Monthly Archives: May 2013

Hearts of palm salad

If you haven’t had hearts of palm before, you must try this as it is delicious. The taste of hearts of palm is very delicate and the texture is soft and juicy. A good dressing will exalt its flavour and the tomatoes and parsley add a splash of colour. A very nice and simple salad, done super fast with the Thermomix.

SaladePalmier_002

Ingredients

serves 2

1 can of hearts of palm (400g)
A few cherry tomatoes on the vine
2 sprigs of fresh parsley

Dressing
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp oil (I used rapeseed oil, but you can use any oil you like)
1/2 tsp mustard
1 celery stick, cut in chunks
1 shallot
Salt & pepper

Method

  1. Place all the dressing ingredients in the TM bowl and mix 3 sec/speed 5.
  2. Cut the hearts of palm into thick slices and the cherry tomatoes in half.
  3. Pour the dressing over and serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

SaladePalmier_001

Guilt-free chocolate cream with silken tofu

I just love it when I find a recipe that is both tasty AND healthy! Silken tofu is a soft form of tofu and can be found in health shops or in the allergy/health section in your supermarket if they stock it. I had heard about it a while ago to use as a substitute for eggs in a chocolate mousse but never actually tried it. Then, my friend Maiwenn from La main á la pate recently published a chocolate cream recipe using this unusual ingredient and I suddenly remembered that I had bought a carton of silken tofu a while back but never used it. This was thus the perfect occasion to try it although I wasn’t sure if I would like the taste of silken tofu. Well, it adds a slight tang to the chocolate cream but it is not at all unpleasant and you mostly get the taste of chocolate. It’s also a doodle to make and since it’s a guilt-free dessert, it’s got my thumbs up!

SilkTofuChoc_001

Source: La main á la pate

Ingredients

Serves 4

200g dark chocolate, cut in chunks
400g silken tofu
25g butter
2 tbsp corn syrup or golden syrup or honey

Method

  1. Blitz the chocolate in the TM bowl for 3 sec/speed 6. Scrape down with the spatula.
  2. Add the butter and melt for 5 min/60C/speed 2, scraping the sides of the bowl half way through.
  3. Add the silken tofu and syrup/honey and mix 30 sec/speed 6. Scrape down the sides and mix another few seconds at speed 6 to mix everything to a smooth creamy texture.
  4. Pour into ramequins and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Odaios Tented food exhibition – part 2

So here we are for the second part of our guided tour in the world of fine food hosted by Odaios (the first part is here).

LaFermiere_001

La Fermiere is a French dairy company founded in 1952 in Marseilles and was at the time the first company to put on the market high quality yogurts. It soon became renowned in the region and 60 years later, it is sold internationally and is synonym with quality and tradition. The range now extends to creamy desserts and rice puddings. Their yogurts are all using natural flavours (real Bourbon vanilla, fresh lemons, orange blossom honey…) and they are packed in beautiful terracotta pots, that customers can keep and reuse, thus making it environmentally friendly.

LaFermiere_002

SoliaColl

Speaking of containers, another company present at the food exhibition was Solia. This French company (yes another one!) is specialised in throwaway dishes, glassware and cutlery. Their designs is both beautiful and innovative, perfect for presenting food at fairs, catering events or canapés parties in the most elegant manner.

BeurreBordier_001

Staying with the dairy products we have a French butter and cheese company: Bordier. They are based in Brittany (where all the good salted butters are produced!) and still make their butter the traditional way (they are the last ones still doing so). For instance, they still use wooden paddles to manually shape their butter and the shapes vary from customized shapes and portions for restaurant or hotel use to the usual 250g stick of butter. They have also a range of very interesting flavoured butters: piment d’Espelette (a mild chili from the South of France), algae,Yuzu, smoked salt, lemon and olive oil and even vanilla (of course in the unsalted butter version)!  I tried the Piment d’Espelette and Lemon/olive oil and both were outstanding. I could see the lemon and olive oil butter very well on a fillet of steamed fish and the Piment d’Espelette would go nicely on some Provencal canapés.

BeurreBordier_002

 

KoppertCressColl

Probably the highlight of my day was Koppert cress, a dutch company, specialist in high end fruits and vegetables. Their products are of the best quality and freshness, most of which cannot be found in supermarkets. For instance, they have varieties of tomatoes I never heard of such as the pineapple tomato (the yellow funny shaped tomato you can see on the right in the picture above). They also have a great range of aromatic herbs, mini vegetables, edible flowers and other veggie oddities such as the oyster leaf: a leaf that has the taste of the sea! They supply very high end restaurants and fine food shops. Looking at their stall with all the vibrant colours was a feast for the eyes and I wish I could have brought home some of those beauties!

