2015/10/17

Earily good pasta.

We used to own a pasta machine, but frankly the fresh spaghetti and tagliatelle that it produced were not worth the effort for me - exit pasta machina and no more home made fresh pasta for us. A few months ago however we had excellent, freshly made orechiette ("ears") at local restaurant Sapori e recordi. Simple but amazingly good, and no pasta machine required.




It took a few months but yesterday we finally came around to trying this ourselves. Not at the kind of finger-breaking speeds Italian nonna's seem to manage on all the YouTube video's I watched, but at a nice meditative pace.

The real secret of this pasta is rolling the 'ears' - apparently possible in one swift move, but also in a few steps. First you form the dough into 2cm rolls. Then you cut of a 2cm piece and, holding a blunt knife at a 45 degree edge, spread the pasta onto a wooden board with a little pressure. This way a curved slice of dough is produced. Turn it inside out and clean it up if needed and voilà - an ear-shaped piece pasta.





The sauce, like most Italian food, isn't too complicated but needs good ingredients. Choose flavorful,  ripe and firm tomatoes (preferably the coeur de boeuf variety), good wine and nice ground beef, preferably a piece of stewing meat your have coarsely ground or chopped yourself.

Recipe

Sauce (too much for one dinner, but it freezes very well)
  • 2kg firm tomatoes, cut in pieces
  • 800g minced beef
  • generous amount of olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 200ml red wine
  • 3 tbsp oregano
  • 4 large onions, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • salt (see recipe)
  • pepper
Pour a generous layer of olive oil in a casserole, heat it up and color the meat. Add the onions wait for some colour on these as well before adding the garlic. Then add the wine, allowing to evaporate some of the alcohol before adding the other ingredients. Add some salt at this point, but keep in mind this sauce will reduce in volume by about half.

Leave the sauce to stew for as long as you can stand to wait - it has to reduce by half, creating a nice thick sauce with nice strong, stewy flavors. This will take at least an hour and a half, but more is better in this case. Don't forget to stir every once in a while, and add some water if the sauce gets too thick. Finally add salt to taste.

Pasta (serves 4 )
  • 200 gram flour tipo 00
  • 100 gram semolina
  • 3 gram salt
  • ca 200 ml tepid water
Mix the dry ingredients with half of the water, gradually adding more water until you can knead it into a firm, supple and elastic dough. Keep kneading for a while before rolling it out into long strips of about 2cm diameter. Use the description above to create the orechiette, placing them next to each other on a floured surface.

Cook the pasta in a large amount of salted boiling water until just done, which takes only a few minutes. Meanwhile heat up some olive oil in a skillet. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet, tossing it in the hot oil. Add sauce to taste, and some pasta water if the sauce is to thick. Mix it well, heat through for a moment and serve with freshly grated parmezan and a bold red wine.


This post is available in Dutch on Mout&Peper

2015/09/21

La Douce Blonde

Foody francophiles and beer geeks usually don't mix - and unfortunately I'm both.This results in slightly schizophrenic holidays, since Germany and England may provide excellent beers, subtle cuisine and decent weather are hard to find. And when you try to recover on a meteorological and culinary escape to Provence it's best to forego the barley for a short while and make do with some excellent rosé wines.






The traditional French beer landscape can be divided into three regions that don't really consider themselves French. The first of these is Normandy/Brittany, where a handful of Anglosaxons create some decent real ales. A little further to the North, on the Belgian border, we find the bières de garde  and saison beers. Finally there is the Alsace region, also known as 'France's little Germany', where you find some small breweries between the vineyards, not to mention the giant breweries producing Kro' and 33 Export for the less discerning customer.

This summer the weather convinced us to drive directly south, to the Lubéron to be exact. A wonderful region with great wine, nice weather and mouth-watering food. And, lo and behold, with an actual little 'micro brasserie', and organic at that. The somewhat off-putting name "BAL" was easily explained and forgiven since it was the acronym for Brasserie Artisanale du Lubéron.

On a tiny marché artisanale in between the goat's cheeses and rosé farmers we had a bottle of brune and the inevitable blonde, the latter a bland tasting product. The brune however actually tasted of roasted malts - one might even be reminded of a stout or porter. A bit too sweet for my taste, but still, did I mention the actual roasted barley? A couple of days later we even found. from the same brewery, an IPA! A real one. With houblon. Not a lot, and nothing too bitter, but still, without a doubt, hops.

Unfortunately that about wraps it up for the beer highlights of this summer. The brune and IPA were nice, but the actual year-round range (a slightly sweet blonde featuring clove, a nondescript ambree and a boring blanche) left a lot to be desired. And even though we didn't really look for it this year, and even though I'm sure there are some wonderful little breweries to be found, when encountering a small, artisanal brewery in France you can expect the following;
  • A blonde, a bit too sweet, no hops to speak of and 6-7% alcohol
  •  A régionale featuring a regional ingredient. Often the only evidence of this ingredient is on the label, but choices may be brave; lentils from Puy, Camarque rice or Bourgogne berries. So far I have not yet encountered a Bresse chicken or Bayonne ham version, but I'm not sure they're not out there...
  • A couple of non-offensive, unimpressive rousse, ambrée or blanche beers.
Having tried a geuze (overly sweet with a hint of sour), a faro (mostly sweet) and some more failures from the Hyper market I was done for the summer and stuck to pastis and rosé, happy to be one of those beer geeks that fortunately also enjoys wine...

