Creamy Orange Curd – a perfect topping for Crêpes!

A deliciously zingy, creamy topping for crepes or pancakes this February.

A Fragrant Rice Tea Pudding Recipe with Little Bear from Theodor Paris

The first Autumn chill hit the Paris air last week. Suddenly the kitchen now feels a cosy haven again for the family to wander in and see what’s cooking as they gravitate towards the warming oven or stove, happy to see their favourite comfort food recipes return.

Curling up on the sofa this weekend with a special pot of fragranced green tea, my mind drifted to one of our most comforting classics: warm rice pudding. Normally, I either make my rice pudding using egg yolks for a rich treat or simply bake it as my Mum and Granny did – but I discovered this simple yet intriguing twist on the traditional recipe from Theodor Paris.

For a start it uses a lot more milk than I would normally use and the process is simply stirring it now and again over a warm stove. The magic ingredient, however, is the finest quality fragranced tea. As the rice gradually thickens and the milk reduces, the tea’s scent beautifully permeates the pudding with all its delicate flavours shining through.

The tea I used is called PETITE OURSE, or Little Bear, a special edition recently released by Theodor and created by its talented founder, Guillaume Leleu (aka The Insolent Parisian), for the annual Paris Revelations Fair. It’s a Chinese green tea very delicately perfumed with notes of mandarin, a subtle warm hint of ginger and finished off with mallow flowers and both sunflower and safflower petals.

Petite Ourse fragranced green tea from Theodor Paris with macaron

Little Bear green tea with a chocolate and orange blossom macaron from “Teatime in Paris”.

Petite Ourse is one of three new special edition blends beautifully named “Some amongst us are contemplating the stars”. As I discovered in this previous macaron tea tasting, I can’t believe how tea like this can evoke so many smiles through a few sips. It moves away from the ordinary, our normal tea comfort zone.

Just tasting the other two teas tickles the palate with their surprising finishes: PERSEUS black tea has notes of comforting bergamot, yuzu and plum plus tickles us further with bits of orange and carrot (yes, carrot!); but just tasting the complex but brilliant PHŒNIX, with its exotic blend of Brazilian maté, chocolate, marzipan, liquorice root and pink peppercorns has you head for the stars with its final delicate kick of chilli – I bet that would make an adventurous rice pudding!

Theodor Tea Totem design created for revelations fair of 2015 Paris

Guillaume Leleu presenting the Totem and 3 new teas looking at the stars at the Grand Palais Paris

But it wasn’t just the three new teas as stars of the show;  two designers hailing from the Camondo School were inspired to design this “Totem” structure for Guillaume Leleu, representing the artistic element of tea for the Revelations Fair.

Inspired by witnessing the creative behind-the-scenes artistic precision at Theodor’s laboratory on the Seine, both Nicolas Jandrot and Florence Tajan (also pictured above) used 3 materials –  wood, metal and glass – to create a metaphor for the successive states of the finest tea, from tree to teacup.

Totem tea design structure of Theodor Paris

The Totem structure will be taking off around the world to be shown in destinations such as Mexico, Japan and Korea – all where Theodor are represented. With its three antennae looking to the north, I have this fascination for “Petite Ourse”, or Ursa minor, whose brightest star stamps the North Pole and whose cove points the way to the light.

Theodor says,

Petite Ourse is an occasion to dive in to the delicacies of a green tea perfumed with major notes of mandarine and ginger, whose North Star points the way to the light. A blend that immerses us back into childhood and our dear Teddy Bears, so reassuring and protective, to whom we dearly hold on for comfort.

Slowly stirring the senses as the delicate mandarin rice pudding thickened on the stove, I realised I had come out of some kind of childhood comfort zone just by trying something a bit more adventurous yet still enveloped in a comforting world with the most fragrant rice pudding I’ve known.

tea-fragranced warm rice pudding the perfect Autumn teatime treat

Rice Pudding Recipe Infused with Tea

Recipe courtesy of Theodor Paris.  While they use their Rooibos tea from the “Weeds” collection named “Une autre idée?“, I replaced the tea with 18g Petite Ourse, a Chinese green tea predominately fragranced with mandarine and ginger. I find the amount of stirring is needed more at the beginning but as the rice starts to thicken towards the end and the milk gradually evaporates with a more concentrated tea flavour, less is needed so you can go about making the rest of dinner!

