New Year – Time to get creative!

New Year - Time to get creative!

OK… So New Year’s eve always have to be fancy.. More champagne, fire power, cooler suits, bigger cigars and more food than last year… Actually, I kind of hate New Year’s Eve. People always have super crazy expectations and it never really turns out to be as crazy and awesome as everybody wished for. I always find myself drunk off my ass, running around in an unknown capital city, surrounded by an inferno of fireworks and booze, with frozen feet and a bottle of champagne (which is no longer fizzy) and a cigar, which I don’t really like anyways. Therefore I decided to do everything a bit different this new year. I celebrated the evening with a few very close friends and proposed that I would come up with a six course menu, which would be New Year’s eve worthy. I will not yet give any recipes, but will let you all see the pictures of the courses. Coming Thursday I will be on Danish TV cooking, and will show how to cook the first course. I might upload the recipe afterwards.

Enjoy the pictures and please comment!

Here are the courses:

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First course:
Grilled aubergine/eggplant. Smoked cream cheese mayo. Lump fish caviar. Horseradish. Chives. Shallots. Watercress.

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Second course:
Scallops. Pancetta dust. Croûtons. lemon marinated bellpeppers. Bellpepper and ginger coulis. Chives.

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Third course:
Tiger prawns on bed of mint and peas. Mint, pea and champagne soup. Toasted pistachio and fennel seeds.

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Fourth course:
Mojito cotton candy. Mojito sphere. Mojito tea. Mojito sorbet. Mojito wine gums. Mojito dust and mojito shot.

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Fifth course:
Grilled salmon. Scallop and bacon infused pan roasted potatoes. Stir fried vegetable spaghetti. Clarified butter and lemon.

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Sixth course:
Blackberry crème anglaise (custard). Blackberry ice cream. Freeze-dried raspberries. Fresh raspberries covered with egg-less chocolate mousse in a cup of white chocolate and freeze-dried raspberries. Fresh blackberries and raspberries. Dark chocolate.

A starter and a main course – inspiration for an alternative New Year’s feast?

Lately I have been a bit lazy recipe-wise and have been focusing on articles. Therefore I decided to get back in the kitchen and create some new recipes for you (and me!). Both are super delicious although I will only share one recipe with you. The second one is a bit funky but I promise that thefirst one can be made in anybody’s kitchen. Anyways. Check ’em out and do comment!

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STARTER: Beluga lentil and sweet potato croquetas. Spicy carrot puree with argan oil, mint, chili and cumin. White port wine, balsamic vinegar and apple vinegar reduction with raisins. Toasted fennel seeds.
This recipe is fairly easy and the combination of flavours is sublime. The carrot puree consists of classic Moroccan flavours and packs a little spicy punch while the Christmassy (almost glühwein-ish) vinegar reduction contributes with a tangy and delicate sweetness that really supports the crispy, yet fluffy, croquetas. Yum! The fennel seeds do a wonderful job bringing all the flavours together.

So… Here we go!
Croquetas
80 g. / 2.8 oz. Beluga lentils
150 g / 5.2 oz. peeled and chopped sweet potatoes
4 eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt
7 tablespoons bread crumbs  + extra for coating
Wheat flour
Vegetable oil
Wash the lentils and add to a pot. Add enough water to cover, and cover with lid. Bring to a simmer and cook until soft. Meanwhile add the chopped sweet potatoes to another pot, cover with water, and lid and cook until soft. Once the sweet potatoes are done leave to cool for 10-15 minutes. This ensures that most of the moist will vaporize. Blend the sweet potatoes and add the lentils to the puree. Taste with salt and pepper, and make sure that it is extra salty as you still have to add eggs and breadcrumbs. Add the 7 tablespoons of breadcrumbs and the two eggs and mix it well. Transfer to a bowl, cover with lid and refrigerate for minimum two hours. Get three small bowls. In the first you add flour, in the second you add the two remaining eggs (beaten!) and in the last you add breadcrumbs. Using your hands make small round balls, transfer them to the flour bowl, then to the beaten eggs and finally cover with breadcrumbs. Transfer the croquetas to a clean plate and deep fry in vegetable oil for a few minutes until crispy and golden brown.
Carrot puree
250 g. peeled and chopped carrots
1½ tablespoon cumin seeds / ground cumin
1 tablespoon argan oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Chilli powder (as much as you like)
1 teaspoon turmeric
salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Mint leaves
Add the carrots to a pot, cover with water and simmer until soft. If using cumin seeds add to a pan and toast on medium flame for 2-3 minutes or until aromatic. Grind the seeds by using pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. Add all the ingredients except the mint leaves to a bowl and blend until smooth. Save the mint leaves for decorating.
Vinegar reduction and toasted fennel seeds:
½ dl / 0.2 cups white port wine
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon apple vinegar
4 tablespoons cane sugar
4 tablespoons raisins.
4 tablespoons fennel seeds
Add all the ingredients except fennel seeds to a pot and cook uncovered until reduced to a think, dark dense syrup/glaze. Toast the fennel seeds on medium flame for 2-3 minutes or until aromatic.
Plate all the elements and enjoy!

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Main course: Smoked paprika chicken. Sweet beetroot chips. Whiskey barrel smoked celery puree with pecorino. Winter salad with apples, red onions, kale, radishes, sunflower seeds and pomegranate. Pearled Spelt.
OK. So when I made this i didn’t measure any of the ingredients as I was just freestyling (which is what I do best!). Anyways, since i smoked the celery puree using whiskey barrel oak wood and a hand held food smoker (which you probably don’t have?) I don’t think it makes much sense explaining how, what, why and when. If you are interested in the recipe please contact me or comment and I shall provide you with a list of ingredients and a link to a website, so you can buy your very own handheld food smoker!

Food and instincts, health, addictions and survival.

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If we don’t fight our primal instincts or change the way we source and produce food, we are asking for trouble!

