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!