Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mas Amiel Maury AC 1964

Armand Hurst, winemaker in Turckheim, France, gave me this bottle on my birthday in 1990. He told me this wine would be a surprise. I knew something about Banyuls as one of the famous sweet red wines from the Pyrénées-Orientales region, but I had never heard of Maury or Mas Amiel.

Knowing little more about it and left only with the delight of being presented with a wine that is as old as one self, I put it somewhere in my cellar and completely forgot about it. Until last June.

While rearranging my cellar, I stumbled across the lone bottle. Quick research on the web disclosed this to be a fortified wine that can mature to respectable age, sometimes up to 35 years. So I decided to open the bottle at a dinner party with some good friends to see on the off chance if this wine might still be 'alive'.
And boy, were we in for a surprise, as Armand had predicted!

Mas Amiel is the leading independent producer in Maury, a small region within the boundaries of the much larger Rivesaltes appellation. There are only a handful of such independent vignerons, with the local co-operative controlling most of the Maury vignoble.

According to legend, this particular domaine originated in 1816 when Raymond Étienne Amiel won the deeds to the property from the Bishop of Perpignan in a game of cards. Sadly, for the church at least, there was no divine intervention that night. The bishop left, deprived of what could have been a prime source of communion wine, and Mas Amiel was born.

Mas Amiel was sold to Charles Dupuy in 1910, and both Dupuy and his son Jean did much to improve quality at the estate. The next generation, also Charles, continued their work. After his death in 1997 the estate was sold to Olivier Decelle. 

The Maury Cuvée Spéciale is made in the traditional method. The fruit is manually harvested and de-stemmed. Alcohol is added (mutage) directly on the fruit, then the whole is allowed to steep for 30 days in order to extract the color and tannins from the grapes. This is what determines the balance of fruit, alcohol and sugar. After one year in glass demijohns, out in the open air (pictured), the wine is matured for a long period (up to 38 years) in large oak casks.

The Maury Cuvée Spéciale is normally non-vintage, made from Grenache Noir with 5% Maccabeu and 5% Carignan and comes in ten and fifteen year old bottlings. This specific cuvée however is a rare, vintaged Maury, I believe to be made purely from Grenache.

Tasting notes

From my experiences with Banyuls, I was expecting a deep dark red wine, perhaps a purple haze. Obviously I was a little shocked by the somewhat pale amber color on the edges moving to a roof tile brownish red in the middle. I was beginning to fear this wine had passed away. The nose was clearly oxidative but still impressive, revealing notes of toffee and cocoa but also roses and macerated red fruit.
Full and warm on the palate. Delightful sweetness balanced by surprising presence of delicate fruit. Much to our surprise, this truly remarkable wine had survived the 48 years with splendor.

A wonderful but alas also very rare treat!

Spaghetti with prawns (Spaghetti ai gamberi)

Another quick and easy dish using the tomato sauce base as promised.

Ingredients (serves 1)

4-6 large prawns,
2 cloves of garlic,
1 red chili pepper,
100 gr spaghetti,
3 tbsp of chopped Italian flat parsley (not shown in picture),
about 40cl of tomato sauce
3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil.


Peel the garlic and remove the cores. Finely chop.
Dice the red pepper, remove seeds first if you want to take away some of the heat.
Peel the prawns and remove the veins (unless you like to eat shrimp poo). Chop the fresh parsley.
In a large pan, bring 2 liters of water to a rolling boil. Add 1 tsp of salt and cook the spaghetti 1 minute less than the instructions on the package.
Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to a frying pan on medium heat. Add diced peppers and garlic and saute for about 1 minute until the garlic is tender but not brown. Move to high heat and add the prawns to the pan. Cook them for approx 1 minute or until slightly under-cooked. Add 2 tbsp of the parsley, and stir.
In a separate pan, add the tomato sauce and heat through. Cook pasta 1 minute less than indicated 'al dente' cooking time on the packet and add to the pan. Reserve some of the cooking liquid to thin the sauce if needed. Add a tablespoon of butter for an extravagant, rich, creamy sauce. Stir and finish cooking the pasta for 1 minute. This will allow the sauce to soak into the spaghetti, giving a much more flavorful dish.

Put the spaghetti on a hot plate. 
Arrange the prawns on top, and garnish with the remaining parsley. 
Drizzle with olive oil and serve with some fresh bread. 


Spaghetti with meatballs

This one is so simple, it needs only one picture: Spaghetti with meatballs. Use the basic tomato sauce recipe I posted earlier. You can add fresh basil, garlic or chili peppers (pepperoncini) to enhance the flavor. You can also use all of them.

