This Week I’ve Been Mostly Eating…

sweetThings …bachelor food, and Parisian restaurant food. So, here you go and take your pick:

Fresh sourdough spelt bread with a homemade spread made from Feta cheese, garlic, olive oil, red peppers, red chillies, and lots of fresh dill (there used to be a guy on the Neustadt market selling this. This is the first time in a very long time I ate this but it won’t be the last. Delicious, if you like strong flavours and don’t mind an intense breath).

Galettes “Super Chevre” (that is, very thin buckwheat pancakes with a filling from (briefly) fried beef tomato slices, goats cheese and thick cream, spiced with black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg) – this is soooo good that it is very difficult to stop eating. Super!

Andouillette with fries and mustard (restaurant in Paris)

Steak Tartare (lunch in a restaurant in Paris). You won’t see us going to Paris without, oh no you won’t. We are young and dynamic and flexible, but we insist on our traditions ;-)

Goats cheese salad, a fillet of beef with sauce Bernaise and a baked potato, sorbets (and a calvados – restaurant in St Germain, Paris).

Egg Fettuchini with lots of fresh Porchini and Chanterelles – yummie return to the own kitchen.

Technorati Tags: ,,

Aubergine Tarte with Roasted Tomato Sauce

aubergineTarte Here’s something to make if you have some time to kill and want to impress your guests – or just want to treat yourself or someone you love. You’ll need at least one hour to prepare this, but this lukewarm vegetarian aubergine tarte is oh-so-lovely. Many thanks to Linda, who introduced this to me and gave me the recipe.

The following works for my 200x200x50mm square Pyrex dish, and makes a meal for three people, lunch for four, or starters for eight. Adjust amounts according to your dish size:

Cut 3 pretty large aubergines into 4..5mm thin slices. Spread out on some greaseproof paper, salt generously. Let rest for 20 minutes, then brush with olive oil, turn over, and repeat the process on the other side.

Meanwhile, oil a fireproof dish, cut 3 or 4 tomatoes into pieces, salt slightly, and put in the oven for roasting (about 30 minutes at 180C).

Cut a small onion and a little garlic into fine dice, and melt in some hot butter. Wash and clean 500g swiss chard (use fresh Spinach as an alternative), and briefly steam with the garlic and onions. Don’t add liquid other than the droplets that come from washing the greens, and do not add salt. You don’t want this to turn soggy.

Grind some fresh Parmesan and Gruyere cheese. Prepare some goat cheese (crumple); blue cheese could also be nice but might be too overwhelming. Dry-fry some mushrooms (optional).

Put the aubergines under the grill until the look great (a few minutes, but you may need to do this in two or three batches).

Finally, find that 200x200x50mm square Pyres dish I told you about. Line with baking paper, then line with one layer of aubergine slices, covering the sides and the bottom. Make it look nice; this is what people will look at when done.

Then, layer greens, cheeses, mushrooms and aubergines into the dish. The original recipe suggests adding Basil or Marjoram, but I don’t like the idea of Marjoram in this dish, and don’t think Basil is necessary either. A small amount of pepper within the layers will suffice, but be careful not to add salt (or only very tiny amounts) – you’ve salted the aubergines already. A pinch of nutmeg with each layer of greens is optional but nice.

Before you put the last layer of aubergine slices on top, mix two free range eggs with one or two tablespoons of cold water, and pour over the dish. Shake and move the dish to allow the liquid eggs to fill the gaps – this is the glue that holds it all together.

Finally, make a nice lid with another layer of aubergine slices, and put in the oven at 190C for 20 minutes, adding the grill in the last 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, run the roasted tomatoes through a blender. Don’t add anything, just make sure you have a medium-thick nice and flavorsome roasted tomato sauce. It couldn’t be simpler, but you will need fairly good tomatoes for this to work the miracle all by itself.

Take the tarte from the oven when done. Give it 10 minutes to cool down a little, then turn over, remove the baking paper, and let cool down further.

This can be eaten hot, but I find it is best served lukewarm, with the slightly colder roasted tomato sauce on the side.

Choucroute de la Mer

ChoucrouteDeMerGermany is Sauerkraut country as everyone knows, so for a German, this might sound a bit like Mission Impossible: Fish and Langoustine, served on a bed of creamy Sauerkraut. Fish and kraut don't go together and neither do cream and kraut, but… You'd be surprised. We ate this in Brittany and I cooked it twice since, with pretty good ratings from the various diners. Here goes, for four portions:

Gently fry up some diced bacon and a diced half onion. When the bacon gets crisp and the onion glassy, add 1 bay leaf, 8 slightly crushed juniper berries and 750g Sauerkraut. If the bacon is too lean, add a walnut-sized amount of cooking fat. Keep the heat very low, and time won't be an issue. Turn occasionally.

