Posted in Dessert

Dessert: Bastille Day Puddings (Soufflés chocolat noisette)

 

france-flag

Joyeux 14 Juillet!

For the uninitiated, Bastille day is the celebration of the storming of the infamous Bastille prison in Paris at the start of the French revolution in 1789. It was a reaction against the oppression of the Monarchy and the ancien regime. An enormous gap between the rich and poor in France saw most of France crippled by famine and disease, while the royalty and aristocracy enjoyed a lavish life of luxury.

In the lead up to the revolution, those who did not resign themselves to the absolute power of the King (Louis XVI) were incarcerated in the Bastille prison in Paris. The storming of the Bastille was therefore a momentous occasion for la liberté (freedom) of the French. However, it also officially marked the beginning of a very turbulent time for France. The French revolution did not end until 1799.

 

Visiting Versailles in winter, the Palace of Louis XVI before he was fled
Visiting Versailles in winter, the Palace of Louis XVI before he fled

The legacy of the revolution continues in France today. La révolution française established the motto of France: liberté, fraternité (brotherhood), égalité (equality) which still underlies French culture. Today, many French people are passionate about fighting perceived inequalities, and fervently stand up for their rights. You don’t need to visit Paris (or any other French city) very long to witness a French protest. Whether it’s about racial diversity, train drivers’ working conditions (you’re almost guaranteed train delays while you’re visiting), or right-wing politician Marine Le Pen’s latest crazy idea, the French sure do love a good strike, and it’s this passion, evident in almost every aspect of la vie française, that draws me to their culture.

So to celebrate the glorious fête nationale, I have baked rich, fluffy soufflés which I think would please even the fussiest eater. As usual, they are vraiment façile (really easy)! This is a great recipe, the soufflés are gooey in the middle and crispy, almost meringue-like on top.

On an interesting language note, the term soufflé comes from the verb souffler which means to blow, and is a testament to the airiness of the soufflé, and the way it very quickly puffs up when it is in the oven.

Soufflé au chocolat noir et aux noisettes (Dark chocolate and hazelnut puddings)

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Recipe from Gourmet Traveller 

Serves 4

Cooking time: 20 minutes prep + Approx. 20 minutes to bake

55g butter

265g quality dark chocolate (at least 53% cocoa), chopped

3 eggs, separated

2 Tbs caster sugar

35g roasted hazelnuts (or roast yourself on low heat until golden), peeled and chopped

Cream or ice-cream to serve

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsuis. Very slowly melt butter and sugar, preferably over a double boiler to ensure they don’t burn.

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Once chocolate is melted and glossy remove from stove and stir in chopped hazelnuts, egg yolks and sugar. Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks and gently fold through chocolate mixture.

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Immediately divide among four small ramekins and bake for about 15 minutes or until the soufflés have puffed up and just set. Serve with cream or ice-cream.

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Bonne journée et bon appétit!

 

Posted in Mains

Mid-week meal: Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy)

"Burgundy, France" by Megan Mallen. CC licence 2.0.
“Burgundy, France” by Megan Mallen. CC licence 2.0.

Today is about debunking some common myths about shared living.

1. Living in a share house means living off pizza and instant noodles.

Wrong. I live in a share house. Four out of six of us are foodies. We go to markets, check out interesting new cafés that have just opened up and cook interesting things together. I haven’t eaten instant noodles in years.

2. Eating cheaply means eating junk food. 

Wrong again (see above). It’s possible to cook interesting and healthy meals with the cheapest ingredients. Buy produce that’s in-season, pick the time you go to the supermarket (there are often lots of reduced items if you go later in the evening) and shop at markets.

3. Cooking for one of two people = food wastage, and eating the same meal for a week.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. That’s what freezers are made for. Freezing food is also handy if you’re getting home from work or uni late and don’t have the time or energy to cook. I love cooking on Sundays because I usually have all the time in the world.

Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy, or Beef in Red Wine):

Serves 4

Cooking Time: 5 mins prep + Approx 30 minutes to cook

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This is a cheats take on a classic French dish. It’s one that my Mum used to make when she lived in a share house, and has made ever since. I imagine the addition of soy sauce would enrage the French, but it’s simple and delicious, and can be whipped up after work with little effort. For best results though, slow cook it for as long as you can to make the meat extra tender.

Historically, this meal was considered a peasant dish, but over time it has been accepted as a classic.

Slow cooking the meat ensures even the worst cuts of meat become tender and delicious. The question of whether it should include bacon or not is somewhat controversial, but I think it adds a nice saltiness to the dish. You could serve it with mashed potato, brown rice, pasta, or crusty bread.

Ingredients:

-500g diced beef (the quality depends on how long you are prepared to cook it for)

-4 rashers bacon, chopped

-1 cup red wine

-1 small can tinned mushrooms in butter sauce

-1 green capsicum, chopped

-1 tsp dried or fresh thyme

-2 cloves garlic

-1 Tbs tomato paste

-2 Tbs soy sauce

-1 brown onion

Fry bacon, onion and garlic together. Brown beef, then add capsicum, tomato paste, wine, soy sauce, thyme and mushrooms. Cover and cook on medium heat until meat is tender and sauce has thickened (about 15 minutes depending on your cut).

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While it cooks, enjoy un verre du vin  (a glass of wine). I usually serve it with brown rice, as the nutty flavour compliments the stew – c’est magnifique!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Mains

Mon salade d’hiver: My winter salad

 

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The Louvre under snow

France is divided up into 22 metropolitan regions, most of which boast their own culture, dialect, and of course plats (dishes). When Napoleon became emperor in 1804 he tried to bring an end to the emphasis on regionalism and establish a unified France, promoting one language (French), civil law (or “The Napoleonic Code”) and a centralised education system.

Although France is now unified around its administrative departments, a strong sense of regionalism prevails. Many French people still speak their regional dialect (Corsican, Occitan, Bourbonnais etc.) and lay claim to certain regional dishes. A common regional dish is the region’s own take on a salad, and salads such as the Lyonnaise, Niçoise and Alsacienne still make a popular menu item today.

Admittedly, salads are not the most appetising thing on a cold, wintery day. However my winter salad is warm and nutritious – perfect for whenever you’re feeling a bit run down and need some nourishment. In France, salads are usually eaten as a first course, not as a side, but this salad can easily be eaten on its own as a plat principal (main course). The split peas and root vegetables make it hearty and healthy. Above all though, it’s super façile (easy) and quick. You could also use whatever vegetables you like, but I like to make it as colourful as I can.

Mon Salade d’Hiver de Légumes, Roquette et Pois Cassés:

Serves 3-4

Cooking Time: 10 mins prep + Approx. two hours to roast vegetables 

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-Approx. 2 Tbs olive oil

-Half a pumpkin (I like butternut), chopped into bite size pieces

-2-3 medium sized tomatos, chopped

-1 green capsicum, chopped

-1 red onion, chopped

-Approx. 4 cloves garlic (more if you like)

-Approx. 1 cup split peas or puy lentils

-100g feta cheese

-Rocket to serve

Vinaigrette:

-4 Tbs olive oil

-Splash white wine vinegar

-Splash lemon juice

-Herbs as desired (I like to use fresh basil or dill)

-Salt and pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Chop up vegetables. Place pumpkin in oven tray and cover with olive oil. Toss to make sure the pumpkin is coated. Bake for about an hour. Add other vegetables and toss in the remaining olive oil. photoSeason with salt and pepper and put back in oven. About half an hour later fill small saucepan with water until one third full. Once water is boiled, add split peas and cook for 10-15 minutes or until peas are soft, but not mushy and over-cooked. Take vegetables out of oven once crispy. Make bed with split peas then add vegetables on top (keeping garlic cloves aside).photo copy 2 Chop up garlic cloves and sprinkle, or squeeze the flesh out of the cloves across the salad. Add feta, then finish with a good handful of rocket. Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a small jug and dress each salad.

