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Adriaen Coorte | Asparagus à la Flamande

Adriaen Coorte | Still Life with Asparagus, 1697 | Rijks Museum

We love cooking with ingredients that are in season, and now is the perfect time for white asparagus. In Europe we have a preference for the white asparagus over the green ones. It is more delicate and subtle in taste.

This preference goes back a long way. Even in the 17th century Adriaen Coorte painted this lovely small piece: Still Life with asparagus. Although the asparagus at the bottom already turned a bit purple and green. They had a bit more light than the creamy white ones on top. For it’s time the painting is very minimalistic in comparison to the extravangant still life paintings of his colleagues. But by being so modest, all the attention goes out to this single vegetable. Just like the way we like to eat them: Simple, with pure ingredients. 

And because Adriaen was a painter from Zeelandic Flanders, the only way to prepare them is the classic Flamish way: asparagus à la Flamande.



Asparagus à la Flamande

ingrediënts

500 gr white asparagus
3 hardboiled eggs
125 gr butter
10 gr parsley
a bit of sugar
a pinch of mace or nutmeg
salt and pepper

optional (but recomended) 200 gr of leg ham, cut into strips.


method

There are special asparagus pans so you can cook them standing up, leaving the tips to steam above the water, but you can also use a big pan in which you cook them laying down.

Peel the asparagus and cut of the last two centimeters of the stems. Don’t trow awary the peels and stems, but put them on the bottom of the pan. Fill the pan with water, put in some butter, sugar and salt and bring to a boil.

Put the asparagus in the boiling water, let them cook for 6 minutes and remove them from the fire. Let them stand in the hot water for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, chop the parsley and the boiled eggs and mix them together.
Melt the butter (don’t let it brown) and mix half of it through the egg-parsley mixture.
Salt and pepper to taste.

check if the asparagus are cooked. Take one out of the water, they have to bend a little but not be totally limp. Put the asparagus on a plate and cover with the egg-parsley mixture. Pour over the rest of the butter and some extra pepper.

Serve with some nice cooked new potatoes (you can leave the skin on) and some good ham.

Lovely with a nice glass of pinot blanc!

Sticky business, the sweet seduction of sugar in art.

For those of you who have a sweet tooth, the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam has a nice treat for you: The exhibition Sticky business. It shows sugar as a source of inspiration for artists. Either as the  seductive and sweet taste that most of us crave for or as a medium for works of art and a source of telling a more serious story about our history.

When you walk into the exhibition you are wowed by a colourfull sugarcoated landscape. This instalation: Gifts of magic creatures may seem worthless, 2017 by Pip & Pop makes you feel like a kid in a candystore. When you walk a bit further there is true seduction (and a bit of morality) from the lickable statues of sexy lolypop ladies from artist Joseph Marr.

This ehibition shows us not only the frivolous side of sugar, but the bittersweet side as well. It is the source of a lot social injustice in the world. Our craving for sugar in the west was also a big contributor to slavery. And what about our health? We already know that sugar contributes to a lot of weight- and healthproblems.

This gives an interesting and balanced view on the theme sugar. Thanks to the curator of this exhibition; eating designer Marije Vogelzang it is a diverse mix of artworks that makes you smile but also think. And next to that there’s some interesting background information about sugar and sweets as well.

It is really hard to keep your hands to yourself and not put a tiny part of this exhibition in your mouth. We definitely needed a piece of cake after visiting.

Want to visit this exhibition? You have to hurry: it is there until 18 februari 2018 in Stedelijk Museum Schiedam

Pip & Pop | Gifts of magic creatures may seem worthless, 2017

Joseph Marr | Vanitas, Leila Lowfire, 2016

Marije Vogelzang | Sugarguns, 2004

Helmut Smits | The real thing, 2014

 

Jan Jansz. van de Velde | Oysters and beer

Still Life with a Beer Glass and a Porcelain Dish with Pepper | Jan Jansz. van de Velde (III), 1647 | Rijksmuseum

We do love our oysters here at Spoon of Art! And so did a lot of great artists. All through art history the oyster is often used as a symbol. Alway decadent, with a hint of eroticism. Especially in 17th century Dutch genre paintings of intimate settings with cheecky oyster eaters. Although these paintings do have a moralistic message, you can’t deny the guilty pleasure it probably gave the painters and viewers.

In the still life paintings of the 17th century we often see oysters as a part of a banquet set on a table. Also in this painting of Jan Jansz. van de Velde: Still Life with a Beer Glass and a Porcelain Dish with Pepper.

