Easy French seasonal recipes including many traditional dishes from my travels. Includes a database of egg yolk recipes and many gluten-free dishes, cakes and desserts.

Crispy Sage Leaves

Crispy sage leaves with sage flowers

Crispy Sage Leaves are one of my favourite decorations to add that extra je ne sais quoi to the plate.  They are also the easiest things to make in no time.  They are ideal for decorating pastas, risottos, purées, chicken and fish dishes.  Sage also goes beautifully with pumpkin or butternut squash – as well as the traditional apple and pork dishes.  Add them to roasted veg and vegetarian dishes, too.

There’s no need for a deep frier, either. 🙂  The result is not only crispy, but the leaves still taste of beautiful sage.

Preparation Time: 1 minute

Cooking Time: 3 minutes

  1. Clean the fresh sage leaves and dry them out thoroughly using kitchen paper.
  2. Warm some vegetable oil or olive oil in a frying pan and when hot, add the leaves.  Fry them gently for about a minute on each side.
  3. Remove from the pan using tongs and drain them on more kitchen paper.  They will crisp up beautifully as they cool.

 

Delicious and stunning sage flowers

In spring, make the most of pretty sage flowers; they are edible and taste just as strong as the sage leaves!

Scotch Corsican Pancakes with Chestnut Flour

Wanting something a bit different for pancake day?

Scotch Corsican Pancakes with chestnut flour

 

Scotch pancakes are also known as drop scones or griddle cakes.  To keep Corsican hubby happy, I came up with an Auld Alliance version, merging the two nations in a simple pancake. Here I’ve made them slightly different with the addition of chestnut flour, which is a typical rustic flour used in Corsican cuisine.  It just adds a nutty, rich texture and goes beautifully when paired with orange.  Serve warm with plenty of honey and/or warmed marmalade for something special. Adding a touch of Corsican liqueur just gives a subtle kick to the flavour.

Scotch Corsican Pancakes

Makes 12 pancakes

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Resting Time: 30 minutes (put your feet up & have a cup of tea..)
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

70g plain flour
45g chestnut flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
30g butter, diced & softened
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp Corsican Chestnut Liqueur (or Grand Marnier), optional
150ml milk

  1. Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder & salt in a large bowl.  Add the butter and rub into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Make a well in the centre.  Whisk in the egg, the liqueur (if using*) and gradually add in the milk until thick and creamy.  Set aside the mixture for 30 minutes so that the glutens in the flour expand.  This will make your pancakes light and fluffy (which I didn’t do for the photos here.  I was in a rush to run the kids back to school at lunch and you can see they’re as flat as a pancake.  30 mins rest does make a difference).
  3. Lightly grease a griddle/pancake pan or heavy frying pan and preheat it.
  4. Cook in batches.  Drop the equivalent of 4 spoonfuls of the mixture spaced apart over medium heat for 3 minutes until bubbles rise to the surface and burst.
  5. Turn the pancakes over and cook for a further 2 minutes.

* If you don’t want to use alcohol, replace the liqueur with orange flower water.

 

Scotch Pancakes

Turn over the pancakes once you see the bubbles bursting

Scotch Corsican Pancakes

Scotch Pancakes (Drop Scones) with Corsican Chestnut Flour

Update: I’m still learning: I should have just lumped these Scotch Corsican Pancakes with the blethery blog post on one page. So if it’s the chatter you’re after, see le blog: Chestnuts! From Pancakes to Ice Cream to Macarons…

Salted Caramel Sauce (Caramel au beurre salé)

This has to be one of the most satisfying of homemade sauces: it’s so handy to keep in the fridge. Ever since my sweet French friend, Emmanuelle, showed me how to make it, I have been in salted caramel heaven; in Autumn and Winter there’s now a constant supply of this sticky nectar in the fridge. And I mean it’s so constant, it’s on a drip!

It can jazz up scores of desserts, adding an extra wow factor to the most simplest of sweet treats. What’s more, it keeps for up to a month sealed in the refrigerator.

When ready to serve, transfer to a small milk jug, reheat gently in the microwave and dribble or zig-zag over vanilla ice cream (see p125), waffles, profiteroles, chocolate fondants, crêpes, rice puddings, poached pears, apple crumbles, apple fritters, etc.

It also makes a perfect Autumn/Winter treat served with giant caramel macarons “tatin-style” (see p113 of the book.) You can also use this sauce for filling salted caramel macarons. To make the sauce more manageable for macarons, make a ganache using 80g white cooking chocolate (I love using Valhrona) and melt together in a saucepan with 30g of whipping cream. Add half of the caramel sauce (save the rest for further pleasure) and leave to cool for a good couple of hours until an easy consistency to pipe on to your macarons.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

160g sugar
200g single cream, warmed
120g salted butter

1. Put the sugar with a few drops of water into a small saucepan. Using a wooden spoon, stir it now and again over a medium heat until a golden syrupy caramel forms.  This should take about 10 minutes maximum.

