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..
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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…

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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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Sexy pears

November 20th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

Whenever I come around the mouthwatering combination of poached pears and silky chocolate sauce, I can’t help but feeling butterflies in my belly. Not surprising, you would think, for a gourmande like me.

Well, not this kind of butterflies I must admit (blushing)… Couldn’t really explain why though until I stumbled upon that vintage french advertisement from the eighties for a world famous chocolate brand, and then I remembered: the very first awakening of my sensuality taste buds…

Ok, maybe that’s a bit cheesy… but, well, I was still very young and naive back in the eighties. And honestly, will the poached pears/chocolate sauce combi ever taste the same way to you after this? Let’s make a test…

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Warm and spicy, very comfy…

February 23rd, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Today, I’d like to give a little praise to the foodies around the net who make me drool regularly in front of my computer.  To start with, I’ve chosen two seasonal treats I have tested and adopted because they are all I like on lazy winter days like today… simple, warm, spicy, very comfy. Sounds good to you too?

Velouté anisé (2)
A spoon of provence… The warm and fragrant ‘velouté anisé’ from Miss Epices’

The first one is a long time favourite I picked from my online french recipe bible Marmiton*. I’ve been using and abusing from Marmiton for ages before I even had set my eyes on the foodies blogging network. I mostly use it to look for cooking techniques and inspiration on how to cook a specific ingredient. However, there are a couple of recipes that I follow almost to the letter, like this fragrant and velvety fennel and zucchini soup from Miss Epices, exhaled with a gulp of pastis and a dash of lemon juice. The zucchini gives it an amazing smooth and velvety texture. It’s warm and refreshing at the same time, a trip to provence at every spoon. I love it during the cold winter nights when I feel nostalgic of my Provence but it also makes an original soup dish for a fancy dinner.

Pear and ginger crumble (2)
Warm, spicy, crunchy… soothing! The pear and ginger crumble from Holler

The second one was a ‘love-at-first-sight’ encounter, a couple of weeks ago while I was drooling in front of the round-up of the Januari in the bag challenge on Julia’s A slice of cherry pie. I was in pretty bad shape that day: feverish, with a flu and a red clown like nose, longing for something sweet, warm and spicy to pep me up. The pear and ginger crumble from Holler on her vegeterian blog Tinned Tomatoes was my salvation. The juicy pears, the spicy ginger and the crunchy almonds. It looked perfect. It was perfect:  warm, spicy, fudgy and crunchy… Soothing. Like Holler advises, it will do miracles with a scoop of vanilla ice cream… or a spoon of crème fraiche. I had to slightly adapt the recipe because I was missing a few ingredients and because I was craving for candied chinese ginger (while Holler used powdered ginger). Thank you so much Holler, I think this crumble will become a regular in my kitchen!

That’s it for today, but I’m working on a new section in the sidebar so that I can share my  ‘drooling’ and ‘to-do’ list with you in the near future. In the mean time, I’ve posted my versions of Miss Epice’s and Holler’s recipes below… Take a look at the original recipes on Marmiton (in french) and Holler’s blog.

Velouté anisé (1)
Velvety fennel and zucchini soup with a dash of Pastis
Velouté anisé
 
source: Miss Epice on Marmiton (in French)
serves 4 to 6 pers.
prep: 10 min. cook: 15 min

Ingredients:
1 large zucchini roughly chopped,
1 fennel bulb, roughly chopped (keep some of the green leaves to decorate)
1 Tsp olive oil,
750 ml chicken or vegetable stock,

salt and pepper to taste,
1 Tsp cream cheese (optionnal)
A gulp of pastis,
A dash of lemon juice.

In a deep cooking pan, sauteed the zucchini and fennel in the olive oil for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Pour the stock and season to taste with salt and pepper. When it comes to a boil, lower the heat and leave to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the fennel is tender. Leave to cool a bit before blending the soup with the cream cheese. Heat up on low heat, and season with a gulp of Pastis and a dash of lemon juice just before serving.

Bon appétit!

Pear and ginger crumble (1)
Pear and ginger crumble
Crumble aux poires et au gingembre

source: Holler on Tinned Tomatoes
serves 6 to 8 pers.
prep: x min. cook: y min

Ingredients:
4 firm and juicy pears (I used Doyenne the Comice which are quite large, count ~1kg fruit), peeled and chopped in chunks,
50g candied chinese ginger (I thought it was perfect, my dutchie thought it was a tad too much… maybe I’ll try 25g next time!), chopped thinly,

Juice of half a lemon, (I usually pou the juice directly on the pears when I peel them to avoid oxydation)
3 Tsp raw cane sugar,
a pinch of cinnamon,
a pinch of cardamom,
freshly ground pepper,
a knob of butter,

For the crumble topping:
80g butter, cold, and cut in small pieces,
50g finely ground almonds,
50 g all purpose flour,
3 Tsp raw cane sugar,
a pinch of salt,
zest of a lemon,

2 handful of blanched almonds halves,

Usually, I first prepare the crumble dough: In a bowl, mix the butter with all the other dough ingredients (except the almond halves) with a wooden spoon until it crumbles (you can also use your fingers, but the warmth of your body might have the butter melt faster that you would like). Refrigerate until further use.

Preheat the oven at 180 deg. In a frying pan, melt the knob of butter and throw in the pears and lemon juice, the ginger, sugar and spices. Toss a couple of minutes on high heat until the flavours and juices get together.
Pour in a large oven dish greased with butter and sprinkle withe the crumble dough and the almond halves. Bake for 20 minutes or until the crumble crust turns golden. Serve slightly warm.
Bon appétit!

