But the solidarity shown everywhere- and at the marches on Sunday- the call to the French people to respect the values of liberte, egalite, fraternite brought home to me how in times of stress we turn to the old comforts and reaffirm what is important to us. Whether that is tradition, religion or family rituals.
So, how can I show my solidarity with these sentiments? Well, as the intention of this blog for the next few months is to bring you a flavour of France, I have decided to look backwards- at old fashioned comfort food French-style.
|Pencils are powerful here in France..|
I am beginning with a dish of braised endives with ham.
Endives are becoming more readily available in the UK- but are often unpopular because of their bitter taste. This can easily be rectified with the addition of a little sugar to the cooking liquor and by braising the endives in vegetable stock rather than plain water.
Allow one medium endive per person.Slice the endives in half lengthways, heat a little oil in a frying pan and place the endives in the pan cut-side down. Brown a little, then add a teaspoon of sugar, a crumbled vegetable stock cube and a cup of water. Cover and braise for 20 minutes until the endives are tender.
Meanwhile, make the sauce by melting a tablespoon of butter and mixing in a tablespoon of plain flour. Add 400 ml of milk and bring to the boil, stirring frequently to thicken. Take off the heat and whisk in plenty of salt, pepper and a teaspoon of mustard, along with a grating of nutmeg. Then shoot in 100g of grated emmental or strong cheddar. Allow to cool and then add 1 egg yolk to the sauce. ( Keep the egg white for making either of the dessert recipes on this page.)
Uncover the endives and boil off any remaining liquid.
Next wrap the two endive halves in a piece of good ham. (Rubber gloves can help at this stage if the veg are too hot to handle.) Lay in a buttered gratin dish and cover with the cheese sauce.
Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs (something I will never be short of in France as there is always a piece of stale baguette left after a meal, begging to be blitzed into crumbs and frozen for later use.)
|Breadcrumbs in plentiful supply already in the freezer|
|Braised Endives with Ham|
If you have leftover cheese sauce, make tartines with slices of French bread, spread with butter and topped with ham, tomatoes or whatever you have in the fridge, then spread with the cheese sauce and grilled until bubbling and golden.
|Tartines ready for the grill|
|Tartines for the table|
For pudding, use up the egg white either in macaroons for a sweet ice cream sandwich- or make a chocolate moelleux and serve with custard or creme anglaise.
For the macaroons- beat 2 egg whites until at the soft peak stage. Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence, 100g of caster sugar and 200g of dessicated coconut. Mix together until it all binds.
Grease two baking sheets and line with baking paper. Place spoonfuls of the mixture into biscuit rings and press down firmly with a spoon to make round shapes. Bake at 170 degrees for 10 minutes or so. Watch carefully and remove from the heat as soon as they are golden.Allow to cool.
For the pudding- sandwich a scoop of your favourite ice cream (I used salted caramel) between two macaroons, drizzle over some caramel sauce, maple syrup, chocolate sauce, cream- whatever you fancy et voila!
|Sweet Macaroon Sandwich|
200g of dark chocolate
150 g soft butter
50 g self raising flour
2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites
Beat the egg whites until just forming soft peaks, beat the butter with the sugar and then add the whole eggs one by one. Melt the chocolate in the microwave with a splash of water for 1 minute. Mix it into the eggs and butter, then add the flour. Carefully slide in the egg whites, folding them into the mixture rather than stirring them in. Pour into a greased cake tin and bake at 150 degrees for 25-30 minutes- crucially, until the top is firm but a cocktail stick inserted into the very centre still comes out with some gooey mixture on it. That way you have a chocolate cake with a squidgy centre which is the key to it success.
|Just out of the oven|
Things don't get more comforting than that.
If you want to jazz up the presentation, make a puddle of creme anglaise and chocolate sauce artistically arrranged:
For everyone everywhere, who enjoys writing- whether it's a witty rejoinder on Facebook, articles for magazines, blogs or stories- and for anyone anywhere who needs some comfort at the moment- I hope this blog entry shows you a bit of solidarity.