Tarte fine aux pommes

January 24th, 2016 § 1 comment § permalink

We love something sweet on Sunday afternoon. This one is my mom’s favorite. » Read the rest of this entry «

Droolworthy… Balkan food

February 23rd, 2013 § 4 comments § permalink

Greek Braised Octopus with Short Pasta

Last weekend, I had my first Balkan food experience in the kitchen… Together with five other talented homecooks, we prepared a meal for 30 hungry expats and friends from the Legal Aliens. We pulled out a gargantuan menu that left no one hungry for at least the next week. Great food and great fun!

I must say, that until last week, my experience with Balkan food resumed to close to nothing [a trip to Greece some years ago and my weekly drool Marta’s blog]. So many countries involved, so many traditions and tastes. It was quite a challenge! My kind of challenge.
I came across some mouthwatering blogs along the way that I just have to share with you. If you are looking for tasty authentic balkan recipes (and a good read!) here’s my top 3 in blog world: » Read the rest of this entry «

Eating and cooking ‘without’

May 9th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

I’ve bragged enough about it: it seems that my stomach is lined with concrete.
Ok, i’d still have to get through the snack streets in Beijing and try those scorpios and other silk worms [photo courtesy of my dutchie] before i can tell for sure…

You get the picture: when it comes to food, it seems that if i dare eat it, I can take it!

I have always been overly proud about that, a bit condescending to the delicate stomachs among my friends even.
I didn’t grasp how lucky I was until short…

You see, Mommy [and daddy] can have it all, but petit Tom cannot.. yet..
» Read the rest of this entry «

Sweet afternoon fix: apple and pear gratin

March 19th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Once upon a time on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the edge of spring…

Apple and pear gratin

A wrinkled apple and a slightly overripe pear were getting bored in the fruit bowl. Close by, a gourmande and her dutchie, slightly pekish, were in search of a sweet fix…

» Read the rest of this entry «

These skirts who makes the world go round…

April 11th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

I’ve always loved that song from the French singer Alain Souchon “Sous les jupes des filles” (Under girls’ skirts… nothing naughty I swear!). It’s fresh like an early spring day with its -maybe cheesy but so poetically refreshing- message that as long as there are girls and women walking around the world with skirts there is a sparkle of light in the eyes of men when the breeze lift them up, hope for a better world!

Since I live in the Netherlands, Souchon is back whispering in my head every spring, when on the first warm sunny day, skirts blossom on all the terraces. The Dutch even have a name for that day. It’s “rokjesdag”, skirt day! It’s quite a big thing back here: They talk about it at work, on TV and in the newspapers. The true beginning of the Dutch Spring! And of course, the start for the girly magazine competition for the publication of the best miracle/no hassle/ecofriendly diet that will get you back in no time in those short little skirts without the fluffy protective winter layer accumulated through the Christmas period (and Easter)….

Luckily, no need to rush: I had to laugh when I discovered that some of the Dutch weather forecast websites even provide a skirt weather indicator, just as they have a UV or allergy indicator! Handy though, I must admit! My skirts and dresses are back in my wardrobe waiting impatiently for the next index 7 or 8 on the skirt weather index. In the mean time, I do my Pilates with dedication and I’ve got the perfect little salad to keep me waiting without guilt for the perfect skirt day while browsing through the new spring fashion in the magazines: It’s crunchy, it’s fresh and it smells and tastes like Spring! Perfect for your lunch basket, you can prepare it in advance and it will be a perfect match with steamed fish, smoked salmon or a chicken sandwich.

Fennel, celery and apple salad

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A tricky spring feeling…

March 7th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Ah, this beautiful bright sun outside, the first crocuses taking a peak at the sky… I walk up this morning with a butterfly feeling deep inside… would it be spring, at last?

After diving into my tiny city garden full of enthusiasm for the very first time this year (yep, I’m that kind of gardener), while my dutchie went for his first spring stroll on the bike, it didn’t take more than a couple of hours before all our extremities, from feet to ears, went deeply frozen. Many fuming cups of tea later, we came to the conclusion that maybe we shouldn’t have ignored the temperature forecast, maybe it was not just quite spring!

