When the gourmande dreams of Charlotte…

December 13th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

As you probably know by now, I have a thing for french pastry. I am particularly fond of brioche, ‘entremets’ and of Charlottes which remind me of my dad. Last year for Christmas, I spent weeks putting together cake recipes in my head for the ‘Grand Finale’ of the Christmas eve dinner. I wanted something seasonal and original that would change from the traditional Christmas cakes and that no one would resist too, even after a 5 course meal. Something I could prepare in advance too as there are usually enough things to prepare on the night itself. When I finally came up with the perfect desert, we decided to spend Christmas at my bro’s in France and I didn’t get the chance to prepare it…

Charlotte aux poires et marrons

I kept dreaming of this cake for a couple of months, until I finally found an occasion to prepare it for a family dinner… Won’t be modest on this one: It was amazing. So much better than I had dreamed off: an airy Charlotte with homemade biscuits a la cuillere soaked in smoky whiskey and a light pear/vanilla syrup and alternate layers of pear compote and airy chestnut mousse with small chunks of caramelized pears, topped with thin slices of poached pears. My Dad would have loved it!

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Who's afraid of the Christmas turkey?

December 14th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Qua Christmas traditions, there’s more than enough to choose from in the family: French on my side, Dutch and British for my other half (my ‘dutchie’ is also half brit)…
Usually, I pick a bit of everything (well, with a lot from French, to be completely honest).
With the years, my Christmas eve dinners have turned up as a joyous multicultural mess:

From oysters and foie gras next to the more northern style heartwarming soups
, the Chapon, the goose or the game, the French Christmas log or fancy entremet and the British Christmas pudding, the dutch cookies and spices…. Except for one thing: Turkey.

dinde
Lesson learned: unless the bird is bigger than you or your oven, a turkey is nothing to be afraid of!

Not that I don’t like it or that it’s extremely difficult to prepare. Maybe I’ve been secretely traumatised by monster sized turkeys ending up on the head of Mr Bean or Joe in Friends. Maybe I had some bad experiences with dried out turkeys and concrete like compact stuffings that almost make you choke. Maybe I just grew up inspired by my mum’s constant search for mouthwatering originality in the kitchen… Well, actually, I think it was just another of these dishes that for some hidden inconscious feeling I didn’t dare to cook. Just like cheesecakes before.

Anyway, last year I finally gave in my dutchie’s wishes for a good old Christmas turkey, and I must say that with a little organisation and a lot of faith, it turned out good, really good: 
It was golden on the outside, tender on the inside, delicately perfumed with truffle that I inserted under the skin and the traditionnal stuffing with chestnuts was rich, fragrant and comforting yet not to compact thanks to the addition of grated apples and silky greek yoghurt. I served it with a simple gravy made of the cooking juices, sauteed green beans with wild mushrooms and celeriac mash.

And you, will you dare turkey this Christmas?

 

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Who’s afraid of the Christmas turkey?

December 14th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Qua Christmas traditions, there’s more than enough to choose from in the family: French on my side, Dutch and British for my other half (my ‘dutchie’ is also half brit)…
Usually, I pick a bit of everything (well, with a lot from French, to be completely honest).
With the years, my Christmas eve dinners have turned up as a joyous multicultural mess:

From oysters and foie gras next to the more northern style heartwarming soups
, the Chapon, the goose or the game, the French Christmas log or fancy entremet and the British Christmas pudding, the dutch cookies and spices…. Except for one thing: Turkey.

dinde
Lesson learned: unless the bird is bigger than you or your oven, a turkey is nothing to be afraid of!

Not that I don’t like it or that it’s extremely difficult to prepare. Maybe I’ve been secretely traumatised by monster sized turkeys ending up on the head of Mr Bean or Joe in Friends. Maybe I had some bad experiences with dried out turkeys and concrete like compact stuffings that almost make you choke. Maybe I just grew up inspired by my mum’s constant search for mouthwatering originality in the kitchen… Well, actually, I think it was just another of these dishes that for some hidden inconscious feeling I didn’t dare to cook. Just like cheesecakes before.

Anyway, last year I finally gave in my dutchie’s wishes for a good old Christmas turkey, and I must say that with a little organisation and a lot of faith, it turned out good, really good: 
It was golden on the outside, tender on the inside, delicately perfumed with truffle that I inserted under the skin and the traditionnal stuffing with chestnuts was rich, fragrant and comforting yet not to compact thanks to the addition of grated apples and silky greek yoghurt. I served it with a simple gravy made of the cooking juices, sauteed green beans with wild mushrooms and celeriac mash.

And you, will you dare turkey this Christmas?

 

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A time for soup

February 1st, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Lately, I am craving for my bed, a lot of sleep and soup! Chicken soup, leek and curry soup, fennel soup, celeriac and spinach soup… I  just can’t get enough!


Not surprising you would say, with all those microbes and viruses running around lately: I am surrounded by running noses, low hoarse voices and feverish eyes… My dutchie and I didn’t make an exception to the rule and are both trying to cope the best we can.  At least one good thing to the story: for once, I manage to have him eat soup without (hardly) any complaints!

