Udon is such a wonderful noodle. What better comfort food than a warm soup made with dashi, vegetables, tofu, udon and thinly sliced spring onions? Perhaps some tempura on top of the soup? Or would you prefer a very simple dish, called Mori Udon? The cold udon is served with a sauce of mirin, dashi and soy sauce on the side. Udon is also a great alternative to Italian pasta, for instance with Caesar’s Mushrooms.
In this recipe we combine udon with roasted bell pepper and Trompettes de la Mort. We’re not sure why, but this combination works really well. Is it because of the smokey aroma of the roasted bell pepper mixed with the aromas of the mushroom? The crispy pancetta in combination with the soft textures of the other ingredients, including the udon? The overall richness and umami thanks to the Trompettes de la Mort?
We enjoyed our pasta with a glass of Bianco di Custoza, 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. A glass of Soave, made from the Garganega grape, will also be an excellent choice. In general you’re looking for a fresh, aromatic dry white wine.
Clean the bell pepper and cut in 4. Transfer to the oven and grill or roast for 10 minutes or until well charred. When still hot, put the bell pepper in a plastic container and close it. After one hour it’s easy to remove the skin of the bell pepper. Slice lengthwise to make nice strips. Set aside. Slice the mushrooms in two and clean them with a soft brush. Check carefully for grit and other things you don’t like to eat. Fill a large pan with water (no salt!) and bring to a boil. Add the udon and cook it according to the instruction. When nearly done, add some cooking liquid to a cup and set aside. Drain the udon. In parallel heat a large heavy iron skillet, add olive oil and fry the mushrooms. Once they become a bit dryer, add the sliced bell pepper. Add the cooked garlic, crush it with a fork and mix. Now add the udon and continue mixing. Add cooking liquid until the pasta is sufficiently moist. Also in parallel: grill the strips of pancetta (perhaps 5 minutes). Add some black pepper to the pasta and serve with the grilled pancetta.
This morning when we looked outside, we saw a grey, foggy city. Knowing it would take hours for the fog to clear, we started thinking about something warm for lunch. Perhaps some soup with crusty bread? We opened our refrigerator. Various mushrooms, thyme, rosemary, cream, a carrot, some left over stock. Yes! We knew what we wanted to cook for lunch: Mushroom Soup with Pancetta. A hearty, rich soup, ideal for a cold, grey day. The combination of mushrooms, pancetta and cream works very well; the celery and leek add complexity and the thyme brings character.
It was much later that afternoon before the fog left the city, but since we also had some left over Chardonnay in the fridge, which we enjoyed with our soup, we didn’t mind that much.
What You Need
Mushrooms (Best is a Mix of Champignons, Shiitake etcetera)
Keep two strips of pancetta apart (to be grilled just before serving). You probably need 4-6 strips in total. Slice the remaining pancetta and fry in olive oil on medium heat. Remove the pancetta from the pan, chop the shallot and glaze it in the fat and perhaps some extra olive oil. Clean and slice the mushrooms, slice half a stalk of celery, half a leek, a small carrot, chop two gloves of garlic and add this to the shallot. Gently fry for a few minutes. Add the pancetta, the stock and the bouquet garni. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni. Blender the soup, pass through a sieve and leave on low heat for 10 minutes. The mushrooms will emulgate the soup, so no need to add a roux. Now it’s time to taste the soup and perhaps add some black pepper. Add cream and fresh thyme and leave for another 5-10 minutes. In the meantime grill the two strips of pancetta until brown and crispy. Cut the stripes in five pieces depending on the size. Serve the soup in a warm bowl with the pancetta on top of it.
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.
Three very different ingredients make for an excellent starter. The combination of seared scallops with soft, fluffy cauliflower purée and crispy grilled pancetta offers lots of flavours. For instance a touch of sweetness thanks to the caramelised scallops and the cauliflower plus lovely saltiness thanks to the scallops and the pancetta.
The combination of these three is not new and many recipes have been published. Various ingredients are added, for instance basil, lemon, capers, an infused oil (with for instance curcuma and fennel), a vinaigrette, apple beignets et cetera. But why would you add something if the combination is already close to perfection? And not difficult to make!
Best to combine with a wine with long, fruity aromas. Given the complexity of the combination the wine should be fresh and light. A Chardonnay with just a touch of oak could also be interesting because it will combine very well the grilled pancetta and seared scallop. We enjoyed our scallops with a glass of Chateau Mourgues Du Gres Rosé. A wine with an intense pink colour, aromas that made us think of strawberries and lemon and with a fruity, long taste with a hint of pepper.