LaFruitiere_002

Last but not least is French company La fruitiere du Val Evel. They produce some of the best fruit purées and coulis out there as well as very innovative products such as the flavour pearls (small frozen balls of alginate with a soft liquid heart of fruit pulp or condiments), which not only look stunning but also add fantastic flavours to any dish. Their fruit purees and coulis are second to none, using only the ripest fruits, with carefully chosen varieties for maximum flavour and their package is designed to optimize taste and appearance. I tasted their strawberry and their mango purées and boy were they amazing. The fruit content is 90% and only 10% sugar (less for some fruits) and it really shows. The strawberry purée reminded me of my granny’s strawberry jam it was so good! My only complaint: they only sell in big packages (1kg minimum) so it is not really geared towards domestic use (although you can slice the frozen box to only use what you need). I think I might get a few of those for my macaron ganaches or fruit mousses, problem is: I would need a bigger freezer!!

LaFruitiere_001

There were many other companies present at the fair, which I didn’t have time to visit unfortunately: big names such as Elle & Vire, Movenpick and Valrhona  and other small producers so I am looking forward to the next year event!

Odaios Tented food exhibition

I was recently invited to attend the second edition of Odaios Tented food exhibition in Dublin’s Fitzwilliam square. Odaios is a food supplier for the catering industry and fine food retail market. Their ethos is to deliver high quality products to their clients and to provide excellent customer service. I came across Odaios last year as one of my Thermomix customers happened to work there and subsequently decided to join our team of demonstrators.  I have been very impressed by their range of products so when I got the invitation, I was very excited to get to meet the producers. I was not disappointed. There was a vast array of food on display that you could sample inside huge Tippees (sorry I didn’t take any pictures but they looked fab’) and outside, there was a barbecue sending delicious smokey scents of meat as a whole pig was being barbecued for lunch. I was in food heaven!

BlazquesCollI was first greeted by Luisa from Blázques Jamones, who invited me to taste their fabulous cured ham. The slices are cut waffer thin by a very skilled (and gorgeous!) ham carver who won a carving championship. The cut is very important to get the right texture on the palate and fully appreciate the delicacy of the ham. Blázques is a family owned business (a trait shared by a lot of the producers at the fair) established 75 years ago. Their Iberico pigs are free range and graze on pastures of acorn plots in their beautiful parkland in Andalusia. The acorn, I was told, makes the pig fat rich in omega oil so it is actually good for your cholesterol! Their products range from 36 months matured cured ham to fresh cuts of pork meat.

CoperhillVenison_001

I then went on to see Lindy from Coopershill house who was presenting her smoked venison. Coopershill house is an eco-friendly Grand Irish Country House set in 500 acres of woods and deer pastures in county Sligo. It has been the family home to eight generations of O’Haras and is featured in the Ireland Blue book, a reference in high quality Irish Country House Hotels, Manor Houses, Castles and Restaurants. Her smoked venison was just delightful, very tender and with just the right amount of smokiness coming through.

 

LosteCollMoving on to a French family owned company of Meat and ham produces (called charcuterie in French): Loste-Tradi France. Established in 1866, they have a long tradition in butchery and pork prepared products. Now their range extends also to pastries and cold starters. Their patés and saucissons (which I tried) were very fresh and tasty and they are trying to export those very French products to the UK and Irish markets. They are stocked in prestigious places such as Harrod’s and Selfridges in London and have acquired a loyal customer base of French expats over there. The Irish market is quite new to them but they are hopeful to get the Irish to discover the wonders of French charcuterie. I must say I can’t wait to see those products freely available in supermarkets over here as I miss my rillettes and patés terribly!

 

PatchworkPates_002Continuing with the patés, I moved on to a gentleman named Rufus from Patchwork who was busy filling beautiful ready-made canapés cases with some interesting looking patés. These are miles away from the French traditional patés I am used to as some of them don’t even contain meat and others are flavoured with very exotic ingredients such as the lemongrass and chilli paté, which I tried and found absolutely divine. This UK based company is all about creative patés that can be easily spread on anything you fancy and they even have a range sold directly in piping bags ready to fill a gazillions of canapés in no time. Some examples of their crazy creations are Marmelade and whisky chicken liver paté, wild boar with black seal rum and ginger, brown lentils with mushroom and garlic, spinach and nutmeg or Stilton and Guinness paté!

