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.


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……….cheesecake

Baked cheesecake with Pedro Ximemez and dried fruit compote

Pedro Ximenez is a Spanish white grape variety. It is used to make the most intensely flavoured, thick, sweet sherry. It pairs beautifully with chocolate and coffee as well as dried fruits and vanilla. Here it adds a festive flavour to a baked cheesecake. Enjoy with an extra glass of this delicious sherry on the side.

baked-cheese-with-pedro-ximenez.jpg

Serves: 8

150 g digestive biscuits, crushed

50 g ameretti bsicuits, crushed

75 g unsalted butter, melted

500 g ricotta cheese

300 ml sour cream

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

150 g caster sugar

grated zest and juice 1 lemon

fruit compote

125 ml Pedro Ximenez, plus extra to serve

2 tbs clear honey

75 g large golden raisins

50 g dried figs, thinly sliced

50 g dried cranberries

1 vanilla pod, split

spray oil, for greasing

Preheat the oven to 150c/fan forced 130c and grease and line the base and sides of a 22cm spring form cake tin with baking paper.

Mix together the crushed digestives, ameretti biscuits and melted butter until evenly combined. Spoon into the base of the prepared tin. Using the back of the spoon smooth the biscuit mixture until flat and well compressed. Chill whilst preparing the filling.

Place ricotta, sour cream, eggs, sugar, lemon zest and juice in a food processor and blend until really smooth. Pour over the biscuit base and bake for 1 hour until just set in the middle (it will puff up around the edges this is fine). Turn the oven off but leave the cheesecake inside with the door ajar until cool. Transfer to the fridge and chill for several hours.

Make the compote. Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir gently until just boiling, simmer gently for 1 minute and then remove from the heat. Leave to cool. Carefully unmould the cheesecake from the tin, cut into wedges and serve topped with the compote and a glass of Pedro Ximenez.

Tip: If making a day ahead, return the cheesecake to room temperature for 1 hour before serving, this will allow the filling to soften to the perfect texture.


Recipe of the week…………….Ginger Cake

Sticky Ginger Cake with Figs and Caramel Sauce

sticky gingercake

Serves 12

This is a dark, sticky and totally delicious cake, topped with grilled figs and dulce de leche sauce.

250g unsalted butter, softened

225g caster sugar

125g soft brown sugar

3 eggs

75ml (110g) golden syrup

300g plain flour

11/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp ground ginger

150ml hot water

4 figs

150g dulce de leche

Preheat the oven to 160c/325f/gas mark 3 and line a 22cm round cake tin with baking paper. Using a food mixer, beat the butter, caster sugar and 100g of the soft brown sugar together until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat the eggs in one a time until smooth and then beat in the golden syrup.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a large spoon fold in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and hot water until the mixture is smooth. Transfer to the prepared tin, smooth the surface and bake for 11/4 hours or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cover the top of the cake with foil if it starts to burn.

Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, turning upside down and leave to cool.

Just before serving, cut the figs in quarters and sprinkle with the remaining  soft brown sugar. Place cut side up under a hot grill for about 1 minute until they start to blister. Warm the dulce de leche in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water until it softens and is pourable.

Serve the cake in wedges topped with the figs and drizzle over the caramel sauce.

 

© Food & Travel magazine. First published November 2016. Recipe Louise Pickford. Photo Ian Wallace