Voila!

Bonne chance!

Sophie

 

Posted in Dessert, Snacks and light meals

Sunday dinner: Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) Soup and Pears in Red Wine

Flowers

I love markets. There’s something about the combination of fresh produce, crazy vendors and strange fruits and veggies that inspires me to cook with rare and interesting ingredients. Le français agree with me. Paris alone has several major food markets (namely marchés Bastille, Mouffetard, Saxe-Breteuil and the one on Rue Montorgueil). Parisians of all walks of life flock to them for fresh meat and fish, fruit and veg, and great cooking advice.

market

This week I went to South Melbourne market. In Melbourne we have a couple of nice food markets: the famous Queen Victoria Market in the CBD, Prahran market with all of its cheese, but my favourite is South Melbourne for its lively atmosphere and excellent range of everything from high-range olive oil, to fresh produce, to the perfect coffee. This week I resisted the huge salted caramel macarons and fresh seafood and instead went for the Jerusalem artichokes (topinambour) and beautiful fresh pears (poires) with the perfect easy Sunday meal in mind.

Jerusalem artichokes are funny looking things. They look a little bit like ginger root: very knobbly and beige in colour. Inside they are a creamy colour, and have a delicious buttery flavour. Apparently, they are not related to the artichoke at all.  In fact the Jerusalem artichoke plant highly resembles a sunflower plant. The part you eat are the tubers. French explorer Samuel de Champlain sent the first samples of Jerusalem artichoke to France, describing them as similar in taste to artichoke. You could really do anything with them: fry them, put them in a salad; but today I’m making a soup.

artichokes

This is a slight variation of a soup my Mum makes at home. It’s creamy, buttery and perfect on wintery days.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup:

Cooking time: 20 mins prep + About an hour to cook

-750 grams Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), scrubbed and cut into chunks

-2 Tbs unsalted butter

-2 celery sticks, chopped

-2 garlic cloves, chopped

-1 cup milk (slight variation from linked recipe)

-1 Bay leaf (also slight variation)

-4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

-Salt and pepper

Method:

Scrub artichokes well. There’s a common misconception that they must be peeled, however so long as you scrub them well with a hard brush this can be avoided. Melt butter in soup pot and cook onions and celery until soft. Add garlic and fry until fragrant. celery Add a pinch of salt. Add  Jerusalem artichokes, bayleaf and cover with stock. Bring the pot to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for about an hour until artichokes start to break down and are soft. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup using stick blender or food mill, adding the milk as you blend it. bayleaf Add salt and pepper to taste.

NOTE: I felt a little strange not adding many herbs to this soup, however it’s important to remember that the taste of Jerusalem artichokes is very subtle, and can be easily overpowered. My addition of a bay leaf enhanced the flavours, but I would avoid adding other herbs. If you wish to bring out the flavour more, you could add less celery, or avoid it all together. For extra creaminess, you could add cream too. Serve with crusty bread or my rainy day muffins.

Soup

 

Le Dessert: Poires pochées au Vin Rouge (Poached Pears in Red Wine)

Makes 4 Pears

Cooking time: 10 mins prep + 1 hour and 15 mins to cook + at least four hours in fridge (if you prefer chilled)

poires

It’s always nice to celebrate (or mourn) the end of the weekend with a dessert. This is a really easy one that’s both foolproof, and elegant enough to pull of for a dinner party or social event.

My favourite part about Paris in winter is the Christmas markets. Tiny little cubby-house like shacks are draped in Christmas lights and sell everything from gorgeous gifts, to buttery crêpes and spiced vin chaud (mulled wine). They’re especially charmant (charming) when the city is under snow and you get a sense of a true white Christmas, something that we miss out on in Australia.

A Christmas market on Les Champs Elysées
A Christmas market on Les Champs Elysées

These pears could be done the night before a party or event, making them the perfect winter dessert. They are my homage to Parisian Christmas markets.

