Thursday, 30 December 2010

Anyone for the last lonely slice of sea salted chocolate and pecan tart?

Fed up of the French "chocolate buche" (a variation on the yule log)
I attempted to tantalize the taste buds of my belle famille with this sea-salted chocolate and pecan tart, the recipe for which I pulled out of the January 2010 Home and Gardens magazine.

Any worries I had about the sucre salé tart not appealing to the French in laws was unfounded...seconds were called for leaving only one lonely slice which disappeared from the kitchen during the night.

The tart is very moreish so can be served on its own. The combination of chocolate, salt and pecans works very well and as there is only sugar in the base, this is tart not too sweet. For me this is like Reece's peanut butter cups for grown ups!

The original recipe called for 64% Madagascan dark chocolate but I used 70% Valrhona chocolate which worked well. Also it is important to use a good quality sugar free cocoa for the base if you can. This tart is best prepared well in advance of when needed as is time consuming - but good news is that it is worth it and tastes good for a few days after.

you will need:
pastry ingredients - 175G butter (at room temperature), 75 golden caster sugar, 2 egg yolks, 250g of plain flour, 20g cocoa, 35ml water
filling ingredients - 200g of good quality 70% dark chocolate, 200ml of whipping cream, 200g light muscavado sugar, 10g maldon sea salt
topping ingredients - 100g pecan nut halves, 100g caster sugar, 1 tsp sea salt

to make:
first make pastry base: using a wooden spoon cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add egg yolks and water and mix well until all liquid has been incorporated. Gradually add the flour and cocoa to form a dough. Wrap in cling film, flatten with your hand and put in fridge for one hour. Sprinkle flour on a work surface (make sure you have enough room) and roll out the pastry to line a greased 24x2.5 cm tart ring. Then chill pastry (in tart tin) in fridge for a futher 15 minutes before blind baking(see note below) it in a 180° pre heated oven for 20 minutes and then bake for a further 5 minutes uncovered until the base is dry. Leave to cool.

for the filling: couldn't be easier - melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, when melted add the cream to he bowl and stir until you have a glossy and thick ganache. Then pour into the now cooled tartbase and stick in fridge for 2 hours.

for the topping: heat a heavy bottomed saucepan until warm and add the sugar continuously stirring until it forms a liquid caramel, then add the salt and mix well. Finally add the pecans and mix well before pouring the mixture on to greaseproof paper. (it is important to do this step quickly to make sure that the pecans do not get burned!). Spread out mixture using spatula and leave to cool. Once cooled break into pieces and scatter over top of tart.

Friday, 24 December 2010

A wonderful pre-Christmas splurge soup: celeriac, apple & nutmeg

This year Christmas is for us is is at the in laws in Limoges. The other half's mother is a very good cook but like most mother's has an innate tendancy to feed us like a goose being fattened up for foie gras when we are there. In France the main event dinner wise takes place on Christmas eve. This evening we will sit down to several courses, starting with appetizers of smoked salmon, followed by oysters and langoustines, then home-made foie gras, then some kind of stuffed bird - served with a chestnut puree, before the cheese plate gets passed around and then finally dessert. Dessert in this case will be a yule log from Yannick the local baker who really has a talent for coming up with the most unbelievable flavor combinations, that do not always necessarily work together. Take mango and coffee for instance!
Having learned from previous experience I have been trying not to go too hard on the mince pies and mulled wine this week, and have been making room in my stomach for this Christmas dinner by having lots of soup.
The first time I saw celeriac it arrived in an organic vegetable box when I was living in the UK and I did not know what to do with it. I have since learned to love this nutty and sweet root vegetable which lends itself to various cooking styles from puree, to roasted, to galettes.
This soup is very healthy with no cream what so ever, but it is so thick and comforting I promise you will not miss it! It also brings out the natural sweetneess of the celeriac which combines well with the warming nutmeg.
I got the idea for this soup from a puree recipe in one of Richard Corrigan's cook books where he adds apple to the celeriac mash.
You will need:
one large celeriac (the one I used was just over one kilo) peeled and roughly cut into large chunks
two medium sweet apples - peeled, cored and diced
two medium onions - peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp of ground nutmeg
on glass of apple juice (optional)
one tbs of olive oil
one ltr vegetable stock (a stock cube will do)
To make:
Heat olive oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan, add onions and nutmeg and cook on a low heat until translucent, add the apple and cook unil both onion and apple are almost caramelised. Add the celeriac and cook for about five minutes while continuously stirring. Add the stock, bring to the boil, then turn down heat and cover saucepan with a lid and leave to simmer on a low heat for about 30 mins until celeriac is soft. Then blend using a hand blender. I like my soup quite thick but even so I diluted the soup down with glass of apple juice (200ml).
Delicious served with wild mushrooms served on toasted and buttered poilane bread (any sour dough bread toasted will do) scattered over with fresh herbs!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Is the humble mince pie the new cupcake?

This year the humble mince pie seems to be following the cupcake, every food magazine seems to be looking at ways to bring it up to date. Given the current economic climate and associated austerity measures is it any wonder that people are turning their back on the €10 cupcakes for BYO (bake you own). The problem with mince pies is that up until now they have been a bit like Marks and Spencers 100% cotton knickers, very comforting but not very sexy.

Welcome to Christmas 2010 and the mince pie has had a make over. One of this seasons favorites is the meringue topped mince pie which has featured in several magazines. I tried Brenda Costigan's (Irish Independent) recipe which more or less follows the same recipe as in my previous blog on mince pies except you bake the filled pastry case without a lid a first time and then bake it a second time topped with a meringue on a very low heat a seond time until the meringue is cooked.

The BBC Good Food Festive Collection 2010 probably has one of the most extensive collection of mince pie recipes. Although the season's favorite meringue version is missing there are many other variations on a theme from buttery mince pies, mincemeat custard pies, tipsy mince pie puffs, twinkle star mince pies, mincemeat croissants to chunky mince pie slices (featured here in photo straight out of oven and prior to being sliced).

The chunky mince pie slices are easy to make and could even be eaten for a festive breakfast. Ground almonds are sprinkled over a sheet of rolled out puff pastry which is on a greased baking sheet. Pecan nuts, dried cranberries, flaked almonds and an apple are all added to the mince meat mixture which is then spread on the puff pastry. Star shapes can be cut from any remaining pastry to top the mince meat to define portion slices. The stars are then egg washed before you put the whole thing in the oven to bake for 15 minutes at 220°c. Once cooled you can drizzle over some lemon icing.

