Turkey took over from goose as our first choice for the Christmas roast bird and, although available all year around, has become very much a seasonal favorite.
Ingredients for the turkey: 1 or 2 turkey breasts for each person, (skin removed), salt and pepper, 200 g bacon, 1 tbsp of rosemary, thyme
Prepare the turkey breasts. Salt and pepper to taste. Add some oil into a frying pan then place turkey filets and fry them slowly on both sides. Flavor with thyme and rosemary. Soaté filets for 10 more minutes until they are golden brown (you can pour water over filets in order not to let them dry). Put them aside.
For the cranberry marmalade: 225 gr cranberry, 100 gr brown sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, 150 ml cranberry juice, 150 ml ruby port, 1 orange, the zest
You can prepare the cranberry well ahead.
Finely grate the zest of the orange. Halve and juice the fruit. pour the juice into a measuring jug and top up with orange juice to 300 ml. Strain this juice through a sieve into a saucepan and add cranberry juice, cranberries, sugar and port. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a very gentle simmer for 12 minutes.
For the cranberry sauce: 25 gr butter, plus extra knob, 50 gr shallots or onions, sliced, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp vinegar, 400 ml red wine vinegar, 400 ml red wine, 300 ml instant stock, 1 heaped teaspoon plain flour
Melt the knob of butter in a saucepan and, once bubbling, add the sliced shallots or onions. Cook on medium to high heat until well colored and taking on a rich deep color. Add the honey and continue to cook for a few minutes more, until bubbling well and approaching a caramelized stage. At this point, add the red wine vinegar and red wine, bring to the boil and reduce in volume by half. Add stock or consommé and bring back to a simmer. While stock is warming mix the flour with the measured butter. Spoon and whisk well into the sauce until completely mixed in. The flour serves as the thickening agent, but this small quantity does not make it too thick. Bring the sauce back to the boil and add the already prepared cranberry (see above). Then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for a few minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve and season, if needed, reheating before serving.
For accompanying potatoes I suggest croquette and maybe buttered Brussels sprouts.
Ingredients: 800 g finely chopped, red cabbage, 500 g pork, 150 g pearl onion, 100 ml fresh orange juice, the zest of it as well 1 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp vegetarian oil (hazelnut), ½ teaspoon of Provençal spices, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 100 ml white wine, 100 ml water, salt and pepper to taste
Smear the pork with honey (with the help of a brush). Season with the Provençal spices then salt and pepper to taste. Heat the oil in a frying pan or a pot. Fry meat on each sides for three-to five minutes (be careful because of the honey it can burn very easily). Take out meet and put aside. Put pearl onions into the pan and caramelize until they get a bit of golden color. Place pork back to pan, pour over white wine and water. Cover pot and let meat simmer for 45 minutes under medium heat. Control regularly the tenderness of the pork.
Meanwhile heat oil in a pan and fry the finely chopped red cabbage for 3- 4 minutes. Stir it constantly. Squeeze the orange juice over cabbage and add some grated zest as well and flavor it with salt and pepper and caraway seeds. Add a pinch of sugar for more sensational aroma. Cover cabbage and let it cook for 15 minutes.
When the cabbage is ready, cut the caramelized pork into neat slices. Place pork slices on plates and pour over some gravy from the pan in which the pork was cooked. Arrange red cabbage alongside to the pork with a bit of orange juice. Serve dish with cooked or in oven baked potatoes.
The essence of this whole autumn season, with its tones of oranges and browns amongst its scenery of fallen leaves but autumn is also a season of give and take. In Germany the Advent (begins mid or at the end of November) means preparing wonderful selection of cookies. Here is a superb recipe the Bethmann for marzipan lovers (the Germans like to add marzipan to many desserts, creams, jams).
Bethmännchen (German for “a little Beth mann”) is a pastry made from marzipan with almond, powdered sugar, rosewater, flour and egg. It is a traditional cookie usually baked for Christmas Day and is widely available in chocolate shops around Frankfurt. It is a special commodity sold in Frankfurt’s Christmas market, one of the oldest Christmas markets in Germany which dates back as far as 1393! The name comes from the family of Bethmann. Legend has it that Parisian pastry chef Jean Jacques Gautenier developed the recipe for banker and city councilor Simon Moritz von Bethmann in 1838.Originally the Bethmännchen were decorated with four almonds, one for each son of Simon Moritz. After the death of his son Heinrich in 1845, the fourth almond was removed. However, this story is unlikely, since Simon Moritz had died already in 1826. After one and a half centuries of manufacturing, its form and recipe has never been changed. Here is the original recipe:
Ingredients: 3⁄4 cup almond halve, plus, 2 tablespoons peeled almond halves, 120 almond halves, reserved for decoration, 3⁄4 cup prepared marzipan, plus, 2 tablespoons prepared marzipan (a prepared almond paste usually packaged in logs, available in specialty food stores, 1 tablespoon rose water, 7 tablespoons powdered sugar, 2 small eggs, 3 1⁄2 tablespoons flour
Methods: Preheat oven to 350°F. Finely grind the measured almonds.
