Recipe of the week……Eggs

Eggs have a very special place in French gastronomy as both a staple food and as a much loved cooking ingredient. Perhaps one of the most underrated egg dishes is ouefs en cocotte, which translates literally as egg casserole! although I always call it simply ‘baked eggs with …..’ and this one happens to be with mushrooms and sage butter in cream and Parmesan.

According to Elizabeth David this traditional dish is a cross between oeufs sur la plat, where an egg is cooked in a covered enamel or earthenware dish with a little butter, and a poached egg where the eggs are cooked in a ceramic cocotte or ramekin dish. Both can be cooked on top of the stove or in an oven. Originally I imagine this would depend on whether you had an oven as many people would have cooked over an open fire or taken their dishes to be cooked in a communal oven.

In their simplest form, the eggs are carefully broken into a small dish with a little butter, salt and pepper. These are then cooked in a water bath (where the dishes are half submerged in boiling water, so they do not cook too quickly) until the white is set and the yolk cooked but still soft.

When cream is added it becomes oeufs en cocotte a la crème and can be enhanced with a range of flavourings from just a simple herb, to spinach lightly sautéed in butter, smoked salmon or shredded ham or to my favourite of wild mushrooms and truffles or even foie gras. Some people like to add a topping of grated cheese whilst others prefer none. Allow the seasons to determine just what to add, like the mushrooms in this version.

Baked eggs with mushrooms and sage

Photograph by Ian Wallace

Serves: 4

50g butter, plus extra for greasing

small bunch fresh sage

250g mushrooms, wiped clean

250ml double cream

4 free range eggs

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan-forced and lightly butter 4 x 300ml capacity ramekin dishes. Boil the kettle and get a roasting tin ready that will hold the ramekins.

Reserving a handful of small sage leaves, finely chop the rest. Melt the butter in a frying pan and as soon as it stops foaming add the whole sage leaves and fry over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until the leaves are crisp. Do not allow the mixture to burn. Remove the leaves with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Return the frying pan to the heat. Fry the mushrooms, chopped sage and a little salt and pepper over a high heat for 3-4 minutes until golden. Divide the mushrooms between the prepared ramekin dishes and pour over the cream. Break an egg into each one and top with the grated Parmesan.

Place the ramekins in the roasting tin. Pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake for 10 minutes until the egg yolks are just set. Scatter over the crispy sage leaves and serve with some wholemeal bread.

2019 cooking courses

So looking forward to a whole new year of exciting cooking classes at Come Cook In France. As well as some of my regular classes, this year I am adding some full day and residential courses, hosted by the wonderful Les Soeurs Anglaises in The Dordogne.

Dinner is served at Les Soeurs Anglaises after a wonderful day of cooking

The Cook Club courses are held in my kitchen at home and run from 9.30am to 2.30 pm. We cook up until about 1 pm when we sit down and enjoy the fruits of our morning’s labours. I run approximately 2 Cook Clubs per month.

23rd February – Japanese Cooking

The first course of the year is a fascinating look into some of my favourite Japanese dishes. I will be explaining some of the more unusual ingredients. I will demonstrate prepare and cook gyozas. Then together we will make Udon noodle soup with salmon and a tataki of beef.

6th March – Pasta Making

This is always a hugely popular course and this year we will be stuffing lasagne sheets to make cannelloni, hand-cutting pappardelle and using a pasta machine to make different flavoured linguine. You can then make one of 3 different sauces to serve with your own home made pasta.

23rd March – Fish Cookery

So many people seem a little fearful of cooking fish, yet are huge fans of eating it. This course is perfect as we look at some of our favourite whole fish and get to grips with scaling, filleting and cooking several completely different varieties.

4th April – French Classics Revisited

This is one of my favourite courses as I like to take some of the classic French dishes such as duck confit or tart tatin and give them my own twist. So duck confit could be spiced with star anise and hoisin sauce before roasting, whilst fresh mango makes a quite delicious tart tatin, especially with home-made palm sugar ice cream.

17th April – Thai and Vietnamese Cooking

As a huge fan of South East Asian cookery I love introducing people to the amazing flavours and unusual ingredients of this fascinating cuisine. We chop, slice, crush, pound and fry some of the most yummy dishes you can imagine.

18th May – Pizza Workshop

The first day course of the year is such an exciting one. Hosted by Les Soeurs Anglaises we will have access to a pizza oven in order to cook up some truly awesome pizzas. After an introduction of how to get your pizza oven started up, we will make pizza dough, allowing time for it to rise. In the meantime we will crack on with all the yummy toppings, finishing the afternoon off our wood smoked pizzas, fresh from the oven.

