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 (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/) or in Paris http://www.bio-c-bon.eu/ 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 http://www.cooknwithclass.com/ 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.