Makes 4 little bear bowls of rice pudding

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Resting Time:
10 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

1 Litre of milk
100 grams of round grain rice
72 grams of powdered sugar
15 to 20 grams of (Theodor’s recipe uses rooïbos)

1. Pour the litre of milk in a saucepan. Add the 72 grams of powdered sugar and bring the whole to a boil. Remove from the heat and brew the tea (Petite Ourse) for 10 minutes in the sweet milk. Once the brewing time is up, it will be time to filter your milk. The nice smell of the brew will already be perfuming your kitchen.

2. Put the milk to a boil a second time, then lower the heat to a minimum and rain in the 100 grams of round grain rice. Let the whole cook for 55 minutes at a very low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the formation of a too thick film on the surface. If a film forms itself anyhow, do not worry, a good stirring may very well make it disappear. You can also remove it directly off of the saucepan. With a little more patience, let the rice cool down in order to dispatch it in your cups.

You can place your rice pudding in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours…but we prefer to taste it just finished, accompanied with an aromatic and elegant chai based on an Indian black tea called ” Travel to india ” or what about a tea that reminds us of mulled wine and spices with Theodor’s “OH-LA-LA!”.

Creamy warm rice pudding recipe using green tea

So let me introduce you to Little Bear’s warm rice pudding, a real tea-infused treat that will simply have you heading for the stars. If you follow the GPS, it should be 90°N/10°S.

You’ll be bowled over!

Banana, Chestnut and Coffee Cake – or Muffins

That’s the first full-on week back at school conquered. Hearing the groans to early clockwork mornings is waning so I guess that means we’re gradually adjusting to routine.

I put it down to bananas.

Brought up calling bananas “brain food”, I stocked up on them last weekend for a quick, healthy energy boost to slice on our favourite breakfast maple granola. Except Julie refused the bananas. Lucie explained that Julie loves this banana cake so much for breakfast that she deliberately leaves them to ripen so there’s an urgent excuse to make this!

Reduced sugar banana coffee cake chestnut

I discovered this recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Nigellissima and loved her ingenious addition of coffee powder to banana bread, to give it an Italian touch.  I don’t normally have sweet cake for breakfast but in Corsica, my mother-in-law often makes a chestnut cake using chestnut flour.  As farine de chataigne is a pretty strong-flavoured flour, we normally mix it with plain flour.  And so this recipe has gradually adapted to our tastes, as we cut down the sugar by half to accommodate the rustic chestnut flavour and give it our Corsican touch.

banana coffee cake with chestnut flour gluten free reduced sugar recipe

Banana, Coffee and Chestnut Cake Recipe

Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Italian Breakfast Banana Bread, from Nigellissima. I have halved the sugar content (replaced caster sugar with soft brown), used chestnut flour and purée, plus reduced the oil to compensate for these ingredients. If you prefer to make this gluten-free, then omit the plain flour and use 170g chestnut flour. To make muffins, pour the mixture into a greased 1×12 muffin tin (or silicone brochette moulds, so no greasing necessary) and bake for 20 minutes at 200°C (gas mark 6).

3 medium bananas, very ripe
100g sweet chestnut & vanilla purée (optional)

130ml neutral-tasting vegetable oil, such as grape seed oil
pinch salt
2 medium eggs
80g soft brown sugar
100g chestnut flour
75g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tsps instant espresso powder

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (gas mark 3). Lightly oil a 450g/1LB loaf tin or no need to oil if using a silicone loaf mould.

2. Mash the bananas with the vanilla chestnut purée (if using), add the salt and beat in the oil.  Beat in the eggs, one by one, followed by the soft brown sugar.

