black sesame shortbread

24 Nov

black sesame shortbread

Japan is all the rage in Paris at the moment: there is an extensive Hokusai exhibit at the Grand Palais, well worth visiting; a detailed look at the hand-drawn layouts for Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli films at the Musée d’Art Ludique; and Le Japon au fil des saisons at the Musée Cernuschi. The oldest department store in Paris, Le Bon Marché, is celebrating Japan too.

For our most recent Grape Leaf Club, we ate chirashi bowls with salmon, mackerel and octopus while watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I’d seen the film before but loved it again – 85 year old sushi chef Jiro and his sincere perfectionism, his hard-working sons and apprentices. The jolly restaurant critic who admits to being slightly intimidated to eat there. The apprentice that cries when he finally gets the omelette right.

One of the lines in the Hokusai show echoed Jiro’s determined philosophy – both wanted to keep practising their craft their whole life long, believing there is more to learn even in your eighties.

It all makes me nostalgic for working in the Japanese bakery. I loved the genmaicha tea in the morning, making yuzu Christmas logs, starting with ohayo gozaimasu and finishing with otsukaresama desu! as we left. (“You are honorably tired” is a very satisfying compliment after a long day’s work.)

And so more Japanese flavours have been creeping into my cooking. There is a jar of pickled ginger by the stove, Japanese rice in the cupboard. I have an elegant wooden box that measures exactly enough rice for two people.

I love anything with black sesame – kuro goma -  the earthy, deep flavour a perfect contrast for something rich and creamy. I made the sesame shortbread with matcha-coconut pannacottafor our Jiro evening. It is buttery and crumbly with a slight edge from the bitter seeds.