Having tried several other mince pie recipes in addition the above, I realised that I am not a fashion victim. At the end of the day the pie that suits me best is the classical one: a rich shortbread pastry shell filled with luxurious mince meat & whiskey, served warm topped with a whiskey cream. There is good reason why a classic sees us through many seasons.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Smells like Christmas: spicy cookies

It should feel like Christmas; the tree is up and decorated, there is snow outside, Gareth Brook's Christmas CD is playing on loop, friends have been round for the obligatory mulled wine and mince pies, but it doesn't.

Something is missing and I am not sure what it is....there is the lack of Christmas presents under the tree, there will of course be the last minute rush to buy them, but there is something else missing and I can't quite put my finger on it.

Could it be that it just doesn't smell like Christmas? Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, the commonly used spices at this time of year and the ones that remind me of my childhood Christmases - it is amazing that my mam managed to do so much baking with 5 kids and a full time job! I figure that maybe what is missing is the smell of Christmas and decide to make some spicy Christmas cookies maybe even some edible decorations to hang from the tree.

The French just don't Christmas like us, after visits to a large Monoprix and three speciality cooking shops I gave up on trying to find Christmas themed cookie cutters and with it any notion of making Christmas decorations.

I finally managed to find a star shaped cookie cutter which is on the small side and part of a set with lots of shapes I am sure I will never find a use for. I will have to content myself with this and make a note to stock up on cookie cutters the next time I am home.

For those of you living in France - the golden syrup came from home but you can also get it in Ethnic Angels near Grand Blvd metro station.

For the cookies you will need:

100g of caster sugar
85g of softened butter
1 beaten egg
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp golden syrup
1tsp baking powder
100g dark chocolate (optional)

In a large mixing bowl beat together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until fluffy and light then slowly add the eggs while continuously beating.
Then stir in the spices, golden syrup, flour and baking powder. Shape dough into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and chill in fridge for about 1 hour. Heat oven to 180°c. On a cold floured surface roll out the dough to about 1/2 centimetre thick and cut out cookies using your chosen shapes.

Put on greased baking sheets and bake in oven until golden which should take about 10minutes.Chill on a wire rack. You can either dust with icing sugar or cover with chocolate. To cover with chocolate melt chocolate in a bain marie (bowl sitting on top of a saucepan of hot water), dip each biscuit in the chocolate and leave to cool on baking parchment.

These biscuits keep well in an air tight container for a few weeks - so also make ideal Christmas gifts especially if packaged in nicely decorated boxes.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

a warming pumpkin and cinnamon soup for a snowy day

Will this chilly weather ever end? Snow is falling in Paris again today and while it has turned the city into a winter wonderland (well at least until the rain chases the snow away) I am frozen right through to my bones.

It was on a similarly cold day a few weeks ago that I was in one of my favorite lunchtime spots in the 17th arrondisment of Paris, Bio 92 an organic restaurant. The restaurant is reasonably priced for Paris at €17 for a 3 course lunch - and the food is organic. The only drawback is that the service can sometimes be very slow. The menu changes daily - they do an excellent "cake" of aubergine filled with either quiona and vegetables or meat and vegetables, there is always at least one fish dish on offer. On this occasion there were two soups among the starters; carrot and coconut and pumpkin and cinnamon.

I plumped for the veloute of pumpkin and cinnamon and was not disappointed, it is a warm, sweet soup with the cinnamon accentuating the flavors. I have since tried it at home. The version below is more of a soup, but if you prefer you can add half the water to create a much thicker soup which is very creamy - without the need for cream or milk.

This is a really quick soup which will have you glowing again in no time at all, the addition of the cinnamon adds a Chrismassy touch.

You need:

one medium pumpkin or butternut squash
2 medium yellow onions
1 to 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of light sesame oil
1 ltr hot water

Peal the pumpkin using a vegetable peeler and cut into 2 inch chunks, peel and roughly chop the onions. Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat and add onions and cinnamon, cook the onions on a low heat until they begin to caramelise. Next add the pumpkin or butternut squash, mixing well with the onions and fry for about 5 minutes. Then add water and bring to the boil before covering saucepan with a lid and simmering for about 15 minutes. After 15 mins test the pumpkin with a fork to see if cooked if so using a handblender blend the soup and serve immediately. Even more delicious served with either cornbread or onion muffins on the side.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

mince pies and all things nice

I love Christmas and the current cold spell calls for Christmas cheer a little bit earlier than usual. I pestered the other half this morning until he finally relented to the nagging and went out and bought a Christmas tree. I spent the morning decorating the tree and was determined to keep the Christmas theme going through to lunch time, with mince pies and a whiskey cream for an after lunch treat.

Having made the mistake last year of trying to buy mincemeat in France, I made my own a few weeks ago. I used the Ballmaloe recipe but replaced the suet with butter for a vegetarian version. Home made mincemeat needs at least a good three weeks to mature, if you haven't made it by now you better get started (or just pick up a jar of someone elses at a local Christmas market, but it also keeps for up to a year. For the mincemeat you need 2 large cooking apples which have been baked in the oven until soft, remove skins and mash flesh. The rind a juice of two lemons (untreated), 110g mixed peel, 225g each of currants and sultanas, 450g of raisins, 900g of dark brown sugar, 62ml of Irish whiskey, 2 tablespoons of orange marmalade and 450g of butter (melted). Couldn't be easier - in a large bowl add ingredients one by one stirring well after each addition. Put in jars, cover and leave to mature.

To make the mince pies: First heat the oven to 170°c. Next prepare the pastry and ok, here I cheated, having decided at the last minute to make mince pies for desert, I lacked both energy and ingredients to make a pastry so headed out to Picard (chain of up market frozen food stores in France) to buy a ready made one. If you are buying ready made pastry check that it is pure butter and does not have palm oil.

The pastry I bought was already rolled out, so all I had to do was cut out the shapes with a floured pastry cutter (or glass if you do not have pastry cutter) to make the pastry cases. Then repeat to make lids or if you prefer cut out some star shapes in the pastry.

I buttered well the bun tray before putting the pastry in but had a problem getting some of them out once they had been cooked. When I said this to my mam, she gave me a simple solution - line each hole in the bun tray with a small round of grease proof paper! I will be following this advice next time.

Fill each pastry case with mincemeat and top with either a lid or a star. If you top with a lid make sure to prick the pastry with a fork. Brush each pie with a little beaten egg. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until a pale golden colour before carefully removing from tin and leaving to cool on a wire rack.

Delicious served with some whipped cream spiked with a little bit of Irish whiskey!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Roast pumpkin filled with lemon and hazelnut risotto à la Cafe Paradiso

This is the third recipe from Denis Cotter's book named after his restaurant that I have tried. This is a really great vegetarian cookbook with lots of ideas that will impress dinner guests so much so that even the most ardent of meat eaters will not realise until long after desert if at all that they had a meat free meal.

