Sunday, 9 October 2011

perfect for afternoon tea: simple fruit scones

With three french ladies invited for a traditional afternoon I did not want to disappoint. On the menu; cute finger sandwiches of salmon, egg and mayonnaise with chives, and cucumber with cream cheese. The carrot cake - a special request from one of the ladies who had not tasted it since a trip to London years ago, was made, as were the cup cakes and white chocolate muffins. There was only the scones to make, but having my watched my mam magic these up in a flash, I had left them until last.

I got ready all the ingredients and only then did I realise that I was out of baking powder - not easily found in your local Parisian supermarket so I had to leg it to WH Smith - yes you read correctly, in Paris WH Smith stocks a lot more than books! I went in to by a €3 tub of baking powder (no, not a misprint, it is in fact over €3) and came out with 2 books, whole earth organic crunchie peanut butter, 2 books and a tin of heinz organic baked beans! Over €40 exchanged hands....all for some scones for a traditional afternoon tea.

The scones were a big hit and worth the fuss for the baking powder. Himself said they were almost as good as Maggie's (my mam) but not quite...I blame the non availability of buttermilk in Paris and the fact that my supermarket does not stock Kerrygold!

Here is my recipe - buttermilk is better than ordinary milk if you can find it, and the sugar is optional. Personally I prefer mine without and load up on the jam.

You will need: 450g plain flour, 20g baking powder, 30g caster sugar, pinch of salt, 75g of very cold butter (straight from the fridge and cut in cubes) , 2 eggs, 200ml of milk (or butter milk) and 100g of raisins or mix of raisins and confit cherries (cut in half).

Put flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and raisins in a bowl and mix. Rub in the butter - if you have warm hands it is better to use a Knife to cut the butter into the flour mix. I use a stainless steel mixing bowl which I chill in the fridge for 30 mins before using. It may be my imagination but I find this gives a lighter scone. The mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs at this stage.

Next beat the eggs and the milk together with a fork. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and slowly pour some of the egg and milk mixture into the bowl and gentles work into the dry mixture with one hand. You should not need all of the liquid - yo want to create a dough which just comes together without being too wet. Once you have the desired consistency turn out onto a floured surface and gently knead.

Roll out dough using a floured rolling pin until approx 4/5cm thick. Remember always roll from the middle of the pastry and to turn the pastry regularly when rolling.

Then using a 5 cm cookie cutter (I use a small water glass) cut into the dough to make between 10 and 12 scones. Lay the scones on a lightly floured baking tray.

If there is any liquid left over the use this to glaze the scones, otherwise brush them over with some milk. Then bake in a preheated over (230°c) for about 6 to 8 minutes or until golden brown. Once out of the oven leave to cool on a wire rack.

Delicious served with cream and homemade jam or just as I do; still warm with a good layer of Kerry cold butter and a cup of Barry's tea. On a drizzly day in Paris, I can almost believe I am at home.

Photos to follow - the ones that were not quickly gobbled up - left in doggie bags.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

vegan pasta pesto salad

vegan pasta pesto salad by girleatsparis
vegan pasta pesto salad, a photo by girleatsparis on Flickr.

yesterday's lunch: a vegan pasta salad with wild rocket and pesto made from fresh herbs from the balcony. Replaced the pinenuts and parmesan cheese with roast hazelnuts.

Happy Sunday Morning Wakeup Call!

Need an extra incentive to get you out of bed on Sunday morning after partying the night before ? This juice has everything you will help clear out your system while still giving you the energy you need to make it through Sunday! Himself really needed this kick start this morning!

I always have bananas in the freezer, a tip I picked up from Nigella Lawson, I normally buy them almost black in the discount section in the fruit and veg shop, then chop them up into 2 inch pieces. This means as well that your juice or smoothie is nice and cold without adding ice cubes which can dilute the taste.

(Serves 2 - you can easily freeze half for next Sunday morning!)

You will need a juicer for this recipe.

1 mini water melon or a quarter of a large one
1 tablespoon of honey
2 tablespoons fromage blanc (or normal yogurt or soy yogurt or soft tofu)
1 and 1/2 frozen bananas

To make:

First juice the water melon by cutting it into chunks small enough to go in juicer.
Blend with all of the remaining ingredients and serve in a large glass and serve straight away.

While it is better to serve straight away to retain the nutrients - yo can also freeze for later.


Sunday, 1 May 2011

I can't believe it's not a brownie: wheat, dairy and sugar free dessert for an antioxidant high!