Most animals instinctively have preferences when it comes to food. Have you ever stopped to think about why dogs love bones so much? The very reason for this is instinct. Inside bones you will find bone marrow, which, by nature’s design, is one of the most nutritious parts of any dead animal. It’s fatty and loaded with energy, which is good when you don’t know when your next meal will be. Fat basically translates to energy, so many animals have acquired a taste for fatty things. The same goes for sweet and sugary things as well as salty foods. These things are vital for all animals, which is why mammals have created a craving for them. This is also the case with us humans. The reason we feel pleasure when eating fatty, salty, high-calorie and/or sugary things is because our primal body instinctively tells us that we will now survive another day! This brain “reward circuitry” that creates the sensation of ’pleasure’ makes sure we carry out behaviors we need to survive – that’s the same reason we find sex pleasurable and enjoyable! Anyways, as much as I would love to discuss sex too, this is about food. Children especially love sugary things. It’s an evolutionary hangover, as children who would chose high-calorie foods had a better chance of surviving. Survival of the fittest is very relevant when talking about food choices; pick the right food and you will survive and secure the survival of your genes.

We know that munching half a pound of chocolate accompanied by a gallon of cola is not good for us, yet many of us fail when it comes to the act of saying ‘no thank you, I’ll have a salad and a glass of water instead’. I am sure you are familiar with this situation; you already had one piece of cake and you know another one would not be good for you. Lately you have been trying to lose some weight, yet, a few minutes later you find yourself flirting with another piece until you finally make your move, scoop another piece on your plate and… GONE! Why do we behave like this? It’s simple. We are fighting our instincts. Our ‘primitive’ brains directly link these fatty and sugary things with the very idea of surviving, so by saying no to ‘delicious fast food’, chocolate bars and sugary drinks we kind of say no to surviving. One must have a very self-destructive personality to enjoy saying no to eat sugar and fat. Just saying.

Do you like bitter food? Coffee, beer, unsweetened cocoa, citrus peel and grapefruit are all bitter foods, and it is very likely that there is at least one of those items you do not like. There is also a reason for this. Bitter tasting chemical compounds called alkaloids (like caffeine, nicotine, morphine and strychnine) are substances, often poisonous, produced by plants to discourage animals from eating them, so over time our brains have learned to associate bitterness with poison. Again, it is about survival; don’t eat bitter foods and you shall survive! Humans have evolved to become biologically perverse creatures that not only ignore the warning signals from our brains when drinking coffee or eating grapefruit, but also actually seek out such bitter tastes for pleasure. I love my coffee so I guess I am one of those pervs!

Capsaicin is what gives most spicy food its fiery punch; it is the evolutionary defense mechanism of chili. Whether we eat chili (capsaicin) or our skin gets in contact with it we feel a burning sensation – have you ever tried getting chili in your eyes? OUCH! This is supposed to be a defense mechanism, but this has become the very reason we eat it. We want to be in pain. Apparently we have evolved to become not just biologically disturbed and perverted, but also masochistic beings! Nevertheless, there is a reason why we keep coming back to spicy chow. When we eat ‘hot food’ our brains release endorphins (endogenous morphine). This natural drug, which is released when you feel stressed or in pain provokes a feeling of well-being – some would even argue a mild state of euphoria. If you have ever tried to eat something that is way too spicy for you, you will notice a lovely sensation of calmness and relaxation after the meal. This feeling can become quite addictive, which is why people continue coming back to spicy food. As I said, I am one of the pervs. I am also one of the masochistic endorphin junkies. I absolutely love chili.

There is a reason why we ‘like’ or ‘do not like’ some foods. It is not just random. The emotions you feel when you eat certain foods and your decision to ‘like or dislike’ something is based heavily on instinct and rooted in your very DNA. That, together with food addictions, determines most of your diet. Chili is just one of these addictions. Caffeine, salt and sugar addictions are another few! Anyways, back to the design of our bodies and brain. Why do we have eyes? So we can see and avoid danger. Why do we have feet? So we can move around and find food! Why do we have taste buds? To determine what is good and bad to eat. The human design is not random – every little part of us serves a purpose! This is all good, right? Well, kind of. Our taste buds were designed to enable us to survive in the wild, and for us to choose the right foods: fatty and sweet foods would give us energy, so we have decided to ‘like’ them. There is a problem here though. Although many of us think that fat is bad, it is not always the case. Some fats are, but our taste buds cannot distinguish between the bad trans fats, a type of unsaturated fat, which is very uncommon in nature (it is often artificially created) and ‘good fatty acids’ like OMEGA-3, -6 and -9. As the nature would rarely (if ever!) present us to trans fats our brains are not able to distinguish between good and bad fats. Our brains have been hardwired to think that ‘something fatty must be something good!’.

Even people, who do take health serious, and who try to eat healthy and work out, often misunderstand what it means to eat healthy. Healthy means natural. The way we ate when we were primal creatures running around on the savannah. People tell me I should not eat three eggs after I work out because egg yolks are bad for you, but those same individuals have no problem drinking two liters of milk to get enough protein after having exercised. C’mon people. Who are we kidding? I love milk and diary products, but our bodies were not designed to drink milk as adults – especially not from a cow! Chris, 10.000 years ago, would have found a bird’s nest and stolen some eggs rather than go looking for a bucket and a cow. As I said; there is a reason for our design and behaviors. We are all lactose tolerant as kids (when we are supposed to be drinking milk) but all of a sudden some people turn intolerant. The intolerance comes at around five years old as our bodies begin to slow down the production of lactase, which is the enzyme that allows mammals to digest lactose. That is our bodies natural way of saying: GO FIND YOUR OWN FOOD, FOOL!.. Lactose tolerance is a mutation in the human body, a mutation in our very DNA, which has spread throughout Eurasia, America, Oceania and Africa. Now many of us are tolerant (by many I mean one in three).

Unnatural and unsustainable food-sourcing systems and processing techniques have given us the power to create food and flavor, loads and loads of it. Flavor is good, but as we humans at times can be a bunch of destructive, egocentric cheap skates we have decided to compromise on animal welfare, the natural environment, human rights and the general health of our species to create cheap and unhealthy food in excessive amounts. One of the most destructive things we’ve introduced to the market is high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is one of the biggest contributors to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and obesity. HFCS assists in killing more people every year, than the Black Death did in Europe during the Middle Ages. Actually according to UNWHO obesity and overweight are linked to more deaths worldwide than underweight – isn’t that just sad? No wait, it is not sad, it is just friggin’ stupid! Also, having completely messed up what and how we eat, in addition, most of us are also inactive and sit on a chair most of the day. The human body was never designed for a sedentary lifestyle, it was created to hunt saber tooth tigers, climb rocks and trees and walk 40 miles a day, eating nothing but raw and uncooked food.