This painting shows a rich table with expensive products like pepper and Chinese porcelain. The material of the oyster shell shows the skills of the painter.The subtle glistening of the oysters makes them look fresh and ready to eat. And although a lot of these kind of paintings show wine, this one has a tall glass of beer. Which shows that an oyster/beer pairing is not some new and hip invention! In fact, oysters weren’t always the decadent and expensive food we often think it is. Oysters used to be so plentyfull, they were eaten by all people, in all layers of society. Rich and poor. So pairing them with a beer is not such a strange idea.

Fun detail in this painting: The glass is a ’pasglas’ which is used for drinking games in the 17th century. The drinker had to reach the next ring. We skipped that game this time and focussed on taste.

So Jan Jansz. van de Velde inspired us to set aside our beloved glass of chablis and we poored ourselves two beers. In Ireland they drink stout beer with their oysters. A classic combination! The creamy, dark and malty beer gives a nice bitter contrast to the saltyness of the oysters. We drank a Guiness Original. Though there are also stouts that are already made with oyster shells and sometimes the whole oyster. (These are on our tasting list for another time).

The other beer we drank was a Belgian Triple Karmeliet, a golden coloured tripel beer, with fruity (orange) flavours. But still very round and creamy which also complemented the oysters very well. Although we prefer a somewhat dryer taste.

The combination of beer and oysters suited us very well. It’s a totaly different experience than wine with oysters. Which makes it a nice variation. It’s a bit sweeter and creamier which makes it more filling so you can almost eat your oysters and beer like a full meal (no problem at all!).

There are still so many nice combinations of beers and other drinks to taste with oysters. And because we love them so much we probably will. We’re already looking for new artworks to fullfill our oyster appetite.

Vincent van Gogh | Quince, Pear and Almond Tart

Vincent van Gogh | Quinces, Lemons, Pears and Grapes, 1887 | Van Gogh Museum

In these dark, cold days we all can use a little colour and warm flavours. Vincent van Gogh’s painting of Quinces, Lemons, Pears and Grapes gives us just that. He also had an appetite for different colours when he came to Paris and saw the works of his French colleagues. He became a true colourist leaving the dark Dutch colours behind.

This beautifull, almost completely yellow painting has all the right seaonal ingredients for a nice tart  perfect for a cold winter day and because Vincent was in Paris during the time he painted this, there is a little bit of a French twist to it.


Quince, Pear and Almond Tart

ingredients

yields 8-10 slices

Tart dough
1 egg
50 g caster sugar
100 g cold butter
200 g flour
a pinch of salt

Frangipane
100 g finely ground almonds or almond meal
1 egg, beaten
100 g powdered sugar
100 g butter at roomtemperature
zest of half a lemon

Poached quinces
1 or 2 quinces
100 g sugar
75 g honey
1 l water
optional:1/2 lemon, halved vanilla bean or cardamom pods

Other ingrediënts
1 or 2 pears
handfull of raisins (soaked)

You will need a 24cm tart tin


Method

Start by poaching the quinces, A quince is a very hard fruit and you can’t eat them raw. 2 quinces are probably more than you need, but you can keep them in the fridge in the cooking liquid for quite some time and eat them with a bit of greek yoghurt or some cheese.

Mix the water, sugar and honey in a pan and add the optional spices or the lemon if you wish. Put the pan on a medium to high heat. Bring to a simmer. Quarter and peel the quinces, remove the cores. They are very tough. make sure to remove all the tough bits with a small and sharp knife.Put the quarters in the simmering water and cover the pan half with the lid. Simmer the quinces for an hour or till they are done. (check by piercing them with a sharp knife)

While the quinces are poaching you can make the dough. Put the flour, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a stand mixer or mix it by hand. Add the butter and mix it until it forms crumbs. Add the egg and let it mix untill the dough just comes together. Don’t let the mixer turn too long.

put a little flour on your kitchen counter and roll out the dough. Line the tin with the dough and press it gently in the side of the tart tin. Prick the bottom with a fork, cover the tart tin with plastic foil and let it chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 190C. Now you can make the frangipane. Cream the butter and sugar together in a food processor. Add the beaten egg. Add the ground almonds and the lemon zest and let it process untill you have a nice creamy mixture.

Wash the pears (no need to peal), quarter and core them. Slice the quartered pear and the quince. Take the tart tin out of the fridge. Fill the base with the frangipane. Spread some raisins over the frangipane. Place the slices of pear and quince in a circle, overlapping each other untill the whole base is covered. Bake the tart for about 45–50 minutes until the almond filling and pastry are golden brown.

Cool slightly, you can brush it with some melted apricot jam and sprinkle some toasted flaked almonds on top. Serve with al little unsweetened cream or crème fraîche.