Wednesday, 16 May 2018


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I've just returned from a weekend in Rotterdam- and, as ever, I was keen to come back with some ideas for the blog. I don't think I've featured Dutch recipes before, so an extra reason to be curious about the cuisine.
Well, if you like your food crispy- and usually deep fried- then Holland is for you!
Fish and chips, kroketten- and bitterballen- seemed to be the order of the day.
I confess rather guiltily that I was taken with these crunchy treats- especially with a cold glass of beer and some strong mustard for dipping.

Back home, I searched out the recipe- and discovered a brilliant new way to use up leftovers, be it a bit of Sunday roast, some spag bol, corned beef, ham, cauliflower name it, they can be made into delicious bitterballen in no time.

Bitterballen- the originals
To start, you need a roux sauce base- melt 1 tbsp of butter in a pan and add 1 and a half tbsp of plain flour. Mix together to cook out the flour over a low heat.

Mix the flour into the melted butter
Add just a splash of milk and plenty of salt and pepper. Your are aiming for a thick paste- with a really glue-like consistency. (A bit like the base for Welsh Rarebit)
Then- mix in 1-2  tbsp of your chosen filling. I suggest:
  • leftover roast beef, shredded, with horseradish
  • pulled pork with apple or BBQ sauce
  • shredded Chinese duck
  • corned beef or ham, finely chopped
  • spring onions, grated cheese and mustard
  • leftover veg with cheese or spring onion
  • leftover  ragout or spaghetti sauce
I chose some leftover cauliflower and broccoli cheese, chopped it up quite small and mixed it in with the sauce.
Now turn the mixture out onto a chopping board and leave it to cool, until it can be handled.

Bitterballen 'dough' ready for coating
Line up 3 saucers- one with flour, one with beaten egg or milk and on with soft breadcrumbs or chapelure ( made from blitzed biscottes or crispbreads).
Flour, egg/milk and breadcrumbs at the ready
Break off walnut sized pieces of the 'dough' and coat them first in the flour, then the liquid and finally roll in the breadcrumbs.

Coat in breadcrumbs
Now, you can either fry your bitterballen in hot oil until crispy- which is the traditional way- or you can bake them in a lightly oiled baking tray at 180 degrees until golden brown.

Baked bitterballen
 They may spread a bit in the oven but can easily be reshaped with a spoon when you take them out to drain on kitchen paper.

Cauliflower Cheese Bitterballen
If you prefer, you can use leftover couscous as a coating, as I have done before on the blog with my Chicken Doris

You can mix it up too- to make a bittergarnituur- lots of different flavoured ballen and kroketten, for a party

Image result for bittergarnituur royalty free
The sky ( or probably the fridge) is the limit.

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Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Chocolate puddings!

Image result for melting easter egg

Lent and the time of abstinence is over- Easter tide is well upon us. With that our fancy turns to thoughts of ....chocolate.

This month's blog salutes that most sublime of puds- chocolate mousse/sponge/cream in all (or many at least) of its forms.

I am featuring 4 choccy puds- two made with eggs, two without.

The first is the most wacky- made with aquafaba ( the water drained from a can of chickpeas)- so a really unusual way to use up something that would ordinarily be thrown away.

The chickpeas of course can be used in a variety of dishes- hummus, falafel, tagines...

Chocolate Mousse with Aquafaba 

Now you have to trust me on this, as it might seem weird - but it does work.

You need 100g dark bitter chocolate, 100 ml of water drained from a can of chickpeas (known as aquafaba), 2 tbsp of icing sugar and 1 sachet of vegegel or agar-agar.

Simply melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water(as in the title pic above).Pour the chickpea liquid into a mixing bowl.
Whisk on high speed with an electric whisk ( too much work to do by hand), adding the icing sugar as you go, until the mixture begins to foam and turn into a mousse. (It will never be stiff like a meringue but it will be foamy)

Whisk the aquafaba until foamy
Sprinkle on the vegegel and whisk in. Now quickly add the melted chocolate and fold in until incorporated but still mousseux.
Pour into glasses or ramekins and chill for one hour before serving.