Buy your favorite porc sausage from your butcher and squeeze out the content. You can form the chunks into balls, but you don't need to. Fry them up, add to the sauce and pour over your spaghetti. It can be that simple to create a great Italian American classic.


Veal in tuna sauce (Vitello Tonnato)

A classic cold dish from the Italian Piemonte region: veal in tuna sauce, prepared with a modern twist.

Traditionally, 'Vitel Tonè' is prepared by braising a piece of veal with vegetables in a wine stock base. Thin slices of cold veal are then generally fully covered with the Salsa Tonnata and allowed to refrigerate for up to 5 days to develop the full flavor.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Beef glace (glace de viande)

I like to make a point of not throwing away useful stuff in my kitchen. I think we all throw away too much food. Prepared food, but also things that can be used in other dishes. For example: did you know that water in which you cook your potatoes and vegetables is also a great vegetable stock? So why not stick it in your fridge and collect until you have enough to use as a base for a great soup?

An example of using leftovers from another recipe to create something new and delicate. Remember the leftovers from the beef I used for my Limburgian Goulash?


500 gr of well flavored beef
500 gr of veal or beef bones - I'm using oxtail
1 large onion
1 carrot
1 stalk of celery
3 tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
Fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, parsley
Olive oil

First step is to firmly brown your meat and veggies. In restaurant kitchens, this is done in an oven. Also much more bones are used than I do in this example. This will add more gelatin to the glace, creating a thick syrup as end result. Down side of that is that you cannot freeze it as the high concentration of gelatin and salt will not freeze in a normal fridge.

The quick and easy way to do this is to simply fry your ingredients in a little olive oil, using a pan or stock pot.

If you are using a stainless steel pan like I do, remember to not touch the meat until it is firmly browned, otherwise it will stick to the bottom.

Clean and cut your vegetables. No need to peel them but be careful to remove any sand or dirt.
Remove the browned meat from the pan

Now brown your veggies. Go as dark as you can, but be careful to not burn them. This would make your glace too bitter.
Put the meat back in the pan. Make sure you add all the juices.

Add 1 1/2 liter of water or enough until the meat and vegetables are cover by 2 cm of liquid.

Bring to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes. Reduce
the heat to medium-low. A brown foamy scum will form on top. This is the protein coming from the meat.

It does not really affect the end result, we are not looking for a clear stock here. I still like to remove it because there always is some gunk collecting in there. A small tea-strainer will do the job nicely

There was some left over beef gravy sitting in my fridge.

Add the peppercorns, bay leaves, fresh herbs and a teaspoon of salt. Turn the heat as low as you can  and leave to simmer for 5-6 hours.
Only the occasional bubble should come to the surface. Add water when needed.
In restaurant kitchens this is sometimes left to simmer for 24 hours. I feel that after 6 hours most of the flavor has already transferred to the liquid. At that point I take the meat and other solids from the stock.
Move through strain into a smaller pot. Press gently on the solids to remove as much of the liquid as possible.
Bring to a boil and reduce to 2 cups (yes, 2 cups). Leave to cool overnight. Remove any fat that solidifies on the surface.

And there we have it: two cups of excellent beef glace. A few table spoons of this will give any dark sauce an incredible boost in flavor. This glace will still freeze up nicely because of the relative low gelatin and sodium content and you can keep it in your fridge for months.
You can also use an ice-cube tray to freeze it into nice little cubes.
Just don't use the tray for anything else, or your cocktails will taste like beef :-)


In the Netherlands and Belgium, Oxtail, other meats, fish, poultry and much more can be bought online at 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Moulin Touchais Anjou AOC 1969

A gift from our late friend Jos Helders. Kept hidden in my cellar for many years. Tasted with some good friends in his memory on Easter Sunday, April 8th 2012. The most exquisite desert wine I ever tasted.

Later that evening, I scribbled following tasting notes on a piece of paper that recently turned up on my desk. Here's what I wrote:

"These wines were intended to last very long, but it is still incredible how vibrant this wine is after 43 years. Golden color. Very fine nose with great depth and complexity. Hints of smokey minerals, flowers, burnt almonds. Full-bodied and half-sweet with great concentration. Quite round, some minerality, some botrytis and mushrooms, but a pure and fine fruit with great depth. Hints of old Balsamic vinegar? Extremely long finish. 
Tremendous wine that will give any Chateau d'Yquem a run for its money."

Cheers Jos!

Tomato sauce

The mother of all tomato sauces.

This is the basis for many Italian and other dishes. It keeps very well in the fridge and I try to always have some stock in ther for a quick pasta or whatever...

The source: 

3kg of garden-grown tomatoes

The other ingredients: 

1 large onion,
2 cloves of garlic,
some fresh herbs from the garden: basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano.
'Secret' ingredients: anchovy fillets and some extra canned tomatoes for color and sweetness.