 

PatchworkPates_001The cases were borrowed from another stand at the event: Piddy’s 3 toques. This Belgian company makes very original pastry cases for all occasions. These cases have a very long shelf life so they are very handy to have in your cupboard for use in an impromptu dinner (they have full size tart shells as well as the canapé version). But a long shelf life doesn’t mean a mediocre product, far from it. I tried their vol au vent cases and they were far superior to the ones I usually buy at my supermarket (I might just ask them to stock this brand instead!). Check out their website for a full inventory of their products as their range is quite extensive.

 

KettyleCollNext, was a butcher company from Northern Ireland (county Fermanagh) called Kettyle Irish foods. They are located in the heartland of a beautiful natural environment (around the Erne Basin), with green, serene, yet spectacular landscapes, which was designated as an “Area of special scientific interest” by the European Union. This region has always been renowned for its primary beef production, the majority of its beef originating from traditional breeds such as Angus, Aberdeen and Hereford. I was amazed by the colour of their beef, a rich dark red with proper yellowish fat so characteristic of good quality meat. Their cattle are all free-range and the meat is dry-aged for 28 days, thus ensuring both flavour and tenderness. They also have an incredible variety of meat cuts, most of which you wouldn’t find in your usual butcher.

CornishSalt_001Last for this post (but there will be more to follow), is Cornish Sea salt. As its names implies, the company is based in Cornwall, South-West  England. Their sea salt is hand harvested from the purest Grade A waters so it’s no wonder celebrity chef James Martin dubbed it “The Gucci of British sea salt”. The reason why it’s so important to have good quality sea salt as part of your diet is because this salt is unrefined and unprocessed. It therefore retains all of its minerals and trace elements such as potassium, magnesium and calcium at a balanced biological level. The table salt on the other hand has lost most of its minerals through the refining processes and contains anti-caking agents, which are chemicals used to stop the salt from clustering together. Taste-wise, it is also worlds apart, that’s why many chefs recommend the use of sea salt in their recipes. I was already familiar with Cornish sea salt as I have used the plain version at home and found it really good but I was amazed to discover they have several flavoured salts as well. I tried the chilli version (the chilli is not overpowering but adds a hint of heat and flavour to the salt) and the smoked salt was wonderful, perfect for fish or salad dishes.

CornishSalt_002

As a final note, I would like to mention that I was not paid for writing this post. I think it is important to raise the awareness on good quality food as nowadays, so much harm is done by the heavily industrialised food companies with scandals such as most recently the horse meat passing as beef. I enjoyed talking to these producers, who are passionate about what they are doing and take great pride in their food.

 

Brioche Nanterre

Yet another brioche recipe (you have one here, here, there and again there). But this one is THE brioche I will make again and again because it has the texture I have always been looking for!  This brioche is as light as a feather with a soft airy and stringy inside and a crisp thin crust outside. Just like at the bakery! I owe this recipe to Puce bleue from J’en reprendrai bien un bout and the secret of this fabulous texture is the flour type: instead of using strong white flour (or bread flour) as I usually do for breads, this recipe states to use Type 45 flour (French category of flour), which is known here as the Type 00 or Pizza/pasta flour. The reason behind it is because this flour is made with soft wheat grain and is the finest flour of all. Its gluten content is not as high as bread flour but the texture of breads made with it is softer with a crispier crust. The other secret behind this brioche is the long rise in the fridge (12 hours), which allows the yeast to develop slowly, enhancing again the texture of the brioche. Use good quality butter for making this as margarine or butter substitute will never render the same richness and taste to the brioche as real butter does.