Anyways. I guess what I want to point out with this article is that it takes many hundreds (or thousands) of years for an animal to adapt to a new environment. Adaption means to evolve and evolution means trying to survive the challenges we face. The only problem is that the environment around us is evolving way too fast for our bodies, brains and instincts to follow. Our minds have been hardwired to survive, but living in a world where very cheap and unhealthy food can be produced in extremely excessive and unnatural amounts, those very instincts are now killing us – pretty paradoxical right? While we have learned to manipulate our brains into ‘liking’ bitter foods, we still have not mastered the art of telling our primal brains that we should slow down on the junk food and the sweets.

Noma ‘the Holy Grail’, culinary trails and the search for authenticity & identity.

Please, before you start reading this article I want to make sure you know that I am not trying to attack Noma or talk bad about the restaurant in any way. I just think that there is a much bigger ecosystem surrounding Danish gastronomy than Noma and the other top-rated, fine-dining Michelin awarded restaurants in the heart of Copenhagen. I am just one voice in the choir, and I am just an ordinary person trying to educate myself, so if you have any valuable insights, comments or different views on this subject, please do comment.

Last week I was in Sweden attending the World Food Travel Summit, an event organized by the World Food Travel Association together with the Swedish Tourism Board, VisitSweden. It was indeed wonderful to get to socialize with a bunch of people who share my two greatest passions; traveling and food. This whole event was based to a large extent on trends and developments in the Nordic food industry, with emphasis on Sweden, which is something I found both interesting and relevant, as I wrote my thesis on that exact topic, but in Denmark. During the days in Sweden I ate some of the most delicious dishes; cured reindeer, goat cheese, pickled herring, deer sausages, sea buckthorn, crayfish and shrimps, all with a Swedish twist. I have been drinking the most incredible beverages from Swedish apple juice and locally produced wine, to beer and ‘aquavit’, a traditional Scandinavian Liquor, which all made me realize (yet again) how rich ‘our northern European region’ is on local produce, traditional food and magical chefs and culinary pioneers.

One thing that I noted was that I kept hearing people talking about Noma and the great asset this one restaurant is to Denmark, both in terms of economy, cultural identity and Danes’ awareness of food, health and sustainability, as it uses local/regional sourcing and favors our ‘regions’ suppliers over people from far-away regions. I heard Matt Goulding from Roads and Kingdoms talk about the phenomenon ‘Nomanomics’, which basically is the effect Noma has had on Denmark. A domino-like effect, which made everything escalade in Denmark. It started a culinary revolution, which created an environment for chefs to unfold and help putting Denmark (or rather Copenhagen) on the world’s map of great culinary experiences, has had an economic impact on our capital city and as well as others (through the restaurant’s supply chain). So isn’t this all good? A happy story about a few guys from Denmark who set out to transform Danish gastronomy and ends up having an economic impact on the capital city, as well as the different links of the supply chain. I think we need to analyze the phenomena of Nomanomics more in depth.

Noma is one single restaurant. 20.000 people can eat there every year, and with a price tag of almost 1000 USD many ‘ordinary’ individuals will most likely stay away. Moreover, although I believe that Noma has done very much for Danish gastronomy and the way Danes see and experience food, I also do believe that Noma is only one dimension of Danish gastronomy.  It seems that everybody looks at Noma as the Holy Grail, a unique story of how few people can re-invent what is Danish and save our country on multiple levels.

I find this pretty frustrating. Don’t get me wrong. There is no doubt that Noma has done an amazing job helping to redefine and set new standards for not just Danish fine dining, but for Northern European gourmet food and experimental cooking and dining. I want to stress that this article is not a crusade against Noma, because I respect Claus Meyer and Rene Redzepi, along with the rest of the Noma crew immensely, but I do think we have to look at Noma with less romantic eyes and understand what Noma has done, and what Noma has not done. Let’s talk about the sustainability aspect. This is something that I have heard so many times: eating at Noma is more sustainable than eating at a French or Italian restaurant in Copenhagen. I don’t understand why people would say that? How is Noma any more sustainable than an Italian Restaurant in Copenhagen? I think it is worthwhile to remember that the distance from Copenhagen to Greenland (where some ingredients are sourced) is further than the distance from Denmark to northern Africa, and that the Noma cookbook has been printed in China, so why is it that Noma is seen as a success story when it comes to ‘local resources’ and ‘sustainability’? Italian restaurants might use Italian traditions and techniques to prepare meals but when preparing the fresh pasta they will not import Italian eggs, as this is a logistical as well as an economical nightmare, so let’s agree that both Noma as well as restaurants of foreign cuisines has a mix of local and imported ingredients. Talking about local sourcing of ingredients I think we should celebrate restaurants such as Kadeau instead, which basically sources everything from the Island of Bornholm, and reflects culinary history through fine dining and gourmet experiences.

Food helps define a country and says a lot about the regional/national culture and history, but if you ask me, Noma’s food doesn’t say much about Denmark – and I know that Noma is a portmanteau of the two Danish words Nordisk (Nordic) and mad (food), so Noma never claimed to serve Danish food, but rather Nordic. Still, looking at the Nordic countries I don’t remember that we ever ate ants and live shrimps; this is not (yet?) a part of our culture. Of course cuisines are evolving over time and we should be open to change. Change means to adopt and adapt, and without this the Italian food culture would not have been what it is today as the symbol of Italian food, the ‘pomodoro’, or tomato, didn’t see the Italian sunlight until it was brought back from The New World in the 16th century. Anyways, if you ask me, eating an ant is no different than eating a cow, so I am not against the fact that Noma serves them, in fact I think it is quite brilliant, but this is not (yet) a part of our culture.

