Flan with Tofu, Dashi and Ginger

An Asian Coddler

Serving food prepared in a coddler is always good fun. Turn of the lid and be surprised! In this case it’s a light and elegant starter; one that you can prepare the day before. The ginger and spring onion bring spiciness and freshness, the dashi brings umami and the flan a velvety, rich feeling. Making the dish comes with two challenges: the flan should be smooth and the gel not too firm.

Sake Pairing

Sake is best with this dish. The taste of the flan is subtle with a nice fresh touch because of the ginger and spring onion. The gel is a bit salty, given the dish a nice edge. The sake should be straight and crisp (and cold of course).

What You Need

  • For the Flan
    • 8 Small Coddlers (so-called standard size)
    • 100 gram of Silken Tofu (light and soft)
    • 1 Egg
    • 1 Egg Yolk
    • 50 ml Dashi (preferably home-made)
    • Touch of Soy Sauce
    • 1 Teaspoon of Mirin
    • Butter
    • Dill
  • For the Gel
    • 75 ml Dashi
    • Cornstarch
    • Fresh Ginger
    • Spring Onion

What You Do

In a bowl mix the egg and the egg yolk. Use a blender to smoothen the tofu. After blendering it should look like yoghurt. In a second bowl mix the tofu, 50 ml dashi, a touch of soy sauce and mirin. Now combine the content of the two bowls and mix gently. Pass through a sieve. It’s important that the mixture is very smooth, so no lumps or bits of white from the egg. And no bubbles. If not, pass through a finer sieve.
Apply a very thin layer of butter to the coddler, just enough to cover the inside. Pour the mixture in the coddlers, but nor more than 2/3. The mixture will set but not raise (or only a little bit). Close the coddlers, but not too tight. You want to test one during the cooking process and you don’t want to burn your fingers.
Set your oven to ‘classic’ and to 170° Celsius or 340° Fahrenheit. Put the coddlers in a large oven tray and add boiling water. The water should reach ¾ of the coddler, leaving ¼ free. Once in the oven reduce the temperature to 120° Celsius or 250° Fahrenheit and cook for 25 to 30 minutes. The coddlers are done when a metal pin comes out clean.
Remove the coddlers from the oven and allow to cool. You can do this by putting them in cold water, but you can also give it a bit of time. Make sure you dry the inside of the metal lid (condense).
Reduce the dashi. The taste should be relatively strong because the cornstarch will soften it. Better to use agar agar, but cornstarch is perfectly fine in this case. Thicken the sauce with the starch and let it cool. It should work as a gel on top of the flan.
Grate the ginger and very thinly slice both white and green of the spring onion.
Put a bit of ginger in the middle of the flan; sprinkle the onion over the top of the flan and finish by pouring a bit of the gel. Ideally this will cover the top (and the ginger and spring onion) and flow between the coddler and the flan.
Put the coddlers in the refrigerator and let cool. Half an hour before serving take them out of the refrigerator, remove the lid, dry it and put it back on again. Decorate with dill.

Haddock Marinated in Miso

Saikyo Yaki

The original recipe is from Kyoto and combines fresh fish with Saikyo miso. This is a white, slightly sweet, low sodium miso. The fish is marinated in miso and then grilled and served with pickled ginger. Lots of umami of course and the intriguing combination of miso and fish. Nowadays salmon is often used when preparing this popular dish.

Our approach is slightly different. We use white fish (haddock preferred, but rouget, halibut or cod are also fine) and marinate it in red miso for four or five days. The flesh will become beautiful deep red and the miso will gently flavour the fish, without overwhelming it. It’s not a subtle starter but the taste is great especially when combined with pickled cucumber and karashi (Japanese mustard). 

Sake Pairing

Best served with a dry sake. We prefer Junmai Taru Sake as produced by Kiku-Masamune. This fine sake is matured in barrels made of the finest Yoshino cedar. The aroma has indeed clear hints of cedar. The sake will clear your palate and allow for a more intense taste of the marinated haddock.