Chocolate Mousse with Aquafaba
Et voilà! A dark chocolate mousse- with no raw egg!

The second pud however does use eggs for a more traditional bitter Chocolate and Coffee Cream.

Chocolate and Coffee Creams

You will need 200g of dark chocolate, 90 ml of strong coffee, 60 ml of brandy or other liqueur of your choice and 3 eggs.

1. Melt the chocolate over simmering water as before. When melted, whisk in the coffee and brandy and allow to cool slightly whilst you whip the eggs.
2. Separate the eggs and whisk the whites to soft peaks.
3. Whisk the yolks into the chocolate
4. Pour the chocolate into the egg white mix and fold together until incorporated, keeping the mixture as light as possible.
5. Pour into ramekins or expresso cups and allow to chill for 1-2 hours before serving.

This dessert is quite rich- and not very sweet- so can benefit from a little pouring cream over the top.
Chocolate and Coffee Cream

Still using those eggs up- the third dish mixes crème anglaise with a chocolate custard to make a two-tone Crème Mic-Mac. (We made this at our Atelier de Cuisine so many thanks to Joselyne for the idea.)

Crème Mic-Mac

1. Heat 400 ml milk with 100g of sugar and warm through until the sugar is dissolved and the milk is hot but not boiling. Allow to cool whilst you prepare the eggs.
2. In a bowl, beat 4 eggs with a tbsp of cornflour until pale and frothy.
3. Also melt 100g of chocolate ( milk or plain) in a bowl over simmering water as before.
4. Pour the milk in  a steady stream over the eggs, beating as you do so

Carefully make your custard mix

5. Return it to the pan and heat through until it begins to thicken.
6. Now divide the custard evenly between two jugs with good pouring lips.
7. Whisk the melted chocolate into one of the custards and a tsp of vanilla extract into the other.
8. Now- hold your nerve! Line up the chosen ramekins or cups for the pud, take a jug in each hand and pour a steady stream into each side of the cup so you end up with a two-tone pud.

Crème Mic-Mac
Chill for 1-2 hours before serving.

And finally a little touch of magic with a Wizard Chocolate Sponge- self-saucing to make a complete dish in a few minutes. You can do this in the microwave or in a conventional oven.

Wizard Chocolate Sponge

100g plain flour
5 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
200g soft brown sugar
175 ml milk
30 ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

1.Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and 2 tbsp of the cocoa powder into a bowl and add 100g of the sugar
2. Pour in the milk, oil and vanilla and mix to a smooth batter
3. Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 20cm cake tin or mould
4. Mix the remaining sugar and cocoa powder together and sprinkle evenly over the batter
5. Pour 350ml of boiling water over the mix
6. Either microwave on HIGH for 12-14 minutes or bake in a hot oven (180 degrees) until firm on the surface.(Around 20 minutes)
Chocolate sponge ready for spooning out
7. As if by magic, the cake has made its very own chocolate sauce underneath- ready to spoon over itself!

Saucy Chocolate Pud
So, here ends my tale of four chocolate puddings. I hope you get to try at least one of them- if not the whole lot!


Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Pumpkin Pasta, Patisserie and Patties

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My fellow villagers assured me that pumpkins would keep in a cool cellar from October to February- and of course they were right.
But February has been and gone and it's time for those pumpkins to be used up.
Aside from gallons of soup for the freezer, I thought at least one of the beasts deserved a more noble end and so put it into some more imaginative dishes.

 I cut it in half- one part to be roasted, the other to be peeled and grated.
The pumpkin crescents roast for 20 minutes or so with some olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs in a hot oven. They are then ready for serving up with stews or sausages, or peeling and mashing to use in a variety of ways.

Pumpkin for roasting

 First of all, I made some pasta- 4 eggs, a tsp salt, 250g flour and a glug of olive oil whizzed up in  the food processor and then left to rest whilst I make the filling- 2 tbsp of cooked pumpkin, mashed together with some soft garlic and herb cheese.

