The herbs got a hold of me and never let go!”

The rich water of the Oosterschelde tidal basin gives us Zeeland cockles, which are definitely worth their space in my fridge! If simply, yet well prepared, this little flavour bomb seduces dinner guests. It only takes about two minutes to get a plateful of briny happiness on the table; throw two hands full of cockles in a very hot frying pan with some garlic, pepper, salt, rosemary and thyme and steam them with a cup of white wine and you’re done. I get mine from Van As Zeeland because they are very pure and are of impeccable quality without any sand in.

From Zeeland we also source the king of all Oosterschelde lobsters. It is a perfect breeding place for the lobsters because they are preserved behind big storm surge barriers, designed to protect the Netherlands from flooding from the North Sea and is only closed during heavy weather conditions. We have been buying our lobster from the same Flemish producer called Puttaert Schaal en Schelpdieren for some years. We have built a trust over those years, as the quality is always very high. At the restaurant I prefer to gently braise the Zeeland lobster in butter and serve it with a bio vegetable salad and tarragon.

Every year we make a different dish with the Oosterschelde lobster. Distinctive in flavour, texture and the endless possibilities of preparation, it has a beautiful soft texture and an amazingly deep and full flavour. Eating and cooking it evokes memories of grilled lobster with tarragon, which was one of my father’s recipes that I grew up with.

We get our Holsteiner beef from Belgium’s best butcher Hendrik Dierendonck who breeds his own Holsteiner cows to produce unique meat that has a fantastic taste. I buy my meat from Hendrik for my family and restaurant guests because he respects nature and takes very good care of his animals, correlating with my ethos of quality over quantity. Mostly I serve the beef, which is beautifully aged and full of flavour as a main course. Currently it is served with pumpkin, curry and grains. This beef reminds me of eating steak when I was younger with white bread soaked in gravy: a simple yet delicious dish.

People often ask me what I would miss the most in my daily routine, and my answer is that it would most definitely be bread; bread with salty butter; bread with goat’s cheese; bread with the briny juice of the cockles; or simply on its own. I am a bread-a-holic and the bread I love the most is sourdough from Vlaamsch Broodhuys. Friend, baker and owner of the Vlaamsch Broodhuys bakery, Dimitri Roels started small scale, following traditional sourdough baking methods and took it to higher grounds. Today he owns more then 20 shops without making any compromises on quality. His bread has a pure, light sour and full flavour with a beautiful crust. This is what makes the bread authentic. The proof is in the pudding as the saying goes but I would change that to the proof is in the dough!

Herbs are indispensable as every dish has a basis of fresh acids, herbs and spices. For five years Nick Sinke has been growing most of our herbs for the restaurant Pure C. With our help he cultivated typical briny herbs such as sea fennel and oyster leaf and he is responsible for our daily shot of wheatgrass vitamins. Today, he in charge of the production of Pure C’s Hierbas De Las Dunas, which is our own local interpretation of the famous Ibiza liquor.

My favourite herbs to use in dishes are honey verbena, Thai basil and wild zeeland sea fennel. My memories of falling in love with herbs are rooted in visiting Michel Bras about 20 years ago and Marc Veyrat after that. The herbs got a hold of me and never let go.

 

Find out more about the culinary career of Sergio Herman