The second time I made it for a quick dinner at home. It only needs a bowl and a spoon and a tin. We ate the shortbread with yoghurt and bitter caramel sauce. To turn natural yoghurt into something more worthy of a dessert, leave it to drain in a sieve lined with paper towels for half an hour. It becomes thicker, creamier and more tart. Like homemade Greek yoghurt. Drizzle with honey, maple syrup or caramel. Simple and delicious.

~~~

Black sesame paste and seeds can be found at Japanese or Asian supemarkets. In Paris, the rue St Anne, near metro Pyramides, has the highest concentration of Japanese shops, noodle bars and bakeries.  Or try using tahini.

Miyazaki exhibit, Paris

Black sesame shortbread

adapted from Seasonal Secrets

125g salted butter

50g caster sugar

2 tsp sesame paste

125g plain flour

50g rice flour

2 tsp black sesame seeds

Cream butter and sugar until soft. Add sesame paste and mix to combine well. Add flours and seeds. Keep mixing until the dough starts to form clumps. It can be a bit crumbly, but not powdery. If overworked, it will be too chewy rather than light.

Grease an 18cm round tin. Press the mixture firmly into it. Refrigerate shortbread while preheating oven to 175C. Bake for 15 minutes, until it comes away from the sides and is just golden around the edges.

Cool, slice into thin wedges.

just breakfast

21 Nov

breakfast

One of the first food blogs I followed, Simply Breakfast, was just that. Elegant and interesting breakfast for one, simply photographed. It disappeared a while ago, but some of her photos can be found here.

I love weekend breakfast, I love inviting people over for pancakes or waffles. (Or tebirkes!) I love making several pots of coffee and sitting around in pyjamas and slippers long past noon.

In the week though, I tend to oversleep and run out of the door with fruit and a yoghurt to eat standing up at work. Not so good. I need the motivation to wake up earlier and eat something heartier.

Options:

Porridge: a surfeit of regular, oat porridge got boring a while back. But Holybelly’s black rice porridge with fromage frais and berries is absolutely fantastic, ink-dark and full of flavour. I tried it at home twice, forgot about it twice, burned it twice. Working on it…

Toast: in any French household there is always a bit of baguette lying around from the night before. Our fridge is full of half-full jars too, lemon curd, fig jam, a tangerine-raspberry experiment that is a touch too stiff. Weirdly though, my sweet tooth is fading, the more I work with pastry. Who knew you could eat too many macarons?! For a savoury option, we have enormous avocados from the Indian shop across the road. They are as big as two normal ones, light and delicate. Mashed avocado, olive oil and coarse salt on toast. Perfect.

Eggs: Am too lazy to turn on the stove before work, so a stash of boiled eggs in the fridge makes things easy. This morning I had boiled eggs on buttered bread, plenty of pepper; a leftover matcha pannacotta with honey; and a pomelo. Luxury.

What are your breakfast staples? I would love some new ideas.

tebirkes (poppy and almond danish pastries)

17 Nov

tebirkes

Paris has been rewarded with a glorious autumn, to make up for its washed-out summer. The air is crisp and the sun bright*, so much so that I have been cycling around town instead of hiding in the metro. I took a Velib home from the Persian cultural centre by the Canal St Martin, after their soothing tea with cardamom and dried lemon. I crossed town, cycling along the water, for another meeting of the Grape Leaf Club. This time we made chicken paupiettes and French onion soup, and each of us went home with a jar of stock and chicken thighs in a spicy marinade. I discovered a whole row of posts painted to look like Lego men up at Pantin and another line near Nation in rainbow colours. Some of the best street art is clearly temporary: condemned buildings soon to become flats, allowed to live a last hurrah with a swirl of graffiti.

A few weekends ago, we stayed inside for a Danish movie night. On the menu, Blinkende Lygter (Flickering Lights), rye bread with salami, cheese and mackerel, and meatballs with mashed potatoes to follow. The latter were pretty simple: veal and pork, an egg and some diced onion, all squashed into rounds, browned and finished with a cream and mushroom sauce. With the mashed potatoes, they were the ultimate comfort. It is amazing we stayed awake for the film, although it was actually quite funny – a black, bitter humour – starring a young Mads Mikkelsen.

While browning the meatballs, while the others were laughing in the other room and piling meat and cheese onto bread and teasing the cat, I was also rolling out the tebirkes** for the next day. (The kitchen is one of my favourite places to be during a party: I can hear and enjoy enough of the conversation while my hands are busy.) To continue the theme: Danish pastries for Sunday morning. But not the “Danishes” that people in Britain grew up with, custard and apricot and a thick glaze. I had never tasted anything like it. These tebirkes are a hybrid of a croissant, a brioche and a Germanic seeded roll. They have all the butter and flake of a French pastry (confusingly called “viennoiserie” here, from Vienna) but some of delightfully sour taste of a multi-grain sourdough – from the addition of yoghurt. Plus, they are rolled up with a marzipan filling that caramelises around the edges as they bake, and topped with more poppy seeds.