BriocheNanterreColl

Source: J’en reprendrai bien un bout

Ingredients
For 6 people

280g pasta flour (type 00 or pizza flour) – if substituting with bread flour, only use 250g as it absorbs more water than type 00.
1tsp sea salt
35g caster sugar
10g fresh yeast or 5g dried fast action yeast
1tbsp milk
150g eggs (about 3 eggs)
125g unsalted butter, diced
Eggwash (1 egg  beaten with 1tbsp milk)

Method

  1. Thermomix: place in that order: the milk, yeast, flour, salt & sugar and eggs in the TM bowl making sure the yeast doesn’t come in contact directly with the salt or sugar. Mix 3 min/37C/speed 3.
  2. Add the butter, program 5 min, turn the dial to locked lid position and press the kneading button. Go to step 6.
  3. Non Thermomix: warm the milk until luke warm (make sure it is tepid as too hot milk would kill the yeast) and mix in the yeast.
  4. Place the flour, sugar, salt in a bowl, mix and make a well. Crack the eggs inside the well, add the yeast mixture and knead in the bowl for 5 minutes (or use a stand mixer with the flat beater). The dough will be quite soft and sticky, which is normal.
  5. Add the butter and knead again for 15 minutes (stand mixer: use the dough hook) until the dough comes out of the sides of the bowl and is soft and as smooth as a baby’s bottom.
  6. Tip out the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 2 hours (I use the oven heated for 1min to 50C then turned off to rise my dough).
  7. Punch down the dough and knead for a few seconds to give it back its initial volume.
  8. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 12 hours.
  9. Take out the dough and leave at room temperature for 15 minutes before punching it down and kneading it again. Fold the dough a few times over itself, lift it and let it fall sharply on the worktop. Repeat 2 or 3 times. This step is important to get the gluten  working and the dough will become more elastic.
  10. Weigh your dough (mine was 630g) and divide in 6 equal balls (I had 6 balls of about 105g each).
  11. Arrange side by side in a rectangular dish (I used a heart shaped silicone dish) and leave to rise, covered for 2 hours.
  12. Preheat the oven to 180C (if the dough was rising in the oven, take it out first!).
  13. Brush the dough with the eggwash and bake for 30 min. Eat soon after baking as it is when it’s at its best!

Orchidee_001Spring is still shy but at last we have had a few flowers growing and amazingly these Orchids blossomed again after a long winter!

 

 

Huevos rancheros

I love Mexican food. The classic ingredients that go into Mexican dishes such as chillies, coriander, avocadoes, lime juice and tomatoes really tingle my taste buds. I know this blog is mostly about french (and sweet) food but once in a while, I allow myself to steer out of the beaten track!! I have long wanted to try huevos rancheros (ranch eggs) but never got around to it, however last week, this was about to change. I was flicking through Ainsley Harriott’s “100 meals in minutes” cookbook and there it was, a quick and tasty recipe of huevos rancheros, in Ainsley’s flamboyant style. It was everything I was expecting to be: spicy, tomatoey and egg-gooey with the cumin and coriander flavours coming through. Heaven!

HuevosRancheros_001

Source: Ainsley Harriott “100 meals in minutes”

Ingredients
Serves 4 as part of a brunch or 2 for a main.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 red and yellow pepper (I peeled them using my Zyliss soft skin red peeler), deseeded and quartered
1 red chilli
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
4 eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:
Coriander or chives, chopped and crusty bread

Method

  1. Preheat the oven at 180C/350F/gas 4
  2. Thermomix version: place the peppers, onion, garlic, chilli and oil in the TM bowl.Chop 3 sec/speed 5.
  3. Cook for 5 min/100C/speed 1.
  4. Add oregano, cumin, sugar and chopped tomatoes. Cook for 20 min/Varoma temp/speed 1 measuring cup OFF and internal basket sitting on the lid to reduce the sauce. Season to taste. Follow the recipe from step 7 onward.
  5. Non Thermomix version: heat the oil in a fry pan, add chopped onions, garlic, chilli and peppers and fry over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Stir in the oregano, cumin, sugar and chopped tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and reduce for 15 minutes until the peppers are cooked through and the sauce has reduced and thickened. Season to taste.
  7. Pour the sauce in a gratin dish (or individual ramequins) and using the back of a tablespoon, make 4 holes in the pepper mixture just large enough to fit the eggs.
  8. Carefully crack one egg into each hole, season and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny. If using a mini casserole like I did, bake for 8 minutes instead as the lid will make the egg cook quicker.
  9. Scatter over the coriander or chives to garnish and serve straight away with plenty of crusty bread.

Sweet potato cake

This could come as a surprise to some to see sweet potatoes used in a dessert but it does work quite well just like the butternut squash cheesecake I did last autumn. This recipe comes from Titbebte, another member of the French forum Supertoinette, and it is her contribution to the monthly recipe challenge. Titbebete lives in the beautiful island of Réunion, situated near Madagascar and Mauritius. This cake is therefore very much inspired by the local food over there as not only is there sweet potato in it but also vanilla and rum. In fact, it’s the latter 2 ingredients that give this cake all its flavours, the sweet potato bringing it a lovely moist texture. I served it with a vanilla custard but a fruit coulis or chocolate sauce would work just as well! You can check out Titbebete other recipes in her blog: Titbebete’s kitchen.

