Classic Cèpes

What better way to start the mushroom season than serving Classic Cèpes? The recipe is very simple and the result is about cèpes and cèpes alone. The stems a bit firm, the caps moist, the flavours intense and the taste rich and earthy, with a touch of freshness from the parsley. It’s a classic in Germany (Steinpilze auf klassische Art), France (similar to Cèpes a la Bordelaise), Italy and many other countries. 

Wine Pairing

If you want to enjoy the cèpes with a glass of white wine, then we suggest drinking one that is fresh, fruity, round and balanced, for instance of a glass of Bodegas Mocén Selección Especial made from verdejo grapes. A glass of rosé with similar flavours is also a good idea. The idea is to support the cèpes by adding fruitiness and freshness to the dish.

When you decide to drink a glass of red wine, then we suggest a full-bodied red wine with gently fruit and present tannins. 

What You Need

  • 200 gram Cèpes
  • Butter
  • One small Shallot
  • Parsley
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Clean the mushrooms and slice lengthwise. Finely chop the shallot and the parsley. Add butter to a relatively hot heavy iron skillet. Reduce the heat and fry the cèpes for a few minutes. Add the shallot. Cook on medium heat for 2 minutes. Add chopped parsley, add more butter, black pepper and stir. Serve on a warm plate.

Green Gnocchi

We love eating Gnocchi, preferably as a starter with some olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Tasty and rich. Perhaps sometimes a bit too rich and too filling, especially the ones you can buy at your local shop or supermarket. Therefore it’s best is to make your own gnocchi, which is not too difficult, just time consuming.

We were pleasantly surprised when we found Green Gnocchi in Nice (France), made with Swiss Chard. The chopped leaves help improve the structure of the Gnocchi and add complexity and freshness to the dish. Yummy!

So all is good? Well, the name is a bit odd, to say the least. This Niçoise speciality is called Merda de Can, which translates into something from a dog – not very pleasant and certainly not something you want to eat. Very odd.

The name shouldn’t stop you from enjoying it. Merda de Can with Sage Butter is truly delicious.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Merda de Can with a glass of Saint Roman Sable de Camargue Rosé. In general you’re looking for a well-balanced, fresh wine. Given the butter and sage sauce you could serve a Chardonnay or perhaps an Italian white wine such as Gavi di Gavi or Soave

What You Need for 8 starters

  • For the Merda de Can 
    • 600 Grams of Starchy Potatoes
    • 300 Grams of Swiss Chard, Spinach or Water Spinach (cleaned and ready to use)
    • Olive Oil
    • Nutmeg
    • 1 Egg
    • All Purpose Flour
  • For the Sauce
    • Butter
    • Sage
  • Parmesan Cheese or (preferred) Vacherin de Fribourgeois)

What You Do

Best is to follow the instructions by a Niçoise chef. 
Or prepare gnocchi as you would normally. Quickly fry the leaves in olive oil, remove from the pan, chop finely and drain. Add to the potato mixture, add the beaten egg, add freshly grated nutmeg and combine. Now start adding flour until you have the right consistency. You’re looking for a flexible, non-sticky dough. Flour your hands and start making short, small, thin, sausage like pasta. (Perhaps this is the moment to think about a small dog. Or perhaps not.) Don’t worry about the shape, it’s okay if they are not very similar. Devein the sage leaves. Warm butter in a pan and add the sage. In parallel heat a generous amount of water. Add the pasta to the boiling water and wait until the pasta surfaces. Remove from the water, add the pasta to the pan with sage butter, coat the pasta and freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

PS

The Merda de Can we enjoyed was bought at a local Niçoise shop and had a more elegant shape.

Green Gnocchi (Merda de Can) ©cadwu
Green Gnocchi (Merda de Can) ©cadwu

Chervil (Pan-) Cakes

Maastricht is one of the Netherlands most beautiful cities. It’s located in the very south of the country, on both sides of the river Maas. It’s close to Germany (Aachen, Aix-La-Chapelle is only 30 km) and the Belgian city of Liège (25 km). Its culture and cuisine are strongly influenced by France. Maastricht is well known for its excellent local wines (Hoeve Nekum, Apostelhoeve), the hilly countryside and its ceramic.

