A typical French winter classic: leek pie from Picardy which uses 4 egg yolks! For National Pie Day.
A French Classic recipe of stuffed savoy cabbage made easy by using turkey stuffing leftovers.
The shock of the inhuman terrorist attacks in Paris last week have perhaps numbed us. But this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau Wine Day 2015 has never been so symbolic this Thursday 19 November. Beaujolais producers affirm that their “wines are to be celebrated” and “they represent French conviviality and culture.
The moment of sharing this year is a strong symbol to show that France still stands strong and is proud of its values.”
The French know how to continue their art de vivre and they need our support during this tough time – as locals and tourists alike are perhaps scared to venture out for a while in the Paris we love so much. After an exceptionally hot summer and a perfectly mature early harvest, the French have good reason to be proud. 2015 will apparently be an outstanding vintage and so it’s time to celebrate wine in France and around the world.
Today nearly a third of Beaujolais production is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau. It’s the first French wine to be released for each vintage year. Harvesting takes place late August to early September and the traditional Gamay Noir grapes (which make up 98% of Beaujolais wines) are fermented for only a few days then released on the third Thursday in November, a practise that has continued since 1985 by the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO).
Like Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais basic reds are to be drunk within the year. They’re real bistro wines in Paris, served slightly chilled and slightly blueish-light-purple in colour due to the Gamay grape, known for being light, fruity and easy-drinking.
This week also marks 24 years ago since I met my Frenchman. Antoine had just returned from a student Beaujolais Nouveau evening and so we quickly found a mutual conversation starter – admittedly I made him do most of the talking just to listen to his endearing, oh-là-là accent. Having blind-tasted the Scottish Wine Society’s selection the previous evening – celebrated in true Frenchie style with the official jury arriving on bicycles, clad in onion-johnnys, berets, blue and white stripy nautical matelot jerseys – the best producer was unveiled with its pretty flowery label since it typically tasted of banana and bubble gum. Although my thoughts were leaning towards the highest category, the Beaujolais Cru wines.
When I explained to my new French-Corsican friend Antoine that evening about the 10 Crus (Brouilly, Régnié, Chiroubles; Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Saint-Amour; Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin à Vent), and how some of them could keep up to 10 years in the bottle with no need to chill the red wine either – I’d somehow talked myself into a Frenchman’s heart. We had an excuse to meet again and thankfully, we’re still continuing the love of discovering of new wines together.
Chestnut Pumpkin Tarts
So to celebrate the perfect partner, here’s a delicious recipe for chestnut pumpkin tarts that match well with the basic Beaujolais or the lighter to medium bodied crus. Inspired by my Corsican family who use chestnut flour in their cooking, I’ve added it to the pastry; the roasted pumpkin and mushroom filling is also good with any turkey leftovers.
Roasted Pumpkin, Mushroom and Chestnut Tart Recipe
You could also replace the mushrooms with left-over turkey, as the wines also partner very well with poultry.
Makes one large tart (28cm diameter) or 8 individual tartlets
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Resting Time: 2 hours
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
150g plain flour
100g chestnut flour
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp water
1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and mix until the dough forms a ball. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for an hour. Remove the dough from the fridge and leave to stand until room temperature, to make it easy to roll it out.
2. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface then using the pastry roller, wrap around the pastry to transfer it to the tart tin. Press it in to the sides then, again with the roller, roll over the top of the tin to clean up the edges. Keep in the fridge while preparing the filling.
350g pumpkin, roughly chopped into small chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, white part, sliced finely
350g mushrooms, cut into big pieces
1 tbsp sage leaves, finely chopped
250g crème fraîche
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
salt & pepper
Parmesan shavings to serve (optional)
3. Preheat the oven to 180°C/360°F (gas 4). Place the pumpkin with half of the oil and sage in a roasting tin and roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, over medium heat, cook the leeks in the rest of the oil until translucent. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook. There’s no need to add any more oil. Wait until the mushrooms give off their liquid and then set aside to cool slightly.
5. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, crème fraîche, nutmeg then season with salt and pepper.
6. Sprinkle the roasted pumpkin and sage over the tart base, top with the leek and mushrooms and pour over the creamy egg mix. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes for a large tart (30 minutes if making tartlets).
