Manger

Bouchée à la Reine

I have always loved ‘bouchée à la Reine’ – this classic starter is exactly what I love about French cuisine – elegant and old-fashioned. I like to have it simply as a main course with a salad on the side. It’s the kind of food you would buy at the ‘traiteur’ (delicatessen) or served at your great-aunt’s house for a ‘Proustian’ lunch. My simplified version of this small puff pastry includes chicken, morel mushrooms, onions, white wine and a bechamel sauce. It looks so dressed up, with a little hat on top. I love making this meal on the week-ends, and as I do a lot of cooking, I buy ready-made pastry shells, available in most supermarkets. All you have to do is the filling, bechamel sauce, and heat up the shells. If you can’t find morel mushrooms, you can replace with any mushrooms of your choice whether they are fresh, canned or dried.

Ingredients

8 vol-au-vent pastry shells
3 chicken filets, diced
70 grs morel mushrooms, chopped (or any mushroom of your choice)
1 small onion, chopped
25 grs butter
10 ml white wine
Handful of chopped parsley

Sauce:

80 grs butter
70 grs flour
a pinch of thyme
1/2 cube chicken stock, crumbled
half a glass of wine (optional)
Coarse salt and pepper

In a pan, fry the onion in the butter until soft and golden, add the diced chicken and fry for 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and fry 4-5 minutes – add the white wine and let the sauce reduce for 3 minutes. Set aside.

Pre-heat oven 150° celsius.

Prepare the bechamel sauce – melt the butter in a casserole, and gradually add the flour and the milk with a whisk on medium heat. Crumble in the cube of chicken stock. It should become thicker and thicker. By now you can add the half glass of wine – (this is optional). Lower the heat and stir firmly and quickly until desired thickness. Set aside.

Take out the pastry shells and heat for 8-10 minutes. Now you can mix the chicken with the bechamel sauce. Reheat slightly for 2 minutes on a low-heat. Fill generously each shell and place top ‘hat’ shell on top. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Serve either as a starter or as a main course with a salad on the side.

Carrot cake with vanilla cream cheese frosting

I love baking these healthy and delicious cakes for my kids – it’s a great ‘gouter’ (tea-time snack) when they come home ‘hungry like wolves’ from school. In France, ‘l’heure du gouter’ is a sacred time for the kids – they sit at the table, talk about their day at school, and enjoy this afternoon snack before they go to play and finish their homework. I think the gouter is their favourite moment of the day!

This healthy carrot cake is easy to make and extra delicious with chopped pecan nuts.

Ingredients: (for 10-12 mimi-cakes)

150 grs plain flour
110 grs caster sugar
150 ml canola oil
50 grs chopped pecan nuts
2 eggs
3 grated carrots
1 tsp ground cinnamon
6 grs baking powder
butter for lining cake mold

Vanilla cream-cheese frosting:

60 grs unsalted butter (room temperature)
130 grs philadelphia cheese or kiri
40 grs icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Pre-heat the oven 180° celsius.

Cream the eggs and sugar and fluffy and smooth – I use and electric whisks. Add the oil and whisk for 1 more minute. Add the grated carrots, flour, baking powder and the chopped pecan nuts. Mix well and pour into your little cake mold. (I like these small cake molds – perfect child portion)

Bake approx. 20-25 minutes or until you ‘test-knife’ (dipping the blade of a knife to see of the cake is cooked) and it comes out clean.

Let the cake cool on a wire rack. You have to wait until is is completely cool before icing the cake.

For the icing:

Mix butter and cream cheese with a large spatula. You want to achieve a smooth paste. Add the vanilla essence and sifted icing sugar (it has to be sifted or the icing will have lumps).

Cream your cakes with the icing.

‘Crying tiger’ char-grilled beef


I was in the mood for a spicy Asian meal on this rainy Tuesday, so I prepared a Thai dish called ‘Crying tiger’ (it’s supposed to be so spicy that even a tiger would cry). It’s one of the best meals ever, you just have to prepare in advance the ‘marinating’ of the beef (2-3 hours, or even better, the night before). I always keep a bottle of Cognac for cooking – it does wonder to my sauces. You will need a good griddle pan to char-grill the beef.

Ingredients: (4 servings)

4 x good-quality sirloin steaks (faux-filet)
2 tbsp fish sauce/ nuoc mam
1 tbsp oyster sauce (most supermarkets have this)
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp cognac
2 garlic cloves (minced)
3 tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp. sugar

For the serving sauce:

1 tsp chopped red chilli (just add what you can handle)
1 finely chopped shallot
Handful of chopped coriander
1 tbsp fish sauce/ nuoc mam
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
Finely chopped fresh lemongrass (if you can’t find this, then you can buy dried lemongrass)

Garnishing:

More chopped coriander
Sliced cucumber
Steamed rice

In a large bowl, prepare the marinade sauce with the fish sauce, oyster sauce, soya sauce, minced garlic, oil, sugar & cognac and stir well. Place the beef in the bowl and make sure to cover the meat in the sauce. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 2-3 hours or overnight in the fridge.

Prepare the steamed rice of your choice (I always buy mine in Asian supermarkets and I have a wonderful Cuisinart rice cooker – can’t live without it). Make the side sauce in a small bowl, with the chopped chilli, finely chopped shallot, chopped coriander, fish sauce and lime juice. Should you prefer a spicier, sweeter or more acidic sauce, simply season to your liking. I usually prepare 2 sauces, one for the kids without chilli, and one bombarded with chilli for the adults!

Heat your griddle pan to a maximum heat and when the pan is sizzling hot, grill the beef approx 3 minutes on each side, or to your cooking preference (medium, well done or ‘saignant’). The beef is best underdone, so try not to evercook it.

When ready, slice the beef thinly, place a handful of chopped coriander on top and drizzle with sauce. Serve with hot steamed rice, sliced lime and cucumber on the side.

A beautiful simple meal.

My eldest daughter is called Tiger.