Eating Colours: Red Cabbage Velouté

There he is, rotten muddy wet and a chill as freezes you thorough and thoroughly, damp and moody, November at its finest. 

Bags of rain passing in front of the window, the crows cawing in the big bare oak trees, the sun a tired cold disc behind the low hanging clouds, rolling flatly along the hills and making an effort not to fall asleep. Or even worse, fall down. It isn’t easy to stay warm these days, the kettle is set on the stove, as a cup of very hot tea is the best remedy, hibiscus flowers are my favourites of the moment. 

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I have lighted candles inside the house, even at daytime, and put up some music to jerk myself into action in this most sedentary of all months. Eating colours, drinking colours, this is what I do to brave the grey outside, rich and cheerful colours, this is what I am about, hibiscus tea and a fantastic purple red cabbage velouté with marrons glacés, glazed chestnuts on a crunchy cheese grid.

For the red cabbage velouté:

Take half a red cabbage and finely slice it, taking care to cut off the core and the rough white parts that taste too bitter. Glaze with a dash of sunflower seed oil at medium heat in a wide pan. When you feel the cabbage soften, grate one or two apples into the pan, depending on the size of your cabbage. Gently stir. Then grate one potato into the pan, this will help you to get a velvety fluffy texture later. Deglaze with 3dl of stout vegetable broth and gently let it simmer for an hour at low temperature. You may add a spicy note by filling juniper berries, peppercorns and bay leaves in a tea infuser and let it soak in the red cabbage.

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For the cheese grid:

Whisk two eggs until creamy and shiny. Add a dash of muscat, a pinch of fleur de sel and about 100g of strong cheese. Stir well, then add four spoons of rye flour and mix. Let the dough sit at room temperature for twenty minutes. Preheat the oven to 220°C. 

For the marrons glacés:

Meanwhile, in a smaller pan, cook two to three chestnuts per person for about 35 minutes. Peel the chestnus while they’re still warm and be careful to remove all brown parts. Put them back into the pan with half a teaspoonful of white sugar per chestnut and a little water and bring to cook, reduce the temperature so that the sugar sauce is just happily bubbling. The water will slowly evaporate, the chestnuts caramelise. Be careful to add some water and reduce cooking temperature should the caramel get too sticky. Set aside as soon as finished. 

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Now back to the cheese grids. Put some parchment paper on a baking tray and form grids a little larger than the soup bowl you intend to use. I found it easiest to work with a piping spout (if you don’t have one readily available, you may use parchment paper rolled like a funnel). Bake for ten minutes.

When the cabbage is cooked soft and mellow, take out the tea infuser and blend. Add a sip of calvados and season to your taste. Let it sit for a couple of minutes. 

Serve with the cheese grid and the marrons glacés. 

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Creatures from the Dark, Cepes on a Misty Afternoon

What strange creatures, dwelling in the dark of the earth, knitting vast palaces underneath the ground, drawing food from the soil, eating, weaving, thriving unseen even by the crawling worms. And with a noiseless sigh breathing themselves into existence only to withdraw back into the earth. 

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They are everywhere, now, with the rain wetting their mucous beds, sprouting, well, like mushrooms. We haven’t even gone ourselves, for the cepes, they find their way to our kitchen through the hands of friends and strangers alike, and we are all equally startled by the sheer abundance these days. I dry some, only to enjoy the scent of roasted pine and sun kissed autumn leaves wafting through the house.

Outside the rain falls in silence, clouds hanging sluggish over the land, swallowing every attempt at colour, lulling our world in a seemingly aeonian twilight, the realm of fungus.

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Meanwhile, in the kitchen, we start cleaning the cepes from soil and dirt, gently brushing their fleshy stems. Cutting encrusted residues from their feet, scratching out the bits eaten by forest creatures, removing the mossy foam under their hats. Cutting, chopping, opening a bottle of mature pinot as we’re halfway through. The afternoon slyly steals away and leaves a mucky void of darkness behind, lurking along the river, clambering the many trodden steps from the garden up to our house, moping at the balcony doors, begging to be let in.

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We light candles instead and start cooking, à l’improviste. 

First a little tartine as a starter:

Take a good handful of cepes foam, chop and fry in fresh butter, very slowly. The foam will melt while frying, just keep on turning occasionally, and gently brown from all sides. Add a little grated garlic, season with parsley, fleur de sel and a whiff of pepper. Form two galettes the size of the tartine and fry crispy on both sides.

Roast two slices of old rye bread, serve with the cepe galette.

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Then a little cepe sandwich to continue:

Preheat the oven to 220° Celsius, no fan.

Cut a big cepe into four slices, coat generously with olive oil and lay out on your baking tray. Given the cepes are roasted at a considerably high temperature, you may add herbs thereby gently smoking the cepes. I used some mugwort stems, very appropriate for this time of the year, I think.

Bake for about 15 minutes in the top section of your oven, check occasionally on your cepes, as the baking time will considerably depend on their size. 

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Meanwhile fry two slices of bacon or, for vegetarians, an egg.

Season the cepes with fleur de sel and a whiff of pepper when roasted and dress them on a plate, a slice of cepe, a slice of fried bacon (or egg, alternatively), a slice of cepe etc.

Enjoy!

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Workshop dates 2020. And Nouilles à la George.

We finally have fixed the workshop dates for 2020, adding two theme workshops to the existing line up! Like this year’s workshops, it’s going to be all about great food and great wine and great company, a little Italy, a bit of France, and some Swissness to round it all up. Please go to the workshop tab for the details, we’re thrilled to hear what you think of the programme!  

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Now halfway through the 2019 season, we have been pondering over what we would like to give our workshop guests, what it is we’d really like to share with you. And how to do things right, eventually.

And this is what we’ve come up with: 

There are people who do things well, in general. And there are people, who do things less well, in general. And exceptionally, there are those people to take things a tiny notch higher, a tiny bit to the extreme. While doing things extremely less well perhaps is not exactly desirable but alas to be counted amongst the very encumbrances of life (and an occasional Zen exercise), doing things extremely well in turn means sending the average receptive individual straight into that state commonly referred to as paradisiacal. So, my friends, as to this rough lump of kitchen wisdom, let me give you a proper example. This is: you can do pasta well and you can do pasta less well. And then, you can do pasta with cognac. What a lark is this! What a subtle mind it takes, what heavenly graceful inspiration to add a sip of cognac to make that noodle dough smooth and puffy. But let’s take one step after another. 

The twist goes back to a recipe book of George Sand, you know, the French lady writer who hosted the entire Paris avantgarde of the early 19th century in her beautiful French country house. She had a thing for the cuisine, apparently, and a penchant for epicurean feasts contrasting her otherwise sober and rather modest approach towards living. Perhaps that’s the exact amount of perplexity required to make a person a really interesting human being. 

The thing is rather simple, and this is how it goes: 

Take one egg on about a good 100g of flour. This will yield a nice portion for two persons, or about four sides. Instead of water, add a sip of cognac before mixing and kneading. A sip of cognac is the quantity that an average grown up may gulp down in two gulps without making them awkward in the head. Or 2-4cl, if measured. The liquid-flour relation is perfect when your dough is silky and soft. Form three portions and let them sleep for at least four hours. Then knead again, roll out and evenly cut noodles according to your purpose. Cook for 7 minutes. 

We’ve had ours with scallops fried in olive oil and parsley. And a lady squeeze of lemon before serving. A perfect summer evening treat. And the way to do pasta henceforward.