13th-17th June – Cookery Workshop

I am super excited about my first residential cookery course at Les Soeurs Anglaises. After a meet and greet welcoming dinner we will spend 3 days preparing, cooking, eating, dining, relaxing and sharing foodie stories in the beautiful surroundings of our accommodation. Using locally produced and sourced ingredients we will cook French inspired dishes with a nod to modernity.

Please email me at louise@comecookinfrance.com or go to my contacts page for more details.

Feeling the need to eat chocolate!

I don’t know why but I can’t stop thinking about chocolate today, must be feeling the need to indulge I guess. Anyway, I decided to take a look back at some of the chocolate features I have done in the past and came across this rather romantic shoot with a kinda glam/vintage/gold look – a bit kitsch I suppose. Well to be honest, the food is the hero and I know they all tasted fantastic.

Whether you call them churros (Spain) doughnuts (UK) or beignets (France) this deep fried pastries are 100% delicious especially when drizzled with a rich chocolate sauce.

Cinnamon spiced churros with chocolate Grand Marnier sauce

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Serves: 6

250 ml water

120 g butter

180 g plain flour, twice sifted

pinch salt

3 medium eggs (size 3)

75 g caster sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

chocolate Grand Marnier sauce

125 g dark chocolate

100 ml single cream

2 tbsp Grand Marnier

vegetable oil for frying

Heat the water and butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until the butter melts. Tip in the flour and salt and beat well with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes away from the pan edges (this will be almost immediate). Leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Using an electric whisk beat the eggs into the dough one at a time until smooth and slightly glossy. Spoon the dough into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm star nozzle.

Heat vegetable oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan to a depth of 7 cm until it reaches 170c/330f on a sugar thermometer (or until a small amount of the dough sizzles as soon as it is dropped into the oil). Carefully pipe approximately 15 cm lengths of the dough straight into the hot oil, using a knife to cut the dough off at the nozzle. Fry 3 at a time for 3 minutes until crisp and golden, turning half way through using metal tongs. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel. Keep warm in a moderate oven while cooking the rest.

Combine the sugar and cinnamon on a plate and roll the churros in the mixture until coated.

Meanwhile, heat the chocolate and cream together in a small saucepan over a low heat, stirring, until the chocolate melts. Remove from the heat Grand Marnier. Arrange the churros on a platter and serve with the chocolate sauce for dipping.

Chocolate pecan tartlets

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Serves: 6

pastry

200 g plain flour, sifted

1/2 tsp salt

100 g chilled butter, diced

50 g caster sugar

2 egg yolks

2-3 tbsp iced water

filling

100 g dark chocolate

20 g butter

80 g light soft brown sugar

2 medium eggs

100 ml golden syrup

1 tsp vanilla essence

200 g pecan halves

icing sugar, to dust

vanilla ice cream, to serve

Heat the oven to 200c/400f/gas mark 6. Make the pastry. Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the salt. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs and stir in the sugar. Make a well in the middle and work in the egg yolks and enough water to just bring the dough together.

Gently work the dough into a ball, flatten to a disc and wrap in cling film. Chill the dough for 30 minutes. Divide the dough equally into 6 and roll each one out to an 18 cm disc. Press into 6 x 12 cm tartlet tins.

Prick the bases with a fork and chill for a further 20 minutes.

Line the pastry cases with baking paper and baking beans and bake blind for 12 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes or until pastry is crisp and lightly golden. Leave to go cold. Reduce oven temperature to 170c/325f/gas mark 3.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a small saucepan, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Whisk the eggs, golden syrup and vanilla essence together until smooth and then stir in the chocolate mixture.

Place the pastry cases on a baking tray and divide the nuts between each one. Carefully pour in the filling. Bake the tartlets for 20 minutes or until just firm in the centre, remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 30 minutes. Dust with icing sugar and serve with ice cream.

Triple layer chocolate and Tia Maria mousse

triple chocolate mousse 1

Serves: 8-12

cake base

60 g dark chocolate

2 medium eggs, separated

55 g caster sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

mousse

4 gelatine leaves (200 bloom)

50 ml Tia Maria

300 g dark chocolate

3 medium egg, separated

250 ml double cream

satin glaze

150 g dark chocolate

60 g unsalted butter

90 thickened cream

1 tbsp liquid glucose

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4 and oil and line the base of a 22 cm cake tin baking paper. Make the cake base. Melt the chocolate in a bowl set of a pan of just simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water) and stir until melted. Cool for 5 minutes. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together for 3 minutes until thick and glossy and then stir in the egg yolks, cocoa powder and finally the melted chocolate until evenly combined. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Oil and line the base and sides of a deep 20 cm loose bottom cake tin. Press the cooled cake into the base of the tin so it fits as snuggly as possible. Set aside.

