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!

Sweetbread or Ris de Veau with Madeira and Truffle

A Starter to Remember

A culinary treat that is delicate, balanced and overwhelming yet subtle. In a restaurant you will probably get Ris de Veau that was dusted with flour (okayish) or breaded (awful idea, it’s not a Wiener Schnitzel). In some countries the Ris de Veau is grilled which is an interesting idea. We stick to a very traditional approach that works extremely well because it’s all about the taste of the sweetbread in combination with Butter and Madeira. You could add some grated fresh truffle to make it even better tasting.

The sweetbread should of course be hot and soft on the inside and brown and crispy on the outside. Just use your non-sticky skillet and a bit of butter for a beautiful result.

Ris de Veau should be between rose and well done. It requires a bit of attention, but it’s hard to overcook Ris de Veau. Although some restaurants are very capable of creating rubber.

It is essential to clean the Ris de Veau. For some reason the process of removing the membrane from sweetbread is intimidating, but don’t be put off.

Wine Pairing

First the Madeira: don’t be tempted to buy so-called ‘cooking Madeira’. This is some horrible, sweet liquid that is not even close to Madeira. One for the bin. We bought a bottle of Santa Maria Madeira, medium dry. It is perfectly suited for this recipe. The story behind Madeira is complex so if you get the chance to buy one that is 10 or 15 years old, please give it a try. Just sip and enjoy.

We’re looking for a wine that will be supporting the delicate taste and the sweetness, earthiness and the slight nuttiness of the sauce. If you want to drink a glass of white wine, then it should be a full-bodied Chardonnay, although not too oaky. Chablis will be a good choice. If you go for red, then we recommend a Beaujolais Cru (St. Amour or Fleurie) or a Pinot Noir. It’s about soft tannins, aromas like dark cherries and licorice and on the palate a lean texture and dry.

What You Need

  • 200 grams of Ris de Veau
  • Two leaves of Bay Leaf
  • Crushed black pepper
  • Shallot
  • Butter
  • Veal Stock
  • Madeira
  • Jus de Truffes
  • Winter Truffle

What You Do

Start by filling a big pan with water. Add the crunched pepper and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Now add the sweetbread and make sure the water remains close to a boil. Blanch the sweetbread for let’s say 3 – 5 minutes, depending on the size and shape of the sweetbread.
Transfer the sweetbread to a large bowl with ice-cold water and cool the meat as quickly as possible.
Now it’s time to clean the sweetbread. Remove the bits of fat, the fleeces, any membrane, the veins and anything else you don’t like. Best way to do this is with your hands and a very sharp small knife. Once your sweetbread is clean, you will be able to see how to slice it later on. But first put it on a flat plate, seal it with plastic foil, put a similar flat plate on top of it and put something heavy on top of the second plate. Transfer to the refrigerator and leave it for a few hours. The idea is twofold: on the one hand the sweetbread will be firm and easy to partition. And it will lose some liquid because of the weight.
With the sweetbread in the fridge it’s time to start thinking about your sauce. Cut the shallot in small bits and glaze in butter. Add veal stock and Madeira. Mix and reduce. Transfer to a blender and mix. Pass the mixture through a small sieve and warm what is the beginning of your sauce. Add Jus de Truffes. This is an essential ingredient because it brings volume and depth to the sauce. It’s not to be confused with Truffle Oil, which in most cases is some kind of horrendous chemical invention. Taste and perhaps add some more Madeira or stock. A pinch of pepper may also be helpful. Keep warm for 5 or 10 minutes, stirring regularly. You will notice that the sauce becomes more intense and mature, which is exactly what you want.
In parallel cut 2-3 cm thick slices of sweetbread. Fry them for 5 minutes or so in a very warm (but not hot), non-sticky skillet with butter. It’s simple: when the sweetbread is golden and beautiful it is ready to be served. If in doubt: there is bound to be a small slice, one that you can use to test. Remember it’s offal, so you don’t want to take a risk.
Take two warm plates, add sauce and carefully put the slices of sweetbread on the plate. Add grated winter truffle.

Red Gurnard with Shrimps

Red And Blue

Such a beautiful fish! The Red or Tub Gurnard (or Roter Knurrhahn, Rode Poon, Galinette or Grondin Perlon) has a bright red body with blue, greenish pectoral fins. And isn’t the armoured head with the big eyes impressive? And on top of this they are capable of making a drumming, grunting sound.

For some obscure reason they have a poor reputation in the kitchen. You may find them as an ingredient in a stew or soup, but on its own? Not really. A pity, because it’s actually a delicious fish with firm fillets that keep their shape when prepared. Perhaps the gurnard comes with a more acquired taste (meaning that it’s not the kind of fish that is suitable for people who enjoy eating fish fingers). Some say the taste reminds them of shrimps, which would be interesting, given the Gurnard feeds on crabs, shrimps and other invertebrates living in the sediment.

We combine the Gurnard with shrimps and a classic Bisque, made with the shells of unpeeled shrimps. Agreed, it’s a bit of extra work, but it’s worthwhile.

Wine Pairing

A glass of Pinot Blanc or Gris will be a nice accompaniment to the dish. Light and fresh with a touch of sweetness. Chablis will also be nice.

What You Need

  • 2 Gurnards (preferably cleaned)
  • Butter
  • For the Bisque
    • 200 grams of unpeeled small grey shrimps
    • 1 small Tomato
    • 1 Shallot
    • Olive oil
    • Bouquet Garni (thyme, bay leaf, parsley)
    • Cognac

What You Do

Start by peeling the shrimps. It’s a very simple, mindfulness exercise. Remove the heads and discard. Use the shells for the bisque and transfer the bodies of the shrimps to the refrigerator. Chop the shallot and the tomato. Gently glaze the shallot for 10 minutes or so in olive oil. Add the shells and increase the heat for a few seconds. Add the tomato, some water and the bouquet garni. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Pass the liquid through a fine sieve. Make sure you get all the lovely juices. Add a splash of cognac and reduce the liquid until it’s powerful. Cool and store in the refrigerator.
In a non-sticky pan heat some butter and fry the gurnards. Isn’t the colour beautiful? In parallel warm the bisque. Just before serving add the shrimps. Don’t cook them (cooking will make them rubbery), just a bit of warmth will do the trick.
Serve the gurnard on a warm plate and dress with the bisque and shrimps.

