Fish Cakes

They are so tempting! The crunchy crust, the flaky texture and the flavour, especially when combined with mayonnaise and lemon. When we see them at the supermarket or at the fishmonger, we can’t always resist buying them. But we should resist the temptation because most fish cakes should be called salty potato cakes. Hardly any fish, limited herbs, the structure of mashed potato and lots of salt to disguise the lack of real flavour.

It’s not a lot of work to prepare your own fish cakes, so be brave and ignore the factory-made ones. The recipe is very flexible, you could make a Thai version (Tod Mun Pla) with lemon grass, red curry, onions and garlic, a traditional version with stockfish, or cakes with salmon, with shrimps etcetera. To be served with Tartar sauce, sweet chili sauce, dill sauce or perhaps hoisin. We prefer Jean Beddington‘s fish cakes (served with a beetroot chutney) or a more traditional version that focuses on the fish, with herbs and black pepper in a supporting role, breaded with our home-made breadcrumbs.

Wine Pairing

Let’s be flexible, a nice glass of beer or a not too complex white wine, it’s all fine. The salad, its dressing and the lemon will be rather present. Perhaps a Verdejo, Pinot Blanc or a Picpoul de Pinet?

What You Need

  • For the Cakes
    • 225 grams of Haddock
    • 100 grams of Potato
    • 1 egg yolk
    • Parsley
    • Chives
    • Black Pepper
    • Butter
  • 1 Egg
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Olive Oil and Butter
  • Salad with a dressing made of Olive Oil and White Wine Vinegar
  • Mayonnaise
  • Lemon

What You Do

It’s best to make the mixture one day ahead. This allows for the flavours to integrate.
Gently fry the haddock in butter. You’re looking for a light golden color, just to give it some extra flavour. When nearly done, transfer to a plate and let cool. Cook the potato until soft. Let cool. Use a fish knive to make fish flakes. Use a fork to mash the potato. Chop lots of parsley and chives. Combine fish (and its juices), potato, egg yolk, herbs and a generous amount of black pepper. Let cool and store in the refrigerator until the next day.
Beat the egg, add a few drops of lemon to the mayonnaise and heat a heavy iron skillet or a non-stick pan. Make 4 fish cakes. Coat them with egg, then cover with breadcrumbs and fry in butter and/or olive oil on all sides. In total 6-10 minutes. Serve with a salad, mayonnaise and a wedge of lemon.

PS

Making your own breadcrumbs is simple and worthwhile. The breadcrumbs at the supermarket are made of cardboard; yet another product you shouldn’t buy. Toast slices of old bread and let cool. Cut in smaller bits and then use a cutter or blender to make the crumbs. Done. They keep very well in the freezer.

Tartelette aux Framboises

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.

What You Need

  • Pâte Sucrée
    • 125 grams of Butter
    • 125 grams of Flour
    • 40 grams of Sugar
    • Pinch of Salt
    • 1 Egg
  • Lemon Curd
  • Fresh Raspberries

What You Do

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.

Quail à la Roden

A few excellent ingredients is sometimes all you need to cook a wonderful dish. In this case you need quail, shallot, olive oil, butter, sage and Marsala.
We love the delicate, pleasantly intense flavour of quails. They are great to combine with strong flavours like bay leaf, pancetta and prunes but in this case, we follow a recipe by Claudia Roden, as published in her excellent book The Food of Italy. We tweaked it a bit, so please buy Claudia Roden’s book when you want to make the original.
Marsala is a fortified wine from Sicily. Perhaps you know it as something sold in small bottles, especially for cooking purposes. Never buy this nasty product because it can’t be compared to real Marsala. Same story for the small ‘Madeira’ bottles.
Quails must be sufficiently fat and undamaged. We prefer the French label rouge quails. Not cheap, but a wealth of flavours. 

Wine Pairing

The dish comes with a gentle, intense and slightly sweet taste thanks to the sage, the marsala and the quail. You could go for a medium bodied red wine. We enjoyed a glass of Domaine Vico Corse Le Bois du Cerf Rosé 2021 with our quail. This is an exceptional rosé from Corsica. It is made from grenache and sciacarello grapes. It is medium bodied and fresh with aromas of red fruit. Its taste is complex, long and fruity.