The first avocado went into a smoothie....I kid you not. I juiced four small apples and added a peeled and chopped kiwi, a quarter of a peeled and cubed cucumber, two generous tablespoons of agave syrup (add more to taste) and of course one medium and very ripe avocado, thrown in a handful of ice cubes and whizz it all up. Pour into two glasses and serve, preferably without divulging the ingredients - if pushed admit the apples and kiwi. Himself really liked this smoothie but admitted that not a single drop would have passed his lips had he known about the avocado!

Avocado number two had an even more surprising fate - it ended up in the frosting of a wheat, sugar and dairy free chocolate brownie. If you are going to indulge in a brownie better not to indulge in empty calories but to make them count - this recipe is high in anti oxidants, protein and good fats...although not one for the weight watchers. I invested in the Snog healthy treats cookbook, this was the first recipe that I tried out and was such a success that I plan to work my way though the book. I adapted the recipe slightly by soaking the pecan nuts and dates over night. Pre-soaking the nuts makes them much easier to digest and renders the nutrients more available to the body. Himself has a very sweet tooth so I uped the quanties of agave syrup. It is also very important to use a good quality cocoa - I wouldn't really advise replacing the cocoa with carob powder, cocoa is an excellent source of antioxidants and minerals such as magnesium, it also has ant inflammatory properties but the bottom line is that carob just won't taste as good!

To make the base whizz together in a food processor; 10 medjool dates soaked overnight in water and pitted, 50g of good quality cocoa powder (raw if you can get it), pinch of sea salt; 80ml of agave syrup and 230g of pecan nuts also soaked over night. When the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs and is beginning to stick together press into a 12 x 4 inch flan tin lined with greaseproof paper and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

To make the frosting, whizz together in the food processor 4 medjool dates soaked overnight in water and pitted, 25 g of cacao powder, one medium peeled and stoned avocado, and 80ml of agave syrup and process until smooth.

Spread the frosting evenly over the base and top with a handful of roughly chopped pecans nuts and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. This recipe makes 6 large servings of 18 small bite size squares.

Now I just need to find a recipe for avocado number three....anyone any ideas????

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Dainty old fashioned apple slices

One thing was sure when I was a kid, it was that Granny O'Toole would always have a tart hot just out of the oven, either rhubarb or apple, which you could smell before you had even arrived at the gate.

When my granny made a tart she only needed to buy the sugar and the flour; the butter she made herself, the hens laid eggs in her yard, the cream it was served with came from the cow in the shed and grandad always made sure she had plenty of apples and rhubarb. Everything was fresh and no tart has ever come close to being as good as granny's....although the recipe below comes close and is adapted from
from Darina Allen's "Irish Traditional Cooking" cookbook.

You will need:

for the pastry : 225g butter, 50g caster sugar, 2 free range eggs, 340g white flour

for the filling : 700G of apples (I used a mix of different types of organic apples) , 100g sugar and a sprinkling of whole cloves
one brownie tin or another rectangular baking tin

to make:
1. first make the pastry: put the sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until fluffy (you can also do this by hand) add the eggs and beat for several minutes before adding the flour. Roll into a ball, cover in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for a least one hour.
2. while the pastry is chilling you can core, peel and slice the apples (I like to quater the apples and then cut in relatively thick slices) and cover in lemon juice to avoid discolorisation
3. preheat oven to 180°c
4. to assemble the tart: cut one third of the pastry and put back in the fridge to chill (will be easier to work with when you are ready to use it). On a cold lightly floured surface roll out the remaining two thirds of the pastry to line your brownie tin and leave some of the pastry hanging over the edges
5. arrange apples on tart base and sprinkle with sugar and cloves
6. take remaining pastry our of fridge and roll out to make a lid for the tart
7. seal lid with the edges of the base and egg wash
8. cook in oven for approx 40 mins until top is golden and apples are TENDER
9. to serve, cut into squares and serve with freshly whipped or clotted cream

Saturday, 8 January 2011

2011 will be rich and intense....

Why fix something when it's not broken.......maybe just for the thrill or maybe because it will work even better!

I have been using the same successful chocolate brownie recipe for the last few years which I have adapted from one of Nigel Slater's recipes to suit the chocolately tastes of the man I share my life with. But it's early January so out with the old and in with the new and all that...time to try the chocolate pecan brownie recipe from Denis Cotter's Cafe Paradiso cookbook.