 

Mussels with Anise

A Recipe from Corsica

Mussels with Anise is light, tasty and refreshing; it is an excellent lunch, especially when overlooking the Mediterranean (as we did when we were in Corsica), but it’s also an excellent starter. Use crushed anise seeds for the sauce. Don’t use star anise, it has a much sweeter taste; something we don’t recommend for this sauce.
It’s possible (and recommended especially when you have guests) to cook the mussels the day before. It’s a matter of cooking until just ready and quickly removing them from the shell. Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator. The next day you simply add them to your sauce and warm the mussels.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our mussels with a glass of Picpoul de Pinet. 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.
We enjoyed our mussels with a glass of very nice Picpoul de Pinet AOP les Flamants.

What You Need

  • 1 kilo of Mussels (we prefer small ones)
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Garlic Glove
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Chives, Thyme)
  • White Whine for the Mussels
  • Fish Stock
  • White Wine for the sauce
  • Butter
  • Mustard
  • Cream

What You Do

Before you start, please read the basics about mussels.

Warm a fairly big pan and gently glaze the sliced onion in oil. Then add the chopped garlic and gently cook the garlic and the onion for another 5 minutes. Add a glass of white wine and the bouquet garni and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, allowing the tastes to integrate.

In parallel warm the fish stock and some white wine with the crushed anise seeds in a second pan. Add some mustard (to get a thicker sauce), butter and cream. gently warm the sauce on low heat for 5 minutes.

Turn the bigger pan to maximum heat 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 mussels, close the lid, listen and observe. Taste the sauce, maybe add a bit of the cooking liquid. Remove the mussels from the pan with a slotted spoon and quickly remove the mussels from their shells and transfer them to the sauce. Make sure the mussels are nicely coated with the sauce.

We prefer our anise seed mussels with crusted bread.

 

 

Antonio Carluccio’s Oysters with Zabaglione and White Truffle

Carluccio’s Caffè

This year we celebrate 20 years of Carluccio’s Caffè. Over 80 restaurants in the UK to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner and enjoy the food that Antonio Carluccio loved. With their integrated food shop the Caffè’s make the Italian gastronomy available to all. Antonio Carluccio was chef, author and ambassador of Italian Food. His many books will continue to be an inspiration.

Luxury Item

He once mentioned that white truffles were his luxury item. In The Complete Mushroom Book (published in 2001) he included a wonderful recipe for Oysters with Zabaglione and White Truffle. The oysters are served with a zabaglione made from butter, white wine, egg yolks and truffle oil with thinly sliced white truffle on top of the sauce. The dish is a true miracle because of the umami, the saltiness and the earthiness; its exquisiteness and mouthcoating feel in combination with the dryness of the oysters.

We prepared the dish with fresh Bianchetti truffles. A bit more outspoken than the white Alba truffle, but very, very nice in this dish. We used our favourite île de Ré oysters because they are lean and fresh (not creamy).

Remember Bianchetti truffles are harvested and sold between January 15th and April 30th, so don’t wait too long!

 

Let’s Mash!

We do like our mashed potatoes, for instance with a nice, hearty stew or with a wintery Choucroute. But isn’t it a bit too obvious, mashed potatoes?
Of course it is! Especially during the colder months your green grocer offers a range of vegetables that are ideally suited for making a purée.

A purée of Jerusalem Artichokes is savory, sweet, delicate and nutty. Great with game, pork stew and choucroute.
The mash of Celeriac and Lemon is a great accompaniment of many a dish. It’s fresh and light. Simply serve it whenever you think ‘let’s serve with mashed potatoes’. Give it a try when you want to eat roast cod.
A purée of Parsley Root and Parsnip has an intriguing taste. Yes, definitely parsley, but more complex, more lasting. Excellent when combined with a stew or roasted pork-belly.

Jerusalem Artichokes and Parsnips contain (like potatoes) a significant amount of starch, however different from potatoes you can use a blender when preparing the purée.

What you need

  • Jerusalem Artichokes and white pepper
  • Or Celeriac, four slices of Lemon and nutmeg
  • Or Parsley Root, Parsnip and white pepper
  • Cream

What you do

Clean and dice the vegetables and cook (with the lemon) until nearly soft. Drain (and remove the lemon) and add some cream to the pan. Leave on very low heat for 10 minutes or so. The idea is that the vegetables will absorb some of the cream. Mash (or blender) until smooth and pass through a sieve to make it perfect. Serve with white pepper and nutmeg (if required).

Parsnip, Celeriac, Parsley Root and Jerusalem Artichoke © cadwu
Parsnip, Celeriac, Parsley Root and Jerusalem Artichoke © cadwu

 

Matsu Take with Ginger and Spinach

Autumn

A very special mushroom, to say the least. Well known throughout Japan, China and South Korea as a true delicacy.  Matsu Take smells like a pine wood forest and its taste is intense, aromatic, lasting and unique. As if you could taste Autumn.
It’s an expensive mushroom (around 125 euro per kilo) with very limited availability. But if you happen to find it, be sure to buy it. Between 75 and 100 grams is fine for two.
The Matsu Take makes this into an unforgettable dish. It will bring you back to earth in a split second. Smell it, taste it and feel how satisfying and relaxing it is.

Wine 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 Matsu Take.