Prepare a nice potato gratin to go along with it. For a lighter option, use fresh white bread, but the gratin really did the trick.

Finally, heat up one walnut sized piece of butter and an equal amount of olive oil, and gently fry some pieces of slightly smoked salmon fillets (125g per person). Smoked haddock, as shown here, also works well (adjust amounts as necessary). Season with black pepper. In a second pan, heat a generous amount of olive oil with crushed chillies, fresh hot red chilly peppers and 2..3 cloves of garlic, and quickly fry some Langoustines or King Prawns from both sides.

Season the kraut with a pinch of salt, half a teaspoon of nutmeg and 75ml thick cream.

Serve fish on kraut, gratin aside, and you won't hear a word until it's all eaten.

P.S. Some French lady claimed this wasn't French at all, but quand vous googlez pour Choucroute de la mer ou Choucroute aux Fruits de Mer, you'll find plenty of evidence that I wasn't lying to you.

Haddock a la Grecque

Selbstgemacht I am pretty sure that the Greeks would have their Haddock like this. Being in Greece, you might prefer a grouper or some other fresh white fish. at any rate, this is extra-simple and extra-nice. Here goes:

Get some suitable white fish, approximately 250g per person. Fillets or “steaks” will work.

Heat a very generous amount of good olive oil in a large pot, casserole, or in a flat pan for which you have a lid. Add 6 cloves of garlic, sliced pretty thinly. Spread out the garlic, and add a heaped teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, and a sliced fresh red chilly. Don’t let any of this burn. Put the fish evenly on top, add half a glass of white wine, close the lid, and let steam for 12 minutes give or take a few, depending on the thickness and type of your fish. Try not to open it too often, as this will let the delicious flavour and steam escape.

Sprinkle the fish lightly with fresh coriander for serving.

Serve with a spicy  herb salad and steamed potatoes.


Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Fish Faja Grande

I am currently on a business trip. No matter how much restraint, there’s always a lot of food, and few options as small, or as light, as desired. Restaurants aren’t normally happy to serve just a roll and a side salad, and inviting friends expect gratitude for their hospitality. There’s lunch with colleagues and dinner with friends. So, the longer I stay on this trip, the more I think about those light and simple meals again.

Here’s one that we first ate in Faja Grande on the beautiful Acorean island of Flores, and I call it Fish Faja Grande, therefore:

Get some nice and fresh white fish fillets. Be generous and make it 350g per person. Cod or Haddock works as the easy and low-cost option. Halibut or Arctic Sea Bass works even better. Skin and clean the fillets. Drizzle lightly with lime juice and set aside for a few minutes.

Finely chop a the following per 2 eaters: one ripe tomato, a mid-sized onion, a clove of garlic, chives and fresh coriander. Add salt, freshly ground black pepper, 2 tablespoons of extra virgine olive oil and one table spoon of white wine vinegar. Mix well and set aside.

Heat a frying pan with a walnut-sized piece of butter and the same amount of extra olive oil. Shallow-fry the fish on mid heat until almost done (5-10 minutes depending on the thickness). For the last quarter of the cooking time, add a glass of dry white wine and cover the pan.

Serve the fish with the salsa spooned on top. Add salad and white bread, white wine, eat, enjoy, and dream of those beautifully tranquil islands.

Fighting Bird Flu

Chicken Roulades
This lovely chicken recipe is your chance to fight bird flu. Eat them before they can get anywhere. I was browsing my copy of The Silver Spoon (Thanks again to K&D for that rich source of inspiration), when a photo in the poultry section inspired me to the following, still nameless, chicken delight.

The idea is to make some succulent chicken roulades with a mushroom sauce and sage-flavoured pasta.  Here we go:

Get one chicken leg per person. Clean and dry, de-bone. Fill each deboned leg with a generous portion of a salsa that you made from fresh herbs (sage, basil, parsley, rocket salad), capers, anchovies, pepper, and olive oil. Wrap the meat with bacon and use a skewer to hold all together, if needed.  Gently fry on both sides until browned. Meanwhile…

Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius. Bring salted water to the boil, enough for 150g of Spaghetti per person. Meanwhile…

Remove birds from frying pan, place in a roasting dish, and pop them into the oven. Quick-fry a handful of olives and small whole onions in the remaining fat. Remove onions and olives temporarily. Sweat some flour in the remaining fat, add olives, onions, porcini mushrooms, and a glass of while wine. Season to taste with salt, pepper. Let simmer for a few minutes until onions are tender.  Meanwhile….

