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.


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.

IMG_6927

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

Save

Save

Save


Cakes and Bakes – fabulous tea time treats

Classic Tarte Tatin

Serves 8

100 g brown sugar

4 tbsp water

250 g puff pastry

75 g butter, diced

1.5 kg russet or other eating apples, peeled, quartered and cored

creme fraiche, to serve

Pre-heat the oven to 200 c/fan-forced 180 c. Make the caramel. Place the sugar and water in an oven-proof frying pan and heat gently over a low heat to dissolve the sugar, increase the heat and boil for 2-3 minutes until the sauce turns golden. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted. Arrange the apples cut side up in the pan fitting them in snuggly. Return the pan to the heat and cook over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the apples are beginning to brown on the undersides. Check undersides by carefully lifting the apples with a palette knife.

Meanwhile, roll out the pastry to a circle just slightly larger than the pan. When the apples are ready, remove the pan from the heat and place the pastry over the apples, pressing down into the sides of the pan. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes.Invert the pie onto a large plate and serve warm with some creme fraiche.

Photography by Ian Wallace

Photography by Ian Wallace

Strawberry and goat cheese tartlets

Serves: 8

250 g sweet shortcrust pastry, thawed if frozen

1 egg yolk

35 g caster sugar

125 g firm ricotta cheese

125 g soft goat cheese strawberries

500 g strawberries, hulled and halved

75 g caster sugar vanilla pod, split

Preheat oven to 200°c/fan-forced 180c. Line a roasting tin with baking paper. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface until 2 mm thick. Using a 12 cm pastry cutter, stamp out 6 rounds (rerolling as necessary). Use to line 6 x 10 cm fluted flan tins, trimming away the excess and prick the bases with a fork. Chill for 20 minutes. Line pastry cases with baking paper and baking beans and bake for 10 minutes or until edges are light golden. Remove the baking paper and beans and bake for a further 2-3 minutes or until golden and crisp. Set aside to cool.

Prepare the strawberries. Place the strawberries, sugar and vanilla pod in the prepared tin. Transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes or until softened and juicy. Remove from the oven and leave to go cold. Make the filling. Place the egg yolk, sugar and ricotta in a food processor and blend until really smooth. Add the goat cheese and blend again briefly until smooth. Divide the mixture between the tart cases and serve topped with the roasted strawberries.

Photography Ian Wallace

Photography Ian Wallace

Pistachio honey and rosewater cake

Serves: 8

125 g caster sugar

4 eggs, separated

3 lemons

125 ml Greek yogurt, plus extra to serve

50 g dried breadcrumbs

150 g ground pistachio nuts

100 ml clear honey

2 tbsp rosewater

Pre-heat the oven to 180c/fan-forced 160c. Grease and line a 20 cm round cake tin. Beat the sugar, egg yolks and the grated rind of 1 of the lemons together until pale and creamy. Stir in the yogurt and fold in the breadcrumbs and 125 g of the pistachio nuts, reserving the rest for decoration. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff and fold into the cake mixture. Transfer to the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes, until risen and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven, cool in the tin for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make the syrup: peel the remaining lemons and cut the rind into very thin strips. Squeeze the juice into a small pan and add the honey. Bring to the boil, add shredded rind, and simmer for 1 minute. Cool slightly and stir in the rosewater. Place the warm cake on a serving plate, prick all over with a skewer, pour over the syrup and leave until cold. Sprinkle the cake with the reserved pistachio nuts and rose petals (if using) and serve with some extra yogurt.

Plumb and almond tart

Photography by Ian Wallace

Plum and almond tart

Serves: 8

250 g sweet shortcrust pastry

2 tbsp raspberry jam

125 g unsalted butter, softened

125 g caster sugar

125 g ground almonds

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla essence
4 plums, halved, stoned and cut into thick slices

maple syrup ice cream

750ml double cream

1 vanilla pod, split

5 egg yolks

125 ml maple syrup icing sugar, to dust

Firstly make the ice cream. Heat the cream and vanilla pod in a small pan until it just reaches boiling point. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 20 minutes. Remove the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds into the cream. Whisk the egg yolks and maple syrup together and then beat in the cream. Heat gently, stirring until the cream thickens to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Allow to cool and then churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions until frozen*

Preheat the oven to 190c/fan-forced 170 c. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to form a 25 cm round and use to line a 23 cm fluted flan tin. Trim off excess pastry and prick the base. Chill for 20 minutes. Line the pastry with baking paper and baking beans and bake for 12 minutes. Remove paper and beans and bake for a further 5-6 minutes until the pastry is crisp and lightly golden. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Using electric beaters, beat the butter, sugar, and ground almonds in a bowl until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Spread the pastry case with the jam and top with the almond mixture. Gently press the plum slices into the almond mixture and bake for 30-35 minutes until the filling is golden and firm. Remove from oven and leave to cool. Dust with icing sugar and serve in wedges with the ice cream.

Photography by Ian Wallace

Photography by Ian Wallace

Walnut cake with honey cream

Serves: 8

The cake can be made up to a day ahead. Store in an airtight container. Make the honey cream just before serving.

6 eggs, separated

225 g caster sugar

4 tbsp clear honey

250 g walnuts, ground

300 ml thickened cream

4 fresh figs, quartered

 icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180 c/fan-forced 160c c. Grease and line a 23 cm round spring form cake tin. Put the egg yolks in a large bowl, add 150 g of the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the honey and whisk together until pale. Stir in the walnuts. Whisk the egg whites separately in a clean bowl until soft peaks form and then gradually whisk in the remaining sugar. Stir a large spoonful into the cake mix to loosen, fold in the rest until evenly incorporated and spoon into the prepared tin. Bake for 30-35 minutes until risen and springy to the touch.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes then run a palette knife around the edge of the cake to loosen from the sides and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Whisk the cream and remaining honey together until thickened. Cut the cake into wedges, dust with icing sugar and serve with the honey cream and figs.