Not a cat person…

August 9th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

I thought I was.

You only get to know the truth about you being a catperson when you’ve gave a try at catsitting… and the truth is: I’m not!

Ok, It was a brave try: three cats at once that have just moved to a new three storey house and are not familiar with their new neighbourhood… So far so good for the cuddling. At least, I’ve done some exercise: playing hide and seek through the house and garden, running after them up and down the three flights of stairs a dozen time, crawling on the floor trying to get them out from under the sofa/bed and back into their dedicated room on the top floor… and finally falling asleep exhausted on the sofa at midnight while desperatly hoping that the damned adventurous one will finally deign coming back from his moonlight exploration of the neighbourhood rooftops and gardens so that I can finally go back to my own house and dive in my bed where my dutchie has long fallen into the arms of morpheus…

My friends are not due back before monday evening but luckily, this morning, there’s Louisa Carter, her fluffy comforting pancakes, and juicy blueberries to help me gather a little energy and comfort for my afternoon catsitting session!

Blueberry pancakes

» Read the rest of this entry «

Moroccan pancakes for a grumpy gourmande…

March 22nd, 2008 § 11 comments § permalink

I had a bad feeling for that weekend all along. And here we are: It’s cold, raining melted snow, I have a flu and I just lost the complete last post I’ve spent at least 3 hours writing (first time since I moved to wordpress)… So far so good for the first weekend of spring. I need something soothing if I want to make it through Easter!

msemen
M’semmen*: my favourite pancakes ever, soaked  in honey and butter…  

In a last desperate attempt to save my mood for the weekend, I’ve turned to my favourite ever, the morrocan pancakes of my childhood… M’semmen: they are golden like the sun, flaky and buttery, soaked in honey (my throat’s gonna like that!). I had promised you the recipe some time ago but I wanted to bake them again to take a couple of pictures and the truth is taht although they are the most delicious pancakes ever… I don’t quite master the timing and hardly ever find the courage to get started (my mum hardly cook them either for the same reasons: we’re not very  patient in the family. The recipe is more than largely inspired from Requia’s authentic recipe in french). But this weekend, I just wont do without them. So here’s my present to you (and to my throat and grumpy mood) for easter.

Happy Easter!

ps. For more heavenly morrocan pancakes out of my childhood also check out that post

M’semmen, moroccan pancakes
M’semmen, crèpes feuiletées marocaines

makes ~12.
prep: 15 + ~20/30 min; rest. 15 min; cook: ~ 20/30 min

Ingredients:
200 g extra fine semolina (durum wheat flour),
200 g all purpose flour,
200 ml lukewarm water,

1 tsp salt,
5 cl. sunflower oil,
120 g. butter


msemen (1)

In a large bowl (ideally a large medium high earthware dish), mix in the semolina, flour and salt. Incorporate the lukewarm water slowly, kneading with your hands until the dough is homogenous. Dip your fingers in the oil regularly and knead the doug energetically for at least 5 minutes. Divide the dough into small balls the size of an egg or a small mandarine. Leave to rest covered with a clean cloth for 15 minutes.

msemen (2)msemen (3)

Oil a large clean working surface (I use a large wooden cutting board covered with plastic foil). Put a ball of dough in the middle. Roll it out as thin as you can (~20 to 30 cm diameter) using a pastry roll (in morocco, women usually do that with the palm of their hands, but if like me you’re not experienced with that, it will take you double the time). Spread a small amount of butter evenly on the surface of the pancake and fold in three twice, to get a small square envelope shape. Put aside and repeat until you’ve worked out all the balls of dough. You should have around 1/3rd of the butter left.

msemen (4)

Heat up a greased pancake or frying pan on medium heat. Put a square of dough on the oiled working surface and flatten it with your hands into a roughly 15×15 cm square. Butter each side of the pancake lightly  and fry on both sides until golden. Set aside on a sheet of kitchen paper. Repeat for each pancake, greasing the pan again in between two panackes. Store in a cool place until service rolled in a clean towel or in aluminum foil. You can keep them a couple of days in the fridge or freeze them individually.

msemen (5)

Traditionally, m’semmen are heated in a mix of butter and honey (like my mom, I add a bit of water too to limit the amount of butter) and sserved hot with a fuming cup of mint tea for breakfast or tea-time. If you are more into savoury, you can heat them up in a bit of butter and serve them with fresh goat cheese, olives and fresh herbs. And one more tip: eat them with your fingers…

Bon appétit!