In 1737 Marie Michon was born in Maastricht. In 1768 she married Albert de Milly. Both families were related to Hugenoten: protestant people who escaped from persecution in France because of their religion and moved (in this case) to the Netherlands in 1685. One of her daughters was Thérèse Elisabeth de Milly, who married the German Baron Friedrich Ludwich Behr in 1792. Clearly a rich and influential family. Mother and daughter wrote down recipes and practical households tips. There are two ‘cahiers’, known under the title ‘Natuurlijk Kookboek van Beproefde en Ondervonden Echte Recepten voor een Zindelijk Huijshouden’. The title would translate into something like ‘Natural Cookbook of Tried-and-Tested Real Recipes for a Proper and Clean Household’. In 2008 44 recipes were included in a book written by Marleen Willebrands.

In the Historisch Kookboek Vega written by Manon Henzen we noticed a recipe for chervil (pan-) cakes, based on one of the recipes of Marie Michon and Thérèse Elisabeth de Milly. Chervil, although its taste is delicate, was considered to be a very powerful and useful herb. It relieved symptoms of gout, high blood pressure, gas, eczema etcetera. The original recipe suggest frying the pancakes per 3. Which made us think of the traditional Dutch dish ‘drie in de pan’. These are small pancakes made with flour, yeast, eggs, milk and (optional) raisins. Fried per three, indeed.

The dough of the chervil pancakes is a combination of eggs, all-purpose flour, bread crumbs, melted butter, yeast, sugar and cinnamon. Add lots of chopped chervil, allow to rest and fry in a pan. We also added chopped parsley and chives.
The pancakes looked very nice and inviting. When eating them we were slightly disappointed (a bit heavy, a bit dry). Perhaps we should have thought about a sauce?

More information (Dutch only) about the original recipes from 1785 can be found on the website of DBNL.

Chervil (Pan-) Cakes
Chervil (Pan-) Cakes ©cadwu

Inari Sushi

Sushi has become such a mainstream product! We all seem to enjoy Nigiri (sushi rice topped with fish or egg, sometimes held together with a ribbon of nori), Maki (rice and stuffing rolled in nori), Uramaki (as maki but with rice on the outside), Temaki (in the shape of a cone) and Oshi (pressed rice, in the shape of a block).

Inari and Nare sushi are clearly the less known kinds of sushi.
Nare Sushi is made with fish and is fermented for 6 months. Impossible to buy where we live.

Inari Sushi is made with a pouch of deep-fried tofu (inari age) and sushi rice, originally without a topping. The tofu pouch is fried in oil, then cooked in water to remove excess oil, then cooked in dashi with soya, squeezed to remove most of the cooking liquid and then stuffed with hand-warm sushi rice. Fortunately, the pouches you can buy are ready to be stuffed, so making inari sushi is not too much work. The challenge is of course in cooking the rice and turning it into shari (the vinegar seasoned rice that is the key to tasty sushi). Another challenge is eating Inari Sushi because the pouches tend to be rather oversized.

The art of cooking rice, regardless if you make risotto or sushi, starts with the right rice. Cutting corners will lead to a disappointing result. You need short grain Japonica rice (uruchimai) when making sushi.

Drink Pairing

A dry, cold, crisp sake will be very nice with your Inari Sushi.

Choosing the right wine is not straightforward. You could think of a sparkling wine (great with the sweetness of the sushi), for instance a prosecco from Italy. We would suggest a prosecco produced by Corvezzo. An affordable, vegan, organic wine with just a touch of sweetness.

Another approach is to serve a sweeter wine, for instance a glass of Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh from the Southwest of France. Wine that comes with aromas of fruit and honey. The wine has freshness and is well balanced.

What You Need

  • Tofu Pouches
  • Sushi Rice
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • (optional) Topping

What You Do

Gently wash the rice, until the water is clear. Leave to soak for 30 minutes. Cook the rice according to the instructions on the package but use less water. Leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Make awasezu by adding some salt and sugar to the vinegar. If it doesn’t dissolve, heat the mixture gently.
Now transfer the rice to a low bowl (a hangiri) and add the vinegar to the rice. After 30 seconds use a broad spoon (or spatula) to combine the rice and the vinegar. This is the moment to use a fan. According to some this is to cool the rice, according to others it should be done to remove excess vinegar. Leave the rice to rest at room temperature under a damp cloth for one hour.
Depending on the package you may want to wash or squeeze the pouches. Stuff them with rice, serve on a plate with the open side down and enjoy your traditional Inari Sushi.
We love to combine the rice with some sliced kimchi, stuff the pouch and top it with fish eggs.