What You Need

  • Two slices of Haddock (thin is best)
  • Red Miso (preferable with less salt)
  • Cucumber Pickles
  • Karashi

What You Do

Start four or five days in advance. Fully coat the haddock with miso. Cover the dish with foil and transfer to the fridge. Check on a daily basis if the fish is still fully coated.
Using a small spoon carefully remove most of the miso. Rinse the haddock with water and dry it with kitchen paper. The white flesh should now be red. Heat a non sticky pan until warm, but not hot, through and through. If too hot, the fish will burn. We set our induction hob to 6 (where 9 is the maximum). Add a bit of olive oil and then fry the fish for 2*2 minutes. Serve on a warm plate with pickles and karashi.

Baba Ghanoush

Eggplant

Baba Ghanoush is tasteful and easy to make. Combine it with olives, pickles and flat bread (naan) to create a delicious starter to share. Don’t be tempted to buy Baba Ganoush at the supermarket. Most of these products lack the typical taste as a result of charring the eggplant.
Sumac is an ingredient from the Levantine cuisine. Basically sumac powder is the result of crunching dried berries of the sumac plant. The taste vaguely resembles cranberries with a touch of lemon. In this case it adds fruitiness to the dish. The sweetness of the berries combines well with the garlic.

Wine Pairing

Enjoy Baba Ganoush with a glass of white Lebanese wine, but since that’s hard to find a nice glass of Cava is also a good choice.

What You Need

  • 1 Eggplant
  • 1 Garlic glove
  • 1 Tablespoon of Tahini
  • Olive Oil
  • Greek or Turkish yoghurt
  • Lemon Juice
  • Sumac
  • Pomegranate

What You Do

Start by grilling the eggplant (in the oven in our case) to the point of charring. Ideal would be a char coal grill, but an oven grill also does the trick. Then leave the eggplant in the hot oven until very soft; maybe 30-45 minutes in total, depending on the seize of the eggplant. Some suggest rubbing the eggplant with olive before grilling it that’s not necessary.
Transfer the eggplant to a plate and let cool. Now cut in half and use a spoon to separate the flesh from the skin. Use a kitchen knife to cut the flesh very thinly. Put the mixture in a sieve and reduce the amount of liquid in the mixture. Add the garlic and mix well.  Add tahini and while stirring slowly add olive oil to create a thick mixture. Add yoghurt and some lemon juice. Taste well and adjust by adding more tahini, yoghurt or lemon juice. Allow to integrate for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Spread the baba ghanoush on a small plate, add a splash of excellent olive oil and sprinkle some pomegranate seeds and sumac to finish.

 

Carpaccio

A Favourite Starter

Don’t you love your Carpaccio! Such a simple, delicious starter. All you need is a few thin slices of tenderloin or sirloin, some Parmesan cheese, rocket salad, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and pine nuts plus maybe some truffle mayo-STOP!
Don’t go there! That’s not a Carpaccio!

The Real Carpaccio (and a bit of history)

Vittore Carpaccio was an Italian painter, born in Venice around 1460. Nearly 500 years later, in 1950, an exhibition was held in the Doge’s Palace in Venice, showing many of Carpaccio’s work. In the mean time chef Giuseppe Cipriani of Harry’s Bar was preparing a dish for one of his regular guests, the Contessa Amalia Nani Mocenigo. Her doctor had ordered her to eat uncooked food, especially raw, red meat. Most likely she suffered from anemia. The poor Contessa was used to excellent food, so something raw on a plate wasn’t very appealing. Chef Cipriani created a special dish for her, which he named after, indeed, the painter Carpaccio. Some say this was a tribute to the whites and reds as used by Carpaccio.
By the way, Giuseppe Cipriani was also the creator of the Bellini, a very nice cocktail based on white peaches, named after the painter.

Wine Pairing

We suggest enjoying your Carpaccio with a glass of Pinot Grigio or a Soave. It should be a fruity, not too powerful wine. Carpaccio is about the taste of the meat. The sauce and the wine should simply support this.