2. Turn down the heat and add the warm cream gradually, stirring constantly.

3. Mix in the butter, still over the gentle heat and keep stirring until thickened.

Pour the caramel into a serving jug at room temperature and set aside until needed.

The caramel can last up to 3 weeks if stored in a sterilised sealed jar in the fridge – so why not make double? 😉

UPDATE !

Passionfruit Caramel: Sieve out the seeds of a passion fruit and stir the juice in with the sugar in step 1 instead of the water.
Coffee Caramel: Add a tablespoon of granulated coffee to the caramel for a perfumed coffee caramel.
Orange Caramel: Add the zest of an orange for extra zing – or why not limes, kumquats, meyer lemon…


Fish, Chorizo and Black Pudding

We just came back from Scotland yesterday morning.  I’m suddenly trying to return to grips with an azerty keyboard after 10 days of qwerty!  What a wonderful time, full of precious moments catching up with family around the table.   I also ended up being pretty emotional during a visit to my school, George Watson’s College, after 25 years (gosh, that hurts!) It was wonderful to catch up with old friends and to connect again.  I’m hoping that the budding cooks in Home Economics will now be inspired to make a special burgundy “Ex Corde Caritas” (love from the heart) macaron to match their school uniforms and motto.  I think teaching macarons in schools should be compulsory, don’t you? 🙂

We just made it back in time for Antoine’s birthday.  Poor thing has been living on dinners-for-one from our freezer store, Picard, while we were away.  So with a suitcase stocked with one of his favourite’s, Stornoway Black Pudding (Boudin Noir or Blood Pudding) and having stumbled across this wee street recently, I knew this was “a sign” and so decided to work around this pudding for a quick and easy birthday dinner.

Passage Boudin Paris

My family adore black pudding (Stornoway is the best from Scotland, bien sûr) served traditionally as part of a HUGE Scottish breakfast along with potato scones, bacon and eggs.  The fully monty.  In France, however, we just don’t do that for breakfast.  Instead, we sip from large bowls of coffee or hot chocolate along with croissants or homemade brioche and jam.  If we want to be totally French about serving black pudding, serve it as part of a main dish.

Following a quick jaunt to the market and taking our pick from the seasonal produce on display, it didn’t take long to come up with the menu.  My children and I discovered a new breed of aubergine, lighter and rounder from Italy, the Violette de Florence.

Eggplant Violette de Florence

Aubergine Violette de Florence

Following numerous inspirational blog posts from Chef Dennis, I decided we really need to eat more fish.  It’s amazing how I’ve got out of the habit of eating good old healthy fish.  Can you imagine?  Shame on me, especially since my Grandpa was a fishmonger, too!

One of his favourites was Ling:  it’s meaty with very few bones and not too expensive, either.  The French call it Julienne and at the market it was the first time I’d seen it translated simply as Lingue.

Ling

Lingue or Ling at the market

I already saw the mix of Boudin Noir with Sea Bass in a restaurant last year and so decided to try my hand at making a quick version of this at home. So simple:  I sliced the aubergines, sprinkling them well with salt to get rid of excess water, then rinsed and patted them dry after a few minutes.  A quick flash fry on the griddle pan on each side, then placed them in foil with a clove of garlic and baked them in the oven for 20 minutes while I prepared a Black Pudding Sauce.

To make up the chorizo chips or “scales” of the fish, I simply took extra thin pre-sliced chorizo and dry-fried them in a pan for a few seconds on each side then placed them on kitchen roll to take out the excess fat.  They crisp up once cool:  it’s magic!  Then cooked the fish for a couple of minutes on each side brushed with olive oil in a frying pan.

ling chorizo

So in the space of 30 minutes I had my main prepared:  just needed to place the garlic aubergine on a serving plate, top with the fish then chorizo chips and serve with the black pudding sauce – and extra black pudding since we were feeling greedy!

Antoine found the perfect partner and served it with a bottle of  Savigny-les-Beaune from Burgundy.  He’s good: it needed a light fruity red to cope with the strong flavours.  What nectar!

ling fish fillet with chorizo and black pudding (blood sausage)

And for a quick birthday pudding/dessert? I didn’t have time to make his favourite chocolate fondant birthday cake, so we’ll leave that for this weekend since it needs to mature for at least 24 hours.  Instead, I reached for my macaron bank in the freezer.  This is just so handy to have and for a speedy simple dessert took out some giant macaron shells to serve as a base.

Caramel au beurre salé

I topped it with carmelised apples, homemade caramel ice-cream and dribbled over some warmed salted caramel sauce (again, this was a handy stock in the fridge since had made it a couple of weeks’ ago).  You can find the gluten-free recipe, Giant Macaron Tatin Style, on page 113 of the book.