PS

Ratios are very important when preparing shari. We suggest using the following:

  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 cup of water (or a bit less, depending on the instructions)
  • 30 cc of rice vinegar
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ – 1 tablespoon of sugar (depending on your taste)

Salmorejo

A delicious, rich, creamy, velvety, elegant, complex, delicious, cold tomato soup from Andalucía (southern Spain) with lots of generous flavours. It is ideal on a hot summer’s evening and great as a vegetarian starter. It is very simple to make: purée skinned, fresh, ripe tomatoes with stale, white bread, olive oil and garlic. Garnish with Jamón Serrano (also from Andalucía) and hard-boiled egg.

Salmorejo and Gazpacho are very different soups. Gazpacho comes with red bell pepper, chili and onions; Salmorejo is purely about tomatoes and is much creamier and softer, because bread is a key ingredient. It’s nice to decorate gazpacho; Salmorejo must be garnished. Salmorejo is a beautifully balanced soup.

Removing the skin is mandatory when making Salmorejo. The idea to roast the tomatoes is a twist that enhances the flavours of the tomatoes, but it is not part of the original Salmorejo, so feel free to skip this step.

What You Need

  • 500 grams of Excellent Ripe Tomatoes
  • Slice of stale White Artisanal Bread without the crust
  • 1 small Garlic Clove
  • 1 tablespoon of Jerez Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 hard-boiled Egg
  • (optional) diced Serrano Ham
  • Black Pepper
  • (optional) Salt

What You Do

Peel the tomatoes. Soak the bread in water for 10 minutes. Optional: slice the tomatoes in two and transfer to an oven (200 °C or 390 °F) for 15 minutes and let cool. Chop the garlic clove. Blender the tomatoes, the bread (and the water) and the garlic until very smooth. It should be really smooth, cream like; this may take 1 minute on turbo! On low speed add the vinegar and slowly add the olive oil. Taste, add salt and pepper if required and perhaps some more olive oil. Allow to cool for at least 2 hours.
Serve in cold bowls and garnish with roughly chopped hard-boiled egg and diced Serrano ham.

PS

If you enjoy cold soups as much as we do, then we have more recipes for you: Gazpacho, Ajo Blanco and Avocado and Cucumber Soup.

Salmorejo ©cadwu
Salmorejo ©cadwu

Mussels with Dashi and Kimchi

A few weeks ago we enjoyed dinner at l’Épicerie du Cirque “under the Palm Trees” in Antwerpen (Belgium). The restaurant is owned and run by Dennis Broeckx and Ellen Destuyver and offers contemporary Flemish cuisine with a focus on local products. Excellent choice of wines, great service, very original menu. One of the dishes was a combination of dashi, homemade kimchi, wasabi and Belgian mussels topped with foam. Lots of umami and great textures.

Back home we tried to replicate the dish, but the result was disappointing. The foam is a crucial aspect of the dish and sadly our foam collapsed after 2 seconds. But we did manage to buy some very tasty, mild Korean kimchi so the next day we prepared a dashi-based soup with mussels instead. Very tasty and the combination works really well.

What You Need

  • 500 ml of Dashi
  • Handful of Mussels
  • Kimchi (mild)
  • ½ tablespoon of Sake
  • Light Soy Sauce

What You Do

Prepare the dashi. Clean the mussels and discard broken ones. Quickly cook the mussels, add kimchi, sake and a drop of light soy sauce to the dashi, keep warm, remove the mussels from the shell and add to the soup. Serve immediately on warm plates.

Spanish Tortilla

We have fond memories of the Mercat Central in Valencia, one of the largest markets in Europe. Its architecture is amazing, but even more stunning are the products on sale: fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, chicken, fresh meat, sausages, hams, herbs, spices, fish, bread, wine, pickles, snails, weeds, offal, rice, nuts: anything and everything you can dream of.
And of course various bars with the tastiest tapas ever. We would go shopping early in the morning, buy what we needed that day (perhaps a bit more than just that) and buy two bocadillos de tortilla: a small crunchy roll with tortilla made with egg, onions and potato. We would run back to our apartment, make coffee, sit down and enjoy the rich, velvety, long taste of bread and tortilla.
Fond memories indeed.

