Crispy Papaya Nests, Prawns, and Skinny Sweet Potato Fries

I’m not into fried foods. It’s like an unspoken rule to avoid them at home since we try to eat healthily, s’il vous plaît. But who needs rules when you have a dish presented before you like this one?  When it came to Chef Ton’s Crispy Papaya Salad on holiday in Thailand, we took a different view on fried foods.  Things changed back home in our kitchen and the deep frier was no longer a hidden appliance in the corner.

thai fried prawns

Staying at Bain Sairee on Koh Samui island, we were surrounded by such lush vegetation. These papayas were picked when still green – not left to ripen into the sweet, orangey flesh as we know it.

papaya trees

As you can see, the papaya’s flesh was still white.  The other ingredients Ton used were so simple: a couple of tomatoes, limes, some unsalted cashew nuts, giant prawns, tamarind sauce and some tempura flour.

The papaya was shredded finely and tossed lightly in the tempura flour.  At the local Tesco Lotus supermarket up the road, tempura flour was so easy to find – ready prepared. No water was added, just a light dusting was all it took.

Then the papaya strands were deep fried for just a few minutes – keeping a eye on them until they reached a beautiful golden colour – then drained on kitchen paper.

The prawns were then given exactly the same treatment.

prawns in tempura batter

Chef Ton’s smile, as you can see, was contagious.

Thailand chefs

Then to finish up while the prawns were draining, Ton prepared the quickest, tangy sauce to serve alongside it.  Pounding the tomato in a mortar, he squeezed in the juice of the limes and added the tamarind sauce.

thai tomato sauce

This was so quick to prepare and definitely something I wanted to try as soon as we returned home – so here I got to it!

Papaya, however, was the problem to find here.  Instead, I substituted it with sweet potato.  I tried them Ton’s way, coating in the tempura flour – then another time without it.  They worked out great even on their own, as the sweet potato was drier.

My prawns were nothing like the same size as Ton’s Thai versions.  Mine were so small that to compensate, I threw in some onion rings and coated them in the tempura flour to add that extra taste..

And for the sauce, mortar-fied I couldn’t find the right tamarind sauce in a hurry, I added some fresh coriander (cilantro), some fish sauce, a good pinch of sugar, and some finely chopped spring onions.

Makes a change from French fries

Delicious! Now we’re hooked on these sweet potato ‘skinny fries’. They form a nest with marinaded curried chicken served with a cucumber salsa.  There’s only one thing missing….

thai red curry mad macarons

Thai red curry macarons. Fab with a G&T

A curry macaron would have gone perfectly with this, Thai green or red?  The recipe is in the Mad Macs savoury chapter in Mad About Macarons …

Sweet Potato, Crab & Thai Herb Croquettes – Inspired by KGB Paris

There’s something magical about holidays.  It’s not only a precious time to reconnect with the family, unwind, stand back and gather our thoughts – but it’s also a vital break from the kitchen. There’s nothing more inspiring than eating out and discovering new flavours.

Just before Paris shut down for the holidays in August, Antoine and I headed to KGB in Paris to tickle the tastebuds.  Don’t you love the name, KGB?  When you book, there’s that inner excitement thinking that Pierce Brosnan or Roger Moore could be reserved at the next table – although I’d prefer the original James Bond via my favourite Scot, Sean Connery (even if he came up to me and complained that we’d run out of programmes during the Edinburgh Festival, as I was ushering people to their seats as a student – but that’s another story.  All is forgiven, Sean: I couldn’t have agreed more with you – I was just swooning so much I did nothing about it.)

However, KGB stands for Kitchen Galérie Bis, as it’s the bistro version of William Ledeuil’s Michelin-starred restaurant in the same street, Ze Kitchen Galérie, on rue des Grands Augustins.

As we were headed for Thailand this summer, this was the perfect restaurant featuring fusion food at its best between Thai cooking and French cuisine. The service was just as attentive as its big brother and it was a privilege that the Executive Chef, Yariv Berrebi, invited me for a look behind the scenes in the bustling kitchen. What an impressive team they have that can produce such amazing dishes out of such a stifling small kitchen!

KGB “Zors-d’oeuvre”, cod croquette on basil béarnaise

The menu is almost like a Tapas menu in style, with the first array of amuse-bouches arriving called “zors-d’oeuvre”. I was immediately inspired with the cod croquettes with a basil béarnaise sauce and couldn’t wait to get back in ze kitchen back home to try out one of the recipes in chef Ledeuil’s new cookbook, Ze Kitchen Galerie: La Cuisine de William Ledeuil.  The nearest was his Sweet Potato Croquettes, Crab and Thai Herbs with an Spicy Artichoke Condiment – although I’ve adapted it a bit, made a quick spicy basil mayonnaise instead, plus made bigger portions for a first course starter.

