Perfect brunch dish… can be made in advance, is delicious and has the exact amount of richness for a semi-festive meal. It has nothing but very simple and humble ingredients, which work well together, for a very versatile dish. Leeks are in season, even…
Leek, gruyère and thyme pie (as seen in The Guardian)
- 1 large baking potato, cut into slices
- 3 medium leeks, washed and sliced into rounds
- A knob of butter
- Salt and black pepper
- 20ml cream
- 150g grated gruyère cheese
- 1 sprig thyme, leaves picked
- 500g all-butter puff pastry, rolled
- 1 egg, for washing
Heat an oven to 180C. Cook the baking potato in boiling salted water until just tender, then drain and set aside.
Cook the leeks over a medium heat in the butter until tender. Season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a bowl, mix the potato flesh with the leeks, cream, gruyère and thyme leaves and season well.
Place one circle of puff pastry on top of a 25cm nonstick pie dish and press into the base – there will be an overhang, which can be trimmed off.
Spoon the leek mixture into the prepared dish and place the other pastry disk on top. Crimp around the sides to seal, then brush the top with egg and make an incision in the middle of the lid to let the steam escape while it’s in the oven.
Cook the pie for 30‑40 minutes until the pastry has turned golden and crisp. Rest for a few minutes before serving.
Last winter, I cooked over and over again dishes from The Hairy Dieters’ How to Love Food and Lose Weight). I was really looking forward for the next volume of the collection. All in all, it has been a bit disappointing. Some of the recipes don’t seem to have been tested; others seem to be the original minus a couple of bacon strips… The fact is that I am slowly putting it away.
The good news are then when a dish works, it is as good as you can expect. For example, this one, which I have done a few times this winter. I remember only too well my mother explaining that liver is good you and I should eat it all, but cooked this way I can even overcome how healthy it is.
Calf’s liver with bacon and caramelized onions (adapted from the recipe found in The Hairy Biker’s website)
- 450g calves’ liver, sliced (thawed, if frozen)
- 4 teaspoons plain flour
- 20g butter
- 1 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, fairly thinly sliced
- about 55g bacon rashers all fat removed and each cut into 2cm wide strips
- 500ml beef stock
- 2 teaspoon tomato ketchup
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rinse the liver in a colander under cold water and drain it well on kitchen paper. Put 2 teaspoons of the flour in a large bowl and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Add the liver to the bowl and turn it in the flour until lightly coated.
Melt half the butter with the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Tap the excess flour off each slice of liver and add them to the pan using tongs. Cook for 1½–2 minutes on each side until lightly browned but not completely cooked through, then pop them on to a plate.
Turn down the heat and melt the remaining butter in the same pan. Add the sliced onion and cook for a minute or so, stirring to separate the layers. Next, add the bacon and cook together for another 5 minutes or until the onion is softened and pale golden brown, stirring often.
Sprinkle the remaining flour over the onion and bacon and cook for a few seconds, stirring.
Pour the hot stock slowly into the pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a simmer, stir in the ketchup and cook over a medium heat until the gravy is thickened and glossy.
Put the liver back in the pan and heat it through in the onion gravy for 2–3 minutes until hot, stirring.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve the liver and bacon with a small portion of mashed potatoes and lots of freshly cooked greens
It is cold in Zurich, and this is all I want to eat. It is warming, filling and packed with different flavours – what is not to like about this soup?
Sweet potato, carrot and chickpea soup (recipe found in taste.com.au)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large brown onion, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
- 600g orange sweet potato, peeled, diced
- 500g carrots, peeled, sliced
- 1.5L chicken stock
- 300g can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
- 1/2 small lemon, juiced
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Stir in coriander, cumin and chilli powder. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add sweet potato and carrot. let them sweat stirring often, for 5 minutes until they are all covered with the spices and onion.
Add stock. Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
Add chickpeas to soup and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until chickpeas are tender.
Remove from the heat and blend the soup with an hand held mixer, until smooth.
Return to saucepan over medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Heat, stirring until it gets to a soft boil. Serve.
Truth to be told, this is far cry from the true chouquettes you can buy in Paris. The multicolour beads of sugar are missing, to start with, they are too big, they were not as airy as they should have been. But, also truth to be said, while these chouquetes are a travesty of the real ones, they were still delicious. They came out as small slightly sweet breads, ideal to eat with a little butter and ham or cheese. No complaints heard from the mobile calorie intake units, at least…
- 120mL all fat milk
- 120mL water
- 120g of butter without salt, cut in cubes
- 2 spoons of sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
- 120g all purpose flower
- 3 tablespoons of coloured sugar beads (or regular sugar)
Pre heat the stove to 220 oC.
Line two baking trays with parchment paper
In a large saucepan with a heavy bottom, combine the water, butter, sugar and salt on a low temperate. Once the it is well mixed, bring to a gently boil and remove immediately from the heat. Add the flour spoon by spoon dstir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a tight dough forms and pulls away from the side of the pan. It should feel like a tight dough, with a texture similar to marzipan.
Quickly add 2 eggs and mix until well incorporated. Add the remaining two eggs and mix until you have a sticky soft mixture.
