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Quail with grilled mushrooms

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Ingredients: 1/2 cup white wine vinegar, 1/4 cup burgundy (red), 2 tablespoons burgundy, 1/2 teaspoon celery salt, 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon onion salt, 1/4 teaspoon allspice (ground), 1 tbsp sage (ground), 1 tbsp marjoram, 1 teaspoon thyme, 2 teaspoons bacon drippings

12 quail (cleaned), butter (melted)

Directions

  1. Combine first 8 ingredients, mixing well; add quail. Cover and marinate in refrigerator at least 24 hours, turning quail several times.
  2. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, basting with marinade. Remove quail from marinade; grill over hot coals 10 to 20 minutes, basting often with melted butter.
  3. Serve with grilled mushrooms and pumpkin purée and potato chips.P1150166.JPG
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Tartiflette with Reblochon cheese

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Tartiflette is a dish made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions. The word tartiflette is derived from the Arpitan word for potato, tartiflâ. The modern recipe was inspired by a truly traditional dish called “péla”: a gratin of potatoes and onions (without cheese) in a long-handled pan called a pelagic (shovel) in the Provence region of France. It was developed in the 1980s by the Union Interprofessional Reblochon to promote sales of reblochon, as is confirmed also by Christian Millau (of the Gault-Millau Guide) in his gastronomic dictionary.

The Tartiflette was first mentioned in a 1705 book, Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois, written by Francoise Massialot and his assistant cook B. Mathieu. The name derives from the Savoyard word for potatoes, tartifles, a term also found in Provençal. As with many traditional dishes in the region, the potato is a staple ingredient. Savoy was historically part of the  Holy Roman Empire and discovered the  tubers earlier than the French. The Savoyards first heard of tartiflette when it began to appear on the menus of restaurants in the ski stations, conveying an image of authenticity and mountain territory.

A common related preparation found throughout the region is the Croziflette. The format of this adheres to that of the original dish in everything but the use of potatoes, in place of which are found minuscule squares of locally produced pasta,  crozets de Savoie (usually made from buckwheat but sometimes durum). The name of this dish is a blend of “crozet” and “tartiflette”.

And what is Reblochon?

It is a soft washed-rind and smear-ripened French cheese made in the Alpine region of Savoy from raw cow’s milk. It has its own AOC designation. It has a nutty taste that remains in the mouth after its soft and uniform center has been enjoyed. It is an essential ingredient of tartiflette, a Savoyard (Alps)  gratin made from potatoes, bacon (lardons), and onions (and you can also add spinach).

The history of the cheese

Reblochon was first produced in the Thones and Arly valleys, in the Aravis massif. Thônes remains the center of Reblochon production; the cheeses are still made in the local cooperatives. Until 1964 Reblochon was also produced in Italian areas of the Alps. Subsequently, the Italian cheese has been sold in declining quantities under such names as Rebruchon and Reblò alpino. Reblochon derives from the word “reblocher” which when literally translated means “to pinch a cow’s udder again”. This refers to the practice of holding back some of the milk from the first milking. During the 14th century, the landowners would tax the mountain farmers according to the amount of milk their herds produced. The farmers would therefore not fully milk the cows until after the landowner had measured the yield. The milk that remains is much richer, and was traditionally used by the dairymaids to make their own cheese.

In the 16th century the cheese also became known as “fromage de dévotion” (devotional cheese) because it was offered to the Carthusian monks of the Thônes Valley by the farmers, in return for having their homesteads blessed.

The cow breeds best for producing the milk needed for the Reblochon cheese are the Abondance, Tarentaise and the Montbéliarde. This cheese measures 14 cm (5.5 in) across and 3–4 cm (1.2–1.6 in) thick, has a soft center with a washed rind and weighs an average of 450 grams (16 oz). As proof of its being well-aged in an airy cellar, the rind of this cheese is covered with a fine white mould. The optimal period to savor this cheese is between May and September after it has been aged six to eight weeks. It is also excellent from March to December.

 

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Lamb stew with red wine for Easter

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With April, the sun is rising higher and the weather is getting warmer. The first fresh green shoots appear on trees. Purple sprouting broccoli, cabbages, spring greens and spring onions are still part of the collection. Cauliflowers and fresh herbs-mint, chives, rosemary and sage-take part in this culinary change of pace, with lighter and often quicker dishes replacing the warming casseroles of former months. Daffodils, crocuses and pansies have all started to bloom and the end of this month reveals the first potatoes and with extra sunshine, the asparagus. The short spell of the St George mushroom is at its height, after it appears first around 23 April, hence the name. Tiny young broad beans begin to excite the eye and palate. As you see April has quite a lot to recommend. But not only vegetables but also meat for example the succulent sweet meat of the spring lamb which appear first at Easter time.