3. Sift the chestnut flour and gradually beat it into the mixture, adding the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and coffee powder.

4. Pour the batter into the loaf tin, place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until slightly coming away at the sides and bunglingly risen. A cake tester should come out clean.

Leave the cake or muffins overnight as they’ll taste even better in the morning.

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. They also freeze well for up to 3 months; just defrost the night before.

French Clafoutis – Baked Cherry Custard Dessert

Clafoutis is a French speciality from the Limousin region. It’s also one of my French Mother-in-law’s specialities and so one of my husband’s favourite classic desserts. When we visit Antoine’s parents in Provence in the summer, Madeleine proudly rustles up her baked dark cherry custard dessert especially for son grand fils, her eldest son, with cherries freshly plucked from the orchard at the bottom of the garden.

But after twenty years, I finally plucked up the courage to make this ridiculously easy pudding at home. Why did I wait so long to make it? Perhaps, I dare say, because it was a bit heavy – especially as I prefer lighter desserts. Could Belle Maman really discover I’d slightly changed her recipe?

baked cherry custard dessert clafoutis

So many clafoutis recipes call for pitted cherries. Like it’s traditionally made in the Limousin, Madeleine normally throws in the whole cherries as they are and most of us politely dispose of the stones at the table. I say most of us, as Antoine – in his more natural Corsican style – rocks on the back of his chair, plotting his target as he catapults and projects them less than delicately into the garden – “Heh, je plante!”, he shrugs at us all.  It’s his Corsican sense of humour of saying he’s planting cherry trees. Oh, pl-ease!

I may mock but whole, unpitted cherries do keep in their flavour, and it’s far quicker than standing over the kitchen table with dark cherry-stained hands looking like Jack or Jill the Ripper. So just throw them in as they are naturally then get the family to do the gardening at the table. Otherwise pit them if you prefer, especially if you have a cherry stone extractor as part of your kitchen gadgetry.

This almond-topped clafoutis has been tried, tested and approved by Antoine, Julie and Lucie. Just don’t tell his Mum.

French clafoutis easy recipe

FRENCH CLAFOUTIS (Cherry Baked Custard) RECIPE

The almond topping idea is pinched from my friend, Véronique (merci!). You could replace the almond extract with a tablespoon of Kirsch or Amaretto liqueur for a more adult version.

SERVES 4-6
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35-40 minutes

INGREDIENTS

500g fresh black cherries, washed, not pitted

For the mould (china or earthenware dish):
10g butter
10g sugar

70g plain flour
good pinch of salt (fleur de sel)
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 medium eggs, organic
1 egg yolk
80g sugar
270g full-cream milk
25g butter, melted
few drops of almond extract (optional)
25g silvered almonds (optional, for garnish)

Pouring clafoutis batter on to cherries

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F (gas 4). Butter an ovenproof china or pyrex dish (22cm diameter and 5cm deep) large enough to hold the cherries in a single layer.  Sprinkle in the sugar, shaking it all around so that it coats the surface of the dish and place the cherries in it.

2. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl.  Add the eggs and yolk and, using a balloon whisk, mix well until the mixture is smooth.  Continue whisking adding the milk, almond extract and melted butter. Pour over the cherries.

French clafoutis before baking

3. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until browned. Toast the flaked almonds in a non-stick frying pan for a few minutes on medium heat until they’re golden and sprinkle on the Clafoutis with a dusting of icing/confectioner’s sugar.

Serve warm directly from the dish.

clafoutis cherry baked custard dessert

Don’t forget to join me on Instagram (or Facebook), where I’m having fun posting shots from day to day around Paris – from the market, to chocolate and pastry walks, to views of Paris, to mad family life.

cherry French dessert clafoutis

Feeling daring? Why not try out these savoury asparagus clafoutis recipes as a summery supper dish?

