Monday, 16 February 2009

Healthy Winter Warmer

This winter is particularly cold in Britain, and the reflex is to go for stodgy foods, and hibernation.
Photo credit: Bradlee Mauer -

But it is worth making some lighter albeit satisfying food. This recipe is nor time consuming nor difficult, and is well worth it. It is light, but filling without gluten type ingredients.

Ingredients for 3:
- 3 chicken breasts
- 3 leeks cut in thick slices
- 3 sweet potatoes cut in thick chips
- 6 parsnips cut in thick chips
- 1 tin chicken soup
(or for the ones bothered by using a tin:
- 2 shallots chopped,
- chicken stock,
- 3 tblspn cream,
- salt, pepper, nutmeg)

In an oven dish:
- place the leeks at the bottom,
- dispose on top the chicken breast cut in two in their width

- (then place above the ingredients
for the chicken soup alternative), and,
- as a last layer place the parsnips and sweet potato chips.
Pour on top the chicken soup
Then place in the oven covered at 180degC for 30 min.
After 30 min, uncover the dish and cook for another 30 min.

The chips should be cooked to the core and crispy, and underneath, the chicken should be moist and tasty, in the juices.
Serve hot and have a glass of white wine!

Bon apetit!

Source: Bob

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Valentine strawberries

Since strawberries are heart shaped, I thought it would be a good article for the St Valentine. In France, strawberries can be eaten as a dessert, and two traditional ways to serve them is:

- cut in half mixed with cream and sugar
- cut in half and with red wine and sugar

And the kids can have the wine version too!

I know the wine version seems strange, but try it before you knock it! It looks great presented in a wine glass by the way.
There is no need for proportions, just taste and use dashes!

Have all a great St Valentine all...

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Crepes (French pancakes)

It is getting cold here and it's around the corner from Mardis Gras and shrove Tuesday, so nothing better than lovely crepes to warm up and feel better about it!

I tend to eat savoury crepes more than sweet ones, but the great thing about it is that the possibilities are infinite!

I love my crepes very very thin, and I have for that a large cast aluminium pan that is absolutely perfect for that. I haven't really got good pictures yet, as crepes are veeery difficult to take pictures off, they tend to disappear very quickly indeed! So I will have to make them for my camera and nobody else!

Crepes are easy in theory, but experience makes them perfect I'm afraid. i have tried to share some of mine in this article...

For 12 crepes

- 125g flour (1/8 of a kilo, really...)
- 25g butter (the president or a good french butter one gives the best results tastewise), melted
- 2 eggs
- 30dl milk (half a pint)
- water to adjust the consistency (must be very fluid but sticky) try one crepe, adjust.

It is advised to leave the dough to rest for 1 hour, but I tend not to as it's always a last minute decision to cook crepes.. And to be honest, it does not make a huge difference.

Pour the flour in a recipient, make a well, pour in the beaten eggs, mix well to avoid lumps, add the molten butter and then the milk little by little. adjust with water (quite a lot required actually... but you'll see that)

Use a very hot pan at first. you should not need to grease the pan after the first crepe. And in france, we always say that the first crepe is for the dog (I don't think cats like them!). You will need a flat and large spatula, to flip the crepe if you don't master the hand flipping yet. You will know when to flip the crepe when the rim of the crepe becomes cooked and a bit brittle, and stops sticking to the pan. Flip the crepes, and wait for the other side to be cooked, all this is a natter of minutes only...

Remember that if the dough is too thin and the crepes are breaking, adding an egg will bring some elasticity back.

Now the toppings: If you prepare the crepes before your guests arrive, you need to have a large plate ready with a foil cover. Slip the crepes on the plate and make sure you cover it with the foil straight after. And if you need to reheat them for the toppings, make sure they are undercooked.

I must apologise for the terrible unique photo, it's an old one taken with a 2Mp camera. As soon as I have some proper shots, I shall make a swap.....When I will post the photos, I'll make sure to take a picture of all the folding options too...

Shopping list for savoury toppings:
- Cooked Mushroom - Roquefort
- Ham - Bacon - Grated Emmental
- Fresh chive - walnuts - Philadelphia
- Cooked Chicken - cooked Zucchinis- Fresh ginger
- Fresh Tomato - Feta - lettuce
- Crème Fraiche or lighter: greek yoghurt
- ...
I tend to love mine with ham and gratted cheese preferably gruyere (place the ingredients on the flip side of the crepe, so that that are hot too), a few leaves of lettuce, a small dollop of greek yoghurt, and very important, fresh chives! Forget the salt as the cheese is plenty salty already.

