Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Cup Cakes (not only for children)

Our 8 year old daughter likes her cakes. Fortunately for her, her father used to be a pastry chef in the Rubens Hotel in London...many 'light'years ago. Since a few months she can make cup cakes herself, without any help. She reads in the special cookery book for children all ingredients, measures them and somehow makes it happen.

Ready to cook
They should look like these
The result
So today it's cup cakes!

Shopping list
125 gr Soft (real) unsalted butter
125 gr Caster sugar
125 gr Self-raising flour
2 Eggs
Box of (paper/silicone) cake cases *

This makes about 12 cup cakes

Put all ingredients into a bowl and beat until you get a sticky yellowish texture. You can have the food-processor to do the work, but it's fun to use some muscles!
Divide the mixture between the cases.
Bake them in the pre-heated oven 180 degr.C for 15-18 minutes.

* Paper ones are easier, silicone ones come in different colors and give an even more festive effect but need to be hand washed.

This is the recipe for a basic one, but why not experiment to add a little vanilla essence in, or grated zest from lemon/orange, or cocoa powder!

Don't forget before decorating, to taste one first :-)

Decorating your cakes:

Let them cool down in a natural way.

To let the decoration stick on the cakes, you have to do the following:

Put some icing sugar (poedersuiker for the Dutch friends)  in a bowl and add some off cold water and stirr; the substance should look sticky....if not just add more sugar or too sticky add more water.
Spread this over the cupcakes so decorations will stick.

Decorate your little cakes with sprinkles, marzipan or whatever you think it's nice to give that personal touch.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Honey sauce

In our household we have a slight problem when it's about sweet sauces, and using fruit in meals. I do like that from time to time but my husband doesn't.

Yesterday I have made a honey sauce....very simple and delicious.
For 4 persons:

Shopping list
25 gr Unsalted real butter
4 White onions
4 Cloves of garlic
1-2 Tablespoons of clear honey

Peel and cut the onions and garlic in chunks
Melt butter in the sauce pan and add onions and garlic.
Stirr from time to time. Onions need to be brownish
Then add the honey and the vinegar
I have used red wine vinegar but any other good vinegar will do.

Tip: Add first 1 tablespoon honey and a little vinegar and taste it and if necessary add some more.

Tip: If you have an orange in the fridge, press and cook the juice with this as well. (Don't think juice from the carton will taste nice).

I would even put a little branch of rosemary in it for that little extra.
This sauce is nice with duck-breast fillet or with ham.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Boeuf Bourguignon Rapide

What is more comfy in the chilly days than having a typical French boeuf bourguignon? But to make a proper one, you have to plan ahead because the meat with the red wine sauce need to be rested overnight. So what about a quicker way but nevertheless very tender and tasty too.
The preparations will take about 20 minutes. The cooking itself about 2h15.

This recipe is for 4 persons.

Shopping list
Just over 1 kg beef cheeks (ask your butcher to cut it in chunks; his knife is sharper than yours)
250 gr Dried plums without the stone
1 Onion
1 Carrot
3 Cloves of garlic
Little bunch of rosemary and thyme
Some bay leaves
1 Small tin or tube concentrated tomato paste
2 teaspoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of plain flour
1 teaspoon of chilli paste (sambal)
Season according to taste

Use a cocotte/casserole pan to make this dish.

You don't have to cut the meat anymore because it's already in chunks ;-)
Peel and cut the onion and garlic
Cut the carrot in dices or slices
Heat the olive oil in the pan and put the meat in until 'grey'
Add the flour and stirr.
Then add the carrot, onion, garlic, plums, chilli paste, bay leaves, thyme and rosemary.
Here comes the red wine! The meat needs to be covered in wine.

Put the lit on the pan and turn down the heat to low...very low.

After 1 hour add the concentrated tomato, and the sugar. According to taste
add some salt.

Only 1 hour and 15 minutes to go and your Boeuf Bourgignon Rapide is ready.

Nice with French bread or with plain white rice.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Mozzarella with cured ham

Tomato & Apple Chutney
We do like our cheeses here in France and not only the French ones. Mozzarella, the majority probably only eat sliced mozzarella with sliced tomatoes some oil and vinegar and fresh basil. And there's nothing wrong with that because it is a nice refreshing dish that reminds you probably of those Italian holidays.

But I have found a recipe, by James Martin, which I changed a little bit, with mozzarella totally diffent.
We are going to fry mozzarella wrapped in cured ham (Parma, Serrano).

Shopping list
1 Ball of buffalo mozzarella (enough for 2 persons)
100 Gram of cured ham
Green or mixed salad
Sesame seads
Olive oil

Cut the mozzarella in chunks
Wrap each piece with a little ham, secure it with a cocktail stick

It takes some time to do this.

Take a frying pan and fry the sesame seads without oil...Be careful because they pop up and are in no time ready.
Put the washed salad on a plate.

Put some olive oil in a frying pan until very hot.
Fry the wrapped mozzarella for a few minutes on each side to brown and crisp the ham
When ready put them on top of the salad
Put the remaining olive oil of the pan, with no doubt some of the melted cheese, over the dish.
Finally sprinkle with the sesame seeds

Make sure you buy Buffalo mozzarella which is the best.
Serve this dish with a (home made) chutney.

Tomato and Apple Chutney recipe by James Martin
Shopping list
300 ml vinegar
225 gr brown sugar
100 gr sultanas
2.5 cm fresh root ginger, finely chopped
2 Red chilies, deseeded and chopped
1 kg Red tomatoes, roughly chopped
250 gr apples, peeled, cored and chopped
200 gr shallots, roughly chopped

This makes about 1.8 kg chutney and the good thing of this recipe is that when you make this in the morning, you can already use it in the evening.

