Spaghetti with spinach, garlic and vacherin cheese

I like spinach. I do not believe it makes me strong like Popey the Sailor Man (and he ate them from cans…) but it is healthy. On the farmer’s market in the town here they sell “cold-ground” spinach, big rough leaves with a snail here and there. It will not last when it starts freezing.

Start of winter is also the beginning of the season for cheeses that melt easily to be put on bread or in fondues after walks in the mountains or winter sports. One of my favourites is Mont d’Or, a soft cheese with a nutty flavour from the Jura area. It is a kind of Vacherin, a soft cow cheese, from a specific area.

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Quiche with dandelions, Camembert and salami

When I was young there was a best-selling book called ‘Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche” about macho prejudice. Well, I am not a real man then.
Quiche, the name, comes from the local dialect in Lorraine that has German influences and sounds a bit like “Kuche” for pie.
The Quiche Lorraine is the most famous version, first recorded in the accounts of the Nancy hospital in 1605. The Quiche Loraine is a crust pie filled with bacon and cream.
I made a spring version with dandelions, leek and onion and topped it with some leftover Camembert cheese.

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Green asparagus risotto

When the vegetable stand on our market had French green asparagus, I could not resist buying them and decided to make a spring risotto.

White asparagus are available in the south of the Netherlands; solid and straight stems that make a wonderful meal with eggs, potatoes and cream.

In France, the white variety, sometimes with violet heads, comes from the Loire valley and the sandy grounds of Les Landes.

Asparagus are low in calories and rich in antioxidants and help clear your digestive system and bladder.

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Cauliflower soup with Avesnes cheese and smoked ham

Cauliflower is a very healthy vegetable with anti-cancer and detox properties. However, it stinks when cooking and has a very bland taste. Basically, it is boring and needs something to liven it up.

Often it is combined with cheese, as in the British cauliflower cheese dish or the Dutch cauliflower with cheese sauce dish.

In France, cauliflower is often prepared with a white sauce of cream and flour (béchamel) to which grated cheese can be added (mornay) and also ham.

Here, I make a soup of the cauliflower and add a pungent and spicy cheese – Boulette d’Avesnes.

It is another cheese from the North, made up mainly (95 {4cde4f594ebc992dd9c13235afe1d83f0ef707c70b5a049696e6a42fcf7b49ed}) of left-over Maroilles cheese with added herbs and spices such as parsley,tarragon, clove and paprika.

It has a conical shape and is red on the outside because of the paprika. I also add smoked ham, preferably Ardennes ham to stick to the Hainault area of northern France and southern Belgium.

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Chicken with Maroilles sauce

We were in the north of France recently and had lunch with a friend who had prepared a regional dish of chicken legs with Maroilles sauce. Maroilles, named after a town, is a very pungent soft cow cheese that is produced in the Avesnois region in the north.
Our host, Nathalie Banckaert, made the dish with chicken legs cooked in a stock with wine and made the sauce from cheese, cream and wine and she presented it with noodles.
In “my” version, I braised chicken tights in butter, deglaced with 3 Monts beer from the north, and put shallots and cheese in the remaining cooking juices for a sauce. I presented it with potatoes.
If you do not have Maroilles, another pungent cheese like Epoisses, Pont l’Evêque, Livarot, a Belgian Hervé or Dutch Rommedou will do, or a « Limbuger ». For the beer, any strong brown beer is fine.

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Burrata with escarole salad

There are plenty of culinary things that I do not know about. We recently had a dinner with a good friend from Argentina in a restaurant with my name (Marcel, 15 rue de Babylone) with which I have absolutely no relation. She opted for a dish because it had “Burrata” in it and I must confess I expected some TexMex ingredient that she, as from south America, would have a particular craving for.

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Pasta with meat sauce

Sometimes you want something simple and pasta with meat sauce is a kind of comfort food for colder days. I do not like to buy pasta sauce in tins or jars and I did not want to go into the trouble of making a real Bolognese sauce because with the bacon (and mushrooms) it adds up to a rather filling and a bit fat sauce. Bologna, a nice town in a great part of Italy, is not for nothing called La Grassa (the fat one).

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Creamy roasted garlic soup

This soup is delicious in itself but it is also a very good remedy against hangovers. Perhaps it is an idea to have some ready that you can simply warm up the morning after the evening in the festive season…
There are several versions of garlic soup, especially from the southwest of France where they have the tourin – with onions and eggs – or, in the southeast, in the aigo boulido of the Provence, with sage.

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Ceps risotto with French cheese, guinea fowl and sweet beetroot

One of the things I love about cooking is they way you can use your inventiveness to make subtle changes to existing recipes and use the seasons and products at hand instead of a list of prescribed ingredients.
So it is here. The ceps risotto is a nice savoury dish for cold days to start with. There are still some fresh ceps on the market but I decided to use the dried ones from the larder.

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Tartiflette Maligny

A tariflette is a potato, onion and cheese dish usually made in the mountains of the Savoie, during winter.
We were at Maligny in a holiday home for a short stay in the Chablis area to taste and buy wines and eat some local delicacies such as snails, chitterling with Chablis wine and cheeses such as époises, Brillat Savarin and Chaource.

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