Lamb stew with red wine

 

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 pound lamb shoulder blade chops, salt and pepper to taste, 1 large onion, chopped 3 cloves garlic, minced, 1/2 cup dry red wine, 2 cups chopped tomatoes, 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce, 1 cup lamb stock, 1/2 lemon, (the lemon zest and juice), 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 bay leaf , 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed, 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions: Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Season the lamb with salt and pepper, add to the pot, and cook until deeply browned, about 5 minutes on each side. Stir in the onions and garlic, and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Pour the wine into the pot, and bring to a boil while scraping the browned bits of food off of the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, lamb stock, lemon zest and juice, oregano, cinnamon, and bay leaf. Bring back to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the lamb is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Stir in the green beans and cook until they are tender, about 20 additional minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and any bones from the stew. Garnish stew with chopped fresh parsley.

 

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Scallops for Easter

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March component lasting throughout the spring months and it’s the ramson, probably better known as wild garlic. These onion like leaves thrive on damp soil and are consequently usually found open woodland areas, often close to streams. Once torn leaves exude garlic, though still offering a milder finish than their cultivated bulbous friends. It is corresponding very well with the mushrooms.

Salmon and winter scallops are good price to buy in March and I try right now. March is not the month to over-fill instead it is a time to take advantage of what is available and to look forward to the unpredictable month of April. Regardless of the weather on any day, April has quite a lot to recommend it. A late Easter brings good news for family parties, with so much more on offer for the table, chocolates, in particular, does dessert duty to supplement the few home-grown fruits available, so rich chocolate cakes, flans and mousses are a must.  Imported fruits, such as bananas and pineapples, are available and both have a liking for Easter chocolate as a co-ingredients.

The succulent sweet meat of spring lamb appears also at this time.

The fishmonger’s marble slab becomes laden with good things, with soles still in good order, red mullet showing its face and meaty monkfish, the 12 monthly beauty, seeming to achieve prize winning standards during March and April. Hopefully the winter has definitely passed, shellfish reappears after its break of a few months. The most regular crustacean on offer is the common brown crab, eaten fresh from the shell. The alternative is the great shellfish luxury, spider crab.

I decided to prepare shellfish for Easter, see my best recipe below!

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Ingredients: 12 large scallop shells (available at gourmet stores or 12 small scallop shells (available at fish store) 24 large sea scallops, each cut horizontally in half , 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 cup green onions (or scallions), chopped, green part only, 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (or 1 1/2 cup Emeril’s homemade mayonnaise)

Mayonnaise 1 large egg 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp hot red pepper sauce (or Tabasco) 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce 1/2 tsp salt 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes 1 cup olive oil

Methods: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a food processor or blender, combine the egg, mustard, hot sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire, salt, black, pepper and red pepper flakes. Process until smooth, about 30 seconds. With the motor running, pour in the oil in a slow, steady stream. The mixture will thicken. Refrigerate and ready to use.

Put the scallop shells on a baking sheet. Season both sides of the scallops with the salt and black pepper. Put two scallops in each shell and spoon about 2 tablespoon of the mayonnaise over them. Bake on the top rack of the oven until the mayonnaise is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Garnish with the green onions and serve hot.Xmas 2012 Belgium 165

 

 

One day trip to Innsbruck, to the castle Ambras

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The Ambras is a Renaissance castle and palace located in the hills above Innsbruck, Austria at 587 metres above sea level. Considered one of the most popular tourist attractions of the Tyrol, Ambras Castle was built in the 16th century on the spot of an earlier 10th-century castle, which became the seat of power for the Counts of Andechs. The cultural and historical importance of the castle is closely connected with  Archduke Ferdinand II (1529–1595) and served as his residence from 1563 to 1595. Ferdinand was one of history’s most prominent collectors of art. The princely sovereign of Tyrol, son of Emperor Ferdinand I, ordered that the mediaeval fortress at Ambras be turned into a Renaissance castle as a gift for his wife  Philippine Welser. The cultured humanist from the House of Habsburg accommodated his world-famous collections in a museum built specifically for that purpose, making Castle Ambras Innsbruck the oldest museum in the world.P1140914

The Lower Castle contains armories feature masterpieces of the European armorer’s art from the time of Emperor Maximilan I to  Emperor Leopold I. As the only Renaissance Kunstkammer of its kind to have been preserved at its original location, the “Kunst- und Wunderkammer” (Chamber of Art and Curiosities) represents an unrivalled cultural monument.