What You Need
For the Seared Scallops
6 fresh Scallops (best if in their shell)
For the Cauliflower Purée
Excellent Olive Oil
For the Crispy Pancetta
6 slices of Pancettta
What You Do
Clean and steam (or cook) the cauliflower until nearly done. Using a blender combine the cauliflower and some olive oil. When smooth pass through a sieve. Add some crème fraîche and fresh white pepper. If you’re happy with the purée, keep it warm and ready. You could prepare the purée a day in advance. Clean the scallops. In parallel set your oven to grill. Transfer the pancetta to the grill. 4 minutes? Heat a non stick pan and fry the scallops quickly. Add a last drop of excellent olive oil to the purée, mix with a spoon and plate up. Perhaps some white pepper on the scallops.
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.
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
100 gram of Fresh Tagliatelle
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.
We love our quails! They have a delicate taste, but they also allow you to add strong flavours like sage, bay leaf or black olives. We prefer small and tasty black olives (in oil) for instance Taggia olives from Italy. Prune-wise Pruneaux d’Agen are ideal, but in general the prune should be moist, sweet and full of flavours.
A medium bodied red wine, not too complex, will work very well; for instance a Shiraz. We enjoyed our quail with a glass of Puech d’Hortes from La Colombette made from syrah and grenache grapes. The wine should balance with the sweetness (sage, Pruneaux d’Agen), the nutty character of the pancetta and the bitterness of the olives and the sage.
What You Need
50 grams of Pancetta
Sage (fresh, 6 leaves or so)
6 Pruneaux d’Agen
10 or more Black Olives
What You Do
Make sure the quail is sufficiently fat, not damaged and not frozen. Clean the inside of the quails with kitchen paper and remove anything that’s left. We prefer it if the head is still attached to the body. This allows you to use the skin of the neck, after having removed the head and the spine. Cut 4 prunes, the pancetta, the sage and the olives in smaller bits and mix together. Now stuff the quail with the mixture and finish with a prune. Use kitchen string to close the quail. Pre-heat your oven to 220° Celsius or 430° Fahrenheit. Put the quails in a skillet with olive oil. Put some butter on top of the quail. Make sure the breast is downward facing. This way the fat will go towards the breast, making sure these are nice and moist. Put in upper half of oven. After 10 minutes turn the quails and label fat over the breast. After another 10 minutes your quails should be ready and golden. This of course depends on your oven. You may want to give the quails a few extra minutes. Remove from the oven, cover the quails with aluminium foil and let them rest for 10 minutes. Remove the kitchen string before serving.
Finally! After weeks of patience you’ve just harvested your home grown Oyster Mushrooms. Or for those among us with less patience: you’ve just bought some A+ Oyster Mushrooms. Let’s discuss some misunderstandings about oyster mushrooms. First of all, yes, they can be eaten raw (especially the pink and yellow variety), but as always with mushrooms, some people simply don’t agree with them. Cooking is a way of removing the toxic element. Second aspect, oyster mushrooms do have a taste of their own. It’s delicate and it combines really well with eggs, chives and pancetta, but mind the balance. And finally, they are (indeed) a bit soggy. So don’t try to fry them and don’t use them in a sauce where you want a certain consistency. Use this aspect of the oyster mushroom, don’t fight it.
This recipe is clearly inspired by the wonderful salade paysanne, which is a combination of ingredients such as mesclun, egg, bacon, potatoes, oil and vinegar. (and never pine nuts, balsamic vinegar, tomatoes and mayonnaise).
You can serve the salad as a lunch with a glass of Pinot Grigio or a nice rosé from the Provence region, but why not be a bit bold and serve it with a red wine? Our suggestion would be a Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais Cru (so not nouveau or village).
What You Need
What You Do
Tear the oyster mushrooms into smaller bits, following the lamellae. Don’t use a knife. Make sure the mesclun is ready to eat. Cut the pancetta into smaller bits. Don’t use bacon because the saltiness of the bacon will overpower the mushrooms. In parallel gently fry the oyster mushrooms in olive oil and butter, just to give them warmth and allow for the taste to develop. Remove from the pan and set aside, preferable on a warm plate. In a second skillet fry the pancetta in olive oil. Add olive oil and white wine vinegar to the remaining juices of the oyster mushroom and create a warm vinaigrette. This way you capture the juices and taste of the mushrooms. In a third pan cook the quail eggs until just set. When using fresh chicken eggs cook them until runny or even better, poach the eggs. We prefer using quail eggs given the size of the salad and the more present taste of the quail eggs. Create the salad by tossing the mesclun, pancetta, chives, black pepper and half of the mushrooms with the vinaigrette. Serve with the other half of the mushrooms on top of the salad, sprinkle some chives on top. Serve with crusted bread.