For some reason we were talking about summer, about typical summer food, about strawberries, green peas, melon, okra, peaches, spinach and new potatoes. Of course, most of these are available all year round, but we like to enjoy the season. Today was different, we really wanted to eat strawberries and we decided to make Eton Mess. According to Hilaire Walden in her excellent Book of Traditional English Cookery the strawberry dessert is eaten on June 4th in Eton during a picnic for pupils and parents of Eton College, as part of the annual prize giving ceremony. Others say it was first served during the annual cricket match between pupils of Harrow School and Eton College. One anecdote is that a chef planned to make Pavlova but it collapsed, the other anecdote is that the Pavlova was perfect but a dog sat on it, making a mess, an Eton Mess.
Mascarpone is sometimes added to the cream, but that’s a bit over the top. No need to add sugar to the cream because the meringue is sufficiently sweet. Hilaire Walden suggests soaking the strawberries for two hours or longer in kirsch, an idea we liked. She also suggests using ready-made meringues, which make it even easier to make Eton Mess.
What You Need
Kirsch (or Brandy)
What You Do
Clean the fruit, chop, place in a bowl and sprinkle with kirsch or brandy (one or two small tablespoons per portion). Leave in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Whip the cream. Add some lemon zest, mix. Start assembling the Eton Mess: first a layer of merengue crumbles, then fruit, then whipped cream, then a second layer, same order but make sure you can see some of the red fruit. Serve immediately.
In case you want to make your own (French) meringues: you need 2 egg whites and 100 grams of (finely granulated) sugar. The weight ratio should be 1:2, egg white to sugar. Set your oven to 90 °C or 190 °F. Whip the egg whites until somewhat stiff. Start slowly adding the sugar and continue whipping until the egg white mixture shows stiff peaks. Pipe the mixture on a baking sheet, transfer to the oven for 2 hours. The shape of the meringues is not important because you will need crumble for the Eton Mess
A few weeks ago, we made lemon curd using kaffir limes. The curd is sweet, smooth, rich, tart and slightly floral. It made us think of tarte au citron, or even better of tartelette aux framboises. What a delicious idea! Lemon and raspberries are a match made in heaven.
However, we must admit, we’re not too familiar with patisserie. We searched the internet a bit, opened a few cookbooks and to our surprise we found a range of suggestions for the dough of the tartelette. Typical the moment to make life simple and rely on the choice of an expert. In our case Dutch patissier Cees Holtkamp. Renowned for his excellent patisserie and his truly delicious croquettes. If you ever have an opportunity to visit the shop in Amsterdam, please, please do so. His book (in English it’s called Dutch Pastry) is available via the well known channels. You could of course also rely on a French classic, for instance Tarte Tatin by Ginette Mathiot.
Back to our plan: we made pâte sucrée for our tartelette with fresh raspberries. The result looks good and tastes even better.
We use tartelette moulds with a diameter of approximately 7 centimetres (2,75 inches). The butter must be soft but not warm (18 °C or 65 °F). Beat the egg. Combine flour, sugar and salt. Dice the butter and knead with the mixture. When well mixed, add the egg and knead until you have a nice dough. Leave to rest in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
Coat the moulds with butter. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Place it on a floured surface and roll it out with a rolling pin. Perhaps dust the dough with flour. Divide the dough into 6 portions and make small circles. Press the pastry onto the bottom and to the sides. Cut of overhanging dough. Transfer to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 175 °C or 350 °F. Line with parchment paper and use dry beans to fill the moulds. Blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove the paper and the beans. Bake for another 10 minutes. When golden brown, remove the tartelette from the mould and let cool on a grid. When cool, add the lemon curd and decorate with the raspberries.
Both Salade Landaise and Salade Périgourdine combine cold ingredients (salad, tomatoes, green beans) and warm ingredients (lardons, confit of duck gizzards) with a dressing made of oil, mustard and (red wine) vinegar. Serve the salad with excellent bread and a glass of rosé and you will have a perfect lunch. Our salad is perhaps a bit too subtle for a hearty lunch, but it does work very well as an additional starter.