What You Need

  • 2 Quails
  • 1 Shallot
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • 4 Leaves of Sage
  • Dry or Medium Dry Marsala
  • Chicken Stock
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Clean the inside of the quail with a bit of kitchen paper and remove anything that’s left. Check for remaining feathers and shafts. Gently fry the chopped shallot in butter and olive oil until soft. Remove the shallot from the pan, increase the temperature and fry the quails until golden-brown. Reduce the heat, add shallot and sage. Pour in marsala and stock. Cook the quails for 20 minutes until done, turning them over regularly. Transfer the quails to a warm oven (60˚ C or 140˚ F). Reduce the sauce, taste, add black pepper, perhaps some freshly chopped sage and diced cold butter to thicken the sauce. Serve the quail on top of the sauce.
Claudia Roden serves the quails with risotto. 

La Cuisine Niçoise

There are not many cities that can rightfully claim to have their own ‘cuisine’. The French city of Nice is one of them. Just think about Salade Niçoise, Bagna Caude, Tourte aux Blettes and Socca. Strongly influenced by Italian cuisine it is flavourful, rich and varied.

Hélène Barale was owner and chef of the restaurant Chez Hélène in the Rue Beaumont, number 39 in Nice. Here she prepared delicious, regional and traditional food. Ravioli à la Niçoise, gnocchi’s, panisses, pissaladière, ragout de mouton, loup grillé, pattissoun, everything freshly cooked in her kitchen for 150 guests per day.

Three examples

Panisses are made with chickpea flour, water, salt and olive oil. You make a hot dough, allow it to cool and set, then cut it into chips and deep fry. Serve with black pepper. Delicious.
Obviously you also want to know what Pattissoun is! If you search for it, you will find references to a nicely shaped squash, but Hélène Barale’s recipe is for a cake. She makes it with flour, yeast, sugar, raisins, orange zest, rum and eau de fleurs d’oranger (orange flower water). Sounds absolutely lovely.
Another very tasty recipe is for an omelette with artichokes. It’s a combination of onions, garlic, artichoke and eggs. Straightforward recipe, yummy result.

Retirement

She retired at the age of 88 in 2004. For a few years the restaurant was a museum, but it is now closed. Thankfully her son Paule Laudon wrote down 106 recipes of his mother’s cuisine. His style is very clear so it’s not too difficult to prepare the dishes. The book looks like a cahier and it is edited with much love and care. It comes with an interesting introduction by Paule Laudon, the text of Nissa La Bella, which is the unofficial anthem of the city (O la miéu bella Nissa/Regina de li flou/Li tiéu viehi taulissa/Iéu canterai toujou/etcetera, meaning something like O my beautiful Nice/Queen of all flowers/Your old rooftops/I will always sing of you/etcetera) and pictures of the restaurant. The book does not contain pictures of the dishes.

La cuisine Niçoise d’Hélène Barale (in French only) was first published in 2006 and is now in its 11th edition. You can buy it via the usual channels and the French publisher for € 15,90.

Artichoke à la Barigoule

It’s the time of year to enjoy artichokes: steamed, as a salad, in a pie or perhaps à la Barigoule. This is a rather intriguing recipe from the French Provence region. There are lots of variations, so we looked in books like La Cuisinière Provençale and La Cuisine Niçoise d’Hélène Barale to find the ‘original’ recipe.

Obviously you want to know what ‘barigoule’ means. According to Hélène Barale ‘barigoule’ means thyme, which is odd because she doesn’t add thyme to her Artichoke à la Barigoule. Is it perhaps derived from the Latin word mauruculai (meaning morel according to some and saffron milk cap to others) as the Larousse suggests? But what is the link between artichokes and mushrooms?

Three Versions

We found three different ways of preparing Artichoke à la Barigoule: cooked with onions, white wine and carrot, stuffed and preserved with lots of citrus. The stuffed one is probably the original version because the artichoke is stuffed with a mixture of mushrooms, thyme and garlic. Which makes the Larousse explanation more likely.

Preparing Artichokes a la Barigoule is quite a bit of work and the result, we must admit, looks like an old fashioned underbaked meatball. We could imagine you serve the artichoke halfway the recipe. If you do, best is to use smaller artichokes.

Wine Pairing

It’s not straightforward to pair artichokes with wine. According to various researchers this is due to cynarin, a chemical especially found in the leaves of the artichoke. When the wine and the cynarin meet in your mouth, the natural sweetness of the wine is enhanced, making it taste too sweet. So you have to pair artichokes with a bone-dry, crisp, unoaked white wine with clear, present acidity. For instance Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner or Albariño. 

