Manger

Category: Dessert

Summer gems


The charm of summer in Médoc is the lack of crowds on the beaches and in the forests. Our environment feels untouched and its inhabitants are glad. Locals love how detached Médoc is from the rest of France – some say that true Médocain character has remained unchanged throughout the centuries. They are raw, earthy and true hunters at heart. I really feel we are in a very special place here, far away from the rest of the world. May it stay this way forever.

When I want to reconnect with civilization, I go to Bordeaux (I will give you a little tour of Bordeaux next month) which is an hour and a half away by car. And for some charming sea-side culture I love going to Cap-Ferret (an hour away from here) which has all the key elements to make me happy – the charming oysters ‘cabanons’ (huts) where you can sit and eat the freshest oysters and drink white wine with your feet in the water, the perfectly shaped white dunes and big waves of the Atlantic ocean, pine trees perfuming the air, Vichy print dresses from Popie’s, the mussels filled with sausage meat and garlic at ‘Chez Hortense‘, the dune of Pyla, the bassin of Arcachon. It’s also where I love buying espadrilles for my kids – the choice is amazing.

A few shots taken on Instagram in Cap-Ferret – At ‘chez Hortense’, by an oyster cabanon, on the beach.

Every summer I discover something new. Something that will mark my memory forever, like a beautiful shell found on a beach or a restaurant discovered on a hill with the best risotto ever (like ‘Da Priori’ in Marque, Italy). Well, summer is still not over, but I have to tell you about the ‘dunes blanches’ I ate last week. They are exquisite little ‘chouquettes’ filled with chantilly cream, a ‘spécialité’ from the boulangerie ‘Chez Pascal’ (46 Route du Cap Ferret 33950 Lège-Cap-Ferret) in Cap-Ferret. Chouquettes (sugar puffs) are sold in every bakery in France, but Pascal’s version with cream is a true delight. When they open in the morning, there’s already a five meter queue. Need I say more?

As I am a totally food-obsessed, I couldn’t wait for a new day to start so I could recreate these creamy gems as fast as I could. So here’s the recipe, to be treasured.

Ingredients (makes 20 large chouquettes or 30 small chouquettes)

250 ml full-cream milk
200 ml water
250 g butter (room temperature)
250 g plain flour (sifted)
2 tbsp caster sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp fine salt
140 g small sugar grains

For the filling:
200 ml whipping double cream
50 g icing sugar

To make the ‘pâte à choux’ (choux pastry)

In a large saucepan, mix milk, water, caster sugar, salt and butter and bring to a soft boil. Take off the heat and add flour in one go. Mix well until dough is smooth. Return to heat for 1 minute stirring constantly – this step is called ‘drying’ the batter. The dough should be sticking off the pan and forming a ball.
Take off the heat, and add one egg at a time, making sure to mix in each egg in the batter.

Preheat oven 180 °C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place the ‘pâte à choux’ dough in a pastry piping bag with a large nozzle and pipe medium (6cm) or small (4cm) dome shapes. Sprinkle with sugar grains. Depending on size, bake for 30-35 minutes for medium size, or 20-25 minutes for small size. Check on them gradually, they should be golden and puffed. I always eat/try one before taking them out to be sure they are perfectly cooked in the center. Set aside and leave to cool completely.

Assembling:
Whisk cream until stiff, add sifted icing sugar halfway. When all the ‘choux’ are cool, make a small slit in the base using a stick. Use pastry bag with the smallest nozzle tip and ‘inject’ each ‘choux’ with the cream (approx 1 tbsp per choux). Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve immediately.

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Cooking with Jean-Luc Rocha

This summer, we had several friends staying at Château Cordeillan-Bages , a beautiful ‘relais-château‘ located in the heart of Médoc. They loved every moment of their stay, but most importantly, they adored the hotel’s restaurant, headed by chef Jean-Luc Rocha. When I told them that I had the chance to meet him and cook by his side, they couldn’t wait to see the recipes and try them out.