I took the recipe from this blog here and adapted the method a little to make it more familiar, more like making croissants. Unlike croissants though, tebirkes I am happy to make at home because I know they can’t be found within walking distance from my flat of a Sunday morning. They sound labour intensive but they only need a little work the night before, and a good hour or two to rise the next day. (And they could be frozen for later.) I love the way the dough is speckled with seeds, the poppy seed cap on top. When they come out of the oven, some of the filling will have oozed out onto the tray, forming a toffee-like, brandysnap brittle. Worth making for that alone. Chef’s prerogative. They should be flaky outside and chewy inside, with a satisfying heft. Mine have been approved by one Danish friend, but she admitted that as with croissants, each bakery makes a slightly different version. And from what I understand if you make them longer and thinner they can be twisted into frosnapper. An extended culinary research trip to Denmark is clearly required to check. Perhaps in the spring…

*Technically, I wrote this a couple of weeks ago. It rained all day this Sunday. But we did eat another batch of tebirkes, just to check they were still good.

**Pronounced tay-beer-kes. I think.

tebirke diagram

Tebirkes (poppy and almond danish pastries)

adapted from Honest Cooking

makes 8-10

125g unsalted butter

250 g bread flour

25g seeds (eg linseed + poppy)

20g rolled oats

4 g salt

8g fresh yeast (or 4g instant dried yeast)

125 ml milk

35g greek yoghurt

15g honey

1 egg yolk

Filling:

40g sugar

40g unsalted butter, room temperature

50g marzipan

Topping:

1 egg white (leftover from filling)

10g poppy seeds

Start by flattening out the butter to about 15x10cm: Fold a piece of greaseproof paper to the right size and enclose the butter within, then roll out with a rolling pin.  Refrigerate.

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl, including yeast (crumble it up if using fresh yeast). Make a well in the centre and weigh milk, yoghurt and honey directly into the well with the egg yolk. Mix with a fork until it comes together into a dough. Lightly flour the work surface, tip the dough out and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and stretchy. Try not to add too much extra flour, keep kneading and scraping the work surface. Once it is stretchy enough to form a thin membrane, shape into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and let sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes.

Lightly flour the work surface and roll the dough out into a long rectangle, about one and a half times as long as the butter, and a couple of centimetres wider on each side. (E.g. about 25x15cm – see diagram above for proportions.) Brush off any excess flour, then place the butter at the top of the rectangle. Fold over the bottom end which should cover about half the butter. Then fold over the top so that the edges meet: basically the dough should have been folded in three, with the butter on the inside. Press the seams gently with the rolling pin to seal the butter in. Turn the parcel of dough so that it looks like a book – the seam on the right hand side, and roll it out lengthways, about 40cm long. Brush off any extra flour. Fold the edges into the centre so they meet halfway, then fold in half. The dough has now been folded in four. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate 30 minutes. (Optional: chill between the first two folds if the dough is too soft.) Finally, roll the dough out one more time (“like a book” again) to about 30cm long, and fold in three. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Cream softened butter and sugar until smooth then grate over the marzipan and mix in well. Roll out the dough to a large rectangle (40x25cm approximately). Spread the marzipan mixture all over, but leave a border along the long side furthest away from you. Roll up the dough lengthways towards the border, press down gently to seal. Brush the log with thhe remaining egg white and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Cut into 8-10 slices. Either let them rise at room temperature for an hour or two, until doubled in size. Or refrigerate until the next morning. In a cold environment, to speed up the rising process I like to heat my oven to 50°C for five minutes, then place the tray of tebirkes inside and turn the oven off.

Once tebirkes have doubled in size, preheat oven to 225C. Get a couple of ice cubes ready. Open the oven, throw in the icecubes and quickly slide in the trays. Close. This will create a nice steamy environment and help them puff up. Drop the temperature to 180°C. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden-brown all over. Serve warm. Best eaten on the first day, or gently warmed through later on.

(If making more than needed, either freeze extra tebirkes unrisen, or already baked.)

leftovers

21 Sep

008

Sunday afternoon, 5pm.

Cold mashed potatoes, salami, roast red peppers. Half a smoked mackerel. Tzatziki. One last Danish meatball with mushroom sauce. Toasted Ethiopian sourdough bread. Various combinations of all the above with a mug of green tea: a mash-up of cultures, perfect Sunday food.

There is a vase of fresh mint on the table, a jar of salt and several abandoned water glasses. I am listening to David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster” read in his languid, serious tones.

