Category Archives: Food

Gerwin Brand, Bramble Ski’s food debonair

executive chef
Executive chef Gerwin Brand

At Bramble Ski we continually strive to blow our guests away when they come on a catered ski holiday to the Alps. Every facet of the holiday from the smallest of details is given our full  attention and care, and, at the helm of all food that is prepared and served out of the chic chalet kitchens of Verbier and St Anton, is our executive chef Gerwin Brand.

Inspired like many passionate foodies by the influence of family get-togethers, he affectionately remembers Sunday lunch visits with his grandmother. This inspiration steered his drive and Gerwin left school knowing exactly what he wanted. He attended culinary school in his native Holland and simultaneously worked as an apprenticeship in various restaurant kitchens  forging the groundwork for his career as a chef.

After gaining experience in his first Michelin-starred restaurant in Holland, Gerwin moved across to Ireland working for a stint in the Allen family’s Ballymaloe House before crossing the channel to work in London at Clarke’s. He then went on to work for Michel Roux at The Waterside Inn in Berkshire, where as demi-chef de partie patissier he developed his reportoire and skill in pastry.

But it was under the tutelage of Raymond Blanc at the two Michelin-Star Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons that Gerwin obtained his largest chunk of experience. Here he further developed his style for clean fresh dishes and was heavily influenced by Le Blanc’s desire to use quality local produce and ingredients.

“Raymond Blanc’s vision, enthusiasm and drive is revolutionary. The passion that this man has is blowing most other top chefs out of the water. To have had him as my mentor is a fact that I will be forever proud of,” says Gerwin.

“What I took away most of all from working at Le Manoir is to always question things, and to keep checking for quality all the time. The dishes on the menu are scrutinized daily and as soon as there is an element that is not at its peak anymore it will be replaced with something that is in top condition. That drive for perfection is inspiring. And despite the huge success he has,  he has stayed a very down to earth man. Brilliant.”

Over the four years at the renowned Oxfordshire establishment, Gerwin was promoted from demi-chef de partie to sous-chef. When he left, Gerwin made a complete change and moved to the Alps to take up the first executive chef position at Richard Branson’s then brand new mountain retreat The Lodge. We were fortunate enough to have Gerwin join us at Bramble Ski last year to further raise the bar of our sumptuous catered offering.

Gerwin’s meticulously hard-working ethic is exemplified in yesterday’s performance at the New York City marathon, his first marathon attempt.  He completed the race in an incredibly fast time of 3.05 hours. We wanted to know a little more about the man behind the machine …

BC: What is your favourite herb?

GB: This is a really difficult question for me. I love herbs, there are so many of them and they all have their very own specific flavour. I would find it hard to have to choose a specific one, but there are a few that stand out.

Tarragon is one of them. With its beautiful anisy flavour it goes well with a lot of ingredients: cucumber, fish, lamb, chicken and even strawberries and rhubarb. Another is oregano. I just can’t get enough of this one. Its flavour is just so unique and for me it’s the one and only herb that makes a great pizza. A nice thin dough, just a plain tomato sauce, freshly chopped oregano and proper buffalo Mozzarella, like life should be, beautifully simple.

And the last one for me is woodruff. Sadly, this herb is not very well known at all. It is also known as bedstraw, as in the early days it would be used to stuff pillows and mattresses so that they would smell nice. Woodruff is very high in an essential oil called coumarin, which has a sweet smell, but actually tastes a bit bitter. The flavour is vanilla-like and therefore woodruff is mainly used in desserts and drinks.

BC: What piece of equipment can you not do without in your kitchen?

GB: Without a doubt my chef’s knife. I see it as an extension of my hand and I guess that’s saying enough about its importance.

BC: If you were on death row (we won’t ask any questions about how you ended up there), what would your final meal be?