Most elements of culture are rather perceptional and intangible. Food is one of the few tangible gateways to culture and therefore food should express what its region is all about. Take a look at India and think about their food culture(s) for a second. Indian food uses a great variety of spices and, for some, exotic ingredients, which are either native to the country, or which are easily grown in that particular climate, hence reflects both climate and geography. Also it reflects the country’s strong position in the spice trade between Europe, Asia and Africa during the Age of Discovery. The cuisine reflects religious beliefs, as there are many Hindus who do not eat beef and many Muslims who do not eat pork. Other Asian cuisines such as the Cambodian and the Chinese witness years of food scarcity in the relatively small amounts of meats consumed, as well as the, for some, bizarre varieties of alternative protein sources which can be found in regional foods and cooking. What I want to stress is that ultimately, food is history and food is culture.

Noma is an edible picture of the Nordic regions resources, rearranged and cooked in ways most people would never understand or be able to replicate at home, as these techniques require much more than the ‘ordinary’ home appliances. I think you get my point; Noma is only one element of the culinary unity of Denmark (and Scandinavia, and the Northern European countries), and we should also celebrate our culinary history by looking as such restaurants as Grød in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen, which serves porridge – now this is a part of culinary Danish history!

Now, let’s talk a little bit about traveling, and the role of food when traveling. Let’s agree that everybody has to eat while traveling, some do it because they want to survive while others do it because they are interested in local cuisines and want to explore the culinary aspects of the destinations they visit. People going to Denmark, will they go to eat at Noma? Probably not. First of all, eating at Noma comes with a hefty price tag of close to 1000 USD. Moreover Noma serves food for 20.000 people every year and getting a seat at ‘the world’s second best restaurant’ is somewhat close to impossible, so alternatives should be marketed and made accessible for the ‘ordinary traveler’. Matt Goulding also talks about other restaurants in Copenhagen such as Relæ, and while these are good alternatives to Noma, are they what regular people seek? No. People might want to go to an expensive neo-scandi style restaurant once to see what all the fuss is about, but after that, they might just want to check out the local diners, have a hotdog, try a locally produced beer or grab a cinnamon bun.

If you are not Danish and you are reading this article I would like you to think about the culinary culture of Denmark and mention three ‘known’ dishes from this country. Oh, you cant? So you have heard about Noma, but you cannot mention one single element of the Danish food culture. How can a country have the world’s best restaurant three years in a row, and be home to Rasmus Kofoed, who has won the title as the world’s best chef, without people knowing what Danish food is? I would like you to do the same exercise, but instead of Denmark, think of France or Italy. Try to mention as many foods and dishes as you can possibly think of from either of these countries, and then try to mention as many fine-dining/gourmet/Michelin restaurants as you know. I am 100% sure that you know more about the food of the country than the ‘fancy’ restaurants. How can that be? Well, Noma is the uncrowned king of Danish food and has brought a sense of pride to the country as it has given foodies something to be proud of; a strong position as a culinary rich nation. To many people in Denmark, Noma means that Danish food has conquered the world and that our country has now been recognized as a country of great cuisine(s) and is now a nation with a strong culinary image. In this age of foodies and cooking shows, where cooking is seen as a ‘sexy pastime’, Noma has made Danes proud – and so should it!! It has given most of the culinary oriented Danes something to talk about. VisitDenmark, the national tourism board of Denmark, is using Noma as a one-way ticket to paradise, and is branding Copenhagen as the culinary capital of Scandinavia. If you are interested in culinary travels and you visit VisitDenmark’s website, chances are that you might read about Noma 20 times before you find anything about Danish beer, Danish cured ham, peasant food and ‘real’ Danish food such as delicious pickled herrings. Is our culinary heritage reflected through this website? No, not at all. Unless you very goal-oriented look for the culinary attributes of Denmark, all you find is Noma and high-class New Nordic Cuisine dining experiences. Why don’t we look at the Danish countryside? Why don’t we looks at the rest of the country and celebrate the local culinary cultures and treasures? Copenhagen. Copenhagen. Copenhagen. It is all about Copenhagen. There is so much more to Denmark than our Capital city, so why not look a little bit on the other aspects of the country? I hear that Copenhagen has seen an 11% increase in tourism after Noma started operating, but I would like to stress that in that very same period, the Danish west-coast has been suffering, and trying to recover lost markets from Germany has been difficult. Noma’s financial impact on Denmark is minimal. There is a supply chain and farmers around Denmark (and the rest of Northern Europe) might earn a buck or two, but 20.000 people is nothing when it comes to incoming tourism – anyways, many of these tourists are domestic travelers. Also, promoting local initiatives in Denmark means less leakage and allows more money to stay in the country. I am not saying that we should not support Noma, but when we source truffles from Gotland and game from Greenland there will of course be a financial leakage, which will not be there if we were to celebrate strictly local/national produce.

I know that Noma has given Denmark several things, and I am very grateful. Noma HAS indeed helped Denmark to gain recognition and has provided the country with a platform for chefs to be creative. Also, there is no doubt that Noma has been good for branding purposes, but I do think we should be more realistic, and analyze Denmark and the whole eating environment before we crown Noma and turn into a bunch of Noma Royalists. I, for one, think that VisitDenmark is doing a very bad job reflecting our food culture. Noma might be a part of our culture, and eating ants and live shrimps might soon be too, but there is more to Danish food than Noma, and there is more to Denmark than Copenhagen.

I would like to draw your attention to Sweden’s attempt to brand their country as ‘The New Culinary Nation’. This little video reflects Sweden’s diversity and reveals a nation with a broader culinary pride and understanding, and recognizes the country’s diversity: high-class dining and peasant food. This is something people can relate to. I think VisitDenmark could learn a great deal from this campaign. Using only Noma to promote Danish food trails is like using Taj Mahal to promote Indian culture, or the Eiffel Tower to promote architecture in France. Let’s agree that these are both important (and strategic!) elements, but are still just parts of a greater cultural and economical biome. Enjoy the video and please do comment!

Cooking several courses for the pescatarian crowd!