I have to admit that at first I was a little put off as the recipe seemed finiky and had lots of different steps . Had it not been for the fact that I had pumpkins to use up (from the in-laws vegetable plot the weekend before) I many not have attempted the recipe. The truth is that this is the perfect recipe to use up any leftover risotto, as preparing the risotto is the bulk of the work. Once you have the risotto you only have to cut open some pumpkins, boil them for a few minutes in hot water, then stuff them with the risotto, bang them in the oven and while they are cooking, whip up a quick leek and cream sauce! The recipe suggests serving with roast parsnips and sweetcorn, I only had parsnips and could have done with roasting them a bit longer. I have also tried this recipe using a barley risotto which gives a nutier flavor and works well with the pumpkin.

For 4 people you will need:

(for the stuffed pumpkin): 2 small pumpkins cut in half with the seeds scooped out,1 onion,400mls of warm vegetable stock, 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped, 50mls dry white wine, 120g risotto rice (or pearl barley),2 tbspns hazelnuts roasted and roughly chopped, rind of one organic lemon and juice of half it,20g freshly grated parmesan, 2 tbspns olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper

(for leek sauce): 1 small leek washed and 2 cloves of garlic bth finely chopped, 20g of butter, 40mls dry white wine, 60mls of vegetable stock, 150ml cream, 40g freshly grated parmesan, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

500g parsnips chopped into large batons, butter and a tablespoon of honey.

Start by making the risotto: heat some of the butter in a saucepan and add onion and garlic. When onion has softened add the rice coat in butter. Pour in wine and stir until it has evaporated. The add he stock one ladle at a time, letting the rice simmer in it and waiting until each ladle has been absorbed, continue until rice is almost cooked, ie should still be a little on the firm side. Then stir in the roast hazelnuts, lemon rind and juice, parmesan, olive oil, remaining butter and season generously. Leave the risotto to cool.

Prepare the pumpkins (and parsnips). Bring some water to the boil in a large saucepan and cook pumpkin halves for about ten minutes - this is the delicate part of the operation as the pumpkins should be cooked just so, you need them to be tender but not overcooked. In another saucepan bring some more water to the boil and cook the parsnips also for about 10 mins (I just reused the saucepan and water from the pumpkins).

Heat the oven to 200°C. Fill the cavity of each pumpkin half with the risotto and place filled side down in a roasting tin lined with greaseproof paper. Make several slashes in the skin of the pumpkin and brush with olive oil. Coat the parsnips in some butter and the hone if using, season and put in a separate roasting tin. Both pumpkins and parsnips will both take about 20 - 25 minutes.

While they are cooking, prepare the sauce by frying the leeks and garlic in butter in a small pan, when the onions are soft add the wine and stock and bring to the boil for one minute. Add the cream to the sauce just before you are ready to serve the pumpkins and boil for a few minutes to reduce it to a thick consistency. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

When ready to serve place a half pumpkin on each plate with some parsnips with a large spoonful of sauce.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Chestnuts at Dournazac and a pear & chocolate crumble

No making foie gras for me this weekend - there was just no time! On Friday evening we were invited to family friends who have a farm outside of Limoges for dinner! It was a typical rustic dinner served up by a woman who has never owned a cookbook or a weighing scales and boy was it delicious. This was not a meal for the faint hearted or those watching either their weight or cholestral! We started with her homemade pork pate on chunky slices of bread washed down with champagne of course! We then moved on to starters of avocado filled with tuna and hard boiled farm eggs with tomatoes from her garden before the piece de resistance - roast goose served with potatoes fried in goosefat with a bit of butter thrown in for good measure! Our host even killed the goose herself!

On Sunday morning we headed off bright and early to the chestnut festival at Dornazac which is about 30 mins drive south of Limoges. It was a typical small town affair with lots of stands selling not just chestnuts but among other things; local cheeses,enormous freshly baked breads, cider and apple juice (which was being made on site!), honey - including chestnut honey, walnuts and demi baguttes filled with black pudding made from chestnuts of course!

Our find of the day was local Cepes - we bought 2.5kilos at €12/kg which we served up later that evening in omlettes made with farm fresh eggs laid - a parting gift on Friday evening. We also bought some cider and some local goats cheeses.

Unfortunately we had missed the fact that a three gourmet meal was being served up at midday for €20 but as father in law had been left at home in charge of roasting the chicken it would have been rude not go home for lunch as planned.

It was with heavy bags we headed back to Paris on the train - loaded up with the best of vegetables from the parents in laws' garden, pears, gibiers and pate from the farm we had visited on Friday evening, home made jams, a large quantity of cepes and about a tonne of walnuts which we discovered right at the bottom of the rucksack which explained why it took two of us to hoist the rucksack on to the train!

The pears did not weather the train journey well - so I decided to transform them into dessert that evening. I love the pear and chocolate tarts you find in Parisien patisseries with their frangipane filling - and this crumble was the the closest thing that my cupboard could afford me!

For six people you will need:

9 ripe pears (but not too over ripe!)
200g of the best dark chocolate you can afford
juice of half a lemon
1 packet of vanilla sugar
110g butter
60g ground almonds and 100g plain flour
150g of brown sugar
pinch of salt

To make:
peel and core the pears - and cut into small cubes - try to retain juice
add lemon juice to prevent pears from discolouring
break the chocolate into small pieces
divide the pears between 6 ramekins or mini cocottes
pour over the retained juice (if any)
sprinkle the chocolate over the pears
sprinkle over the vanilla sugar

next make the crumble by mixing the butter, ground almonds, sugar and salt using your fingers until you have a crumble like consistency (try to be light with the finger work and make sure your butter is cold) then divide the crumble between the six ramekins

bake in a preheated oven (180°c) for 20 - 25 mins until golden on top. they can be served hot or lukewarm with a good vanilla ice cream on the side!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Good old fashioned tea & Halloween bracks

This weekend is a long weekend in France, so haven taken tomorrow off work, I am heading down to Limoges to spend the "Toussaint" with the in-laws. The food is always good in Limoges, my mother in law is a good cook, and this weekend I am to be instructed in art of making foie gras. The other special treat they have in store for me is to visit some family friends who have a farm, where I will be treated to the lady of the house's speciality - potatoes cooked in pork grease!! This should not be too much of a shock to my irish tastebuds, however I may get a shock if I don't fit into my work clothes on Tuesday!

I thought it would be nice to make something traditionally Irish to bring with me, and being Halloween what better and more traditional than a brack!