Melt 50g butter and fry a handful of finely chopped fresh sage. Drain the spaghetti, toss with the sage butter, remove chicken from oven and serve, finish the sauce seasoning with fresh herbs (basil, rocket salad, flat parsley), and serve sauce with chicken. Delicious!

OK, this might be no candidate for the "Quick ‘n’ Easy" department, but it’s worth the effort. Try it!

Oh, and if you find a good name for it, please let me know. Thanks.

Battle of the Sexes

The chef, wrapped with banana leaves
People, the battle of the sexes can be ended in the kitchen!

Here’s your ultimate quick fix that works for both: works for the wife ‘coz its nice and healthy with salad and stuff, and works for the blokes because it comes with a nice steak: Spinach Steak Salad. Goes like this:

Go and get yourself a nice steak. Angus Rump or Sirloin works for me. Make it 150g per head (or more if you want to please your man). Also get some young fresh spinach and some roasted (Spanish) peppers. Olives, roasted pine kernels, goat or blue cheese all optional.

Fry the steak gently until medium. Make sure not to overcook, even if you normally prefer it well done. Meanwhile, quickly rinse and drain the spinach, cut the peppers in stripes and add to the spinach (olives, pine kernels, whatever else takes your fancy). In a cup, quickly throw together some Balsamic Vinaigrette: one teaspoon of Mustard, 2 tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar, one tablespoon of lime juice, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, freshly crushed black pepper, pinch of salt. Mix until it blends, and toss with the salad. Add cheese if you so desire.

Remove steak from pan. Let rest on board for one minute, salt and pepper well, and cut into thin stripes (5mm?).  Toss with the salad, serve with crisp white bread. Eat immediately and with tremendous pleasure.

Nice and easy, and pleases all sexes, ey?

Green Curry

A wonderful opportunity to use my new blender: Thai Green Curry. Its fairly easy to make and highly rewarding with a full and fresh mix of taste, so forget about your local Thai cafe for once and give it a go:
A full day before having the meal, prepare the curry paste by blending the following: 4 cloves of garlic, 4 spring onions, one lime (peeled), a large bunch of coriander, one hot red chilly, three Thai green chillies, juice from 3 inches of fresh ginger, 3 finely chopped stalks of lemon grass, 4 lime leafs. Also add a tablespoon of ground coriander, one of ground ginger, one of Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce), one of dark soy sauce. Add a teaspoon of ground turmeric, of a large pinch of saffron. Blend it all well, cover with cling film, and chill for 24 hours.

3..4 hours before the meal, clean the meat. I normally use chicken thighs, but you may also use breasts, or prawns, or pork meat. Drizzle a flat dish with toasted sesame oil, place the meat of fish pieces in the dish, add a generous amount of Thai sweet basil, crushed red chillies, and lime juice. Cover and let the meat marinate until its time to cook.

To cook: heat one tablespoon of toasted sesame oil and one of olive oil, and fry the meat. When slightly coloured, add the curry paste, and a pint of chicken stock. Add 5..6 thin slices of a peeled fresh ginger root, 2 stalks of lemon grass (cut), and more lime leafs. Cover and let simmer until the meet is cooked. Add a can of coconut milk, season to taste.

Add a generous amount of fresh coriander and sweet Thai basil. I always add mushrooms, too.

Serve with fragrant rice and lots of appetite.




The chef, at age 3 (?)
During my 2005 Christmas Dinner, I served an Escabeche as the third course. This is a simple dish from cold, pickled, white fish. Light and refreshing. Nice:

Skin 800g white fish fillets. Drizzle generously with lime juice and set aside for 15 minutes. Meanwhile:

Cut one large onion into fine rings. Chop 3..4 cloves of garlic. Fry this gently in olive oil, then add 150ml Olive oil, 100ml white wine vinegar, 50ml rice vinegar, 150ml hot chicken or vegetable stock, one teaspoon of honey. 4 bay leaves, a tablespoon of crushed black peppercorns, half a tablespoon of crushed allspice, 6..8 crushed juniper berries. Juice from 2 limes, a teaspoon of dried red chillies. Stir and let simmer for 5 minutes, but do not allow to boil.

Dry the fish and fry gently. When cooked, place in a flat dish. Pour the marinade over
the fish. Cover and keep chilled for 24 hours.

To serve, take the fish out of the marinade and sprinkle with coriander greens. Serve with salad and white bread.

Ensalada con las Gambas

Prawn Salad
My 2005 Christmas Dinner featured this
Ensalada con las Gambas, or Prawn Salad, as the second course (with a repeat performance on the New Year’s Eve buffet).  I thought it was nicely refreshing and a little different, so here you go:

Line the salad bowl with washed little gem or spinach leafs. Drizzle lime juice or some vinaigrette over the greens. Add a generous amount of coarsely chopped fruit and vegetable: cucumber, pineapple, mango, papaya, cherry tomatoes, pomegranates. Add avocado and boiled eggs to taste.