Finely dice the onions and sweat them over medium heat for 10 minutes until translucent but not brown.
Add the finely minced garlic and sweat for another 2-3 minutes.
Add 1 dried red chili pepper, finely chopped, 1 tsp dried Italian herbs, 1 tsp of salt, 1 tbsp of sugar, 3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped.
Set heat to medium high. Add chopped tomatoes and other ingredients and fry for 5 minutes. Do not add water. Return to medium low heat. Add lid to pan and slowly simmer for 1 hour.
As canned tomatoes go, these are the best: San Marzano tomatoes from Sardinia. If you can’t get them, any other peeled tomato will do just fine. Just be sure to taste them before you out them in. Any chemical, starchy or bitter taste is a sign you should look for better brand next time.

In general: always taste any pre-packaged ingredients you add to your dish. If you are anything like I used to be, you would mindlessly pour a quart of 'Cooking Cream' into your dish, only to find afterwards that it tastes like rancid butter. So taste before you throw it in!
Also always check the ingredient list. A can of tomatoes should contain tomatoes. A package of cream should contain cream. And not much more. There is no need for 'citric acid', modified tapioca starch' or 'beta carotene'. Though none of these things are harmful, you don't need them either. So do not buy or use that stuff!
Only one way do this: with your hands. Check the tomatoes and remove any hard bits left from the cores and then squeeze.
Add the peeled tomatoes to the sauce and simmer slowly for another 30 minutes. Notice the difference in color. That’s why I add the canned tomatoes.
Clean your fresh herbs, making sure you remove any sand. Remove leaves from stems and finely chop them.
Add the fresh herbs and simmer for another 15 minutes max. If you cook the fresh herbs for too long, you will deminish their flavor.
Blend the sauce using a stick blender until all big chunks have disappeared. You can leave it as chunky as you like, of course, but I like to make mine pretty smooth. It's more versatile that way.

The end result: just under 4 liters of perfect tomato sauce as base for many, many recipes. 
I will post some example dishes soon. Stay tuned!

Limburgian Goulash

Goulash or Gulyás, is Hungarian and means 'Herdsmen', referring to the cattle drivers on the Puszta, who used to cook this dish. It can be traced as far back as the Mongolians who are said to have brought this dish to the Carpathian region in the 10th century. 

Today, this dish is cooked in many countries all over the world and in many varieties. If you order Goulash in Hungary, you are likely to be served the original Gulyásleves and probably heading for disappointment as this is more of a veal, potatoe and vegetable soup rather than the beef stew that is served outside Hungary. 

Marhapörkölt is the Hungarian dish that comes closest to what is understood to be Goulash in other countries. I really like to stick to the original recipes as much as possible. But with all the different dishes like Pörkölt, Gulyásleves, bográcsgulyás (Kettle Goulash), Lecsó, Paprikás and so on, there seem to be as many varieties of this dish as there are Hungarian cooks. Hence I am comfortable with adding one of my own: Limburgian Goulash.


2 kg Beef (shank, shin, or shoulder),
4 large onions, 
2 red bell peppers, 
200gr of concentrated tomato puree, 
4 cloves of garlic, 
1 tbsp of caraway seeds, 
2 tbsp of paprika, 
2 bay leaves (not shown in picture), 
2 large or 4 small potatoes
2 tbsp of red win vinegar
salt and pepper
and the secret ingredient: 1 30cl bottle of ‘Oud Bruin’ – Limburgian dark beer.

The ingredient that makes or breaks this dish, apart from the beef, is the paprika. Real Hungarian paprika cannot be found in The Netherlands. Compared to the real thing, the stuff they sell in stores over here, is more like red dust. So we need to improvise to get close to the rich, smokey, sweet taste of the authentic Hungarian Paprika!

Paprika or Pepper?

In many European languages, but not in English, the word paprika commonly refers to certain varieties of the Capsicum fruit itself. The spice, made from the ground dried fruits is called paprika powder. In English paprika only refers to the spice and the fruits are called bell peppers or chili peppers. 
It's all quite confusing, but as I want to keep this blog as international as possible, I will use the English terms: paprika for the spice and pepper for the fruit. 

Start by cutting the beef into dices (not too small: at least 2 by 2 cm). Remove the larger pieces of fat, but leave some of it as it will give the most flavor (Do not throw the fatty bits away! I’ll show you how to turn this into a fantastic beef stock in another post).
Goulash is one of those few dishes that in my opinion keeps well in the fridge. So whenever there is good quality beef on sale, I make a large batch and keep it in the fridge. This recipe is for 2kg of beef.