What You Need

  • 50 grams of excellent Tenderloin or Sirloin (per person) thinly sliced, cold but not frozen.
  • (Home made) Mayonnaise
  • Worcester Sauce
  • Lemon
  • White Pepper (freshly ground)
  • Mustard (optional)
  • Milk

What You Do

Take one or two spoons of mayonnaise and add two teaspoons of Worcester sauce, two teaspoons of lemon juice and some white pepper. Taste and adjust. Now add milk, creating a thin sauce. Remove the meat from the refrigerator, flatten the meat if so required and transfer to a cold plate. Create a nice pattern with the sauce, using a sauce bottle. Serve immediately.

 

Farfalle with Ramson (or Wild Garlic) and Parmesan Cheese

Ramson

In a number of countries ramson is a protected plant, so we don’t suggest you run out of the door and start picking it. But if it’s not protected, feel free to start running!
Ramson is much-loved in Germany, Austria (Bärlauch) and other parts of Europe. Its taste is like a combination of onion and garlic, but much greener, more intense, longer lasting and with a touch of bitterness at the end. Works very well as a pesto, but equally nice with potatoes or gnocchi. Once we made ramson soup, but that was not the best idea ever.
The flowers may have (if you’re lucky) a touch of sweetness because of the nectar in the flower. Always taste the leaves and the flowers before using and feel free to adjust quantities.

Wine Pairing

We would suggest a Soave to go with the dish. The Garganega grape combines very well with the specific taste of the ramson, given the wine is fresh with a subtle bitterness.

What You Need

  • 20 or so leaves of Ramson
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Farfalle
  • Lemon Juice

What You Do

Cut the leaves in smaller bits and blitz the leaves with grated Parmesan cheese. If you want to soften the taste, now is the moment to add some toasted almonds or pine nuts. Slowly add the olive oil until blended and smooth. Maybe you want to add a bit of lemon juice.
Cook the farfalle and serve with the pesto and some grated Parmesan cheese.
You can store the pesto for a week or so in the refrigerator if you add some extra olive oil to the jar, covering the pesto.

Haddock with White Beech Mushrooms

Popular Fish

When you mention Haddock, Cod is never far away. Two of the world’s most popular fish. Many recipes and foodies describe the two as being very similar in terms of taste and preparation. We humbly disagree. We think Haddock is more flavourful and present compared to the mild taste of Cod. The structures differ as well, although both require your constant attention; they easily overcook.

Beech Mushrooms are more and more widely available, which is great. The slightly nutty  taste in combination with their texture makes them ideal for this dish. And the golden colour of the fried white beech mushrooms is perfect with the golden colour of the fried haddock.

Wine Pairing

Our choice was a bottle of Pinot Grigio made by MezzaCorona. This is a dry and crispy white wine with a beautiful deep yellow colour. It’s an elegant wine with just the right acidity to relate to both the fish and the mushrooms.

What You Need

  • 200 grams of Haddock (without the skin)
  • 100 gram of Beech Mushrooms
  • Butter
  • White Pepper

What You Do

Clean the beech mushroom with kitchen paper and half. Check the fish for bits you don’t want to eat. Fry the fish in butter. Both sides should be beautiful golden brown. In parallel gently fry the beech mushrooms in butter.
Serve the beech mushrooms on top of fish. Perhaps a touch of white pepper.

Haddock with white Beech Mushrooms © cadwu
Haddock with white Beech Mushrooms © cadwu

Salade Niçoise

Pan Bagnat

The origin of the Salade Niçoise goes back to the days that life on the French Côte d’Azur was harsh. It was a remote and poor region and people tried making a living trough fishing, harvesting flowers for the perfume manufacturers and growing olives. Not a tourist in sight and no fancy lunches. Bread would be baked once every fortnight and people would soak the stale, day-old bread with water, olive oil or ripe tomatoes. Over the years this developed into what is known today as Pan Bagnat: bathed bread. Interestingly enough the stuffing became a dish in its own right: the Salade Niçoise.

Today’s Salade Niçoise is of course much more than water, olive oil and tomatoes. According to the founders of the label Nissarde Cuisine the Salade Niçoise is a combination of tomatoes, boiled eggs, salted anchovy, tuna in oil, spring onion, small black Niçoise olives, basil and olive oil. Optional ingredients are artichoke, broad beans, green pepper, garlic and radish.
And now I can hear you think: but how about the haricots verts and the potatoes? And haven’t you forgotten the vinegar?

