Pumpkin Soup (with Kombu Dashi)

It’s autumn, so obviously we want to cook pumpkin soup. A nice and warm combination of pumpkin, ginger, chilli and orange lentils for instance. Or with Jus de Truffe for a bit of extra umami and exclusivity.  Both are excellent vegetarian dishes, perfect for lunch with some crusted bread or as a starter.
Having recently prepared kabocha with shrimps, we decided to prepare a vegetarian soup with it. The basis of the soup is Kombu Dashi (made with dried Kelp). The dashi and the soy sauce bring saltiness and umami to the soup, which combines very well with the exceptional sweetness of the pumpkin and the mirin.

You could prepare the soup with the skin of the kabocha, but we love the intense orange colour of the inside.

What You Need

  • 20 grams of Kelp
  • 1 litre Water
  • 1 Kabocha
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Mirin
  • Purple Shiso

What You Do

Add the kelp to one litre of cold water. Put on low heat and wait until it has reached 80 °C or 175 °F. Overheating it will make the dashi bitter. In the meantime, wash and peel the kabocha, remove the seeds and dice. Remove the kelp from the pan, discard and add the kabocha. Allow to simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes until the kabocha is soft. Remove some of the liquid and blender the kabocha. Add liquid until you have the right consistency. In our experience you will need one litre of water to cook the kabocha but it might be too much liquid for a nice, velvety consistency of your soup. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of mirin and 1 or 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce.  It’s a matter of your preference, ripeness of the kabocha and the kelp.
Best to decorate with some purple shiso, or with sprouts (as we did), provided they’re not too spicy.

The Art of Sauces: Modern Tomato Sauce

We love a good sauce: it supports the flavours, it adds complexity to the dish and it brings components together. Orange sauce with duck, Béarnaise with beef, Sauce Mornay on a Croque Monsieur: the sauce is the key to the dish.

Marie-Antoine Carême (1784 – 1833) was the first chef to analyse sauces and create a classification. He identified four leading (mother) sauces and described how other sauces could be derived from these four. His four leading sauces are Espagnole (made with brown roux, roasted bones and brown stock), Velouté (white roux and light (veal) stock), Béchamel and Allemande (light roux with veal stock and thickened with egg yolks and cream). If for instance you want to make a Pepper Sauce, then you start by making a Sauce Espagnole.

Auguste Escoffier (1846 – 1935) refined the classification and replaced Sauce Allemande with Sauce Tomate as leading sauce. Later Hollandaise and Mayonnaise were added to the list of main sauces.

Sauce Tomate as prepared by Carême and Escoffier is very different from the sauce we use on pizza’s and pasta’s. It’s made with salted pork, veal stock, bones, various aromatic vegetables and of course tomatoes. Among the derived sauces are Sauce Portuguese and Sauce Provençal.
Next week we will share the Classic way of cooking Sauce Tomate in detail; today we share our modern (vegetarian) recipe.
The sauce freezes very well, so ideal to make a nice quantity.

What You Need

  • 4 – 6 Excellent Ripe Tomatoes (depending on the size)
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper (preferably grilled and peeled)
  • ½ Chilli
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Glass of Red Wine
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary, Bay Leaf)

What You Do

Wash the tomatoes and slice in chunks. Peel the onion and chop. Add olive oil to the pan and glaze the onion for 10 minutes or so. Stir and add the sliced bell pepper and the sliced and seeded chilli. Let cook on medium heat for 5 minutes or so. Reduce heat. Add the chopped garlic clove. After 5 minutes or so add the sliced tomatoes, the red wine and the bouquet garni. Leave for 2 hours minimum to simmer. Remove the bouquet garni and blender the mixture. Pass through a sieve and leave to simmer for another 2 hours. Cool and transfer to the refrigerator or freezer.

PS Grilling a bell pepper: slice the pepper in large slices. Set your oven to grill, put a sheet of aluminium foil on the baking tray, put the slices on the foil, skin up and transfer to the oven, as close to the grill as possible. Wait for 10 minutes or until the skin is seriously burned. Transfer the slices to a plastic container and close the lid. Wait for an hour. Using your fingers and perhaps a knife, peel of the skin. Store the bell pepper and the juices in the refrigerator. The taste is deeper and sweeter compared to raw bell pepper.

