Anchovy puff cookies

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I know it has been a while since the last post. The last months before summer holiday are typically extremely busy, just as the last month before Christmas. But from the evening terrace here in the South of France, we’re back.

If you want to impress your guests on summer eve, this will make a great tapas, appetizer, cookie, whatever…

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

The Ingredients:

  • 1 rol puff pastry
  • anchovy in olive oil
  • herbs de Provence

The work:

Open the roll of puff pastry half an hour in advance. Roll it open on the paper it sits on.

Preheat the oven at 200°C.

When the pastry has rested, lay the anchovy on the pastry in parallel stripes, about 3 cm apart (1,5 inch). Don’t worry about the olive oil, you can spill it on the pastry while dressing the anchovy on it.

When you’ve laid out the anchovy, sprinkle the herbs all over the pastry.

Now cut the pastry horizontally in between the rows of anchovy – the carving doesn’t have to go all the way through the pastry. Also make vertical cuts to form rectangular shaped ‘cookies’. It is important to make cuts beforehand to easily crack the pastry when done. You can also use a pizza wheel to make the carvings.

anchovy1Bake the pastry for 45 minutes in the oven.

When gold brown, take it out, let it cool down for a couple of minutes and crack into finger-food sized cookies. Serve in a basket.

It’s salty yes, exactly what you need on a sultry eve like tonight…

The Secret:

No secret, no tip… plain, simple, tasty, salty, simple, summer.

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Vongole

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Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

The Ingredients: for 4 persons

  • 500 g spaghetti
  • 1 kg clams or cockles
  • olive oil
  • 3 shallots
  • 1 small dried chilli
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • salt & pepper

The work:

Make sure your shells are clean. Rinse as many times as you have to, to get them clean. Cut the shallots and grate or press the garlic. Cut the parsley.

Heat a pot of water with salt to boil the spaghetti and cook the spaghetti al dente.

Heat about a half a cup of olive oil in a pan and gently simmer the garlic, shallots and the pulverised chilli in it until tender. If your spaghetti is not ready yet, then take the pan of the heat until about 5 minutes before the pasta is ready.

Add the clams to the pan with the olive oil and shallots and heat until all shells are open. Put the lid on so you steam the shells to open them.

When the pasta is ready, take it out of the cooking water with kitchen tweezers and add it to the pan with the clams. Add parsley and mix everything gently. Serve is a deep dish.

The tip:

P1000315The golden advice is to rinse rinse rinse rinse… and rinse the shells until no sand or dirt is in the water anymore. Hateful it is when you are enjoying these delicacies from the seas and hear the sand grind between your teeth.

Don’t be dispirited if you have difficulties finding clams or cockles, you can surely find some shells to replace them, even mussels will work great.

Olive oils can have a very distinct taste. Taste your olive oil(s) beforehand to see if its taste is not too dominating, since you are using a lot of it in this recipe it can really start defining the dish’s taste.

The secret:

P1000318Less is more! Keep it simple, it will make everything better.

Our secret ingredient is the small dried chilli which we add to give the dish more pit.

Paella

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The Secret:

This recipe is definitely fusion cooking. We will not claim this is real Spanish paella, but it is definitely our Flemish best effort.

Between ‘90 and ’93 we lived in the area of Mons, a city where there used to be a lot of coalmines. Because of the mines, in the area there are still a lot of Italian and Spanish families. It is during that time that we tasted our first paella.

In an attempt to try this at home we looked up the recipe in a Belgian cookbook and tried this in a normal pan. It was disgusting; it didn’t even come close to what we had tasted during our local night out. We weren’t easily discouraged, so we made a couple more attempts, all without success.

So what was the secret?  Why didn’t we succeed?

As I traveled to Spain and to Portugal in my job as a software trainer, my husband said ‘do not come back without a paella recipe’. A good idea it was, but the people I had to train were mostly men. Each time I popped the question ‘Can you tell me how to make paella?’ Each time i got the same answer ‘I don’t know, my mother makes this for my family’.