Let’s start with the vinegar: a few drops are allowed but the idea goes back to the Pan Bagnat. So little or no vinegar and certainly no balsamic vinegar, mustard or mayonnaise. 

It was Auguste Escoffier who introduced the haricots verts and the potatoes as ingredients of the Salade Niçoise. For the guardians of the Nissarde Cuisine this is clearly a ‘no go’ (also because Escoffier was not from Nice). We were brave and did a small experiment by preparing both variations.

We expected the Escoffier version to be the winner of our small competition, but the stars clearly go to the Nissarde version: elegant, light, full of flavours and a tribute to the ingredients. Forget about haricots verts, potatoes, vinegar and grilled fresh tuna!

What You Need

  • Tomatoes
  • Salted Anchovy
  • Tuna in Oil
  • Spring Onion
  • 2 Boiled Eggs
  • Small Black (Niçoise) Olives
  • Basil
  • Olive oil
  • Optional
    • Artichoke
    • Broad Beans
    • Green Pepper
    • Garlic
    • Radish
  • Version Escoffier
    • Haricots Verts
    • Potatoes
    • Mesclun
    • Vinegar
    • Black Pepper

What You Do

For the Nissarde Cuisine version: cook the eggs until nearly set, clean the vegetables, wash and slice the anchovy. Then combine quartered tomatoes, sliced spring onion, tuna, anchovy, olives and basil. Drizzle with excellent olive oil and garnish with eggs. Toss briefly to make sure all ingredients are coated with oil.
For the Escoffier version: briefly cook the haricots verts and cool in cold water. Cook the potatoes until done. Cook the eggs until nearly set. Wash and slice the anchovy. Clean the vegetables. Combine quartered tomatoes, sliced spring onion, tuna, anchovy, olives, cubed potatoes, haricots verts and basil. Mix olive oil and vinegar. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with eggs. Toss briefly to make sure all ingredients are coated with the dressing.
For a more luxurious version replace the canned tuna with grilled tuna.

Salad with Various Beans and Swordfish

When in Valencia

The Mercat Central in Valencia is one of the largest markets in Europe. Its architecture is amazing, but even more stunning are the products: fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, wines, fresh meat, sausages, hams, herbs, spices, fish, bread, chickens, pickles, snails, weeds, offal, rice, nuts, beans: anything and everything you can dream of.
Albufera is a fresh water area not far from Valencia used for growing rice. It is of course the ideal rice for paella. If an original recipe of paella would exist, it would include rice, olive oil, rabbit, saffron and various beans such as broad beans, roget and garrofón.
Inspired by the classic Salade Niçoise we bought a slice of excellent swordfish, sweet onions, potatoes, eggs and of course: lots of beans. Shall we call it Salade Valençoise?

Wine Pairing

We served the salad as a main dish. Combining wine and salad is not straightforward because acidity is an important aspect of a dressing and therefore of a salad. In this case we have a range of flavours and textures so we would suggest a wine with a very present floral bouquet. The taste should be smooth and fruity. We enjoyed it with a glass of Albariño Rias Baixas 2018 produced by Bodegas Bouza do Rei, made from 100% Albariño grapes.
Another excellent choice would be Sericis, 2018 from the house of Murviedro. A wine from Utiel-Requena, so from the Valencia region. A wine made from 100% Merseguera grapes. Full bodied yet light, elegant and surprisingly low in its alcohol with only 12%. Well balanced acidity which is great when combining it with a salad.

What You Need

  • Mixed Salad
  • White Sweet Onion
  • Flat Beans (we also used the local red variety Roget)
  • Green Peas
  • Broad Beans
  • Garrofón (Lima Beans or Butter Beans)
  • Sword Fish
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Small (New) Potatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Vinegar
  • Mustard
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Start by pealing the broad beans, the green peas, the flat beans, the garrofón beans and the potatoes. Cook all five ingredients separately until al dente. Cook the eggs until just done. Let cool. Peel the broad beans and the garrofón beans again. Make a dressing by combining olive oil, vinegar and mustard. Slice the flat beans, the onion and the potatoes. Cut the egg in four. Fry the swordfish until just done. In parallel mix the salad with the onion, the flat beans, the green peas, the potatoes and the broad beans. Add the dressing and toss. Slice the swordfish and decorate the salad with egg, garrofón and swordfish. A touch of black pepper to finish.