All in all, a perfect excuse for one more comforting winter dinner, tonight… Something spicy, colorful, and revigorating that will warm us up from the inside out. Never been a better time to give another try at the dutch classic red cabbage stew, with small chunks of cooking apple and a hint of five spice. A great meat-lover-proof winter vegetable stew (ask my dutchie… well, as long as there’s a little meat on the side too though) and a winning match with game and winter roasts.

Chou Rouge

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The way to his heart…

February 14th, 2008 § 2 comments § permalink

Like many girls and women always say: I’m not really the valentine-day kind of person, it’s just another commercial invention, bla bla bla. Well… as long as my dutchie doesn’t forget to give me some kind of attention that day (and on any other day too)! I’m not demanding though: I’ll be happy with a kiss and a compliment, but you don’t need to tell him that. We never know…

Anyway, if you’re looking for something special for your loved one, be it for valentine’s day or not, here’s what people say in France: the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach! Here’s my secret weapon… (My dutchie is more into red meat than into sweets, but he cannot resist that one.)

tarte tatin (2)
This is how we seduce men in the family…

Apple tart from the demoiselles Tatin

Tarte tatin

>serves 6 to 8 pers.
prep: 10 min. cook: 20 + 15 min

1 roll of puff pastry or 350g of homemade shortcrust dough
7 apples* (~1kg), peeled, cut in quarters and seasoned with the juice of half a lemon
50g butter,
60g sugar,
1 pinch of vanilla powdered,
1 pinch of cinammon

tarte tatin (1)

. In a deep tart mold** on medium heat, melt the butter and half of the sugar, line up the pieces of apples in the mold, round part against the bottom. sprinkle the rest of the sugar and the spices, over the apples. Let the apples caramelize on medium heat, shaking and turning the mold gently from time to time to make sure some of the apples don’t burn or stick to the bottom. After 20 min, the apples should be nicely golden underneath and the juices of the apples should have reduced into a thick fruity and buttery caramel syrup. Leave to cool for 5 to 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 180 deg C.

. Lay the dough over the apples, folding the exceeding dough (if any) inside the mold, gently pushing it between the mold and the apples. Make a few incisions on the dough with a knife to prevent the dough from raising. If you use puff pastry, you can sprinkle the dough with 1 Tsp of sugar: It will give a little caramelised crunch to the dough once baked. Bake for 15 to 20 min at 180 deg C. or until the dough is golden.

. This tart should be served warm. If you don’t serve it right away, warm it up in the oven for 10min at 100 deg C. Then, put it on high heat for less than a minute, or until you can gently turn the tart in its mold without resistance. Put the serving dish over it and turn upside down, gently remove the mold, et voila! 

. Serve immediately with a spoon of thick creme fraiche, or a scoop of vanilla ice.

Bon appétit!

* Use firm and juicy apples like Golden delicious or Elstar for example
** I use a teflon ‘moule a manqué’ that you can see on the second picture. It’s a relatively deep (4 to 5 cm) round mold that can both go on the stove or in the oven. There are also specific molds for tarte tatin, but it’s not essential.

tarte tatin (3)

Brioche at last!

February 11th, 2008 § 2 comments § permalink

Brioche is one of the things I miss from France. When you live abroad, there’s always things you miss about mom and dad’s home, the place where you grew up, the place where you lived and made your life for sometime or even for just a couple of months. Being a nostalgic and food addict at heart, I’ve got a pretty long list.  Brioche is on the top 10.

Aside from being typically french it’s also a family love story. My mum has always loved brioche, especially the one we call ‘brioche parisienne’, you know the one that has a cupcake-like bottom with a round head on top… But my mum doesn’t have the patience for pastry and definitely not for brioche. My father did.  My father was great at pastry, maybe it was the chemist in him: unlike my mum he would almost always cook from cookbooks, with a lot of patience and accuracy. His brioche was superb, airy, golden and buttery. It would fill the house with a wonderful smell that would get the most lazy ones out of bed on sundays.

