Category Archives: treats

Granola bars to fuel my winter runs

This again is adapted from the ever so plentiful blog of David Lebovitz “Living the sweet life in Paris”, of which my regular readers will know I am a fan!

At the moment I am running a fair bit and sometimes even in the rain or at dusk, so the promise of a warm drink and one of those energy packed bars is a big bonus at the end of a wet and cold run.

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Ingredients list:

  • 1 1/2 cups (150g) rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup (45g) sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup (60g) whole almonds
  • ½ cup (60g) walnuts bits
  • 1 cup (125g) pitted and diced dates
  • 1/3 cup (50g) dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup (35g) dried sour cherries or cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup (35g) sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup (65g) smooth natural peanut butter or any nut butter
  • 1/4 cup (80g) honey
  • pinch of salt

Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20cm) square pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

Spread the oats and sesame seeds on a baking sheet and toast for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once or twice while baking, until they are slightly browned. Scrape them into a large bowl. Spread the almonds on the baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely break in a pestle and add the almonds to the oats.

Add the dates, chocolate chips and cranberries to the bowl.

Heat the peanut butter, honey, and salt in a small saucepan, stirring until warm, but not boiling. Pour the peanut butter and honey over the mixture in the bowl and stir until it’s completely incorporated; using your hands is the best way to go. DO not use a sweet peanut butter, just a natural one. You do not want a sickly sweet bar!

Transfer the mixture to the pan and pat it down so it’s as flat as possible. I put a sheet of baking paper over and just pushed down with my palm until it was flat! Freeze the granola bars for 30 minutes before eating them. I keep them in a metal box in my fridge and they stay fresh for longer.

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My run along the river at dusk! Beautiful and cold.

My run along the river at dusk! Beautiful and cold.

Same run in morning light.

Same run in morning light.

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Creole Bread and Butter pudding with rum sauce

This very decadent and irresistible recipe was given to me by my friend Marie-Lorraine who herself got it from a friend: the sort of word-of-mouth recipe that makes you salivate as soon as you hear about it… It is thought to have originated in New-Orleans but there are enough similar recipes in the UK for it to earn its place on this blog.

I used the stale brioche made the week before, which was lucky timing, but you can use any stale sandwich bread or a bought brioche. The trick is to cover the slices with the liquid and let it steep for a while- which I sadly did not have time to do!

Comfort food at its best...

Comfort food at its best…

Ingredients list:

  • Eggs,2
  • Caster sugar, 150g
  • Whipping cream, 230ml
  • Full fat milk, 700ml
  • Butter, 100g
  • Vanilla extract, 1 drop
  • Bitter almond extract, 1 drop
  • Currants raisins, ½ cup or small handful
  • Nutmeg, 1 tsp
  • Stale white bread or brioche, 225g or about

First weigh the bread and cut it up in thick slices.

In a bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, milk, cream, butter, vanilla and almond extract, currants and nutmeg. Whisk to blend well.

Stuff the slices into the bowl and let them steep in ideally for 30 minutes or more. Or you can also just dip each slice into the bowl, then arrange them snuggly and pour the rest over. Once you have arranged your slices  in a buttered dish, such as a rectangular pyrex or gratin dish, add more milk if necessary to cover it well and press down with a fork to absorb most of the liquid.

They should all fit tightly and without leaving any space.

Reserve in the fridge for a few hours or a night.

Put the dish in a hot oven at 160º C.

Bake until the top is golden so about 30/40 minutes. Let too cool down then dust some icing sugar on top before serving. Given the sugar content, this is obviously optional but looks good!

Prepare the sauce.

Ingredients list for the sauce:

  • Sugar, 200g
  • Butter, 60g
  • Whipping cream or creme fraiche, 45ml
  • Egg yolk, 1
  • Rum (or brandy) 60ml

In a thick bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, cream and place over the hob to bubble until it is all melted. Remove from the hob. Whisk the yolk and add it to the mix. Stir in your favourite rum!

Serve the bread and butter pudding warm in shallow cups or bowls with a side helping of the sauce. It is a cross between French toast and a spoon cake: moist and regressive… Enjoy, it’s winter…IMG_5346

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Lemon and almond pudding

One of the pleasures of the cold season is the beautiful citrus fruit that we can look forward to! The lemons, oranges and mandarines that our body craves in the winter cold; but also the more exotic bergamot, lime or grapefruit… I am just back from Morocco where citrus groves adorn the immaculate parks and roads of Marrakech. I have brought back many scents and spices in my luggage but before I lay it all out on here, I give you a lemon infused pudding that should warm your soul with the fragrances of sun-scorched bazars and lemon scented gardens. Morocco is an assault on all of our senses, but the sense of smell is the most abused and ravished of all… Anything else seems bland and monochrome for a while afterwards…

Rioting colours in a dish

Rioting colours in a pottery dish

Ingredients list:

  • Lemons, thin skinned and unwaxed, 4
  • Sugar, 175g
  • Eggs, 4
  • Ground almonds, 175g
  • Bicarbonate of soda, 1/4 tsp

Top and tail the lemons and rinse them under hot water.

