pain de campagne - baking bread

I've tried my hands on focaccia before. Never on real bread. The focaccia never worked out too great, so I'm doubting why I think a real Frenchy loaf type of bread would be a success. But I desperately want to be able to bake a proper bread which I can serve guest with cheeses, real nice butter and other dips. Because you can put love in bread, it's one of the core ingredients. Maybe the most important one. So rather than some random love from the local baker (or is that from a bigger bakery company manufacturer type of thing?), I would like to serve guests some love in this appropriate way.

This recipe is from Kitchen Secrets by Raymond Blanc. And the recipe worked!



It's 2:15. I've had a very long day of hard work. The kind of day that makes you feel like you deserve a drink. So I did. Couple of hours later, here I am. Watching a French cookery program. Pretending I really do understand the language.. (I only understand..quinze, sucre, beurre, and the other random petits, bonnes, parce que's & le vin).
Makes me feel happy and stupid at the same time. French is so pretty..

Want to watch and learn? Go here.

+ the blog that got me on this path: Manger by Mimi Thorisson (she's great!)

[post written a few weeks back, as obviously it's not night right now - and I am not drinking wine - really I'm not]


wine of the week: cono sur single vineyard riesling

I'm quite fascinated by Riesling. I keep reading that it's one of the most gastronomic wines around. But for a long time I wouldn't come near it:  I was prejudiced and thought Riesling was nothing more than some cheap sweet grape juice.

Germany is home to the Riesling grape, it has been cultivated there for centuries.
Besides Germany, the Alsace region in France has been doing so for a long long time as well. Nowadays it can be found around the world, and supposedly it makes for interesting wines coming from Australia & Austria. It can make entirely different wines, depending on where it comes from. The grape tends to be very aromatic, flowery, lime & minerals and it's suitable for aging.


classic steak tartare

Meanwhile... in my kitchen, I'm loving the hell out of steak tartare! 
Easiest thing to make, and such a luxurious taste. 

First time I had steak tartare was in a restaurant somewhere in Amsterdam. And have been obsessing over it ever since. Around here you don't see it an awful lot on menus. Luckily it's not hard and you'll only need a good chopping knife, chopping board and a few not that expensive ingredients (except for the meat obvs). 

This is a recipe for the classic version of steak tartare. You might have come across loads of varieties of tartare (tuna or salmon, a Thai twist on the original?).  But you know, I like classics, they intrigue me, a dish that's around for such a long time, and still finds it way on menus has got to have something special right? Well, special it is and I am planning on not eating it for a while, to keep it that way. 

Some restaurants might serve steak tartare with all the components laid out separately on your plate. Or they will ask you how you would like your steak tartare (spicy, mild..), give you a taster, 'is this spicy enough for you?', and then get on with preparing the rest of your dish accordingly. The ingredients and amounts are according to my taste, so do make sure to keep a bit extra on hand, or be careful with chucking it all in!

Music to listen to while chopping:


blinis & sauce

The other day I tried two recipes that were new to me: potato blinis with tomato confit and crispy dried ham and salmon & a basil sauce.

Blinis always seemed a fancy way to start a dinner. When I saw the recipe in the French Laundry cookbook, I thought, hey, that's not that hard. I thought they were hard?!
Little did I know that this wasn't an original blini recipe! Then again, a lot of things seem to go about as a blini. According to Larousse they're Russian and commonly served as an appetizer with smoked fish or caviar.  Made from a yeasted batter with buckwheat. Wiki explains a blini more as an generic term for different types of pancakes. Which can have the addition of apple or potato, can be served with or without a filling and can be served either sweet or savoury. But their common ground is the addition of a leavening agent (which normal pancakes lack). I will have to try my hands on the most original-traditional seeming Russian version some other time!

I prepared the salmon dish mainly for the sauce, as unhealthy as it may be, I love sauce! They can elevate a dish from a weekday dinner to a weekend feast. But I don't know a lot about sauces. I've never ever even made a bechamel or hollandaise. So as part of learning more about the techniques and possibilities of sauces I started with this easy-peasy recipe.

Music to listen to while cooking:
Medicine chest - Nostalgia 77 (Spotify)


wine of the week: scaia

Wednesday January 14 

Scaia - Garganega, Trebbiano & Chardonnay - Veneto, Italy - 2013 - Tenuta Sant'Antionio

This wine couldn't be more off with the season. Outside it's storming, rain, wet snow, the whole shebang. While in my glass a tropic explosion takes place. The aromas coming from the glass are really heavy on acacia and tropical fruit, mostly pineapple, but also a bit of orange and apple.  Taste-wise it's a a fresh tasting wine, most of the fruit very upfront but balanced in taste. Crisp character, no oak, little of tangy citrus near the end. It has quite a personality this one. 

I've enjoyed this wine before, and I will continue to buy it whenever I feel I need a bit of sunshine. Nice aperitif, and I've yet to discover its food-combining skills (fish dishes, cold starters and vegetable courses are recommended). 

So for all those people who get really down during the cold season, wishing it was over sooner rather than later. Play a summery tune (I suggest a bit of this), close your eyes and enjoy!

I bought it for 9.99 from a wine shop in my hometown who get their wine through http://www.kwastwijnkopers.nl/nl/home/


wine of the week: antu ninquen

NYE 2014

The christmas tree was still in the room, we were listening to the radio; supposedly airing the best 2000 songs of all time and playing a game of Bezzerwizzer. It was almost 10 o'clock. Only two more hours to go and we had only eaten our starter (vitello tonato fyi). I proposed that maybe it was time to get on with our main course. And open the other bottle of wine :).

As we started prepping our pasta and beef tenderloin dish, I opened the bottle that was to go with it. The Antu Ninquen Syrah 2012. I sneakily poured myself a little glass to try it whilst cooking.

"I think I like this... I think you like this..."

We have the Antu on the wine list at the restaurant where I work, my colleagues were always quite enthusiastic about it.  So when I saw it online for only €11.95, while in most shops it goes for  more than €15, I thought..hey good deal!

Well a good deal that was! The Antu Syrah offers a full-bodied, pretty concentrated palate of dark fruit, oaky notes and a tiny bit of pepper. The variety is notable for quite some tannins, but the Antu was really mellow on them. Finishing long and strong. 

It paired really well with the food, which was a lucky guess. (Fresh pasta with parsley, blue cheese and cherry tomatoes, grilled tenderloin steak and rocket dressed with an orange dressing which was seriously delicious with the blue cheese in the pasta!!)

For 12 euros, the Antu is not the cheapest bottle, but it's definitely proof that spending a bit extra is well worth it. The amount of money I spend on wine is obviously personal, everybody will have a different view of what's cheap and what's expensive.  It's my goal to try out different varieties, from different origin, learning more by doing (drinking, ha!). Trying to keep it below 10-15 euros.  

I've got some sad news to end this post with. Obviously I would really recommend this wine and I wanted to buy more of it, so right on the first of January I looked it up again on the website. But it had disappeared! Vanished! No sign of it ever being on the website!
I suppose they ran out of the 2012 vintage. So I will be on the lookout for the new 2013 bottle, and see if it is just as nice and good and rich and fruity as the 2012!

I bought it here for 11.95.