Thursday 28 March 2013

'Oeuf cocotte' with blue cheese cream...

Baked eggs with a blue cheese cream.  A quick and delicious recipe for egg lovers for Easter...that needs only a few ingredients!!!  It makes a wonderful lunch or starter.  You can make it many ways, my favourite along with the blue cheese are foie gras cream or a cèpe cream.  You could do a simple cream with fresh herbs or even smoked fish - endless combinations!

For 4 persons, you will need :

4 really fresh eggs
250 ml (1 cup) of cream of your choice (less/more if your ramequins are small/big)
4 tablespoons (or more!!) of blue cheese (or parmesan cheese if you don't like blue cheese)
a little grated nutmeg
salt an pepper

Grease four ramequins with a little butter.
Set the oven 200°c/400 °f.
Slowly heat the cream in a pan and melt the cheese in it.
Season to taste (some blue cheeses can be very salty) and grate in the nutmeg.
Fill each ramequin with two tablespoon of the sauce.
Break your eggs separately in a small bowl (to make sure there is no shell)
and delicately slide the eggs into the ramequins,  cover the eggs with the remaining sauce.
Pop in the oven between 8 to 12 minutes - depending on the size of your ramequins and how you like your eggs to be cooked. (The sauce, being hot, speeds the process up, but if using cold cream add another five minutes).

Serve immediately with lots of crusty bread!!!

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Sunday 24 March 2013

Dark Chocolate Cake...

...With home-made black cherry jam.

185 g /  6 1/2 oz  dark chocolate (70%)
(PLUS 85 g / 3 oz  if you want to add the bands of chocolate or drizzle some over the top)
150 g / 2/3 cup of butter
170 g / 1 and 1/3 cups flour
140 g / 1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
80 g / 1/2 cup of chocolate chips

Filling : Jam of your choice  (black cherry or raspberry are both good) 

Melt the butter in a pan, remove from the heat and put in the cut up chocolate (185 g).  Stir in to make sure it has melted entirely.
Whisk the eggs and sugar until the mixture is pale and has doubled in size.
Pour the chocolate into the eggs and sugar mix. Add in the flour and baking powder by folding it in gently, taking care to not over mix the batter.
Pour into a buttered and baking parchment/paper lined spring form cake tin
 (about 15.25 cm by 7.6 cms  - 6 inch by 3 inches mine is American)
Bake for about 80 minutes at 160°c / 325°f testing with a cocktail stick that it is cooked. The times will differ if your cake tin is bigger.

Remove from the oven, (this cake is wonderful warm, but you can not decorate it that way!!) and leave to cool for a few hours.
 Once cooled, I carefully cut into three layers (two is fine also). Put the jam on both surfaces and put the layers back together. You can decorate by drizzling some melted chocolate on top with a spoon or a fork.
 I use some acetate strips cut to size (see below, good baking shops sell rolls of the acetate). Pour some melted chocolate on and smooth over with a palate knife.  Wrap the strip around the cake.  Start with the upper part of the cake first.  You can put it into the freezer for five minutes to set, remove the acetate and then proceed with the next strip. I painted some chocolate on the top and sprinkled some rock sugar on. You could make a lip at the top and fill it with fruit i.e. fresh raspberries.

Thursday 21 March 2013

Grilled chicken with preserved lemons and slow cooked onions

Continuing with the grilling phase (now in the rain!). This is a quick dish, which is really about the slow cooked onions with the added zing of preserved lemons. These lemons are easily obtainable in France and are used in many Moroccan dishes, but you can also make them yourself.  The lemons are preserved in salt so they have a tart salty taste to them.

For this recipe for 4, you need :

Free range chicken (whole or pieces)
6  onions
4 small preserved lemons

Prepare the chicken - be it a whole one to roast or as I did, chicken breasts grilled and split in two, filled with a tablespoon of the cooked down onions and lemon mix (like a chutney, really).

After slicing the onions finely, cook them on a low heat with a little olive oil in a frying pan. Cook for about 15 -20 minutes. Remove the pips from the lemons are finely sliced them also. Put the lemon slices in with the onions about halfway through the cooking.