I’ m kind of a lazy cook: I avoid recipes involving long raising and kneading time… So, since I left the family nest, brioche has turned into a sweet memory that I revive once in a while on my trips back to France. During the last christmas holidays, I finally gave it a try: I used a classic recipe out of my pastry bible, “Le Larousse des Desserts” from Pierre Herme with a little untraditionnal twist** to make the recipe more acceptable for the late morning person that I am… Although it was not my dad’s brioche parisienne, my mum took some twice, with some of that spicy apple compote I made for the occasion.

There’s definitely gonna be more sunday brioche around the house from now on!

brioche et compote épicée aux pommes
I saved you slice! … hurry before my friend Sophie lays her eyes on it!

French brioche (from: Le Larousse des Desserts)

serves 6 to 8 pers.
prep: 20 min. raising: 4hrs + 1hr. cook: 30 min

5 g fresh yeast*, 
190 g flour,
2 Tsp sugar (~20g)

1 tsp salt (~4g),
3 eggs,
150 g butter at room temperature
3 Tsp cold milk or 1 egg, beaten

Crumble the yeast in a large bowl. Add the flour, sugar and salt and mix well using a wooden spoon. Incorporate the eggs one by one until you get a smooth and elastic dough (being lazy, I use the kneaders from my handmixer). Cut the butter in small pieces and incorporate in several times to the dough (I love my handmixer, wish I had a kitchen aid though!) until the dough detaches from the bowl (although it will remain sticky, very sticky).  Lay the dough in a terrine, cover with a clean cloth and leave to rest for 3 hours (or until it doubles volume) in a warm place (~22/23 deg.C). Punch down the dough and leave to rest for one more hour (or until it doubles volume).  Once it has doubled volume again, punch down the dough.

Shape the brioche and lay it in a buttered and flour-dusted mold**. Leave to rest once again until it doubles volume (~1hr) while you pre-heat the oven at 200 deg. C. Brush the top with cold milk or a beaten egg. Bake for 10 min. at 200 deg. C. Lower the heat to 180 deg. C. and bake for 20 more min. Unmold the brioche while it is still slightly warm. You have deserved your breakfast!

Bon appétit!

*  It took me a while before I found where to find fresh yeast in my area. I guess you could also use active dry yeast. Follow then the package directions.
** I am no morning person and although I love brioche, there’s no way I’m gonna get up 4 to 5 hours before breakfast. I found  a trick though: I prepare the dough and  let it raise for the 1st 4hours whenever I have time ahead. After shaping my brioche in its mold, I  just freeze it  and forget it until my next crave for brioche. The evening before, I take out the brioche of the freezer, put it back in its mold and leave it to slowly thaw in the fridge overnight.  When I first emerge of my bed, I get it out of the fridge, set it in a warm place to double volume while I go back to bed. One hour later it is ready to bake.


Spicy apple compote
Compotée de pommes épicée

serves 6 to 8 pers.
prep: 10 min. cook: 20 min

1kg apples*, peeled and coarsely chopped, 
30g butter,
4 Tsp brown sugar,
zest and juice of half a lemon,
Spices to taste: vanilla, cinnamon, star anise seeds, green cardamon pods, pepper,…
A pinch of salt,
5cl calvados (optionnal)

Melt the butter in a large pan on high heat. Add the apples, sugar, spices and lemon zest. Toss well. Pour the calvados and lemon juice. After a couple of minutes lower the heat and leave to simmer uncovered (toss from time to time) for about 20 min or until the juices have reduced and the apples start to caramelize. Leave to cool. You can remove the seeds, zest and pods if you like, although I prefer to leave them in. This compote will keep for at least a week in the fridge and will be great with brioche but will also do miracles as a filling for sweet and savoury tartlets for apetizers or as a side dish to game or a pot roast. 