Pâté with Mushrooms

Let’s celebrate the season by preparing a Pâté! The combination of a crispy crust, a structured, colourful filling and various flavours is always a pleasure. Making a pâté (or better: a Pâté en Croûte) can be a bit intimidating (especially if you look at the pâté’s prepared during the World Championship!) but that should not stop you from giving it a try. It’s a pleasure to think about the ingredients, work on the construction and enjoy the wonderful aromas from your oven while baking the pâté. And the joy when slicing it: is the pâté as beautiful as you expected it to be?
Feel free to make your own puff pastry, but if you buy ready-made pastry, please check it’s made with butter, flower, salt and water only and not with rapeseed oil, palm oil, yeast etcetera.

Wine Pairing

A red, medium bodied wine will be a great accompaniment of this Pâté en Croûte. In general you’re looking for a red wine with aromas of black fruit, floral notes and delicate wood. The tannins should be soft or well-integrated. We enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir from La Cour Des Dames

What You Need

  • 150 grams of Cèpes
  • 250 grams of Champignon de Paris
  • 1 small Shallot
  • Handful of Spinach
  • Half a cup of Rice
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Parsley
  • One Egg
  • Puff Pastry
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Start by cooking some rice, you will probably need a tablespoon of cooked rice. Clean the cèpes and see how they best fit in the pâté baking mould. Perhaps you need to trim the stems or the caps to have the best result when it’s ready. Set the cèpes aside.
Clean the champignons and wash the spinach. Peel and finely chop the shallot. Warm a heavy iron skillet, glaze the shallot, add the cleaned and lengthwise halved mushrooms (and the leftovers of the cèpes) and cook them on medium heat for 10 minutes or so. In parallel blanch the spinach, drain and squeeze. Also in parallel, coat the mould first with baking paper and then with puff pastry. Make sure you have some extra pastry to create the lids for the chimneys. Chop the cooked mushrooms. Chop the spinach. Add the egg to a large bowl and whisk. Add the cooked mushrooms to the bowl, add some black pepper, chopped parsley and finely grated Parmesan Cheese. Add some spinach, just to have some extra colour. Add the rice. The rice will help absorb additional juices from the cèpes, so how much rice you need is a matter of looking at the mixture and the cèpes.

Now it’s time to build the pâté: start by creating a bottom with the mixture, position the cèpes and add the remainder of the mixture. Make sure the mixture envelops the mushrooms. Close the pâté with the pastry. Make two holes in the roof of the pâté and use baking paper to create 2 chimneys. Transfer to the oven (180 °C or 355 °F) for 45 minutes. Use the remainder of the puff pastry to make 4 mini cookies that will function as lid on the chimney (of course, you only need 2, but baking 4 allows you to choose the best). After 45 minutes add the 4 cookies, bake for another 10 minutes. Mix some egg yolk and coat the pâté and the cookies. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. The duration and temperatures very much depend on the shape of the mould and the pastry.

Transfer from the oven, remove the chimneys, glue the lids on the chimneys using some egg yolk and let cool. Once cool, remove from the mould, transfer to the refrigerator and wait until the next day. 

Japanese Pumpkin with Shrimps

The traditional Japanese way of preparing Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin) requires a bit of work but is not overly complex. The result is a combination of delicate, fresh pumpkin flavours with clear umami as a result of simmering the pumpkin in a dashi-based stock. You could replace the Japanese Pumpkin with a more common winter squash or with a red Hokkaido pumpkin.

Combining shrimps and pumpkin seems a bit odd, but it’s actually very nice. The combination is colourful and the various flavours come together nicely, also thanks to the dashi.
The first time we enjoyed this combination was when we prepared Takiawase, following the recipe from author and Michelin Award winning chef Akira Oshima. The recipe is included in his book Yamazato, Kaiseki Recipes: Secrets of the Japanese Cuisine. It’s a mouth-watering dish but unfortunately fairly difficult to prepare. Typically, Takiawase is a combination of vegetables and fish. Every ingredient requires its own preparation and is simmered in its own dashi-based stock. Indeed: four different kinds of homemade stock. The recipe of Akira Oshima combines kabocha, eggplant, okra and shrimp.

Drink Pairing

We prefer a glass of sake with our Kabocha with Shrimps, for instance a Junmai sake with fresh aromas and good acidity. The sake must be dry and well-balanced with a clean finish. You could enjoy a glass of white wine with the dish, provided it’s dry and mineral. Or a more adventurous choice: a glass of Manzanilla or Fino sherry. Manzanilla is a dry sherry with a flowery bouquet, a delicate palate and subtle acidity. It works beautifully with the dashi and the sweetness of both the kabocha and the shrimps.

