A little biscotti or two

Well I awoke this morning to grey drizzle. I know we need the rain and I am really happy about that, but I just couldn’t help but feel a little ‘blue’ SO, I am going to revisit a recipe from a Christmas feature from 2019 and make these highly addictive biscotti with salted chocolate to cheer myself up.

I hope you all have a go and enjoy them as much as me.

Almond and salted chocolate biscotti

Makes: about 50

150g blanched almonds, toasted

250g plain flour

200g soft brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

60g chilled unsalted butter

3 eggs

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla essence

Egg wash

1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp milk

Icing

200g dark chocolate

Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180c/fan-forced 160c. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper. Place the toasted almonds in a food processor and blend until coarsely chopped. 

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Gradually work in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the chopped almonds. 

Whisk the eggs, oil, and vanilla essence together and stir into the crumbed flour mixture. Gently mix together with a large wooden spoon until the dough just comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly until the dough is soft and slightly sticky, about 8-10 times. Divide the dough in half and with lightly floured hands shape each one into a 20cm log. Transfer the logs to one of the prepared baking sheets flattening them slightly into a brick shape about 3 cm wide. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the top and sides of each slab with egg wash.

Bake the slabs for 25 minutes or until the top and sides are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes. 

Using a serrated knife slice the dough into 1cm thick slices. Set the slices about 1 cm apart on the 2 trays (in batches). Return to the oven and cook for 10 minutes, turn the biscotti over and bake the other side for 8-10 more minutes until  golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking trays, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Make the icing. Melt the chocolate in a medium bowl in the microwave (or use a double boiler) stirring until melted and smooth. Dip one end of each biscotti into the melted chocolate and immediately sprinkle one side with a little sea salt. Transfer to the wire rack and leave until the chocolate is set.

© recipe Louise Pickford

© Photo by Ian Wallace photographer


The beauty of a good chicken stock

When a recipe calls for chicken stock, always try and make your own as it really is so worth the effort (which to be fair, is not a actually a big deal). Why? Well, because not only does it taste better, it has no additives, it is so good for you with naturally occurring antimicrobial properties from the bones, and if using a cooked chicken carcass you are also getting more out of your bird and there is less waste.

This recipe uses a whole, uncooked chook, but I adapt it whenever I have any chicken leftover from my Sunday roast. Basically it’s a win win recipe.

Homemade chicken stock

It is always best to make a chicken (or any) stock at least one day ahead of you needing it, as the fat needs to be removed, leaving you with a lovely clean clear liquid. Once made the stock is left to go cold and then it is ready to refrigerate overnight. This sets the layer of fat on the surface of the stock, which can then be more easily removed the next day.

In France (where I live) you can buy several different types of chickens including a boiling chicken, which is an older bird with a good flavour, but the meat is tougher, due to the age. If you can’t get this where you live, a regular large chicken will do. If you can stretch to it, always buy free-range chickens, for ethical reasons.

If you end up making the stock, but not using it within a day or so, then pop it in to the freezer, where it will sit happily for up to 3 months.

Recipe

Makes: approximately 2L/8 cups (the one shown above has been reduced)

2 kg/4 1/4 lb boiling chicken, washed
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 leeks, sliced
2 garlic cloves

2 teaspoons sea salt

a few sprigs parsley

a few sprigs thyme
a few black peppercorns, lightly bashed

If you are using a raw chicken, wash and dry inside and out, then place in a large saucepan. Add all the remaining ingredients and cover with 2.5L/10 cups of cold water.

Bring the water to the boil skimming the surface with a large spoon to remove any scum. Simmer gently, partially covered, for 3 hours. Strain the stock and leave to cool completely, then refrigerate overnight.

Carefully skim off the congealed layer of fat from the surface of the stock. You can now either use it as it is, or if you want a richer, deeper flavour then return it to the pan and cook again, uncovered this time, until it is reduced and has a depth of flavour you are happy with. Only at this point adjust the seasoning.