My mam's tea brack is delicious - she kindly emailed me her recipe and for the traditional barmbrack I took the recipe from Darina Allen's book: "Traditional Irish Cooking", to which I added the traditional items: ring, coin, pea, stick and rag which I thought would amuse the French! I remember all of us girls at home tucking into huge slices of Staffords of Wexford Barmbrack when we we kids to try and get the ring!

The teabrack is the much easier of the two to make and slightly richer and the recipe is given below.

This is my mam's teabrack recipe:
400g dried fruit,425 ml strong tea,50g cherries, 50g candied peel,110g soft brown sugar,110g granualated sugar, 1 egg, 400g plain flour,1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp each cinnamon and mixed spice. This makes 2 loaves.Heat the oven to 180c. Soak the dried fruit (not cherries or candied peel)in tea overnight. Next day add all the other ingredients,add a little more tea if necessary. Divide between 2 well buttered tins and bake for 40-50 min.

My Barmbrack recipe is based on Darina Allen's Hallowe'en Barmbrack recipe in her book "Irish Traditional Cooking" but uses fresh yeast and has no cherries. I also skipped the glazing process. Make sure that the milk is not too hot, I killed the yeast the first time around!

You need 450 strong white flour, 1/2 tablespoon each of cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg, pinch of salt, 30g butter, 11g dried yeast, 85g caster sugar, 300ml tepid milk, 1 beaten egg, 330g dried fruit, 55g candied peel, 50g cherries. An additional egg with a drop of milk to glaze. Sieve flour, spices and salt into a bowl and then rub in the butter. Mix the yeast with one tablespoon of sugar and one tablespoon of tepid milk (you may need to add a little more milk) and leave for 5 minutes until creamy on top (you should see the air bubbles from the yeast). Add the rest of sugar to the flour and mix well. Pour the rest of the tepid milk and the beaten egg into the yeast mixture and stir.¨Put the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer and add the yeast and milk mixture. Mix for about 5 mins on high speed. Fold in the dried fruit, candied peel & cherries. Cover and put in a warm place until it rises (should double in size), the knock back and knead well. Divide into two portions and put each one in a buttered baking tin. Then glaze each loaf with the egg and milk mixture before putting in a pre-heated oven (170°) for about an hour.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Beef and Guinness Pie for a Sunday lunch in Paris!

The Sunday lunch gang is a small group of compatriots who meet up for lunch on as regular a basis as our busy schedules allows for a proper Irish Sunday lunch. Often washed down with Irish style quantities of very much locally flavored alcoholic beverages! The dinner rotates between Parisien apartments and with the hosts providing the food and guests providing the wine, cheese and sometimes dessert.

This Sunday it was our turn to host lunch. With Winter making its return felt this week I decided that good old fashioned comfort food was the order of the day, and what better than a beef and Guinness pie to fit the bill.

The good thing is that the filing can be made the day before (and tastes better as a result)and you can cheat by using a good pure butter shop bought puff pastry - make sure you buy one that contains nothing more than flour, butter, salt and water. There are far too many brands on the market with ingredients that sound like a science lab experiment. This leaves you with lots of quality time for your guests.

Also try and make sure you use good quality beef, I use organic beef which is quite reasonable as the pie does not use the more expensive prime cuts of meat.

I managed to pick up some wild fresh French rosemary at the market - at one point in cooking I thought it might be too overpowering but it settled down to give a nice flavour.

Delicious with lightly steamed, buttered and salted cabbage!

(makes on pie which feeds 4 to 6 people)

You will need:

750g of stewing beef cut trimmed of fat in 2cm pieces
500ml of Guinness
50g of butter plus more for greasing
3 large yellow onions (approx 300g)
3 cloves of garlic
3 sticks of celery trimmed and chopped
350g carrots roughly chopped
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary - leaves only
2 large tablespoons of plain flour
sea salt
fresh black pepper

for the next day:
500g ready made PURE butter puff pastry
1 large organic beaten egg with a drop of milk

The day before:

1.marinate the beef in approximately half the guinness for at least 4 hours
2.pre-heat the oven to 160°
3.melt approx half the butter in a large heavy bottomed oven proof pan (you will need a lid for the pan later)
4.add onions and garlic and fry on a low heat until translucent but not yet starting to brown
5.add garlic and fry for a few more minutes
6.turn heat up to medium and add the rest of the butter, the carrots and celery , fry for about 5 minutes while continuously stirring
7.add the beef (but reserve the Guinness it was marinating in) and rosemary and season well - making sure to add enough black pepper
8.fry for a few more minutes before adding all of the guinness and stir in the flour. It will look quite liquidly at this point but that is ok, it will reduce in the oven.
9.cover with lid and put on the bottom shelf of the pre heated-oven for about 1 hour stirring from time to time
10. turn down oven to 120° and cook for another 30 minutes again stirring occasionally, turn off oven but leave pan in oven (normally I prepare the filling the evening before and leave filling in oven overnight once oven has been turned off).

Next day:11.preheat oven to 160°(and take out pan if you have left in overnight)
12.grease a pie dish with some butter
13.divide pastry in two and roll out on a floured surface to fit size of pie dish (I buy frozen pastry which is prerolled, another timesaver)
14.line the pie dish with one of the sheets of pastry so that the pastry is hanging over the slides on the dish
15.check the pie filling for seasoning and adjust if necessary
16.pour filling into lined pie dish and spead out evenly
17.cover pie with second sheet of pastry and close by folding over the pastry lining the dish
18.make a criss-cross design on pastry wih a sharp knife
19.brush the pie with the beaten egg and milk mixture in bottom of preheated oven for about 40 mins
21.after 40 minutes turn up oven to 180° and cook for another 10 minutes until puffed and golden on top

Monday, 18 October 2010

Chase the Winter blues away with these blueberry wholewheat pancakes!

Winter finally arrived in Paris last weekend. The Summer clothes have been packed away and put in the "cave". For once I had a weekend with nothing to do and needed some comfort food to warm me up. Walking past the fruit market I found some blueberries - just the thing to lift the spirits and chase the winter blues away. For a lazy breakfast you can prepare the batter the night before and store overnight in the fridge.

To make 12 pancakes (I serve 3/4 per person) you will need:

150g wholewheat flour
40g caster sugar
25 melted butter and some more for frying
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 eggs
100ml (or slighly more of buttermilk) - if you don't have buttermilk add a tablespoon of lemon juice to the 100ml of milk and leave to stand for about 10 mins
250g fresh/frozen blueberries (if using frozen berries do not defrost)

How to make the batter:

1. Add all dry ingredients to a bowl and mix
2. In a second bowl whisk the eggs and vanilla extract
3. Add buttermilk and melted butter to egg mixture
4. Whisk in the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients

You can now either store the batter in the fridge at this stage or use it straight away.