* When I first edited this post, I spelled these pancakes m’semen by mistake, with one m instead of two. Not a big mistake as it is just a phonetic translation of the arabic spelling… Yet, as someone remarked it, they sound so much better with two m’s. So here it goes, I changed it. In my family’s region, we also call these pancakes Ghaif or Ghaifa. 

Running late for Christmas?

December 21st, 2007 § 1 comment § permalink

Eid, Christmas and Hanoeka are coming close…

christmas2

Are you all set? … I am not: the house is a mess, haven’t had one minut yet to think of my christmas dinner, still got to get the christmas tree, the presents… and my family will be at the door two days from now for a whole week of festivities! Sounds desperate… Well, nevermind! I’ve decided to (try to) keep cool this year. *deep breath*.  

In case some of you out there can recognise themselves, I thought I could share my christmas race with you (If I manage to fit posting in the program). 

First, I’ve got one tip for your christmas presents: Have you heard of the Menu for Hope raffle yet? If not, have a look… you’ve got until tonight to get a chance of winning amazing food related prizes worldwide (meals in world famous restaurants, culinary tours of your favourite cities, cooking equipment, signed cookbooks, cooking workshops…) while helping children in Lesotho getting food for lunch! Don’t miss it… I got tickets for the guided tour of El Bulli of course, a culinary tour of Barcelona and a lovely vintage print.

For the rest, my moto this year is: get organised and go simple!
(I know that my friends will no doubt get tears of laughter reading this…)

So in that spirit, here are a couple of tips for great homemade appetizers that will impress your guests while being so simple and easy to prepare…

apetizers
Asparagus mousse, cheese sablés* and candied tomato tartlets

Mousse or soup shots always make a great impression, while they can be pretty easy and prepared in advance. The asparagus and vanilla mousse on the picture is based on the recipe I cooked for Blog Appétit quite a while ago. This time I used canned asparagus, and I baked the mousse in shot glasses for 20min. They can be prepared a couple of days in advance and kept in the refrigerator. For the decoration, I used green aspasragus tips blanched for a couple of minnutes an strips of smoked salmon. For Christmas, I am thinking of trying this with artichoke hearts instead of asparagus, with seared slices of scallops on top maybe.

pumpkin_cappucino
You can also think of shots with a celeriac or pumpkin cappuccino or creamy jerusalem artichokes soup topped wth scallops or langoustines.

For the celeriac, cook in half water, half milk until soft (~15min) and mix. For jerusalem artichokes, sauteed them with a small shallot before adding the liquids, spice to your taste. You can prepare and freeze these soups well in advance. Take out of the freezer the night before. On the day itself, mix with liquid cream and warm up before serving. Top with whipped cream, seared scallops, truffles, langoustines, crushed hazelnuts, nutmeg, sechuan pepper… whatever fit your mood that day.

mini candied tomato tartlet
And what about homemade mini savoury tartlets? sounds to complicated…

The trick is to prepare a savoury shortcrust well in advance (70g flour, 30g powdered almonds, 60g butter, 1 Tsp milk, salt, pepper and any spices or herbs you fill like). Bake in mini silicon molds and freeze the tartlet bottoms. You’ll only need to take them out of the freezer a couple of hours in advance, garnish when thawed and warm up in the oven.
I like to garnish them with homemade candied tomatoes, or spicy apple compote topped with ‘magret de canard’ (smoked duck breast), sauteed spinach and goat cheese or smoked trout… but really the possibilities are endless!

asperge_stJacques
And then, there’s the scallops… I love scallops, just seared served with a drop of argan or hazelnut oil, spiced with sechuan pepper, or with a strawberry coulis. Or mini blinis or baghrir (prepared in advanced and frozen), just warmed up, topped with creme fraiche with a touch of lemon or wasabi and garnished with salmon or fish eggs.

