Smoked Garlic Arugula (Rocket) Soup

A delicious detox & warming soup to keep the flu at bay or fight it off if you didn’t have a Mickey mask.

Asparagus, Mint & Pea Clafoutis (Gluten Free)

A delicious dose of asparagus for vegetarian week and Celiac Awareness month.

Flamiche Recipe – French Leek Pie

A typical French winter classic: leek pie from Picardy which uses 4 egg yolks! For National Pie Day.

Cullen Skink Smoked Haddock Soup

Don’t ask me why, but I’m needing a fix of my favourite warming Scottish recipes …
It’s hard enough to take a sexy photo of a bowl of soup but why the name, Cullen Skink?

Chestnut, Pumpkin & Mushroom Tarts – and Beaujolais Nouveau!

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.

Beaujolais Nouveau Wine Day 2015 Paris

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.

Pumpkin sage and mushroom tarts with Chestnut Flour

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.

Chestnut flour pastry for pumpkin sage and mushroom tarts

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

Chestnut Pastry

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.

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
3 eggs
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).

Chestnut pumpkin tarts

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.

Pumpkin, Sage and Parmesan Financiers

Today the sun is shining again on the city we love so much.  While France is in shock and mourning, some Parisian shops opened this weekend, not giving in to being terrorised.

Paris view from Montmartre by Jill Colonna

Yesterday the skies were grey and all around was so desperately quiet. We stayed indoors, stunned, numbed by such violence, trying to digest what happened in Paris on Friday night. Our thoughts and sincere sympathies are with all those who have lost their precious loved ones.

We can’t even begin to imagine how it must feel. Paris needs our solidarity and support. As we get on with our lives in hope of peace, let’s not give in to fear by continuing to enjoy its beauty, its history, and its culture.

Pumpkin financiers, French savoury cakes

We lost our appetite but somehow steaming hot pumpkin and leek soup were comforting hugs in a bowl. With a bit of pumpkin left roasting in the pan, I rustled up some light, savoury cakes to accompany it.

A Bit of Parisian History – Financiers

I’ve called them Financiers but the only resemblance to the sweet, traditional almond teacake is the oblong moulds used, which are also used by Ladurée in Paris for their financiers. These were the original shape of the teacake before Monsieur Lasne, a rather enterprising pastry chef in the Stock Exchange (la Bourse) area, had the gem of an idea by changing them to gold bar shapes in 1890 for his financial clientele. Recipes for financiers, including a chocolate-hazelnut one, are in Teatime in Paris!

Silicone moulds are my favourite, as there’s no need to grease them before baking and the cakes just fall out on to the cooling rack. They’re best in these financier moulds but you can use any little cake moulds that you have. The pumpkin parmesan financiers are a delicious change to holiday apéritif pre-dinner drinks and, even if they’re quick to make, they also freeze well so ideal for planning ahead.

pumpkin parmesan financiers recipe

Pumpkin Parmesan Financiers

Makes approx. 20 cakes

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20+15 minutes

150g pumpkin, roughly chopped into small chunks
1 tbsp sage, finely chopped
100g olive oil
200g plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
100g semi-skimmed milk
50g block parmesan, freshly grated
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
20g chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/360°F (gas 4). Put the pumpkin in a roasting tin with half of the sage and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.  Roast for 20 minutes then remove from oven to cool.

2. Mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl then, using a balloon whisk, beat in the eggs, olive oil and milk until you have a smooth paste. Add the parmesan, nutmeg, the rest of the sage then gradually whisk in the pumpkin (it will break up with the whisk which is just perfect as it won’t be a purée but tiny bits) and walnuts, if using.

3. Pour into financier silicone moulds (here I used traditional oblong shapes but you can use rectangular financier moulds – or madeleine moulds too) and bake for about 20 minutes until the cakes are golden brown.

Best served on the day but can also be frozen for up to a month to help you plan ahead for your holiday baking. Or prepare the batter the day before and bake when needed.

pumpkin parmesan financiers

To all my American friends – wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving from Paris!