Puntarelle alla Romana

March 5, 2015

PuntarelleThis winter is all about bitters, citrus and rhubarb for me. It’s also special because I encountered my my first ever puntarelle. It doesn’t look like much, in fact, once the leaves are off, the stalks look pretty gnarly. But when prepared correctly, the bitter stalks are curly, crunchy and the perfect vehicle for a pungent garlic and anchovy dressing.

When I first spotted puntarelle at the market in Rome a few years ago, I was too naive and thought the vendors were rinsing them clean. In reality, they were soaking them in ice cold water so that the puntarelle shreds would turn to beautiful curls and crisp up. [read more…]

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Pickled Rhubarb

March 4, 2015

pickled-rhubarbWhenever I look, I find gorgeous neon pink forced rhubarb. They are tender and a lot prettier than the summer variety, and are begging to be made into something beautiful. Sometimes I use them chopped up with apples and bake together with a crumble topping. Sometimes I stew them in a bit of simple syrup and eat with crushed meringues. Another new favourite thing I learned from the River Café cookbook is to roast them with the zest and juice of a blood orange, vanilla and brown sugar and serve with creme fraiche. So simple, but so flavourful.

I’ve also been on a sort of personal mission to incorporate more fermented foods in my diet. I love eating Kimchi from the Korean store straight from the jar. But I also like the idea of having a shelf lined with colourful pickles and dipping into them when I make sandwiches. Reading the Art of Fermentation, I decided to start with something very simple. Brine pickles. It’s the simplest method – all you need to do is make a brine, add your choice of flavouring of herbs and spices and pour it over the vegetables. Let it sit for a couple of days and your pickle is ready! [read more…]

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Recent Favourites

February 6, 2015

vintage paris
Here’s a bunch of interesting things to cook, read, watch and do:

  • I went and bought a bottle of Ponzu sauce immediately after seeing this beautiful recipe from 101 Cookbooks.
  • I’m not the only one who like to peep into houses. Gail Albert Halaban has documented her peeps into Paris homes in a book, and here’s a snapshot of it.
  • The Flavour Journal: Scientific results on the science of taste and flavour.
  • This podcast on wheat. So many interesting points about the history of wheat, the ancient varieties, the difference between the milling process in France and UK that result in a different quality of bread.
  • The Poilâine story.
  • Another beautiful blog.
  • 10 off-beat things to do in Paris. I’ve done all of them except no. 9 which I’m going to remedy soon.
  • I recently discovered the blog of Natalie Eng. I want to make the montblanc cassis.
  • Another must read is Fanny Zanotti’s step-by-step documentation of Cinnamon Croissants with gifs!
  • Always good to discover the thoughts and ideas put forth by another pastry chef.

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gnocchi1
I joined a cookbook club in London yesterday. A lovely little informal group where everyone brings a book they’ve read and a little something to eat. I made my vanilla brown butter madeleines and took along my new book Bistronomy. You’d well have guessed by now the theme for this month’s meeting – Paris!

Everybody had a Paris story to tell – of love, hate, despair and holidays gone wrong. We spoke about the elegant patisseries, the classic Parisian shrug, the cab drivers who never take any customers, the Paris Syndrome, the changing dining scene, falafels, Julia Child, the classic spots: Lipp and Deux Magots. It made me reminisce about the time I made friends with my fromager and the time I scored handcrafted French copperware. I felt happy. I felt like I was back in Paris.

We also spoke about Parisian kitchens – specifically about how incredibly tiny they are that it’s amazing how Parisians get any cooking done at all (hello, Picard!) and how the only thing they ever bake at home is a yoghurt cake.

gnocchi2
I made the gnocchi when I was living in my apartment in the 19th in Paris. It was the biggest kitchen I’d had during my time in Paris, but not big enough to make gnocchi. I created extra space by shutting the top of my cooker to roll out the dough, while the top of my tiny refrigerators doubled as a second counter to collect the shaped gnocchi.

As for the gnocchi, whenever I make it, I am reminded that I need to do so more often. There’s no denying it’s a bit of work, but that’s the fun of it. Boil or steam potatoes, pass them through the food mill (or mash it as a substitute), knead it with a bit of flour and eggs, then roll it out into thin sausages and cut them up. And then, press them on the tines of a fork to get those ridges for holding the sauce. Just set aside an hour for yourself, clear up some counter space and get going. Have this music play in the background. My future gnocchi-making plans include: spinach and ricotta gnocchi, walnut gnocchi and semolina gnocchi.