What you need

  • 75 – 100 gram of Matsu Take
  • Some Spinach (preferably what is called the ‘wild’ version, cleaned and without the stem)
  • Spring Onion
  • Touch of Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Soy Sauce (reduced salt)
  • Chicken Stock
  • Olive Oil
  • Sesame Oil

What you do

Warm the chicken stock, add soy sauce, a touch of sesame oil and flavour with slices of ginger. Allow to stand on a low heat for 10 minutes. Taste and then remove the ginger. Clean the Matsu Take and cut in small dices. The size you would like to eat them (Matsu Take doesn’t shrink like many other mushrooms; it remains firm). Fry them gently in a skillet in some olive oil, no longer than 3 minutes, together with the thinly sliced white of the spring onion. Add the garlic. In parallel blanch the spinach in the liquid. Quickly drain the spinach and set aside. Reduce the liquid and taste. In parallel chop the spinach.
Put spinach on a plate, sprinkle the Matsu Take over it and gently add some sauce.

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.

 

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.

 

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin

Such a simple, tasty, inexpensive and vegetarian soup! What more can you ask for? A bit of jus de truffe maybe?
Make sure to buy organic pumpkins. This allows you to use the skin; so two benefits: there is no need to peel the pumpkin and the soup will be better tasting.
Red lentils will become completely soft when cooked for 30 minutes; very different from green or black lentils. We add the lentils not only because of their taste, but also because they improve the texture of the soup.
Give the soup a finishing touch by adding pumpkin seed oil, jus de truffe or truffle flavoured olive oil (for instance produced by Moulins de la Brague).

Here is what you need

  • Small Pumpkin
  • Red Onion
  • Two Garlic Gloves
  • 6 cm Fresh Ginger
  • 2 Chilli Peppers
  • Tablespoon or more Red Lentils
  • Water
  • Olive oil
  • Pumpkin Seed Oil, Jus de Truffe or Truffle Flavoured Olive Oil
  • Cilantro

Chop de red onion in smaller but equal sized bits and put in a pan with olive oil. Put on moderate heat and give it some 5 to 10 minutes. Now add the chopped and seeded chilli pepper, the garlic and stir. Continue for 5 minutes on moderate heat. Add the chopped pumpkin and the lentils and stir for another 5 minutes. Peel the ginger, cut in cubes and put on a small wooden stick. This way you can easily remove the ginger later on. Now add boiling water and leave for 30 minutes to simmer or until the pumpkin is very, very soft.
When done remove the ginger. Taste the ginger and decide how much ginger you want to add to the soup. We just love fresh ginger so we would add most of it. Blender the remainder into a smooth soup. You could pass it through a sieve to make sure it’s like a lovely velouté. Cool and transfer to the refrigerator for the next day.
Warm the soup and add a splash of truffle flavoured olive oil or pumpkin seed oil and lots of cilantro before serving.
You can also make a milder version by reducing the amount of chilli and ginger. Then add jus de truffe, a bit of olive oil and maybe some pepper before serving.

Pumpkin Soup © cadwu
Pumpkin Soup © cadwu

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.

Monkfish with Tomato Olive Sauce

Not the kind of fish you want to meet when swimming in the sea, but definitely one you want to meet when shopping at the fishmonger. Make sure you bring some money because monkfish tends to be expensive. Great meat, delicate yet distinctive taste and not difficult to prepare as long as you’re not in a hurry.
The sauce has to be made a day in advance. It needs time to cook and time to integrate.
You will need to remove the skin of the monkfish. There seem to be several layers of skin and one is (when cooked) really rubbery and inedible. So take you knife, start at the tail end and move forwards, thus removing the membrane. You will find useful videos on the Internet. Unfortunately these videos suggest removing the main bone of the fish, which is a mistake for three reasons. You lose taste and meat plus you lose a natural indicator of the cuisson of the fish.
Pitted black olives. Sounds simple but isn’t simple at all. Buy quality, for instance Niçoise or Kalamate and stay away from cheap and canned. Dry-cured black olives (the wrinkly ones like Nyon) can be overpowering.
Monkfish is an essential ingredient of Zarzuela because of its texture and taste. In this recipe we combine the obvious: monkfish and tomato. We add a bouquet garni consisting of rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. The black olives give the required twist to the sauce and the dish as a whole.

We suggest a glass of Chardonnay to accompany the monkfish, provided the wine is not too woody; a light touch of oak will be best. Soave could also be a good combination.

Here is what you need

  • one Shallot
  • one Garlic Glove
  • Olive Oil
  • two Tomatoes
  • Pitted Black Olives
  • Bay Leaf
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Monkfish (200 gram per person, bone included)
  • Black Pepper

Start by making the sauce. Gently fry the chopped shallot in a splash of olive oil. After a few minutes add the chopped garlic. Now add the chopped tomatoes and the pitted black olives (depending on their taste we suggest between 10 and 15). Add the bouquet garni and allow to cook on low heat for a number of hours. Make sure to check on a regular basis. When ready, remove the bouquet garni and transfer to a blender. Pass the mixture through a sieve. The sauce should be as smooth as possible. Transfer to the refrigerator and use the next day.
Use a heavy iron skillet to fry the monkfish in olive oil. When nicely coloured, reduce the heat and start adding the sauce. Since the sauce is cold, you need to do it spoon by spoon. Coat the fish with warm sauce, again, and again. Use your knife to try separating the meat from the bone. When this is possible without applying too much pressure, the fish is nearly perfect. Remove the bone, turn the fish on the side that was connected to the bone and cook for one or two minutes. Taste the sauce; maybe you want to add some fresh black pepper.
Serve on a warm plate with some crusted bread.

