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…

 

Frost, defrost, no-frost… brunch?

October 22nd, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

kwarktaart2appeltaart2croissants

While my dutchie is a cycling freak and could spend hours looking and shopping for fancy expensive cycling gear, I, as a lazy gourmande, have something for fancy kitchen equipment… six pit stoves, professional gas-ovens, or just the kitchen aid department  at my favourite cook shop make my eyes shine with envy. Fridges are no exception though they are a little bit lower on my excitement scale. I dreamt for the cool and airy space of a fridge and freezer large enough to handle my saturday morning market escapades and our returns from France and our unevitable stops at the king of the supermarkets, … Carrouf*.

We’ve had it with our small-ugly-old fridge. It helped us getting started, and we’re glad. But it had its time: all door handles are broken and the freezer compartment has turned in an ice generating machine. So, there we went and buy a new fridge. Given the size of our kitchen, the limitations were high… but we found it: a high aluminium one door fridge/freezer combination with temperature management and a no-frost system of course! 

Like a kid, my dutchie wanted to take it right away, but (luckily) they didn’t have it in stock so we had to wait a few more days for the delivery. The next friday, there it was at last. The small-ugly-old fridge was emptied and set to wait on the terrasse in no time. First cleaning up, power on… one hour waiting. We could see the led temperature quickly dropping to arctic temperatures. There we were. After the required indicated time we transfered our new food cargo recently acquired on our last trip to France back into the freezing cold. Happy like hippoes we feasted and celebrated our new fridge before falling into the arms of Morpheus with happy food dreams.

 

The next morning, my dutchie was up early to prepare a nice breakfast with croissants that he had prepared and frozen the week before. Berezina… For whatever reason our new acquisition revealed to be a defrost instead of a no-frost! It just didn’t work… After a whole night, everything was defrosted: the farm chicken, the charolais T-bone steak, the duck breasts, the croissants dough, the morrocan pancakes, the rolls of flaky pastry… We could have cried, (I would have if I was not under the schock)… we put the small-ugly-old fridge back on, right there on the terrasse and we decided to party! I spent the whole day in the kitchen, making stews of what could be stewed, tarts, quiches and terrines while my dutchie called around our closest friends to put a large improvised sunday brunch together….

brunch

That was a fun cooking frenzy weekend topped with a great sunday brunch shared with good friends… and I now have a whole set of new recipes to share with you: From home made croissants to salmon terrine passing by apple tarts, moroccan pancakes, chicory quiche, tarte au fromage blanc and a chicken and raisins tajine!

*  Carrefour or Carrouf for the nostalgic expatriated french. The holy grail of the french supermarkets.

Hungry? here’s to begin with:

Salmon terrine with fresh herbs from the garden
Terrine de saumon aux herbes du jardin 

salmon_terrine1

serves 6 to 8
prep: 10 min cook: 30 min

Ingredients:
250g salmon fillet, roughly diced,
1 shallot, chopped,
3 eggs,
15cl liquid cream,
juice of 1/2 lemon,
2 Tsp olive oil,
1 handful chopped parsley,
1 handful chopped chives,
2 sprigs of basil, chopped,
a few mint leaves, chopped,

sea salt, pepper and chili pepper to taste

Preheat the oven at 180 deg C.
Put the diced salmon, chopped shallot and the 3 eggs in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Add the liquid cream, lemon juice, olive oil and season to taste with salt, pepper and chili pepper. Blend until liquid and smooth. Stir the herbs into the mixture.
Pour in a greased medium size terrine (~15cm) and cover with baking foil. Bake ‘au bain marie’ * in the oven for 30min.
Leave to cool completely at room temperature. Then, forget in the fridge for at least an hour. Serve cold as an aperitif with toasts or as a starter with mixed young leaves. You can serve it with lemon,  a homemade  mayonnaise, or a fresh tomato sauce made of thinly chopped fresh tomatoes, 1 small grated clove, fruity olive oil, a dash of lemon and basil.

Bon appétit!


**
“Au bain marie” is a french cooking term. It means putting the baking dish in a larger one partly filled with warm water right in the oven. It’s often used to bake terrine, mousses or cremes brulees.

Fish! I like it RAW! (1)

July 28th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Have you ever had the impression of working in a sauna or should I say in hell? Well, today I did…  we have no airco at work and the sunscreen of my office just broke down: the thermometer often exceded the 31 C inside today! All that to say, that when I came home, I hardly felt like eating and especially not something warm. Luckily, I’ve become a master at gazpacho’s, fresh salads, carpaccio’s and other fresh recipes. Among my favourites: raw fish! sashimi from my local sushi bar Kiraku* is one of my treats and I’m a fan of the holland’s new herring, eaten right at the fish stall with raw chopped oignons… Please don’t look disgusted, I swear, it’s heaven! and it’s full of Omega 3 as my mum would not fail to highlight. Now, I know not everybody can handle it… so I often indulge my fish in savoury marinades. I’m sure that, that, you can handle! Here is a couple of this summer creations and one of last summer…

But before I go further I will, if you allow me, open a little hygienic parenthesis: It’s no problem to eat raw fish (except maybe if you are pregnant) as long as your fish is of the best quality and as fresh as can be: Choose a fish that smells of the sea. If it’s smells of fish, pass your way! Fish like tuna and salmon may have some parasits. Out of precaution I always put the fish I want to eat raw in the freezer for at least half an hour. My dutchie thinks I am paranoid… but well, I feel better like that and the fish is then easier to cut neatly.

Now, here we go…

salmon_tuna_duo

Tuna and salmon duo in ginger and wazabi marinade

2 pers. prep: 10 min

Ingredients:
200g salmon fillet
200g tuna fillet

1 (bio) lemon

2 Tsp. (japanese) soja saus
2 Tsp. thai fish saus
1 Tsp. sesam oil
1 tsp. wasabi paste (you can put more if you like)
2 Tsp. fresh grated ginger
1 tsp. sugar or honey

sea salt, pepper

Wash your salmon and tuna fillet and put them in the freezer for at least half an hour. Prepare your marinade: mix the soja saus, fish saus, sesam oil, sugar, wasabi paste and ginger. Add the juice of half of a lemon. Cut the rest of a lemon in very thin slices (a couple of mm) using a mandoline. If your lemon is treated brush it well under warm water before use (I use a potato brush). Cut your salmon and tuna in slices, I usually like the pieces to be slightly thick (1/2 to 1cm). Put the fish and lemon slices in a tupperware and cover with the marinade. Close your tupperware, shake it, baby shake it! and forget it in the fridge, time to enjoy the sun in the garden, have an aperitif or for longer. Dispose the fish in a nice plate or terrine with the lemon on top.

Bon appétit!

* Kiraku sushi bar:
Toussaintkade 31
Den Haag
070-3454288
www.kiraku.nl

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