In case you too are having trouble to crawl out of bed, desperatly looking for yet another pack of tissues, while your nose has nothing more to envy to the nose of that clown you laughed so much about at the christmas circus, I’d thought I would share a bowl of my favourite chestnut soup with you! It’s heartwarming, smooth and velvety… and it doesn’t only work great for colds: with a few thin slices of foie gras or of smoked duck breast, it’s a great starter to a fancy winter dinner!

Velouté de chataignes

Chestnut cream soup
Velouté de chataignes

serves 6 pers.
prep: 15 min. cook: 25 min

Ingredients:
500g steamed chestnuts (peeled),
900 ml chicken or turkey stock,

10cl liquid cream,
1 knob of butter,
1 small shallot, peeled and diced,
sea salt and pepper to taste,
Optional but so good: dices of fresh foie gras to garnish,

In a pan, sauteed half of the chestnuts with the knob of butter for 5 minuts. Lower the fire, add the remaining chestnuts, the shallot and cover with chicken bouillon and the liquid cream. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer covered for 20 to 25 minutes or until the chestnuts are soft. Leave to cool and mix until smooth using a blender (don’t add all the liquid at once so that you can adjust the texture to a velvety creamy soup). Before serving, warm up the soup on low heat. Serve the soup in individual bowls and for a real treat garnish with dices of fresh foie gras sprinkled with ‘fleur de sel’ and freshly crushed pepper.

Bon appétit!


In the bag: Chestnut and hazelnut cake

November 30th, 2007 § 2 comments § permalink

Food blogging events is what brought me to food blogging. I love the challenge of creating a dish out of a theme or selected seasonal ingredients. It is such a creative process where I can let my inspiration work freely. I love it.
Last week, I was browsing through “Is my blog burning“, looking for cooking challenges to tingle the cook in me, when I tumbled on the november “In the Bag” challenge from  Julia and  her A Slice of Cherry Pie … Chestnut, chocolate and sugar! Yummy.

 In the Bag November Logo
In Julia’s cooking bag this month!

This was perfect timing: Since a week or two, I was submerged with a sudden chestnut crave. This usually happens to me a couple of times in the automn and winter season. Probably something left fom my childhood near the mountain regions from the Cévennes and Ardèche where chestnut trees are everywhere. When the first cold days arrive, the sweet and smoky smell of roasted chestnuts invades the streets of the city centre: during weekends, on every square, children gather around mini roasting stalls, awaiting the grey, wise and smiley elder in charge to provide them with a precious newspaper cornet filled with fuming roasted chestnuts. Aah! The smell of roasted chestnuts… It’s the smell of christmas at the door.

At home, children (and grown-ups) are happily fed with local “Crème de marrons”* (chestnut spread), topped with crème fraiche or whipped cream for desert. My father loved it. Strangely, I was not such a fan of chestnut spread as a child, but now that I’ve left home for some time… Once in a while, I have an urge for it and make sure to always bring back a couple of cans with me whenever I go back to France. I could eat it directly from the can! but mostly, I love to use it in cakes and deserts.

Crème de marrons
La crème de marrons de mon enfance

All that to say that I couldn’t miss that invitation to chestnut childhood memories… Yet, being overwhelmed with all the work involved with my “changing blogs platform mission”, I almost missed the posting deadline.
Hopefully, I’ll be just on time with my chestnut and hazelnut cake. Already for sometime, I had my eye on a beautiful chestnut cake with candied chestnuts from the talented french blogger Anne on her “Station Gourmande“… Yet, I was missing a good part of the ingredients. For the best, as I wanted to create my own recipe for this challenge and always like to add my personal touch anyway.
 

chestnut and hazelnut cake
A piece of cake?

We had the cake for sunday brunch with a couple of friends. The cake was tender, nutty with a little crunch from the hazelnuts and chocolate bits. It was a success!

I am looking forward to the round up from Julia now… I guess I’ll have a new chestnut crave very soon!

In the mean time, as I only used half of my 500g can of “Crème de marrons” for this cake, there’s a bonus: With the remaining spread, I indulged myself in one of my favourite chestnut treats: the “bouchons aux marrons de Céline“…

chestnut bites


Chestnut and hazelnut cake
Cake aux marrons et noisettes

serves 8 to 10 pers.
prep: 15 min. cook: 50 min

Ingredients:
3 eggs,
50g sugar,
160g whole wheat flour,
25g salted butter melted,
1/2 tsp baking soda,
1/2 tsp salt,
1/2 tsp vanilla, powdered

10 cl hazelnut oil,

1/2 tsp salt,
250g chestnut spread (I use crème de marrons* from ardèche)
50 g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly crushed,
40 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped


Preheat the oven at 180 deg C.
In a bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until the mixture doubles volume. Incorporate the flour, salt, baking soda and vanilla extract until smooth. Pour the butter and hazelnut oil, slowly, while mixing until homogeneous.  Incorporate the chestnut cream. Toss in the crushed hazelnuts and chocolate. Pour into a greased cake tin and bake for 50 min at 180 deg C or until the point of a mess comes out moist but clean. You might want to cover the cake with aluminium foil after about 20 min, when the cake is nicely golden to prevent it from burning. Unmold, ignore the delicious nutty exhalations and leave to cool on a metal grid. Enjoy with a strong dark expresso or your favourite tea.

