Gougères - French Cheese Puffs

Gougères – French Cheese Puffs

Gougères are classic French cheese puffs made with choux pastry and grated cheese (Gruyère / Comté). French they may be but it was in Russia that I really took a liking to them.

I blame it on the French bakery Volkonsky‘s, which was in dangerous proximity to Katya’s Moscow appt. A small bakery / café selling delicious pastries, sandwiches, breads and coffee not to mention gougères.

It was a lesson in how something so innocent can be so addictive … I could have eaten them by the handful.

In memory of  Volkonsky’s gougères, here is  my recipe (see link Gougères below):

Gougères Cheese Puffs

Oreo

17 February 2010

Thomas Keller OREO

TKO – Thomas Keller Oreo Recipe

What makes these cookies so drop dead gorgeous is the sublime duo of salty chocolate cookies sandwiching a perfect white chocolate ganache cream. And for those of you who are less than ecstatic when it comes to white chocolate, not to worry, the taste is so subtle you will find yourself converted.

So it is no wonder that my colleague Claire was, and still is addicted to TKO‘s: Thomas Keller‘s ‘grown-up’ Oreo cookies. This my friends is no small food craving, we are talking about a woman making a bee-line to the Bouchon Bakery once a day, 5 days a week to buy not 1 but 2 of these pancake sized cookies. You are getting the picture here…

As  I apparently have not lived until I’ve tried a TKO, and short of asking Bouchon to FedEx me a care package, I thought I’d make them myself.  This is Thomas Keller’s original recipe from the ‘Essence of Chocolate‘ cookbook.

See link ‘Oreo‘ below for the recipe:

Oreo

Lemon chicken

9 February 2010

Lemon Chicken

Chicken recipe : Roasted Lemon Chicken with Sumac

What to do with chicken…. that ever versatile white protein. My mother has been trying to disguise it for years while my father throws every curry in the book at it just to ‘add’ some taste.

I was looking for a change, so went sniffing through my cookbooks for an EASY CHICKEN RECIPE when I came across Ottolengi’s ‘Roast chicken with sumac, za’atar and lemon’.

The basis of the recipe looked good but I didn’t have a few of the ingredients on hand  ie) no za’atar (Middle Eastern blend of dried thyme, sesame seeds and salt) or allspice and didn’t feel much like messing around with a whole chicken, so I simplified things.

All you need is a few chicken breasts, fresh lemon, sumac (a spice made of crushed Mediterranean berries), garlic, stock and a few other spices. This makes a delicious, fragrant dish, that is healthy and great served over basmati rice.

See the link ‘lemon chicken’ below for the recipe:

LEMON CHICKEN

BEEF STROGANOFF

25 January 2010

Beef Stroganoff

BEEF STROGANOFF {Бефстроганов, Befstróganov}

A great Russian beef recipe!

“Don’t always listen to your husband but always listen to your BUTCHER!”

This is what I was told on Saturday after finding Olivier in the butcher shop. He had ventured in with our shopping list and ordered 350g of beef shoulder. The butcher put the meat on the chopping block and with his knife poised asked what we were cooking. “Beef Stroganoff” Olivier replied.

The knife went down and a knowing look came over the butchers face. “My friend” he said, “this is not the meat for you.  For beef stroganoff only beef fillet will do! You want the most tender meat, cut into ‘allumettes‘  (thin strips) and then quickly seared in the pan. It will melt in your mouth”.

And it did. The price was definitely not that of beef shoulder, but worth every penny.

Beef strogi as it’s known in our family comes with many variations on a theme. However I like a simple recipe, made with only beef, onions, paris mushroom and sour cream. A little salt & pepper, garnished with chopped parsley and you have a carnivores bit of heaven.

The name is likely derived from Count Sergei Stroganoff (1794-1881), a Russian official and gourmet! I bet you he was all over the beef fillet.

BEEF STROGANOFF

OATMEAL

20 January 2010

Oatmeal

OATMEAL

An unctuous, warm, stick to your ribs breakfast cereal, made from an easy recipe that can be thrown together in a matter of minutes and eaten with a vartiety of spices, fruits, nuts or just brown sugar.

With all this going for it, why did I avoid oatmeal like the plague when I was little…  I mean to the point that you couldn’t force the spoon down my throat! I think it came down to the texture, which with years and maturity…. I have come to like.

A few TIPS for making oatmeal :

  • add the  salt at the end for a creamy texture
  • the finer the oats the faster they cook
  • heat your bowls
  • serve with warm milk
  • Scottish superstition – stir clockwise with your right hand to avoid evil

OATMEAL

FIG JAM

8 October 2009

SP-fig-jam-detail
SP-fig-jam
FIG JAMWhile I was in England I also managed to fit in a little jam making, and not just any jam making, but fig jam, my favourite. As luck would have it my uncle had made friends with one of the local sellers at his fruits & veg market. They just happened to have some figs that were passing their prime, but were just perfect for jam making. We bought almost 2kg for under a fiver!

Kip does not mess around when it comes to jam. The figs were washed, mashed, cooked, bottles and voilà – fig jam. And to be honest it should be that easy.  No muss no fuss. What I liked best is that the jam is not too sweet, he avoids the trap of saturating it with sugar, so that you can still taste the fruit. And just wait till your try this on a piece of hot bread, or with yogurt as a desert.

Here is another fig desert recipe to try!

FIG JAM

SP-handmade-sliced-ham

Sliced ham recipe

SLICED HAM RECIPE :  Just back from a great weekend in the English countryside. I was visiting Kip & Elise, my Aunt & Uncle and managed to fit in a spot of cooking. There is something about their kitchen that leads to cullinary experimentation and this time it was trying my hand at making pressed ham for sliced cold meats (luncheon meats).

Kip has made it for us in the past and we agreed that the taste, texture and reduced salt content will convert you in a heart beat. You can really taste the bay leaves, juniper berries and cider in the ham, which shaves perfectly into paper thin slices, just wonderful in a sandwich.

Not only does it taste better but making your own sliced ham is far more economical than buying it at the supermarket or butcher and stays fresh longer without that nasty oxidised taste, as you slice it as needed. Kip even keeps the stock and uses it to make wonderful green split pea soup, which will post in the future.

HAM RECIPE

BROCCOLI BASIL CREAM SOUP

29 September 2009

SP-Broccoli-basil-cream-sou

Broccoli soup

BROCCOLI SOUP with BASIL CREAM

I have been on a green theme lately, avocado, pesto, swiss chard…. it wasn’t conscious I tell you. I take inspiration as it comes. This time it was from the general direction of the fridge, where two broccoli’s & half of a cauliflower were staring me down. Add to that my lack of inspiration for dinner (happens to the best of us right), plus a lonely bouquet of basil and this soup was taking shape.

I have always felt that cream of broccoli soup was missing something, that it needed a little pick me up to tweak the taste buds. Here’s where the basil cream came in. It is not overpowering, in fact you may need a few spoonfuls to put your finger on just what makes this sumptuous soup so much better than the rest.

BROCCOLI SOUP