Europe 1 18:00 p.m., 20 November 2023

Every week, Laurent Mariotte welcomes a guest. And this week it's Marilou Berry. For her, Ecaterina Paraschiv, chef of the restaurant Ibrik Kitchen, in Paris, made a Romanian dish: ciulama. Roasted mushrooms, with small cubes of crispy polenta. She reveals her trick to make a gourmet polenta and not miss it!

"Ibrik, my Balkan cuisine", Ecaterina Paraschiv-Poirson, Marabout, 2020

Eating is an essential and primitive act. It is, for me, the most universal and inclusive way to discover a culture, and that's why I gave up my career as a lawyer to devote myself, a few years ago, to the cuisine of my origins. I was born in Romania, I grew up in Bucharest until I was seven years old, and I still have a lot of memories and ties there, even though those were tough years. We were under Ceausescu's communist dictatorship, there was a lot of frustration, not enough food, very little fruit and vegetables in town. Luckily we had family in the countryside, who sent us good vegetables when they could... What we ate was very basic, but my mom always managed to put a lot of flavor into her cooking. Romania has remained a very agricultural rural country, the countryside is woven with small farms, where everyone cultivates their plot to feed themselves, and there are farmers in every family.

Agriculture and animal husbandry are still healthily rustic, because the chemicals of Monsanto & Co. are too expensive. In a way, it is poverty that saves peasants from the grip of massive agro-industrialization.

In Romania, especially when I went to visit my family in the north of the country, I learned how to smell, cook, preserve so that I didn't throw anything away... We ate a lot of starchy foods, potatoes, corn, root vegetables and harvested products, very little meat. We had only one real meal, in the evening, and regularly, especially in autumn, it was ciulama, a dish in sauce with mushrooms (harvested by us) and polenta, one of the cheapest and most hearty dishes there is. This simple dish marked my childhood.

When I was six years old, my father, a visual artist, won a prize at the FIAC that allowed him to come to France. When he arrived, he was impressed by the abundance and diversity of products, fascinated in particular by the public bins full of multicolored packaging, while they were all grey in Romania... My mother and I were still in Bucharest, in a ghetto, and it took us a year before we could join my father in Paris.

After a career in taxation, I decided to retrain myself by creating a place to live in which I could feel at home. First a café, then, a year and a half later, Ibrik Kitchen, the restaurant. I learned everything on the job, as a clerk and then chef de partie, in my own establishment. I worked hard to achieve what I wanted: to introduce authentic Balkan cuisine by modernizing it. This is the story of this ciulama: I removed the flour that weighs down the sauce, added a little cream and herbs, grilled the polenta... There's nothing I'm happier than when my parents come to eat at a restaurant and say "taste again, but better".

Recipe: Ciulama


Serves 6

-400 g white button mushrooms

-400 g pink button mushrooms

-300 g oyster mushrooms

-8 garlic cloves

-25 cl sunflower oil

-1 bunch of fresh thyme

-Bay leaves 1 liter of 35% liquid cream

-2 g freshly ground black pepper

-1 tsp sugar



250 g cornmeal

20 g unsalted butter

3-4 fresh sage leaves



Preheat oven to 170°. Clean all mushrooms thoroughly with water, dry with a brush or paper towels.

Button mushrooms: Cut the button mushrooms in half and place in a large baking dish. Peel 4 cloves of garlic and sprout them. Blend them in a blender with 5 cl of sunflower oil. Drizzle the mushrooms with this mixture, add 15 cl of sunflower oil, bay leaf and thyme. Place mushrooms in the oven for 15 minutes. When dehydrated, collect the mushrooms and place them in a saucepan with the liquid cream, fresh thyme, 2 bay leaves, 5 degermed and crushed garlic cloves, salt, sugar and a few turns of freshly ground pepper (to taste). Simmer for 40 minutes over low heat. Adjust seasoning with salt if necessary.

Oyster mushrooms: In a frying pan, pour sunflower oil and the last clove of garlic degermed and crushed as well as thyme. Heat the pan to maximum temperature. When it is hot, place the oyster mushrooms in it and reduce the heat slightly. Let them melt until crispy and start to darken in color. Set aside without cleaning the pan.

Polenta: In a saucepan, bring 1.2 litres of water to a boil with the butter, salt and finely chopped sage. Reduce the heat and, using a whisk, drizzle in the cornmeal. Stir vigorously for 10 minutes, over low heat, so that the semolina swells well. Once the semolina is cooked, pour the mixture into a dish and let cool, then cut into cubes. When ready to serve, sauté the cubes in the pan that was used to cook the oyster mushrooms (adding a drizzle of oil). Serve the polenta cubes with the mushrooms and sage leaves.