Maris lives in France but is the successful Dutch author of a comprehesive book on vegetables: the Groentebijbel (The Vegetable Bible). Wish we had known her before! For apart from having a chambre d’hộte, she has, without our knowing about it, been serving wonderful French meals in her beautiful garden almost ‘around the corner’ from my parents’ house in France. On Saturday-evenings in summer she sets out long tables in her ‘jardin des étoiles’. When the weather is less cooperative she transforms her livingroom into a charming restaurant. All dishes are prepared with vegetables, fruit and flowers from her own garden and look absolutely festive. Everything is fresh and homemade. Though a vegetarian herself, she does serve meat to accomodate her French visitors in this rural area. But whether pork, beef or chicken, all comes from animals that have grazed or scraped in meadows and farmyards that are abundant in the immediate surroundings. It goes perhaps without saying that Mari will prepare a vegetarian meal with the greatest pleasure and care, should this be preferred.
As a starter my parents had an elegant salad with fresh herbs, stuffed garden nasturtium and a small piece of lasagna made with chicory and Maroilles: a sharp tasting local cheese (see photo). Today, Mari shares with us her recipe for the stuffed garden nasturtium to garnish an autumsalad. These beautiful flowers bloom until first frost. And her lasagne of chicory and Maroilles as a main course. The Maroilles can be replaced by any soft, pungent, full-bodied cheese like Munster.
For more information about the chambre d’hôte of Mari Maris visit her website:
Chicory Lasagne with Maroilles
Vegetarian, Serves 4
Action Time: 25 minutes + 40 minutes oven time
about 11 oz /320 g dried pasta sheets
9 oz/250 g Maroilles or use Munster, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, minced
1-2 garlic cloves
1 large head of chicory lettuce, shredded
about 13.5 fl oz/400 ml dry white wine
Extra: rectangular deep oven dish, greased
1. Preheat the oven to 360F/180°C. Cover the bottom of the oven dish with some pasta sheets. Top with some shredded chicory, onion, and garlic. Sprinkle over some salt and pepper and cover with a layer of lasagna sheets. Repeat this steps until all the ingredients have been used up; end with a layer of lasagna sheets. Don’t make the oven dish too full or it will overflow once in the oven.
2. Pour over the white wine. Bake the lasagne in the oven for about 40 minutes, until the pasta sheets are cooked through. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Serve with a herb salad.
Stuffed garden nasturtium
The leaves of the nastrium taste even stronger of watercress than the flowers. Small leaves can be topped with a tuft of cream along with the stuffed flowers. Mari uses spirea cream to bring out an almondlike taste that goes well with the sharp taste of the nasturtium:
Strip the spirea flowers from their stem. Put a handful in a pint of creamy milk and boil down softly to a quarter of the original amount of liquid. Strain while pressing the flowers. The result is a creamy substance that can also be frozen in ice-cubes for later use.
The almond cream can also be made as follows:
Mix 2 big spoonfuls of cream cheese with 1 dessertspoon of honey, and 1 dessertspoon of finely ground roasted almond. Add some salt and pepper. Put in a piping bag, fill the flowers and put a tuft on the nasturtium leaves to secure them.
Photography: Gijs Went