I could go on for hours, but I’ve got to seriously get started, so I’ll finish with dried fruits… Prunes rolled in bacon and baked until crispy in the oven, dates filled with foie gras topped with sea salt and pepper. So easy!

Bon appétit and merry christmas!

*I’ll post the recipe later, I’ve got to run to the market…

 

The “1001 nights” breakfasts of my childhood

November 6th, 2007 § 3 comments § permalink

Moroccan pancakes have the taste of my childhood. It tastes of my summer holidays in moroccan paradise, at my lovely aunt Mina, my mum’s little sister. The whole summer, she would spoil us like kings…  Her modest house was our palace.

summer_in_morocco
That’s me, a long time ago: a little gourmande in moroccan paradise…

Among all, the gourmande that I have always been can’t help but remember the breakfasts and tea-time, back then…  True feasts of the 1001 nights. There were fountains of mint tea, fresh orange juice and milk, croissants, fresh bread, almond cookies, homemade jams, and so many more treats.  I had only eyes for the pancakes! The flaky Msemen* and the airy Baghrir** were my favourites.  My grandma or my aunt would wake up before sunrise to prepare them so that they would be just ready and warm, bathed in honey and butter sauce, when the little princess girl that I was would dare to get up for breakfast. Burning the tips of my fingers in the warm honey when reaching for my favourite treats was my only worry…

baghrir1

When nostalgy catch me off guards, I search my all house for the little piece of paper torn out from an old agenda where my mum lovingly wrote the family baghrir recipe when I left home to live my grown-up life. Yet, it is always a disappointment. After all these years of trying, I never managed to reach the perfectness of my grandma’s, aunt’s and mum’s heavenly pancakes. Mine are always desperately compact.

Lately, after yet another heartbreaking and disappointing attempt, I sinned (please don’t ever tell my mum about it): I drooled in front of the photo of Requia’s baghrir. Shameless, I put aside the precious piece of paper and adapted the sacred recipe inspiring myself from Requia’s delicious french blog. It was like my childhood’s breakfasts all over again… Everything had just became clear: in her emotion, my mum had forgotten one of the ingredients when writing down the recipe… the flour!

Thank you so much, Requia, for bringing back the taste of my childhood on my breakfast table!

baghrir2baghrir3
Raising dough,  and bubbling pancake

Baghrir
Crêpes milles trous**

~18 pancakes
prep: 10 min + 1 hour raising. cook: 30 min

Ingredients:
1.5 package active dry yeast (or 5g fresh yeast if you have more luck than me in finding some),
500 ml lukewarm water,
250 ml lukewarm milk,
1 egg, beaten,

300 ml all-purpose flour, sieved,
300 ml thin semolina,
1/2 tsp salt
To serve:
50g butter,
15 cl honey,
2 Tsp water


Read the instructions on the yeast package: if it needs to be delayed, delay it with a little bit of the lukewarm milk (do so if you use fresh yeast).
In a large bowl, pour the lukewarm milk, water and the salt. Then pour the beaten egg, add the yeast, the flour and semolina. Mix until smooth (as a lazy gourmande I use an electric blender or mixer).
Cover with a clean cloth and leave to raise at room temperature for about 1 hour. The dough should almost double volume and start bubbling.Cook the pancakes a couple of minutes on one side only, on low heat in a warm pancake pan. Holes will form at the top. They shouldn’t colour. Leave the pancakes to cool on a dry cloth, smooth part under (and not on top of each other if you don’t want them to stick together). To serve, warm up in a frying pan with a mix of butter and honey.

Eat them right away, with your fingers…

Bon appétit!