What You Need                                                                         

  • For the Dashi
    • 10 grams of Kelp
    • 10 grams of Katsuobushi
  • For the Kabocha
    • Mirin
    • Light Soy Sauce (Usukuchi)
    • Sake
  • For the Shrimps
    • Sake
    • (Olive) Oil
    • Mirin
    • Light Soy Sauce (Usukuchi)
  • Pickled Cucumber

What You Do

Start by preparing 500 ml of dashi.
Peel and devein the six shrimps. We prefer to leave the tail on. Transfer the shrimps to a bowl, add some sake and transfer to the refrigerator for a few hours.
Peel the Kabocha, remove the seeds. Halve and then slice in 6 equal parts. Combine 400 ml of dashi with 25 ml of mirin, 25 ml of light soy sauce and a tablespoon of sake. Add the slices of kabocha and let is simmer for some 10 minutes or until nearly done.
In parallel heat a heavy iron skillet, add oil, dry the shrimps with kitchen paper and then fry them quickly, let’s say 4 minutes. Transfer to a warm oven. Remove the oil from the pan with kitchen paper. Reduce the heat to low. Mix 50 ml of dashi with 25 ml of mirin and a small spoon of light soy sauce. Deglaze the pan and let the mixture reduce. Transfer the shrimps back the pan and coat them quickly with the mixture. Serve the slices of kabocha with the fried, coated shrimps and the pickled cucumber.

Duck with Figs

Preparing Duck is always a pleasure, whether with Green Pepper Corn, with Sichuan, with Mirin and Soy Sauce or as Canard A l’Orange: the result is always tasty and your guests will be happy.
Today we combine duck with figs. Not the most obvious combination because the figs are relatively dry and perhaps not as sweet as the combination requires. We clearly need a bridge between the meat and the fruit. The first idea was to use port, perhaps with some veal or chicken stock. Great idea because of the sweetness and light acidity of the port, but perhaps a bit too much for the figs. Aceto Balsamico comes with acidity and sweetness, so we decided to use it as the base of the sauce, in combination with some stock. While preparing it we noticed that it needed more sweetness, so what to do? Sugar, honey? But couldn’t we add something that would bring sweetness, fruitiness and even tartness? Of course! Good old Cointreau, great idea!

Aceto Balsamico

We probably need to say a few words about Aceto Balsamico. You may think it’s overrated and overpriced, this sweet, sugary, dark and mild vinegar. But if you taste original Aceto Balsamico, the one made from grape must and aged for many (25!) years in wooden barrels, then you will be surprised by the intense, concentrated flavour and the dark colour. Always look for I.G.P. (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) or D.O.P. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta). If this is not mentioned on the bottle, don’t buy it.

Wine Pairing

A red, medium bodied wine will be a great accompaniment of your Breast of Duck with Figs. In general you’re looking for a red wine with aromas of berries, floral notes and delicate wood. The tannins should be soft or well-integrated. We enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir from La Cour Des Dames

What You Need

  • Breast of Duck (preferably organic)
  • Lots of Thyme
  • 3 Figs
  • Stock (Chicken or Veal)
  • Aceto Balsamico
  • Cointreau
  • Butter
  • Black Pepper
  • Fresh Green Peas

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). 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-stick skillet for 10-12 minutes on the skin side, straight from the refrigerator. 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 aluminium foil is such a way that the crispy skin is not covered. The foil should only cover meat. This way the skin remains crispy.
Wash the figs and cut in half. Remove some of the fat and fry the figs until lightly caramelised. When ready, remove from the pan, transfer to a plate and keep warm in the oven. Add stock, thyme, Aceto Balsamico and Cointreau. Probably two spoons of Aceto Balsamico and three spoons of Cointreau. Taste and adjust. You may want to add some butter to push the flavours and create a lovely velvety mouthfeel. Add duck’s liquid. Reduce the heat, add black pepper, taste, adjust, add the figs, coat them with the sauce and plate up. We served the duck with fresh green peas because they have this lovely light sweet flavour that combines very well with the other ingredients.

  • Breast of Duck with Figs ©cadwu
  • Fresh Figs ©cadwu

Tomato Confit

A few years ago it was the obvious garnish to nearly every dish: oven roasted cherry tomatoes, preferably on the vine. It looks and tastes nice plus it is easy to make. Just heat your oven to 180 °C or 350 °F, add the tomatoes to a baking dish, sprinkle with salt, olive oil and 30 minutes later they’re ready to serve. When cold you can add them to a salad or a sandwich with soft cheese (mozzarella, burrata, ricotta). An alternative is to halve the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and quickly roast and dry them in the oven. Another tasty result.