Crispy balls of sweet & spicy thai flavours

Sweet Potato, Crab & Thai Herb Croquettes with Spicy Basil Mayonnaise

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Chilling Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: Approx 30 minutes total

Croquettes

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 lemongrass sticks
3 cloves garlic
240 g tinned crab (Ledeuil uses 200g fresh crabmeat but I didn’t have any to hand)
5 branches of fresh Thai basil, leaves only (chopped)
5 branches of fresh coriander, leaves only (chopped)
4 kaffir lime leaves
1 lime, untreated
3 tbps olive oil
salt

Coating

100g egg whites
100g flour
150g panko breadcrumbs

1.  Cut the sweet potatoes into small cubes.  Cut the bottom off the lemongrass, remove the first 2 outer hard layers and cut in 2 horizontally.  Peel the garlic and chop finely.

2.  In a heavy frying pan, heat 3 tbsp olive oil then sauté the garlic and lemongrass for a couple of minutes until fragrant.  Add the sweet potato and kaffir lime leaves and leave to sweat with the lid on for about 20 minutes.

3.  Once the sweet potato mixture is cooked, remove the lime leaves, crush the potato with a fork or masher (still over the heat to dry it a bit) and add the salt.  Take off the heat, add the crab, chopped herbs and the zest of the lime.  Mix well and leave to cool.

Mixing ourselves up before the messy palm roll

4.  Form the mixture into small balls, using the palm of your hands.  Place them on a baking tray and put them aside in the freezer for 20 minutes.  This will make it easier to work the mixture with the coating later.

5.  Prepare 3 separate bowls of egg white, flour and the panko (Japanese breadcrumbs.)

Roll in flour, egg white and panko

6.  Roll the balls successively in the flour, then egg white and finish off with the panko.  If the ‘phone rings, only pick up with these hands if urgent. 🙂

7.  Prepare the sauce: whisk up 4 tbsps of mayonnaise with 2 tsps of lime pesto (without the cheese), adding a finely chopped half red chili.

8.  Heat the fryer to 180°C and when hot, plunge the croquettes in for about 1min30 or until they are crisp and golden.  Repeat the process until all the mix is used up.

Quick sizzle in the frier

9. Drain on absorbant kitchen paper and serve.

 

Et voilà. Ready for some holiday fun in Thailand?  First Thai island adventure is coming up shortly…

 

Cherry Tomato, Wild Strawberry & Rocket Salad

When Mum came to visit recently, she left an enticing pile of magazines from the UK.  It’s a real treat to read magazines in English every so often – even if I no longer recognise some faces that go with the gossip – is that what happens after being in France for so long? Flicking through the YOU Magazine, this inspiring salad by Lucas Hollweg had been earmarked by Mum – I think it was something I was supposed to make when she was over. Sorry, Mum.  I’m a bit late but voilà, here it is for you to make it!

cherry tomato strawberry rocket salad

cherry tomato strawberry rocket salad

I discovered this “Spicy Globe” basil plant a few years’ ago.  The leaves are so small that there’s no need to chop them up for cooking.  They are also particularly powerful and, when added to a salad like this one, it adds a touch of peppery spice to it. Speaking of peppery spice, the rocket leaves (or arugula for my American friends) balance out the sweetness of the strawberries.

spicy globe basil

Spicy Globe Basil

Perfect on a sizzling summer day, this is sheer bliss with a glass of chilled rosé, a soft-on-the-inside and freckled, crusty-on-the-outside French baguette, listening to Strawberry Fields forever. I could eat this forever with its fresh, fruity and savoury flavours. Here, I also tossed in a few pre-cooked asparagus spears (7 mins in boiling water) since I was surprised to find them still at this late stage at the market.

cherry tomato strawberry rocket salad

cherry tomato strawberry rocket salad

Cherry Tomato Strawberry & Rocket Salad

Adapted from Lucas Hollweg’s recipe for Tomato and Strawberry Salad
(YOU Magazine from the Sunday Times
.)

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

300g / 11oz cherry tomatoes, halved
200g / 7oz rocket salad 100g strawberries, hulled & quartered
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tsp balsamic vinegar
100g / 3.5oz parmesan reggiano (ensure it’s shaved, especially for good company)
a few asparagus spears, cooked (optional)
a handful of small basil leaves sea salt & ground peppercorns, to taste
a handful of wild strawberries

Mix together the olive oil with balsamic, season and toss all the ingredients together gently.

Serve immediately, adding the wild strawberries as a decoration. And, since we’re on a Mad About Macarons website, then why not accompany it with a garden herb macaron?

Sweet Garden Herb Macarons

Bon appétit, enjoy!

Warm Goat Cheese Salad (salade de chèvre chaud)

My husband refuses to eat salad as a main dish.  C’est comme ça. In Antoine’s book, if a main meal is served cold, it’s not dinner – even when the temperatures soar to a sweltering 37°C like it did this week in Paris.

