Veal Rib Eye with Morels

Morels or Not?

In January 2019 one person died and over 30 people became ill after having eaten at Riff, the one Michelin star restaurant in Valencia. Media were quick in their analysis and decided that it was caused by the morels in one of the dishes. Today (April 4th) it’s not yet clear what caused the catastrophe.

Most sources mention that Morels contain some kind of toxin, one that can be destroyed by heating the morels. So lesson one with morels is not to eat them raw; they must be sautéed for a few minutes. Luckily the taste improves when sautéing them a bit longer, let’s say 10 minutes, so the toxin should be gone by then. However… some people report an upset stomach after having eaten morels and drinking alcohol. If you’re not used to eating morels, it could be wise to eat just a few and see how you react.

Look-A-Likes

A clear risk with morels is the fact that some other mushrooms are true look-a-likes. For example the highly toxic early morel or wrinkled thimble-cap and other ‘false’ morels. So picking them yourself is not a good idea unless you are an experienced morel-hunter. If you buy them (like we do), then buy them fresh or dried from a reliable source.

China

Some media mentioned that the morels used at Riff were brought in from China. Is that a problem? Yes from a sustainability point of view and No from a morel point of view. Morels are found in abundance in North America, Australia, China, Poland, France, India, Pakistan and many other countries, so why distrust them when they originate from China?

Back to Riff

Our humble view is that morels are in the mushroom top three together with Cèpes and Truffle. We are perfectly happy to eat them, for instance combined with Veal. And we look forward to having dinner at Riff when we are in Valencia later this year.

Wine Pairing

We prefer a full-bodied red wine, for instance a Nero d’Avola. We enjoyed a glass of Vanitá Nero d’Avola Organico Terre Siciliane I.G.T. 2016. It goes very well with the rich flavours of the veal and the morels. The wine comes with raspberries, red fruits and just a touch of vanilla. It has medium sweetness and a hint of herbs and spices, almost cinnamon. A long aftertaste and light tannins.

What You Need

  • Rib Eye of Veal
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Morels
  • Veal stock
  • Spinach

What You Do

Fry the Rib Eye in a heavy iron skillet for a few minutes until (very) pink. Wrap in aluminium foil and allow to rest. Reduce the heat and if necessary add some extra butter to the pan. Add the cleaned and halved morels and sauté gently. Add some veal stock and juices from the rib eye. In a small pan heat some olive oil, add the dry spinach and stir constantly. Serve the rib eye with the sauce, the morels and the spinach. Spring on your plate!

Mussels with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Moules marinière, Mosselen met Look, Mussels in Beer, Mussels with Anise, Mussels with Cream, served with crusted bread or with French fries: mussels are great to combine. Mussels with Spicy Tomato Sauce is a nice, spicy surprise, provided the mussels are really tasty. If not, then the spicy sauce will overwhelm the mussels and it will be an unbalanced dish. Best to make the tomato sauce a day before. You could also go for Piri Piri, but please make your own. The industry-made Piri Piri is never as tasteful.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our mussels with a glass of Picpoul de Pinet AOP les Flamants. Let’s explain the name: the grape is called Picpoul Blanc. And the vineyards belong to a village called Pinet; close to the Etang de Thau in the south of France between Narbonne and Montpellier. The terroir (think calcareous soil, clay, quartz) is influenced by the sea, which is reflected in the mineral taste of the wine. The story is that Picpoul could be read as pique poul which translates into something like ‘stings the lip’; a nice reflection of the high acidity of the grapes. This acidity guarantees a refreshing white wine, which is exceptional given the warm climate. The wine is bright yellow with a very subtle touch of green. It’s aromatic, floral and fruity. The taste has notes of citrus and hopefully some bitterness, which will make it into a really interesting wine. To be combined with oysters, mussels, fruit de mer, skate and fish in general.