We prefer a slow alternative: Tomato Confit. The idea is that the skin doesn’t crack, so the tomatoes remain intact, and at the same time they absorb the flavours of the oil, herbs and garlic. The result is not just a great sweet and juicy tomato, it’s a taste explosion!

We use Tomato Confit to brighten up a simple pasta or salad, or a more complex dish like Lobster Mushroom with Udon.

What You Need

  • Excellent Cherry Tomatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • 2 Garlic Gloves

What You Do

Wash and dry the tomatoes and add these to a baking dish. Chop the garlic. Add herbs, garlic and a generous amount of olive oil to the dish. No salt, honey or sugar required. Put in the oven for something like 2 hours on 90 °C or 200 °F. You could baste the tomatoes once or twice. Don’t forget to use the cooking liquid as well, it’s another pack of flavours!

  • Tomato Confit ©cadwu
  • Fresh Tomatoes ©cadwu

Lobster Mushroom with Pasta

The Lobster Mushroom is, obviously, bright reddish orange like the shell of cooked lobster. Not obvious is the fact that it’s actually a parasite that grows on certain mushrooms, making the host completely invisible and even changing its structure and taste. If you slice a lobster mushroom, you’ll see a beautiful red skin, as if the host mushroom is sprayed.
The taste of the Lobster Mushroom depends on the host. The ones we bought tasted fairly bland, but nevertheless the pasta turned out to be very tasteful and uplifting, partly due to the homemade tomato confit.

Wine Pairing

Enjoy a glass of white wine with your Lobster Mushrooms. We drank a Portuguese Vinho Verde, made by Cazas Novas. It comes with floral and fruit notes, has some acidity and a medium body with a good texture and a fresh aftertaste. In general you’re looking for a wine with freshness, minerality and some acidity. A wine that will go well with the intense flavors of the tomato confit and the creamy mushroom pasta.

What You Need

  • 100 grams of Lobster Mushroom
  • Shallot
  • Garlic
  • Thyme
  • 1 Bunch of Udon
  • 10 Small Tomatoes (confit or roasted)
  • Stock (Chicken, Veal or Vegetable)
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Clean the Lobster Mushroom. This is a bit time consuming due to the structure of the mushroom. Slice the shallot and the garlic. Strip the leaves of the thyme. In a large iron skillet gently fry the shallot in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic. After a few minutes add the sliced lobster mushroom (chunks). Add the thyme. Leave on low heat. In parallel cook the udon for 10 minutes or until ready. Drain the udon but keep some of the cooking liquid. Add stock, just to have more liquid in the pan. Add the tomatoes, mix gently. Now add the udon to the pan, mix, making sure the tomatoes remain intact. Add cooking liquid to get the right consistency. Finish with a splash of excellent olive oil, black pepper and finely grated Parmesan Cheese.

  • Lobster Mushroom with Pasta ©cadwu
  • Lobster Mushroom ©cadwu

Cod and Horn of Plenty

The magic of a great combination: only two ingredients supported by butter, olive oil and white pepper. It made us think of James Tanner’s inspiring Take 5 Ingredients. Sometimes you need various cooking techniques and lots of ingredients. Sometimes the combination of only 5 ingredients is all you need to make a perfect dish.

Why perfect? Both the fish and the mushroom are clearly present and nicely balanced. As if the combination brings out the best of both. The butter supports the richness of the fish and the aromas are delicate. The texture of the cod is soft and a touch flaky; the Trompettes de la Mort have a more fibrous and chewy texture. Excellent mouthfeel!

Wine Pairing

You’re looking for a wine that has minerality, a touch of oak and has sufficient body and length, for instance a Chardonnay.
We enjoyed our Cod and Horn of Plenty with a glass of Chablis, Antonin Rodet, Premier Cru, Montmains. It has a clear and pale gold colour. It comes with mineral notes and a touch of lemon. The taste is delicate and persistent with aromas of fresh citrus. It goes very well with the ‘long’ taste of the dish and the citrus is ideal with the cod and butter.

What You Need

  • 150 grams of Cod
  • 100 grams of Horn of Plenty
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • White Pepper

What You Do

Make sure the mushrooms are fresh and dry. They become soggy and smelly easily. Clean the mushrooms thoroughly with a piece of kitchen paper. This can be time consuming. You may want to cut the cod in two. Fry the cod in olive oil with some butter in a non-stick pan. In a second pan fry the mushrooms in olive oil. This may take 5 minutes or so. Transfer the mushrooms from the pan to a warm plate with kitchen paper. When the cod is ready, serve immediately on a warm plate with some white pepper and sprinkle the mushrooms on top.