To assemble the pancakes:

5.Heat a knob of butter in a non stick pan over a medium heat
6.Using as soup ladle drop a ladle full of the batter into the pan
7.Top with some blueberries
8.When pancake starts to bubble on top (after about 2 minutes) the turn pancakes over for another 2 minutes

If you have a large pan you can cook several at the same time - just leave lots of space between them, when cooked you can keep them hot in a warm oven until you are ready to serve them all!

I normally serve with some fromage blanc and some agave syrup or maple syrup.

Friday, 8 October 2010

with a recipe this easy brioche is not just for Sundays!

It has been a while since I have last blogged due to housemove (I now have a perfectly functional kitchen although still on the small side) and a wedding to organise there has not been much time for anything else.

My other half (now husband) eats exactly the same thing every morning, the only thing that changes is the smoothie/juice I serve with the petit dej and the homemade jam he spreads on a large slice or two of brioche. He is also very particular about his brioche - he only likes one specific brand. He likes to tell the story that about a year after we met I announced to him that the price of brioche had increased by 30 was not the price hike that got me baking brioche but the fact that no supermarket in easy reach of the new appartment stocks his favorite brand. The quest for the perfect home made brioche began.

I tried a few recipes before I came on this one, which I have to say is much better when made with help from my kitchenaid. I normally make 4 brioche loafs at a time and freeze three. That way I can take one out the night before I need it. I leave it in a buttered bread tin (I still have not gotten around to buying a proper brioche tin!) egg wash it, then pop it in the oven in the morning while I am taking my shower.

The only thing that can really go wrong is the yeast if you are not used to working with it, always make sure that you buy your dried yeast from a shop where there is a regular turnover of product and check that there is still a long expiry date. Also make sure you use good butter and flour.

I also have to say that even with buying good quality organic ingredients it is at least 50% cheaper to make brioche than to buy them in a supermarket or worse still in a Parisien bakery where you will pay about €15/kg

To make 2 loaves you will need:

225g good quality unsalted butter cut into small cubes

450g of strong white flour

pinch of salt

4 large eggs

50g caster sugar

2 x 5g packets of dried yeast

Ten simple stepq to the perfect brioche:

1. dissolve sugar and yeast in approx 70ml of tepid water in a mixing bowl (I use the kitchen aid bowl)

2. beat the eggs and add to the yeast mixture

3. next add the flour and salt to the bowl and if using a kitchenaid or other food processor mix to a stiff dough using the dough hook

4. once you have a smooth dough start to beat in the butter cubes gradually (I keep the dough hook) this can take up to 10 minutes with the kitchen aid on a slow speed, and will give you a shiny dough at the end

5. transfer the dough to a large well oiled bowl (I use sunflower oil), cover with clingfilm and leave in fridge overnight

6. next morning I knead the dough and divide in two, I wrap one half very well in several layers of cling film and put in the freezer

7. heat oven to 180°c

8. put other half in either a well buttered brioche tin, if you have one, or an ordinary loaf tin if not, egg wash the brioche and leave in a warm place to rise, it should double in size

9. egg wash the brioche again before putting in preheated oven, I normally set the timer for 25 minutes after which time I test it with a skewer, iif it comes out clean the brioche is done, if not leave in oven for another 5 minutes and do the skewer test again, repeat until skewer comes out clean.

10. serve hot from the oven with homemade jam

This brioche is moist and keeps for 5 days or so, if you wrap it well in greaseproof paper and tinfoil, that is it any of the brioche makes it past breakfast!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

pixie's home made crunchie muesli

Like most people I have a nickname which my family refer to me by, most people assume that mine is related to my small stature & features but no, my nickname is not "pixie" but "picksie" ! I am well known in our house for being a picker, from the skin off the roast chicken to the icing off the Christmas cake. My speciality is still however picking the dried fruit (especially juicy raisins and dates) out off the bags of muesli which really drives my dad mad! I have tried every type of variation of muesli stocked in my local healthfood shop, but the mix never seems quite right, there is always too much of something and not quite enough of another, some mueslis are too bland and some granolas too sweet.

To add insult to injury the price always seems at least twice the price of buying the ingredients individually. For the last few months I have been on a crusade to find the perfect start to my day and the perfect toping for my fruit salads & yoghurts. Readers I have finally cracked it!

Pixie's crunchy muesli: ingredients: 2 cups of porridge oats , 1 cup quinoa flakes, 1 cup cornflakes (sweetened with apple juice), 1/2 cup of grated coconut, 1/2 cup of chopped dried dates, 1/2 cup of mixed nuts (what ever you fancy - I use a mix of walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashew and brazil nuts), 1/2 cup chopped dried figs, 4 chopped dried apricots, 1/2 cup of raisins, 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds, 2 tablespoons golden linseeds, 4 generous tablespoons of maple syrup and 3 generous tablespoons of sunflower oil

Put all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well then stir in maple syrup & sunflower oil and mix well. Transfer to a well oiled baking tin (I use a brownie tin) if you want more of a granola or prefer your cereal more toasted then a baking tray would work. Place in preheated oven (150°) for about 30 mins; stirring regularly to ensure even toasting and to avoid over baking. Once an even golden brown take out of oven and leave to cool in tin before transferring to a large glass jar or Tupperware.

Lasts for about 2 months in a jar if you manage to stop yourself snacking on it!
In terms of price even with the amount of dried fruit content exceeding standard museli this works out at about half the price especially if you can find a shop like wholefoods market ( or in Paris where you can buy cereals and dried fruits loose in the quantities you want to buy. This also means that you can have fun experimenting making your own special museli.

While that is me sorted for breakfast, muesli is not enough for the Frenchman in my life, who recently paid for me to attend a baking course at and is now expecting to see the fruits of his investment.

I never appreciated the amount of work (or butter!) that went into a croissant until I took this class. The croissants are made over 3 days i.e. you want to eat them on Sunday while reading your paper, then you better start on Friday morning! Tomorrow is Bastille day so a public holiday in France, which means a nice late and long breakfast. The Frenchman suggested that this should also be "pay day" so I started preparing my croissants on Monday morning. But more about that tomorrow!