Combining wine and salad is never obvious. In this case we need to consider the raspberry flavour, the umami from the cèpes and the duck plus the acidity of the dressing. We choose Domaine de Rimauresq Côtes de Provence Cru Classé rosé. A classic wine from the French Provence with grapes such as grenache noir, mourvèdre, ugniblanc and rolle. The wine comes with delicate fruity, fresh flavours and aromas. It is very well balanced, dry and mouth filling and it combines beautifully with all aspects of the salad. In general you’re looking for a rosé that has complexity and length, without being overpowering.
An hour before serving, transfer the slices of smoked duck breast from the refrigerator to a plate. The duck must be at room temperature. Clean the mushrooms and slice. Heat a large iron skillet and add olive oil. Fry the mushrooms and when coloured reduce the heat somewhat. In parallel make a dressing by combining excellent olive oil, white wine vinegar and raspberry vinegar. Taste and adjust. Perhaps some black pepper. Add the salad and toss. Add some of the smaller bits of mushroom and toss again. Quickly serve the salad, adding 2 or 3 slices of smoked duck per person plus the fried cèpes.
Many years ago, we had the pleasure of being regular guests at the Auberge des Seigneurs in Vence, France. In those days the restaurant offered a wide range of beautiful dishes from the days of King François I, such as blue trout, roasted chicken, quail withPruneaux d’Agen and tender lamb cooked on a spit before an open fire in the dining room. Ah, Madame Rodi, we treasure these evenings, the beautiful food, the local wine, your dog (known to regular guests as monsieur Tim) and your infinite hospitality. We also remember your wonderful Coca Cola Light, which you would serve after dinner. It came in a huge Biot bottle and to the surprise, astonishment, shock of most of your new guests it was everything but light. It was a strong grappa with Boutons de Fleur d’Oranger (orange blossom buds). We can still see the broad smile on your face when yet another guest would take too big a sip of your powerful concoction.
Adding fruit can be a disastrous idea (just think about strawberry tea or sole Picasso) but the touch of acidity of raspberries makes them ideal to combine with vinegar. We follow Madame Rodi’s approach when making raspberry vinegar: simply combine the two and enjoy.
Use the raspberry vinegar wisely, for instance combine it with strong flavours, preferably umami. We use it in our favourite autumn salad with Porcini and Smoked Duck. The colour, the aromas, the taste: the vinegar and the raspberries integrate perfectly.
What You Need
250 grams of Excellent Organic Raspberries
250 ml White Vinegar
What You Do
Clean the raspberries, crush them with a fork and combine with the vinegar. Put in a jar and transfer to the refrigerator for one week, making sure to stir at least once a day. Pass the mixture through a sieve, applying light pressure only. Pass the vinegar through a white cloth, squeeze very gentle. The result is probably a bit cloudy, so leave for a few days before using.
Such a lovely and simple dessert! Provided of course it’s made the right way. So no milk, no yoghurt, no cream cheese, no whipped cream and most certainly no whipped egg white! Just cream. Cooked Cream. And preferably cream with lots of fat because then you will need less gelatine. Fresh raspberries are preferred, but no worries, the frozen ones are also very tasty and suitable for making a coulis.
What You Need (for 4)
For the Panna Cotta
500 ml fresh Cream
3,5 leaves of Gelatine
1 Vanilla Bean
25 gram Sugar
For the Raspberry Coulis
250 grams of Raspberries
25 grams of Sugar
1 tablespoon of Water
What You Do
The recipe is for 6 panna cotta (actually we should say 6 panne cotte). Slowly bring the cream to the boil. Add the seeds of the vanilla but also add the remainder of the bean. Now keep close to boiling for 15 minutes. Stir when necessary. Remove from the heat and while stirring add the sugar until totally dissolved. Now pass through a sieve to make sure you remove all the bits you don’t want. Follow the instruction of the gelatine and add the leaves. Stir well until homogeneous. Cool the liquid somewhat before filling the forms. We used a silicone mold. Nice and easy! The only thing you need to do is to make the mold a bit moist with water. Let the panna cotta cool and then store in the refrigerator until set. Don’t forget to seal with cling foil, otherwise your panna cotta will absorb aromas from other food in the refrigerator. Heat the raspberries with the sugar and water. Cook gently for 5 minutes. Pass through s sieve (if necessary twice) making sure you apply some pressure but not too much. You don’t want pips in your coulis! Let cool for 30 minutes before transferring to the refrigerator.