So cheers to this year’s vintage! Serve with this year’s jam-packed Beaujolais Nouveau (apparently it’s full of forest fruits on the nose!) or enjoy it at any time of year with a medium-bodied Cru: a Saint-Amour, a Fleurie, or a Côte de Brouilly and let’s raise a toast to the French.
To show your support for our local bistros, restaurants and wine bars in France, see the
List of Beaujolais Programme throughout France.
You know how I love sharing egg yolk recipes with you – especially if you’re mad about macarons, financiers, meringue and such likes that use egg whites. But just because the blog’s name has the word macaron in it, I realise now that I shouldn’t shy away from posting my favourite savoury recipes here too.
When the girls were younger, one of their best party souvenirs was based on a homemade pasta theme. They adored dusting the strands of pasta with flour, as well as on themselves, flour-dusting the kitchen floor as everyone took turns to rotate the pasta-maker’s handle and watch the strands appear for the grand finale like a beaded curtain found in Mediterranean yesteryear groceries.
The best part was at the end, watching them all tuck in around the table, tongues twisting with concentration as they twirled their lovingly homemade noodles around giant forks as they lapped it all up just tossed in butter with a few fresh herbs from the garden. Suddenly last week, Lucie asked to make homemade pasta again during the school holidays. And I’m so glad she did, even if this time it was just a party for two.
This egg pasta is extra special as it uses so many egg yolks. I first discovered the classic recipe for them as Alsatian Noodles (Nouilles à l’Alsacienne) by the late Chef Bernard Loiseau, who loosely called for 8-10 yolks, or 5 whole eggs but over the years I’ve used a couple of eggs in there with 6 yolks and find it so easy to work with.
Normally the beautifully rich noodles are simply tossed in good butter, a little olive oil, freshly cracked pepper and often served with slow-cooked stews such as Lapin Chasseur, a right old French grandmother’s rabbit dish.
Alsatian Noodles – Egg Yolk Pasta Recipe
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Resting Time: 30 minutes + 1 hour
Cooking Time: 3-5 minutes (depending on the thickness of the noodles)
To make noodles, this recipe is so much easier using a pasta machine, although it’s not completely necessary.
500g plain flour + extra for dusting
6 egg yolks
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
Butter, olive oil & seasoning to serve
1. Ideally, using a food mixer, mix all the ingredients at low speed until well mixed. (If you make this by hand, make a large well in the flour, add the salt and crack the eggs and oil into it. Gradually mix in the flour with the hands until you have a non-sticky dough). Divide the pasta dough into 4, cover each with cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Lightly flour the working surface. Taking each ball of pasta at a time, flatten the dough with the palm of your hand and press into the first and largest setting to flatten it out. Repeat each step a couple of times with each of the 4 balls until the dough runs through easily. Continue the process on setting 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 until the pasta elongates into beautifully long sheets. Sprinkle with flour, then pass through each sheet through the noodle attachment. (If making by hand, flatten to 2mm using a rolling pin, sprinkle with flour, then roll the dough into a spiral and cut into thin strips using a sharp knife).
3. Spread out the long noodles, coating them with some flour so that they don’t stick together and leave to dry for about an hour.
4. Place a large pot of water to the boil with a couple of tablespoons of salt and plunge in the pasta, stirring immediately to prevent any noodles from initially sticking to each other. The noodles are ready as soon as they remount to the surface, after about 3-5 minutes (depending on thickness).
Serve tossed in butter and olive oil and season to taste.
This is also delicious served with my favourite dinner party recipe for Autumn-Winter, which is slow-cooked pigs’ cheeks. I must post it for you soon since when you try it, you’ll be asking for seconds!
In the meantime (don’t tell the lovely French from Alsace!), I mixed Alsace with Italy and tossed the noodles in a most deliciously easy sauce, thanks to my lovely Scottish-Italian friend, Christina Conte of Christina’s Cucina (you heard me rave about our escapade together in Bordeaux and then in Charentes-Maritime, where we took part in Karen’s Lavender & Lovage Cookery School). You must watch Christina’s Dad making this anchovy sauce recipe! Although it’s not traditional with these noodles, we thought it was fantastic.
Now you’ve used 6 egg yolks for the pasta, leave the egg whites in a clean jam jar with lid on for up to 5 days and enjoy making macarons, financiers and meringue-topped French tarts from Teatime in Paris!
I love Avignon at any time of year. Come windy mistral weather to the cigales singing in the plane trees to announce the intensity of summer heat, the atmosphere is always lively. But come July, when Avignon is in full festival swing (from 4-25 July), it takes on an even more upbeat ambience.