Need inspiration for your muesli, then try some of the links below:

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Tried & tasted : L'Ecrivain, Dublin

Anyone who knows anything about food in Ireland knows who Derry & Sally-Anne Clarke are, and even if you don't know food but read the irish magazines & social pages you will know them from their relationship trials and tribulations. They are the couple behind one of Dublin's most successful restaurants L'Ecrivain.
Then the crisis happened and L'ecrivan was one of the first restaurants with a lunchtime menu for €25 - imagine that eating in a michelin starred restaurant for €25, the price of a main course in main mediocre restaurants in Ireland during the last few years.

Very often when I come home for a long weekend I take the first flight out from Beauvais which gets me into Dublin for around 10H15 giving me plenty of time to make it into town for an early lunch with my mam. I love to have lunch with my mam because like me she really appreciates good food and nice restaurants and treating her is a nice way to thank her for being a great mam. Last weekend was no exception and lured by the €25 euro menu I reserved for two at l'ecrivan.
I am sure that this is how it starts for many of their new diners, the lure of the €25 menu at one of Dublin's leading restaurants gets you knocking at their door. You arrive, the staff are welcoming and put you at ease, you know before you sit at your table in the relaxed but sophisticated surroundings that the service will be excellent and that your lunch will be good. Then they hand you the menu, you see the €25 menu on the lefthand side but you just can't help your eyes wandering to the righthand side to the a la carte menu.
There are two things that I know my mam loves, one is scallops and the other is turbot, both of these were on the a la carte menu. I used this an excuse to abandon plan A and to suggest we both order a la carte, so mam would not have to feel guilty about opting for the more expensive menu and afterall as I said to her, how many times do you think we are next going to book a table here?

But really it was for me, my tastedbuds wre tingling with sheer delight as I read down through the menu. While starter and main course options left me in a thizzy over what to choose the dessert options just did not do it for me, but then again I was never a sweet girl!

For starters I chose the sea bream with a spring vegtable nage, courgette and basil, quail egg (breaded) & white asparagus tips. This was summer in a dish. The fish portion was a reasonable size and perfectly cooked. The spring vegtable nage seemed to be a posh way to say bouillion but was gorgeous and really complemented the basil which came as a puree.
Mam had the scallops with cauliflower, pressed ham hock and black pudding - while the entire dish was good, it was the blackpudding which was really outstanding. It was wrapped in what resembled a miniture spring rolled and was propped on top of a scallop.

Being fond of Japanese food and flavors. I was pulled towards the wild sea trout which was served with arguga caviar & yuzu vinegarette served on spinach. One of favorite teas from Marriage Freres in Paris is Yuzu tea. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus style fruit with a distinctive taste. One of my colleagues brought me back some confit yuzu from her trip to Japan and I still searching for a recipe to use it in. As a dressing it worked well and lifted the flavour of the fish. Sea trout in France is not often on menus in Paris, well not that I have seen which is a real pity, it is a fish that has a lot to give.
My mam cooks sea trout a lot at home and as predicted went for the Turbot which cam served with a lobster gnocchi, fennel salad and parmesan, there were also some ecrivisse hidden around her plate.

The only detraction from the experience were the potatoes...yes they boiled new potatoes in butter, yes they were delicious, yes they melted in my mouth and complemented my main course so well BUT they were FRENCH!!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Quick Rhubarb Chutney

One of the things that my other half considers sacrilege is chutney. It is not so much the chutney he minds but the way we use it. He cannot imagine why anyone would want to "mask the taste of a good cheese by smearing it in chutney. I remember vividly his first visit to Ireland and the look on his face when he realized that yes, my brother was going to eat the foie gras that had been lovingly brought all the way from Limoges, with a thick layer of chutney. But other half is not alone in his beliefs in France which is probably why it is damn difficult to get hold of a good chutney in Paris.

Having brought back some smoked mackerel from our Ireland trip, my mouth was watering at the thoughts of serving it with a rhubarb chutney but if I wanted it I was going to have to make it myself.

I came across a quick version on the internet, but it was missing my favorite ingredients, raisins, so I added some golden and normal raisins to it. The ginger gives it a little kick. This was great with the smoked fish but even better with a nice tart goats cheese!

you will need:

500g rhubarb
100g mixed raisins and golden sultanas
1 medium onion, finely chopped
100ml cider vinegar
1cm piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
200g sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Trim and wash the rhubarb, then slice it diagonally into fine chunks
Put the onion, sugar, vinegar and ginger in a saucepan and bring to a boil, let boil for around 5 minutes and then add the rhubarb. reduce heat immediately and let simmer until it starts to thicken (about 20 mins or so but could take longer). Put into sterilized jar while still hot. Keeps in fridge for up to a year.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Apricot & Cheese Cake

One of the great advantages of living in Paris is that in the Summer there is a glut of nationally produced fruits that don't grow in Ireland. While Spanish apricots had been on the scene for some weeks (albeit a little green and bitter), last weekend was the first time I noticed French apricots fresh from provence. On promo at €3-80/Kg I could not resist. However sometimes there are good reasons for special offers and this was no exception the fruit was very ripe and was not going to last for more that 2 days.

First I though about an apricot tart with a frangipane creme but then realised I had no pastry left in the freezer and it was too hot a day to be fiddling around wit making and rolling out pastry.

Thankfully I stumbled a apricot & cheese cake recipe. The first time I made this cake I followed the original instructions to the letter, the quantity of apricots seemed to be overstated and the cooking time understated!

The result is a moist cake with a texture similar to the french flan. The apricots caramelise on top releasing a natural juicy sweetness, for a taste of provence!

You will need:

400G of apricots

3 eggs

150 fromage frais (if you cannot find this you can use a mix of cottage cheese & plain yoghurt but blend until smooth)

150 caster sugar

140g butter

150g plain flour

1 vanilla pod (from Madagascar if possible)

1 table spoon of icing sugar

To make:

1. Preheat oven to 180°

2. melt butter in a small saucepan

3. split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds into a mixing bowl, add eggs & sugar and whisk until light and fluffy

4. whisking all of the time add the melted butter (retaining a little butter to grease the cake tin/casserole dish), fromage frais, and lastly the flour

5. wash & drop the apricots, destone and cut in half

6.grease a shallow rectangular cake tin (or a suitable pyrex casserole dish) and pour in the cake mixture

7. place the apricots on top of the mixture and using a sieve sprinkle over with the icing sugar and cook in oven for around 50 minutes

8. the cake is cooked when a sharp knife comes out clean, leave to cool well, before eating

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

cool as a cucumber soup in the city of lights

The temperature this week hit the 30s and it was a heavy, humid and sticky heat, there was even no need for me to go to the studio to practice Bikram yoga, I had the same conditions at home!

Not the type of day you want to spend over a steaming stove in the kitchen. You want something cooling, refreshing, light, simple and quick, like this chilled cucumber soup; just the thing when things start to sizzle in the city.