Jean-Luc’s predecessor for nine years was chef Thierry Marx – a household name is French gastronomy. Upon his departure, Jean-Luc managed to immediately maintain the prestige of the château’s restaurant and preserve the two Michelin stars. Jean-Luc is a real maestro at his work – his innovative modern touch reflects his passion and love for fine cuisine.

Chef Jean-Luc Rocha

For ‘Manger’, Jean-Luc will be sharing his seasonal recipes. Today he chose two desserts very close to his childhood and his heart – ‘the riz au lait‘ just like his grandmother made, with sprinkled Moroccan cinnamon (she had a talent for making beautiful forms and figures by sprinkling cinnamon). And an elegant set of ‘black and white’ ‘sablés‘ biscuits, something he enjoys making at home with his kids as well as at the restaurant.

I felt incredibly lucky getting cooking tips from such a grand chef – his creativity is boundless. Just as he finished making the riz au lait, he decided to make another ‘last-minute’ dessert – a gastronomical version of ‘riz au lait’. Take half the portion of the warm riz au lait and blend in a food processor for 3 minutes until the texture is smooth like cream. Transfer to a ‘whipping cream dispenser’ and chill for 1 hour. In ramequins, place 3 tbsp of chilled ‘riz au lait’, then squeeze an adequate amount of the ‘blended‘ riz-au lait in the shape of a spiraled meringue. Sprinkle with orange and lemon zest.

Riz au lait (serves 4)

130 g arborio rice (rinsed in cold water and drained)
10 scrapes of orange zest
10 scrapes of lemon zest
500 g double cream
600 g milk
1 vanilla pod (split open and scraped – optional)
120 g egg yolk
140 g caster sugar
Ground cinnamon for decorating (optional)

Rinse the rice in cold water and drain. Whisk the sugar and egg yolks in a bowl until light and fluffy. Set aside.
Mix the rice, orange/lemon zest, cream, vanilla and milk in a saucepan and bring to a soft boil on a low heat for 20 minutes. Off the heat, add the egg yolks and sugar mix to the rice, return to a low heat on and off stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes. Finally, add one pinch of fleur de sel/salt. Set aside and chill before serving. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon to decorate. You can create figures of your choice by sprinkling lightly using your fingertips (see photos).

Black and White Sablés

Plain dough
150 g plain flour (sifted)
100 g butter (softened at room temperature)
50 g icing/confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp egg

In a food processor, combine and mix sifted flour, butter and icing sugar. Mix for 3 minutes, then add 2 tbsp of egg and mix for 10 seconds. Roll in a shape of a ball, wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Cocoa dough
115 g plain flour (sifted)
75 g butter (softened at room temperature)
38 g icing/confectioner’s sugar
12 g cocoa powder
2 tbsp egg

In a food processor, mix sifted flour and cocoa powder. Add the icing sugar, followed by the butter. Mix for 2 minutes. Add 2 tbsp of egg and mix 10 more seconds.

Preheat oven to 170 C.
On a slightly floured parchment paper covered surface, roll the plain dough and the cocoa dough separately to a 1 cm/half-inch thickness. Tip: You can use a 1 cm thick cubic bar to align the dough on both sides to create an even dough (sold at your local hardware store). With a sharp knife or dough cutter, cut 1 cm thick strips. Align each strips to your liking (3 strips on three rows). Roll the aligned strips in the parchment paper to secure the strips and transfer to the refrigerator or freezer for 15-20 minutes. Slice ‘sablés’ and place on baking sheet in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes (depending on thickness of ‘sablés’). Leave to cool on a wire rack and serve.

Old-fashioned chocolate mousse with salted butter caramel chunks

It was so enjoyable having our friends stay over recently – they had previously spent a holiday in Brittany visiting relatives and brought us a bag of local treats – a delightful Kouign Aman (traditional butter and sugar cake), galettes, pancakes and the most amazing salted butter caramel spread ever! In Brittany, every Bretons and Bretonnes believe that life cannot exist without butter. We ate everything as fast as we could, inspiring me to make more. Too much of a good thing is a good thing.