Pasta rolling
Ravioli shapes
Roll out the pasta as thin as you can, using a pasta machine and then cut out ravioli shapes using a pastry cutter.
Seal up the parcels
Place a teaspoon of the filling on each round, dampen the edges and press on the lid- making your way round with your fingers to ensure a good seal and pressing out the air.
 I keep a damp tea towel handy, sprinkled with flour, to store the ravioli as I work.

You can cook them fresh or freeze them in a container with tiers of greaseproof paper between them, again sprinkled with flour. They freeze well and can be cooked from frozen too.

To cook, bring a pan of water to a rapid boil, gently add the ravioli and turn down the heat to a simmer. The ravioli are cooked when they rise to the surface and float.
You can serve them with simple tomato sauce, or olive oil and parmesan shavings, or floating in a broth. You can make an easy and delicious broth from 1 tbsp miso paste, 1 litre of  hot vegetable or chicken stock and 2 tsp chopped sushi ginger.
I used the leftover bouillon from our village pot-au-feu.

Pumpkin Ravioli
With the grated pumpkin, I made the following:
- Pumpkin and Sultana Tea Bread
-Pumpkin and Gruyere muffins (Coeur Fondant)
-5 -a-day burgers
- Vegetable Moussaka

Pumpkin and Sultana Tea Bread

200g grated pumpkin
200g light brown sugar
4 eggs (separated)
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
100g sultanas (soaked in a cup of leftover tea)
100g ground almonds
200g self raising flour
pinch salt
1 tsp each nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger

1. Preheat the oven 1o 170 degrees and grease and line a large loaf tin
2.Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until pale
3.Stir in the pumpkin, orange, sultanas and ground almonds

Add the pumpkin and orange etc
4. Sift in the flour, salt and spices
5. Now whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and then fold carefully into the mixture

Fold in your egg whites
6. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for about an hour until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Pumpkin and Sultana Tea Bread

 Pumpkin and Gruyere Muffins (Coeur Fondant)

The secret to these little aperitif cakes is the melting middle- in this case made from a cheese bechamel sauce- but it could be tomato, pesto or just a little mozzarella ball pushed into the centre before baking.
First make your sauce by melting 1 tbsp plain flour with 1 tbsp butter, cooking through and then whisking in a cupful of milk, 1 tsp mustard, a handful of grated cheese, salt and pepper.

Melt together the butter and flour

Whisk in the milk and flavourings

Now pour the sauce into an ice cube tray, allow to cool and then freeze for an hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Meanwhile make your muffin batter by heating up 150 ml of milk, 30 g of butter and 100g of grated Gruyere cheese. When cheese and butter are melted, add 100g of grated pumpkin, salt and pepper.
In a bowl, beat 3 eggs and add 60g of flour and 1 tsp baking powder.
Now mix in the milk and pumpkin mix and then pour into individual muffin moulds.
Press each 'ice cube' of Bechamel sauce into the centre of the muffin and then bake for around 15 minutes until risen and golden.
When sliced open they should ooze sauce.

Pumpkin and Gruyere Muffins (Coeur Fondant)

Finally I used up the rest of the grated pumpkin in some 5-a-day burgers ( a mix of lentils, spring onions, mushrooms, pumpkin, hummus and garlic). Recipe if you click the link under the photo.
 5-a-day Burgers and Vegetable Moussaka;postID=2296409778812253085;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=4;src=postname

The same  mixture goes really well in a Vegetable Moussaka too- just fry it off lightly and mix with some tomato sauce. Layer it along the bottom of a baking dish with sliced potato, finishing off with a layer of sliced and lightly fried aubergine.
Top with Bechamel sauce, grated mixed cheese (Cantal, Cheddar, Emmental and/or Parmesan) and a dusting of nutmeg.
Bake at 170 degrees until brown and bubbling.

Not much left in the garden now- just a few leeks, onions, and chard. 
Time to start planting again!

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 Roll on Spring!


Monday, 5 February 2018

Tropical treats

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My daughter has just arrived in Martinique.