This post originally appeared in Dutch on Mout&Peper

2015/02/08

Russian pork cheeks

Or rather, pork cheeks in Russian beer. Or to be precise, in English ale meant for the Russians. More precise still - in American beer based on an English style ale, meant for the Russians. Okay, if I'm totally honest, in Dutch home-brewed beer inspired by an American beer in the style of an English beer meant for Russia.




Still with me? So, pork cheeks. You can get them at a quality butcher or, better yet, a pig farm with own butchery. For pork cheeks in particular you need happy pigs, after all, the cheeks do all smiling. Ask the butcher to remove the membranes or do it yourself.

Pigs cheeks are quite fat, but also gelatinous, making them even more succulent whilst remaining in one piece. After a long period of simmering they are soft and tender. The simmering can be done in any liquid, wine or stock, but beer is especially good. Don't use overly bitter beers (a risk when using this beer style). Heavy, sweet Belgian style Double, Triple and Quadruple beers are a safe bet, and so is a milder porter or stout. Sour ales with or without fruit also work very well. A Russian Imperial Stout adds a more robust flavour and some bitterness, which turned out great.


Pigs Cheeks with stoemp


  • 8 pigs cheeks (they shrink significantly)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 branch of rosemary
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • pepper
  • salt
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • butter or lard
  • 250ml beer (heavy, dark beer; a Russian Imperial Stout, for example)
  • beef stock

Fry the pork cheeks in a little butter (as I was also crisping up some bacon I used lard) until nicely browned. Put all the vegetables and fry until the onions are translucent and begin to color. Deglaze with the beer and add the remaining ingredients. Add as much beef stock as needed to almost cover the cheeks. Let the cheeks simmer for as long as you have patience for it, but at least for two  hours.  

Gently take out the cheeks out and herbs. If you like you can blend the sauce, but don't overdo this. Thicken the sauce with a little cornstarch dissolved in cold water and put the cheeks back in. Serve with a hearty potato and vegetable mash (Belgian "Stoemp" for example) and a good beer, like the beer that you used when cooking.

This post orginally appeared in Dutch on Mout en Peper

2013/02/01

Ham hock in black beer.

Ah, the Germans. Pork and beer.  Honestly, I tried to find more sophisticated food, but by far the best things to enjoy in Germany are found in either or these food groups. A nice, clean Lagerbier, Weizen or Altbier with a (decent) Bratwurst, Weisswurst of extra chrunchy bun with cold Schnitzel. Or this dish - Eisbein with Schwartzbier (ham hock in black beer).


  • 2 ham hocks
  • 1L Schwartzbier (Köstritzer)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 leek
  • 2 onions
  • garlic
  • 4 stock cubes (without flavor enhancers)
  • chili powder
  • laurel leafs
  • 1 red chili
  • black pepper.
Cut the vegetables in big pieces and fry them lightly in some oil. Add the eisbein and add all the other ingredients. Simmer for 90-120 minutes.

Take out the meat and strain the cooking liquid. If you prefer, remove the skin of the eisbein. Put the eisbein in a tray, or, even better, on a rack with a baking tray beneath it. Heat up the oven to 220 and insert the tray. Wait for the eisbein to get  nice brown colour (you can pour over some cooking liquid every few minutes) and carefully turn the eisbein over once when the top has reached a nice brown crust. When the eisbein is nicely coloured all over it is done, ready to be served with mashed potato, sauerkraut and, what else, black beer.

This post originally appeared in Dutch on Mout&Peper

2012/02/23

Farmers Omelette

It seems most countries have their very own national fried egg dish - Spanish tortilla, Italian fritata, English scrambled eggs, Mexican huevos rancheros, even the Japanese put a somewhat sweet egg-roll on suhsi. The Dutch have their own: the boerenomelet - a 'farmers omelet' . It basically is a standard omelet folded over a bacon, onion and mixed vegetable stir-fry avant-la-lettre. It's hard to really mess up, but a few hints can make it pretty impressive.



First of all, good products. Fresh, organic eggs, bacon and veggies. Cheese if you want, but then go for the real deal: Farmhouse Gouda. You will need some slices of excellent bread as well. Then there's the filling. Don't over-fry the bacon, it should still be a little soft. The onions and other vegetables will re-soften them a little too. The filling should contain at least bacon (or maybe ham), onion and carrots. You can then add peas, mushrooms, leek, even cooked potato or butter beans.Make sure you have the filling cooked and keep it warm before you make the omelet itself. For a six egg omelet you need about 150g of bacon, 1 diced onion, 1 diced carrot and about 150-200 grams of the other (diced) vegetables.