Cuisine is like matrimony, so I coupled chocolate mousse with chunks of salted butter caramel. A perfect pair. I served them in my ‘Titanic’ ice-cream cups – they were bought years ago from a stall selling curious furniture and tableware from old ships at a flea market in Paris. Eating out of these cups brings me back to a different place and time.

The chocolate mousse is so easy to make, and so is the caramel recipe – just make sure not to over-heat to prevent a burnt caramel. It’s all about patience – the beautiful golden beige colour will appear before you know it. If you have any leftovers, you can make lovely caramel bonbons and wrap them in pretty candy paper wraps. They are best stored in the fridge.

My lovely Gertrude.

Ingredients (serve 4 to 6):

For the salted butter caramel (serves 6 or approx 40 caramels):
250 g crème fraîche
250 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 pinch of salt (I use fleur de sel de Guérande)
50 g good quality salted butter
Parchment paper

In a pan, boil the crème fraîche to a gentle simmer, add sugar and cook slowly on a medium to low heat for 20 minutes or more, or until the caramel becomes a lovely golden beige colour (make sure not to over-boil/heat as it will burn very easily). Do not stir for the first 10 minutes, you can slowly occasionally shake the pan. Remove from heat, stir in the butter and return to the heat for a few more minutes. The caramel should be sticky, thick and pasty. Pour caramel on a large sheet of parchment paper. You can pour making a circular or square shape (anything is fine as you will be chopping it into chunks later). Let the caramel cool, add another sheet of parchment paper to cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut into desired amount of rough chunks.

For the chocolate mousse:
150 g black chocolate
4 eggs (separated)
60 grs caster sugar
40 ml double cream
Melt chocolate and cream on a low heat. Set aside and let it cool. In two large bowls, separate the eggs, whisk the egg yolks with half of the sugar until fluffy. In the other bowl, whisk egg whites till firm, incorporating the other half of the sugar. Add the melted chocolate/cream mixture (once it’s cooled) to the egg yolks, then fold in gently the stiff egg whites and the equivalent of two handfuls of caramel chunks (or more if desired!). Divide the chocolate mousse into individual ramekins, sprinkle with more chunks of caramel, cover with cling film and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Summer trifle

Making trifles is like writing poetry. You can adapt to any season, add any ingredients you like and play around with different textures. It’s such a creative dessert, so scrumptuous and beautiful to look at, and most of all, so delicious. When I lived in London as a student, I loved all the cult classics, like scotch eggs, pork pies, Eton mess and berry trifles. I’ll always remember when I discovered trifles at Marks & Spencers. I loved the yellow custard colours, mixed with deep berry reds and all that whipped cream. It became my favourite English food discovery and I shall always have fond memories of those little delights. When I go back to London I just can’t help myself – I have to buy some for old time’s sake! They are so good!

Trifles are exactly the kind of desserts I would like to be served at a dinner party. They look like little see-through cabinets of curiosity, lavishly layered with all the best that summer has to offer, berries, cream, custard and cake, we can all pitch in and scoop for the best.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

You can either make one large trifle or individual portions, perfect for dinner parties.

1 madeira sponge cake
300 g rhubarb (cooked or frozen)
350 g strawberries (halved)
Whipped cream (see below)
Custard cream (see below)
8 tbsp strawberry jam
Flaked toasted almonds (grill on a non-stick frying pan for 4-5 minutes or until golden – do not add any oil)

Fruits:
Chop rhubarb, discard the ends, and boil in water (just enough to cover the rhubarb) and 30 g caster sugar for 8-10 minutes. Keep the syrup-like rhubarb liquid, drain the rhubard and leave to cool. Set aside. Wash strawberries and slice as desired.