Making Spanish tortilla is a matter of combining the best ingredients and being patient.

What You Need

  • 200 grams of Potato (waxy ones, we used Roseval)
  • 1 large Spanish (White) Onion
  • ½ Grilled Red Bell Pepper
  • 4 Eggs
  • Black Pepper
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Heat a pan and gently fry the thinly sliced potatoes, slowly, in plenty of oil. You don’t want crunchy, golden potatoes, they should be nearly done, that’s all. In a separate pan glaze the quartered and sliced onion, also for let’s say 15 minutes. Let both cool. Dry the sliced grilled red bell pepper with kitchen paper. Beat the eggs and add potatoes and onions. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. For some reason this is a crucial step, one that should not be skipped. Add sliced red bell pepper and fresh black pepper. Warm a medium sized non-stick pan (22 cm or 9 inch), add oil and fry the tortilla until the top is slightly set. It could take 20 minutes so please don’t be tempted to increase the heat. Transfer to a plate, put the pan on top of the tortilla and flip. Fry a few minutes.
Serve lukewarm, perhaps with some chopped parsley and a crunchy roll.

PS

You could peel a fresh red bell pepper, but better is to clean it, slice in 4 to 6 chunks, flatten these and grill for 10 minutes. This should char the pepper significantly. Transfer to a plastic container and close. Leave for a few hours. Now you can easily remove the skin. This way a bell pepper has a richer, more complex taste and is easier to digest, but it is of course not as crunchy as a fresh bell pepper. 

Mussels with Tomato Sauce

Earlier this month the mussels season started in the Netherlands. Time to prepare Moules Marinière, Mosselen met Look, Mussels in Beer, Mussels with Anise or Mussels with Tomato Sauce. Serve with crusted bread or French fries and you will have a delicious lunch, starter or main course.
Mussel-wise we prefer small ones, they seem to be tastier and juicier. For a lunch or starter we suggest 1 kilo for two persons, when served as a main course it’s 1 kilo per person. Please read our post about mussel basics if you’re not familiar with cleaning and cooking mussels.

Wine Pairing

The sauce is a touch spicy, so we suggest a white wine with more intense flavours. Could be a Picpoul de Pinet, could be a wine made with Verdejo or Albariño grapes. We enjoyed a glass of Bodegas Piqueras Almansa Wild Fermented Verdejo. This is an organic white wine from the Spanish Rueda region. The wine has a beautiful yellow colour. Its aromas are intense and slightly exotic. The wine has a subtle touch of wood, is balanced and has a long finish. A wine that accompanies the mussels plus the spiciness and the acidity of the sauce perfectly.

What You Need

For the Mussels

  • 1 kilo of Mussels
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Garlic Glove
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Bay Leaf, Thyme)
  • White Whine

For the Sauce

  • 4 Ripe Tomatoes
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 Shallot
  • Olive Oil
  • 3 Garlic Gloves
  • ½ Red Chili Pepper
  • Red Wine
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Bay Leaf, Thyme)
  • And later on:
    • 2 Ripe Tomatoes
    • Grounded Chili Pepper

What You Do

Make the sauce one day ahead. Wash the tomatoes, the bell pepper and the chili pepper. Remove the seeds from the pepper and the bell pepper and slice. Chop the tomatoes. No need to remove the pits. Peel the shallot and garlic gloves and chop these. Glaze the onion, garlic and chili pepper in olive oil. Ten minutes on low heat. Add the tomatoes, the bell pepper, some red wine and the bouquet garni. Cook for at least two hours. Remove the bouquet garni, transfer the mixture to the blender and make a very smooth sauce. Pass through a sieve. Transfer back to the pan and reduce until it’s a nice, rich sauce. This may take 30 minutes. Cool quickly and transfer to the refrigerator. It freezes very well.

Clean the mussels with a small kitchen knife. Scrape off all the nasty bits. If you don’t do this, these will end up in your sauce and that’s not what you want.