It’s just buzzing. Even the shops go theatrical and arty.
I was too shy to stop and ask this poet what he thought about it all. What would you have asked him? I mean, how do you start a conversation with a public poet or Poete Public? I was never great at poetry at school. Were the bikes behind him a quick escape route for people like me?
This lovely lady must have felt rather hot in her fancy dress. She was approaching as many possible theatre-goers as she could, showing off her bubbly character. At the Avignon Festival, plays are constantly being performed and so be prepared to have leaflets thrust in your hand and explanations of the plays taking place. You could easily spend a week here just trying to fit them all in!
As I was gazing up at the old buildings, my friend Sandrine just couldn’t resist these colourful head bands. Not are there theatre touts but the back-streets are full of temporary stalls of fashion accessories, musical instruments, books and silky or cotton Provençal looking tops and dresses.
Just when you least expect it, a human advert for a show appears – here in the guise of a tandem and two rather well-dressed gentlemen hooting an old-fashioned horn.
Did I tell you that the posters for each show are plastered absolutely everywhere?
Hamlet in 30 minutes? I wonder if Shakespeare would have approved of his play being fitted in to accommodate the others in a day.
Just around the corner, a judge and a couple of reporters were touting for another show, causing havoc in the middle of a restaurant as confused and amused lunch clients were treated to a quick show in rue des Tenturiers.
Perhaps this was the culprit disguised, running back to Paris? He was so fast when I took this shot that I didn’t manage to catch his training shoes at the bottom. I thought it was hilarious – obviously the locals were getting used the scene: not an eyelash blinked.
Lunchtime? Time for us girls to head back to the ranch and see what the men were up to. Barbecue lit ready for the Auvergne sausages? Check. Rosé chilled? Check – even with ice cubes during a heatwave.
During the apéritif, Valérie rustled up something quick and deliciously provençal in her kitchen with this light aubergine and tomato tart using filo pastry.
Recipe adapted with more instruction by myself from the new “Happi Food” French Magazine (special edition of Happinez N°1).
3 small aubergines or one large
3 large sheets filo pastry
100g butter, melted
100g small Roma tomatoes, cut in 2
500g crème fraîche
150 feta cheese
150g Greek yoghurt
1/2 tsp rosemary
Pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas mark 6). Cut the aubergines into slices of about 2cm thickness. Sprinkle them with salt in a colander and leave them to give out their liquid for about 15 minutes. Rince them and sponge them with kitchen paper.
2. Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil and place them directly on a baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, brush 3 large filo pastry sheets (about 40 x 40 cm) with melted butter (or olive oil) and place them one on top of the other in a round tart tin of 22-24cm diameter. Take out the aubergines and leave them to cool. Turn down the oven temperature to 180°C (360°F/Gas mark 4).
4. Cover the filo sheets with the aubergine slices and slices of tomato. Whisk the eggs, crème fraîche, feta and Greek yoghurt. Add the rosemary and a few turns of the pepper mill. Cover the vegetables with this mixture and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
Serve hot with a green salad.
My version isn’t nearly as pretty, but as we’re heading off on holiday tonight, I made a version of this using the leftovers in the fridge and it was simple and so tasty. I used only one large aubergine, one coeur de boeuf large tomato and sprinkled it with thyme and parsley. Next time, I’m definitely making it with the filo pastry (I used ready-made all butter puff pastry).
Thanks for the most delicious weekend, Valérie and Hervé, and cheers to you, my readers!
With the Charlie Hebdo event in Paris still shocking us all profoundly, we’re definitely turning to comfort food – and this Blanquette de Veau is a real French classic at this time of year.
In the Annex of Mad About Macarons, I have suggested recipes for using up egg yolks before saving the whites for your macarons. This is one of them. Blanquette de Veau is most often translated as Veal Casserole in White Sauce.
‘White sauce’ doesn’t sound too sexy, does it? Blanquette sounds fancier in French but the English translation just doesn’t give it justice. It even sounds a bit bland. To me, white sauce conjures up dull images of a plain béchamel sauce with flour, milk and butter. This casserole couldn’t be further from plain! For a start, there is no flour in the sauce; instead, the casserole is simply thickened by reducing the natural stock at the end and whisking in egg yolks and cream with a flourish of nutmeg and lemon juice.