GB: Boeuf Bourguignon with buttery mashed potatoes, pan fried cêpes, bacon lardons, caramelised baby onions and Romanesco broccoli. And for dessert warm sticky toffee pudding with a royal dollop of Champsec cream.

BC: What is your favourite comfort food?

GB: You can’t beat a proper fish ‘n chips with fresh crushed peas.

BC: What is your favourite hangover recipe?

GB: Yeasted blueberry pancakes with bacon and maple syrup and a big glass of fresh orange juice.

BC: What is your favourite local food product?

GB: The race d’Herens beef. It’s just so flavourful. It makes a great steak, or stew or tartare.

BC: What is important to you in your kitchen?

GB: Space to do the job. In one of my jobs I worked in what must have been the smallest kitchen ever. The floor space was two square metres, and the biggest part of that was a hatch down to the cellar where we had additional fridges and a freezer. A nightmare if you had to go down there mid-service . . . Still we managed to turn out some pretty decent food, but it was far from ideal and it limits you
in what you can do.

BC: Finally, and most importantly, where do you head to in Verbier on a powder day?

GB:  I moved to the mountains for a complete change a couple of years ago and now find it hard to see a life without them. I’m still a developing skier but one of my favourite places to head to after some decent snowfall is Stairway to Heaven. The terrain there is really fun and varied.

For more information on luxury catered ski holidays to Verbier and St Anton call our sales number on +44 (0) 207 060 0824, or email info@brambleski.com.

Executive chef, Gerwin Brand, on using local ingredients

In the first of a series of regular autumn recipe postings, our executive chef Gerwin Brand draws inspiration from the season for an earthy dish of wild mushroom gnocchi. Look out for Gerwin’s recipes every two weeks as he, and the team here at Bramble Ski, gear up to provide another season of the finest ski holidays in the Alps …

Potato Gnocchi with Sautéed Wild Mushrooms, Viande Séchée and Roquette

Potato gnocchi with sauteed wild mushrooms

Gerwin's hand-picked wild mushroom creation. More images follow the recipe below.

This is a simple dish made entirely from local ingredients. We are entering the autumn slowly but surely here in the Valais and mushrooms are shooting up from the soil left, right and centre. I decided to go foraging in the mountains last Saturday to see what I could find to make a meal with. With a picnic in my back-pack and a beautiful soft autumn sun in the sky, I headed up the hill. Six hours later I returned home with about a kilo-and-a-half of mushrooms consisting mainly of Slippery Jack (the yellow version) and a selection Cêpes, Saffron milk cap and Cantharelles to top the hunt off.
When I started thinking about what I wanted to cook with these beautiful mushrooms I knew one thing for sure: It had to be a dish made up of ingredients that were all available in the region of the Valais.
Potatoes are grown abundantly here and the earthy flavour of the mushrooms combines well with them. Viande séchée is a local cured beef speciality and I had some roquette growing in my little plant pot on my balcony. From these simple ingredients a new dish is born.
I am giving the recipe for the dish below to inspire you to get cooking with autumn flavours. Even though the cured beef is a local speciality that might be hard to get where you are based, the meal can easily be replaced with, for example Parma ham or even a local cured meat from your area, either beef or pork. In case you are not a meat eater you could just as easily leave it off altogether.
So here goes, potato gnocchi tossed in a wild mushroom sauce, served on wilted garlic spinach, topped with a few slices of Viande séchée, roquette leaves and a crouton.
Ingredients (for 4 people):
  • 600g potato gnocchi (see directions below)
  • 250g mushroom sauce (see directions below)
  • 250g fresh spinach
  • 5g garlic
  • 150g Viande séchée or another cured ham, sliced very thinly.
  • 100g roquette
  • 4 croutons (see directions below)
  • 300g wild mushrooms
Start by making the mushroom sauce (Ingredients for 4 people):

Slippery Jack.