Finally, the omelet itself. This too isn't that complicated, but do it wrong and it won't be half as nice. Heat up a frying pan, for a six egg (2 person) omelet a 24cm version will do. Add a splash of vegetable oil and then a little butter. When the fat is hot (but not burning), add a little salt to the whisked eggs and pour the mixture into the pan. Now comes the important part: using a wooden spatula, gently stir the mixture towards the center of the pan, scraping along the bottom. Make sure the liquid mixture fills up all open spots. Keep gently stirring until at least half of the egg has solidified in rough patches. Then shake the pan to evenly distribute the remaining liquid egg, lower the heat and allow the egg to almost cook trough. All this will ensure a fluffy and interesting texture.

Chef Jaques Pepin demonstrates how to make both the "Country omelet" we use here and a classic French version in this video:
When only the top part is still a bit liquid and shiny, pour the bacon/vegetable mix on one half and carefully fold over the other half of the omelet. Congratulations, you're done!

Serve with ketchup (yes, yes, we use ketchup too) and a nice slice of bread.

This dish can be paired with almost any beer, as long as it isn't sour or to sweet. I personally had it with a Stades Leicht Light beer, which i find pretty good.

This article oringally appeared in Dutch on Mout&Peper

2012/01/22

Making pizza in a Ferrari


(A G3 Ferrari pizza oven of course, what else did you expect?)


This oven had been reviewed by a Dutch food journalist often praising foody goodies, sometimes wrongly so but in many occasions he spots a true gem. I had modest expectations for this oven, but still I could not resist when it showed up in this web shop for € 109,-. The completely incomprehensible DHL status page seems to suggest this machine has arrived from Germany, but still it got in here in just a few days. One hour after delivery the only "status changed" e-mail fell into my Inbox; 'Delivered'. Thanks a lot, DHL.


Friday evening we unpacked the machine, read the dough recipe and got to work. The recipe works fine, and the machine is both simple and quick. There is a somewhat Chinese lack of attention to detail in the machine (the air holes are punched in at an angle that probably wasn't in the "Italian Design"). I removed some Chinese pizza stone dust with a wet cloth and heated up the machine.

It supposedly only consumes a modest 1200W and heats up in about 12-15 minutes. Making sure the heating elements were back on by turning it higher to max, I let the pizza slide from the brilliant double pizza 'paddles' onto the hot stone. In 5-7 minutes all pizza's turned cooked on top and crisped on the bottom. Not quite a real wood-oven finish, but much closer then I ever got with my normal oven. The burned residue that you get on the stone after a while actually adds to the flavor.

Some tips for great pizza's;
  • Make the crust as thin as you can
  • Do not overfill. One or two ladles-full of tomato sauce suffice, thinly spread out on the dough, leaving a centimeter of crust. Then your toppings, but once again, not to much. 
  • Do not put too much salt into the dough or the sauce - especially when using capers, bacon, (blue) cheese, anchovies and olives there's plenty of saltiness going on. 
  • Make some chili oil by infusing dried chili peppers or flakes, oregano, thyme and pepper corns in olive oil for a few weeks (do not add garlic, as this may cause botulism).
  • Make a simple pizza sauce by blitzing a can of tomatoes with a little salt, crushed garlic and oregano
The dough recipe in the Ferrari instruction guide was excellent. Here's our adaptation:
  • Combine 300 grams of pizza flour ("tipo 00") with 2 grams of salt
  • Combine 10 grams of dried yeast with a teaspoon of sugar and 200ml of lukewarm water
  • Wait for a couple of minutes for the yeast to start, then mix everything together. Add some water or flour if needed.
  • Knead the dough for a good 15 minutes until you have a clean surface, clean hands and a nice elastic dough.
  • Transfer the dough into a bowl and cover with clingfilm.
  •  Preheat your regular oven to 35 degrees Celcius, place the dough inside and put a mug of boiling water in the oven. Close the door and wait until the dough has doubled in size.
  • No oven? Then cover with a wet cloth and put in as warm a place as you have. You may have to wait a little longer (2 hours instead of 1)
  • Knead the dough for a few minutes and cut into 4. Shape each piece into a ball, place on an oven tray, cover with clingfilm an put it back in the oven. Once again, allow it to rise until doubled in size. This only takes a minute or 10. 
  • Put a liberal amount of flour on your worktop. Take out a dough ball and form it into a 25-28cm pizza by gently pulling and kneading it into shape (or do the Italian baker helicopter moves at your own risk). Watch out for holes in the middle of the dough, as you do not want stuffing or sauce to leak onto the pizza stone. 
  • Transfer the dough onto a well-floured pizza board and add your sauce and toppings (remember- not too much!)
  • Slide the pizza onto the oven and wait for it to finish.
Here's some of results:

Close the lid and wait for 5-7 minutes...

Alsatian "Flaemmekuche"ready for the oven



Flaemmekuche - Parma ham & roquette base
Anchovies & Pesto - Blue cheese & Mushrooms




Tomato & onion cooked, Parma ham & roquette added after

Flämmeküche: sour creme, Emmenthaler cheese, bacon & onion

Tomato, onion, blue cheese & mushrooms

Tomato, cheese, anchovies, capers (roquette added later)




This articale orginally appeared in Dutch on Mout&Peper