Described by Cotter as "Rich and intensely chocolately..suitable for impressing at a dinner party as they are for a late-morning splurge". That they are "chocolatey" is no understatement; there is 450g of dark chocolate in this recipe compared with 300g in my old recipe which results in sinfully delicious chunky brownies which Nigella L. would approve of, which in fact should come with a warning - these are serious brownies for grownups. Resistance is futile!

I was out of vanilla essence so used contents of a vanilla pod instead - but you can substitute with 1tsp of vanilla essence. It really is worth using the best quality chocolate you can afford.

You will need: 450g good quality dark chocolate (70%), 225g unsalted butter, 225 caster sugar, 3 eggs, 2tblsps strong coffee, 75g flour, 1tsp baking powder, pinch of salt, 150g of chopped pecan nuts, contents of one vanilla pod and 10 inch square or brownie tin, lined with baking paper.

To make:
Preheat oven to 180°.
Roughly chop about half of the chocolate and place with the butter in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water and leave to melt. Once melted put aside to cool.
Chop the remaining chocolate into small pieces.
Quickly beat the sugar, eggs and coffee then add the melted chocolate and beat again.
In another bowl mix together all of the remaining ingredients (flour, chopped chocolate, baking powder and contents of vanilla pod - and fold into the sugar and egg mixture and the pour into the prepared baking tin and bake for 30 minutes or so. It is really important to leave the brownies to cool in the tin for at least an hour before cutting.

Delicious served warm with cream, vanilla ice cream or a creme anglaise...

I have firmly resolved to have many rich and intense years to come!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

New year's skinny jean blues? Try this detox pearl barley & shiitaké mushroom risotto recipe!

The good news New Year's eve was not as disastrous for my skinny jeans as Christmas as it could have been .

A relatively "healthy" yet indulging meal; starter of home made buckwheat blinis with wild Irish smoked salmon (brought back from my last trip home) with organic creme fraiche, a main course of blackened wild line-caught sea bass with a cockle & noilly reduction sauce (not so healthy). This was the first time I had attempted a noilly reduction sauce but it was very successful and apparently it tasted even better the next day heated up and served with the remaining portion of fish according to the other half!

This was followed by a cheese plate which included a very ripe brie au truffe (brie and black truffle-a seasonal delicacy in France). I have to admit I did have a very small piece of the dessert - a buche de Noel brought by one of the guests.

I heard on the radio yesterday that in the US most of the calories consumed during the main holiday dinners are consumed before you even get to the table....maybe this is where I went wrong...

The bad news is that the skinny jeans are still a little too a short detox programme after the festivities is required if I am ever to wriggle into them again. There is no point in going on a low calories diet after the seasonal pig out as your body will convince itself that you are starving it so you need good quality low GI carbs, protein and good fats and to cut out all refined sugar and processed foods until those jeans fit again!

Pearl barley has a much lower GI than many of its cereal counterparts such as wheat and rice. It is also rich in soluable fibre which helps rid of fatty substances, much needed after the festive excesses. Shiitaké mushrooms have been shown to lots of nutritional benefits from boosting the immune system to helping support the body's natural detoxification processes. Parsley contains more vitamin C than oranges and twice as much iron as spinach and is also a powerful antioxidant. All three are combined in the following recipe providing a very healthy start to January.

Those of you not worried about fitting in to skinny jeans can replace 10cl of the stock with 10cl of dry white wine, can add a tablespoon or two of creme fraiche and top each serving with some grated ewes cheese !

This recipe serves 4.

You will need: 250g pearl barley, 200g shiitaké mushrooms cleaned and shredded , 2 medium yellow onions finely chopped , 2 tbsp olive oil, 90cl vegetable stock, handful of flat leaf parsley coarsely chopped, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To make: heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan, sweat the onions and when they are just translucent add the pearl barley to the saucepan. Stir the barely and onions to make sure that you coat all of the barley in oil and cook for about 2 minutes. Next add the wine if you are using it and add the vegetable stock one ladle at a time while continuing to stir until the barley is cooked and all of the stock has been absorbed (about 30 mins) and then stir in the parsley. Leave to rest. Heat the remaining oil in a small frying pan and cook the mushrooms for approx 5 minutes before stirring into the risotto. (You can reserve some of the mushrooms for decoration if you like). Season the risotto with freshly ground black pepper and salt, sprinkle with grated ewes cheese if using and serve.