Finally a friendly guy said ‘I’ll ask mom’ and a day later he handed me a yellow piece of paper with a handwritten recipe. ‘The secret’ he said ‘is to have equal heat under the pan and to get the balance between stock and ingredients just right’

Okay, this definitely gave a new start to our wrong footed paella project. We went out and bought our first paella pan for 10 persons. Later, as we became better at making it, we bought one for 25 and later one for 50 persons.

I don’t remember how close this original recipe came to how we make our paella today, but what follows is the result of many tries to get it exactly right.

Because paella is often made in larger quantities, telling you how much of each ingredient you need is difficult. How many people would you like to feed? 5, 10, 25, 50, 150? So the approach here will be different than in my other food blogs. I will post a recipe list and the ingredients for 5 persons. If you have other quantities, we developed a spread sheet to help you with the shopping list and calculate the cost.

The Ingredients: for 5 persons

  • 400 g round rice
  • 200 ml olive oil
  • 1 chorizo sausage (about 30-40 cm long, 1,5-2 cm diameter)
  • 10 drumsticks (front part of a chicken leg)
  • 12 mussels
  • clams (‘venusschelpen’ for the locals)
  • 300 g squid rings
  • 200 g prawns
  • 5 large shrimps (gambas)
  • 200 g green peas
  • 2 red paprika
  • 0,5 green paprika
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 onions
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • parsley
  • 5 tsps. curcuma
  • 2 small portions saffron
  • 800 ml chicken bouillon (water with chicken bouillon cubes)
  • salt & pepper

The Work:

Make sure ingredients are cleaned or rinsed. Keep all your ingredients separately. Cut the onions. Remove the seeds of the paprika and cut them into pieces. Peel the tomatoes and cut them in small cubes. Cut the lemon in parts. Remove the skin from the chorizo and cut in 1,5 cm rounds.

Cut the cleaned squid into rings. If you have frozen fish, make sure to defrost them before cooking starts.

Clean the mussels by removing the beard and any dirt on the shells and rinse them several times. Put the clams in a bowl of water with some salt, afterwards rinse them several times. Throw away all clams and mussels which are open.

Put the garlic with some olive oil in a blender and blend until you have paste.

Prepare the stock adding the cubes to the water, adding the parsley, curcuma and saffron. Gently boil this in a separate cooking pot in order to mix all flavors. We like to add some extra salt, pepper and dried chilly to give the stock some punch. When all ingredients have blended together, you can put the stock aside until you need it later.

Now the prep work is done, we can start with the real job.

P1000297P1000300P1000304Heat up the olive oil and bake the chicken legs until they are browned, also add the chorizo. When done, move the chicken and the chorizo to the outer circle of the pan, and turn down the heater for that outer area. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes depending on how big the pieces of the meat are. If the chorizo starts to brown too quickly, move them to the outer circle. In this stage you can spoon out some oil and chicken fat out of the middle area, keep it to be used later.

Now you have an open space in the middle. Put the garlic paste and simmer for a while. Do not let it brown! Add the onions and paprika and let these soften gently while stirring from time to time. Move this to the outside, and let the water evaporate until you have only oil.

The following step is to add the rice in the center and let it glaze in the oil. At this point you can add some saved up oil again if necessary.

P1000305Add the peas, tomatoes, the squid and the stock and mix all. Always stir and mix gently in order to keep the ingredients in tact as much as possible. Put all burners equally on the lowest position. From now on don’t stir anymore. Just check from time to time that nothing is burning at the bottom of the pan

Put on top of the paella the clams, the mussels, the gambas and the shrimps and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Let it all cook gently P1000307just checking that it does not burn.

After about 10 minutes you are allowed to stir everything once and check again that it does not burn. Reduce the heat if needed by cutting it completely for a while. Cover again with aluminum foil and let it cook gently for another 10 to 20 minutes until the rice is done and the mussels are open and all shrimps are nicely P1000310red.

Serve with a piece of lemon on top.

The Tip:

Anyone can make paella. It is not difficult; just stick to some simple rules.