Break the marzipan dough into small pieces and mix with one of the eggs, rosewater, powdered sugar, ground almonds and flour.
Separate the remaining egg and beat the yolk, set aside.
Form marzipan mixture into balls the size of walnuts.
Press three almond halves onto the sides of each ball. The almonds should stand up and down and be evenly spaced around the ball.
Brush each ball with the beaten yolk and place on a cookie sheet.
Place cookie sheet on the middle rack and bake 15 minutes until golden brown.
Ingredients: 1 red + 1 white onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 red chili, deseeded, 2-3 potatoes, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 glass dry white wine, 800 g chopped plum tomatoes or passata, 500 ml stock, 2 bay leaves, ready fermented cabbage, (rinsed and washed the salt out!)
200 g salmon fillet, from sustainable sources, skinned, 300 g halibut fillet, skinned, scampi, prawns etc.,1 large, handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, sour cream, 1 tbsp flour
1. Finely chop the onions, garlic cloves and chili. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion, the halved or quartered potatoes, garlic and chili and sweat gently until soft. Add the wine, tomatoes or passata, squash and stock and bring to the boil. Flavor with bay leaves. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Season and gently break up the tomatoes.
2. Rinse the fermented cabbage with water and put it into a pot. Pour over water and cook, simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Roughly chop the salmon and halibut and add to the pan. Add the prawns to soup, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until just cooked. Mix 1 tbsp. of flour into sour cream, spoon out some liquid from the soup and stir well with the sour cream, flour mixture. Dense your soup with this.
4. Taste the soup and season it again with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice, if necessary.
5. Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with the chopped parsley.
Most game recipes tend to traditional accompaniments-roasted vegetables, cabbage, turnips, carrot, probably chestnuts. This recipe takes a totally different approach, because in the mid to late autumn there are plenty of vegetables to choose from. With this recipe it is not what you actually choose, so much as taking advantage of as many flavors as possible. As you will see glancing at the ingredients list there are lots of veggies to warrant the title of this dish.
One more thing it is in fact a reasonably quick recipe, with the bore, potatoes and abundance of vegetables, simply grilled and steamed all appearing from the one “pot”. The flavored potato carries the autumnal flavors of the nutty, knobbly celeriac tuber, the sweetness of the turnips gives extra aroma etc. Here is the splendid recipe:
Ingredients: 1-2 medium turnips, 1 large or 2 carrots, 2 celery sticks, 2 parsnips, 4 potatoes, Savoy cabbage (or Brussel’s sprout, optional), 12 button or pearl onions, 2 cloves of garlic, 1,2 l beef stock, or consommé, 2 bay leaves, large sprig thyme, salt and pepper, 4-6 wild bore fillets or 1 kg, knob of butter, 1 tbsp chopped parsley, 100 ml balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp mustard
Cut sweet turnips and carrots, celery and parsnips into rough dice or into baton-shaped sticks about 5 cms. They don’t need to be perfectly neat, but making all of them similar in size helps ensure even cooking. Cut the potatoes in quarters and shred the cabbage or Brussel’s sprouts into strips. Place the onions in a small saucepan and fry them in some oil. Add garlic cloves as well. Place potatoes, carrots, celery etc. and blanched onion in a large saucepan, fry them for 3-4 minutes and cover them with the stock or consommé. Add the bay leaves and thyme sprig and season with salt and pepper. Put them aside.
Fry the bore in some oil or butter for five minutes on both sides. Season with salt and pepper. Smear it with mustard and pour over balsamic vinegar. Remove meat from the pan and place onto a skillet. Surround meat with the fried vegetables. Cover with alufolie and bake for two-three ours at low temperature (180 degrees) until meat is tender.
To serve, lift the bore fillets from the roasting tray. Add a knob of butter to veggies, if you wish before spooning into plates. Place the fillets into the centre of each plates, ladling the cooking liquor over and sprinkling with chopped parsley.
