Monthly Archives: June 2013

Savoury shortbread with sun dried tomatoes and herbs

Go savoury with shortbread! And never look back…

 This is a copy of an article that I have released in WEEKEND NOTES this week. If you wish to read the original and discover plenty of week end ideas (to do and to share), follow the link.IMG_3874

 Ingredients list:

  • 200g of Spelt flour
  • 200g of butter
  • 50g of brown sugar
  • 100g of oats or oatmeal
  • 3 or 4 sundried tomatoes
  • a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme
  • Pinch of salt

Cut up the sun dried tomatoes. Wash and chop the herbs.

Mix all the ingredients in a food processor. Add the sun dried tomatoes towards the end so they don’t get minced up.

This will make up a soft dough that you need to roll into a log and wrap in cling-film. Leave to stiffen up in the refrigerator for ½ hour.

Cut the log into thick slices and bake on ovenproof paper, rather than directly over a metal tray so the biscuits do not burn too quickly.

Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes at 180° Celsius.

This recipe will yield about 20 deliciously savoury biscuits, perfect to eat with cheese or as a snack. Their texture is that of a shortbread: crumbly and melting at once. Of course the combinations of herbs and flavours are endless and once you have mastered this combination you could try: black olives and thyme, dried fig and tarragon or crushed almond and paprika… I took a basket of these to a party lately and they fitted very nicely on the aperitif buffet.

Nutrition notes: I advise to use spelt rather than wheat flour in those shortbreads because spelt gives a nutty, savoury taste to biscuits but also because spelt contains less gluten than  normal flour and is easier on your digestive tract.

Picnic ready

Picnic ready

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Sicilian lemon cake with coconut, ricotta and polenta

In Sicily, we ate cakes for breakfast! Sometime, our plate looked liked a poem in praise of gluttony: In such a poem all the synonymous of “cake” would have to be used! Eclairs, marbled cakes, profiteroles, biscuits, tart, millefeuille, brioche…

This recipe is for Judy who enjoys cake for breakfast – and anybody looking for an almond-free version of my Sicilian Lemon cake. Here, I have simply replaced the almond with ground coconut and the result is a much more textured cake, a bit similar to a carrot cake, but with the intensely citrussy flavour of the sicilian lemons…

I think it works even better than the almond version: Coconut and lemon being such a winning pairing… It almost makes you glad to be almond-intolerant!

A sicilian breakfast in NOTO

A sicilian breakfast in NOTO

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Delicious sandwiched with lemon cream

Ingredients list:

  • Butter, 50g
  • Sugar, 280g
  • Eggs, 6
  • Fine polenta, 150g
  • Ground coconut, 200g
  • Baking powder, 1 and 1/2 tsp
  • Honey, 2 Tbsp
  • Zest of 5 lemons and juice of one
  • Ricotta, 300g

Pre-heat the oven to 160º.

Beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy and add the eggs one at a time.

Zest each lemon carefully – better to choose organic and unwaxed lemons if you can. Juice one of them and keep the others for a Granita de limone.

Fold all the remaining ingredients and pour into a lined and buttered cake pan.

If you have some lemon extract, you can add a few drops for a more intense lemon taste. Bake for just over an hour at 160 °. It is ready when the middle is still ever so slightly wobbly. The result is a dense and intense cake with a chewy texture. Irresistibly lemony… You can do a sandwich cake if you bake it in two sandwich tins and spread some lemon curd whipped with mascarpone in the middle! Try this for a posh party version!

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Serve cold with yogurt or on its own.

Tatin of tomatoes, basil and fresh cheese

This dish was devised to make use of the sometimes quite insipid but otherwise good looking cherry tomatoes you find around the supermarket aisles in all seasons nowadays!

They look lovely in this simple tart and their taste is enhanced by the toffee flavour of the sauce they have cooked in. This is indeed a savoury take on the all too traditional Tarte Tatin. You need to cook it in a pan that can both go on the hob and in the oven. I use a cast iron Le Creuset one with small side handles.

You will bake it with the crust up and then put a large plate over and turn it upside down to present it with the crust down! No need for Houdini’s skills: this is quite a simple manoeuvre  if your pan is not too heavy.

Ingredients list:

  • Cherry tomatoes, 500g
  • Roll of puff pastry (all butter)
  • Sugar, 1 Tbsp
  • Wine vinegar, 3 Tbsp
  • Mixed herbs such as thyme, rosemary or fennel seeds
  • Basil leaves
  • Grated parmesan
  • Black pepper to taste
Herbs and tomato tart

Herbs and tomato tart

Melt some butter and olive oil with one spoonful of sugar: Get it to a light caramel point. Chuck some wine vinegar in and reduce.

Fry the tomatoes in the caramel, whole, and leave them to steep for auntil soft. Cut some basil leaves over, grate the parmesan and add a little pepper. Shake the herbs all over.

You can also put a few dollops of fresh ricotta or goat cheese around the tomatoes. This stage is optional and the version shown on the picture did not include this: In fact you can modulate the Tatin theme by serving it with fresh cheese on the side, as you would serve an apple Tatin with fresh cream.

Lay the sheet of puff pastry over, tucking the sides in like a traditional tatin.

Bake for 30 min at 18O until nice and brown.

This I made several times this season for dinner parties and it’s always turned out   pretty and tasty. All you ever want dinner party food to be!

Perfect gems

Perfect gems

Steamed ratatouille with Pastis

A lovely but short week-end in Paris yielded a bunch of photos, some nice encounters and a few recipes. Travelling is such a creative pursuit: you come back refreshed, full of new flavours, new images and new ideas. There is nothing like breaking the routine to give you a renewed zest for life!

I had experimented lately with a few low fat recipes in my steamer and Cecile’s suggestion of using Pastis to finish off a ratatouille sounded too tempting to resist, so here is my take on it. A lovely, fluffy and light summer dish with a strong hint of aniseed to conjure up some sunshine.

Ingredients list:

  • Aubergines, 2
  • Red pepper,1
  • Green pepper, 1
  • Courgettes, 2
  • Large tomatoes, 4
  • Onions, 3
  • Garlic cloves, 3
  • Thyme, sprigs
  • Rosemary, sprigs
  • Olive oil, 4 Tbsp
  • Tomato paste, 2 Tbsp
  • Dash of Pastis (Pernod or Ricard, no bias)
All the colours of summer

All the colours of summer

Wash the vegetables and cut them up in cubes of equal size. Take the seeds out of the peppers and peel and chop the onions and garlic. To get rid of tomato skin, plunge them into a bowl of boiling water and peel with a sharp knife: most of it will come off easily!

Steam the vegetables on the hob or in an electric steamer for 15 minutes, adding the courgettes and tomatoes towards the end (about 5 minutes before). Do reserve the sliced onions and garlic which you are going to fry in a little olive oil until they are soft.

Drain the vegetables and add them to the frying pan over low heat now for another 10 minutes.

Add a spoonful of tomato paste, season with salt, pepper and herbs. Adjust the amount of liquid by adding water if necessary and simmer for 30 minutes. Towards the end, raise the heat and drop a dash of pastis into the mix!

You can use fresh tarragon to decorate and add to the flavours. But either way, this recipe will  produce an intensely flavoured ratatouille that is neither oily nor watery, will melt in you mouth and be good for you inside out…

Nutrition notes:

Gentle steaming is the best way to keep the good vitamins inside your veggies and avoid using too much fat in cooking. It is recommended in a macrobiotic diet because it allows to keep the nutrients and the energy of the plants alive.

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Walking around in the 5th

Spring in Paris

Spring in Paris

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The lovely Hotel de l’Abbaye, rue Princesse