Pissaladière

Pissaladière is a very tasty combination of onions, local French herbs, anchovies and black olives. It originates from the South of France (Côte d’Azur) and many a local boulangerie will offer their home-made, original pissaladière. We compared many recipes, enjoyed lots of slices of Pissaladière when in France and are pleased to present our version. It does not include tomatoes, milk, almonds, sugar, coconut oil and is not made with puff pastry.

Best is to make your own pastry (especially because it’s very simple) and use fresh yeast. Since it’s more and more difficult to buy, we use dried yeast. Key to making pissaladière is time. The onions need an hour, they need to cool and the dough needs to proof twice. But we’re not in a hurry!

We combined our pissaladière with French charcuterie; think Paté en Croûte (recipe to follow), Rossette (from Lyon), Rillettes d´Oie, Jambon persillé and cornichons. You could also combine pissaladière with a nice simple green salad.

We enjoyed our Pissaladière with a glass of Cô­tes de Pro­ven­ce ro­sé made of Cinsault, Grenache and Shiraz grapes. Dry, with a touch of grapefruit and wonderfully pale pink.

Here is what you need

  • 600 grams of White Onions (or a combination of White Onions and Shallots)
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Bay Leaf
  • Anchovies
  • Halved Black Olives
  • Pastry
    • 125 grams of Flour
    • 2 grams of Yeast (depending on the yeast you use)
    • 75 ml of Water
    • Dash of Salt
    • Some Olive Oil
    • Herbes de Provences (or thyme)

Start by caramelizing the onions. Peel the onions, cut in 4 and slice. Not too thin, the onions will shrink. Fry gently in olive oil and butter. When starting to color reduce the heat, add the bay leaf and allow to simmer for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Check the taste, the bay leaf can be overpowering. Let cool and set aside (for instance until the next day).
Mix flour, yeast, salt and herbes de Provences. Add water and olive oil and knead for 10 minutes. Let proof for 2 hours. Transfer to kitchen top and create a thin rectangular pastry. Coat a baking plate with oil and transfer the pastry to the plate. With a fork make small holes in the pastry (not in the edge). This is important given the fact that the onions are cold and moist. Now add the onions and make a nice pattern with the anchovies and the halved olives. Bake in a hot oven (top half, 220˚ Celsius or 430˚ Fahrenheit) for 15 minutes. Serve warm (or cold) but not hot.

Chicken with Tarragon, Leek and Nero d’Avola

Some combinations are made in heaven. Chicken and Tarragon is such a combination: it simply works brilliantly. Tarragon is a very powerful, aromatic herb, full of flavors such as anise and licorice. It’s the key ingredient of the sauce Béarnaise and it is of course wonderful when combined with vinegar and mustard. For kitchen purposes you need to buy French tarragon. The other well-known variety is called Russian tarragon. It’s a nice plant for your garden or balcony, with flowers and lots of leaves, but the taste is very bland, so not one to use in the kitchen.

We use butter to carry the taste of the tarragon to the chicken and to the sauce. It’s the principle behind enfleurage and maceration in the perfume making industry: fat is used to absorb the fragrance. So yes, you need an excellent chicken with lots of fat under the skin.

This recipe works with a whole chicken, with breasts and legs, provided they come with a skin. The crux of this recipe is to create a layer of tarragon butter between the meat and the skin, allowing for a crispy skin in combination with rich, flavored meat. You can stuff the chicken in the morning or the day before. Ideal when you’re having guests!

The sauce is very rich, so instead of using flour or cream, we create an emulsified sauce by blendering the mixture. The result is a velvety, filming sauce.

We enjoyed our chicken with a glass of Inycon Nero d’Avola. The wine is elegant, fruity, not too full bodied and it has soft tannins and a gentle acidity. You will also taste licorice, which is a nice reflection of the tarragon and the Pastis. The balance of the acidity of the wine and the filming structure of the sauce is essential to the dish.

Here is what you need

  • 2 Chicken Legs
  • 8 Sprigs of Tarragon
  • 20 + 10 grams of Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Pastis
  • Chicken Stock
  • Optional: Leek, olive oil and water

Strip the tarragon leaves from the stem and chop. Let’s say you need one or two sprigs of tarragon per chicken leg. Use a fork to make the tarragon butter. Use your fingers to create space (a pocket) between the skin and the meat. Start for instance in the middle of the leg (outside) or at the rear of the whole chicken. Be careful not to open the edges, otherwise the tarragon butter can’t do its work. Put some of the butter between the skin and the meat and use your fingers to create a thin layer by pressing the butter to the sides. Coat the bottom of a shallow baking pan with olive oil.
Transfer the chicken legs to the pan. Add some additional butter to the pan (not on top of the chicken). Also add the sprigs you haven’t used. Put the pan in an oven of 200˚ Celsius or 390˚ Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
Transfer the chicken legs and two sprigs of tarragon to a plate and keep them warm in the oven (just switch it of and keep the door open). Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and Pastis. Deglazing simply means that you add a liquid and then by stirring the mixture you capture the residue in the pan. As if you are cleaning the pan. Blender the mixture and poor through a sieve into a small saucepan. You now have a homogenous, emulsified sauce. Warm the sauce and stir occasionally for five minutes. Serve the chicken with the sauce, the fried sprigs of tarragon and the briefly cooked leek.

(P.S. Clean the leek, making sure you have removed the sand and dirt. Slice thinly and cook with some olive oil and a drop or two of water. Five minutes maximum should do the trick.)

Neck of Lamb with Star Anise, Ginger and Djeroek Poeroet

We can hear you thinking, ‘Shouldn’t that be rack of lamb?’.
Isn’t it interesting how much we are focused on specific parts of an animal? We love our steak, but what to do with an oxtail? We love pork loin, but how about the pig’s nose? And we enjoy grilled rack of lamb, but how about the lamb’s neck?
Supermarkets and butchers know all about our focus. So if you would like to cook pig’s feet (or trotters), kidneys, liver, sweetbread or lamb’s neck: where to go? Try finding a ‘real’ butcher, one that buys the whole animal, not just the parts that can be sold directly.