  • 25g shallots, finely chopped
  • 5g garlic, finely chopped
  • 150g mixed wild mushrooms like Cêpes, Slippery Jack or Chanterelles. You can buy Cêpes and Chatarelles from most good suppliers at this time of year.
  • 20g dried mushrooms (Cêpes or Winter Chanterelles)
  • 200ml water
  • 25ml dry sherry (preferably Amontillado)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 100g cream
  • 30g butter
Method:
  1. Soak the dried mushrooms in the 200ml of water for an hour.
  2. In the meantime clean the wild mushrooms. Remove any dirt with a small pastry brush and if they are very dirty maybe even give them a quick gentle wash.
    Larger mushrooms like Cêpes and Slippery Jack can be washed under a running tap to avoid too much contact with water.
  3. Then pick the best specimens and set them apart for the garnish. For 4 people you will need about 300g.
  4. Chop the 150g mushrooms for the sauce in small pieces, about 1 square inch.
  5. Sweat the shallots in some butter in a small frying pan, ensure they stay transluscent and do not colour.
  6. Sauté the chopped mushrooms in a separate frying pan in some butter over a medium to high heat. You want to get some colour on the mushrooms but do not burn them.
  7. Once the mushrooms have some colour, add the chopped garlic and a pinch of salt and the sweated shallot from the other pan.
  8. Deglaze the pan with the sherry and leave this to evaporate.
  9. Add the cream and then the dried mushrooms to the liquid. Bring the contents of the pan to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.
  10. Pour contents in to a blender and purée. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve into a clean pan. It should have the consistency to coat the back of a spoon. Check the seasoning of the sauce and add more salt and a pinch of cayenne if needed, along with a few drops of lemon juice. Now set the sauce to the side.
Onto the potato gnocchi (Ingredients for 4 people):
  • 1kg starchy potatoes like Bintje, King Edwards or Maris Piper
  • 1 egg
  • 200g plain white flour
Method:
  1. Peel the potatoes and if they are large cut them in half. Put them in a large pan and cover them with water. Add some salt and bring the potatoes to the boil.
  2. Cook the potatoes until they are done, then drain the water off and steam them dry.
  3. Now pass the potatoes through a passe-vite (a blender will do if you don’t have) into a clean bowl.
  4. Weigh the amount of puréed potatoes. Now you can work out the amount of flour needed. Per 500g of puréed potatoes you need to incorporate 100g of flour. And per 1kg of puréed potatoes you need to add 1 whole egg. If you do not have a rounded amount of 1kg puree then just simply crack the egg in a bowl, whisk it to break it up and pour roughly the amount of egg needed into the purée.
  5. Bring the purée with the egg and flour together into a dough. Be careful not to overwork it as it will go elastic. You need to get a nice fluffy dough.
  6. Take a small part of the dough and roll it into a small log of about 1.5cm thick on a floured work surface. Cut this into 1 inch lengths and roll the pieces of
    dough between your floured hands to coat them completely with flour on all sides.
  7. Store the gnocchi on a piece of greaseproof paper on a tray.
  8. Now test a few of the gnocchi before finishing the entire batch. Bring a small pan of water to the boil, drop a few of the gnocchi in and wait until they come
    floating to the surface. Once the gnocchi are at the surface they are done. Take them out of the water with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt
    and taste them and check for firmness. If the gnocchi are not firm enough, simply add a little more flour.
  9. Continue to finish all the gnocchi as in step 6. Lay them out on greaseproof paper on trays and store them in the fridge staright away. Do not make the gnocchi more than 2-3 hours in advance. Over time they will go soft and they will start sticking to the paper, making it difficult to get them off without damaging them. Alternatively you can freeze them straight away. Frozen gnocchi however will need to be used from frozen and they need to be cooked in a large pan of boiling salted water in small quantities over high heat. Only drop a few gnocchi at a time so as to not lose the boil too much otherwise the gnocchi will go soft and disintegrate.
In the meantime make some persilade. You will need:

Persillade is commonly used in French and Greek cuisines.