What You Need

  • For the Mussels
    • 1 kilo of Mussels (we prefer small ones)
    • Olive Oil
    • 1 Shallot
    • 1 Garlic Glove
    • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Bay Leaf, Thyme)
    • White Whine
  • For the Sauce
    • 4 Ripe Tomatoes
    • 1 Shallot
    • Olive Oil
    • 3 Garlic Gloves
    • 2 Chili Peppers
    • Red Wine
    • Bay Leaf
    • Black Pepper

What You Do

Please remember to read our mussel basics. Start by making the sauce. Remove the pits from the tomatoes and cut the meat in small chunks. Remove the seeds from the peppers and slice. Peel the onion and garlic gloves and chop these. Glaze the onion, garlic and chili pepper in olive oil. Ten minutes on low heat will do the job. Add the tomatoes , the tomato juice (simply put the pits and the left overs from the tomato in a sieve and use a spoon to squeeze out all the lovely juices and flavors), some red wine and the bay leaf. Cook for at least two hours, remove the bay leaf, transfer 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. Cool quickly and transfer to the refrigerator for the next day.

Warm a fairly big pan and gently glaze the sliced onion 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 the flavours to integrate.
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. Remove mussels with a slotted spoon, transfer to a warm soup dish and serve with the warm and spicy tomato sauce and crusted bread.

Veal Cheeks with Pak Choi (Bok Choy)

Joue de Veau

You may have spotted this in a French Boucherie or Supermarket. Probably close to the Ris de Veau, the Collier D’Agneau and the Abats de Porc. Not the most obvious choices, but in reality the Joue de Veau (Veal Cheek) is a true delicacy. The meat requires a few hours to become tender, but it’s worth the wait. When you serve it you will pleasantly surprised: the meat is extremely tender, juicy and a touch of pink on the inside. Which makes it a great idea to serve it sliced, especially because the outside of the meat is deep dark brown.
The Joue or Cheek requires cleaning. Best is to ask your butcher to do this or use a very sharp knife.
We use a classic combination carrot, onion, leek and celeriac plus red wine and a bouquet garni. Don’t make the bouquet too powerful; the idea is to support the meat, nothing else.
No need to use an expensive wine for the stew. A simple, red wine is fine. Some people will argue that the wine you use for cooking must be the one you serve with the food. Nonsense. Feel free to drink a Baralo (like we did) with the Veal Cheeks, but don’t waste half a bottle of it by using it as a cooking liquid.
The Pak Choi works really well with the Veal Cheeks. It brings the bitterness of cabbage, balancing the sweetness of the meat and the deep taste of the sauce. Plus the fried Pak Choi is a bit crispy, both the leaves and the stem, which is great in combination with the moist, tender meat.

Wine Pairing

A full-bodied red wine with clear tannins, a delicate smell and red fruit aromas will be an excellent choice. Velvety and smooth. As the Veal Cheeks: simple yet complex. We drank a glass of Barolo San Silvestro, Serra Dei Turchi, 2014. A perfect match with the braised veal, the sauce and the cabbage.

What You Need

  • 2 Veal Cheeks (one per person)
  • Carrot
  • Celeriac
  • Onion
  • Leek
  • Olive Oil
  • Bouquet Garni
    • Bay Leaf
    • Thyme
    • Parsley
  • Red Wine
  • Cognac
  • (baby) Pak Choi (Bok Choy)

What You Do

Start by adding oil to the pan. Fry the Veal Cheeks until they have a nice, golden colour. Transfer to a plate. Add more oil and fry the chopped vegetables. Be careful not to add too much carrot or celeriac. Stir for a few minutes and then add the meat. Add wine and the bouquet garni. Leave on a low heat for 4-6 hours until tender. Make sure to turn the meat every hour or so. Cool the stew and transfer to the refrigerator. The next day remove the fat (if any) and warm the stew. When warm, transfer the meat to a plate and keep warm (for instance in an oven of 70 C, the ideal temperature for your plates as well). Remove the vegetables and the bouquet. Reduce the liquid with one-third or more. Taste the sauce. Add a splash of cognac. Black Pepper? Cook a few minutes longer allowing for the alcohol to evaporate.
In a non-sticky pan heat some oil and fry the Pak Choi for 2 times 2 minutes, maximum. In parallel fry the meat in a non-sticky pan, one or two minutes in total. This will give the meat a crispy touch and an even deeper dark brown colour. Serve the Joue de Veau with the sauce, crusty bread and the Pak Choi.