ImageButtermilk and raspberry sherbet with almond caramel

I recently cooked a six course vegetarian (or pescatarian) feast for a smaller crowd. I had created all the recipes from scratch and today I am going to share some of them with you! I know I have had some of the pictures on my Facebook page for many days now – sorry for the delay!

Pescatarian. Vegetarian. Vegan. All three are very interesting to me. It is no secret that I love to cook, and by limiting myself to fewer ingredients I have to be more innovative and creative. I love meat – I really do. But I am not one of those persons who cannot survive without a T-Bone and half a pound of bacon. These thoughts inspired me to go almost entirely vegetarian for a week, forcing myself to explore simple and humble ingredients. I like to make food look good and I love ’high-class’ dining. With these thoughts in my head I went into my own little think tank and started creating the dishes for this minor event. The theme was high class vegetarian (or pescatarian) dining (one dish contained salmon).

Trying to keep this post relatively short I will only post some recipes and some pictures. In case you are interested in more please do comment or contact me and I shall provide you with more details.

The recipes I will share with you are the following three:

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Caramelized pear and onion. Acidic pear crisp. Horseradish and parsley coulis.

3 big handful fresh parsley (NOT FLAT LEAF)

3 dl / 1.2 cups cream

1 dl / 0.4 cups milk

2,5 cm / 1 inch piece of horse raddish (chopped)

Half an onion

One red onion

One pear + one extra for crisps

Freshly grated horseradish

Oil

Salt and pepper

Apple vinegar

Cut one of the pears into thin shavings and transfer to a bowl. Add apple vinegar and leave for at least half an hour. Remove, pat dry and transfer to a dehydrator. Dehydrate until crispy. They will be sweet and slightly acidic in taste. Cut the onion and the other pear in four pieces. Brush with oil and bake in the oven for two and a half hours at 150 degrees Celsius (300 degrees Fahrenheit). Blanche the parsley for one minute in boiling water and transfer to an ice bath. In a saucepan add cream, onion and horseradish and reduce to one third. Add milk and the blanched parsley and blend. Run through a sieve. Taste with vinegar, salt and pepper.

Arrange on the plate and sprinkle with freshly grated horseradish.

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Smoked cream cheese mayo. Pink lady apple shaving. Shavings of radish. Croûton fried in cold-pressed rapeseed oil. Horseradish and chives.

2 egg yolks

2 dl. / 0.85 cups Oil

2 tablespoons crème fraîche

2 tablespoons smoked cream cheese

Apple cider vinegar

Salt and pepper

Bread cut into squares

1 dl / 0.4 cups chopped chives

½ dl / 0.2 cups chopped or grated horseradish

1 pink lady apple

4-6 radishes

Cold-pressed rapeseed oil

Grated horseradish and finely cut chives

Whip the egg yolks for half a minute and SLOWLY add the oil – few drops at the time. Once all the oil has been incorporated add the crème fraîche and the cheese and taste with salt, pepper and vinegar.

Fry the croûtons in cold-pressed rapeseed oil for one to two minutes on each side and transfer to a paper towel. With a speed peeler peel the radishes length-wise and make the shavings look like a rose – this is a little tricky and will take you a few minutes. Trial and error is the way to go. Cut the apple into thin pieces/shavings and organize everything on a plate and sprinkle horseradish and chives. This is a great appetizer.

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Pearl barley risotto. Salmon with lemon zest. Green asparagus. Leek coulis.

Risotto

300 g / 10.5 oz pearl barley

1 onion

1 dl / 0.4 cups white wine (dry)

1 l / 4.2 cups vegetable and fish stock

75 g. / 1.4 oz Parmesan cheese

40 g. 0.7 oz butter (divided)

Cold-pressed rapeseed oil

Lemon zest

A small handful of thyme

Add half the butter with a few tablespoons of oil in a pot. Fry the onion on low heat on 3-5 minutes. Add the pearl barley and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add the white wine and stir. Once the white wine has vaporized start adding the stock a little at the time. Once the pearl barley has cooked (around 20 minutes) turn off the heat. Add the rest of the butter, the Parmesan cheese, the lemon zest and the thyme and cover with a lid for 2 minutes before serving.

Asparagus

12 green aparagus

Lemon zest

Salt and pepper

Cold-pressed rapeseed oil

20 g. / 0.35 oz butter

Cut the bottom of the asparagus. Add all ingredients to a pan and fry the asparagus on medium heat until done (4-8 minutes depending on the size)

Salmon:

400 g / 14 oz salmon cut in equal sized

Lemon zest

Cold-pressed rapeseed oil

Lemon juice (3-4 tablespoons)

Salt and pepper

Sprinkle the salmon with the oil, zest and juice, and salt and pepper, and grill in an oven or BBQ on very high heat for 5-8 minutes (or until done).

Leek and mint coulis:

4 dl / 1.7 cups cream

½ red onion

1 tablespoon of chopped Moroccan mint

1 leek

Apple / apple cider vinegar

Salt and pepper

Add all ingredients besides vinegar, salt and pepper in a sauce pan and cook on medium high heat until reduced to half. Blend and taste with vinegar, salt and pepper. If you want a more ’silky’ coulis run through a sieve before serving.

Plate the four elements and serve.

I hope you enjoyed! 🙂

Vegetarian yumminess!

ImageSpicy beluga lentils with blanched carrots. Twisted carrot fries. Watermelon, feta and pine nuts with rosemary infused olive oil.

I was born a vegetarian. The first many years of my life I ate only vegetarian and while my friends had steaks and chicken fillets for dinner my parents served beans and lentils. As I grew older I started eating meat and by the time I started enjoying cooking, meat had become a part of my diet. Lately I have had many discussions with people trying to tell me that they do not feel full if they do not incorporate meat in every meal – which I frankly find pretty sad. Denmark has for years had one of the world’s highest consumptions of meat, which is not something to be proud of as a nation. Although we have many beautiful initiatives working with more sustainable ways of eating we still have to realize that meat does NOT have to be present every time we need a snack, lunch or dinner. Vegetarian (and vegan) food can be extremely delicious and this dish will make your taste buds go nuts. The watermelon and feta cube combination is so extremely delicious and is a wonderful contrast to the spicy lentils.