Ingredients:

-4 peeled pears (Packhams work best, just-ripe)

-2 cinnamon sticks

-2 whole star anise

-2 cups dry red wine

-1/3 cup caster sugar

-1 vanilla bean, split

Method:

Combine wine, sugar and spices in saucepan big enough to fit pears. Over a low heat, stir until the sugar dissolves. Add pears and bring to the boil, then reduce heat and cook for an hour, turning occasionally to ensure the pear soaks up the wine.wine Once tender, put the pears in a heatproof bowl.

Increase heat to high and bring the wine to a boil. Stir for around 10 minutes or until the wine has thickened slightly into a syrup. Serve pears individually and pour over syrup. Serve with cream or ice-cream. Alternatively, you could make this rosewater-infused mascarpone from Taste.com.

If  you’re after a more summery dessert, cover pears in syrup. Cover heatproof bowl in cling wrap and place in fridge for about four hours.

C’est tous! An easy two-course Sunday dinner that is très deliceux!

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À bientôt!

Sophie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Mains

Using leftovers: Les pâtes à la carbonara (pasta carbonara)

 

 

Prep

As much as I’m a fan of bacon and eggs, a busy schedule means that a weekend fry-up is a rare thing in my household. I have a few leftovers hanging around from my quiche Lorraine, so I thought I’d share an easy weeknight recipe that I found on Taste a year or so ago.

I’m not a great fan of carbonara sauces. I often find them too heavy and rich with the amount of cream, cheese and milk that’s used. On top of that, a lot of people seem to think that because they’re adding cream, the other flavours can fall by the wayside. Wrong.

In fact, apparently carbonara is traditionally cream-free (quelle surprise!), so this easy version might be closer to the Italian tradition than I first thought. It’s also a reasonably cheap meal for my fellow students out there.

No, it’s not French (although the French do love their pasta), but it’s a great way to use up any bacon and eggs that are on their way out, and is full of flavour!

Allons-y!

Creamless Carbonara:

Serves 4

Cooking time: 10mins prep+ 15mins to cook

-Approx. 400g pasta (I used spirals)

-3 lightly beaten eggs

-Approx. 1/4 cup fresh chives (or dried, if you can’t get fresh)

-2+ crushed garlic cloves (I usually do about 3, my housemate does a whole bulb…it depends on your tastes)

-100g pancetta or streaky bacon (rind removed), chopped

-1/2 cup parmesan (or other mature) cheese

-Parsley to garnish

-Salt and pepper

Method:

Cook pasta until aldente in large saucepan. Combine eggs, chives and cheese, season. ImageHeat olive oil in pan and cook bacon until brown. Reduce heat and cook garlic for about 30 seconds. Drain pasta well and add to bacon and garlic. Coat the pasta, then take off the heat and add egg mixture. Stir until pasta is coated, but don’t take too long or eggs will scramble. Serve immediately, garnishing with parsley and more salt and pepper if desired.

CarbonaraVoila! Les pâtes à la carbonara! C’est trop façile (it’s too easy)!

Bonne chance!

Sophie

 

Posted in Snacks and light meals

Rainy Day Savoury Muffins

Winter morning

It was freezing when I woke up this morning. My window was fogged and it was pouring with rain outside (or in French: il pleuvait des cordes). I’m not a winter person, but I find a little winter baking is the perfect way to cheer up on a miserable day. These easy and delicious muffins made the house smell delicious, and drew all of my housemates out of their rooms!

The French love their cakes. According to my Rachel Khoo book, the French are modernising their traditional cake recipes with savoury versions – perfect for a summer picnic, or to curl up to with a cup of tea in winter. While this recipe isn’t explicitly French, I’ll claim it!

