Monthly Archives: December 2011

Pan-flashed foie gras with dark chocolate sauce

Some pairings are unusual and some successful but this one is both and should make a brilliant start to the New Year! Let your New Year be exciting, successful, daring, memorable and full of surprises and tender love… Tonight, we will make edible lists of what we did not enjoy about last year and swallow them at midnight with Liz, Jamie, and a glass of happy bubbles!

Then I’ll sit down and write my New Year round robin letter and a long happy list of projects and objectives – as I do every year since I first became a mother … and maybe even before that … I am a list-addict and New Year Eve is yet another time for indulging in compulsive writing!

Our Christmas eve starter

Pan fried foie gras with dark chocolate sauce

Ingredients list for the sauce:

  • Dark chocolate 150g
  • Milk 100ml
  • Butter 25gr

Break the chocolate and add it to the melting butter in a saucepan.

Stir and add the milk over low heat.

Chocolate melts at 37∘ and should never get over 50∘. So keep it nice and slow.

Let it cool and keep at room temperature until serving. The left over can be stored in a jar in the fridge and used over ice cream or waffles.

Ingredients list:

  • One fresh “lobe” of foie gras, de-nerved
  • A large frying pan
  • Some sea salt flakes

Most fresh foie gras are sold under plastic film and have had the small nerves taken out already. But if yours has not, just follow the thin red nerves with a pairing knife and remove. Trying to break the fillet as little as possible.

Cut reasonably thick slices of foie ; the thickness of a small lady’s finger.

Heat the pan with no fat at all and fry on both sides as soon as the surface is hot enough. It only takes a couple of minutes both sides.

Serve immediately with a generous drizzle of the warm chocolate sauce and some thick slices of brioche (or any milk and butter based bread).

I had an interesting starter of foie gras terrine with a sliver of black chocolate at Sketch recently which gave me the inspiration for this New Year dish! We all loved this and it will remain a firm favourite for any festive menu from now on. I served the foie with a delicious Jurançon – a wine favoured by Henry the Fourth of France who was a natural “Bon vivant” and henceforth a very popular king. Who would not be, on this program?

“ Si Dieu me prête vie, je ferai qu’il n’y aura point de laboureur en mon royaume qui n’ait les moyens d’avoir le dimanche une poule dans son pot!” Said he.
(If God keeps me, I will make sure that there is no working man in my kingdom who does not have the means to have a chicken in the pot every Sunday!)

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Mini Christmas cakes for well-wishing

On Christmas morning at 11am, A. and I went to Westminster Abbey for the magical “Crib service” in the royal cathedral- because prayers and Carols are as essential to my Christmas as mince-pies and foie gras ! 
Halfway through the nave, a life-size nativity scene awaited us, on a bed of straw, next to two beautifully lit trees… and lots of small children joined in the nicest and best loved carols. It was a very moving, secluded and intimate service – but you are also in for a treat if you have booked seats for the 4pm candlelit Christmas service of today.
There were only a few people with us, all gathered around the Crib and with the 30 metres of the nave above us, figuring the infinite sky beyond the barn. We talked of shepherds coming to worship the babe and of their gifts of lamb. I thought of giving when you have nothing to give and of the generosity of strangers that is at the core of Christmas lore. Back home, I wrapped presents with renewed energy ! Giving love… Wrapping love.
Tis’ the season of presents and goodwill and cakes make lovely little gifts. I found this recipe on the net, by Rachel Allen and changed only a little- I am notoriously bad at following recipes…
Last minute Christmas cakes: They don’t keep for long either!
Ingredients list:
  • sultanas 225 g
  •  currants 225 g
  • mixed candied peel 110 g , chopped
  • Dates 75 g , stoned and chopped
  • crystallised  ginger 25 g , finely chopped
  • Butter 250 g , softened
  • light brown sugar 250 g
  • Eggs 5
  • Orange zest1 tsp , finely grated
  • Ground almonds 50 g
  • plain flour 275 g
  • All spice 1 tsp
  • Cinnamon 1 tsp ground
  • Nutmeg 1 tsp, freshly grated
  • Rum or brandy, 125ml

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add the eggs one by one, alternating with spoonfuls of sieved flour.

Add the fruit and ground almonds; continue adding the spices and zest and mix well. Flavour with rum or brandy.

Put in a warm oven at 170º for 1 hour  for a big one or just 30min for the mini versions. Much better if you are short of time than the 3 or 4 hours that Christmas baking usually entails!