~~~

Lately:

I planted herbs on my balcony: rosemary, verbena, oregano. With which I made: A simple chicken liver pate: 100g chicken livers, seared in a little oil, then blitzed with shallots, oregano, salt and pepper until smooth. And lemon verbena religieuses, with a lemon curd glaze, one green leaf on top.

I poached organic chicken breast for my new (spoiled) kitten, Edith. She accepted it with a haughty, disdainful air.

I made fig jam with the Grape Leaf Club, a select few culinary nerds, while baking Toulouse sausages with the extra figs, red onions and tomatoes for our late supper.

I tried the twisted crown of a pesto pinwheel bread from the British Bake Off with radish-leaf and almond pesto.

I marked my Franceversary (four years!) with a cheese-party at my apartment: every guest brought their favourite cheese; I made bread, bought apples, grapes, chutney. And celebrated Ethiopian New Year with generous platters of food at a local restaurant. (Melkam Addis Amet!)

And in between, I have been eating a lot of boiled eggs. I like to draw faces on them with felt-tip pens, so they don’t get mixed up with the raw ones.

~~~

A Pocket Feast Paris

6 Aug

0 - acover (1)

Two summers ago, when a friend came to visit Paris. I was out of town but determined that she eat this, that and the other – that she dare not try an inferior macaron or miss out on the best Vietnamese fod in town. So I spent an afternoon in a coffee shop (Helmut Newcake) drawing all of my instructions into a notebook. Each page had something to eat and something vaguely cultural to do nearby.

I don’t know how many she followed. But the notebook was passed around, people ate things. Probably left a few buttery fingerprints on the pages, a good sign. Someone said, “but most of the cultural things are ALSO food things.” Which may have been a criticism but I took it as a compliment.

08 - helmut newcake

One summer ago I bribed another friend into helping me make the notebook into a real book. She is both computer genius and wise editor. We sat in the garden in the south of France, dinking wine and brainstorming titles.

A Greedy Guide to Paris? Hungry Hippos Eat Paris?

I can’t remember when we thought of “A Pocket Feast” but it seemed appropriate, a nod to Hemingway’s Paris, a literal description of its size.

26 - les musees1

One month ago the books arrived from the printer. Glossy and colourful, still with the hand-made, scribbled drawings from its initial conception. We are pretty proud of it. And of the website that Florence made: foodie recommendations based on the Paris book, but with tips for Berlin and Sydney as well. (More cities coming soon!)

Another friend made us beautiful wooden stands for the books: they are currently on display at Shakespeare and Company and La Cuisine Paris. Someone else is working on a very cute video advert. I am so so grateful for all of the support and help and love that went into A Pocket Feast. It took a whole family to make it real.

37 - gontran cherrier2

If you would like to support us too: you can buy the guidebook A Pocket Feast Paris through our website – we ship worldwide. Buy one for yourself and one for presents – everyone comes to Paris evenutally! And you can like our Facebook page for more news and updates.

Thank-you a million – mille mercis! Et bon appétit!

strawberry vodka ice-lollies

13 Jul

 

DSCF1239

The extraordinarily nice French flatmate left for a sojourn in Argentina, so for now I am living with a wise-cracking American. We have frequent arguments about pronunciation (thorough, amenities, flaw) and lexicon (ice-lolly/popsicle.) If I risk winning, she plays the ace up her sleeve. The British are terrible because colonialism. My trump card is normally, I cook for you.

Besides that, we have a nice system going on: a box of grocery money that we top up each month. We go the market for exorbitant amounts of fruit and veg. I make packed lunches for our respective workplaces and she does the washing up. From our market haul last week we had tabbouleh full of fresh herbs; roast vegetables and coriander hummus; spicy lime chicken; and cauliflower soup and boiled eggs with faces drawn on them in felt-tip pen.

The strawberries though, at three punnets for one euro, unsurprisingly started going bad about half an hour after we brought them home. Beware a bargain. So the next day I bought a litre of vodka for my favourite summer drink, having finally run out of the stash in the freezer. Hulled and halved the berries, throwing away the mouldy ones. The rescued strawberries bobbed in their alcohol bath at the back of the fridge.

A few days later, we strained it, tested the pale pink liqueur (glorious) and wondered what to do with the remaining, pale and boozy berries. Seemed a shame to waste them…

Strawberry vodka ice lollies

inspired by Smitten Kitchen‘s strawberry-tequila popsicles – can also be frozen in ice-cube trays then blended to make more cocktails

1 litre vodka

500g strawberries, ripe

130g sugar

juice of 1/4 lemon

1/4 tsp black pepper

Hull the strawberries, remove any bad bits and halve any large berries. In a large plastic container, leave strawberries and vodka to steep for 3-5 days in the fridge. Strain the liquid into jars and keep in the freezer.

Heat the remaining berries with sugar, lemon and pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Cool, then blend. Pour into ice-lolly moulds or for a DIY version, half-fill plastic cups with the liquid then when half-frozen, push in the wooden lolly sticks. Or freeze in ice cube trays. Either add toothpicks later for mini lollies or blend into new and delicious summer cocktails.

talmouses au fromage (tricorner cheese pastries)

6 Jul

talmouses au fromage

From an old notebook of mine:

“How NOT to take a nap: Do not fall asleep on sofa with no trousers, oversleep and wake up at 11.30pm.”

“Call my restaurant PUDDING.”

“Playing the matchbox game – Chef grumbles.”

Sometimes I am grateful to my past self. (As for preparing nutritious meals and freezing half for later.) Sometimes my past self is wiser than I am. Sometimes I totally disagree.

In this case, my present self still fails at taking relaxing naps, does not want a restaurant AT ALL never mind one with a silly name; and only barely remembers the “matchbox game”. I believe it comes from a Monty Python sketch and subsequent dinner-table conversations with my parents, wherein they laughingly try to outdo each other for the most miserable childhood.

“…We grew up in a shoebox…. You were lucky, we only had a matchbox AND we had to eat gravel for dinner…. Dinner? Lucky! We….” etc

One note says: “Talmouses: favourite dish of Louis XI, 1461-1483: tricornes of puff pastry, brie, fromage blanc and egg.”

What? Where did that come from? What a silly name. Tall Mouses. Mice. Mices. Shaped like pirate hats?

Is it worth trying?

(Googles.)

We have puff pastry in the fridge! And cheese and eggs. Perfect. Lunch it is.

Post-prandial verdict: they were super delicious. Cute triangles of crisp pastry and melted cheese, what’s not to like? With a hint of spice and chili. Flatmate agrees, Louis XI had good taste.