  • Cod and Horn of Plenty ©cadwu
  • Horn of Plenty ©cadwu

Guineafowl with Ras el Hanout

Preparing guineafowl can be a bit of a challenge: easily overcooked and quickly dry. Guineafowl has more structure and less fat compared to chicken plus it’s much firmer. The good news is that guineafowl has lots of flavour, perhaps a bit gamey, but not overpowering. So great to combine with nice ingredients such as morels or with grappa, junipers, sage, white wine and pancetta (as included in The River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook, written by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers).

Ras el Hanout is a mix of some twenty plus spices such as coriander, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, fenugreek, fennel, cardamom, turmeric and many more. Ras el Hanout is complex, layered, warm, a touch sweet and bitter. It works beautifully with the guineafowl and the various vegetables. 

Wine Pairing

Enjoy your guineafowl with a not too complex, medium bodied, fruity red wine. Grapes such as Grenache, Carménère, Carignan. We enjoyed a glass of Merlot, produced by Les Ormes de Cambras from the French Pays d’Oc region. A round, fruity wine with aromas of berries and subtle tannins. Also available as Bag in Box!

What You Need

  • Guineafowl
    • Guineafowl (Supreme preferred, but Leg is also fine)
    • Teaspoon of Ras el Hanout
    • 2 Garlic Gloves
    • Olive Oil
    • White Onion or Shallot
  • Vegetables
    • 1 Sweet Potato
    • 1 Carrot
    • Cinnamon
    • Olive oil
    • Teaspoon of Soy Sauce
  • Ratatouille

What You Do

Crush the two garlic gloves and mix with some olive oil and ras el hanout. Rub the meat with the mixture and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 ˚C or 355 ˚F. Add the two legs of guineafowl to a shallow dish with generous olive oil and chopped onion. Cook for 10 minutes. Turn the legs upside down and cook for another 10 minutes. Turn them a second time, skin up, for 10 more minutes. If you want a bit more colour, then set the oven to 200 ˚C or 390 ˚F.
In parallel peel the potato and the carrot. Dice and slice. Cook separately (the carrot needs more time) until tender but firm. Combine the vegetables, add olive oil, a teaspoon of grated cinnamon and a teaspoon of soy sauce. Mix well, making sure the vegetables are nicely coated. Leave on very low heat for 10 minutes. This will help integrate the flavours. (You wonder why we add soy sauce? Its umami will bring the flavours of the potato and the carrot together plus the saltiness will give the dish the required push. And because it’s one teaspoon only, you will not be able to recognise it).
The ratatouille is optional. Make it the day before, with relatively small slices and cubes of vegetables, add some tomato puree, making it nearly paste like.

Guineafowl with Ras el Hanout ©cadwu
Guineafowl with Ras el Hanout ©cadwu

Cold Soup: Ajo Blanco

It’s September, time fo buy fresh almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts; time to make Spanish Almond Soup. It’s made of white almonds, water, old bread, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and perhaps a pinch of salt. And trust us, there is no need to add anything else. No cucumber, green apples, jalapeño, chicken stock, pepper, flowers, white grapes, milk, aioli, Balsamic vinegar, raisins, cream, yoghurt, pine nuts or melon. We love creativity, but the ingredients people suggest to brighten up Ajo Blanco, it’s amazing. Especially because there is no need to add anything to the original.

Mention Ajo Blanco and someone will say ‘white gazpacho’. Because both are cold soups, because both are from Spain? We can’t think of any other reason, so please, please don’t even think about gazpacho when you serve Ajo Blanco.

What You Need

  • 70 gram White Almonds
  • 200 ml ice-cold Water
  • 30 gram old stale White Artisanal Bread without the crust
  • 1 medium Garlic Clove
  • 1 tablespoon Jerez Vinegar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 70 ml Olive Oil
  • 10 gram of Roasted Almonds

What You Do

Buy excellent almonds, so not the soft, bland ones from the supermarket. Start by very, very lightly roasting the white almonds in a dry non-stick pan. Let cool. Soak the bread for 10 minutes. Roughly chop the garlic. Using a heavy blender or food processor whizz the almonds, the garlic and some of the water until nearly smooth. Squeeze out the bread. Add bread and remaining water to the mixture. Continue blending. Add vinegar and salt. Check the mixture for taste and smoothness. It should be very smooth, cream like; this may take 1 minute on turbo! When happy with both smoothness and taste, slowly add olive oil with the blender running on low speed. Transfer the mixture to the refrigerator for at least two hours. Also cool the bowls you want to use.
Just before serving crush some roasted almonds and sprinkle these on the soup.