Lamb’s neck is very underrated, inexpensive and tasty. Some feel it’s okay for your dog only, but we completely disagree. When cooked slowly for hours it is great. Tasty, well structured, juicy and tender.

Feel free to replace the neck of lamb with 2 lamb shanks.

The obvious way to prepare the lamb is to fry it briefly in oil en butter and then cook for hours in red wine with a bouguet garni of rosemary, thyme, parsley and sage. Maybe add a small tomato to help the sauce. We take a different approach by adding strong tastes like ginger, cilantro seeds, star anise, soy sauce and the leaves of the Kaffir lime (also known as Djeroek poeroet or Djeruk purut). You will get a full, complex sauce in combination with lovely, aromatic meat.

We very much enjoyed our Neck of Lamb with a glass of Alsace Gewurztraminer, Cave de Beblenheim, 2016. The wine has a beautiful gold colour, and an expressive nose with rose notes. The palate presents a nice structure with a fruity and spicy association which of course goes very well with the oriental twist to the stew. In general we suggest an aromatic white wine with just a touch of sweetness.

Here is what you need

  • 300 grams Neck of Lamb
  • Shallot
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh Ginger (4 cm, depending on your taste)
  • 1 red Chili
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • Noilly Prat
  • Cilantro Seeds
  • Star Anise
  • Low Salt Soy Sauce
  • 4 leaves of Djeroek Poeroet

Cut the meat in cubes. Not too small since they will shrink during the cooking process. Fry the meat in butter and oil, giving it a nice colour. If so required, do so in multiple batches. In the mean time cut the shallot, peel the ginger and slice, remove the seeds from the chili and cut the garlic glove (but not too fine). Remove the meat from the pan and glaze the shallot, chili, ginger and garlic. Add the Noilly Prat, crushed cilantro seeds, star anise, some low-salt soy sauce and the djeroek poeroet. Stir. Transfer the meat back to the pan and add some water, making sure the meat is just covered. Leave to simmer for 6 hours in total. Check the pan every hour and add water is so required. Also check if the djeroek poeroet is not overpowering (this very much depends on the quality of the leaves). After 5 hours check the taste, add soy sauce, remove the djeroek poeroet or the star anise if so required. After 6 hours cool the stew and transfer to the refrigerator. You could also decide to transfer it to the freezer for use at a later date.
The following day remove as much of the fat as you prefer. Warm the stew, check taste and tenderness and continue to simmer if so required. When the meat is ready you may want to reduce the liquid.
Serve with steamed Pak Choi, tossed with sesame oil.

Caesar’s Mushrooms with Udon

Caesar’s mushroom (or Amanita Caesarea) is a true delicacy, especially when eaten very young. And raw. Since the young ones have the shape of an egg, they are called ovoli in Italian. It is not recommended to pick these young ones yourself, unless you’re an expert. The young Caesar’s mushroom looks very similar to young Fly Agaric, Death Cap or Destroying Angels. Ones we would not like to see on (y)our plate. The mature Caesar’s mushroom looks very distinct from these very dangerous mushrooms, so fewer risks involved.
When you’re in North America, you will probably be able to buy Amanita Jacksonii or Amanita Arkansana, which seem to be very similar, but not completely. As far as we know eating cooked Amanita Caesarea and Arkansana is not a problem; eating them raw could be.

The classic recipe for ovoli is to include them in a salad, with shaved white truffle, parsley, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Another option is to add them to your risotto.

In this recipe we combine the delicate flavour of the Caesar’s mushroom with lots of thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, a touch of garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Best would be to use Calamintha Nepeta, but using thyme will also do the trick. A garlic glove must be added because the garlic will turn black if your mushrooms are poisonous (not a story to rely on).

Ideally served with Japanese udon because the noodles will be nicely coated with the cooking juices, but feel free to use good pasta as an alternative. One of the benefits of udon is that it is really white, allowing for the yellow of the mushroom to be more present.

We enjoyed our Caesar’s mushrooms with a glass of traditional Burgundy wine from France (100% pinot noir). The wine should have delicate fruit aromas (black cherries, plum) and some earthiness. The wine should be medium bodied and have a crisp acidity. Not too much oak, because oak will overpower the mushrooms. The pinot noir should also be relatively light, allowing for herbal and floral tones.
Pinot Noir wines from the new world are in general rounder and higher in alcohol, making these wines more like Syrah or Malbec. We don’t recommend these wines, however tasty, in combination with the dish.
A glass of Chardonnay is also an option provided it’s fresh with just a touch of oak and butter.

Here is what you need

  • 200 grams of Caesar’s mushrooms
  • Olive Oil
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Bay Leaf
  • Garlic glove
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Japanese Udon (for instance from Hakubaku)

Clean the Caesar’s mushrooms and remove the white veil (or volva). Make a bouquet garni with lots of thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf. Start by making flavoured olive oil by warming the olive oil in a large skillet and adding the herbs and the garlic glove. Not too hot, you only want the flavours and essential oils to be added to the olive oil. After 15 minutes or so remove the garlic and the bouquet. Now add the sliced Ceasar’s mushrooms and very gently fry them. Just cooked is perfect. In parallel cook the udon. When ready (12 minutes in our case, you don’t want the udon to be al dente), drain the udon but keep some of the cooking liquid. If there is too much starch on the pasta, then think Japan and wash your pasta with cold water. This will remove the starch and allow for a better result. Remove the Caesar’s mushrooms from the pan and keep warm. Add the pasta to the pan, stir and make sure the pasta is fully coated. Add a spoonful or two of the cooking liquid to the pan. Add some grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Transfer the Caesar’s mushroom back to the pan and stir very gently, making it into one yellow, tasty mixture. Just before serving sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese.