~~~

Talmouses au fromage

Adapted from Elle - I basically just upped the cheese content. Excellent for using up the leftovers of that smelly cheese that is perfuming your fridge.

Makes 40-ish mini-pastries: enough for hors d’oeuvres for 6-8 or a light lunch with salad for 4

300ml milk

50 g butter

50 g flour

2 egg yolks

salt and pepper

pinch nutmeg or cinnamon

pinch chili flakes

180g cheeses, preferably some strong (mature camembert) and some melty (gruyere, emmental), grated or chopped

2 packets (550g total) all-butter, ready rolled, puff pastry

Heat oven to 200C. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Tip out into a mug or jar. Add the butter and flour to the same saucepan. Make a roux: keep stirring over a medium heat, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the paste is golden, smells a little nutty. Off the heat, add the hot milk a little at a time, whisking in between. Heat gently again, still whisking. (This makes a weirdly thick bechamel sauce, so I just heated it for a minute or two and then it clumped together.) Off the heat, add the egg yolks, cheese and salt/pepper/nutmeg/chili. Taste. It shouldn’t need much salt because of the cheese.

Cut out 7-8cm circles from the puff pastry. (You should get 30 or so the first time around.) Brush with a little water around the edges. Dollop a generous teaspoon of cheese mix in the middle of each and pinch the edges to make three corners. Firmly pinch the sides together up to the middle, leaving a 2cm gap open in the centre.

Roll out the scraps of pastry and stamp more circles. (You should be able to make 10 more.) Repeat.

If making ahead of time, brush pastry with a bit of egg yolk so it doesn’t dry out, clingfilm and refrigerate. They are nicest served straight from the oven.

Bake talmouses for 15-20 minutes at 200C. When the pastry is lightly brown and the cheese bubbling, they are done. Serve immediately.

Works as a snack with drinks, or for lunch with boiled eggs and a bitter salad (endive or rocket, cucumber, mache and a sharp dressing).

fanny zanotti’s earl grey tea loaf, with grapefruit confit

29 Jun

earl grey weekend loaf

A Sunday morning free is a precious thing for a pastry chef. At 11am normally my day’s work would be half-done, my eyelids at half-mast. This weekend though, I was on the sofa by the window, watching the grey sky.