The Corsicans have a reputation of being stubborn and as just-as-stubborn a Scot, in our 20 years together, we always reach some kind of a compromise. For a salad, this delicious exception to his cold salad rule is a salade de chèvre chaud, since the goat’s cheese is melted under the grill.

French goats cheese salad

 

When I first tasted this salad as a student in a Parisian brasserie, it was a far cry from the one I later learned to make in Provence.  Alas, many brasseries use the horrid plastic-tasting, pasturised goat cheese which can be pretty nasty.

The best goat cheese to use is Crottin de Chavignol. The French are normally so poetic but when it came to officially naming this cheese, they somehow lost their romantic charm: it literally means goat’s droppings. I’m swiftly passing this part by, as it couldn’t be further from the amazing flavour of this lait cru (raw milk) cheese.

crottin de chavignol French goats cheese

As a student, Antoine introduced me to some of his friends in Provence.  I hardly spoke a word, apart from Je m’appelle Jill with the most attrocious Scottish accent. On top of that, their typical twangy southern accents had me even more bewildered: ‘du pain’ is pronounced ‘du paing’, ‘du vin’ is ‘du vaing’, and so on.  Even when they swear it has a song to it.

As the men sat around – catching up on gossip on the terrasse – the girls took me under their wings in the kitchen.  We didn’t need much conversation: everything was self-explanatory as the most fresh and flavoursome produce lay in front of us on an ancient oak table.

goat-cheese-salad

There’s nothing to this salad and it’s not even a recipe, really.  (If you would prefer me to write it out, please say, otherwise I’m just leaving it like this.)

The most important lesson I learned from them was to put a simple bay leaf on top of each slice of crusty baguette which had been dribbled with olive oil before laying the slice of chèvre, walnuts, rosemary (or herbes de provence) on top and dribbled with more olive oil before toasting in the oven.  What’s the big deal with the bay leaf?  Well, when you taste it this way you don’t want your salad any other way again.

warm goats cheese French salad

Serve on top of a mesclun salad, topped with a good dose of  lardons (bacon bits), a dash of fresh thyme and plenty of chopped garlic (don’t forget to remove the core first, as it’s easier to digest) that have been pre-fried together.  Toss the salad in some vinaigrette dressing.

Just remember to take out the bay leaf before eating: you’ll see just how it’s all beautifully fragranced;  oh-là-là, summer, Provence, and with a glass of chilled rosé amongst friends; and time for the girls to join in the gossip.

Warm goat cheese salad chèvre chaud recipe

This week’s soaring temperatures reminded me of when we lived in Paris, just 5 minutes’ walk from the Eiffel Tower.  Being in an apartment that was south facing with no air conditioning was a challenge at times in summer: it’s no wonder we used to just stoodge about in our swimming gear.

laurier bay leaf tree

Now that we’re out in the suburbs with a house, kids and garden, we can sit out and enjoy the shade of the laurel bay tree – thinking of our next salade de chèvre chaud.  But there are still the heat challenges: the metal on our front gate had expanded so much, that we couldn’t get out. Now, that’s certainly a new excuse for being late for school!

goat cheese melon watermelon salad

After our recent trip to the Loire, I’m craving more goat cheese.  This is what I had this week for lunch while it was 37°C  – and no, Antoine didn’t have this cold stuff. Roughly chopped cucumber, watermelon, melon de Cavaillon, goat cheese, chives – all tossed in olive oil and lemon juice (or mix olive oil and limoncello for something more adult) and served with a crusty baguette.

Creamy Lemon, Prawn and Asparagus Spaghetti

This has to be one of my favourite pronto pasta dishes after home-made pesto.  It’s “fast food”, easy, scrumptious and what’s more – it uses up egg yolks!  I mentioned this recipe briefly in the egg yolk pages in the book’s annex, but here it is in more detail.

prawn lemon and asparagus spaghetti

I played about with a fish recipe for John Dory with Sorrel in my tattered and splattered Crème Fraîche Cookbook (Boutron/Ager) one night, since the photo had fresh noodles and called for egg yolks and lemon.  And since I only had prawns to hand and some fresh asparagus, this just evolved.

Vegetarians can omit the prawns and have a lovely lemony cream sauce with the asparagus.  I’m using asparagus, as it’s the end of its season here, but you can omit this and toss in fresh or frozen peas instead. It’s as simple as that.