Above the Lower Castle is the famous Spanish Hall (Spanische Saal), a notable example of German Renaissance architecture, which contains an intricate wood-inlay ceiling and walls adorned with 27 full-length portraits of the rulers of Tyrol. The Upper Castle contains an extensive portrait gallery featuring paintings of numerous members of the House of Habsburg.P1140938

Long before Innsbruck became a city, references to an Amras or Omras appeared in documents dating from the 10th century. This early fortification in what was then the southwest corner of Bavaria was the seat of power of the Counts of Andechs, who became  Margraves of Istria and later Dukes of the short-lived Imperial State of Merania from 1180 to 1248. This original fortification was destroyed in 1133 and no traces of it remain, although some of the material from the original structure was later used in the modern building. In 1248, the castle ruins and property passed by inheritance from the Counts of Andechs to Count Albert IV of Tyrol.

The modern Ambras Castle was built by Archduke Ferdinand II (1529–1595), the second son of Emperor Ferdinand I. When he was made provincial sovereign of Tyrol in 1563, Ferdinand II ordered two Italian architects to turn the existing medieval fortress into a Renaissance castle for his untitled wife Philippine Welser (1527–1580), whom he had married in secret. Ferdinand II prepared his residence in the Upper Castle, beneath which he constructed one of the most artistically important halls of the late Renaissance—known as the Spanish Hall since the nineteenth century. In 1589, he added an additional building west of the Lower Castle for the purpose of housing his collection of weaponry. Ambras Castle was used as the official residence of Philippine as well as a place for Ferdinand II to house his collection of weapons, suits of armor, portraits, natural objects, as well as rarities and precious objects.

Philippine became a popular and beloved figure through her charity and willingness to help others, particularly the common people of Tyrol. Even the nobility brought their petitions to the former commoner. As signs of affection, people addressed their written petitions to “Merciful Miss” or “serene Princess Mrs. Philippine of Austria”. After Ferdinand’s death in 1595, the second son of Ferdinand and Philippine,  Margrave Charles of Burgau, inherited Ambras Castle. With little interest in the castle, and never having used it as a residence, Charles sold it in 1606 to Emperor Rudolf II.

In the following years, Ambras Castle no longer had the status of an official residence and was seldom lived in. Inadequate preservation measures led to the loss of valuable books, manuscripts, and hand sketches, and soon the palace fell largely into disrepair. In the seventeenth century, Emperor Leopold I (1640–1705) had some of the most valuable holdings of the Ambras collections—mostly books and manuscripts—moved to Vienna, where they can still be seen at the  Austrian National Library. In 1805, the remaining Ambras collections were threatened by the defeat of Austria by the French Empire. Fortunately, after recognized the private-law character of the Ambras collection, Napoleon(1769–1821) had it brought to safety in Vienna.

In 1855, Archduke Karl Ludwig, then governor of Tyrol, had the palace remodeled to use as a summer residence. Significant changes were made during this time to the palace and the surrounding park. The Outer Bailey (Vorschloss) was constructed with an ivy-clad entrance ramp for carriages. The park was redesigned as an English garden. Following Archduke Karl Ludwig’s renouncement of his succession rights in 1889. the palace fell once again into ruinous condition. In 1880, it was converted into a museum and subsequently renovated.

In 1919, following the dissolution of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Ambras Castle became the property of the Republic of Austria. In 1950, the History and Art Museum took over the administration of the castle and its collections. Throughout the 1970s, a comprehensive restoration took place of the Spanish Hall, the Upper Castle residential quarters, and the inner courtyard. In 1974, the Chamber of Art and Curiosities was completed. In 1976, the Portrait Gallery covering the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries was completed. In 1981, the Armory was reopened in the Lower Castle.

Ferdinand II was one of the most important patrons of the Habsburg family. He founded the notable collections of Ambras and had a museum built for them in the rooms of the “Lower Castle”, which was constructed according to the most advanced ideas of his time. The three armories and the chamber of art and curiosities were designed and used as a museum from the beginning.

The Spanish Hall, built between 1569 and 1572, is one of the most important freestanding halls of the Renaissance. The picturesque lay-out of the 43-metre (141 ft) long hall is dominated by the 27 full-length portraits of the princely rulers of the Tyrol. Today rather famous classical concerts take place in this hall.

The Chamber of Art and Curiosities of Archduke Ferdinand II is the only one which can still be seen in its original place. Others had been plundered like the ones in Munich, Prague or Stuttgart, or their character had been changed like in Dresden or Kassel.

In the chamber of art and curiosities at Ambras Castle wonders as well as precious objects, scientific items or toys are to be seen. In contents the natural and artistic objects represent the programme of the late Renaissance encyclopedic collections. The special thing about the Ambras-collections is, that they are still where they were meant to be seen. Still you can find corals arranged in cabinet-boxes, turnery made of wood or ivory, glass figures, or porcelain and silk paintings which belong to the oldest European collections of Asian art.