Make the mousse. Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl and cover with cold water, leave to soak for 5 minutes until the leaves soften. Squeeze the water from the gelatine and place in a small saucepan with the Tia Maria. Heat very gently, stirring until the gelatine is completely dissolved.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of just simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water) stirring until smooth. Let cool for 5 minutes, then beat in the egg yolks and cream and stir in the gelatine mixture. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff and carefully fold through the chocolate mixture until evenly combined. Pour over the cake base and chill for 4 hours or until firm.

Make the glaze. Place the chocolate, butter, cream and liquid glucose in a small saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until smooth. Cool for 5 minutes and then very carefully pour over the top of the set mousse. Chill for a further 1 hour until set.

Carefully remove the mousse cake from the tin and peel away the paper. Decorate the top with your preferred decorations. To serve use a knife dipped into hot water to help cut smoothly through the three layers.

Divine chocolate cups with salted cocoa nib caramel shards

divine choc cups 1

Serves: 6

Cocoa nib are lightly crushed cocoa beans. They are readily available from larger supermarkets, health food stores or online.

250 ml double cream

1/2 vanilla pod

125 g dark chocolate

2 egg yolks

1 tbsp caster sugar

salted cocoa nib caramel shards

125 g caster sugar

3 tbsp water

2 tbsp cocoa nibs

1 tsp sea salt

Preheat the oven to 140c/275f/gas mark 1 and place 6 x 100 ml cups or ramekin dishes in a baking tin. Place 175 ml of cream in a small saucepan and scrape in the seeds from the vanilla pod. Heat gently until the cream just starts to simmer, but do not allow the mixture to boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes.

Melt the remaining cream and chocolate together in a bowl set over a pan of just simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water) stirring until smooth. Beat the egg yolks and sugar together and stir in the chocolate cream and vanilla cream until combined.

Divide the mixture between the cups and pour in enough boiling water to come half way up the sides. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes until they are just firm in the middle. Cool and then refrigerate over night.

Make the caramel about 30 minutes before serving. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat very gently without stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook for about 5 minutes until the liquid turns a golden caramel colour.

Meanwhile, place a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray and have the cocoa nibs and sea salt to hand. As soon as the caramel is ready pour onto the prepared paper and allow it to form a thin pool. Immediately scatter over the coco nibs and sea salt and set aside to cool and set. Break the toffee into shards and serve a few shards on top of each chocolate cup.

Molten chocolate and dulce de leche puddings

molten chocolate pudding 1

Serves: 4

100 g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

100g dark chocolate

2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla essence

125 g caster sugar

100 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

4 tsp salted caramel sauce

cocoa powder, to dust

double cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4. Line the bases and brush the insides of 4 x 150 ml metal dariole molds with melted butter and chill for 10 minutes. Arrange the molds on a baking tin.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and chocolate together in a saucepan, stirring until melted. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Beat the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla essence and sugar in a bowl, using an electric whisk, for 3-4 minutes until thick and fluffy. Sift over the flour and carefully fold in along with the chocolate mixture until smooth.

Spoon half the mix into the prepared molds, add 1 teaspoon of salted caramel sauce to the middle of each one and cover with the remaining chocolate mixture to about 5 mm from the top. Bake for 15 minutes until the tops are set and slightly cracked. Remove from the oven but let cool in the tins for 5 minutes.

Invert the puddings onto serving plates tapping the bases lightly if necessary. Remove the paper from the bases. Dust with cocoa powder and serve immediately with cream.


 

 

 

Recipe of the week………coffee & pastries

Chocolate, almond and cinnamon spirals with French-style café au lait

If you love pain au chocolate then this easy breakfast pastry is a must. Simple and quick to make they are the perfect accompaniment to café au lait.

Chocoalte Almond Swirls

Serves: 4

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

30 g butter, melted

100 g dark chocolate, finely chopped

50 g ground almonds

1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tbs milk

2 tsp cinnamon sugar, plus extra fir dusting

cafe au lait

strong coffee

milk

Preheat the oven to 200c. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Unroll pastry sheets and lay side by side on a second piece of baking paper, overlapping them by 1 cm. Press gently to help stick together.

Brush the surface of the pastry with melted butter and then scatter over the chocolate and ground almonds. Carefully roll up from one of the short sides as tightly as you can to form a log.

Take a sharp knife and cut the log into 12 x 1 cm slices. Place cut side down on the prepared baking tray. Brush over the remaining butter, then the beaten egg mixture and finally sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until puffed slightly and golden. Cool on a wire rack and serve warm dusted with a little extra sugar and a large bowl of milky coffee.

For café au lait. Make your coffee as strong as you like and pour into a latte bowl, heat and froth some milk, add to the coffee and serve.

Tip: These are best served either whilst still warm or they can be prepared ahead of time and chilled. Prepare to the end of step 2, cover with cling film and chill for up to 2 hours, then bake as above.