Two “notorious” women made this soup very popular (Sophia Pou & Ashlee Pham) in the My Kitchen Rules Australian TV sequel, the ‘villains’ who enraged viewers during the 2013 season.
But since the favorite of my family is the Pho Bo soup (see my blog) I gave also a try to this three-in-one dish (chicken, rice, and soup). It is originated not from Vietnam like the Pho soup but in Hainan, a tropical island off China’s southern coast, and has become a culinary staple in Malaysian culture.
For chicken and broth 1 (3- to 3 1/2-lb) chicken, 3 teaspoons salt, 4 qt water, 4 (1/8-inch-thick) slices fresh ginger, smashed
For chili sauce 6 (3- to 3 1/2-inch-long) fresh hot red Thai chili or serrano chili, chopped, 1 shallot, chopped, 2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger, 2 medium garlic cloves, chopped, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
For rice 2 cups jasmine rice, 4 shallots, thinly sliced, 2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 English cucumber, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil, 1 bunch or 1 (4-oz) bag watercress, coarse stems discarded
Garnish: fresh cilantro leaves or sprigs
Prepare chicken and broth:
Remove fat from cavity of chicken and reserve for rice. Rub chicken inside and out with 1 teaspoon salt.
Bring water with remaining 2 teaspoons salt and ginger to a boil in a 6- to 8-quart pot wide enough to hold chicken. Put chicken, breast down, in water and return to a boil, covered. Simmer chicken, partially covered, 20 minutes and remove from heat. Let chicken stand in hot broth, covered and undisturbed, until just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.
Letting broth drain from chicken cavity into pot, transfer chicken to a large bowl of ice and cold water and reserve broth for rice and soup. Cool chicken completely, turning once. Drain chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into serving pieces.
Make chili sauce while chicken is cooking: Pulse chili-sauce ingredients to a coarse paste in mini food processor.
Cook reserved chicken fat in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until rendered then discard solids. Add vegetable oil if necessary to make 2 tablespoons fat.
Wash rice under cold running water until water runs clear and drain well.
Cook shallots in fat over moderate heat, stirring, until browned. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add rice and cook, stirring gently, 1 minute.
Add 3 cups reserved broth and bring to a boil. Boil until liquid on surface is evaporated and small bubbles appear from holes in rice, 3 to 4 minutes.
Cover and cook over very low heat until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes more. Remove from heat and let stand, covered and undisturbed, 5 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and cover.
Shave as many long ribbons as possible from cucumber with a U-shaped vegetable peeler and chill ribbons in another bowl of ice and cold water 15 minutes. Drain well.
Stir together soy sauce and sesame oil.
Bring 6 cups reserved broth and watercress to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan and simmer 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and let stand until watercress is a shade darker, about 3 minutes.
Drizzle soy-sesame mixture over chicken. Serve chicken with cucumber ribbons and individual bowls of rice, soup, and chili sauce.
September is a great month for avid collectors, avid eaters and avid chefs because this is when wild mushrooms are seriously hitting the scene. It is on the continent that the enthusiasm for the fungal wonders of nature is most apparent, while in Belgium and Germany we seem always to have been afraid of picking and collecting (maybe is a toadstool?). The cep is the prime wild mushroom-cépe to the French and porcino (little pig) to the Italians. Its round shiny cap looks like the Victorian penny bun, but it will now cost rather more than that. They form trees, in clearings in the woods, and around the edges of woods.
Available too the chanterelle, which is also known as girolle. They are quite often thought to be exactly the same, but are actually different strains of the same species. The girolle is found between months of May and July but it is available between midsummer and autumn as well. And of course in the autumn you also find the black Périgord and the white Alba truffle. They are very precious to the French and the Italians, and how special I have just learned in France, in the home of the truffles.
The black diamond market
On the first Tuesday of August, the main street of an otherwise undistinguished town in south west France was magically transformed by one of the most exciting, adrenaline-pumping and important events in the entire French culinary universe-the opening day of the truffle market in Lalbenque-.Truffle brokers and special restaurant supply buyers from all over France, the UK and beyond would flock to Lalbenque on the Tuesday market day, momentarily swelling this small town’s population by up to a thousand. They were all there for only one purpose, attempting to acquire specimens of perhaps the world’s pre-eminent culinary delicacy.