Shopping list for sweet toppings:

- Sugar - Lemon/lime - Fresh ginger
- Chantilly - Nutella - melted chocolate - Warm pear in syrup
- Maple syrup - Apple compote - fruit coulis - Lemon grass
- Cocoa Powder - Thinly cut Crystallised ginger/citrus zest
- Jam (quince, raspberry, blueberry) - Fresh chillies
- Bananas - Raspberries, other berries...
- ...

A french classic is lemon juice and sugar, or just sugar...And for the drink, French cider of course!

Other random tips you can apply to your liking:
- you can beat the egg whites, it makes interesting light crepes
- 1 pinch of bicarbonate of soda added will help digestion
- instead of adding m y ca aromatised water:
Boil about 1l of water with the peel, or slices of lemon and oranges (preferably organic) and use cold. - add a bit of cointreau or orange blossom water
- you can replace 1/2 the milk by the same quantity of beer

Source: initially my mum, then my mad wanderings and experimentations... to end up with the ultimate crepe, inclusive of years of regular crepe experience!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Haggis, neeps and tatties

....Or translate Haggis, turnips and potatoes!

Recently, in fact just a day before the Chinese New Year and Australia Day - too many celebrations in two days this year!- it was Burns night. This Scottish celebration involves haggis which you can't get so easily in England the rest of the year. .

I absolutely love haggis and last time I went to Scotland, I ate it every day (I know it's extreme..!). It is made with oats and offals, and is full of goodness, recommended to anybody lacking iron. Vegetarian variants exist, I am not a huge fan, but if you can't have the real McCoy, go for this one!

Anyway, I bought three at once at the farmers market, providing me with three easy and gorgeous meals. These haggis were cased in a proper sheep's stomach, as oppowed to the now more common plastic tube.
Its flavour was amazing, and I served it the traditionnal way: Steamed (for 40 minutes) with three different types of mash:- sweet potato mash,
- parsnips mash (steamed parsnips with a bit of salt and a bit of nutmeg), and
- potato mash (steamed potatoes mashed with single cream, butter, salt and ahint of mustard)
So remember, place in the steamer the haggis and the segregated vegetables (potatoes, parsnips and sweet potatoes) for 40 minutes, then prepare the mashes and serve, it's fast, tasty, and nutritious!


Source: My own recipes

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Grilled Mustard King Prawns

Marjolaine sent me this fantastic recipe two days ago, and I took advantage of the farmer market's week end to try it out.

You will need for 2 persons:
- King Prawns (10-12 per person or thereabout)
Add Image- 4 tblspn dijon mustard
- 3 cloves garlic
- Salt and pepper
- 4 tblspn oil (I used grapeseed oil)

Mustard sauce:
Mix the mustard, salt, pepper and finely chopped garlic, then add the oil little by little, keep mixing so as to obtain an emulsion (like a mayonnaise). If the emulsion does not hold firm, add a bit of rice vinegar and keep mixing.Preparation of the king prawns:
With a knife, cut verticaly through the body of each prawn, and devein. spread the middle of the cut prawn and deposit a teaspoon of sauce in it.
Line up the prawns in an oven dish, sauced side up.
Place the dish under the grill on max for about7 minutes, turn the prawns around and cook again for up to 7 minutes depending on the strength of your grill

Then eat whilst it's hot! The sauce produced is incredible, it is definitely finger licking good!
Source: Marjolaine

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Red Thai Chicken

This dish is for very lazy and healthy days, you'll just need (for 1 or 2 people):

- 150 g chicken breast or better, goujons per person
- 1 sweet red pepper (the long thin ones are the best) - chopped in squares
- 1 fresh firm tomato (diced)
- 1 courgette, chopped in thin slices (cut the slices in two..)
- 1 branch of lemongrass, chopped in slices
- 2 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 hot chili (not the birdeye chilli, the bigger type), cut in slices
- 1 lime (juiced) (+ 1 for backup if adjustment needed or not very juicy)
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- thai fish sauce, slightly less in volume than the juice of the lime
- 1 tblsp sesame oil

In a small bowl, mix the lime juice with the thai fish sauce, taste and adjust with more juice or more fish sauce: If it's too sour add some fish sauce, if too salty add some more lime juice, it's about balance. Reserve.

In a wok, heat the sesame oil, and when hot, throw the chicken cut in long strips, when browned a bit, throw the chopped vegetables, when almost cooked, add the garlic, the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and chilli pepper, stir in a bit, then at the last moment, add the lime juice and thai fish sauce, and it's ready to serve....

You can serve it with rice, but I think it's fine on its own because it already contains vegetables.

Bon apetit!

Source: my lazy imagination!...