In all stages of the cooking process it is important to control the heat well. P1000312Ideal is a paella pan heated with a burner with different circular sections. Make sure your pan is a 100% level. Nowadays every smart phone has a level app you can download free of charge to check. The biggest danger is wind, as this will make the heating less controllable. If you need to cook in an open area, wrap some aluminum foil around the pan so the wind cannot play with the flames.

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Trout ‘Sunny-Style’

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When preparing the trout like this, it just makes me feel i’m in a sunny country. So yes, i invented the name.

Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 20-45 minutes, depending on the size of the fish.

The ingredients: for 2 persons

  • trout (2 small or 1 big)
  • 5 tomatoes
  • cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • lemon juice
  • rosemary
  • parsley
  • salt & pepper

The work:

Preheat the oven at 200°C.

Peel the tomatoes, remove the seeds and cut them into small pieces.
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the grated or pressed garlic for a short while. Add the tomatoes with pepper, salt and almost all of the rosemary. Leave just enough rosemary to decorate the oven dish later on. Cook until the tomatoes melt into a sauce. Pieces may still be visible; the sauce should not be overly done. Taste the sauce and add lemon juice and extra seasoning to your liking.

Wash the trout’s and put them in an oven dish. Add some salt on the fish’. Cover the trout(‘s) with the sauce.

Certainly working with winter tomatoes in our country, we sometimes boost the tomato colour & taste by adding some extra halved cherry tomatoes on top. Add the left rosemary on top of the fish.

P1000277Put the dish in the oven. For small trout’s you’ll need about 20 minutes. For a larger trout like our rainbow trout in the picture, you’ll easily need 30-40 minutes. You’ll have to keep an eye on them.

Once done, sprinkle the cut parsley on top of the dish to add extra taste and colour.

The Secret:

Only one secret here, my husband caught the fish this time all by himself.

The Tip:
Serve this with jacket potatoes, boiled potatoes or rice.

Anyway, this makes me think of summer in the sun.

Home-made Mayonnaise

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By now you should master the art of making the Belgian fries, so high time to learn about mayonnaise.

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Preparation time: 5 minutes

The ingredients:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 0.5 tbsp.  mustard (dark mustard preferably)
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar, or lemon, or lime (according to taste)
  • salt & pepper
  • optionally cayenne pepper
  • corn germ oil

The work:

Take a round bowl and put it on a humid towel. This will prevent that your bowl starts skating on your kitchen counter when you start stirring the mayonnaise.
Put the egg yolk, the salt & pepper, the mustard and optionally the cayenne in the bowl. Stir so that the ingredients are mixed. Now slowly add oil while stirring. Don’t whisk! You use a whisk to stir, but always move in the same direction, not to fast, not to slow. An emulsion between egg and oil will start to form and so develops your mayonnaise. Stop adding oil when you reach the right consistency.
Don’t overdo it. One egg only fuels a large cup of mayonnaise.
When this is done you can add some vinegar, lime or lemon, according to taste to reach your best homemade mayonnaise flavour.

The Secret:

In Flemish history there is much wisdom about what can make your mayonnaise fail. Women will not succeed making mayonnaise during the time of their period… If you stir left AND right the mayonnaise will clot…

The Tip:
One thing is for sure. If you want to succeed, the secret is that your ingredients need to have the same temperature. So take your eggs out of the fridge a while ahead.

When it happens that your mayonnaise starts to clot, try adding a small bit of cold water (about 1 or 2 tbsps.), continue to stir and if you are lucky it will repair itself.

If you want to use another oil, please do. But use oil which doesn’t have an imposing taste. Olive oil is nice, but it will definitely change the original taste of the true Flemisch mayonnaise.

At the beginning we gave away that you can add some cayenne pepper to the recipe. This is in preparation to make ‘cocktail sauce’ instead. When you have the mayonnaise done, add cayenne if you haven’t already done so, add ketchup and a drop of your good whisky (2-3 tbsps.). Stir and voilà, all done!