Clafoutis: A Summer Classic

Cherries, cherries, cherries! We love them! The rich, sweet taste in combination with the right texture! They just want to be eaten, one after the other. So what better summer dessert than Clafoutis?
Small, black or dark red cherries are the best for Clafoutis. We used very taste Dutch cherries, but these can be a bit oversized (but so tasty!). Don’t use candied cherries, Maraschino or anything canned or jarred.
Clafoutis is made with milk and eggs, so in a way familiar to Crè­me Brûlée and Far Breton. But in case of Clafoutis you only need to whisk and wait for it to bake in the oven. That’s all.
There are many recipes for Clafoutis, some with cold milk, some with hot. Some use milk and cream, others just milk. We use warm milk because you get a better feel for the consistency, but cold milk will also do the job.

Some add Kirsch and others add Vanilla. We can’t see the benefit of adding Kirsch when using tasty cherries. Vanilla is distracting, so not recommended.

Another decision to make: use whole cherries or pitted ones? Not removing the pits is less work (obviously) and it reduces the risk of a soggy Clafoutis. The pits contain amygdalin, a toxic compound that can also be found in almonds, apple seeds and apricot stones. Amygdalin has the taste of almonds. In this recipe we pit the cherries and compensate for the lack of almond taste by using some almond flour.
If you decide to pit the cherries, make sure you remove all of them!

Finally, yes, you can replace the cherries with fresh apricots, berries, peaches or prunes. Then it’s called a Flaugnarde. But nothing as tasty as Clafoutis made with fresh cherries!

Here is what you need:

  • 2,5 dl of regular Milk
  • 2 Eggs
  • 30 grams of plain Flour
  • 10 grams of Almond Flour
  • 20 grams of Sugar
  • 500 grams of Cherries, pitted
  • 10 grams of Butter

Pre heat the oven to 180° Celsius or 350° Fahrenheit. Whisk together the eggs, plain flour, almond flour and sugar. Bring the milk almost to a boil. Stir the milk into the mixture. Butter a large, shallow baking dish, add cherries to the dish and make sure the bottom is nicely covered with cherries. No need to have two layers of cherries. Pour the mixture over the cherries. Bake (lower third of the oven) for 20 minutes, add a few dots of butter, continue baking for another 20 minutes or until the Clafoutis is golden. Leave to cool for 60 minutes or so, this will enhance the taste. Clafoutis should be served luke-warm. You could decorate the clafoutis with icing sugar, but it’s not essential.

Fried Large Prawns

Shrimps and Prawns, delicacies from the sea, just like lobsters, scampi and crabs. Popular food in many countries, just think shrimp cocktail, paella, salad with shrimps, pasta with seafood, stuffed eggs with shrimps, curry with prawns and of course, fried shrimps with garlic and lemon.

We think shrimps and prawns are as subtle, delicate and tasty as lobster. The prawn should be at the center, not just another ingredient of your fish soup. Not hidden by loads of garlic and lemon. Or even worse, wrapped in bacon (whoever came up with the idea of wrapping prawns and oysters (angels on horseback) in bacon is not a seafood lover).

We will use the shell, the legs and the so-called swimmerets of the prawns to create a sauce; a bisque like sauce.

We enjoyed our fried large prawns with a glass of rose. This Italian rose (from Garofoli) is made from 100% Montepulciano. It comes with beautiful scent of cherries and peaches. The flavor is full, velvety, present and balanced. A great companion for seafood. Other options are Chablis and Soave. A Viognier will probably be too fruity.

Here is what you need

  • Two large Prawns, either wild or organic
  • One small Shallot
  • Chili Pepper
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Armagnac or Cognac
  • Garlic
  • One Cherry Tomato
  • One Saffron Thread
  • Water
  • Bouquet Garni (Thyme, Parsley)
  • Black Pepper
  • Crusted Bread

We start by making a bisque-like sauce, using the shell of the prawns.
Chop the shallot and a bit of chili pepper and glaze gently for 10 minutes in butter and olive oil. In parallel use scissors to cut the shell of the prawn. Start behind the head and cut towards the tail. Just before the tail turn 90 degrees and make a cut around the prawn. This allows you to remove the shell and the legs of the body but keep the head and the tail on the prawn. Remove the black vein (the prawn’s intestines) and the slurry in the head (if any). Since you serve the prawn with the head (and tail) it is essential that the prawn is clean. You could gently rinse the prawn if you want to be absolutely sure about this. Transfer the prawns to the refrigerator.
Break the shell into smaller chunks. Add these to the pan and fry for a few minutes until red. Add a small splash of Cognac or Armagnac and flambé. Never do this when using the exhaust or range hood. Add one garlic glove, water, the quartered cherry tomato, the bouquet garni and the saffron. Stir well, cover the pan and let rest on low heat for 30 minutes.
Remove the bouquet and the shells from the pan and using a spoon and a sieve squeeze the juices from the bouquet and the shells, then discard. Blender the mixture and pass through a sieve. Taste the mixture, add pepper if so required. Leave for another 30 minutes on very low heat, allowing for the flavors to integrate and for the liquid to reduce.
Dry the prawns and fry them in a skillet in oil (depending on the size maximum 4 minutes in total) on both sides and on the back. Use warm plates, and serve the prawn on top of the sauce. Touch of black pepper on the prawn is fine. Enjoy with crusted bread.

Tellines with Parsley

This Week’s Special

Many, far too many years ago we were walking along the Mediterranean coast, enjoying the sea, the sun and the company of a dear friend. She asked us if we would like to eat tellines for dinner. Of course, we replied, but what are tellines? She smiled and said I’ll show you. She walked to the sea and kneeled down, just where the sand and the sea meet. All you needed to do was move your fingers through the sand, just under the surface and feel. She harvested a few tellines, opened them with her fingers, washed them in the sea and that’s how we enjoyed our very first tellines, fresh from the sea. So simple, to tasty, so good.
We harvested many more and went back to her house where we cooked the tellines in a hot skillet and enjoyed them with a beautiful local ro­sé.