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300 g / 10.5 oz beluga lentils

250 g / 8.8 oz carrots (cut into small cubes)

2 long carrots

1 dl / 0.4 cup olive oil

A handful of fresh rosemary

150 g. / 5.3 oz watermelon

100 g / 3.5 oz puck feta

2 tablespoons of pine nuts

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon chili powder

5 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Canola oil for frying

Add the rosemary and olive oil to a pot and heat on low flame for a few minutes until warm. Remove from stove and leave for at least one hour (leave it for 24 hours for strong rosemary flavor). Transfer lentils to a pot and cover with water by 2 cm/1 inch. Cover with a lid and boil for approximately 20 minutes. Meanwhile blanch the carrot cubes in water mixed with one tablespoon lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Blanch for 1-2 minutes (depending on the size of the cubes) and transfer to a bowl of very cold water (throwing a few ice cubes in there is a good idea). Strain the lentils to remove any excess water and leave to cool. In another pan add enough oil for shallow frying and heat on low frame. The oil should not be warmer than 160 degrees Celsius (320 degrees Fahrenheit). Using a potato peeler peel the carrots lengthwise. Transfer one carrot peel at the time to the warm oil and fry for approximately 2 minutes. Remove from the oil, pat dry with paper towel and twist the carrot peel around a sharpening steel and hold it for 5-10 seconds while cooling down. Cut watermelon and feta cheese into cubes and arrange on a plate. Place the pine nuts on top of the cubes. Mix the cold lentils and blanched carrots with a few tablespoons of the rosemary infused oil, coriander, cumin, chili, the remaining lemon juice and taste with salt and pepper. Arrange on the plate and drizzle everything with a tablespoon of the rosemary infused oil. Sprinkle the carrot fries with salt and pepper and add to the plate just before serving.

Chris’ chocolate, licorice and raspberry trio

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Dense chocolate ice cream with fluffy licorice meringue and acidic raspberry sauce (serves 8 people)

I love licorice. Salty, sweet, chewy, hard, soft – you name it. Being a licorice lover it often bothers me that the flavor is such a rarity in not just the dessert kitchen, but in general. I have been to Iceland twice and my family has good friends from Iceland so I remember receiving packages for Christmas with Icelandic candy while growing up. One particular flavor combination that I really liked was chocolate and licorice – something I had not tried anywhere else in the world. It is a flavor combo that I have seen very few times since although it works so very well together. A week ago I decided to buy some raw licorice root powder to try to experiment a little and bring back a distant memory from my childhood. Licorice is ‘Nordic’ and very trendy, but essentially the decision was made because I am a sucker for licorice and I wanted to rediscover the flavor combination of licorice and chocolate.

Trying to re-create childhood memories I started brainstorming. I wanted to make a dessert, which would bring in a dominant chocolate flavor with a hint of licorice. Overwhelming licorice flavor would most likely scare some people off so a subtle hint was what I was looking for. At the same time I did not want to invent or reinvent anything, but rather bring in licorice as an addition to classic flavors and textures, which was why I chose to work with ice cream and meringue. Also, both licorice and chocolate are quite heavy flavors so I needed to bring in some contrast. As the licorice has a salty dimension and the chocolate will work as the main sweetener I wanted something acidic to ‘lighten’ up the dish. I decided to use raspberry as it has a clean and crisp flavor, and accompanies dark or dense chocolate very well.

So…. Here you go. Chris’ Chocolate, licorice and raspberry trio. Enjoy!

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Chocolate ice cream
350 ml / 1.5 cup heavy cream/whipping cream

350 ml / 1.5 cup whole milk

120 g / 4 oz. semi sweet chocolate

1 dl / 0.4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1½ dl / 0.7 cup sugar

1 vanilla pod

4 egg yolks

Pinch of salt

Heat the milk and cream and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile melt the chocolate on a double boiler. Take the milk off the stove. De-seed the vanilla pod and mix the seeds with a little bit of the sugar. Now whisk in cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla sugar, melted chocolate and a pinch of salt in the warm milk and cream. In a separate bowl whisk together the four egg yolks until pale yellow and thick. Add about one fourth of the hot chocolate milk to the egg yolks while whisking vigorously, and then pour it back into the saucepan. Heat the chocolate and egg yolk mixture on low heat for about 5 minutes (until it is thick and covers the backside of a wooden spoon). Remove the mixture from the stove and leave to cool. After 45 minutes transfer the mix to the fridge and leave until completely cold, and freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to the freezer and freeze for at least one hour (several hours or even overnight is recommended).

Licorice meringue
4 egg whites

110 g sugar

110 g icing sugar

3 teaspoons raw licorice powder + 1 teaspoon to sift on top

Whisk together egg whites until they start to thicken. Combine licorice powder and sugar. Add one tablespoon of the licorice sugar at the time while whisking vigorously. Once the mixture is very stiff sift one third of the icing sugar over the mixture and fold it in with a spoon or spatula. Repeat until all the icing sugar has been combined with the egg mixture. Arrange the meringue on a baking tray and sprinkle/sift one teaspoon of licorice powder on top, and bake at 110 degrees Celsius (230 degrees Fahrenheit) for 1 hour and 15 minutes in a conventional/gas oven or 1 ½ hour in a fan oven.

Raspberry sauce

80 g / 3 oz. fresh or frozen raspberries

4 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons water

Combine water and raspberries in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Mash the berries using a whisk. Strain the mixture and reserve the liquid. Heat the liquid again and add sugar and lemon juice. Reduce by one third and remove from stove. Let the sauce cool before use.

Arrange as you like and enjoy!!

Midtfyns Bryghus – Let’s have a beer and cook some food!

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Midtfyns Bryghus, a microbrewery centrally located on the Island of Funen, Denmark. In 2006 when the brewery was only two years old the American born ‘bon vivant’ Eddie Szweda took over the operation. After just a few years at the helm he had positively transformed this unknown brewery and helped putting Funen on the map of great breweries – nationally as well as internationally.