Here’s the gnocchi recipe. And here’s the tomato sauce recipe. Make the gnocchi, toss with tomato sauce and shave lots of Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano.

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Zürich Oerlikon Market

January 28, 2015

Zürich Oerlikon
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After a few days in Alsace, we spent a weekend in Zürich with our friends. As always, on my agenda was a fresh food market, and the Oerlikon Market was the perfect place to be on a Saturday morning.

The produce was of such good quality, the freshest I’d seen in a while and the florists made some of the the loveliest arrangements. I remember my chef at school once told us that the best apricots come from the Swiss valley, and a punnet from the market confirmed that.

We ambled through the market with a wedge of cheese to snack on and got ingredients for our bbq that night. Arjun bought me a sunflower the size of my face and I walked around all of Zürich with it.

Other markets in Zürich:
Bürkliplatz  Market (Tue, Fri) – Must follow Kerrin for her market updates!
Helvetiaplatz  Market (Tue, Fri)
Marktplatz Im Viadukt (Mon – Sat)

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Chocolate Cake

January 26, 2015

chocolate-cake-genoise

I have a really good chocolate cake recipe on the blog, but this one’s a classic. The génoise forms the basis of this surprisingly simple cake. Making this reminded me that I don’t need to go searching for new-fangled recipes and methods when the classic génoise works like a dream.

A génoise is amongst the first things we learned at school, and something we were tested on. The list of ingredients for the cake is straightforward – something you’ll usually have around.

Some tips for making the perfect génoise:  [read more…]

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jerusalem-artichoke-salad

Jerusalem artichokes are one of my favourite root vegetables. These knobby roots are sweet, earthy  and taste like honey when roasted.

I first spotted them when I moved to France. I asked a friend about how I could use them, bought a little bagful and then never used it. Partly because it was unknown territory and partly because I thought that I had to make something incredibly complicated to be able to get the most out of it. I couldn’t be more wrong. Keeping things simple, and letting the ingredients speak for themselves is something I learned over time with visits to the market. The belief was fortified when I experienced incredible flavours in the simple, market fresh salads I’d make: tomato and mozzarella or pear and beetroot.

Back to the Jerusalem artichoke. You don’t have to worry about peeling the Jerusalem artichokes – just scrub the muddy roots down well and they’re good to go. I tossed them in a little salt, pepper and olive oil and cooked them in the oven for 20 minutes. The skin got crispy and puffed up and on the  inside, the Jerusalem artichoke was soft and buttery.

Jerusalem artichokes are pretty amazing made into a soup as well. Chrisitan Eschebest makes a Jerusalem artichoke soup with chorizo and hazelnut oil at his restaurant in Pigalle, and Inaki Aizpitarte did something pretty amazing – served a sweet purée of it with an almond granita, and at Chez Michel we made a mash to serve as a side. Here’s a pretty amazing Jerusalem artichoke gratiné that the people at Abri do. [read more…]

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Chocolate Ice Cream

January 14, 2015

choc-ice-cream-1This is the chocolate ice-cream I was talking about last week. The ice-cream base is special. It’s the kind that you don’t pour into the ice-cream maker to churn, but the kind you’ll have to spoon into the ice-cream maker because it’s so rich.

There’s more of everything in this ice-cream. More yolks, more chocolate, more cocoa. It’s this richness that makes its presence felt when you spoon into a scoop of ice cream. And as if that weren’t enough, there’s caramel in there too that adds depth to the flavour.

I followed Fergus Henderson’s recipe for chocolate ice-cream to the letter. He says you need to let the ice cream mix sit in the fridge for 2 days for the flavour to really meld together and then another 3 days in the freezer once its churned; I did just that. [read more…]

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Hazelnut Biscuits

January 7, 2015

Hazelnut BiscuitsI’ve been enjoying reading The Complete Nose to Tail lately. It’s not only the fantastic recipes, but it’s Fergus Henderson’s writing that’s kept me hooked. It’s eloquent with an unmistakable British wit. And the photography by Jason Lowe is intelligent, dramatic and timeless.

These hazelnut biscuits are from the cookbook. They are incredibly simple to make and are packed with toasted hazelnuts. Initially, I thought that the 280g of hazelnuts in the recipe might be a bit too much. However, when it comes to trying new recipes, I like to slavishly follow the author’s instructions in order to learn what they are trying to convey. As it turns out, this high proportion of hazelnuts worked really well for me. Think of it as a recipe where the biscuit dough acts as a mere holder for the gorgeous Piedmont hazelnuts, instead of of them being intermittently dotted.  [read more…]

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