Fried Oyster Mushrooms

Yesterday’s Bread

Cotoletta alla Milanese and Wiener Schnitzel are based on a similar concept: breaded and pan fried thin slices of veal or pork, served with a slice of lemon. The most obvious variation is Pollo alla Milanese which is made with chicken. A very special variation is Cotoletta di vitella di latte alla Milanese, as described in 1891 by Pelligrino Artusi (1820-1911) in his book La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiar Bene (The Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well). The book is a must have for every serious food lover, so buy the book! It is very well written and contains over 700 recipes from Italy. Before breading the meat Mr. Artusi coats one side of the veal with a mixture of finely chopped fat ham, parsley, grated Parmesan cheese and truffle. Delicious no doubt!

The variation we prefer is made with Oyster Mushrooms, so Cotolette di Funghi Pleurotus alla Milanese. It is very tasty and the juicy and meaty structure of the oyster mushroom in combination with the crispy crust makes it into a much-loved starter. No need to deep fry: a hot pan with olive oil and butter is all you need.

The key to an excellent Alla Milanese are the breadcrumbs. Make your own breadcrumbs with yesterday’s bread and compare the result with the cardboard crumbs you can buy. Flavour! Texture!

Wine Pairing

A fresh, not too complex white wine will be great with the fried oyster mushrooms. Soave, Burgundy, Loire: all good.

What You Need

  • 150 grams of Oyster Mushrooms
  • One Egg
  • Three Slices of Yesterday’s Bread
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Black Pepper
  • Lemon Juice

What You Do

We begin by making the breadcrumbs. Toast the slices of bread and let cool. Cut in smaller bits and then using a cutter or blender make the crumbs. Whisk the egg. Feel free to add some water if you need more volume. Remove the stems from the mushrooms. Make sure your pan is hot, add the oil, the butter and start breading and frying. When nearly ready remove the pan from the heat, add some lemon juice and move the mushrooms in the pan. The idea is to add a touch of lemon to the taste and to keep the mushrooms crispy. Add black pepper and serve immediately on a warm plate. We don’t serve with additional lemon because adding lemon juice later on will make the wonderful crunchy crust of the soft oyster mushrooms soggy.

Dashi with Matsutake and Shrimps

Celebrate Autumn

This year seems to be an exceptionally good year for Matsutake. Antonio Carluccio once described it is a much-overrated mushroom but we dare to disagree. Just smell it! Pine, pine, pine. A unique mushroom. We tried making this soup with shiitake, but the result is not as refined, delicate and well-balanced. The key elements are of course the (home-made) dashi, the matsutake and the shrimps. Kamaboko (made from processed seafood) and Mitsuba (Japanese parsley) add colour (and some extra flavour) to the dish.

What You Need

  • Dashi
    • 0,5 l of Water
    • 10 gram of Konbu
    • 10 gram of Katsuobushi
  • 75 gram of Matsutake
  • 2 Shrimps
  • Taru Sake
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Yuzu
  • Kamaboko
  • (Mitsuba)

Sake Pairing

If you want to serve a drink with the soup, then serve taru sake. This is a dry sake characterized by its refreshing taste and the wooden aroma of Yoshino cedar. A wonderful link to the matsutake. And if you bought a bottle of taru sake, then please use this sake for marinating the shrimps.

What You Do

With a damp cloth clean the matsutake. Be careful not to remove the skin. The root should be cut like a pencil. Clean the shrimps and cut lengthwise in two. Let marinade in two tablespoons of sake and transfer to the refrigerator for an hour. Gently warm the dashi, add a small tablespoon of sake and a similar quantity (or less) of soy sauce. Cut the matsutake in 8 similar slices and add to the soup. After a few minutes (depending on the size of the matsutake) add four slices of kamaboko and the shrimps. Taste and add some more soy sauce and or yuzu if needed. Serve immediately when the shrimps are ready. If available add some mitsuba.