Tip. If using a cooked carcass, no need to wash it, simply pop it in the pan and continue as above.

Image © Ian Wallace

Recipe (not used from the book) ©Louise Pickford

Image published by Bauer Women’s Weekly Cook Books for More Slow Cooker


New cookery workshops

Really excited to share two new cookery workshops dates for 2020!

Photography © Lesli Lundgren

After the terrific success of this year’s workshop in June Come Cook In France and Les Soeurs Anglaises are really excited to announce a further three cookery workshop dates next year in April, June (already fully booked) and September.

Our first will take place in APRIL as spring heralds in some fabulous new year’s produce, including asparagus, spring lamb and the first local strawberries.

Then, as summer makes way for autumn we again celebrate the season’s best produce including mushrooms, pumpkins and figs for our final course of 2002 in SEPTEMBER.

Dates

Spring workshop 23rd – 27th April 2020 BOOK NOW

Summer workshop June 18th – 22nd 2020 FULL

Autumn workshop 17th – 21st September 2020 BOOK NOW

Details

Four nights accommodation and continental breakfast 

● Welcome mezze dinner with wine. 

Three fun, informative, half-day cooking sessions with after-class tasting meals 

● An excursion to a local farmer’s market and/or visit to an artisan food maker (vinegar, cheese, nut oils, mushrooms, and/or a vineyard) 

● Recipes and a Come Cook In France folder 

3 light meals including all beverages (wine, waters, etc.) 

● Local transport from and to Angouleme train station and Bergerac airport 

● *Air and train fares to and from collection points in France are not included. 

Prices

A: Single occupancy of Superior double bedroom with en suite: 1350€ per person.

B: Shared occupancy of Superior double bedroom with en suite: 1150€ per person.

C: Single occupancy of Twin bedroom shared bathroom 1100€ per person

D: Shared Twin bedroom / shared bathroom: 950€ per person 

Minimum 8 participants (max 12 residents)

  • A non-refundable deposit of 300€ is required for confirmation of booking 

Itinerary

DAY 1 Travel day, you will be sent information regarding transportation to Les Soeurs Anglaises (pick-ups are generally late afternoon) from Angouleme train station and Bergerac Dordogne Périgord Airport (EGC). Welcome, meet and greet dinner at the house.

DAY 2 Morning at the local marché. After a light market lunch, there will be an cookery class in L’Espace kitchen where the evening meal will be discussed and prepared.

DAY 3 We will meet in L’Espace kitchen where we will prepare a three course lunch to enjoy al fresco (weather permitting). The afternoon and evening will be free time for you to relax and enjoy the accommodation. A light evening meal will be provided.


DAY 4 You will have another chance to relax and have spare time to yourselves. There will be a light lunch provided. The afternoon session will be preparing and cooking the four course evening meal, again to be enjoyed together al fresco (weather permitting).

DAY 5 Brunch followed by departures before lunch.

  • Please note that this is a proposed itinerary and is subject to modest modifications, depending on available fresh produce, new opportunities, and the wishes of the workshop leader.

Take a look at some of the previous workshops


Churros with chocolate & Pedro Ximenez sauce

Not quite straight, yet not quite curly.

Without wishing to offend churros oficianados, here is my version of this delightfully light, fluffy and totally divine Spanish doughnut. Traditionally Spanish churros are piped, in an almost figure of eight shaped whirl, directly into hot fat and deep-fried before being coated in cinnamon sugar. They can be served as simply as that or they can be served alongside a steaming cup of real hot chocolate. For a slightly more wicked treat I like to dunk them or drizzle them with melted chocolate flavoured with Pedro Ximenez, an intensely dark, sweet dessert sherry.

Having always been a lover of doughnuts (not that surprising really – deep-fried batter, crispy on the outside, light and fluffy in the centre and then dipped in spiced sugar – who wouldn’t) but actually not that crazy about the jam filled ones, I was wowed when I first came across churros on a holiday in Majorca, one of Spain’s Balearic islands – the fact that they were served with chocolate was the icing on the cake.