What You Need

  • Artichokes
  • Cooking liquid
    • Shallot
    • Carrot
    • Olive oil
    • White wine
    • Water
    • Thyme
  • Filling
    • Mushrooms
    • Egg yolk
    • Garlic
    • Shallot
    • 2 Strips of Bacon
    • Thyme
    • Black Pepper
  • Excellent Olive Oil

What You do

Remove outer leaves and stem of the artichokes. Add oil to a large pan, gently fry the chopped shallot and the chopped carrot. After 10 minutes or so add white wine, thyme and some water. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the artichokes to the liquid, close the pan and allow to cook and steam on low heat for 45-60 minutes or until nearly done. You could decide to stop here and serve the artichoke with the (reduced) sauce.
Let the artichokes cool, remove the leaves and the centre choke (the hairy part).  Use a spoon to remove the ‘meat’ from the leaves (bracts) of the artichokes. Set aside. In a small skillet heat some oil, add chopped shallot, glaze, add sliced bacon, mushrooms, garlic and thyme. Leave for 10 minutes until done. Add the artichoke meat from the leaves, stir, add the egg yolk and mix. Add freshly grounded black pepper. Use a food processor to make the mixture smoother, but not too smooth. Fill the artichokes with the mixture. It should look like an oversized golf ball on top of the bottom of the artichoke. You will probably have too much filling, which is fine. Gently transfer the artichokes to the pan with cooking liquid and allow to steam and warm for 30 minutes. Now transfer the artichokes to a warm oven (60 ˚C or 140 ˚F).  Add the reaming mixture to the liquid, use a powerful blender to create a sauce. Pass through a sieve and blender some more. Set the blender to low speed and add excellent olive oil. Taste and adjust. Serve the filled artichokes on a small plate with the sauce.

The Food of Italy

In 1990 Claudia Roden published The Food of Italy, a book based on her articles in the Sunday Times. She researched Italian cuisine for over a year, traveling throughout the country, visiting cities and villages, talking to people and enjoying their way of preparing food. 

If you open The Food of Italy, you will notice that the table of contents is very much a list of regions. Every chapter begins with an introduction that helps you understand the region. For instance, when she writes about Lombardy, she writes about themes like economy, the countryside (Lago Maggiore, Lago di Como), the cuisine, the renaissance, its main products (rice), meat (Lombardy is known for its pigs), cities (Milan being its main city) and of course its wine (sparkling wine from Franciacorta). After having read the introduction, you will have a much better understanding of the dishes from that region.

Traditional and Local

The book is about traditional local food. When she was once asked why she would write such a book when all the world is changing and cooking is becoming more global and becoming the same all over the world, she answered “What appeals and fascinates and touches the heart is that what distinguishes Italy, which recalls her past and is part of the prestigious heritage and traditions.” We couldn’t agree more!

We prepared a dish from Lombardy, a simple and very tasty combination of Quail, Shallot, Sage, Butter, Oil and (dry) Marsala. It is served with Risotto. In one of our next posts we will describe the dish in more detail.

The Food of Italy is available via your local bookshop or the usual channels for something like 20 euro or US dollar (paperback). A beautifully illustrated hardcover is also available. Other publications by Claudia Roden include books on Mediterranean Food (thus paving the way for chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi), on the joy of Outdoor Eating, on Picnics, Coffee and Spanish Food. 

PS

Marsala is a fortified wine from Sicily. Perhaps you know it as something sold in small bottles, especially for cooking purposes. Never buy this nasty product. It has nothing to do with Marsala. Same story for the small ‘Madeira’ bottles. It’s a bit of a challenge but try to buy dry Marsala for this dish and next time you’re making Tiramisu, use sweet Marsala.

Lemon Curd

A Lemon Meringue Pie, a Tarte au Citron or Scones with Lemon Curd: tasty, refreshing, bitter, sour, a bit sharp and sweet. We love it! Provided of course that the lemon is more than just juicy and sour.

This has been a bit of an issue over the past years. Similar to the German consumers who complained about the watery and flavourless Dutch tomatoes they bought around 1990, we think that most lemons lack aroma and taste. We tried limes, bought more expensive lemons, added a bit of yuzu, but in the end, we still missed the true taste and aroma of an old-fashioned lemon.

Until one day we bought a Bergamot lemon. Its aroma is intense, floral and long. The juice is sour, deeply citrusy, refreshing and bright. Exactly what we were looking for! We went home and prepared a lovely curd.