Another way would be to add chopped up precooked chicken (leftovers!) to the pan at the end of the cooking of the onions and lemons, a little stock could also be added.

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Spring window boxes planted up...

Monday 18 March 2013

Grilled Belgian Endives...

This is really a recipe for better weather, but we decided to have a barbecue this weekend, regardless of the lack of heat or sun!!  Grilling the endives on the barbecue adds a smoky taste and the honey marinade takes the bitterness away.  These grilled endives accompanied a succulent "côte de boeuf" (rib of beef) and a mix leaf salad - a delicious combination!
This dish can also be prepared in the oven or in a griddle pan, but you must put the olive oil at the beginning and the honey 5 -10 minutes before the end, so it will not burn.

To serve 4 persons :

60 ml / 1/4 cup olive oil 
heaped tablespoon of honey 
salt and white pepper to taste

Heat in a small pan to melt the honey if the honey is not very liquid.

8 endives split in two, lengthways

Place the endives (the cut side up) on to the hot barbecue.
Lightly brush a small amount of the marinade onto the endives (using a silicon brush).
Cook for 3  minutes.
Turn the endives over and brush again with a small quantity of the marinade.
After 4 minutes, turn them over again and brush some more marinade on the endives and carry on cooking for another 4 minutes (they should be just cooked through, soft with a bite to them - you may choose to cook them slightly longer).
Serve and "bon appétit"!

These endives can also be served cold in a salad and taste really fantastic!

Thursday 14 March 2013

Cod stuffed with smoked salmon...

This fish dish is really delicious!  Hot smoked salmon can be a real treat and the combination of both fish really goes well together. The salmon in the middle is protected, as lightly cooked is the way to go!

I cut the fish into portions and then cut a pocket into the middle of the fillet.  Then, I push the thick salmon fillet (also cut to size) into the middle - if you have fine slices of smoked salmon, you can roll them up (one or more!) and put it in.  If  you choose another fish or if the fillet is thin, you could fold the fish over and put in a tooth pick to hold it together.

Cooking time will depend on how thick it is, but take into account the fact that the smoke salmon needs to be 'just' cooked.  As soon as the cod has changed colour (from opaque to white), cook for a few more minutes, then get it out and let to rest for a minute or so with an aluminium/tinfoil cover on it.

This sized portion of fish, took 11 minutes at 180°c / 350° f,  for four portions with a 2 minute resting time.  I made a very light creamed parsley sauce (no flour, just reduced to thicken slightly), steamed rice with lemon zest and steamed broccoli.

Monday 11 March 2013

Vegetarian Tibetan Momos..

Today is my big brother's fiftieth birthday and this is a vegetarian recipe for him. In a recent conversation, he was telling  me of the wonderful vegetable Momos he had in a Tibetan restaurant in Brighton  (his blog is HERE (Auty and the Angel...) , so I thought I would try to recreate them. I have never made these dumplings before, so there is room for improvement with the shapes but I shall be sending some over to him via our parents for him to enjoy with my love.... Happy Birthday Paul!

Yes... I made the dough and it was really not too difficult but wonton wrappers could be used.

225 g / 1 and 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
100 ml / bit less than a 1/2 cup of water

Mix into a dough, let rest in the fridge for half an hour then divide into 24 balls and roll out thinly. I found it best to start them off small and go back to them, rolling out bigger as they relax a bit.

Plenty of flour!

The stuffing 
- these ones I made are for vegetarians, but you can easily make a meat stuffing of your choice :

2 red onions finely sliced
1 leek cut finely
1/8 red cabbage grated
1 small courgette/zucchini (remove the middle seeds and dice)
12 fine green beans chopped finely
1 carrot - using a veg peeler I made ribbons
2 garlic cloves
grating of ginger (thumbs worth!)
3 tablespoons light soya sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
coriander leaves and stalks (1/2 bunch) chop finely
chilli powder - just a dusting

I just cooked all this up in a wok, starting with the onions so they caramelise first, adding in the vegetables for only a few minutes so just cooked. Finish with the rice vinegar to deglaze the pan and let it reduce, then add the soya sauce (this is the salt so don't add any) and let this all cool down before putting in the wrappers.