Sponge cake:
125g self-raising flour
125g butter or margarine, softened
125g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
3 tbsp madeira wine

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350F

Cream the butter and the sugar together until pale. Beat in the eggs and madeira. Sift over the flour and fold in using a large spoon. Spread the dough in the cake tin and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a ‘test-knife’ comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Set aside

Custard filling:
280 ml full cream milk
2 eggs yolks
70 g/ 3 oz caster sugar
30 g/ 1 oz corn starch
1 tsp vanilla essence

In a saucepan, add milk, sugar, vanilla essence and bring to a simmer. Stir well and take off the heat. Add the egg yolks and whisk continuously. Drizzle the corn starch and whisk again – put on a low heat, for 2 minutes, or until the mixture thickens to a thick creamy sauce. Set aside and leave to cool.

Whipped cream:
250 ml/1 cup whipping cream
20 g/ 4 tsp icing sugar

Whip cream (I use electric whisks), add the sugar after 30 seconds and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Set aside in freezer until you need to use it.

When all your ingredients are ready and cooled, you can start assembling the trifle. In a large glass bowl, or individual bowls, cut small cubes of the sponge cake, spread a layer of strawberry jam, drizzle with the reserved rhubarb syrup, sprinkle a layer of rhubarb, strawberries, custard, whipped cream. Repeat layering as desired and finish with the toasted almonds.

Merveilles

Merveilles‘ means wonders in French, and it’s just the kind of sweet pastry that brings me straight back to my childhood. When I was on holiday in the South of France, I remember buying ‘merveilles’ with my own pocket money at the market – the woman selling them was called Bernadette, she was a farmer’s wife, straight out of a baroque painting with her old-fashioned long dark grey dresses. She was renowned for her ‘merveilles’, for they were truly marvellous, so light and delicately flavored with lemon zest and orange flower water. She would shout ‘Achetez mes merveilles, mes belles merveilles!’ (Buy my merveilles, my beautiful merveilles!) – it was such a musical hit. I was so intrigued by her, by the name ‘merveilles’ and I loved imagining that these were food that fairies liked.

These old-fashioned French pastries are the cousins of doughnuts – fritters made of buttery dough, deep-fried until golden and puffy, to be sprinkled with sugar. Popular during Mardi Gras celebration, you can find ‘merveilles’ all year long at bakeries or markets. I love to have them whenever I feel like it (so easy to make and so fast to cook) – especially home-made ones as they are best served warm.

They really are some kind of wonderful.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

250 g flour
2 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Zest of half a lemon
1 tbsp orange flower water (eau de fleur d’oranger)
50 g butter (softened and at room temperature)
Oil for frying (approx. 5cm/2 inch deep)
Icing sugar (to sprinkle on the merveilles)

Sift the flour and baking powder in a large bowl and mix the eggs, butter, lemon zest, orange flower water and salt. Mix the dough with your hands until smooth and shape in the size of a ball. Cover with a clean cloth and leave to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
On a floured board, roll the dough to 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thick. Cut into rectangular strips (approx 5 cm width/12 cm length – you can choose the size you like – they can also be round or oval) – I use a pastry crimping wheel and add a 4cm cut in the middle of each rectangular strip. Heat the oil in a large pan, and drop in the ‘merveilles’, turn them once – this should take you up to 6-8 seconds (as soon as they are golden and puff up, which is very fast). Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle icing sugar and serve immediately. They can be stored in an air-tight container for a week.

Wild sweet peas in our garden

Couscous


Picture this – a little girl, straight off the plane from Hong Kong, dragged all the way to Montparnasse so her father can have a couscous royal. Yes, that was my earliest jet-lagged memory of coucous. One of France’s favourite dishes (and my father’s), the ‘couscous’ is certainly worth its fame. Having inherited the sunshine and warmth from North Africa, the couscous was originally a sacred dish prepared with the best maternal knowledge. Today it is a strong symbol of tradition and union. For me, the ‘couscous’ is a dream of a meal evoking Paris in the 60’s – Godard, Belmondo and black turtlenecks. There’s something very loving about this meal – it must be a combination of the golden semolina melting in the vegetable and meat stew, oozing comfort and joy. For that is what this dish is all about.

