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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Veal kidneys with broad beans

The French eat more offal than many other nationalities. In the Netherlands, I sometimes ate liver or blood sausage but that was about it. In France, I discovered sweetbread, kidney and spleen but I have not yet dared to eat heart or lungs.

A French editor once tested my willingness to adapt to France and the French way of life by ordering me a plate of slightly cooked kidneys with lasagne. The dish looked gross but I did acquire a taste for it.

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Poached Bresse chicken with bear garlic

I love to cook with the seasons and to use seasonal products, provided they are not very expensive such as the morel mushrooms at the moment. One of the early manifestations of Spring is the appearance of young shoots of various vegetables and plants.
Such as bear garlic.
I first ran into this herb in Switzerland where you can find it in the shades in mountain valleys. In fact, you can smell it as the plants grow closely together and emanate a garlicky smell. They are full of vitamin c and have medicinal properties related to the prevention of arthritis, and it is also a slimming agent.

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Beef and oyster pie with ginger

Beef and oyster pie is an old English recipe that stems from the times that oysters were so plentiful that they were cheap enough for the poor to eat. Beef was not cheap but the meat used was not a prime cut. Many recipes use a pint of British ale in the broth.

Beef and oyster sauce is a common dish in Asia, and almost always there is garlic and ginger in the preparation. That became my inspiration.

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Rabbit with prunes and cider  

Rabbit is relatively lean meat and not expensive. The animals multiply fast and a lot because they have many natural enemies and feature on the menu of various wild animals and birds of prey.

Man has also been catching rabbit for centuries. It easily falls prey to traps and can be blinded with strong lights, and many poor peasant people have eaten rabbit and made recipes with the animal.

The domestication is relatively recent. Rabbits were raised in cages for food and their fur. In France, the “lapin de Garenne” is the main race and the name refers to the wild rabbit running in the fields. Lapin de Clapier is a domestically raised rabbit (clapier is the name of the cage) while most rabbits are now raised in large quantities on industrialised farms.

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Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, revisited

The chicken with 40 cloves of garlic is one of those rustic traditional dishes that are a pleasure to make and eat. Forty is just an approximative figure, as in Alibaba and the forty thieves, but there is indeed a lot of garlic in it. You do not peel the garlic but let it cook in oil so that you get a puree that can be spread out on bread. I decided to make a variation and added cubes of raw celery and sweet potato to the garlic in the oil and it was delicious.

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A rice dish with eggplant, beef and raisins

A long time ago, I left my parents house to study at university in the big city of Amsterdam. My mother gave me a book of recipes as I had already showed signs that I would not be eating pizzas and French fries all the time but actually do some cooking.

In my first student room – a rented room with a family in the Bijlmermeer high-rise area – I built a two-burner bottle-gas kitchen around the sink, using the hot plate of the coffee maker to slowly cook rice. That recipe book from 1981 is still in my collection and one of the dishes I made from it was called Turkish stuffed aubergines (eggplant), that used ground lamb or mutton meat.

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