Sunday, October 29, 2006

Simple Chicken And Vegetable Soup

Living in Thailand now, not having my own kitchen setup yet, I only get to cook once in a while at my friends place. This soup isn't just very easy to prepare, it's also the type of food I like to eat when I have a bit of an upset stomach. This certainly tends to happen here in Thailand if I had a few chilies too many the day before. You can also prepare quite a big pot of this tasty soup, then keep it for the next few days or even freeze it.

For a big pot:
1,5 l (50 oz) chicken stock
1/4 l (1 cup) white wine for cooking
2 bay leaves
1 clove
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (for the veggies)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (for the chicken)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 large carrots, cut into large pieces
2 spring onions, chopped
1 celery root, cut into large pieces
1 broccoli
any other veggies you'd like
chicken thighs, breast or legs, cut into large pieces
salt and pepper to taste


Add bay leaves and clove to the stock and bring it to a boil. Reduce the temperature so the stock simmers gently.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for at least 5 minutes. Add garlic, spring onions and all the other veggies that take longer to cook. Don't put broccoli and similar types of veggies in yet as they only take a very short time to cook. Pour in the wine.

Stir well and sauté for another 5 minutes over medium heat to let the wine absorb a bit.

Add the chicken stock including the bay leaves and clove and adjust the temperature to let the soup simmer.

In the meantime, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces and season well with salt and pepper. Sauté all the pieces well all around, then put them into the soup.

Keep everything simmering and taste the soup after another 15-20 minutes. Adjust the taste if necessary by adding more wine, salt and pepper. About 5 minutes before serving, add broccoli and other fast cooking veggies.

If you're interested in other easy to prepare dishes, check out:

Spaghetti with Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Filled Zucchetti
Pasta with Sage

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Venison on pepper sauce with mashed potatoes

Hunting season brings a variety of game meat to the markets. While this particular sauce could be used for beef or pork tenderloin as well, it pairs really well with venison. It might look like it's a bit time consuming, but if you're preparing all your ingredients ahead of time, it's done fairly quickly and tastes wonderful. You could also serve noodles instead of mashed potatoes.

for 2 people:

for the pepper sauce:
5g (0.2 oz) white pepper corns, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 shotglass whiskey (could be replaced by rum)
1 slice of bacon, cut into small pieces
1 shallot, chopped
1,5 dl (5 oz) white wine
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (red is ok too)
1 twig of thyme
30g (1 oz) whipping cream
100 ml (3,5 oz) chicken stock
30g (1 oz) flakes of butter, put into freezer
freshly ground salt and pepper

for the mashed potatoes:
4-6 medium sized potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons butter
milk, until desired consistency is reached

the meat:
2 venison fillets (or beef fillets or pork tenderloin)
freshly ground pepper and salt
2-4 tablespoons olive oil


Preheat the oven to 80 C. (180 F.)

Grind pepper (not the white one!) preferrably in a mortar and season fillets well all around with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over high heat, sauté strongly on both sides then place into pre-heated oven. Depending on the thicknes of your fillets, expect the meat to be in the low-temperature oven for at least 45 minutes.

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, time is not very crucial for low-temperature cooking. You should be fine between 45 and 90 minutes. Just make sure you've sautéd the meat well enough before placing into the oven (about 5 minutes total).

For the sauce, sauté the white pepper corns over medium heat in the olive oil. Add whiskey (or rum) and flambé immediately. Never do this under the hood as the flames might get in there! And watch your hair too!

Add bacon and shallots and sauté for a few minutes. Then put white wine, balsamic vinegar and the thyme twig into the sauce. Let the liquid absorb completely before adding the chicken stock and the whipping cream. Let the sauce simmer over low heat.

For the mashed potates, wrap the peeled potatoes in plastic foil and microwave for about 3 minutes until soft. This is the easier way instead of boiling the potatoes.

In a large pot, add potatoes, butter and some milk and mash them over medium temperature until you have a fairly smooth paste.

Keep on adding milk if the mix is too thick. Keep the mashed potatoes warm with closed lid over low temperature.

Once your meat is almost ready, add the butter from the freezer into the sauce and move the sauce pan in circles for the butter to mix into the sauce. Don't stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove the thyme twig.

Serve your fillets sliced with mashed potatoes on the side and pour over the sauce. I would also recommend heating the plates first. At this low temperature in the oven, any plates should be fine to be put in there together with the meat for preheating. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Italy Part 4 - Three treasure restaurants

As usual, I've been doing quite a bit of research about which restaurants to visit during the tuscany trip. But the best ones were either found accidentally or by recommendation of our local hosts, Josiane and Narciso. Generally, the restaurants were all very good or even excellent. The pasta where it's made fresh by hand is always a real treat. A normal italian dinner consists of four parts, first antipasti, then primi, then secondi and then dolci and of course an espresso at the end with possibly a grappa. the antipasti could be some slices of prosciutto and a local salami, primi are most of the time a plate of handmade pasta, the secondi (main dishes) meat or fish, then any kind of dessert like handmade vanilla ice cream with a few drops of aged balsamic vinegar on top. To summarize it, it's usually quite a feast and you won't leave the table too soon.