This was no ordinary arrival though- she came all the way across the Atlantic from Cape Verde with a crew of just 3 others- on a catamaran.
And this is no ordinary tourist trip.
You can read all about it on their Facebook page

In their honour we broke out the rum and coke - and I made a Caribbean themed meal.

To celebrate the food of Martinique I am making a Chicken Colombo with vegetables, a Baked Banana Tart and a Flan Coco-Anis, along with links to other Caribbean themed recipes previously on the blog. I also used the leftover Colombo in a tagine.

Colombo spice is a mild curry powder, made from cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek and  paprika- you can make your own with a teaspoon of each of these plus a teaspoon of madras curry powder- or you can buy a Colombo spice mix (readily available in France- and the Levi Roots Caribbean spice powder is an acceptable alternative in the UK).

To serve 2 (with leftovers) you will need- 2 chicken breasts, 1chopped onion, 1 tsp chopped garlic, 1 tsp chopped red chilli, 1 courgette, 1 sweet potato, 1 carrot, 2 bay leaves, juice of 1/2 lime and 3 heaped tbsp of Colombo powder plus 500 ml vegetable or chicken stock .
Begin by preparing your veg-  part-peel and slice the courgette and chop the carrot into batons,then steam until just tender.
Stripey peeled courgette
Bake the sweet potato ( 5 minutes in the microwave ) in its skin- then peel it and slice it.
Fry the onion, garlic and chilli until the onion is translucent, then add the spices. Next add the chicken and brown it lightly.

Brown the chicken, onion and spices
Put the meat and veg into a casserole dish, along with the bay leaf.
Deglaze the pan with the stock and pour over the meat.

Ready for the oven
Cook for 2 hours until everything is tender. Finally add the lime juice and adjust the seasoning.
You can thicken it with cornflour if you wish- I left it runny to soak into the rice.

Chicken Colombo with Rice
You can make different versions with whatever meat or vegetables you have to hand. Here are a veal and aubergine version, and a pork and potato version.

Veal Colombo with Veg
Pork Colombo with Potatoes
The leftovers were mixed with some chopped tomatoes, leftover mango and apple chutneys and sultanas ( soaked in a little Earl Grey tea to plump them up) to make a tagine served with couscous.

Now, here are two puddings to complement the main course.

Flan Coco-Anis

Heat 1 400 ml can of coconut milk with 100g of sugar and 3 star anise
When the sugar has dissolved, put to one side to infuse and cool a little.
Beat 4 eggs with a tsp of cornflour until smooth.
Discard the star anise ( or keep them for garnish) and pour the milk onto the eggs, whisking all the time.
Whisk the infused coconut milk into the eggs
Pour the mixture into 6 ramekins (lightly oiled in preparation with a neutral veg oil)
Custards ready for the oven
Put the ramekins into a baking tray, half filled with hot water to make a bain-marie.
Bake at 200 degrees for 25 minutes and then 170 degrees until set. (Another 15 minutes or so).
Leave to cool and then serve either turned out of the moulds onto a plate - with a fruit salad on the side- or glazed with vanilla sugar and blow torched or grilled to make a crème brulée.

Flan Coco-Anis Brulée
Baked Banana Tart

First bake a pastry case blind and leave to cool.

Blind baked pastry case- you can tidy it up later!
Take 2 bananas- slice one thinly and mash the other one with a fork.
Spread the banana mash onto the pastry case then beat 3 eggs with 60g of sugar, a splash of milk or cream and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
Pour the custard into the pastry case and then arrange the sliced banana in the custard.

Carefully place in the sliced banana
Grate some nutmeg over the top and bake in a moderate oven (170 degrees) until the custard is set.
Sprinkle with vanilla sugar and serve with ice cream

Tarte à la banane / I.G.
Baked Banana Tart

And served with ice cream

A couple of other ideas from the blog- Pina Colada Crumble
Pina Colada Crumble

 and good old Ginger Cake.

Ginger Cake

I hope this tropical post has brightened up a dull February day for you- and has you dreaming of warmer days to come.
Who know where in the world my culinary odyssey will take me next.

That's up to Mission Ocean!