25 February 2012

Asian Noodle Soup (my take)

Last year in Laos, I usually had this for breakfast. But it works just as well for a quick meal at lunchtime or in the evening. It can be made with pretty well any vegetables to hand, cut into thin slices.

What you need

  • ½ medium-sized onion sliced
  • garlic, pressed
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 4 cm fresh ginger, cut into fine julienne
  • 1 regular carrot, sliced
  • 1 white carrot, sliced
  • ½ fennel, sliced
  • 1 handful of cabbage, cut into thin strips
  • ½ celeriac, cut into thin sliced
  • 200g rice noodles, soaked in hot water until soft (ca 7 minutes, depending on the thickness)
  • some crumbled dried herbs (Thai basil)
  • fish sauce, miso or vegetable broth, soy sauce or salt, dried chili, pepper to taste

What you do

Briefly sauté the onion and garlic in a little oil, then add the ginger and some dried chili, if you use them.
Add the vegetables and stir fry for a couple of minutes, adding some seasoning.
Then add enough boiling water that all the vegies are well covered and season to taste. (I love the sting in the tail of a good helping of chilis…)
Put the drained but soft noodles in a bowl, sprinkle some herbs over them.
Dishes in Laos are usually served with an array of condiments like fish sauce, oyster sauce, dried chili, etc. that you add to suit your taste. 

20 February 2012

Papet Vaudois (The Fall?)

This week I am looking after and cooking for my non-vegetarian Dad again. This meal is very loosely based on the traditional Papet Vaudois; I tried to recreate if after I had been invited by my friends Dewi and Janine, who didn’t know that I don’t really eat meat (OK, I admit, I’m not a real vegetarian, it’s also a taste thing.). Janine’s papet was so tasty, I just had to try it out at home. So now I usually cook it when I cook for my parents; I make a large amount and freeze the left-overs. Like with so many of these types of traditional dishes, they taste even better warmed up...

What you need

  • 50 g butter
  • 300 g smoked speck, cubed
  • 800 g leek, cut into slices
  • 5+ cloves of garlic, sliced thinly or pressed
  • 500 g waxy potatoes generously cubed
  • 400 ml white wine
  • vegetable stock cubes or paste to taste
  • 2 Vaudois sausages (one could be a saussice aux choux)
  • Salt and pepper.

 What you do

  1. Fry the speck rind and the speck in a bit of butter until the speck is slightly glazed.
  2. Add the onions and stir until they are glassy.
  3. Add the leek and the garlic and stir continuously till the leek get soft.
  4. Pour in the wine, add the vegetable stock and the potatoes.
  5. Last put in the sausages , making sure they are covered and allow the pot to simmer. The dish is ready when the potatoes are done, but it gets better the longer it is allowed to simmer (not to mention that warming it up)
  6. Before serving, pierce the sausages with a fork so they release their juices, then slice them and return them to the pot. 
  7. Season to taste with pepper and salt.
Serve in bowls to catch all the juices…

13 February 2012

Walnut Sauce with Strozzapreti

This is another quick-fix meal: making the sauce takes no longer than for the water to boil and the pasta to cook. Leftovers can be frozen and warmed up in the oven or a steamer.
I came across strozzapreti in a specialist Italian shop. Like orechietti or the thick fusilli, they are somewhere between fresh and dried pasta, packed with a sell by date like the dried variety but softer and chewier like the fresh stuff. The name is intriguing as it means “priests stranglers”.(and of course, as all the smarta***s will point out, in the picture we have fusilli.)
The walnut sauce was inspired by an Italian recipe but only to the point of two ingredients, walnuts and cream. There is no real intention to make this a traditional Italian sauce, but as the cold spell persists, so does the need for comfort food…

What you need

  • 400 g of pasta (ideally fresh, but in any case, high quality stuff!)
  • 50 g butter
  • 100 g ground walnuts (or pecan for a slightly different but equally palatable flavour)
  • 1 medium sized onion finely chopped
  • 1-2 pressed cloves of garlic
  • 100 ml Marsala
  • 100 ml cream
  • 200 ml crème fraîche
  • seasoning with vegetable stock (powder, possibly dissolved in the Marsala), Cajun spice mix and paprika

What you do

  1. Fry the onions in the butter (add the garlic as well unless you want the flavour to be more prominent, in which case add it right at the end) until they are glassy, perhaps slightly golden.
  2. Add the ground up walnuts and allow to develop their flavour while stirring.
  3. Pour in the marsala and simmer until it seems to have been absorbed by the nuts.
  4. Add the cream before stirring in the crème fraîche.
  5. Season to taste with vegetable stock, Cajun spice and paprika.
Serve with freshly ground parmesan cheese.

