Monthly Archives: June 2012

Paëlla “comme à la maison”

Gambas and paella for four

This is not a dish, it’s an event- and be prepared to take time over it even though this is a ‘quick’ version of mine and I have made it all under an hour several times. But some dishes taste better when they take longer… Choose your day.

Ingredients list: This will serve 6 to 8 people

  • Red and green peppers, 4
  • Green beans, 100g
  • 3 or 4 artichoke hearts
  • a handful of garden peas
  • Garlic cloves, 3
  • Olive oil, 100ml max
  • Diced pork or chicken, 1 kg (mix of drumsticks, oyster thighs…)
  • Mussels and shrimps, one bowl – add a few squid rings if you can
  • Rice, 500g
  • Spicy chorizo, to decorate

For the tomato sauce:

  • Garlic cloves, 6
  • Chilli paste or Harissa, 1 Tsp
  • Tomato paste, 4 Tbsp
  • Big tomatoes,8
  • Saffron, a pinch
  • Water 1L 500ml maximum
  • olive oil 100ml
    salt and pepper to taste

  • Lemons, quartered to decorate the dish

First cut up the peppers in large strips and fry in olive oil until soft. Remove the skin when cool.

Fry the green beans in oil and reserve.

Prepare the artichokes and fry the hearts. You can use canned hearts if easier.

 Tomato sauce:

Fry the chopped garlic in the same frying pan, with the chilli paste and a generous part of the olive oil; add the tomato paste and the chopped fresh tomatoes. I remove their skin first by dipping them in boiling water but you can skip that. Add the saffron strands by crushing them in between your fingers and let it simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Reserve.

 Now, using a large, flat, paella dish or similar, fry some garlic and the meat in a generous amount of oil until brown. Add the tomato sauce and half the water and when the liquid is bubbling up, throw the rice in as a scatter, making sure you cover all of the dish with it but never with too thick a layer.   You have to have one part rice to 3 parts water eventually, so keep track of how much you are using!

Throw in the garden peas, fresh or frozen and add some oil- if there is any left. Let it simmer for 1/2hour. Try not to stir the rice at this point but just keep shaking the pan and move the rice up with a wooden spatula if you need to, to get the stock moving around. Add water or oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper- to taste. It will need about 30 minutes to cook through but keep checking so the bottom does not burn and the rice is kept moist. The proper paella stand will have several rings of flames so the dish is cooked evenly but you might have to cheat and move the rice about to achieve the same result on the stove…

10 minutes before the end of the cooking, add the seafood, the chorizo and the fried vegetables on the top of the cooked rice. If using large gambas (but not shrimps!), I pre cook them on a “plancha” or cast iron pan before putting them in. Finish the cooking by raising the heat for the remaining 10 minutes and cover with some foil to let it steep for another 10 minutes before you serve. Check the seasoning and serve with chunks of lemon to squeeze over each plate.

This for me is comfort food: a wonderful party dish for sharing with family and friends. When I am making it I feel incredibly joyous, as if I was connecting with a long line of women from the family, passing on the knowledge…

There is never enough and there is always enough paella for however big the party is – this dish is pure magic. These proportions will serve 6 to 10 people of varying appetites.

The version in the photo is a smaller version and just with gambas. More chic dinner than family party but just as good.

Le gâteau à l’orange des goûters de mon enfance

The Orange cake of my childhood 5 O’clocks

My nan does not enjoy cooking. That is what she says when asked: “No I don’t enjoy cooking”. Nobody believes her, yet she is so right. It is not cooking she enjoys, it is giving. Cooking is just a gift of love: A stew is in actual fact a hug, a cupcake is a kiss, a chocolate fondant a love letter… She used to bake a deliciously tanguy orange cake for our “goûter d’enfants”; of which the recipe has been lost even to her but I have found this one and I enjoyed it almost as much!

This is a recipe I dedicate to my brothers and all my cousins, to my mother and my lovely god-mother, in memory of happy days and in celebration of the “goûter” at Manille’s or Tatie Marie’s place. For a brief instant last week-end, a champagne tea-time gathered us again and the memories flooded back, illuminating a long darkened room in a nostalgic glow. 

Ingredients list:

  • Soft butter, 115g
  • Sugar 115
  • Eggs, 2 big
  • Fine flour, 150g
  • Baking powder, 1 tsp (1 sachet of levure chimique)
  • Orange, 1 (unwaxed)
  • lemon, 1 (unwaxed)
  • Salt
  • Orange blossom water, 1 Tbsp

Warm your oven to 190°C.

Mix the butter, sugar and eggs in the thermomix. Blend for 1 minute at 37° C, speed 4.

Add the flour and raising agent, zest and juice of the orange and lemon, salt. A pinch of salt will suffice and you can replace it with bicarbonate of soda. Add the orange blossom water.

(This is a nod to my tender grand-mother who can hardly bake without “Eau de fleurs d’orangers”!)

Mix for 20 seconds speed 4.