Bon appétit!

*  I like to use firm and juicy apples like Elstar for example, but really: anything you fancy will do.

A bit of sweetness for a cold sunday afternoon

January 13th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Ahhh… winter! It’s cold outside and already dark… I miss the sunday sweets that we would share all together for tea time when I was a child. Mostly homemade, sometimes chosen with care at our favourite pastryshop, served with a steaming cup of tea or cocoa, to warm us up after a reviving walk in the guarrigue or along the beach…
Feeling for something sweet too on this sunday afternoon? Here’s the apple tart of my childhood with a hazelnut twist for a bit of crunch.

sorry, couldn’t wait!

Apple tart with hazelnuts
Tarte aux pommes et aux noisettes

serves 8 pers.
prep: 25 min. cook: 10 +20 min

1 roll of puff pastry (~350g),
7 apples (~1.5 kg), peeled,

80 g hazelnuts rougly crushed and toasted,
1/4 tsp vanilla powdered,
40 g butter,
5 Tsp cane sugar,
a drop of calvados

Preheat the oven at 180 deg C. Fit the pastry in a tart mold (I used a 32 cm diameter). Bake blind: Prick with a fork and line the pastry with baking foil and dry beans to prevent it from shrinking. Bake for 10min and reserve.

Meanwhile, chop three of the apples. Pour the apples in a smal pan together with 2 Tsp cane sugar, half of the vanilla and a drop of calvados. Toss and simmer covered on medium heat for 10 minutes or until the apples are soft. Mash and leave to cool.

Combine the crushed and toasted hazelnuts with 1 Tsp cane sugar and line the mixture on on the cooled pastry. Cover evenly with the apple compote. Slice the remaining apples very thin using a mandoline or a sharp knife and arrange the apple slices on top of the tart. Sprinkle with the rest of the sugar and vanilla, and add little bits of butter, evenly on top of the apples. Bake for 20 min. 

Bon appétit!

Saturday night fever…

April 9th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Yesterday afternoon, I left my man at home while I went ahead for a crazy shopping afternoon.
To compensate for my late return (long after all the shops had closed), I brought back a few delicacies for a romantic diner a deux. In my shopping basket were among others some guinea fowl and a dozen dutch oysters from Zeeland.

I entered the house like a tornado looking forward to show off my discoveries to my man,… only to found him lying on the couch, a plaid on his shoulders, looking back at me slowly with feverish eyes: “….. I’m siiiiiick”. He smiled gently at me when he found out about the guinea fowl and the oysters and then mumbled… “can we go to bed early tonight?”. How could I resist? The romantic dinner and the oysters would have to wait… (He was in no state to open them anyway). A quick and comforting dinner it had to be. After a quick look in my fridge and cupboards, I had gathered some fig mustard, as well as some honeycake mustard from Dijon brought from our latest trip to france and some Calvados bought in Normandy a couple of years ago… Half an hour later, diner was served! The fragrant smells of apple, mustard and calvados woke up his apetite.



Guinea fowl marinated in calvados and mustard
(supremes de pintade marines a la moutarde et au calvados)

2 pers. prep: 10 min, cooking: 10min

2 guinea fowls breasts (~300g)
2 Tsp. mustard (I used a mix of fig and honeycake mustard)
5 Tsp. apple sauce
15 cl. calvados
1 shallot
10 g butter
sea salt, pepper

In a bowl, mix the mustard, half of the calvados, 2 Tsp. of apple sauce and the chopped shallot. Add the seasoned guinea fowl. Leave to marinate for as long as you wish can: 15 min was all I got!
Warm half of the butter in a pan. Put in the marinated breasts and the marinade and cook for about 7 to 8 min on high heat. Lower the heat when the meat is golden on both sides. When the meat is almost cooked, add the rest of the apple saus, butter and calvados. Raise the fire for 1 min to finish up the saus.
Serve promptly.

Bon appetit!

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