My kids always make a special request for couscous – I can’t imagine a healthier meal for them, filled with vegetables and wholesome semolina. As there is a lot of preparation required, I would advise you to cook this dish well in advance. You can improvise and have this meal vegetarian, or only with chicken. As you wish.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

For the couscous stew:
1 kg neck of lamb (collier d’agneau)
4 carrots
3 turnips
3 courgettes/ zucchini
1 large onion (sliced)
2 cloves garlic
2 large tomatoes
2 tbsp ‘ras el hanout’ ground spice
2 tbsp tomato concentrate paste
1 tsp chili powder
450 grs chickpeas (I use canned)
Salt and pepper
Harissa (to serve for those who like it extra-spicy)

For the meatballs:
600 grs minced beef
2 cloves minced garlic
A large handful of parsley
1 egg

Various meat:
5 chicken thighs
1 lemon (sliced)
12 merguez sausages

100 ml olive oil
750 grs semolina (I use instant)
Boiling water
Large handful of dried golden sultana raisins (optional)

Slice onion and garlic. Cut/chop all the tomatoes, carrots, turnips and zucchini to mouthsized cubes. In a large deep skillet, pour 2 tbsp of olive oil and brown the lamb. Add onion and tomatoes and fry for 5 minutes. Add the ras-el hanout, salt, pepper and chilli powder, add enough water to cover the meat, and cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the carrots and turnips and continue boiling for 30 minutes. Add zuchinni and chick peas and continue to boil on a low heat for 1 hour.

Prepare meatballs – mix one egg, minced garlic and chopped parsley with the minced meat. Mix well (I use latex gloves and mix with my hands) and shape little golf sized balls. Fry in batches in a large frying pan until browned and cooked, approx 8 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan, fry the chicken thighs with the sliced lemon until browned and cooked. Set aside. Fry the merguez until cooked and set aside. Cover chicken, meatballs and merguez sausages with aluminium foil and reserve for later.

When you are getting ready to serve, warm chicken and meatballs for 10 minutes in the ‘couscous’ stew.

Place semolina in a large bowl and stir in the olive oil. Pour enough boiling water until all absorbed. With a fork, scrape and fluff up the semolina gently. Place heat-proof bowl/pot in a 120°C oven until you are ready to serve. You can also place the merguez in the oven to keep them warm.

Place merguez, chicken thighs and meatballs on a large serving plate. Pour couscous stew in a large serving bowl. Serve semolina on a deep-set plate (with raisins on top), with a large ladle of couscous stew, topped with the meat of your choice. For those who enjoy an extra spicy flavour, add half a tsp of Harissa in a ladle of soup/stew and mix well.

Moroccan orange salad

I would highly recommend to serve this ‘Moroccan orange salad’ as a refreshing dessert.

Ingredients:

3 oranges, peeled and sliced
4 tbsp orange blossom water
2 tbsp caster sugar
A dash of cinnamon
A few mint leaves, finely sliced and extra for decoration

Slice the oranges and place on a serving dish. Mix orange blossom water and sugar and pour over the oranges. Sprinkle a dash of ground cinnamon and mint. Place in the refrigerator so you can serve it chilled.

Aux Lyonnais

Our children are very good eaters. We like taking them to restaurants, and despite a few raised eyebrows, it’s always been a real pleasure (apart from the few times when we traumatized the staff!). It’s a priority for us to teach ‘les enfants’ good ‘food culture’ at an early age, and we find that by introducing them to a varied menu, it widens their palate to new horizons. Could that be the secret to no more picky eaters?

Of all our kids, our little boy Hudson is particularly keen on food. He has been to many restaurants in his life, and ever since he was a baby, he loved eating, especially what we were eating. As a matter of fact, Hudson was nearly born in a restaurant. As I was finishing a superb meal at ‘Aux Lyonnais’ (32, rue St Marc 75002), I started having heavy contractions and had to rush off to the clinic. From that day on, whenever I go back to ‘Aux Lyonnais’ with Hudson, he is referred to as ‘le bébé Lyonnais’! Needless to say, ‘Aux Lyonnais’ became his favourite restaurant at age… three.