White Asparagus Clafoutis
Asparagus, Mint & Pea Gluten-Free Clafoutis

Maple Granola – Homemade Breakfast Cereal

This maple granola has turned me into a cereal blogger (pun totally intended). Why not make this for Mother’s Day?

So, how do you often start the day?

I’m an easy camper, happy with a slice of multigrain toast; or a tartine of toasted baguette with a scraping of good Normandy butter; or sometimes my favourite homemade brioche and jam. If we have more time together as a family on Sundays, the ultimate treat are the flakiest, buttery croissants from the local boulangerie.

healthy oat fruit maple breakfast cereal

Breakfast cereal somehow dropped down the shopping list since I moved to France. Why? The answer is simply Paris; wouldn’t you also be tempted, surrounded by all those amazing bakeries with croissants, pain au chocolats and pain aux raisins, just for morning starters?

It’s confession time: each time I saw homemade granola on friends’ blogs, such as Kim of LivLife’s lovely cinnamon and coconut cereal, I should have picked up on it like a good cereal blogger.

homemade breakfast cereal maple granola

My final “Just-do-it” push came via an old thumbed Elle magazine at the orthodontist’s waiting room. One of the only recipes that wasn’t ripped out was for a maple granola, so I tried it. Boy was it overly sweet! Read ridiculously sweet.

Cutting out the Sugar

It took many experiments to come to this to suit our Antoine’s taste – not too many nuts, more oats please, oh I love the graines de courges (pepitas or roasted pumpkin seeds) for that crunch but not too crunchy. The magazine’s recipe has, as a result, changed beyond recognition and its original whopping 140g sugar has now been omitted entirely. You don’t need it; the dried fruits and the maple syrup are naturally sweet.  You could use the coconut oil but I honestly prefer it with the neutral oil.  So here is our favourite cereal, totally subjective, of course: adapt the quantities and ingredients to your own liking but try this first!

Warning: you’ll discover that this has to be made at least once a week. The good news is, by going to our local organic health food store (La Vie Claire), I’m cutting down costs on bigger packs of oats and seeds and they’re better quality too.  Ensure that your ingredients are organic. Your body will thank you.

 

Maple Granola – Homemade Breakfast Cereal

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes

300g oats
100g pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds)
75g walnuts, broken
25g linseeds

pinch salt (fleur de sel)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
(optional)
2 tbsp vegetable oil (neutral tasting oil or coconut oil, melted if solid)
5 tbsp maple syrup
10g flaked/slivered almonds
100g dried cranberries, blueberries, or raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan).

2. Measure* all the ingredients (except the almonds and dried fruits) in a large bowl and stir to mix them all well together.

3. Grease a large rimmed baking tray with more oil or use a baking tray covered with baking paper (or a Silpat) and spread out the oat mixture by shaking the tray gently from side to side.

4. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, turn over the mixture and sprinkle on the slivered almonds and bake for a further 10 minutes.

5. Leave to cool then add the dried fruits.

Serve with milk or yogurt and fresh berries. I love to sprinkle on a teaspoon of bee pollen, which is not only natural tasting of honey but it’s good for boosting the body’s immune and digestive system a couple of times a year.

* I use digital scales.  If you’re used to using ounces, then just switch over to grams. 

oat and maple healthy breakfast granola cereal

I just about forgot that it’s Mother’s Day in the UK this weekend.  As I have a French diary where Mother’s Day is highlighted for 25 May, I had it in my mind that the UK was at the end of the month!

That’s a great excuse to make macarons again. What favourite flavours do you think would be ideal for Mother’s Day?


 

Update!   

Brazil nut homemade granola recipe

After our visit to Brazil, I’ve replaced this maple granola dried fruit with pineapple and guava, replaced the walnuts with broken brazil nuts, and added a touch of ground cinnamon and cloves.  Try it!

How to Make Rice Pudding like the French – Riz au lait!

When my Frenchman asked me to make rice pudding years ago, it was a no-brainer. I remembered what my Scottish Granny and Mum had done: rained in some rice into a pint of milk, added sugar, cinnamon, sultanas and nutmeg, dotted it with butter and baked it slowly until a caramelised rice pudding emerged with a film of buttery, bubbled skin.