Put into a cake tin or several small cake tins: I filled 6 of them with this batter.

Bake 25 minutes or 15 min if using small tins.

Decorate the top with a light icing, mixed with a tablespoon of orange juice.

French post script: Recette trouvée sur Papilles en éveil.

Red onion, chilli and raisins marmalade

June is a month for preserves, jams and chutneys: If you get a glut of any produce from market or allotment, this is when you should prepare this winter’s preserves. They will have a few months to settle and expand in colour and perfume, before they become wanted, ready to grace your winter table.

This savoury marmalade is a cross between a chutney and the lush “confiture d’onions” that we serve at home with a couscous. It goes very well with red meat or mature cheeses and today I am having it with an expansive Epoisse that would be stinking anything else out of my plate! It is also divine on the Godminster cheddar that I have discovered at Christmas and can’t get enough of…

Ingredients list:

  • Red onions, 6
  • Olive oil
  • Butter 50g
  • Sea salt
  • Balsamic vinegar, 3 Tbsp
  • Soft brown sugar, 1 Tbsp
  • Raisins, 100g
  • Half a seeded chilli pepper
  • cinnamon stick
  • 4 spices or all-spices mix, 1 tsp

Slice the onions finely with a mandoline. This makes finer slices and because it is quicker, I cry less! This is my least favourite bit…

Melt the butter in some olive oil and add the onions. Cook until soft or about 30min. Turning with a spoon and keeping close watch!

Add the vinegar and the sugar, sea salt and some finely chopped chilli. Trust your instinct and your taste buds: Less is more.  Add the cinnamon and spices. Let it bubble under cover over low heat for 45 min until most of the liquid has evaporated- but adding water if it gets too dry. You want a sticky, jammy mixture.

Soak the raisins in hot water then drain and add a good handful towards the end.

Spoon the marmalade into clean jars where it will keep for a few months, in the fridge. Don’t forget to remove the cinnamon stick.

I use this on cold meat, cheese and even in cheese sandwiches or with boiled eggs. It keeps well in the fridge but probably not as long as a shop-bought chutney. If you make too much of it, you can always put it into nice jars and bring it to dinner parties as gift.

Union Jack vanilla shortbread and berries layered cake

Union jack cake

This is a perfect spring celebratory cake and the flag theme was easy to sort out and very fitting for the Diamond Jubilee. Do not feel daunted: this is dead simple and much quicker to put together than it looks- Remember, I feel the same : life is too short to cook complicated… But I like the applause so keep it quiet…

Vanilla shortbread and berries layered cake

Ingredients for the shortbread circles :

  • Salted butter 500g (best quality! Expensive will do)
  • Caster sugar 200g
  • Vanilla pod
  • Light flour (type 00) 500g

-I like using a mix of Spelt and wheat flour but ordinary cake flour will do too.

Slice the vanilla pod in two and scrape the inside on one half with a blunt knife. Mix all the ingredients in a mixer until they form a ball. Roll it and store in a plastic bag in the fridge for ½ hour.

Preheat the over to 170.

Divide the dough in three equal parts. Using a rolling pin, prepare each circle on a piece of greaseproof paper and cut them out with the help of a template such as a cake tin or a round tin base. They should be roughly of the same thickness and size. Roll them down to half a centimetre thickness so they hold their shape but are not too heavy when baked.

Put each circle on a different rack in the oven, trying to get the racks to fit in the lower half of the oven. I then select the fan or « rotisserie » icon so the air circulates around the rack and they cook evenly.

Bake them for about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness. They should hardly colour or only around the edges. If you cook the dough too long, it will be brittle and difficult to work with. The circles are still soft when they come out and will harden as they cool. Reserve on a rack to cool down while your prepare the filling.

Ingredients for the filling :

  • Whipping cream 500ml
  • Caster sugar 100g
  • 2 Punnet of strawberries, one of bluberries and one of raspberries
  • Marzipan decorations

Whisk the cream with the sugar until it makes soft peaks. Reserve.

Rinse and cut the tail off the berries. Cut the strawberries in half.

Transfer carefully the first disk onto your chosen stand.

Spread some cream over the disk. Not too much so it does not get too soggy !

Make a first row of strawberries on the outside of the circle. Dispose the other berries randomly inside. Do the same process for the second circle. Stuff more strawberries around the sides if you can see gaps. Use up the raspberries for the inside of the cake.

For the top, the process is a little more design orientated:

Spread a generous layer of cream and start by making a large central cross with the strawberries, then arrange the blueberries into four corners to suggest the British flag.

Decorate with a crown made with marzipan- or not ! For mine, I used a silicone mould and painted  the crown with a bit of gold and red food colouring from Kitchen Squires.

We shared this for a neighbour’s Jubilee street party with a glass of Pimm’s, in a house decked out with more flags than the Britannia ! I am French and a republican and but I am all for a party and a cook off if there is one going on : Any excuse will do to bake and share, eat cake and raise a toast. God save THEIR queen.