I feel like today is a cooking day.

Isn’t every day a cooking day for you? replied my friend at the other end of the sofa, her legs crossed over mine.

No, but, cooking for fun. Like jam, or something. 

There was a recipe book already on the windowsill, under the pile of FT cuttings my mother likes to send me. The Paris Pastry Club is full of dreamy photos and snippets of poetry, as well as very precise recipes. I’ve been following Fanny Zanotti’s blogs through their various iterations for longer than I remember. I discovered the matcha brioche thanks to her. I took notes for my first month in Paris, visiting Pierre Hermé and Angelina. Eventually realising I would like to be a pâtissière too.

earl grey, twinings

The spicy nougatine was tempting, as well as the roast garlic bread. And the shameless crème brûlée for one. But the Earl Grey Weekend Loaf ticked all the right boxes: a simple loaf cake, flavoured with my favourite tea. For which I had nearly all the ingredients. That last grapefruit would be an admirable substitute for the clementine confit, to all intents and purposes a speedy marmalade.

It turned out a sweet, fluffy cake, elegantly speckled with fragments of tea. Delicately perfumed, it was good on its own, even better with a spoonful of bittersweet candied grapefruit peel. Next time I would make an effort to use real leaf tea (as advised) for a stronger flavour, but we had run out. And it was a Sunday and I had already left the house once to buy bacon. A slice of cake and a sliver of sky and I was happy to stay in the corner of the sofa for the rest of the day.

grapefruit confit

Fanny Zanotti’s Earl Grey Tea Weekend Loaf, with grapefruit confit

from the book Paris Pastry Club

In the spirit of the weekend, I adapted the recipe to what I had lying around the house. It is supposed to be with crème fraîche and clementines, among other things. Which I imagine only makes it more delightful. The book has more precise instructions too, including tips for the neatest cracks on top of the loaf, the lightest madeleines. Zanotti’s original ingredients in brackets.

2-3 Earl Grey tea bags (or 1 tbs leaf tea)

250g caster sugar

4 eggs

200g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

zest from one orange (or bergamot orange)

150g plain yoghurt (or crème fraîche)

50g butter, melted

For grapefruit confit:

1 large grapefruit, 450g (or thin-skinned clementines)

160g caster sugar

100g water

15g cornflour mixed with 30g cold water

Heat oven to 180C. Grease or line a large loaf tin.

Put butter in a large heatproof bowl and place in oven to melt. Blend tea leaves and 50g caster sugar. (Skip this step if using teabags, as the tea is normally fine enough.) Whisk eggs, sugar and tea until thick and fluffy – a few minutes with an electric beater. Mix flour, baking powder and zest into egg. By now the butter should have melted – add the yoghurt to it. Add a little cake mix to the butter and yoghurt and whisk well to combine. Fold this into the cake batter. Pour into tin.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, turning the oven down to 170C after five minutes then 160C after 15. (My oven is so small and basic that it only does increments of 25 degrees, so my cake baked at 175C for the duration.) When the cake is nice and brown, has come away from the sides of the tin and a skewer comes out clean then it is done! Allow to cool for 10 minutes then remove from tin, place on cooling rack.

For the grapefruit confit:

Bring water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan, enough to cover the grapefruit. Add whole grapefruit and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes. Drain, put grapefruit in a bowl of cold water. Repeat with fresh water. (Using a kettle to boil the water makes this step faster.) Slice grapefruit in half, then into very thin half-moons. Heat slices with the sugar and water and let simmer for 30 minutes the liquid is gone and the fruit is almost candied. Add the cornflour mixed with remaining cold water and give the confit a good stir. Boil for a couple of minutes. Tip into a jar.

Serve cake with confit and a dollop of yoghurt or crème fraîche.