(Lalbenque is 25 kilometers south of Cahors, and it is the largest truffle market in south western France, and from early December until early March, hundreds of kilos of France’s ‘black diamond’, (Tuber Melanosporum), will be sold in Lalbenque’s weekly truffle market (another truffle market is held at Richerenches in the Vaucluse)
The major of Lalbenque told me that all the fuss about the truffle began in the 18th century, when the French gastronome and author Brillat-Savarin described these truffles as “the diamond of the kitchen”. It resulted that by 1900, France produced 1,000 metric tons of Tuber Melanosporum a year, but incessant demand and the resulting over-harvesting has reduced today’s annual harvest to a mere 20 to 40 metric tons.
Exactly how Lalbenque and Quercy (the capital of the territory) assumed such an important culinary role is not clear-says the mere-but the scrubby calcareous soil of the surrounding area abounds with the twisted small oak trees whose roots have a symbiotic relationship with and host the growth of truffles.
Meanwhile he tries to reveal the secret of the truffle we walk to the market. I can tell you that already itself is simultaneously picturesque and unusual. Specially on market Tuesday, beginning around 2pm, when sellers stand shoulder to shoulder behind benches running in a long line along the main street, displaying the truffles they are offering that day in a basket set on the bench in front of them. Some sellers have but a few truffles, while others have a bounty exceeding several kilos. About a meter in front of the benches is a strategically positioned rope that prospective buyers dare not cross.
The buyers, usually numbering in the several hundreds, stand in front of the rope and engage in discreet conversations with the sellers. Most conversations revolve around weight, since sales prices are calculated in grams and kilos, but occasionally a forward buyer even asks to have a basket handed to him across the rope for a brief inspection, requests that are often declined.
Nervous smiles are exchanged on both sides of the rope, because both buyers and sellers know very well what is about to come. -At exactly 2.30 pm, a rapid fire series of events very quickly ensues. Not a moment before or after, a policeman whistle is sounded, the rope drops to the ground, the buyers charge forward, earnest and somewhat frantic negotiations ensue, and five minutes later, the market is over for that week. What is remarkable is that even though all sales have truffle weight, as well of course quality, as key value drivers, you will never see a scale at Lalbenque. Sellers will tell you what their basket weighs when you ask, but verification is considered an insult.
The opening day of the truffle market at Lalbenque is always the first Tuesday of every month. It is of particular interest because the elders of the organization that runs the market, the Syndicat des Trufficulteurs, in December parade through Lalbenque in long, black ceremonial robes and plumed Three Musketeers-type hats, with golden medallions hanging around their necks. With much ceremonial flourish, the Mayor of Lalbenque declares the market to be open.
Prospective sellers at the Lalbenque market are required to arrive early, and are ushered into a back room at the Marie where syndicat experts sniff, poke pinch, examine and otherwise take steps to assure that this particular batch of truffles are genuine Tuber Melanosporum, and not Chinese counterfeits. The Chinese truffle, Tuber Sinensis, is a decidedly inferior culinary product that is often passed off as a Perigordian black truffle. It is frequently joked in culinary circles that half of the Perigordian truffles sold in London, Tokyo and New York are Chinese. But not at all in Lalbenque. The syndicat verifies Tuber Melanosporum botanical correctness, which gives comfort to buyers and presumably emboldens bidding.
The laws of supply and demand have driven the price of Perigordian black truffles to stratospheric heights. You can expect to pay upwards of €500 a kilo for good quality truffles at Lalbenque (€900 in Paris), and considerably more if summer weather has not been conducive to truffle growth.
Cooking with truffles
Myriad culinary applications of truffles exist (I even saw a recipe for truffle ice cream!), the local recipe book of Vino Veritas offers a few brief suggestions here in Lalbenque. The biggest mistake a would-be truffle chef can make is muddling the delicate and subtle nuances of truffles with other flavors. The food applications that show off truffles the best, in my opinion (but consider please I’m not an expert), are those made with eggs it was Mussolini the dictator’s favorite, rice or potatoes, and very little else. Very little preparation of the truffles themselves is either necessary or desirable. You want to maximize the surface area of the truffles you are using and then heat them for just a bit to bring out the volatile odor elements. Take a one euro vegetable peeler (the expensive truffle shavers are a rip-off), place shavings of truffles in a small saucepan with butter, heat under very low heat for just a few moments, add the truffles to the balance of your chosen dish, and be prepared for oral ecstasy.
Be aware of the shelf life of fresh truffles is about three weeks and it looses its weight day by day. Store them in a tight-lidded container in the refrigerator submerged in aborio rice, which allows a little air circulation but not too much, and facilitates the most delicious risotto long after the truffles themselves have been consumed!
Stuffed cabbage roulade with chanterelle rice