03 February 2012

Polenta with Gorgonzola and Winter Vegetable Pan

Here at last is that long promised recipe for the dish that preceded the quince mousse.
Both dishes together make a perfectly good meal, but I also added a slice of zander or pike-perch (a fresh-water fish), seasoned with salt and Cajun Spice (see earlier entry), dusted with flour and fried à la minute in some hot butter or olive oil.  



What you need: Polenta with Gorgonzola

  • 250 g Bramata Polenta
  • 1 l vegetable broth possible with a bit extra (purists only use salted water…)
  • 200 gr Gorgonzola, Blaues Wunder or Stilton in small cubes or slices (conversely for those who are not too keen on blue cheese a mixture of that and Mascarpone may be answer)
  • grated parmesan
  • Crema di Balsamico
  • optionally: salt, pepper, Italian herbs and nutmeg

What you do:

There are two types of polenta, one that becomes quite solid once it is done and can then be fried up in butter and the other tends to be more liquid (apart from differences in the coarseness of the maize). For this recipe I prefer the liquid but relatively coarse-grained variety, which is the result of adding hot water or broth as the cooking and stirring goes on.
By the way, this does require a fair bit of cooking (and stirring time, the longer it cooks the easier it is to digest and the better it tastes, but unless you don’t mind chiselling out a black crust at the end, it pays to keep stirring…
The plus side is that it can be made in advance and that it freezes very well…

  1. Bring the water with the vegetable stock to the boil.
  2. Allow the maize to trickle into the boiling stock while you stir and keep stirring until the mixture thickens.
  3. On a very small fire cook for at least 45 minutes, up to 2 hours if you have the time, stirring occasionally and adding water if the polenta gets too solid.
  4. Season to taste towards the end.
  5. In the meantime, butter a gratin dish and preheat the oven to 180°.
  6. Pour in about two thirds of the polenta, then distribute the cheese over it. (Sprinkle lightly with nutmeg at this point if you use any.)
  7. Pour in the rest, making sure the cheese is covered, then sprinkle a generous layer of parmesan on top for the crust. (alternatively, add the nutmeg at this stage.)
  8. Bake in the oven until the top has developed a golden/light brown crust.
  9. Serve with a pattern of Crema di Balsamice as decoration over the crust.

What you need: Winter Vegetable Pan

  • olive oil (for sautéing, about 3 tblsp)
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 2 medium-sized leeks, finely sliced
  • 1 medium parsley root cut into thin strips (about 3 mm thick and about 5 cm long; this is true for all root vegetables)
  • 1 small parnsip
  • 4 carrots (ideally of different types/colours)
  • ½ celeriac
  • ½ fennel, finely sliced
  • 150 ml good white wine
  • 300 ml passata or peeled tinned tomatoes
  • 3 (+) cloves of garlic, pressed
  • optionally: 5 pre-steamed black salsify (or scorzanera), cut in 5 cm pieces.
  • to season:
  • 1 vegetable stock cube(s)
  • 1 tbls Cajun spice (see earlier blog entry)

What you do:

  1. Heat the oil and sautée the onions and the leek until soft.
  2. Add all the vegetables and stir fry briefly, then add the wine with the stock cube dissolved in it.
  3. Pour in the passata, add the carlic and season with the Cajun spice.
  4. Serve as soon as the liquid is reduced to a thickness of a mayonnaise and the vegetables are still quite crunchy. (If you prefer them soft, simply cook for longer.)
  5. The dish can be done in advance, and warmed up before serving, in which case the “bite” of  the veggies needs to be monitored.  


Black salsify is an underappreciated vegetable, only available in winter. It is said to be a pain to prepare. It looks like a grubby, black root and indeed it tends to leave black marks; it is best peeled under running water to prevent staining and to wash away the sticky milky liquid they exude when they are cut. Once peeled, the pieces or whole roots need to put into water with a bit of vinegar to prevent the snow white root from browning. If boiled in hot water or steamed, it remains white. It tastes slightly nutty and is sometimes referred to as winter asparagus. Served with a bit of cheese grated over the top and a bit of melted butter, it is a delicacy.