* With more than 40000 recipes to this day, Marmiton is a very complete and well organised recipe database in french where anyone can post, search, comment on recipes. Attractive with seasonal themes, cooking and decoration tips and workshops animated by famous french bloggers. Ok, it’s all in french but if you’re not a french speaker, you might want to have a look at it’s little english brother Let’s cook french

Stewed pears, candied lemon and almond tiles

February 3rd, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Pears are definitely my favourite fruit in the cold season. They are a dutch local too. Stewed pears are typical in holland, served warm, as a side dish with game or simply as a desert with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream… mmmmm. It’s been a while I’ve been willing to try cooking them by myself, but like many other dishes I never got to it.

When I came across Julia‘s inspiring bag of goodies for her monthly in the bag challenge, I had to sigh. Pears, lemon and nuts… It was the perfect occasion, yet I’d thought I’d never get to it on time before the deadline, and of course, I didn’t, it was just too busy last week… But anyway, this morning, while my dutchie was being grumpy about his cold and showed no sign of interest for anything else but catching up on his Prison Break DVD’s, I had all the time in the world to experiment in the kitchen…

stewed pears

 

Thanks to Julia, I finally made my own stewed pears poached with lemon peel and heartwarming spices. I topped them with a caramelized reduction of their cooking juices and served them slightly warm, with a spoon of whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon and candied lemon peel. For the crunch and for the nut part, I added homemade almond tiles.

 A perfect sunday tea time!

stewed pears (2)

For the stewed pears, I used the most common stewing pears in the Netherlands, the Gieser Wilderman variety. As a basis for the recipe, I inspired myself from my favourite dutch cooking book “Dutch cooking – The new kitchen” from Manon Sikkel and Michiel Klonhammer, with a few adjustments in the spices and in the cooking time: traditional recipes call for cloves, vanilla and sometimes cinnamon, but I was not in the mood for cloves although I wanted to spice up my pears a bit. In addition to the vanilla and cinnamon, I used green cardamom, star anise and black pepper. In the book, they call for a cooking time of 1h30 on very low heat, but I guess I went to low on the heat and had to stew my pears for an extra half hour on medium heat before they were ready. They came out just fine, nicely coloured and delicately perfumed. For the final touch, I kept the lemon peel and half of the cooking liquids. I reduced a fourth of the liquids in a thick caramel syrup in which I candied the lemon peel cut in thin stripes.

For the almond tiles, after hesitating between the fancy recipe from my Larousse des Desserts and the minute made one from my french-cooking-made-simple bible “Francoise Bernard – Les recettes illustrées”, I chose for the second option so that I too could have a pick at the Prison Break grand final! I kind of missed the last stage which call fo curling the almond tiles on a pastry roll as soon as they are out of the oven. I was too slow on that one and my tiles remained depressingly flat. Nevermind, flat roofs are in fashion lately!

But, enough with the blabla, here’s for the result and the recipes:

stewed pears (3)
Here’s how my sunday tea time turned out.

Dutch style stewed pears
Poires pochées à la hollandaise

serves 6 pers.
prep: 10 min. cook: 2 hrs (+ 15 min for the caramelized syrup)

Ingredients:
6 Gieser Wilderman pears (or any other stewing pears), peeled,
enough water to cover,
peel and juice of 1 lemon,

1 cinnamon stick,
1/2 vanilla pod,
3 green cardamom pods,
6 black peppercorns,
2 star anise parts,
5cl xeres vinegar,
10 cl red wine,
150 g sugar.

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot, add the vinegar, wine, spices and lemon peel. Put the pears in the water. They should be completely covered so that they can colour evenly. Lower the heat (low but not too low!) and leave to simmer for one hour. Add the sugar and simmer for half to one hour more or until a knife can enter the pears without resistance. Carefully remove the pears (not by the stalk!) and sprinkle them with the lemon juice. If you’re not planning to use them right away, keep them in the fridege, in a closed recipient, in the cooled stewing liquids.

To top the pears, you can reduce a quart of the stewing liquids with the spices and lemon peel into a thick caramelized syrup. Just reduce on high heat for about 15 minutes or until the syrup is thick and coloured. Remove the candied lemon peel and cut it into thin stripes. Use to decorate.

Bon appétit!

Almond tiles
Tuiles aux amandes

makes ~20.
prep: 10 min. cook: 5 min

Ingredients:
2 egg whites,
30g butter, melted,
1 full Tsp flour,

2 full Tsp sugar,
a pinch of salt,
30 g of blanched almonds in thin slices
optionnal: a pinch of lavander flowers, crushed

Preheat the oven at 250 deg C. With a wooden spoon mix the eggwhites (not beaten), the flour, sugar, salt and melted butter until smooth. Add the almonds and lavander and toss gently. On a baking tray covered with baking foil (grease the foil with butter if you dont use silicon foil), pour well spaced (~2 fingers) small amounts of dough using a tea spoon. Flatened them slightly with the back of the spoon. Bake for 5 minutes in the warm oven or until the rands of the cookies start to colour (beware: it goes very quickly from golden to black!). Take out of the oven and immediately set the cookies to cool on top of a pastry roll (empty bottles will do to). Once completely cooled, store in air tight tin.

Bon appétit!

I guess I am out of competition for this month in the bag challenge, but anyway, it was fun and it was good!  
For more recipes with pears, lemon and nuts, check out Julia’s A slice of cherry pie next week, I’m sure there will be plenty of tempting recipes (with her delicious pear and cheddar salad to start with)…

 stewed pears

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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