SweetPotatoCake_002

Source: Titbebete

Ingredients
Serves 6

500g sweet potatoes (2 sweet potatoes)
2 eggs
80g sugar (I used demerara)
1/2 vanilla pod, seeds only
10g rum (dark rum not the white type) or about 2 tbsp
50g melted butter

Method

  1. Peel the sweet potato and cut in chunks.
  2. Place in the TM bowl and cover with 1L water.
  3. Cook for 20 min/100C/speed 1. Drain well and set aside.
  4. Preheat the oven at 180C
  5. Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla in the empty TM bowl.
  6. Cook 5 min/37C/speed 3. The mixture should thicken.
  7. Add the cooked sweet potatoes and mix 20 sec/speed 5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  8. Add the melted butter and rum and mix 20 sec/speed 8.
  9. Pour into a dish about 22cm in diameter (I used silicone individual muffin moulds). With a fork, make a stripy pattern and bake for 20 minutes for individual cakes or 45 min for a single cake.

 

Chicken bouillabaisse

I realise that I haven’t posted in a long time. The preparation of the cooking classes plus a week training in the UK for Thermomix have left me very little time to cook anything else than very basic stuff not worthy of a post. I hope to be able to post more in the next few weeks as I have plenty of recipes in my head that I’d like to try and share with you!

Bouillabaisse is a classic and probably the most famous Mediterranean fish dish. This however is the meat version and is every bit as tasty as the original. Since we are not huge fans of fish in the house, it suited us perfectly. The recipe asks for Pastis to marinade the chicken but since it’s near impossible to find it in Ireland (and we wouldn’t really drink it anyway), I used white wine and star anis as a substitute. That, added to the fennel in the sauce, brought a subtle yet very distinctive aniseed flavour throughout the dish and married really well with the chicken. The potatoes were perfectly fondant and the rouille added a very welcome garlic and spicy dimension to this bouillabaisse. I shall do it again and again!

BouiillabPoulet_003

Source: Siromix from the Supertoinette forum

Ingredients

4 chicken legs (cornfed for me)
1 can chopped tomatoes
4 slices of toasted bread (I didn’t use it)
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 fennel
1 handful of parsley (I used the fronds from the fennel)
4 big potatoes, peeled and sliced or 8 small potatoes peeled and left whole
1 pinch of saffron
100ml pastis (white wine + 4 star anis for me)
100ml olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauce Rouille
1 garlic clove
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp tomato paste
50g of the boiling bouillabaisse sauce
70g cooked potatoes (take one from the bouillabaisse dish) or 70g sliced bread
2 red chillies or a pinch of cayenne pepper
40g olive oil

Method

  1.  The day before or 4 hours ahead, marinade the chicken pieces in the Pastis (or white wine + star anis), olive oil, saffron and salt and pepper.
  2. Chop the onion and garlic in the Thermomix 2 sec/speed 5.
  3. In a cast iron pan, heat a tablespoon of oil and add the chopped onion and garlic. Let it sweat gently in low heat until soft.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir. Turn up the heat to a simmer.
  5. Chop the fennel, cut in quarters (keep the fronds aside) in the Thermomix for 2 sec/speed 5.
  6. Add to the onion and garlic along with the chicken and chopped fennel fronds (or parsley if using).
  7. Cover with marinade and enough boiling water to cover the chicken to 3/4.
  8. Boil for 10 minutes at high heat. Add the potatoes and cook for 30 minutes, lid on.
  9. Just before serving, make the sauce rouille: if using bread, dip it into the 50g of Bouillabaisse sauce and set aside.
  10. Drop the garlic clove on running blades at speed 8. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  11. Add the egg yolk  & chillies/Cayenne pepper and mix 20 sec/speed 5.
  12. Add the bread or potato along with the Bouillabaisse sauce. Mix 2min/speed 3 while pouring slowly the olive oil through the hole in the lid (I weighed the oil in the measuring cup and used it to pour for ease).
  13. Scrape down and mix another 5 sec/speed 5.
  14. Toast 4 pieces of bread and serve the Bouillabaisse with the sauce rouille in a separate individual bowl and the toasted bread. Delicious!