And needless to say, we enjoyed that with a wee glass of chilled Rivesaltes Ambré by Monsieur Cazes for a glorious sticky finish.  Hm.  Not the easiest of mornings to get up today but I’ll just have to make more caramel desserts this weekend, now that the bottle is opened.  As they say here, Quand le vin est tiré, il faut le boire…

Rose & White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Cherry & Cardamom Coulis

Love is in the air. I have fallen in love with this dessert for St Valentine’s Day.

rose pannacotta and cherry cardamom coulis

rose & white chocolate panna cotta with cherry cardamom coulis

What I love about the Panna cotta is it’s so simple.  It’s the kind of dessert you can rattle out when in a rush and don’t have time to think of anything over the top or fancy.  It does the job.  Once you have the basic recipe you can make all sorts of flavour combinations – even savoury.

Informal? Serve them in funky little yogurt pots or shot glasses for parties with some fruit or purée dolloped on top. Something more formal? Pour into silicone moulds and turn them out on serving plates surrounded with a fruit purée and be creative on decor.  For a touch of Parisian elegance, mes amis, add a rose macaron or two, serve with a glass of bubbly and feel the toes curl…

Talking of bubbles, I needed a flute of pink Champagne just for the sake of a romantic shot.  In the end, the bottle and stem of the flute are barely visible.  I tried to get the Champagne in view but the angle was wrong; drank some more to see if a lower level would work.  No use.  Drank the whole lot and it still didn’t show.  In fact, there’s maybe a bit of camera shake?  Never mind.  It was deliciously fun!

rose, cardamom and white chocolate panna cotta

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Chilling Time: 2 hours

Panna Cotta:

3 gelatine leaves @ 2g each
400ml single cream (min 30% fat)
100ml rosewater*
few drops of red colouring
80g white cooking chocolate
3 tbsp caster sugar

Coulis:

2 cups cherries, pitted
2 tbsp water
4 tbsp sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
Seeds from 2 cardamom pods

1.  Soak the gelatine in cold water for 5 minutes.

2.  Heat together the cream, rosewater*, colouring and sugar in a saucepan and gradually melt in the white chocolate.  Stir until smooth.
(* Rosewater: I normally use half litre bottles of light rosewater from North Africa that I get in France.  When I was in Scotland this week I could only find small 60ml bottles, which was so much more concentrated.  I would suggest the smaller the bottle, the smaller the dose needed. Ideally it should be water with essence of rose no more than about 6%)

squeeze gelatine

3.  Squeeze in the gelatine and stir to dissolve into the warm cream.

4.  Pour into non-stick silicone moulds.  Here I used briochette moulds but you could use muffin moulds.

5.  Leave to cool in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

cherries and cardamom

6.  Meanwhile, make the coulis: place the cherries in a saucepan with water (no need for water if your cherries are frozen since not in season), sugar, lemon juice and the cardamom seeds.

7.  Cook for about 10 minutes until the cherries are soft.  Transfer to a blender and blitz to a smooth sauce.

cherry and cardamom sauce

8.  When ready to serve, run the underside of the moulds briefly under hot water then carefully turn them out directly on to the serving plates and pour around the coulis.

rose and white chocolate panna cotta with cherry and cardamom coulis

Et voilà !


 

This dessert recipe was featured as a Guest Post for St. Valentine’s on Kate’s blog at Diethood.com


Pigeon with Whisky, Ginger and Apricots

Whisky Pigeon

Pigeon with Whisky, Ginger & Apricots

This is a quick and easy dish for entertaining. First, find a pigeon!  It’s easy to find here at our French markets but now I appreciate that it’s not plain sailing to find it perhaps where you live.

I tend to use apricots in this dish but when in season, this is delicious served with roasted figs.  I normally get the butcher to prepare the pigeon and ensure that there are no feathers left on it.  The filets or suprèmes are beautifully tender and should still be pink in the middle.  The photo is terrible here, I apologise.  But when serving and juggling with a camera, I’m not used to doing this like a pro!  Rest assured that the taste is absolutely delicious …

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes

2 pigeons (prepared by your butcher)
20g butter
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp honey
100ml Whisky
100ml mango juice (or apple juice)
12 dried apricots, halved
sprig of thyme

Pigeon
1 With a sharp knife, cut off the thighs then the wings.  Extract the filets (suprèmes) by cutting at the middle on either side of the bone, letting the knife feel the bone.  Keep the skin on.  You will have 4 filets for 2 pigeons.  Chill in cling film until needed.

2 In a heavy lidded casserole dish, heat the butter and quickly stir in the ginger until golden.  Add the honey, thighs, wings and carcasses for about 2-3 minutes until golden and sealed in the glaze.

3 Add the Whisky, mango juice, apricots and thyme.  Cover and simmer gently for 35 minutes.  Take out the carcasses, leaving the wings and thighs in the reduced sauce.

4 10 minutes before serving, warm the plates.  Season the pigeon filets then fry skin-side down for 2-3 minutes in a knob of butter and dash of olive oil.  Turn over and fry for another 2 minutes then turn skin side down for one more minute.  Leave to rest in the pan for 2 minutes as you prepare the rest.

Serve with a mellow red, such as Crozes Hermitage and a good French baguette.  Here I’ve served the pigeon with sweet potato chips (French Fries).

See related blog post: Flaming Pigeon for Another Romantic Meal.