 

 

Recipe of the week……….clams

It is a great time of year for shellfish and here clams and crab combine with chorizo and potato in a warming seafood chowder.

Crab and clam chowder with chorizo

Clam and chorizo chowder

Serves: 4

1 kg clams, scrubbed

100 ml dry white wine

600 ml chicken or fish stock

25 g butter

150 g chorizo, sliced

1 onion chopped finely

1 stick celery, sliced

250 g potatoes, peeled and diced

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

600 ml milk

250 g cooked crabmeat

2 tbs chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

single cream, to serve (optional)

Rinse the clams, shake well and then place in a saucepan with the wine. Bring to the boil, cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 5 minutes until all the shells have opened. Strain the liquid into jug and add the stock (discard any clams that remain closed).

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the chorizo and stir-fry over a medium heat for 5minutes until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onion, celery and potato to the pan and fry gently for 5 minutes until softened. Add the stock, thyme, bay leaf and a little salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked.

Stir in the milk, crabmeat, clams and the chorizo and heat through for 5 minutes without boiling until everything is heated through. Serve in bowls with chopped parsley and the cream, if wished.

 

Seasonal delights……………..Strawberries

StrawberriesHere in France the strawberry season starts off early with the arrival of a small, slightly oblong little strawberry called gariguette. One might expect a rather sharp, watery, bland little fruit but actually gariguettes are renowned for their sweet and well rather strawberry-like flavour – sadly so many strawberries you buy today, because we demand year round availability, share very few similarities to the fruit I remember with such fondness from British summers past. From then on as the weeks pass, more and more strawberries of different shapes, sizes, and flavours appear in the markets and without doubt it is a joy to behold.

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This year, with it’s unseasonably dry and warm spring, strawberries abound in the markets, so it was the perfect excuse to get cooking. To be totally honest I prefer my strawberries as nude and natural as the day they were born, plucked from my fingertips straight into the mouth, but I wanted to preserve their flavour for later in the summer when they will become nothing but a distant memory (until next year anyway). With a fridge also packed full of yogurt it seemed only right to join them together in a richly intense strawberry yogurt ice cream. Wow, that was definitely one of the best food decisions I have made this year – it is sooooo delicious – rather typically the weather has turned and it feels more like January than mid May today, but hey ho, who needs sunshine and warmth to enjoy a little ice cream!

Strawberry ice cream

Strawberry yogurt ice cream

1 kg strawberries, hulled

300g caster sugar

2 tbsp strawberry liqueur or cassis

1 tbsp lemon juice

500g Greek yogurt

Combine the strawberries, sugar, strawberry liqueur or cassis and lemon juice together in a large bowl and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until syrupy.

Transfer to a blender with the yogurt and puree until really smooth. Cover and chill for 2 hours. Transfer the mixture either to an ice cream machine and freeze according to the instructions or to the freezer.

If using a freezer stir the ice cream every 2-3 hours, as it starts to crystallize until the mixture is creamy. Leave until frozen. Remove from the freezer about 15 minutes before serving and scoop into bowls.


And then, just because life would be a little less satisfying without, it was meringues, strawberries and of course cream…………..

Strwberries and Cream

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Seasonal delights………..Rhubarb

Next on my seasonal hit list is rhubarb, actually a vegetable that we treat like a fruit (the opposite of the tomato, the fruit we tend to use as a vegetable) and a part of the sorrel family, hence perhaps the sharpness of it’s stem. It is this long red/green stems that we cook down to a deliciously tart sauce, that once sweetened can be added to cream and yogurt for a fruit fool or diced and roasted in the oven with cinnamon, sugar and a hint of orange. My favourite way to cook with rhubarb though is in a crumble, and here it is combined with a simple sponge cake, strawberries and almonds to provide the most satisfying combination of dishes.

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Rhubarb, strawberry and almond crumble cake

Serves: 10

125g softened butter

125g caster sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

125g self-raising flour

500g trimmed rhubarb, sliced into 2 cm peices

150g strawberries, hulled and halved

crumble topping

150g plain flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

100g chilled butter, diced

100g caster sugar

25g porridge oats

100g nibbed or flaked almonds

icing sugar, to dust

crème fraiche or Greek yogurt, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan-forced and grease and line a 22cm cake tin with baking paper. Start by making the crumble. Sift the flour and cinnamon into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture forms crumbs. Stir the in the sugar, oats and almonds and set to one side.

Make the sponge. Place the butter, sugar, eggs and flour into a food mixer or processor and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Spoon the sponge mix into the prepared cake tin and smooth flat.

Scatter the rhubarb and the strawberries over the sponge mix and then cover with the crumble mixture so you can still see a little of the fruit. Bake for 11/4 hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Serve still slightly warm, dusted with icing sugar, and some crème fraiche or Greek yogurt.

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