Chicken a la Carolus Battus

In the year 1593

The history of food is interesting for a number of reasons. Following old recipes provides you with the opportunity to discover new combinations, techniques and new flavors, or better said, forgotten combinations, techniques and flavors.
The University of Amsterdam is home to the Special Collections, the material heritage of the University. One of the collections is related to recipes, cookbooks, books on etiquette, nutrition, food et cetera. The oldest cookbook is Eenen seer schoonen ende excelenten Cocboeck, inhoudende alderley wel geexperimenteerde cokagien, van ghebraet, ghesoden, Pasteyen, Taerten, toerten, Vlaeijen, Saussen, Soppen, ende dier-gelijcke: Oock diversche Confeyturen ende Drancken, etc. by Carel Baten (Carolus Battus) published in 1593. The book contains some 300 recipes for a range of food and drink. It was published as an annex to his Medecijn Boec, after all he was a medical doctor.

In 2018 Onno and Charlotte Kleyn published Luilekkerland; a great book on 400 years of cooking in the Netherlands. They must have spent months at the Special Collections going through various cookbooks and manuscripts with recipes. Many thanks for creating ‘a magical mystery tour’ through the kitchens of the past.
In the book they describe one of the recipes of Carolus Battus: een sause op eenen gesoden capoen. Or in English: poached Capon with sauce.
The short version: make a poaching liquid with carrot, leek, celeriac and onion. Add the capon and poach it until it’s done. In parallel combine old breadcrumbs with white almonds, white wine, ginger powder and sugar. Create a sauce by gently warming the mixture with some of the cooking liquid and serve.

Capon is very expensive, so like Onno and Charlotte we go for chicken. Our recipe is for 2 chicken thighs, but we could also imagine making a roulade and then serving a slice of chicken roulade with the sauce as a starter.
The surprise is in the sauce: the combination of bread, ginger and almonds is tasty and complex. The sauce may appear to be filming and fat, but actually it’s not. The texture of the sauce is interesting as well: the bread will make the sauce a bit porridge like and the crushed almonds prevent the sauce from being smooth.
Our version of the recipe is a bit closer to 2018: we’re not the biggest fans of poaching and we don’t see the need for sugar. Plus why use powder if you can get fresh ginger?

Wine Pairing

Best is to go for a white wine with a touch of sweetness, for instance a Gewurztraminer. This will combine very well with the somewhat unusual flavors in the dish. If you go for a glass of red wine, then we would suggest a pinot noir, nice and earthy.

What you need

  • 2 chicken thighs
  • Chicken stock and optional
    • Leek
    • Carrots
    • Celeriac
    • Onions
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • 15 grams of white Almonds
  • 1 – 2 cm of Fresh ginger
  • 1 dl of Dry white wine
  • Slice of toasted Bread

What you do

If your chicken stock needs a boost, then add the vegetables and let simmer for 15 minutes or so. In a small skillet heat the butter and olive oil. Fry the chicken until nearly done. In parallel blender the almonds and the toasted bread. Grate the ginger. Add the white wine and the ginger to the mixture and blender. Add some stock and blender for a few seconds. Transfer the mixture to a pan and warm over medium heat. It requires attention, so keep an eye on the sauce and stir every minute or so. The sauce will thicken so you will probably need to add more stock. Transfer the chicken to a warm oven and let rest. Deglaze the pan with some stock and add this liquid to the sauce. Stir well. Now it’s time to taste. Remember the taste is new, so take your time. Almonds? Bread? Hint of acidity? Ginger? Chicken? Overall? Serve the chicken with the sauce.
We enjoyed the chicken as a main course with some Brussels sprouts, olive oil and nutmeg.