We ate it warm from the oven as the reassuring aromas of cinnamon wafted around the kitchen. This was comfort food at its best, my Madeleine de Proust; that feeling of drifting back for a fleeting moment, remembering Grandpa supping his rice pudding using an oversized spoon, as Agnes poured him more of the coveted extra cream from the top of the milk around the enormous bowl’s rim.

best baked rice pudding easy recipe

Carmelised rice pudding as Granny used to make in Scotland

Suddenly the bubble burst. “Your rice pudding is so different to my Mum’s. She didn’t have skin on it; I remember vanilla rather than cinnamon, and we didn’t eat it warm like this,” gently prodded my Frenchman. My baked rice pudding wasn’t sexy.

It was time to do some homework. I looked up Granny’s ‘Black Book’, full of her children’s scrawls, splatters and notes for different Scottish sweet recipes ranging from neighbours such as Mrs Patterson to the Jimmy Young Show’s dictations from the radio. Nothing. No rice pudding. As Grandpa ate it just about every third day there was no need for Agnes to write it down.

I did discover that, in the north, the French also bake their rice pudding. In Normandy they make a slow-baked Terrinée, Beurgoule or Teurgoule not unlike this, although they add another half litre of milk and bake at 80°C for 6 hours.

Baked Rice Pudding Recipe: In a buttered gratin dish, rain in 100g short grain rice into 1 litre whole milk, add 80g sugar, a cinnamon stick & 50g sultanas. Dot with 40g butter and top with freshly grated nutmeg. Bake uncovered at 110°C for 2 hours.

baked rice pudding with toasted skin from the oven

How do I look? Am I a skinny rice pudding, then?

It was time to make a different, extra creamy rice pudding or ‘riz au lait’ (reeh-oh-lay.) Bathed in a vanilla milk, showered with freshly grated nutmeg and eaten chilled. Personally, I prefer it at room temperature and can’t resist sneaking a bowl of it before placing the rest in the fridge once it’s cool. After a few trials, here’s my riz au lait; tried, tested and approved by my adorable French hubby pampered person.
Just don’t tell his Mum.

Creamy rice pudding with dried fruits and egg yolks

How can you make a rice pudding look sexy when it’s not even skinny?

Creamy Riz au Lait Rice Pudding Recipe

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes

100g pudding/short-grain rice
500ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod (or cinnamon stick)*
80g chopped dried fruit (sultanas, apricots)
50g (25+25) light brown sugar
2 egg yolks
20g butter (optional)
pinch of finely grated nutmeg

* or use 1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Fill a large saucepan with water. Add the rice and bring to the boil. Once boiling, cook for a couple of minutes then drain the rice in a sieve or colander.

2. Pour the milk (whole, full milk for best creaminess) into the large saucepan.  Split the vanilla pod down the middle,  scrape out the seeds and add to the milk (or add vanilla extract/cinnamon stick) with 25g of the sugar. Rain in the rice and simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to that no skin forms on the milk.

3. Add the chopped fruits. Continue to stir now and again as it heats gently for about another 10 minutes. Check that the rice is cooked but not mushy.

4. In a bowl, whisk together the yolks with the rest of the sugar and grated nutmeg until it’s light and creamy. Add the hot rice (and butter, if using – this just adds a little extra creamy luxury) and mix well. Ensure you take this off the heat so not to overheat and curdle the yolks.

Serve at room temperature or once cool, chill in the fridge.  Grate a little nutmeg on top.

Mini French rice pudding creamy desserts

And a wee ‘riz au lait’ for baby bear

As my baby bear, Lucie, doesn’t like drinking milk, this is a great way for her to fill up on calcium. And as an obsessed macaron maker, macaronivores will love this recipe to use up more yolks!

creamy rice pudding

Speaking of macarons, I’ve been caught making them again in the reflection. Are you a macaron addict, too?