Put them whole into a large pan with 600ml of water and cook on a slow boil for 1 hour. Making sure there is always enough water: you should end up with about 300ml of liquid – add some if you do not!

Open the lemons and take out the pips.

Put it all through a blender with the cooked juice and make up a thin semolina-like, quite soupy mixture. I sometimes put this through a fine sieve if it looks to rough or if there are impurities.

Mix the sugar and the eggs and beat on high speed until creamy.

Add the ground almond and the bicarbonate. Add the lemon purée.

Set into 6 to 8 small “dariole” moulds or one shallow tin.

Bake in the oven at 180º for 30 to 35 minutes and serve at room temperature, inside the pans.

It will raise a little and produce an intensely lemony creamy pudding. You can also try this with clementines or thin-skinned oranges.

Serve a warm, sweet mint tea with this to transport you right back in Marrakech…

Intense lemon

Intense lemon

WHAT TO DO IN MARRAKECH:

Go and spend a night in the desert and experience the beautiful skies of Africa at La Pause,30 km out of Marrakech,just before the village of Agafay. Have a memorable beef “tagine”, under a low hanging Touareg tent, served by candlelight.

Dine with a view over the lit Koutoubia tower in the Café Arabe, near the Mouassine Mosk in the medina.

Go for a drink at the Mamounia hotel and have a stroll in the beautiful gardens of Churchill’s favourite hotel.

Visit the delightful Musée de la Palmeraie, route de Fés, and explore the Andalous garden, the cacti garden and the water garden with its little hut in pisé (a traditional mud and grass building), then admire the contemporary art in the galleries that lead from one part to another. This museum is a little out of the beaten track but worth the visit for its soothing calm and the absence of tourists… 

The cacti garden in Musee de la Palmeraie

The cacti garden in Musee de la Palmeraie

Lunch above the shops after browsing the souks by climbing to La Terrasse des Epices. Mist is sprayed around the arab-style shaded eating areas and the cool bar has a view over the old markets. Later get tempted by the beautiful craft sold all around the maze-shaped alleys. Everything looked tantalising to me…

 

Coquetas de ma grand-mère – A family heritage

This recipe has a long story: It has been in the family’s luggage for over one and a half century… It most certainly originated in the small Spanish village of Altea, crossed the water to Oran in Algeria at the end of the 19th century, hopped to Casablanca for my grand-mother’s bridal journey, recrossed the Med back to the south of France in the 70s and finally came with me over the channel, as I now make it in London. This is a gem and I feel very altruistic giving it to the world! But then secrets in the kitchen are best shared with other cooks! That is how the best recipes live on…

It is really a small coca or empanada but stuffed with a “frita” consisting of fried sweet peppers, fried tomatoes, garlic and anchovies. It is made as a starter or as an nibble to enjoy over a glass of dry sherry.

Our picnic in Richmond park - dainty treats...

Our picnic in Richmond park – dainty treats…

IMG_9155Ingredients for the “frita”:

  •  Sweet red and green peppers, 2/3
  • Big tomatoes, 2/3
  • Garlic cloves, 2
  • anchovy fillets

Plunge the tomatoes into a bol of boiling water then remove them and peel them with a sharp knife. The blistered skin will come off easily.

Core and cut them up and squeeze some of the seeds out but do not worry if there are some left.

Clean the peppers and put them under the grill to blacken the skin. Once cooled, most of the skin will peel easily.

Fry the cubed tomatoes and the chopped garlic.  Add strips of peppers. Cook until soft and mushy. Then add some bits of anchovy into the cooled mix. This means no extra salt is needed!

Add a little black pepper. Reserve in the fridge until you need it. This filling can be done ahead of time and even frozen if necessary.

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • Fine flour, 250g
  • Boiling water, 500ml
  • Salt, pinch
  • Olive oil, 2 Tbsp
  • Sugar, 2 tsp

The trick for this dough is to throw the whole lot of the measured flour into the salted and boiling water in ONE go!  Add the sugar and olive oil. Turn speedily with a wooden spoon and turn the heat off when the dough comes away from the sides of the pan into a glossy ball. Let it to cool aside. Again, this dough can be made the day before or kept in the fridge for a few days. This amount will make a good baker dozen of coquetas.