 

Carbonnade à la Flamande (Flemish Beef Stew)

When in Belgium…

This is a true classic, so many will claim to have the one and only original recipe. This dish is all about beef, onions and brown Belgian beer. Herbs like parsley and bay leaf, spices like nutmeg plus mustard and cider vinegar. Definitely not bacon, stock, prunes and garlic. Maybe some brown sugar if you prefer a sweet touch to the dish.
Given it’s a true classic many traditional restaurants in Belgium (or better said Flanders) will have this on the menu. Try it with some bread and a glass of brown Beer, preferably draught.
We serve the stew with two vegetables: celeriac and green beans. You could also go for mashed potatoes or fries, but balancing the rich stew with vegetables and bread is (we think) a much healthier idea.
And typical for a good stew: make it a day in advance.
Don’t worry if you made too much, the stew will keep for months in the freezer.

Wine Pairing

If you go for a glass of red wine, make sure it is full-bodied and rich, because the stew is really hearty. Bordeaux is a good choice. We drank a glass of Chateau Beaulieu, Cotes de Bourg, 2012. It is a wine with lots of dark fruit and a touch of oak. The wine is a blend of the traditional Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc plus 10% Malbec.

What You Need (for 4 persons)

  • 1 kilo of excellent, fat, marbled Beef
  • 4-6 large White Onions
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • 1 tablespoon of all purpose Flour
  • Nutmeg
  • 2 bottles (33 cl) of Belgian Brown Beer (we prefer Westmalle)
  • Bouquet garni, consisting of Thyme, Bay Leaf and Parsley
  • Cider Vinegar
  • Slice of Bread
  • Mustard

What To Do

Start by slicing the meat. Don’t make the cubes too small; they will shrink during the cooking process. Heat butter and olive oil in a large pan and start frying the meat. You probably will have to do this in 2 or 3 batches. Make sure the meat is nicely colored. Add some more olive oil and caramelize the sliced onions. Again, not too thin, they should be visible in the stew. Now add the flour and coat the onions and the beef. Add nutmeg, the beer, the cider vinegar and the bouquet. Close the pan and keep on a low heat for 2 to 3 hours.
Check the meat and add one slice of bread (not the crust). Add a nice spoon of French mustard. Leave to simmer for another hour.
By now the bread will be dissolved. Stir and check the meat. If okay, then remove the meat from the pan and reduce the sauce. Discard the bouquet. Transfer the meat back into the pan, reheat, then cool and transfer to the refrigerator until the next day.
Reheat slowly and serve with Celeriac and Beans.

PS How to Prepare Celeriac?

Good question! Clean the celeriac and cut in cubes. Transfer to a pan with some water and one or two generous slices of lemon. One or two you ask? Well, the answer depends on the size of your celeriac and the acidity of the lemon. If in doubt, then go for one slice. Cook the celeriac until nearly done. Remove the water and the lemon. Now add (single) cream to the pan. Keep on a low heat for 10 minutes. The celeriac will absorb some of the cream. Transfer the mixture to the blender and create a smooth puree. Serve with nutmeg.

PS How to Cook Green Beans?

Short is the only answer. Serve with excellent olive oil. Normally we would add some nutmeg, but given it’s already on the celeriac and in the stew you may want to skip it. Olive oil is essential to coat the beans and make them nuttier. Butter will also coat them, but it is much more mouth filming and the butter will not emphasize the nuttiness of the beans.

 

 

Lamb Shank with Rosemary

When In Paris…

A few years ago when attending a business lunch in Paris (the things we have to endure in life…) we were overwhelmed by the menu. We quickly decided to go for Lamb and told the waiter in our very best French we would like to taste Souris d’Agneau au Vin Rouge et aux Herbes, although not exactly knowing what a Souris might be. So during that lunch we discovered the joys of Lamb Shank.
Most recipes recommend preparing lamb shank in a hot oven (200 °C or so) but that’s actually not the best way to do it. Too hot, too fast, too dry.

Lamb shank has a generous amount of fat which makes it ideal for slow cooking. Our preferred option is to use a pressure cooker. Within 45 minutes the lamb shanks will be perfectly cooked, tender and moist.