Recently we had a similar experience when we visited a dear friend. She grows a Kaffir Lime tree, also known as Makrut Lime, in her garden mainly because she wants to use the fresh leaves in Thai and Indonesian dishes such as Tom Yum, Soto Ayam and various curries. The leaves have a complex citrus flavour with floral notes. We talked about the lovely yellow fruit and how you could use its very aromatic zest as well.
The fruit contains little juice, so when preparing a curd with Kaffir limes, you need to add lime, Bergamot or lemon juice.

What You Need

  • 65 ml of Lemon, Lime, Bergamot and/or Kaffir Lime Juice
  • 65 grams of Butter
  • 100 grams of Sugar
  • One Egg
  • Zest

What You Do

Beat the egg, melt the butter and combine all ingredients. Make sure the sugar is dissolved. Cook Au Bain Marie until you have the right consistency. Or transfer to your microwave, put it on 50% or 70% power and heat with intervals of 20-30 seconds. Mix between the intervals. This is a very precise way of heating the mixture and it gives you full control over the process. Towards the end of the process you may want to reduce the power or shorten the intervals. The percentage and the duration of the intervals depend on your microwave and the bowl you use. We use a microwave saucepan (£1,29 only) and it works perfectly. The material doesn’t absorb warmth, so the mixture doesn’t get extra heated when you stop the microwave. Pass through a sieve (you don’t want the zest in the curd), cool in a water bassin and store in a jar.
The curd keeps for a week in the refrigerator .

PS

Around 1992 a German television program characterised the Dutch tomatoes as watery and tasteless, and called them ‘wasserbombe’. The short-term impact was enormous: the Dutch tomato went from 50% market share in Germany to something close to zero. Longer term the impact was very different: Dutch producers invested in their product, making their tomatoes tastier, richer and more diverse.

Cooking Techniques

We all love reading recipes, trying to prepare something yummy, surprise our friends and create something great. A tasty strawberry jam that makes you think of summer, a choucroute as it could be served in the Alsace, a soup that warms you in winter or asparagus a la Flamande, all delicious.

Recipes basically have two components: the ingredients (what you need) and the actions (what you do). These actions may seem simple but can be challenging, for instance: ‘chop the onion’. Sounds simple, until you see how a chef chops an onion and you compare their result with your own. Another one: ‘poach the egg’.

Reference

When we’re not sure how to do something, we open our copy of Le Cordon Bleu Complete Cooking Techniques by Jenny Wright and Eric Treuille, first published in 1997. It’s such a great book! It describes over 700 cooking techniques and has more than 2,000 pictures to help you understand the techniques. The book includes 200+ recipes, an overview of kitchen aids and utensils plus detailed information about meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, game, nuts etcetera. If you wonder how to slice a pineapple, don’t know how to glace a pie, in doubt how to fry a pork chop, want to prepare your fish en papillotte, then you simply open the book and find the answer.

Institute

Le Cordon Bleu is an exceptional institute. It was founded in Paris in 1895 and today it is a network of culinary and hospitality schools in 20 countries. Le Cordon Bleu combines innovation and creativity with tradition through courses, workshop, educational programs and books. Currently they offer books about ChocolatePastry and Classic Recipes.

Le Cordon Bleu Complete Cooking Techniques is unfortunately a bit expensive (we saw a hardcover for over € 250,00), so you may want to visit a second-hand bookshop when you’re keen to buy it. Don’t be bothered if it looks a bit off, it just means it was often used, which is to be expected with such a helpful book.

Clam Chowder

We have fond memories of the food we enjoyed when in New England: local oysters, lobster, Boston cream pie and of course clam chowder. Ah, yes, fond memories indeed.
Since then, clam chowder has become one of our favourite starters. Unfortunately, most restaurants (even in New England!) turn the clam chowder into a potato soup and even worse: they used canned clams. Help! 

The main ingredients of New England clam chowder should of course be lots of fresh clams plus vegetables, bacon, cream and potato. The soup must be about clams, with all the other ingredients in a supporting role.

We’re not from New England, so our clam chowder is far from original. But being Dutch we love our seafood and most certainly do we love our kokkels, also known as the common cockle. You can find a probably more original Manhatten version (meaning: without cream) in The Silver Palate Cookbook.