Ristorante I' Polpa (Fiesole)

This place was found completely accidentally as all the other restaurants around were filled with tourists in their garden patio. I' Polpa didn't have outdoor seating which obviously kept most tourists away from it. But the menu attached outside looked very promising and the food ended up being fantastic!

The kitchen, quite simple.

A fresh porcini mushroom, grilled with olive oil, pepper and salt. Amazing!

The chef is putting the salsa verde on plates.

The lovely chef serving our dishes.

Stuffed goose throat with salsa verde and the best potato I've eaten in a long time. One of her grandmother's recipes.

A wonderful pie with grapes and rosemary.

Ristorante I' Polpa
Piazza Mino, 21/22 - 50014 Fiesole
Tel. 055.59485

Ristorante Il Pozzo (Monteriggioni)

At this place, the pasta was really standing out. Even though we didn't order it, the bistecca fiorentina they served at the next table, looked amazing as well. Specialty here the pasta al cinghuale (wild boar).

Besides a nice interior, Il Pozzo also offers a nice garden patio which was filled with tourists though.

Papardelle al Cinghuale. A must try here!

In paper wrapped ravioli with truffle sauce.

Ristorante Il Pozzo
Piazza Roma, 2 - 53035 Monteriggioni (SI)
Tel. (0577) 30.41.27

Osteria Locanda (Terranuova)

One of Josiane's and Narciso's special recommendations, this restaurant is beautifully located. During warm summer nights, the garden area is available for seating in the middle of a herbal garden. It's a bit hard to access on top of a hill located down a small alley, but certainly worth a trip. Amazing food, very friendly service, great atmosphere and cheap, good wines.

Raw sole fillets marinated in olive oil and lemon juice with a lentil salad.

Pasta with porcini.

A simple beef stew. Heavenly done.

Narciso having a little chat with the chef after our fantastic meal.

Osteria Locanda Il Canto del Maggio
Frazione Penna 30/d - 52025 Terranuova B. ni AR
Tel. 055.0705147

Monday, October 02, 2006

Italy Part 3 - Mercato Centrale in Firenze

The mercato centrale is a grocery market that's open every day starting 7am until 2pm. It's a two story building under a huge roof where all kinds of vendors attract locals as well as tourists for taking pictures or tasting some 100 year old balsamic vinegars. It's both spectacular and amazing to be able to shop in such a way especially after being reminded of the supermarket at home which hardly offers such variety and quality. I always enjoy checking out big markets in different places around the world. A nice comparison would be the local grocery market in Pattaya, Thailand.

Parmesan cheese, nice and crumbly.

There was a wonderful smell around those marinated olives!

Dried herbs, beans, veggies, ...

A big variety of dried fruits was also available.

Fresh seafood. There were many stands ...

... offering all kinds of fish, crabs, lobsters and sepia.

A stand which sold intestines only. Check out the brains in the lower right corner.

Kind of gruesome looking!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Italy Part 2 - Regello

Away from the tourist destinations, we arrived at our agri-turismo place (kind of like a bed and breakfast) about 30 km outside Florence. The place was like a dream with two wonderful hosts, Josianne and Narciso. We were welcomed with a fantastic dinner, but not before picking some tomatoes in the garden which ended up as a very nice sauce for the primi piatti, the appetizer. If I'll have the chance to visit here again, I certainly will. Many thanks to Josianne and Narciso who were just simply wonderful to be with for those four days.

Narciso cutting prosciutto.

In the kitchen, Josianne is preparing the main dish.

Josianne's kitchen. Marvellous!

The dining table next to a gigantic fireplace.

Tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes. A rarity these days.

Narciso's home-made olive oil in a little can. Olive oil and bread always belong on any italian dining table.

Melon (from the garden outside) and prosciutto for antipasto.

Narciso is serving the primi piatti. Pasta!

Simple but high quality ingredients are the key to italian food. Cherry tomatoes, roasted pine nuts, garlic and herbs mixed with a superb olive oil.

Saltimbocca for main dish.

Italy Part 1 - Bologna

I apologize for the lack of updates recently... there has been a trip through italy which was very much food oriented as you'll see in the following posts. To put the conclusion first, for me, italy still offers the best food in the world. Beautiful grocery markets through narrow streets, local deli stores, bigger market halls that offer fresh goods on a daily basis and of course a vast selection of fantastic restaurants where it's still a rule to prepare fresh pasta day by day. I hope you'll enjoy the following pictures. I will be in italy hopefully very soon again since there's never enough time to enjoy all there is to enjoy.

One of many narrow market streets.

Getting some fresh fruit while on the way to work.

A wonderful selection of fresh produce.

Sometimes it's hard to notice the vendor in the small grocery stalls.

Carrying another load of fresh vegetables to his store.

And how much were those apples?

A woman checking out the fantastic Tamburini deli store.

Another fine Bologna deli store.

The selection of local salami, prosciutto and other coldcuts is endless.

A woman trying to make up her mind what to get.

I've never found such great salamis as in Bologna.

Fresh pasta...

... prepared every day.