This recipe is based on the New Covent Garden Soup Company Recipe book but omitting the cream which I find quite heavy.

You will need:

one large cucumber - peeled, deseeded and diced

275ml chicken stock

275 ml of tomato juice

400 ml of natural yoghurt

1 small garlic clove
small bunch of mint leaves roughly chopped
1/4 red chili, deseeded and chopped (use rubber gloves to handle the chili)

salt and black pepper

To garnish:

6 tbsp creme fresh, 2 tomatoes (peeled deseeded and diced), 2 teaspoons black olives destoned and roughly choped)

To make:

1. Place cucumber in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain

2. Mix together the tomato juice, the stock, yoghurt, mint and garlic leave to infuse for 30 minutes

3.After 30 minutes wash & dry cucumber using a clean tea towel squeezing out any excess water

4. Strain the mix of tomato juice and stock mixture through a sieve then add the diced cucumber & chopped chilli pepper

5. Chill in fridge for between 2 and 6 hours (although have had left overs the day after)

6. To serve , ladle soup into 6 bowls, mix garnish ingredients in a small bowl, add a tablespoon of creme fraiche to each bowl of soup and top with garnish

For another take on cucmber soup , especially for those who are not fans of tomatoes, try the recipe below from Jody Eddy on the eddybles blog.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

this is no ordinary cheese & tomato sandwich!

The plan had been quite simple, go to the market and pick up some "artichauts poivrade" to try out the carpaccio recipe in the new edition of "Cusines et Vins de France". Artichokes were not something we saw on a regular basis in Ireland and having mastered some globe artichokes recipes last Summer, I thought I move on to the smaller peppery version.

Alas, this good plan went the way of most good plans; there were no "artichauts poivrade" at the market, so I had to find inspiration for Saturday lunch elsewhere. I set my sights on some big tomatoes called "noir de crimée", kind of a funnier looking & darker version of a beef tomato, and took two of those.

When flicking through "Cusines et Vins de France" I had come across a recipe for a sandwich using large old style tomatoes, with pesto and mozzerella cheese, but had neither of the other two main ingredients.

I did however have some homemade black olive tapenade, basil and goats cheese. Here is my version of that favorite staple; a cheese and tomato sandwich. It serves 2.

You will need:

2 slices of sour dough or granary bread
150g goats cheese (log)
3 to 4 tablespoons of olive tapenade
1/2 red onion cut in halfmoons/rings
a few basil leaves
2 large tomatoes (if you can't find an old style variety beefsteak will do)

to assemble:

1.Boil enough water in a saucepan large enough to hold the two tomatoes, once the water is boiling put in the two tomatoes for 20 seconds, before removing and plunging into ice cold water for one minute. Then take out of water then dry and peel them. The taking a sharp knife cut the tomatoes either in half or in three (depending on the thickness), I managed 3.
2. Toast the bread.
3. Cut the goats cheese log into 12 slices
4. Spread a thin layer of tapenade on each slice of toast
5. Take each bottom slice of tomato and spread some tapenade on it, then place each slide tapende side up on a slice of toast
6. Top the tomato slice with 2/3 slices of goats cheese, some basil leaves and some onion
7. Spread some tapenade on each second slice of tomato and place on top of the goats cheese, basil and onion layer
8. Repeat above step if you cut tomatoes in 3.
9. Once stack is completed drizzle with some olive oil and add some black pepper & salt.
Serve with a green leaf salad

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Hot Day: Cooling salad

Today finally felt like Summer again in Paris with the sun shining and temperatures in the late twenties. I love fresh taste of summer salads asian inspired ones are best to chill.....

This salad is takn from the Ballymalo cookbook.

Pomegranate, persimon, pear and pecan nut salad for 2: 1 persimmon (Kaki) 1 pear 1/2 pomegranate 12 pecan nuts -toasted 1/2 lime mixed salad leave dressing: 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon walnut oil, teaspoon of french mustard, Qarter & cut persimon & pear lengthways and place in below, squeeze juice of half lime over. Mix in the seeds from the pomegranate. Whisk ingredients together for the dressing. Toss salad leaves in dressing. Place salad leaves on plate and top with the fruit and then the pecans.

A Strawberry Tart for a Summer's Day!

With the temperature in the lates 20s, today actually felt like Summer and I wanted to keep that feeling as long as I could.

Strawberries scream summer. When I was a kid in Ireland, people would sell Wexford strawberries on the roadsides from their cars and this was often a Summer treat coming back from granny's house on a Sunday afternoon. To this day nothing tastes as good to me as a Wexford strawberry. Unfortunately the Wexford farmers don't make it to this side of the channel but the French Gariguette comes a close second.

You don't really want to be making pastry on a hot Summer's day, well at least you don't want to have to be rolling out as warm pastry is hard to work with. Luckily I had some sweet shortcrust pastry in the freezer, I tend to make it in batches and freeze it, handy to have to a make a dessert for a last minute dinner. You do need to let it defrost before using it however.

The tart I made has a creme patisserie filling, this has on occasion gone wrong for me, either I have burned the creme or it has gone lumpy. In case this happens you, or if you do not want to go the hassle of making the creme patisserie, an alternative is to use mascarpone cheese
sweetened with some icing sugar.

To make the tart you need:

base: shortcrust pastry (homemade or store bought)

creme patissiere: 1/2 l of milk (try to avoid UHT), 125g caster sugar, 5 egg yolks, 50g sifted flour, contents of 1 vanilla pod

To decorate: 500g (2 large punnets) of Wexford or gariguette strawberries

To make base: grease the tart tin (with removable base) with butter. Form pastry into oblong cylinderic shape and cut into rounds (a tip picked up from a Jamie Oliver book, another method is to grate the pastry into the tin and then press it to shape of tin). Starting from the center of the tin place the rounds of pastry in the tin, overlapping so there is no gaps, and then work up the sides of the tin. Leave some pastry overhanging as it will shrink when it cooks. Prick the bottom of pastry base with a fork several times and then bake blind* for 15 minutes in an oven preheated to 150°, then place back in the oven for a futher 10 minutes. When you take the tart shell out of the oven egg wash the base immediately. This will prevent the base from going soggy later.

To make creme patissiere: Boil together the milk and contents of the vanilla pod. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until the mixture is foamy, then add the sifted flour. The gradually pour in the milk while stirring. Pour mixture back into the milk saucepan and bring to boil for 2 minutes while stirring continuously. It is important to ensure that the mixture is cooked. Let cool.

Prepare the strawberries: wash and hull the strawberries and cut in half.