Developed centuries ago by Spanish shepherds in the hills, where cooking was limited to cooking over a log fire, a cake-like batter was dropped into hot fat until crisp and then serve dusted with cinnamon sugar. Naturally enough the idea caught on and today this wonderful snack food is popular all over the world, in one form or another.

And now that I live in SW France, the Spanish border is a short drive away, so I get to enjoy one of my favourite dishes much more often with regular trips to Spain’s Basque region. Luckily they have also caught on here in France and you often find a churros van at the local markets and fetes. Normally in France they tend to be served either completely straight or more like these ones, but really the shape is completely up to you – whether you a curly fan or a straight fan – they still taste the same!!

So let’s get cooking.

You will need water, butter – salted or unsalted, is your choice – plain flour, a pinch of salt, 3 medium eggs, caster sugar and cinnamon for the churros. Then for the sauce you need dark chocolate, single or pouring cream and a small glass (or two) of Pedro Ximenez sherry.

Pour the water into a medium saucepan, adding the butter. Place over a low heat until the butter melts. – you are literally warming it enough to melt the butter and there is no need to boil the mixture.

Remove the pan from the heat and tip in the flour and salt in one go. Then beat well with a wooden spoon until it becomes thick and sticky and the mixture comes away from the pan edges.

At this stage you need to allow the batter to cool slightly, so that when the eggs are whisked in, the heat is not so high that it starts to cook the eggs – they will cook once the batter is piped and fried – so using either a balloon whisk or electric beaters, whisk in them in one at a time until you have a smooth batter.

Spoon the glossy batter into a piping bag fitted with a 1 cm star nozzle. Make sure you scrape in as much of the batter as you can, don’t waste any! Meanwhile, heat a good amount of vegetable oil in a wok or heavy-based pan, to a depth of about 7 cm, until it reaches 180c on a sugar thermometer (or until a small amount of the dough sizzles as soon as it is dropped into the oil).

Carefully pipe 15 cm lengths of the dough straight into the oil, using a knife to cut the dough off right by the nozzle. Fry 3-4 churros at a time for 2-3 minutes until crisp and golden, turning half way through using metal tongs. As soon as the churros are cooked, remove them using a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel. You can keep them warm in a moderate oven heated to 180C/325F/Gas Mark 4 if you like, whilst cooking some more.

Whilst the churros are cooking, you should have time to mixc the sugar with some cinnamon. Place the mixture on a plate and as soon as the churros are ready roll them in the sugar until they are evenly coated.

Meanwhile, heat the chocolate and cream together in a small pan over a low heat until the chocolate melts. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth, then add the sherry. If you prefer you can do this ahead and warm the sauce through just before serving.

Arrange the churros on a platter and serve with the chocolate and Pedro Ximenez sauce for dipping or if you like drizzle it all over the churros.

RECIPE

Churros with chocolate and Pedro Ximenez sauce

Serves: 6-8

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

100 g chocolate

150 ml single cream, plus extra to drizzle

a small glass Pedro Ximenez sherry

vegetable oil for frying

Heat the water and butter in a saucepan over low heat 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.

Cool for 5 minutes, then whisk in the eggs one at a time, using electric beaters or a balloon whisk, until you have a smooth batter.

Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 1 cm star nozzle.

Heat vegetable oil in a large heavy-based pan to a depth of 7 cm until it reaches 180c on a sugar thermometer (or until a small amount of the dough sizzles as soon as it is dropped into the oil).

Carefully pipe 15 cm lengths of the dough straight into the oil, using a knife to cut the dough. Fry 3 at a time for 2-3 minutes until crisp and golden, turning half way through using metal tongs. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel.

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

Meanwhile, heat the chocolate and cream together in a small pan over a low heat until the chocolate melts. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth, then add the sherry.

Arrange the churros on a platter and serve with the chocolate and Pedro Ximenez sauce for dipping.