Place the vinegar and sugar in a preserving pan and heat on the stove to reduce a little.
Add the sultanas and cook until the vinegar and sugar start to caramelize.
Add all other ingredients, and bring to a simmer.
Cover and cook gently for 20-30 minutes, keep stirring.

Leave the chutney chunky, don't overcook otherwise it looks like a mash and a mess too.
Spoon into hot, sterilized jars, and lable when cool.
Store in a cool dark place


For the fish lovers a tasty and easy recipe with salmon. If possible buy salmon filet (without bones) at your local fishmonger to ensure it's as fresh as possible, if you don't live in Scotland, Ireland or Norway where you can fish them yourself ;-).

Shopping list
Salmon filet (without bones)
Mixed fresh herbs like parsley, rosemary, chives, coriander
Fresh mint (not to put in with the salmon)
Aluminium foil
Olive oil

You have guessed it, we're going to make salmon packages and put them in the oven.

Pre-heat the oven for 15 minutes on 180 degrees.

Make a little bag of the foil and put the salmon in it
Sprinkle some olive oil over the salmon
Season it with salt and pepper from the mill
Cover the salmon with the mixed fresh herbs

And it's ready to go in the oven for +/- 20 minutes.

Serving with boiled potatoes, butter them and put some fresh mint on them (don't add the mint too early because it will turn into a dark green substance).
As vegetable I would go for broccoli or beans or a salad.

A white wine/beurre blanc sauce could be an option, but if the salmon is of good quality and you have cooked it not too long it should be moist enough.

White wine sauce
75 gr Unsalted butter
100 ml Fish or chicken stock, from cubes
3-4 Shallots finely chopped
Glas of dry white wine

Melt some of the butter in a saucepan and fry the shallots, but don't let the butter become brown
Add whine and the stock and bring it to boil
When it starts to bubble, lower the heat and whisk the rest of the butter slowly
Season it according to taste.

Smoked duck breast filet

Another popular starter we serve to our guests and to ourselves is smoked duck breast  filet, which is layed out on a mixed salad, garnished with blue cheese and pine nuts.

Shopping list
1 Pack of smoked duck breast filet that's a generous starter for 2 persons (don't buy dry duck breast filet, it is very dry)
Mixed or green salad
Blue cheese, like roquefort, blue Auvergne
Pine nuts
Cherry tomatoes to garnish
Olive oil and balsamico vinegar (naturel or orange)

Wash the (mixed) salad, even if it's said that it has been pre-washed, an extra wash is nicer believe me.
Add the dressing to the salad
Put the salad on a plate
On top make layers of the duck breast filet, I prefer to tear off the majority of the  greasy bits but that's down to taste
Cut the blue cheese in cubes and divide it on the plate
Then almost the most important bit, after frying....without oil....the pine nuts, becareful they intent to burn quickly, sprinkle them over the dish
Garnish the plate with cherry tomatoes et voilà!

Pine nuts are expensive but you don't need that many and it really adds taste value to this dish.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

You'll always find me in the kitchen at parties

To beef or not to beef

I remember the first guests we had in our B&B, while to be honest, we weren't really ready for it. The lady of the couple I have met the year before because we were sharing the same affection for French singer Julien Clerc. This Belgian couple was very anxious to come and visit us for a few days. With 1 guest room ready to rent out, we welcomed them hearthy to our new home. That evening we were cooking for them and cooking for paying guests is different. Unfortunately there had been a mistake in the kitchen and -thank goodness we never told them what was on the menu- the planned tournedos didn't go according to plan and therefore couldn't been served. Improvisation skills were handy and whilst serving more wine, in the end they had a very tender chicken filet with foie gras.

Broccoli soup

A big hit in is broccoli soup.

Shopping list
Cubes for chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 Cloves of garlic
Crème fraiche or cream....optional
Sweet chili sauce from a bottle

Make the stock from chicken cubes

Put the cut broccoli flowers, after a good wash, in the boiling stock
Put 2 cloves of garlic in it, pressed or very small cut
Then add, and that's the trick, a little sweet chilli sauce.

Mash the broccoli and before serving it's nice to put
some crème fraiche/cream in it...but it's not a must.

Serve with (french) bread which you toast, butter it
and sprinkle some salt chrystals on it.

Bon appetit!

Carrot Soup

From my Flemish friend who lives part-time in the village I got some 'left-over' carrots because she was heading back to Belgium. Now I must admit that I am not a vegetable lover, so there were 2 things I could do with the carrots, either making a healthy juice or a soup! The choice have guessed it already...soup.

Shopping list
Carrots (about 10)
Chicken cubes for stock
Real butter
2 Onions (white or red)
3 Garlic cloves
Fresh parsley or Fresh coriander
Coriander or Curry powder

I have used fresh carrots the ones with the green stuff on it
Use about 10 carrots for 2 persons
1 litre chickenstock, I just used the cubes
Use 2 pans, one for the butter and the other one for the soup

Pan 1

Put some cooking butter, real butter is best, in pan,
fry1 big or 2 little onions (I've used red because didn't have white) and 3 cloves of garlic
Let them soften, without going brown.

Pan 2

Cut the carrots by hand or use the machine, as I did.

Put the carrots in the boiled chickenstock and put the butter with onions/garlic (pan 1) in it too.

It takes about 30 minutes before the carrots are softened,
To season it, you can use some coriander or curry powder,
Then mash it with the mixer. You can put some more liquid in the pan
if necessary.

When ready to use, add some fresh herbs in your soup cup, like coriander or what I have done
last night was parsley.

Serve it with fresh (french) bread and bon appetit.

It's quite filling too I found out.