* Msemen are actually my true favourites. They are a work of art and patience… I’ll tell you more about them soon. If you can’t wait and want to practise your french have a look in Requia‘s kitchen, you’ll fall for them too!
** As you can see from the pictures and recipe, the yeast give Baghrir it’s airy texture: thousands of bubbles form during baking, hence their french name: the thousand holes pancakes or “crêpes milles trous”   

The "1001 nights" breakfasts of my childhood

November 6th, 2007 § 3 comments § permalink

Moroccan pancakes have the taste of my childhood. It tastes of my summer holidays in moroccan paradise, at my lovely aunt Mina, my mum’s little sister. The whole summer, she would spoil us like kings…  Her modest house was our palace.

summer_in_morocco
That’s me, a long time ago: a little gourmande in moroccan paradise…

Among all, the gourmande that I have always been can’t help but remember the breakfasts and tea-time, back then…  True feasts of the 1001 nights. There were fountains of mint tea, fresh orange juice and milk, croissants, fresh bread, almond cookies, homemade jams, and so many more treats.  I had only eyes for the pancakes! The flaky Msemen* and the airy Baghrir** were my favourites.  My grandma or my aunt would wake up before sunrise to prepare them so that they would be just ready and warm, bathed in honey and butter sauce, when the little princess girl that I was would dare to get up for breakfast. Burning the tips of my fingers in the warm honey when reaching for my favourite treats was my only worry…

baghrir1

When nostalgy catch me off guards, I search my all house for the little piece of paper torn out from an old agenda where my mum lovingly wrote the family baghrir recipe when I left home to live my grown-up life. Yet, it is always a disappointment. After all these years of trying, I never managed to reach the perfectness of my grandma’s, aunt’s and mum’s heavenly pancakes. Mine are always desperately compact.

Lately, after yet another heartbreaking and disappointing attempt, I sinned (please don’t ever tell my mum about it): I drooled in front of the photo of Requia’s baghrir. Shameless, I put aside the precious piece of paper and adapted the sacred recipe inspiring myself from Requia’s delicious french blog. It was like my childhood’s breakfasts all over again… Everything had just became clear: in her emotion, my mum had forgotten one of the ingredients when writing down the recipe… the flour!

Thank you so much, Requia, for bringing back the taste of my childhood on my breakfast table!

baghrir2baghrir3
Raising dough,  and bubbling pancake

Baghrir
Crêpes milles trous**

~18 pancakes
prep: 10 min + 1 hour raising. cook: 30 min

Ingredients:
1.5 package active dry yeast (or 5g fresh yeast if you have more luck than me in finding some),
500 ml lukewarm water,
250 ml lukewarm milk,
1 egg, beaten,

300 ml all-purpose flour, sieved,
300 ml thin semolina,
1/2 tsp salt
To serve:
50g butter,
15 cl honey,
2 Tsp water


Read the instructions on the yeast package: if it needs to be delayed, delay it with a little bit of the lukewarm milk (do so if you use fresh yeast).
In a large bowl, pour the lukewarm milk, water and the salt. Then pour the beaten egg, add the yeast, the flour and semolina. Mix until smooth (as a lazy gourmande I use an electric blender or mixer).
Cover with a clean cloth and leave to raise at room temperature for about 1 hour. The dough should almost double volume and start bubbling.Cook the pancakes a couple of minutes on one side only, on low heat in a warm pancake pan. Holes will form at the top. They shouldn’t colour. Leave the pancakes to cool on a dry cloth, smooth part under (and not on top of each other if you don’t want them to stick together). To serve, warm up in a frying pan with a mix of butter and honey.

Eat them right away, with your fingers…

Bon appétit!

* Msemen are actually my true favourites. They are a work of art and patience… I’ll tell you more about them soon. If you can’t wait and want to practise your french have a look in Requia‘s kitchen, you’ll fall for them too!
** As you can see from the pictures and recipe, the yeast give Baghrir it’s airy texture: thousands of bubbles form during baking, hence their french name: the thousand holes pancakes or “crêpes milles trous”   

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