Using two teaspoons, make small mounds of dough, leaving enough space between them (you can also use a piping bag with a plain tip). Sprinkle with the granulated sugar or the coloured beads.
Put the trays in the stove one at a time and let cook for about 12min at 220oC. Then lower the heat to 200oC and let the chouquettes bake with a the over door slightly open (using a wooden spoon to hold the door will do).
I love to bits my nephews and nieces, but sadly, I don’t know very well. I don’t go to Lisbon that often, maybe once or twice a year and only for a few days. It is a real shame that I missing out the kiddies growing up. I try to keep up with their everyday life, and always find amusing when I found in these kiddies my own quirks. F, the oldest one is fearless in the water. I, the youngest one and my goddaughter, always wakes up in a bed mood and take her time to engage with the rest of the world. And, this Christmas I found out that V, the middle one refuses to eat his soup. “Oh, my dear boy, how can I understand you!”, I thought.
At the table the drama start to unfold, while I was having a déjà moment. “Eat you soup, V. Now.” said his mother. “You won’t eat anything else”. “No”, he answered and smiled defiantly. ”V, try the soup”, replied the mother. V is a sweet kid and forced himself to have a spoon of the greenish liquid. “I don’t like soup”, he told his mother. “You don’t like soup???”, I asked him. “No, I don’t like soup” he retorted “I only like pumpkin soup. Or carrot”. Qed- not liking soup and taste preferences seems to have a strong genetic correlation. What else could I do but support V not to have his soup? He eventually moved to the main dish and dessert, soup uneaten… That is my boy!
This one is not a pumping soup, now out of season, but I guess carrots would have been enough for V to take at least 5 spoons. Or maybe even six.
Carrot and potato soup with cumin and ginger (adapted from a recipe found in taste.com.au)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoon grated ginger
- 3 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 floury potatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
- 750ml chicken stock
- Salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan until it is pipping hot. Then, add the onion, garlic and ginger and let them fry for 3 mins or until just soft.
Add carrots, potatoes and half the cumin seeds. Cover, reduce heat to low and let them sweat for 7 mins or until just golden.
Add stock, cover and simmer for 15 mins or until vegetables are just tender. Cool slightly then blend until smooth.
Season to taste, and sprinkle with some cumins if you like.
It was a totally random purchase, in an airport bookstore. I had a couple of minutes to grab a book to read in the plane and this one just got my attention. It looked like yet another expat experience with yet more live changing experiences inducing snooze fest. For extra cynicism, I only found broken hearts in the city of love… But it were the recipes that caught my attention. A love story with recipes? Never mind it is even in Paris – that is totally worthwhile reading. And it was… It is a quick, funny and light read. For a quick sum up of traditional home style french dishes, it is also excellent. I feel I will come back to this book over and over again.
- 120g of all purpose flour (about 1 and 1/4 cup)
- 1 tablespoon of baking powder
- 200g sliced bacon or pancetta
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 120 mL olive oil (about 1/2 cup)
- 120 mL full fat milk (about 1/2 cup)
- 8 soft dried figs
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
- 100g of grated Gruyere cheese
Pre-heat the stove to 160oC
Sift the flour with the baking powder to a bawl.
Butter and flour a baking dish (or use a non stick baking spray). Cover the bottom of the dish with parchment paper.
In a small frying pan, fry the bacon strips until all fat is gone. Take them out of the pan and pat them dry with kitchen paper.
In a medium size bawl, beat the eggs with the salt. When they are mixed, add the milk and olive oil. Carry on beating until you obtain a light fluffy structure.
Fold the flower into the mix until is incorporated (be careful not to over mix - a couple of time will do).
Add the remaining ingridients (fried bacon, parsley and grafted cheese) gently mix then in.
Put the batter in the baking dish and transfer to the oven. Let it bake for about 1hour. Test with a knife before taking it out – it should came out dry.
Take it out from the dish while still hot, and let it cool down before serving.
Even food bloggers have really bad kitchen days… Everything seemed going OK until I bumped into the mother of all disaster recipes. Without going into too much detail, the whole thing ended up in the trash bin. Then, I realised I was missing the key ingredient for the next bake. In despair, I turned to google to guide my way out of this mess. “Tea and fruit bread”, said the oracle. “You cannot get this one wrong”. She was right: it is super easy, quick and more importantly, fool-proof. A couple of hours later everything was fine again…
On a side note, this is very close to what my Grandmother used call English cake and insist on buying every Christmas. Us kiddies never thought the point of it – all that crystallised fruit was unappealing. We would patiently wait for it get too dry to eat, so my Mother could convert into a much more appetising bread pudding made with custard.
Tea and fruit bread (adapted from a recipe found in nigella.com)
- 1 cup black tea
- 250g mixed dried fruit
- 250g white flour
- 2 teaspoon of baking powder
- 125g of caster sugar
- 1 large beaten egg
- 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
Grease a loaf tin (about 650g)
Preheat oven to 180oC
Put the fruit in a small bowl, and pour in the tea. Let it soak overnight if possible, or until the fruit is swollen.
In a bowl combine the flour, sugar, egg and marmalade. Then, fold in the fruit and any tea left in the bowl. Mix thoroughly
Put into loaf tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour
Allow to cool slightly before removing from the tin