Harvesting tellines (or in France tenilles) is simple; knowing where you can do this is the challenge. Fortunately you can (occasionally) find them on the market.

It’s possible to use other small clams, but the fun of tellines is that they open quickly when in the pan, making sure they remain juicy.

Here is what you need:

  • 300 grams of tellines
  • one Shallot
  • one Garlic glove
  • Olive Oil
  • Parsley
  • White Wine
  • Black Pepper

Wash the tellines, preferably using salted water. Discard ones with a small hole and ones that are broken. Chop the shallot (you probably need half of it) and the garlic very fine. Heat the skillet, add the oil, the shallot, the garlic and the tellines and cook until the tellines are open. You probably want to add a splash of white wine during the cooking process. Serve the tellines on a warm plate with black pepper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Enjoy with a glass of Cô­tes de Pro­ven­ce ro­sé, for instance an Estandon from the Var region. No cutlery needed!

 

 

 

 

 

Salad of White Asparagus with Chervil

A salad can be a very rewarding starter of your lunch or dinner on a nice summer’s day, provided it’s one with lots of flavour and gentle acidity. Salade Ni­çoi­se, Salade Caprese or a salad of White Asparagus with Chervil.

Combining salad and wine is not straightforward. Especially the acidity of the dressing creates a challenge. One solution is to use verjuice and not vinegar. Verjuice is made by pressing unripe grapes. The idea is that verjuice links to wine, whereas classic vinegar or lemon juice would compete with wine. In this case we choose a wine that reflects the flavours of the salad: a hint of anise, a touch of sweetness and florality. Typical notes you will find in a wine from the Alsace region, for instance a Pinot Blanc or a Pinot Gris.

Chervil is a very delicate herb. Its taste is like anise, but much more refined. The salad needs to be prepared well in advance, allowing the chervil to be overall present. Chervil looses it’s taste almost immediately when heated, so one to be used in cold dishes.

Honey can easily ruin a salad. (And sugar will always ruin a salad.) In this case we use only a touch of honey to create an environment for the sweetness of the white asparagus. The honey should act as a trigger.

The salad is a great example of the complexity of white asparagus: you will taste the sweetness and the freshness of white asparagus. The mouth feel of the salad is very nice, because the asparagus will be both juicy and crispy, with the chervil, honey and vinegar in a supporting role.

After having mixed the salad you will notice that the asparagus and chervil absorb the dressing. During the time in the refrigerator the asparagus will loose some juices, which is actually the beginning of a great dressing.

Here is what you need:

  • 2 White Asparagus per person
  • Excellent Olive Oil
  • White Wine Vinegar or Verjuice
  • Lots of Chervil
  • Touch of Honey
  • White Pepper

Steam the asparagus for 10 minutes. Let cool. Dry with kitchen paper if needed. Prepare a dressing with the olive oil and vinegar. Chop the chervil and add to the dressing. Add a touch of honey and stir well. Add some white pepper. Taste the dressing: it should be a balance, meaning that none of the ingredients is overly present. Now slice the asparagus in nice chunks, let’s say 3 centimetres long. Mix, cover and transfer to the refrigerator for 6 hours. Mix the salad every two hours. Check the taste after 4 hours, you may want to adjust. Mix the dressing just before serving.

 

 

Last Week’s Special

We enjoyed this dish as a starter when in Milan, on a beautiful evening, eating al fresco and enjoying the wonderful combination of the sweetness and bitterness of the asparagus, the slightly caramelised sugars as a result of grilling the asparagus and the salty and sweet cheese. A glass of Pinot Grigio was all we wanted. In Milan they served us green asparagus, but it works even better with white asparagus.
This is typically a dish you would make when the asparagus season is at its high and outside temperatures feel like summer. You could drink a Pinot Grigio, a Muscat from the Alsace region or a Rose with character. Remember the wine needs to combine with a range of very diverse flavours in the dish.

Here is what you need:

  • 2 Asparagus per person
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Black Pepper

Peel the asparagus and cook or steam until slightly tender. Depending on the size we would say 10-15 minutes in the Russel Hobss steamer. Leave and let cool. Take a plate, add some oil to the plate and use it to cover the asparagus in oil. Heat the pan and grill the asparagus for 4*1 minute, making sure you have a lovely brown (not too dark) pattern. Serve on a plate, add some grated Parmesan cheese and pepper. Add a generous drizzle of very good olive oil.

 

 

 

Last Week’s Special-20

Rape a la Marinera or Monkfish Spanish Style with Verdejo (Monteabellon Rueda 2016)

In October 2016 Jamie Oliver was criticised for making paella the wrong way. He dared adding chorizo to one of the most Spanish dishes ever. Paella should be rabbit, snails, chicken, beans, saffron and rice. How dare he insult all of Spain by adding chorizo to such a traditional recipe! Naked chef or not, ambassador of healthy food or not, no one touches Paella.

Which triggers the intriguing question what is actually traditional and original. Isn’t traditional sashimi salmon, tuna and sea bream? Isn’t it?
In the 1970s, Japan did not import a single piece of fish. Salmon would first be marinated in sake and then salted or dried before being grilled. In these days in Japan salmon was always wild salmon and not eaten raw because of the possibility of parasites in raw wild salmon. So salmon was not used for sushi and sashimi. That all started to change in the 1980s after a Norwegian seafood delegation visited the country and Project Japan started. In 1980 the first salmon was imported and it took until 1995 for the public to accept raw salmon for sushi and sashimi. Today salmon is the sushi fish of choice among young Japanese.

Going back to Paella: how often did you have snails in your paella?