Chop the garlic and the shallot. Warm a fairly big pan and gently glaze the shallot in olive oil. Then add the chopped garlic. Add a glass of white wine and the bouquet garni and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, allowing for the flavours to integrate.
Wash the tomatoes, remove the seeds and slice in nice small cubes. Warm the sauce. The moment you add the mussels to the pan, you add the cubed tomatoes to the sauce. Add some chilli powder to the sauce, just to give the sauce an extra push.
Turn up the heat to maximum 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 status of the mussels. Close the lid, listen and observe. Overcooking the mussels will make them chewy which is awful. Remove mussels with a slotted spoon, transfer to a warm soup dish and label the warm and spicy tomato sauce over the mussels.
You could add a spoonful of cooking liquid to the sauce, if you want to.

Mussels with Tomato Sauce ©cadwu
Mussels with Tomato Sauce ©cadwu

Mushroom Cream Sauce from 1790

This recipe for a rich and tasty sauce is included in Het Receptenboek van mevrouw Marselis (the recipe book of Mrs. Marselis), published in the Netherlands in 1790. The combination of mushrooms, cream and nutmeg works remarkably well. One to prepare more often!

Mrs. Marselis doesn’t mention what the sauce is supposed to accompany. In this case we decided to combine it with pasta, making it a nice vegetarian dish, but we could also imagine combining it with veal or chicken. 

Wine Pairing

We suggest drinking an excellent rosé with the sauce, one with flavour, fruit, depth and refreshing acidity. For instance Monte del Frà Bardolino Chiaretto. This is a very affordable, tasty rosé with just the right balance between serious flavours, freshness and fruitiness.

What You Need

  • Mushrooms
  • Nutmeg
  • Flour
  • Chicken Stock
  • Cream
  • One egg
  • Butter
  • Lemon
  • Spaghetti

What You Do

We used yellow chanterelles, but you could also use Champignons de Paris. Clean and chop the mushrooms (we didn’t peel them, sorry Mrs. Marselis) and glaze them in butter. When glazed, sprinkle some flour over the mushrooms and stir. After a few minutes, slowly start adding chicken stock to make the beginning of a sauce. Add cream to the pan and some freshly grated nutmeg. Leave on low heat for at least 10 minutes. Beat one egg yolk. Slowly add the mixture from the pan to the egg yolk (marrying the sauce). Then add the egg yolk and cream mixture back to the pan. Warm carefully, otherwise it will split, or you just cooked an omelette. Taste and add a drop of lemon to make the sauce a touch fresher and lighter. No need for pepper or parsley.

We served the sauce with spaghetti and used the cooking liquid to give the sauce the right consistency.

Gazpacho

Simple, tasty, refreshing and quick: what more could you ask for on a summer’s evening? We love a cold soup, for instance Ajo Blanco or Avocado and Cucumber Soup.

Gazpacho, another Spanish classic, is not just a mixture of tomatoes, bell pepper, chili, garlic and white onion. It absolutely needs Jerez vinegar and excellent olive oil. The olive oil will give that velvety, rich feeling in your mouth and the vinegar with the chili gives the gazpacho that typical, sharp freshness.
You will need the very best of vegetables: ripe, tasty and with a firm structure.
The bell pepper should, according to some recipes, be a green Cubanelle pepper. Hard to find for us, so we’re happy to use a green bell pepper.

Prepare the Gazpacho 8 hours in advance and serve in cold bowls. 

What you need

  • 4 large, meaty, tasty red Tomatoes
  • ½ white (Spanish) Onion
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper
  • 2 Fresh Garlic Gloves
  • ½ Red Chili
  • 1 small Cucumber (optional in our view)
  • 3 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons Jerez Vinegar
  • Pinch of Salt

What You Do

Cut the tomatoes in 4 and remove the seeds. Transfer to a sieve and use the back of a spoon to squeeze out the liquid. Discard the seeds. Chop the tomato chunks, onion, bell pepper, gloves and chili. Use a blender to mix tomato chunks, tomato juice, onion, bell pepper, gloves and chili until you have a fairly smooth soup. Add olive oil and Jerez vinegar and pulse. Taste, add pinch of salt and more olive oil or vinegar if needed. Transfer to refrigerator to let cool. You could decorate with green bell pepper or chopped tomato (provided it’s peeled and seeded).

PS

Most recipes mention passing the mixture through a sieve. This way you will get a smoother, but also thinner soup. That’s probably why these recipes suggest adding white bread to the mixture.

Gazpacho ©cadwu
Gazpacho ©cadwu