dinner. Of course, we replied, but what are tellines? She smiled and said I’ll show you. She walked to the sea and kneeled down, just where the sand and the sea meet. All you needed to do was move your fingers through the sand, just under the surface and feel. She harvested a few tellines, opened them with her fingers, washed them in the sea and that’s how we enjoyed our very first tellines, fresh from the sea. So simple, to tasty, so good. We harvested many more and went back to her house where we cooked the tellines in a hot skillet and enjoyed them with a beautiful local rosé.
Harvesting tellines (or in France tenilles) is simple; knowing where you can do this is the challenge. Fortunately you can (occasionally) find them on the market.
It’s possible to use other small clams, but the fun of tellines is that they open quickly when in the pan, making sure they remain juicy.
Here is what you need:
300 grams of tellines
one Garlic glove
Wash the tellines, preferably using salted water. Discard ones with a small hole and ones that are broken. Chop the shallot (you probably need half of it) and the garlic very fine. Heat the skillet, add the oil, the shallot, the garlic and the tellines and cook until the tellines are open. You probably want to add a splash of white wine during the cooking process. Serve the tellines on a warm plate with black pepper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Enjoy with a glass of Côtes de Provence rosé, for instance anEstandonfrom the Var region. No cutlery needed!