Rape a la Marinera is among our favourites because it’s all about monkfish, which is such a tasty fish. It can be compared with lobster (but we admit, you need a bit of imagination). The monkfish is presented with a generous tomato sauce, gamba, vongole’s and bread. What better way to enjoy life!

We very much enjoyed a glass of Spanish Verdejo. In our case a bottle of Monteabellon Rueda 2016. In general wines made from the Verdejo grape combine very well with fish. The wine comes with the right acidity, giving freshness to the wine. It has floral aromas typical for the Verdejo grape. You may recognize the aromas of banana and exotic fruit.

In this recipe we will probably do a few things very wrong, but never mind, simply don’t tell you Spanish friends.

The day before serving Rape a la Marinera we make the tomato sauce.

Here is what you need:

  • 4 Excellent Ripe Tomatoes
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • ½ Chilli
  • 1 Onion
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • ½ Glass Red Wine
  • 1 Anchovy Fillet
  • Few Black Olives
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary, Bay Leaf)

Prepare the tomatoes by peeling them, removing all the pits and slicing the remaining meat. What’s left over goes into a sieve and with a spoon you squeeze out the juices. You will be amazed how much juice you will get (and how little is left from the tomatoes). Peel the onion and cut in smaller bits. Add olive oil to the pan and glaze the onion for 10 minutes or so. Add the chopped garlic clove. Stir a bit and then add the sliced bell pepper and the sliced chilli. Let cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes or so. Add the halved olives, the sliced anchovy fillet and the sliced tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes, add the tomato juice, the red wine and the bouquet garni. Leave for 2 hours to simmer. Reduce is so required.
Remove the bouquet garni, blender the sauce and transfer to the refrigerator.

Now for the Rape a la Marinera:

  • Monkfish
  • Olive Oil
  • Optional
    • Bay Leaf
    • Saffron
  • 2 Gamba’s (large Shrimps)
  • Vongole (clams, Vongola Veraci)
  • White wine
  • Bouquet Garni

Start by cleaning the monkfish and removing the skin where necessary. Clean the gamba’s by removing the intestinal tract. Leave the head and the tail. Check the vongole and discard ones that are broken. In general vongole don’t need much cleaning. As for spaghetti vongole, buy clams that are a touch sweet and juicy. Vongola Verace is best for both dishes.
In a large skillet fry the monkfish. When coloured add the sauce. Cook the fish by warming the sauce and covering the fish with the sauce. Maybe you want to add a bay leaf or two. A bit of saffron is a great addition but be careful; saffron can be very overpowering. In parallel add some white wine to a pan with a bouquet garni, let cook for 5 minutes. This is the cooking liquid for the vongole.
Now it’s about timing: add the gamba to the sauce and cook fish and gamba to perfection. Just before that moment, add the vongole to the pan with white wine, close the lid, cook for a few minutes until you see steam coming from the pan, remove the lid, check the vongole, add some vongole juices to the sauce with the monkfish and gamba’s, stir, taste, maybe add a bit more vongole juices and finally add a touch of pepper.
Serve with crusted bread.

 

 

Asparagus with Hollandaise

A Three Course Meal in One Thousand seconds

Many years ago Belgium television broadcasted a program called Duizend Seconden. In this show Herwig Van Hove, Chef and professor in chemistry) would create a three-course meal in 1000 seconds (or less). The show was hosted by Felice (Dré Steemans) who also assisted the Chef when necessary. During the show Herwig van Hove would not only show how things had to be done, but he would also explain why. He came up with the great yet simple idea to create Hollandaise using a microwave.

We all know that sauces like Hollandaise, Béarnaise and many more rely on raising the temperature in a controlled and slow way. That’s why we learn to use a bowl, a pan with gently simmering water, carefully avoiding direct contact between the bowl and the water, whisk, and whisk some more. Some add the butter gradually; others start with the complete mixture. Some add mustard (which is always a great way of creating smoothness and enhancing consistency) and others add corn starch (strictly forbidden). Others dash of to the supermarket and buy some hideous powder (you wouldn’t do that of course).
Back to Herwig van Hove: the crucial part is to add warmth to the mixture in a controlled and slow way. So why not use a microwave? It gives you all the control you need for a perfect Hollandaise.
We would love to add a link to YouTube, but alas, none of their many shows is on the channel.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Asparagus and Hollandaise with a glass of Petit Sois, 2015, (produced by Bodegas Costers del Sio, Spain) which is a blend of Viognier, Chardonnay and Muscat. The Viognier brings a touch of freshness to the dish, which works well with the lemon in the Hollandaise. Combining white asparagus with Muscat is a classic. The Chardonnay is a bridge to the buttery aspect of the sauce. So the wine in your glass has multiple links to what’s on your plate, which makes it a truly wonderful dish.

What You Need

  • One Egg Yolk
  • 50 grams of Butter
  • 1 tablespoon of Water
  • ½ tablespoon of Lemon Juice
  • White Pepper
  • 4 Asparagus

What You Do

Melt the butter in the microwave on low power (10-30% of the power of your microwave, depending on the specifics of your oven). Make sure the butter is luke warm. Now whisk the yolk a bit, add the water and the lemon juice and whisk some more. Add this mixture to the butter and whisk some more. Now transfer to the microwave and give it let’s say 10 seconds of 30%. Remove from oven and whisk. Repeat. You will now feel the consistency changing. If not, don’t worry, just repeat the step. Towards the end of the cooking move to steps of 5 seconds on 10% power. Whisk, play and feel free to find your own way (it also depends on the amount of water in the butter, the temperature of the egg et cetera). When the Hollandaise is ready take it out of the oven, continue whisking gently and cool slightly in a bath of cold water.
In parallel steam the asparagus (depending on the size 25 or 30 minutes; they should be well done for this dish). Serve the asparagus with just a bit of white pepper and a generous helping of Hollandaise.

 

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.