Bon appétit!

* chestnut spread is a traditional recipe from the french cévennes and ardèche mountain regions. It’s made of pureed chestnut, slowly cooked with sugar syrup and flavoured with vanilla.

Cooking freak and tea-time sweets

May 29th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

I love throwing parties! My mediterranean side is deeply dominant in that matter. Problem is: I always overdo it and end up spending my time in the kitchen, or serving people. Before I notice the evening is gone and I haven’t taken the time to sip one of my cocktails and chatt with my guests. This year, for my birthday party, I decided it would be different. I would enjoy my party from the beginning until the end… even if that meant serving beer and peanuts! Ha ha… Of course, I didn’t resist. I overdid it again. Less than usual I swear! At least, I had everything ready before hand and I prepared self service bites with among others: marinated gambas, aubergine and herb dips, mini vegetables, merguez, dutch cheese and grape skewers, morrocan lamb skewers, strawberries and cream, and mini sweet bites… and a Punch. Peanuts, I told you!

Unfortunately, I was so busy preparing everything that I completely forgot about my blog and camera! And there were no leftovers the next day… so, no food picture this time!

However, I did save a selection of sweet bites in prevision of this post. This is also the perfect occasion to inaugurate the beautiful Eva Solo teapot I got as a present from two of my girlfriends… I couldn’t resist showing it off a little!

tea_time1
My new Eva Solo teapot, and a selection of sweet bites:
chestnut/chocolate (right), almond/pear(left) and lemon squares (top)

For the sweet bites, I got hold of my brand new silicon mould and inspired myself from two talented french bloggers who always have an amazing selection of sweets on their blog: Le palais des Delices from Celine and La popotte de Manue.  From Celine, I borrowed her recipes of chestnut bites to which I added chocolate bits, and lemon squares. For the pear and almond bites, I used the base of Manue’s heavenly tartlets. They were all delicious, especially the chestnut bites. If you read french I suggest you have a look at theit posts for the recipes. For the others, the translations (with a few personal twists) are at the end of the post.

One more picture for the road:

tea_time2

Chestnut and chocolate bites
(inspired from Celine’s “bouchons aux marrons”)

For approximatly 50 mini bites, prep. 10 min, cooking: 25min

Ingredients:
500g chestnut cream (I bought my “creme de marron” in France)
3 eggs
80g butter
small chunks of your favourite chocolate
that’s it!

Preheat your oven at 175 deg. Melt the butter. Pour the chestnut cream, butter in a bowl and mix until smooth. Then add the eggs and  mix again until smooth. Don’t add any sugar, the chestnut cream is more than sweet enough! Pour into mini moulds (I highly recommend good quality silicon moulds as they will make your life so much easier for unmoulding). If like me you are a chocolate addict, add a small chunk of chocolate in each bite and bake for 25 min at 175deg. Leave to cool before unmoulding. Celine suggest serving them cold.

 

Pear and almond bites
(inspired from Manue’s “divines tartelettes”)

For approximatly 40 mini bites, prep. 10 min, cooking: 20min

Ingredients:
100g powdered almonds
50g flour
100g sugar
1/2 a vanilla pod

3 egg whites + 1 whole egg
80g butter
a pinch of salt
2 or 3 pears

Preheat your oven at 180 deg. Melt the butter. Peel and slice the pears into small slices fitting your moulds. Count 2 to 3 slices per bite. Mix the almonds, the flour, the sugar, the seeds from the vanilla pod and the pinch of salt. Then add the eggs and  mix. Finally, add the melted butter and mix until smooth. Pour into mini moulds. Add the pear slices on top of each mini moulds and bake for 20 min. Leave to cool before unmoulding.

Lemon squares
(taken from Celine’s “carres au citron”, no personal twist)

For 36 mini bites, prep. 15 min, cooking: 15 + 20min Ingredients:
125g butter

40g glazing sugar
150g + 35g flour
125ml lemon juice
The zest of a lemon

1. Preheat your oven at 180 deg. Cover a rectangular mould with a shit of baking paper. 2.In your food processor, mix the butter and glazing sugar until you get a smooth cream.Melt the butter. Pour the chestnut cream, butter in a bowl and mix until smooth. Then incorporate the flour. Garnish the mould with the dough. The dough layer should be smooth and regular. Bake for 15min. The cake should be slightly golden. 3. In your food processor, mix the eggs, the sugar, the rest of the flour, the lemon juice and zest. Pour on the rectangular basis, still warm and bake for 20 min. The cake has to be firm. Leave to cool in the mould.4. Cut into squares and sprinkle with glazing sugar.

Bon appétit!

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