Maitre Marcel

Because food is more than fuel for the body

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A simple trick for good green beans

Green beans are full of vitamins and minerals and are not very expensive. They appear often on menus and at family dinners but usually are soggy and bland. There are not much vitamins left in them.

Green beans, like pasta, need lots of boiling water and then a short boiling time.

Putting the beans in some water with salt, heating to boiling point and cooking for several minutes is a recipe for grey beans without taste. Generations of school children ate those in the canteen. Many an office cafeteria will serve them that way as well.

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Mussels from the Mediterranean, a classic with a twist

We are moving from the Paris region to the Pyrenees where I have a larger kitchen to play with. The change in area also entails a different origin of products. Last week we were in Dieppe but while we ate well at a favourite restaurant, we did not manage to have any mussels.

So when I saw mussels on the market in Mirepoix, I bought a kilo.

A mussel may seem like another mussel but that is not true. The North Sea mussels or those from the Barfleur area are relatively small black mussels that turn yellow when cooking. These are “moules de bouchot” raised on ropes in basins in the sea.

The mussels in Mirepoix came from the lakes of Thau and Bouzigues near Sète on the Mediterranean. There they grow in suspended nets.

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Sambal – A chilli sauce with Indonesian roots

The other day we saw a big bag of fresh red peppers at the greengrocer’s for just one euro because some had a few spots. We did not hesitate to buy them to make homemade sambal. Sambal is a chilli sauce from Indonesia. Perhaps sauce is not the right word, it is more a paste. A thick sauce. There are many varieties and recipes, you can add many ingredients from tomatoes to shrimp. Here I kept it simple with just an onion, garlic, soy sauce and brown sugar as well as some sunflower oil.

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A simple veal cutlet

I am spending more and more time at my new house in the Ariège region. The kitchen is not ready yet so I keep things rather simple.

In this rural region, there are many producers that bring their ware directly to the market and raise their livestock with care.

There is a lady with a van on the Mirepoix market on Monday morning with meat from farmers in the mountains behind Foix. The meat is sealed in plastic packages and I buy for several days, putting it in the freezer.

We had a veal cutlet. It was not lightly pink as crate-raised veal would have been – the colour may be desirable for the client but not for the animal – and the cut was a bit too thick for an escalope. I cooked it in butter for 15 minutes, with a lid on the skillet to protect the freshly painted wall behind the old cooker of my aunt, and poured the juice of one lemon over it at the end.

I removed the veal and let it cool and reduced the sauce slightly before pouring over the meat. Some freshly-ground pepper and we had a delicious meal, with pasta and tomato/fresh herb cheese sauce.



Mackerel fillet with cedrat, lemon juice and rocket

Lately I have been trying to change the rhythm of meals during the day towards a more southern regime – a full lunch and a light dinner. When both my wife and I had full-time office jobs, we would take a quick lunch – sometimes prepared at home and kept in a plastic container – and enjoy a good dinner at the table with the television news in the background.

In the south of France, and in Italy and Spain, there is more attention for an important lunch while the evening can be light – in Spain down to some tapas.

That is not easy to combine with office hours – but then in some countries the midday break is longer than what Dutch or English office workers would be permitted to take or be inclined to use. Read more

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