My sincere excuses to my Italian friends for this photo.  As you can see, I do love pasta with my parmesan. Parmesan isn’t normally served with seafood pasta dishes, but I personally adore it.  Each time I sprinkle it on, my Corsican Mother-in-Law reminds me: seafood? No parmesan. Well, in that case, we can replace the prawns with roasted chicken!

lemon spaghetti

Creamy lemon spaghetti with asparagus, lemon thyme & chicken

 

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 12 minutes

12 giant prawns (or roasted chicken)
3 egg yolks
2 lemons, untreated
20 cl tub crème fraîche
50g freshly grated parmesan
1 tbsp fresh lemon thyme
bunch of green asparagus (optional)

1. Firstly, get some freshly cooked prawns and shell them, removing the black central vein.

2. Cook dried spaghetti in boiling salted water for about 10 minutes or until al dente (according to packet instructions).

3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix the yolks, the juice and zest from the lemons, crème fraîche (or cream if you’re feeling decadently creamy), the parmesan and herbs, then season.

Mix lemon zest/juice, yolks, cream and parmesan

4. If using, break the stems off the asparagus (where they break naturally, about quarter up from the bottom) and cook them for about 5 minutes until al dente in boiling salted water.

5. Drain the pasta and in the same pasta pan, add in the sauce and toss the pasta in it.  Add the prawns, asparagus and decorate with extra fresh herbs such as lemon thyme or chives.

Serve pronto with a chilled glass of Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay.

Et voilà. Keep the egg whites for a batch of macarons!

Thyme to be Sage with Buttered Asparagus

This past week I was so ashamed of the garden. I had run away from it for too long. The weather didn’t give me an excuse, either, as the sun was shining. It was time to JUST DO IT! My back has been killing me since (the computer doesn’t help, either!) but the effort was worth it.  The cherry tree is now covered in netting (yeh, as if that will prevent the wood pigeons from pecking at them!) and the raspberries are well on their way.

chives mint herb garden

 

The only part of the garden that’s in full bloom is the wee herb corner. Once the major weeds disappeared, I discovered we actually had flowers: on the chives, lemon thyme, and they were popping out in their full glory on the sage plants.

sage in flower

 

Just seeing the word, sage, makes me laugh.  In French, sage means wise (if you’re referring to an adult), and good (when you’re referring to a child). I keep meaning to ask my husband how this works; I mean, at what point will it no longer be wise to shout, “Soyez sage!” as you drop the kids off at a party?

sage flowers close-up

Delicious and stunning sage flowers

I’ve never seen such gorgeous looking flowers that you can eat!  I just had to do something with them. When I did my usual weekly shop at the market, I also had to asparagus myself.  Well, that’s what they kept shouting at the market: “Aspergez-vous!”, “Aspergez-vous!”

asparagus and strawberries at the French market

Asparagus season at the French market

The French normally serve asparagus with hollandaise sauce, or toss it in butter.  With such beautiful and delicate sage flowers, I wanted an excuse to use them for friends coming to dinner. Nothing fancy. What could be easier than tossing them in butter infused with sage and decorating them with the edible flowers?

white asparagus with sage butter

White asparagus tossed in sage butter

For the sage butter, it’s not even a recipe – so not worth putting it as a recipe post on the site. It’s a no-brainer! Just take about 1/3 pack of unsalted butter, melt it over the most gentle heat you can, along with several sage leaves and a few leaves that have been chopped finely.  Stir it now and again with a wooden spoon – still on a very low heat – then discard the large leaves.  The butter is beautifully perfumed.  Toss the asparagus (peeled, trimmed & steamed in boiling water for about 5 minutes) in the butter and serve.  Et voilà!

Just so the green asparagus didn’t feel left out, I did the same again for more guests.  The sage flowers were a real talking point.  They really taste of sage and it went well with the asparagus.

Asparagus, sage butter and flowers

Asparagus, sage butter and flowers

Hm.  Last week you may have been disappointed that I didn’t make a stinging nettle macaron.  I know, how could I not join in the fun?  Well, truth be told I preferred the nettles mixed with ricotta cheese and mint in some homemade ravioli, tossed in the sage butter and served with some crispy sage leaves.

ravioli with sage butter and sage flowers

Homemade nettle ravioli, sage butter and sage flowers

I don’t want to disappoint you this time, though.  Why not take a glass of wine, sit back and enjoy it with a mini sweet garden herb macaron?  And if you have the book handy, then just turn to page 97 for the recipe. Cheers!

Sweet Garden Herb Macarons

 

Making macarons but don’t know what to do with the egg yolks? Don’t despair. Check out this week’s guest recipe post from Joshua at Just Eat! He’s making us some Biscuits Bretons to use up our egg yolks.

If you missed the others, take a look at Liz’s silky Chocolate Pots de Crème (guest from That Skinny Chick Can Bake), Erin’s Blueberry or Pineapple Curd (guest from BigFatBaker), and Manu’s Genovesi Ericine Sicilian pastries (guest from Manu’s Menu).

Stay tuned, folks, since there are more guests coming soon to share their egg yolk recipes with us.

Before you go, I just wanted to say a huge thank you for some blog awards.  I haven’t forgotten: just stuck for time to post it all – will be up on the next post!