Why Blanquette de Veau?
Veal Blanquette is a pure and simple French Grandmother’s dish which is passed on from family generation to generation. It’s a casserole that’s so simple to prepare. “Blanquette” refers to the way it’s cooked: there’s no need to brown the meat beforehand; instead the veal is just placed in a large pot together with its partners in taste and, as it bubbles away merrily, you can get on with other things.
It’s also Antoine’s favourite casserole – as long as it’s full of flavour. It has a rich, creamy fragrant sauce with a hint of lemon and, for me, the touch of cloves just gives it that extra touch of warmth. When it’s packed with comfort and flavour, you can see why the French consider it their favourite national stew! It may be seen as family fare but serve this version at a dinner party and it works – ça marche!
It only really works, however, if you carry out the necessary extra steps at the end, otherwise the taste is nothing like the real thing. I’ve seen recipes that just use crème fraîche and don’t take the time to whisk up the classic sauce using egg yolks to complete the dish. I’ve tried them and the resulting taste is well, bland. Let’s say it’s like making a curry without any spices…
Blanquette de Veau is from our Ile-de-France region around Paris. My local butcher, Monsieur Le Corre, is passionate about hunting and takes great pride in his best quality meats, often showing me the simplest way to prepare some classic cuts with a different twist (I’ll post on this later). He’s also partial to showing off his latest catch, too! For a blanquette, ideally you’ll need a mixture of best quality veal: mainly breast and shoulder. If you can’t get good veal, then chicken will also work well (use free-range, if possible) – and I’ve also seen many fish blanquette versions too.
Take the time in the last couple of steps to thicken the sauce. Have I stressed enough how important this is? In true lazy gourmet style, however, I cheat a bit in the recipe by using frozen pickling onions from Picard, our favourite French frozen store.
Blanquette de Veau Recipe
Recipe slightly adapted from one of my all-time favourite cookbooks, France: The Beautiful Cookbook – Authentic Recipes from the Regions of France by The Scotto Sisters and Gilles Pudlowski. This book is full of the French classic dishes – I’ve particularly found that the savoury dishes are spot-on each time.
Preparation Time: 35 minutes
Cooking Time: 2.5 – 3 hours
1.5kg veal (mixture of breast & shoulder), cut into chunks
bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 4 sprigs thyme, 3 sprigs parsley)
1 leek (white part only), sliced
2 carrots, cut into chunks
250ml white wine
150g crème fraîche
2 large egg yolks (or 3 medium)
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
grated zest of half lemon (unwaxed)
24 small pickling onions (or use frozen)
24 small button mushrooms (Champignons de Paris)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1. Stud the onion with the cloves. Place the veal in a casserole dish and add the carrots, onion, leek and bouquet garni. Pour in the wine and add just enough water to cover the meat and vegetables. Bring to the boil, skimming the surface for the first 10 minutes of any scum. Cover and simmer gently for 2.5 hours.
2. About 45 minutes before the end of cooking, prepare the garnish. Wash mushrooms, pat dry and cut into halves or quarters, depending on their size. Fry them at first without any oil or butter (my tip – not in the original recipe!) in a non-stick pan until they have given out all of their juices. This concentrates their flavour. THEN add 25g of the butter and the lemon juice to them and set aside. Sauté the onions in a small pan with the rest of the butter until golden.
3. Lift the lid of the casserole dish and smell these flavours! Discard the bay leaf and thyme stalks. Remove the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large serving dish, adding the mushrooms and pickling onions. Set aside and keep warm in a cool-moderate oven.
4. Boil the cooking liquid over a high heat until reduced. Meanwhile, in a bowl, hand-whisk the crème fraîche, lemon zest, yolks, grated nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper. Blend in 3 tablespoons of the hot stock then quickly whisk in the yolk mixture back into the stock. Stir constantly until thickened but do not boil (it will reduce its subtle flavours). Whisk until the sauce is smooth and velvety.
Pour the sauce over the meat and serve with basmati or Thai rice. This dish is also lovely reheated the next day. For busy gourmets, this dish can be prepared the day before a dinner party. Just prepare steps one and two in advance then chill in the fridge. Make the sauce on the day of serving and voilà!
Antoine loves to serve this with a delicate white wine, such as an Alsace Riesling or Pinot Gris, otherwise a St. Véran, Marsannay or other Burgundy will be fabulous.
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