Also important works of European artists, like the carved “little death” made of wood by Hans Leinberger can be found, as well as typical “chamber of art and curiosity – objects” like hand stones, goblets made of rhinoceros horn, coconut or rock crystal, animals made of bronze, music- and measuring instruments, automats and clocks. A very important part of the collection were portraits of curious persons like the hairy people, Vlad Dracula and the Hungarian noble man Mark Gregor Baksa, whose head was hit by a Turkish soldier at the 1598 siege. According to the story, in this battle, a Turkish soldier roared into his skull with a cop, shaking his right eye in his head. The tip of the gun on his neck, or some sources claim that it went through his left ear. The soldier, however, managed to survive his injury and even later he participated in the further battles of the fifteen-year war (from 1515-). According to the chronicles, he had survived his injury for one more year. His wounding and persistence became known throughout Europe, so that numerous copper engravings were made from his skull and recorded in several verses the history of his wounding.P1140925

 

 

Coq au vin

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Ingredients:

½ tbsp olive oil, 3 rashers (100g) dry-cured, smoked back bacon, fat trimmed, chopped 12 small shallots peeled, 2 free-range chicken legs (460g), skin removed, 4 free-range chicken thighs with bone and skin (650g), skin removed 2 free-range, skinless, boneless chicken breasts (280g), 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped 3 tbsp brandy or Cognac, 600ml red wine, 150ml good-quality chicken stock, 2 tsp tomato purée 3 thyme sprigs, 2 rosemary sprigs and 2 bay leaves, to make a bouquet garni, small handful chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish, 1½ tbsp olive oil, 250g chestnut mushroom, halved if large, 2 tbsp plain flour, 1½ tsp olive oil, 1 tsp softened butter

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan or flameproof dish. Tip in the bacon and fry until crisp. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Add the shallots to the pan and fry, stirring or shaking the pan often, for 5-8 minutes until well browned all over. Remove and set aside with the bacon.
  2. Pat the chicken pieces dry with kitchen paper. Pour the remaining oil into the pan, then fry half the chicken pieces, turning regularly, for 5-8 minutes until well browned. Remove, then repeat with the remaining chicken. Remove and set aside.
  3. Scatter in the garlic and fry briefly, then, with the heat medium-high, pour in the brandy or Cognac, stirring the bottom of the pan to deglaze. The alcohol should sizzle and start to evaporate so there is not much left.
  4. Return the chicken legs and thighs to the pan along with any juices, then pour in a little of the wine, stirring the bottom of the pan again. Stir in the rest of the wine, the stock and tomato purée, drop in the bouquet garni, season with pepper and a pinch of salt, then return the bacon and shallots to the pan. Cover, lower the heat to a gentle simmer, add the chicken breasts and cook for 50 mins-1hr.
  5. Just before ready to serve, heat the oil for the mushrooms in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the mushrooms and fry over a high heat for a few minutes until golden. Remove and keep warm.
  6. Lift the chicken, shallots and bacon from the pan and transfer to a warmed serving dish. Remove the bouquet garni. To make the thickener, mix the flour, olive oil and butter in a small bowl using the back of a teaspoon. Bring the wine mixture to a gentle boil, then gradually drop in small pieces of the thickener, whisking each piece in using a wire whisk. Simmer for 1-2 minutes. Scatter the mushrooms over the chicken, then pour over the wine sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley.P1140825

 

Lamb with Port wine sauce

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Easter is coming! We have three more weeks to go so it’s high time to give a try to an excellent lamb recipe!

Ingredients: 6 small lamb shanks, visible fat trimmed, salt and pepper, to taste, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 pound brown mushrooms, stemmed, 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, 10 cloves garlic, split, 6 large shallots, split, 3 cups chicken stock (or low-sodium chicken broth) 1 cup port wine, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, 2 bay leaves
Methods: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Season shanks with salt and pepper to taste and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a roasting pan just large enough to hold shanks in a single layer over medium-high heat. Add the shanks and sear on all sides, about 5 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a platter.

Halve or quarter the mushrooms if large. Add both the brown and shiitake mushrooms, garlic, and shallots to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add stock, Port, rosemary and bay leaves. Bring to boil, scraping any bits that are sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add the shanks. Cover with a tight-fitting lid or foil. Place the pan in the oven and bake at 350 degrees F 45 minutes, then turn the shanks. Continue baking until meat is tender and just starting to loosen from bone, about 45 to 75 minutes.

Set the pan on the counter until meat is cool enough to handle. Defat the cooking juices by pouring them into fat separator and skimming the top layer, or by pouring the juices into a bowl and freezing until the fat solidifies.

To serve, pour some of sauce over the shanks and arrange mushrooms on and around meat.P1140780