Finding the right potato is a bit of a struggle, also because some recipes suggest using waxy potatoes, so potatoes that remain firm. Not a good idea because it means that the potato doesn’t thicken the soup and the potato is far too present. We prefer using a starchy potato, one you would use for a purée, mash or mousseline. If you can find one with a golden colour, that’s even better. If you’re familiar with vichyssoise, then use the same potato.

What You Need

  • 500 grams of Clams, preferably washed
  • Chopped Carrot, Celeriac, Onion and Leek
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Bay Leaf, some Thyme)
  • 4 strips of Bacon
  • White Wine
  • Water
  • 200 grams of Starchy Potato
  • 50 ml Cream
  • Olive Oil
  • White pepper

What You Do

Check the clams: discard broken ones or ones that will not close. Add a little olive oil to a pan and then chopped carrot, celeriac, onion and leek. Leave for 20 minutes until soft and sweet. Add the chopped bacon, fry for a few minutes until slightly crispy. Now add white wine, water and the bouquet garni. Leave for another 20 minutes. Turn up the heat, add the clams quickly and certainly not too long. If you heat them too long, then they will become rubbery when heated for the second time. Use a slotted spoon to remove the ingredients from the stock. Keep the bacon, the clams (without the shells) and the bouquet garni. Discard all other ingredients: onions, leek, celeriac, carrot and shells. Transfer the bacon and the bouquet garni back to the liquid. Add the chopped potato. Let simmer until the potato has broken down. Use a fork to thicken the soup. Add cream. Feel free to add a bit more, it’s all about taste and consistency at this stage. If you’re not happy with it, then you could add some potato starch. Keep the soup warm for 10 minutes or so, turn up the heat, add the clams and quickly heat them. Add some freshly grounded white pepper. Serve immediately.

Clam Chowder ©cadwu
Clam Chowder ©cadwu

I Know How To Cook

We have all been there, you read a recipe, you decide to prepare the dish, only to find that some essential information is missing, that the ingredients are impossible to find or that the result is something completely different. For instance, we once decided to prepare a fairly complex dish. It consisted of four components, one being a popcorn-like version of saffron rice. The steps were not too challenging: cook sushi rice with saffron, dry for 2 days and then fry in oil on 180 °C or 355 °F for 10 minutes until the rice looks like popcorn. Sounds do-able, doesn’t it? Apart from the ‘like popcorn’. All rice turned out fat and golden-brown. Finally, we figured it out: we had to use a neutral oil with a very high smoking point, for instance refined sesame seed or avocado oil. But that information wasn’t provided in the recipe. Why not, we wonder, isn’t the goal of a recipe to help the reader prepare it? So why not provide all the necessary information?

(In case you wonder what the smoking point of oil is, it’s the temperature on which the oil breaks down. That’s when it may release unhealthy, damaging chemicals and nasty flavours. Olive oil has a relative low smoking point which is why you should pay careful attention to your pan when using it for frying.)

Je Sais Cuisinier

Ginnete Mathiot approach to recipes is clearly based on an ambition to educate, to transfer and share knowledge. She was born in 1907 in Paris and pursued a career as a teacher and inspector in home economics and as an author of many cookbooks. She didn’t own a restaurant, she never worked as a chef, she wasn’t a tv-celebrity. She was focused on sharing recipes and useful household and kitchen information. Millions of copies of her cookbooks were sold and many more benefitted from her knowledge and experience.

When she was 25 years old she published her classic Je Sais Cuisinier. Today the book is known as La Cuisine pour Tous. The English version is titled I Know How to Cook. It is a very useful cookbook with recipes that truly help you to prepare a dish. She also wrote excellent books on patisserie and preserves.

When you leave through I Know How to Cook you will notice helpful sections on spices, aromatic vegetables and flavourings, you’ll see a well written glossary of essential cooking terms, seasonal suggestions and many more aspects of food.

Given the time of year we looked for the artichoke-section of the book. Such a delicious vegetable! She includes a recipe for Artichoke Hearts Printanière (artichoke hearts with a filling of mushrooms, shallot, boiled egg, ham and artichoke, grilled in the oven) and for Artichokes à la Barigoule. This is a classic dish from the Provence region. The artichoke hearts are stuffed, wrapped in bacon, fried and then cooked in a sauce with carrots and onion. The artichoke is then served with the (strained) sauce. Next week we will publish our  vegetarian version of this classic.

Her books (in French, Italian and English) are available via your local bookstore and the usual channels.

I Know How To Cook
I Know How To Cook