Eat the next day with a cup of tea or if you want to make little new year’s gifts of them, feel free to cover with a sheet of marzipan and a duvet of icing  and then decorate according to your fantasy. Wrapped up with a simple ribbon, they make delicious home-grown presents. We hosted some Christmas drinks last week and I gave one with a card to each of my leaving guest. If you are feeling like sharing more, they can go in a hamper with some jam!

Merry Christmas Joyeux Noel Feliz Navidad

My own playhouse for Christmas- this month idea!

The making of a gingerbread house is part of my personal Christmas fantasy and I love involving the children – plus they have more patience than me!

So last sunday, Eleonor and Clarisse made this lovely gingerbread cottage, in our homely new kitchen. It was nice to see these two busy bees working around their hive while I pottered around, cup of tea in hand, directing – vaguely- and styling for the photo. Afterwards, the kitchen was a jolly mess of icing sugar snow, coloured vermicelli and ginger crumbs but their “house” looked very inviting and appetising!

We decided on the easiest of templates: two rectangles for the roof sides and two triangles for the back and front of the house. Both of equal size of course.

A quick search on the internet gave us the perfect recipe.

Note: The dough was still soft when it came out of the oven but it stiffened up while cooling so don’t overbake it  or it becomes too hard to eat!

Ingredients list:

  • Self-raising flour 425g- I used chesnut flour for one third and the result was light and delicious but I had to add 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda.
  • Pinch of salt
  • All spices (or 4 Spices) 1 Tbsp
  • cinnamon 1 tsp
  • Mace 1 tsp
  • Ginger 1 tsp
  • Honey 170 g
  • Soft brown sugar 375 g
  • Butter 115 g
  • lemon zest, 1
  • 1 whole egg plus one yolk – keep the extra white for the royal icing later!
  • 1 Tbsp of treacle

Heat the oven to 150°.

Mix all the dry ingredients into a big bowl.

Melt the butter, honey, sugar and treacle on low heat. Let it cool first, then mix it in the dry mix and add the eggs and lemon zest. Beat well until you get a pliable dough.

Reserve in the fridge while you cut the template on greaseproof paper. Don’t forget to line the baking trays. I use a reusable Silpat sheet on mine.

Spread the dough directly on grease proof paper or silpat and roll it down to 1 cm. Then with a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut out the templated shapes and and remove anything around them. Do not even try to transfer them onto trays, they need to be cut exactly where they will bake!

Bake for 30 minutes at 150°. The pieces will raise a little and take a nice brown colour. Don’t worry if they get a bit out of shape, you can always trim later.

Let them cool down before cutting in any windows or adjusting the angles.

Prepare the royal icing with 300g of icing sugar and half the egg white. Beat with an electric blender until very fluffy and silky. Add some egg white if the mix is too dry. Or add sugar if too runny. This will be your house binding mix! And the decorating snow as well.

First, choose a cake tray or any flat dish and stick the base of the two triangles for the front and back. Get a child to hold them while you stick the two sides of the roof down. Proceed slowly and hold until it is staying in place. Then spread the rest of the icing on the roof and decorate with sweets, jellies or sugar shapes.

This is the best bit so take your time and enjoy your little masterpiece! Next year you will build a castle….

Stilton and broccoli soup on football night!

Soups are the quickest of “fast food” and when there is NOTHING IN THE FRIDGE (quote, children), there is always something to make a soup from… Hé oui.

Tonight, before Darling and Daughter go off to the football, I can think of nothing better than a broccolis and stilton soup to keep the cold at bay on the Fulham benches.

Ingredients list:

  • One big broccoli, cut up into florets
  • 2 small shallots
  • 1 L of hot water with 1 knorr cube
  • 1 tsp of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of pepper
  • Big chunk of Stilton – the older the better- 140g
  • 1 Tbsp of cream to serve
  • Some chopped parsley

Fry the sliced shallots into a large pan (or inside the Thermomix).
Put the broccolis florets and chop them on speed 4 for 30sec – again if using the Thermomix. Otherwise, leave them alone!

Add the stock (water and Knorr cube) and cook at 100 C or a rolling boil for 10 minutes.

Towards the end of the cooking, add the salt, pepper and cheese. Blend for 20 sec at speed 5 then 8/9. Or use your trusty blender and blend it to a cream.

Add the cream and some more seasoning if necessary. I hate nothing more than a bland and uninteresting soup – but then again with a mature chunk of smelly Stilton, your soup should not suffer from that… Mine was fragrant and warming.

Whatever the football result tonight, my supporters are going in well fed and ready for the cold night. I am staying in with some knitting… no kidding! I am knitting a scarf… and no: it won’t have the Fulham logo. Bad enough that it is black…