To assemble the tart: pour in chilled creme patissiere and then place strawberries pointy side up. Put in fridge to chill for at least one hour.

*Bake blind: cover pastry base with a piece of greaseproof paper and then fill pastry shell with either special cooking beans or with any dried beans that you have (chickpeas, kidney beans etc) the idea is to weigh down the pastry.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Going Native at the Blackberry Cafe & Restaurant

The Blackberry Cafe was recommended by the receptionist at the Delphi mountain resort when I was inquiring about a good local seafood restaurant. The Blackberry Cafe is in Leenane about a 10 minute drive from the Delphi mountain resort and overlooks the bay.

We arrived just before one pm just managing to get the last available table which had just been freed up as we walked in the door.
The menu had something to suit all tastes, not just seafood, and was very reasonably priced, the soup which lots of my fellow diners were tucking into and came with lots of homemade brown bread and butter was €5-50, there was also a seafood chowder.

To start we chose a dozen oysters to share (€17). I got stuck into the oysters before my dining companion who was embarrassed by my groans of delight. They were fat, juicy and salty. My concentration on appreciating these meaty delights was interrupted by a moan from the other end of the table, as my fellow diner downed his first.
For the main course we shared the seafood platter (€19) had plenty of eating for two, there was poached salmon, crab, mussels, smoked mackrel and smoked salmon. All of this was delicious.
Lunch at the Blackberry will however be remembered for the oysters, I remember the first time I tasted oysters in 2005 in the Rotonde restaurant in Paris, and my first tase of Irish oysters will be an equally memorable experience.

simple supper of connemara smoked salmon and easy blinis

When we were in Ireland last week we took the windy road from Clifden to Bunowen Pier and the Connemara Smokehouse. The setting of the smokehouse is stunning perched out on a pier cutting the Atlantic shoreline.

The folks at the Connemara Smokehouse are friendly - and imagine our suprise to find ourselves being served by a frenchman! They even smoke french crooner Pierre Perret's fish when he comes to Ireland!

The Smokehouse specialises in wild products and their range even includes smoked tuna - I was amazed to discover that tuna can be fished in Irish coastal waters but Nicholas explained that this is due to the famous mexican gulf stream. You have to be passionate to work at the smokehouse, with working weeks of up to 80 hours, as fish is smoked as it comes off the boats. The fish is smoked using beechwood. And have no fear your purchases are put in special insulated boxes ensuring they survive the journey home.

We bought lots of wild smoked fish but did not indulge in wild salmon choosing the organic farmed version instead. When so much effort has gone into a product you want to serve it with only the best, here is a simple bilini recipe that you do no need to prepare in advance.


1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon each baking soda & salt
2 large eggs separated
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter


1.Put all dry ingredients into bowl and mix well in another bowl whisk together egg yolks and milk then whisk into the dry ingredients

2. With an electric beater whisk egg whites until they form soft peaks and then fold into the mixture above taking care to keep mixture light and airy

3.Fold 3 tablespoons of the butter to this mixture until it forms a smooth batter

4. Brush a small non stick pan with some of the remaining butter and heat the pan until it is hot but not smoking

5. Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons per bilini and cook until surface begins to bubble then flip over for about 2 minutes

This makes about 8 bilinis I normally make in batches and then keep warm in over until ready to serve

To serve

Place 2 slices of smoked salmon & two bilinis on each plate, with a large spoon of creme fraiche with fresh chopped chives mixed through it, a small green salad and for an extra touch add some capers fried in olive oil.
Connemara is a longway from Paris but luckily you don't need to make the trip to Bunowen pier you can buy online at and yes, they ship overseas!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

catch of the day: willem ledueil of ze kitchen gallery recipe test: grilled monk fish with a grapefruit sauce vierge

Having picked up some monkfish at the Breteuil market this morning, I was flicking through my cookbooks and magazines to find an original recipe for a romantic meal for two. 4 cookbooks and several magazines later mission accomplished!

Ze Kitchen Gallery & Kitchen Gallery Bis are two modern fusion style restaurants in Paris that never fail to tantilate with fresh amazing flavor combinations. This month's "Elle a table"features an article on Willem Le Deuil and some of his recipes including one for monkfish with a sauce vierge with grapefruit. Would I be able to create with the same effect some of his dishes at home?

Reading through the ingredients though, I was missing the cockles, I debated whether it was worthwhile popping out again to get some but in the end decided that if my romantic dinner was to have any chance of creating the same taste sensation as a meal at one of his two restaurants, I would need all the help I could get, including the cockles!

The recipe was easy to follow and very simple. The recipe was to serve four but I halved the quantities as there was only two of us. I would not however advise halfing the quanties for the sauce, as I ended up having to add more olive oil. Next time I make this recipe I will use the quantities given in the recipe for the sauce vierge.

Did I manage to do the creator of this recipe justice...the verdict of my fellow a "grand chef" could have cooked this I think he may have been slightly overstated the result but I will make this recipe again, and the cockles really made the difference.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Pretty in Pink: the art of a perfectly iced cake or almost....

What a week for food!

On Wednesday I was at an olive oil tasting in the 6th, it was organised by the Slow Food Convivium and was hosted by Simé and Dominique Masstot of "Olivari", 8 rue Littré. We tried 5 different oils from Greece, France, Spain and two from Italy ranging from ripe fruity and light to more intense oils. The suprise for me was the desert of mango, basil & olive oil, you need a fruity olive oil to pull it off (2 medium ripe mangos cubed, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and some thorn basil to taste!).

Saturday I headed off to "Spring" in the first arrondisement where they were selling fresh white asparagus with purple tips by the kilo. I bought two kilos! Yesterday I ate it raw simply dressed with lemon juice but tonight Iwill be steaming it and serving it with a light vinigerette.

Fed up of making delicious tasting cakes which are then let down by decoration that even kindgarten child would embarrassed by and finding myself alone for the weekend, I was up bright and early on Sunday morning to attend the cake decorating class in english at "cooking with class" near the Sacre Coeur.

The class was run by Briony, who taught us passed on as much of her know how as she could in three and a half hours from putting the ganache on the cake, to making sugar craft flowers and applying the sugar icing to the cake and getting that all important smooth finish. She also passed on lots of really good tips, including filling in gaps ad getting rid of air bubbles. The class was a really good mix of hands on work and enough help & encouragement from Briony to help ensure we all had a good result at the end of the class.

I would highly recommend this class anyone and am planning to sign up for more of the courses at the school, especially if as rumoured they start a regular cake decorating class, apparently just learning to roll out the sugar craft merits whole class itself! (mind you after my experience today I would believe it!)

The only downside is that your cake will look so good you won't want to eat it!