Not the ordinary brewery

There are plenty of reviews of Midtfyns Bryghus’ beer, so I will focus on two very different aspects; the brewery itself and a recipe of a delicious sauce made from the brewery’s ‘Imperial Stout’.

I have visited breweries before but Midtfyns Bryghus is different. I met Eddie during the ‘Cherry Festival’ in Kerteminde in Denmark where he had a small stand promoting and selling his beers. I asked him if he would have time to give me a quick tour of his brewery as I am writing an article about the culinary island life on Funen. He was very open and enthusiastic, and a week later I drove to Årslev to see what they are all about. From the very first moment I knew that Midtfyns Bryghus was not the ordinary microbrewery. One thing I love about smaller breweries is the passion for beer. Not just the final product but also the very process itself: brewing and coming up with new ideas and concepts. This was no different at Midtfyns Bryghus. Same enthusiasm and passion, but it did not end there. Looking at the beers, the shop (located at the brewery), the future plans and ideas, the awards, the hospitality, Eddie’s character and the operation itself it was clear to me that Midtfyns Bryghus is much more than just a brewery; it is a gateway to Danish culture, it is the American dream, it is quality of service and products, and it is innovative and responsible solutions. Eddie recently relocated from Brobyværk to Årslev and bought brand new, custom made brewing equipment from the Danish company JTM Brew owned by Thomas and Jesper. Cheaper solutions exist in countries like China, but Eddie wanted the money to stay in the country, which was one of the reasons why he purchased the more expensive Danish solution. I was lucky enough to meet Thomas, one of the two owners, at the brewery. He was helping Eddie in the production, which I found very interesting. The commitment from JTM Brew, the appreciation from Eddie and the rest of the crew as well as the common passion for beer and the craft of brewing makes this relationship between buyer and supplier genuine and beneficial. Another part of Midtfyns Bryghus that was very remarkable was the fact that all the beer labels do not just have beautiful designs, which function as lures to the human eye, but are all printed in braille making it possible for visually impaired to examine the beer before buying it. The brewery is, according to Eddie, the only one in the world doing that.

From left to right: (1) Eddie in front of newspaper articles (2) Chris, a happy blogger tasting the ale (3) The new equipment at Midtfyns Bryghus

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Midtfyns Bryghus sells twelve different beers plus an additional three seasonal. As I few days after the visit had to cook for a smaller birthday event I decided to use one of the beers to create a recipe in honor of Midtfyns Bryghus as well the birthday kid (my mom!). I generally think that beer is completely overlooked in cooking, so I though it would be a fun little challenge to implement the taste of Funen and Midtfyns Bryghus in a dish. I wanted to make a gravy that would suit lamb, or any kind of game, a rebellious act as wine is often the flavor agent in these kind of sauces. I decided to use the ‘Imperial Stout’, a full-bodied beer brewed from a blend of roasted malt varieties and aged with oak wood, and add typical game flavors like rosemary and juniper berries. I wanted strong flavor without overpowering the beautiful chocolate, oak, vanilla and coffee characters of the beer, so keeping it simple was the key. It turned out to be super delicious and of course we share the recipe with you!

From left to right: (1) Ale at Midtfyns Bryghus (2) A selection of beers from Midtfyns Bryghus (3) Lamb on the BBQ

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Lamb with Imperial Stout gravy (serves 6 people)

Gravy
4 dl. / 1.7 cup Imperial stout from Midtfyns Bryghus

2 dl. / 0.9 cup Vegetable stock

200 g / 7 oz. carrots (cut in chunks)

200 g. / 7 oz. onions (cut in chunks)

50 g. / 1.8 oz. celery (cut in chunks)

10-15 juniper berries (crushed)

1 big sprig fresh rosemary

50 g. / 1.8 oz. butter butter

2 tablespoon oil (canola works well)

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 dl. / 0.9 cup heavy cream/whipping cream

2 tablespoons molasses sugar or cane sugar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Add oil to a vessel and heat on high flame. Add carrots, onions, celery, juniper berries and rosemary and fry for 4-5 minutes. Add the stock and the stout and reduce by one third. Strain and reserve liquid. In a sauce pan add the butter and heat on medium flame. Add the flour and whisk continuously for 5-10 minutes (until the mixtures is dark caramel brown). Add the hot beer/vegetable stock little by little while whisking. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Remove from stove and add sugar and vinegar. Taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Lamb

1 kg / 2.2 pounds lamb culotte (or other similar cut like sirloin)

8 small twigs of fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

10 Juniper berries

8 cinnamon sticks (Cassia cinnamon, not Ceylon)

1 dl / 0.4 cup olive oil

Coarse sea salt

With a sharp knife pierce the lamb meat and force the rosemary twigs and cinnamon sticks through. Using a mortar and pestle crush the juniper berries and black peppercorns. Add olive oil. Drizzle the meat with the juniper flavored oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Cook in an oven or BBQ until the core temperature has reached 50 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit). Cover with aluminum foil and let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy! It is delicious!

Read more

http://www.midtfyns-bryghus.dk/ (Danish)

http://jtmbrew.com/ (Danish / English)

Sweet onion BBQ sauce

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If one food could be said to epitomize summer it would be ribs. Ribs go hand in hand with summer, sun, BBQ and cold brewskis, which is why the smell of a baby back on the grill makes me want to put on my sunglasses and open a Corona. Barbecuing is a science in itself so I will not get into the techniques and different schools, but instead give you my own recipe of a delicious sweet onion sauce which goes very well with ribs (and many other things!).

Before I give you the recipe I would like to discuss something real quick. What makes a good barbecue sauce? I’ve made barbecue sauces many times and over the time I have learned that the most important ingredient is sugar. Whether you use simple syrup, refined sugar, corn syrup, molasses sugar, cane sugar or natural sugar from, say, apple juice, it is very important. You want a dense sauce, which will caramelize and stick to the meat, which is why sugar is such an important ingredient. If your BBQ sauce lacks sugar it will never stick to the meat, and even if it does, it will not give it that finger-licking deliciousness that you are looking for. Okay, sugar is important but you want flavor too. One of the most appetizing smells is onions frying in a pan. Many hot dishes, whether we are talking curries, stews, sauces or oven dishes, start with onions frying in oil, which is why this particular aroma often awakens a hidden appetite – it means food is on its way! By adding this smell (and flavor!) to our sauce the guest will certainly build up an appetite while waiting for the food to be done, which is why I love this sweet onion sauce.

