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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Milan-style Ossobuco and ceps risotto

The other day I made a grilled chicken with lemon and did not feel like throwing the remains away so I turned it into a chicken stock. Then my wife suggested I made risotto and then I saw nice veal shank at the butcher’s. The ossobuco, “bone with a hole” can be made in advance and is even nicer when reheated. It also takes several hours. Risotto is best eaten straight off the stove, because of the grated cheese, but leftovers can be reheated later.

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Sesame chicken, peas with turnips

I often buy a small chicken called poussin on the market because it is sufficient for two people. Here I first braised the chicken in butter and oil and then completed the cooking in the oven with tomatoes and sesame seed. I served it with peas and turnips cooked in a chicken stock and some green salad in a reference to the classic French pea recipe which I skipped because of the butter.

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My French oxtail soup

Here we have a culinary and national identity conundrum. Let’s start by saying that oxtail soup is a hearty winter dish using relatively cheap ingredients. Personally, I always associate oxtail soup with England, so my French version replaced the porto with a Banyuls and added some root vegetables that do not enter in the original recipe. But what is the original recipe?

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Vegetable Jalfrezi

The other day I made an Indian dish of vegetable Jalfrezi, using ingredients I could find on the market plus some special spices that are also available in some supermarkets as well as in specialised stores. Indian cuisine is not as widely available in France as in Britain and in Paris there is a relatively strong showing by the Pakistani neighbours and the almost ubiquitous Vietnamese and Chinese ‘deli’s’. But for vegetarians, Indian cuisine is a good alternative to France’s rather carnivorous traditions.

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I love this plaice – Plaice on the grill with vegetables

When I was young and lived in the Netherlands, my mother would sometimes serve us fried plaice. Apart from regular steamed mackerel, and rare moments with cooked eel, that is the only fish I can remember of my diet then.
Nowadays she has branched out to Tilapia and other exotic fish species that are available in the Netherlands, but then you could mainly buy herring, cod, plaice, flounder, mackerel, sardines and eel.

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Duckling legs with prunes, beans and tomatoes

Duck is widely used in France, especially in the south-west where they also stuff ducks for the liver. Duck meat is often tough and needs long cooking. On the market in Dieppe, I found a farmer who sold ‘canetton’, ducklings. Not the small birds with a soft down, but larger, almost half-size, birds. This meat … Read more