  • 10g shallot, finely chopped 
  • 5g garlic, finely chopped
  • 20g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2g chervil, finely chopped
  • 1g tarragon, finely chopped
Method:
  1. Peel and chop the shallot and garlic very finely and mix them together.
  2. Pick the leaves of the herbs, then chop all finely and mix with the shallot and garlic.
  3. Store in the fridge until needed.
For the croutons slice a small baguette diagonally across to get an angle to it. Continue to thinly slice the baguette in this way. Lay the slices flat on a baking tray and sprinkle with a little bit of olive oil, some crushed garlic and a small pinch of salt. Bake the croutons until golden brown in a medium hot oven at 170°C for about 12-15 minutes. Take the tray with croutons from the oven when they are ready and leave them to cool.
Ensure the roquette is washed and spun dry.
Wash and spin the spinach as well and set aside. Chop 5g of garlic and set aside.
Finishing the dish:
  1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.
  2. Cut the mushrooms you set aside in half or quarters and sauté them in some butter in the frying pan until golden brown all over. Add a spoonful of the persilade towards the end along with a pinch of salt and pepper and toss the mushrooms around in it. Finish with a drop of lemon juice and leave the mushrooms in the pan.
  3. In the meantime gently heat the mushroom sauce.
  4. Now drop the gnocchi in the boiling salted water. Give the pan a few taps with a heavy spoon and wait until all the gnocchi are floating at the top of the water.
  5. In the meantime put a few ladles of the sauce in a shallow frying pan and add the gnocchi  to it with a slotted spoon when they are done. Toss the gnocchi in the sauce and set aside for a minute.
  6. Now quickly wilt the spinach in a hot pan with a bit of butter and the finely chopped garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Then drain the water off that came from the spinach and divide it over 4 large pasta bowls.
  7. Spoon the gnocchi over it, reheat the mushrooms very briefly on a high heat and spoon them over the gnocchi.
  8. Now spoon a few more ladles of sauce over each plate.
  9. Finally, put a few slices of Viande séchée on top of the mushrooms and finish the dish with a small handful of roquette leaves and a crouton.
  10. Serve immediately accompanied with crispy bread and butter.
This dish is perfect for an autumn lunch or, when made in a smaller portion size, it serves well as a starter in a dinner menu.
Bon appétit.
Photographs by Barry Cox.

If you’re after raclette in Verbier, then get to Le Châble in September!

This past weekend Le Chable hosted its annual Raclette Festival, a celebration timed to co-incide with the descent of the local cows from their summer-time pastures up in the alpine, to settle, for the oncoming winter, in the lower meadows of the valley. For a small town, Le Chable sure knows how to throw a party!

Raclette, derived from the French word racler meaning “to scrape”, is both a type of cow’s milk cheese and a dish, indigenous to Valais. It’s a deliciously simple concept: a wheel of raclette is cut in half and the open cheese held over a wood fire or grill for a few minutes allowing it to begin melting. This delectable layer of raclette is then scraped off on to a plate and served alongside baby potatoes, pickled onions and gherkins, and is best accompanied by a glass of locally produced fendant.

Le Chable was bursting at the seams for the weekend and it seems that no one was prepared to miss out on this eating and drinking fiesta. With rivalling dairies set up for raclette production in numerous stalls around the town square, benches and tables lining the road, and an enormous marquee erected for live entertainment and further seating, the town was ready for the onslaught. Old and young, local and foreigner, immersed themselves in the merry-making that continued well in to Saturday and Sunday evenings.

A variety of Swiss musicians kept the atmosphere charged, in particular a talented yodeller from Bern whose tiny frame defied the odds as she belted out songs that won the affection of the crowd. For the children, a display of farm animals, a bouncy castle and a trampoline were on hand. But for most, it was clearly the mouth-watering raclette and local wines that were the reason for staying… and staying some more.

Photographs by Barry Cox.