Wrap cake in clingfilm and keep in the fridge. Or cut into individual slices, film each one and freeze for future packed lunches.

cherry and mint compote

25 Jun

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Buy two kilos of cherries at the local market, so cheap! Remember that you are only one person and cannot eat all the cherries.

Stone a kilo of cherries. Wish you had asked for a discount because of all the stones. Put cherries in large saucepan. Admire scarlet-stained hands, briefly pretend to be Lady Macbeth, or a character from Scandal. Re-evaluate recent culture consumption.

Add a handful of sugar (do not measure, it’s Sunday) and a handful of torn mint leaves. Squeeze in the half a lime left in the fridge. Since it already resembles several of your favourite cocktails, add a generous tablespoonful of vanilla-infused rum. And slice a nub of ginger, about the size of your first thumb joint. (Don’t slice your thumb though.)

Teach flatmate the word “macerate.” Go running with her in the sunshine. Discover free sparkling water fountain near your house. Rejoice.

Come back from run, find a jar of ginger juice in the freezer. Drink it, grateful to your past self, while heating cherries. Let the mixture bubble gently for five or ten minutes until cherries are the desired degree of done: soft but not totally collapsed.

Serve warm with mascarpone and meringues for an afternoon snack. Serve cold over yoghurt for breakfast. Especially good with soft, mild goat’s cheese.

Use the syrupy cherry juice leftover to make jelly: for every 100g juice, soak 3g leaf gelatine in cold water. When the the gelatine is soft, stir into the warm (but not hot) cherry juice to dissolve. Pour into little cups or pots. Leave to set in the fridge.

Or just use the juice for cherry-mint cocktails, add vodka or gin, more mint leaves and free sparkling water.

Let the summer begin!

egg and spinach cocottes

1 Apr

egg and spinach cocottes

My mother got cross when I admitted to using frozen spinach. (But she is a purist that thinks nothing of growing her own vegetables and herbs.) What can I say? I know the fresh stuff is delicious and cheap and in season. I just always feel cheated, bringing home an enormous bag from the market, washing it, sauteing it only to find a miserly heap of green, a tenth of the original volume. My expectations are lower for the frozen stuff.

And sometimes you are standing in line at the Paris Store, the Chinese supermarket, at the end of a long day at work and you decide you need a first course because the chicken legs look too skinny. And you aren’t queuing up again, or buying anything else, because the plastic bags are carving grooves into your fingers. But you do want to impress your guests. And you did buy 30 eggs for baking. And there is spinach in the freezer.

These cocottes – or oeufs en cocotte - to give them their proper French name only take a few minutes to make but in their individual dishes they look fancy and taste better. The sesame oil and miso paste add an extra kick without overpowering the spinach. It tastes more complex than it is, with all the umami of salmon. The egg yolk should be runny for dipping your bread, the spinach neatly coated in cream, tangy and salty. It somehow surpasses the sum of its parts. Works equally as a starter for a dinner party or jealously guarded for a solo dinner (I can eat at least two).

~~~

Egg and Spinach Cocottes

serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a light supper

4 eggs

300g frozen spinach (preferably leaves, no finely chopped)

1 tsp sesame oil

2 small shallots, or 2 spring onions

1 tsp miso paste

50g creme fraiche (or 50g cream + squeeze of lemon)

salt and pepper

For individual portions, you will need 4 small ramekins (8-10cm wide). Or else one oven-proof baking dish (approx 16cm) to bake them all at once.

Heat oven to 180C. Gently heat frozen spinach in a saucepan until it defrosts. Add the sesame oil. Chop the shallots/spring onions finely and add to the pan, saute until soft. Then stir in the miso and cream and cook for a minute, just to heat through.

Divide the spinach between the four dishes and hollow out a hole in the mixture. Crack an egg into the hole. Sprinkle over some salt and pepper. Bake for 15-18 minutes until the white is no longer translucent but the yolk is still runny.

Serve immediately with a baguette tradition or thin slices of toasted sourdough.

 

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