Wine Pairing

We would suggest drinking a glass of Bordeaux with the lamb shank. The Bordeaux is in general a classic blend with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The wine should be well structured with lots of fruit. It should support the sweetness of the dish (carrots, lamb, leek). Soft tannins, a smooth texture and sufficient length. We very much enjoyed a glass of Chateau Beaulieu (2012) with our lamb.
Remember to use the same wine for cooking the lamb!

What You Need

  • 2 Lamb Shanks (with fat, please!)
  • 2 Shallots
  • Carrot
  • Leek
  • Celeriac
  • 2 Garlic Gloves
  • Olive Oil
  • Bouquet Garni, for instance:

    • Bay Leaf
    • Parsley
    • Thyme
    • lots of Rosemary (and 2 extra sprigs)
  • Red Wine
  • Water
  • Black Pepper
  • Brussels Sprouts or Carrots

What You Do

Start by colouring the lamb shanks in olive oil. Transfer to a plate and then gently fry the shopped shallot, the leek, the carrot, the celeriac and the garlic. When ready add the red wine and some water, depending on your taste. Add the generous bouquet garni with extra rosemary and some cooked garlic. Transfer the lamb shanks back to the pan and close the pressure cooker. Cook for 30 – 45 minutes depending on the size of the shanks. Transfer the shanks to a warm plate, pass the cooking juice through a sieve (discarding the vegetables), check the sauce, reduce if necessary,  and serve the shanks with a classic branch of rosemary, Brussels sprouts and some bread.
If you want to emphasize the natural sweetness of the dish, then serve with glazed carrots.

 

Bay Boletes with Brussels Sprouts and Tenderloin

Bay Bolete

The Bay Bolete is a tasty, fairly common mushroom. Its cap is chestnut (bay) brown. They are easy to find under pines and other conifers in Europe and North America (but we’re not mushroom hunters) and unfortunately not so easy to find on the market. The main season for the Bay Bolete is late summer and autumn. Bay Boletes are rarely infested with maggots. They dry very well.
When comparing the taste of Bay Boletes and Cepes we think that Cepes have a more powerful and complex taste whereas Bay Boletes are nuttier.

We remember Brussels sprouts from our youth: over- cooked, greyish, soggy and oh-that-smell (it’s sulphur actually)! Once in a blue moon we take a trip down memory lane and cook them this way, but we prefer a more modern approach, for instance steamed and served with a drizzle of olive oil. Nutmeg is a must by the way.

Wine

We very much enjoyed a glass of Portuguese Segredos de São Miguel, a full-bodied, warm red wine, made from grapes such as Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira. You will taste lots of fruit and a touch of toast. A juicy wine with nice acidity and smooth tannins. Fresh and vigorous finish.

You could also go for a Malbec. Taste wise the mushrooms and the sprouts are very powerful, so you’re looking for a wine that will clearly support the beef and will also combine with the nuttiness of the mushrooms and the touch of bitterness of the sprouts.

Here is what you need

  • Boletes
    • 150 grams of Bay Boletes
    • Olive Oil
    • Butter
    • One glove of Fresh Garlic
    • Parsley
  • Brussels Sprouts
    • 200 grams of Brussels Sprouts
    • Butter
    • Nutmeg
  • 150 grams of excellent Beef (Tenderloin is best in this case)
  • Black Pepper

Let’s Start Cooking

We begin with the Brussels sprouts: clean them (don’t cut in half as so many do nowadays) and cook or steam them until they are nearly okay. Set aside and let cool. Clean the mushrooms with a brush and/or kitchen paper. Slice (not too thin). Heat a skillet, add olive oil and butter. Add the sliced mushrooms and fry gently over medium heat. In parallel warm a pan with some butter and add the sprouts. The idea is to coat them with butter and warm them, giving them just the cuisson you prefer. Heat a second skillet with olive oil and butter, fry the beef and let rest for 5 minutes or so in aluminum foil. Season the sprouts with some nutmeg. Back to the mushrooms: add chopped garlic to the pan. Wait a few minutes and then add chopped parsley. You could make a jus in the skillet you used for the beef. Serve on a hot plate with extra nutmeg and black pepper.