This is a recipe I derived from my favourite website Taste.com. These muffins are a vessel: you could really add whatever you like (different cheeses, capsicum, mushrooms, or whatever takes your fancy). I omitted the ham and was glad I did: the feta and olives provided enough salt. These muffins are delicious hot and straight from the oven, but I’ve kept a few to take to work later in the week. They would be great in any lunchbox, for a meeting or just to warm up on a chilly day!Savoury Muffins

 

SAVOURY MUFFINS:

Makes 12 muffins

Cooking time: 15mins prep + Approx. 25 mins to cook

 Ingredients:

-2 cups self-raising flour

-80g melted butter, cool

-1 cup milk

-1 lightly beaten egg

-100g feta (I like the Danish variety)

-Small handful of pitted olives (I used kalamata), chopped

-Small handful of semi-dried tomatoes, chopped

-Salt and pepper to season

-Rosemary to garnish (fresh if you have it)

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease and/or line 12 cup muffin tin (average size).

Mixing the Muffins

Sift flour into mixing bowl and form a well. Mix together milk, egg and butter, then pour mixture into well. Fold through flour in a figure-8 motion, to make sure the flour is mixed in. Then, fold through feta, tomatoes and olives. Season.

 

Spoon mix into muffin tin, checking the muffins are approximately the same size to ensure even cooking. Sprinkle with rosemary. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden. Once cooked, place on wire rack to cool.

 

C’est simple!

Bisous,

Sophie

 

 

 

Posted in Mains

Sunday dinner: Quiche Lorraine

Quiche Lorraine

I lived in Paris for several months when I was 18. After a long day at work, the family that I was staying with would often buy a simple quiche from the local boulangerie, heat it in the oven and serve it with a simple side salad. These quiches were nothing like I had eaten in Australia, with thin, crisp crusts and a light, almost fluffy centre. Unfortunately, the quiches that we too often buy here have thick, soggy crusts and a rich, extravagant filling. Australians are getting better at French food with the arrival of more and more delicatessens (not to mention our obsession with le macaron), but it has taken some time…

Quiche Lorraine hails from the picturesque Lorraine region (also home to macarons de Nancy and madeleines) in the East of France. A Lorraine quiche is very simple: bacon and egg in a buttery pastry. You could add cheese if you really wanted, but I think the combination of cream, butter and bacon make this dish rich (and salty) enough.

The version I make comes from my favourite cookbook: The Little Paris Kitchen by British chef Rachel Khoo. I made it over two days (the pastry one day, and the filling the next) to give the pastry time to rest, but you could do it in one if you have a couple of hours to spare.

 

The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo

 

QUICHE LORRAINE:

Serves 4-6

Cooking time: 40 mins (pastry)+At least an hour for the pastry to rest in the fridge + 40 mins (filling)

Note: I have changed the recipe very slightly from Rachel’s version, as my dough was a little soggy to begin with.

Ingredients:

-90g very soft and decent quality butter

-1 teaspoon sugar

-Pinch of salt

-2 egg yolks

-1 cup plain flour

-Very cold water

Filling:

-150g diced streaky bacon, rind removed

– 4 eggs, plus 2 yolks (keep the whites for later)

-300g cooking cream or crème fraîche

-Salt and pepper to season

Method:

Beat the eggs, sugar and salt together with a wooden spoon until well combined. Mix in flour, then egg yolks and 2 Tbsp. of cold water. Using the wooden spoon, mix together, then knead until the dough is a smooth ball. Try to avoid handling the dough too much, or it will be tough. Add water/flour as necessary to create a slightly sticky dough. Wrap in cling wrap and put in the fridge for at least an hour (I left it there for a day).

Leave the pastry out for approximately 30 minutes until it reaches room temperature. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper until it is consistently 5mm thick. Carefully place the dough in a 25cm quiche tin (at least 3cm deep) and brush with left-over egg whites. Ensure the dough is even and covers the tin well. Leave in fridge.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Next, fry the bacon until it browns, then place it on some paper towel to cool. Beat the eggs and egg yolks in a bowl, add the cream and season, then continue to beat until mixed. Place the cooled bacon evenly across the pastry dish, then pour in egg and cream mixture. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the quiche is golden brown.

Quiche can be eaten hot or cold, and freezes well.

Bon appétit et à bientôt!

Sophie