There are the round ones at the top or the half moon one above; you have to wet the edges that are to be folded against each other with a tiny bit of water. It is just a question of folding and pleating - I hope the photographs show you how I did it - but pinching and folding was about it (a small brush for the water was handy for the bits I missed).

Steam in a 'steamer' pan on few lettuce leaves for about 7 to 8 minutes...and serve with a chilli jam or dipping sauce of your choice!

Saturday 9 March 2013

Apple crunch!

This little filo pastry parcel is some thing I make when I want a small, but not overly sweet dessert. The apples and golden raisins (currants or sultanas work also) are poached in honey and spice for a few minutes. 

For four rolls :

2 apples (I like to use a Granny Smith - an acidic apple but any will work)
80 g/ 1/2 cup of golden raisins - soaked  for a few hours in a 4 tablespoons of Calvados, brandy or fruit juice (or as I do a mix. Also you can use any dried fruits of choice - fig is good also)
1 tablespoon of honey + 1 tablespoon of butter
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
4 sheets of filo
4 teaspoons of brown sugar (more if wanted)
extra olive oil or butter to cover the filo pastry

Peel, core and cut the apples (1/4 the apples and cut into six). I soak the fruit for a few hours if I have time, so it is soft. Put the tablespoon honey and another of butter with any soaking liquid, 3 tablespoons worth (or water) in a small pan and mix in the apples, the soaked fruits and spices (experiment with these as lots of other spices work also:  ginger, fennel seed, cardamom seeds etc.). Put on a low heat (you could flame the alcohol off, but be careful of the flames jumping up!).  Cook this for about 3 minutes just to infuse and stop the apples oxidising. Put this to one side to cool, but I like to keep turning the fruit to take on the spice taste. 
The filo must be kept covered to stop it drying. Take one sheet and 'paint' it with melted butter or as I like to use olive oil, place the cooled fruit (1/4 of the mix) at on end in the middle. Sprinkle a teaspoon of brown sugar over the whole sheet evenly and fold a third over (as below) and the other side the same way. 

 Paint a little more butter or oil and roll up firmly as below.

Bake for about 12 -14 minutes in an oven of 180° c  /  350° f  until it is golden the butter will colour quicker so keep watching!!  I like to serve them warm.  If you want a bigger dessert, they go very well with ice cream or an apple sorbet... 
I was so happy to see the first tree in blossom this week, when I was in the city of Caen, Thursday afternoon.  I am smiling every year when I see the first tree exploding with flowers... as my spring is here (almost!!)

Cooking to, amongst other songs ...
 'Landscape with figure (1922)' by Max Richter from the Memoryhouse album.

Saturday 2 March 2013

A Winter Salad...

With all the root vegetables in full flow at the market today, I fancied a raw crispy salad to taste them. Admittedly, mine are cut, razor thin, on a mandolin but you could grate/microplane/machine chop the vegetables or even use a potato peeler to make ribbons. I rather like the mix here, but make it your own with things you like. I also provide two sauce to choose from.

2 carrots
1 parsnip
 red cabbage (a wedge - about 1/8th)
1 apple
1 cucumber
1 small black radish (daikon) 
1 fennel bulb
2 celery stalks

Just slice thinly and/or grate.  Mix well and then dress with either the following:

Herbed Greek yoghurt dressing
240 ml /1 cup Greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons of dried dill (3 if you can fin fresh)
1 tablespoon of chopped chives (dried if you can not get fresh)
1/2 lemon (the juice of... more if a lemon lover!)
1 chopped shallot (1/2 red onion)
season - black pepper and salt

Mix and let stand an hour (minimum).

Lime dressing
125 ml / 1/2 cup olive oil
1 Lime (juice and some of the zest)
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
(small bunch of fresh coriander/cilantro if wanted)
season - white pepper and salt

Mix the mustard and lime juice. Whisk in the oil slowly, add the herbs, season and serve.

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