When you are ready to assemble, spread the dough on a cool clean surface with a floured rolling pin. Keep it as thin as you can but not to breaking point. Keep it floured so it does not stick to the surface or the pin.

Cut up circles with a large scone cutter or a sharp knife around a small saucer. Place a small amount of filling in the middle and join the two sides like a Cornish pasty, pressing the edges down with a fork.

Prepare a thick bottom frying pan with a good glass of oil in it. When the oil sizzles around a pea of dough, lower each coquetas and fry until both sides are nice and brown. Drain on kitchen paper and serve warm or at room temperature with the aforementioned glass of sherry! Some black olives are good with it too.

When I was a child, we had this in the sun filled lounge at the aperitif, just before lunch during the week ends and sometime mid week. In France, in many families, you will also get an aperitif before lunch, not just before dinner. As we grew up, we were even allowed the odd sip of wine with our coquets so for us this is was a festive and grown-up treat. Children tend not to like the bitter taste of green pepper but in coquetas it was enhanced by the saltiness of the anchovies and the sweetness of the tomatoes. The pastry must be light and puffed up with a chewiness that I am still very fond of. This is not a quick family recipe but it has its place here despite that because of its archive quality ! Be aware that it will take the best part of a day to achieve… This is love’s labour…

Some recipes are heritage. I confess that I am excessively thrilled to be now making coquetas at home  and teaching my children how to do them. And even though they not as good as Manille’s, they are pretty close!

Fougasse d’Aîgues Mortes

For the Bank holiday, I had set myself a couple of goals: To try and get the whole family out (including darkness-loving teenagers) for the first picnic of the year and to bring to this picnic some copious delights. Here was the menu. It consisted in our beloved “fougasse d’Aigues Mortes”, the iconic Coquetas from my grand-mother’s recipe trove and my favourite ever sandwich, namely the Pan Bagna… All of those recipes will follow soon on this blog – aren’t we spoilt!!!

Indeed the picnic menu was a tall order but after all I had three days to achieve it. And fret over the weather…

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The “fougasse” is a type of flat brioche served in the south of France as a savoury version or -more rarely- as a sweet one. A fougasse with bacon bits or olives is a lovely thing to share before dinner but this sweetmeat one is unique to the small walled town of Aigues Mortes in the south of France. It is light and moist, sweet and fragranced, drenched in orange blossom fragrance and soft butter. It would make a lovely breakfast for a bank holiday.

I made the dough yesterday evening and it is pillowy and plump, ready for the oven this morning.

Ingredients list:

  • Fine flour, 250 g
  • Sugar, 100g
  • Butter 150g
  • 3 eggs
  • Quick yeast, 1 tsp
  • Milk, 2 Tbsp
  • Orange blossom water, 100ml
  • zest of one lemon and one orange

Warm a little milk to blood temperature and mix the quick yeast in that liquid.

Cream 100g of butter with the sugar.

Add the flour to this mix, then the yeast, then the egg. Work to a smooth and elastic dough. Beat with a wooden spoon to get it plump and aerated. Add 2 big spoonfuls of orange blossom.

Leave to rest for a night in the bowl or at least 1 and 1/2 hour.

You want a glossy and sticky dough with lots of tiny bubbles inside it. It will about double its size.

Knead it back with a wooden spoon again and lay into a lined baking tray. The amount above will be enough for a medium size tray.

Shave bits off the remaining 50g of butter and intersperse  on the dough. Shake some sugar on top. Pour a good amount of orange blossom (2 Tbsp) and put the tray into the oven.

Bake 25 min at 180° on the middle rack of the oven- this detail is important because the delicate brioche will take too much colour if left on the bottom rack.

It will raise  a little but must not take too much colour on the top either.

When ready, mix some more sugar with the rest of the orange blossom to make a thick syrup and spread on the hot dough. Leave to cool and serve when the syrup has dried up into a thin crust.

Aigues Mortes is a small walled town where A. and I celebrated our wedding some years back… We love going back time and time again  for those memories of course but also for the gorgeous ice creams you eat in massive waffle cornets near medieval gates and for a certain Patisserie outside the walls that bakes the very best “Fougasse d’Aigues Mortes”,  steeped in crushed sugar and orange blossom syrup.

Aigues Mortes roman church is were we got married: A beautiful simple church that saw Saint Louis, king of France, set off for the seventh crusade. THe town takes its name from the marsh lands that surrounds it towards the sea, but at the time it was close enough to the water to launch a flotilla towards Egypt!

We shared this for breakfast, before heading off the Richmond Park with a picnic rug and a filled hamper! Thank God for sunshine…

Ready to share!

Ready to share!

PS:My favourite fougasse comes from the Olmeda patisserie, in rue Emile Jamais, juste outside the walled town.  My version was close …