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Sweet onion BBQ sauce

3 teaspoon white mustard seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 whole star anise

2 red onions

2 cloves garlic

chili (as much as you like)

70 g / 2.5 oz tomato concentrate

1 dl / 3.8 oz Ketchup (Heinz works very well!)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

3 teaspoons smoked paprika

5 dl / 17 oz apple juice or apple cider

½ dl / 1.7 oz syrup

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon English Sauce or Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon vinegar (whatever kind you like – neutral, apple cider or balsamic work well)

3 tablespoons molasses sugar or cane sugar

Canola or other oil

Salt.

Blend together onions, garlic, chili (without seeds) and tomato concentrate. Fry on low heat in a couple of tablespoons of oil for about 5-6 minutes. Meanwhile toast fennel and mustard seeds with star anise and the black peppercorns on a pan on very low heat for the same amount of time. Grind the spices and add to the sauce with the paprika, onion and garlic powder. Fry for another minute. Add the ketchup and mix all the ingredients well. If starting to stick just add more oil. Fry until the mixture is dense and dark in color (another few minutes). Add all the remaining ingredients and simmer on low heat until the sauce is very thick and dark brown, stirring occasionally (around 45 minutes). Add salt to taste.

Leave the sauce to cool and blend until smooth using a stick blender or blender/liquidizer. This sauce can easily be stored in the fridge for a long time.

Make sure you DO NOT apply this sauce until the last 20 minutes of cooking or all the sugars will start to burn rather than caramelize. Also, keep it away from direct heat (if possible).

Go ‘cue it up!

Moussaka. A taste of Greece.

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I don’t cook much Greek food. Not because I don’t like it, simply because I have never been to Greece and have therefore never gotten to experience ‘authentic Greek food’ first hand. I like authenticity and therefore I rarely cook food from countries I have never visited. When I moved to India i figured out that Indian food was much more than what was on the menu of local Indian diners in Europe and most of the Indian food I cooked was not really Indian. I like to learn from the source (either from people who know what they are talking about) or by going to that specific country to try to understand the cuisine(s). Nevertheless I spent a few days researching Greek food because it is a kitchen I don’t know a lot about. After a lot of reading I decided I would try to make a traditional Greek dish: Moussaka. Based on research, tons of articles and a few cook books I created my own version. Some recipes from American and European websites included cheddar cheese and other funky ingredients which have never seen the Greek kitchen, so I read as much as I could to come up with a recipe that would include the real flavors of Greece. I once had a Greek room mate and I remember spices like cloves and cinnamon from his cooking, so I decided to incorporate them in my Moussaka. Normally Kefalograviera (Greek cheese) is a part of the Béchamel Sauce, but I couldn’t find it, and most recipes suggested Parmesan as a substitute. I used Pecorino in mine as it is also a salty sheep’s milk cheese like Kefalograviera.

Moussaka

4 eggplants (approx. 1200 g.)

600 g minced beef

1 ½ teaspoon black peppercorns (or 1 tablespoon powder)

5 allspice berries (or 1 teaspoon powder)

2 4 cm/2 inch twill cinnamon (or 1 tablespoon powder)

3 cloves (or ½ teaspoon powder)

2 small bay leaves (or one big)

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried marjoram

4 onions (small, red)

4 cloves garlic

80 g. tomato concentrate

1 can tomatoes

2 dl red wine

2 dl. Water/stock

2 teaspoon fresh thyme

2 teaspoon fresh rosemary

2 tablespoon vinegar (neutral or wine)

1 tablespoon sugar

75 g. Butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

7 dl. Milk

150 g. Cheese (Kefalograviera, Pecorino, Parmesan or Grana Padano)

3 eggs

Nutmeg

White pepper

Salt

 

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Meat sauce

Cut the eggplants in one cm thick slices and place in a colander. Sprinkle heavily with salt and leave for half an hour or more. If using whole spices dry roast cinnamon, allspice, peppercorns and cloves on low heat for five to six minutes or until aromatic. Meanwhile fry onions in another pan for five to six minutes in olive oil or until slightly caramelized. Using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder grind the peppercorns, allspice, cinnamon and cloves to a fine powder. Add the ground spices, oregano, marjoram, garlic and bay leaves to the onions and fry for two minutes. Use more olive oil if the spices stick to the pan.

Transfer the onion mix to a bowl and heat the pan again. Add more oil and fry the minced meat in batches. Frying the meat in smaller batches will give more flavors as the meat will actually fry and not cook in its own liquids. Using a cast iron pan is the best as its density makes it easier to maintain high temperature when adding the colder meat. After frying one batch of meat add to the bowl with the onion mix and continue.

Once all the meat has been fried add a little oil to the pan and fry the tomato concentrate for 2-3 minutes. Then add the wine and reduce to one third. Add canned tomatoes, stock/water and the onion/meat mixture. Boil on low flame until almost dry and remove from heat. Add sugar, vinegar, chopped thyme and rosemary and taste with salt. Remove the bay leaves.

Béchamel sauce

In a smaller cooking vessel add butter and heat on low flame. Once the butter has melted add the flour and stir with a whisk for one minute. Gradually add the milk and bring to a simmer while constantly whisking. In a small bowl whisk eggs and add a little of the hot béchamel sauce while whisking. Add the egg mixture back into the pot with béchamel sauce and add the grated cheese. Add nutmeg, white pepper and salt to taste.

Eggplants/Aubergines

Pat dry the eggplants/aubergines and brush with alive oil. On a BBQ or a grill pan fry the eggplant/aubergine slices for 3-4 minutes on each side.

Coat the bottom of a baking dish with olive oil. Add a layer of eggplants/aubergines and top with the meat sauce. Continue layering and make sure that the final layer will be eggplant/aubergines. Add the béchamel sauce on top of the final layer and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes on 180 degrees Celsius.