Fry the meat over high heat in small batches.
In Hungary, they will always use lard or pork fat to do this. I’m using some mild olive oil in a stainless steel pan here. The trick is to spread the meat in the pan evenly and NOT touch it until it has firmly browned. If you try and move the meat too soon, it will stick to the bottom of the pan and you’ll make a mess!

If it works well, you’ll get this: nicely browned cubes of meat and nothing sticking to the bottom of your pan.

Transfer the meat to a heavy casserole and continue frying small batches in the separate pan until all your meat is brown.

After you have finished frying your meat, your frying pan should look like this, with a great layer of fond in the bottom of the pan. Do not discard! This is were all the caramelized bits are that will bring super flavor to your goulash.
Note there is hardly any liquid in the pan coming from the meat at all. All the juices are kept where we want them!

Turn the heat down to medium and fry the tomato puree for a few minutes. This will take some of the acidity away and also deglaze the fond beautifully. I’m using that much puree to compensate for the lack of fruitiness and tanginess from not having real Hungarian paprika.

Peel and medium dice your onions. Important is to have the correct ratio between onions and meat. You should be looking for the same volume in diced onion as you have meat. Note: this is not the same weight. Here, there is approx 1.2 kg of onions against 2 kg of meat.
Not shown in the picture: peel and dice your potatoes into small cubes 1 by 1 cm. I’m adding potatoes at this point to bind the Goulash, as there is no other thickening agent like flour or starch used.

Peel the garlic, cut in half and remove the cores. They have a bitter taste and this is where much of the smell is.

Then dice the garlic and add to the pan. Never use a garlic press. It will give you twice the smell and half the flavor. So throw away your garlic press if you have one J.

Cook the onions, potatoes and garlic for a few minutes and add the beer. The ‘Oud Bruin’ has a nice sweetness that will add beautifully to the richness of this dish. It also adds a slight bitter taste that will balance the flavors. The original recipes calls for wine or beef stock to be added here, but I feel the beer gives it a nice twist and makes it a truly Limburgian variety (Thanks to Oma Blanka!).

Add 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar.

Now for the caraway seeds. I think the seeds are much better tasting than the powder, but I do not like the consistency. So I chop them into smaller pieces. A nice trick to prevent them from jumping all over the place while you’re chopping, is to add a piece of butter.
Add the caraway-butter paste to the pan.
Transfer the mixture to the casserole and mix everything together well. Make sure there is just enough moisture to cover the meat. If needed, add some water or beef stock.
Add the bay leaves. Use the fresh ones if you can get them.
Now, the Goulash has to simmer over low heat for 2 – 3 hours, depending on the meat you are using. I’m lazy, so I just put the casserole into the oven at 150˚C. You can go as low as 130˚C, but then it would take up to 6 hours to cook the meat, which I think is not very good for the environment. Anyway, the decision is yours.
Roasting the bell peppers can be quite the chore. The point is to char the skin but not to cook the pepper. Charring will make the skin come off very easy and will also give a nice smokey taste.

I’ve seen these roasted in a grill, baked, wrapped in aluminum foil in an oven or held over open flame on the stove. Downside of all these methods is that they are all quite messy and not only the skin is charred, but the meat of the peppers is cooked and turned into mush.

My trick is to go medieval on them with a skewer and a blow torch 
(thanks Marsellus Wallace!).
The result: nicely charred peppers in less than 2 minutes.
Put in a plastic bag for 5 minutes and the steam will soften the skin...
... which will now come off very easily.
Take out the core and seeds and dice into very fine cubes.
Wonderfully fruity, smokey, fresh paprika flavor. Wait until your meat is almost fork-tender and add the diced peppers to the Goulash.
Once your meat is tender, remove the casserole from the oven and place on your stove on medium heat. Only now add the paprika.

The error many people make, is to add the paprika too early and cook it for too long, which destroys the flavor. Unlike flour or curry powder, paprika does not need to cook. That is why the quality of the paprika is so important. If you buy paprika, please make sure it smells and tastes really nice. It should never taste bitter and should be bright red in color.

Add pepper and salt to taste, but be careful with the salt. Goulash should be sweet and tangy, but never too salty.

Traditionally, Pörkölt is served with nokedlivel (spaetzle), a wonderful intermediate between noodles and dumplings and a dish by itself. I will post this recipe later on.

And there it is! A rich, velvety beef stew. Soft, succulent meat. Lovely sweetness and tanginess from the paprika and tomatoes, with a hint of smokiness from the roasted peppers and malty sweetness from the beer. There is nothing that tastes quite like it!

I like my Limburgian Goulash with white rice and some pickled gherkin, which helps to cut through the richness of the Goulash.

I hope you give this recipe a try. Enjoy!

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