Make a fresh mayonnaise from 4..6 egg yolks and good olive oil. To make the mayonnaise, whisk the egg yolks as violently as possible, very slowly adding 2..3 cl of olive oil drop by drop. You will be rewarded for patience and endurance. You’ve added enough oil when the mayonnaise starts tasting distinctly of olive oil. Season with a little mustard, a pinch of salt, and a little lime juice (still whisking like mad). Chill for an hour – and chill out yourself.

Crush a tablespoon of black peppercorns and mix with 150ml soured cream.

Meanwhile… fry king prawns in olive oil, lots of garlic, and a generous amount of chilly. Before the garlic turns too dark, douse with half a glass of dry white wine.

Spread the prawns around on top of the salad, spoon the mayonnaise atop, followed by the soured cream – done. Enjoy!

Winter Warmer

HaddockWhile I might be missing the Californian climate, something enjoyable about autumn and winter is the ability to cook and enjoy winter warmer food, so I thought I bring you one to round up this week’s blogging (at 5 am. Bloody jet-lag): Smoked Haddock on a Bed of Green Lentils. For 4 people:

Wash and rinse 2 cups of green lentils. Finely chop a glove of garlic and a medium onion, maybe add some carrot and celery, fry those briefly with a bit of olive oil, add the lentils, a cup of water, a bay leaf. Normally, dried lentils take forever to cook – to trick them into surrendering sooner, add one stock cube. Stock cubes or granulates contain bicarbonate, which does magic for the lentils. While the lentils simmer, work on the haddock:

Take 2 fillets of smoked haddock. Don’t use the yellow stuff; the yellow colour is just artificial and not very healthy colouring. Buy the white smoked haddock fillets that are widely available in every U.K. supermarket. Skin the fillets and break them into two pieces each. Heat a pint of milk in a flat pan, add 2 bay leaves, 3..4 crushed juniper berries, and let the fish simmer in the milk for about 5..8 minutes. Make sure the milk never boils (or agree with somebody else on the cleaning of the kitchen beforehand). While the fish simmers away, prepare four poached eggs:

Bring a deep pot of water to the boil. Let it boil violently. Add a generous dash of white vinegar. Break the egg shells and slide each egg into a flat saucer, and slide them from there into the boiling water. The saucer allows the white to surround the yolk; if you just pour the egg from its shell, the sharp shell edge will cut through the white. The vinegar also helps solidifying the egg quickly. Let them boil for 3 minutes (you do want the yolks runny). Meanwhile…

Season the lentils to taste. Put a spoon or two of lentils on each plate, and rest a portion of haddock on top. Take the eggs out with a skimmer, drain a little (sometimes they get watery pouches which you might want to drain), and put one egg on top of each plate. Sprinkle a little chopped parsley across. Serve with crispy white bread and wine to taste.

Bon appetite!

Green is Good For You

Spinach_1This simple dish is deeply satisfying, and has been a great success on many occasions. It’s fairly quick and easy to make, can be made in small and large portions, can be eaten hot, luke-warm and cold, keeps for a few days, is good to re-heat in a microwave oven, … Who can ask for more?

For Dad’s Spinach Tarte, you’ll need:

1 1/2 packet deep-frozen puff pastry, 1 kg Spinach, 1 leak, 1 large onion, 3-5 gloves of garlic, butter, 2 tee spoons salt, 2 tee spoons stock granulates or 2 cubes, 1/2 tee spoon freshly ground pepper, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, 6 eggs, 1/2 pint double cream, 300g Feta cheese, a handful of pine kernels, and a few tablespoons of dry breadcrumbs.

Cut onion, garlic, leak. Steam slightly with a bit butter and a dash of olive oil. Loose some of the liquid if too much builds up.
Mix eggs, cream, feta cheese, pine kernels and all the spices in an extra bowl. Remove the spinach from the heat and mix both together. Add breadcrumbs until the mix has the consistency of slightly runny custard.

Roll out the semi-defrosted pastry and line a deep non-sticking dish (a Teflon-coated roasting dish works great, and so do many baking forms). Let the rim hang over the dish slightly. Fill in the mix, fold in the pastry, wet the pastry with water and close the lid with another sheet of puff pastry. Try to get the puff pastry as air-tight as you can, but do not forget to insert two little cross-cuts in the lid to let the steam out.

Preheat the oven to 180C (360F). Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the tin foil, and bake for another 15 minutes. When finished, remove from the oven, let cool down for 20 minutes, then turn over and lift off the dish.

Eat hot, luke-warm, or cold. Enjoy!