Lyon’s gastronomy excellence can be explained by the fact that it’s close to regions providing the best food in France – the chicken from Bresse, beef from Charolais, fruits from the Drome, ‘cochonailles’ (sausages, pâtés, ham…) from the Monts du Lyonnais, and amazing cheeses like Rocamadour and St Marcellin from the Dauphiné. With all these products, the kitchen’s are naturally blessed.

Yesterday, I was going through some old photos and stumbled across Hudson’s picture taken at ‘Aux Lyonnais’. It inspired me to cook a Lyonnais style meatloaf and a smashing pink praline tart with an île flottante – all inspired from my son’s favourite restaurant of course. You can have a full-on experience and do them all. It might look like a bit of a project at first, but with a well planned cooking schedule, the results will be very satisfying!

The lyonnais meatloaf is originally made with a typical Lyonnais pistachio cervelat sausage, but as it is not always easy to find in stores or supermarkets, I chose to make it with minced pork (taken from good quality pork sausages). The ‘brioche’ is a bread bun made with egg, milk, butter and yeast.

The pink praline tart is such a delight to make. Pink pralines are old-fashioned candies – you’ll need almonds, water, sugar and red food colouring. They are so delicious, vintage-looking and pretty in pink. You’ll be using these candies by crushing them in your food processor or with a mortar and pestle, to make the praline tart. They can be easily stored in a glass jar. This recipe (see below) is a simplified version – I was very happy with the result. Save a few pralines to drizzle on the ‘oeufs à la neige’. You can also buy pink pralines at selected fine stores.

Ingredients:

Brioche:

250 grs plain flour
110 grs butter (room temperature cut in cubes)
3 eggs
7 grs dry baking yeast
3 tbsp warm milk
3 tbsp warm water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar, beaten
1 egg yolk, beaten, for glaze

In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast, water and milk. Mix well. Incorporate salt and eggs, mix well and add butter. Knead continuously for 15 minutes. When the dough is elastic, shape into a ball, leave in the bowl and cover with a clean cloth. Let the dough rise for 1 hour in a warm place. Flatten the dough slightly and place the pork meat filling in the center. Press the edges and seal. Place in a lightly buttered loaf tin and cover with a clean cloth. Leave in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat oven 180° degrees celsius. Brush the brioche with the egg yolk and bake for 35–40 minutes until risen and golden brown. Let it cool for 15 minutes place on a wire rack. Serve with a warm potato salad.

For the ‘meatloaf’ filling:

4 skinned good quality sausages
A large handful of good-quality pistachio nuts
1 onion (finely chopped)
1 garlic clove (minced)
30 ml white wine (optional)
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper

Slice onion, mince the garlic. Slice the sausages and squeeze out the pork meat. In a saucepan, fry the onion until soft (4 min) in 1 tbsp butter, add the garlic, thyme and sausage meat for 8 minutes until cooked and semi-golden. Deglaze with the white wine, add salt and pepper. Set aside, add the pistachios, mix well and leave to cool.

Warm potato salad:

4 large potatoes (peeled and cut in 4)
2 shallots (sliced finely)
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp grain mustard
salt and pepper
A dash of chopped parsley

Boil potatoes till tender. In a large bowl, make a vinaigrette by mixing the shallots, olive oil, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Slice the potatoes and add to the vinaigrette. Mix gently and add parsley.

Pink praline tart:

80 almonds
160 grs sugar
140 grs water
3 drops red food colouring
100 ml crème fraîche
Shortcrust pastry (bough from store) or homemade (see recipe below)

Step 1: Make the pink pralines – simple version

On a medium heat, mix almonds, water, sugar and red food colouring in a pan. Do not stir until the water starts to boil, then you can start swirling the pan gently. When the liquid starts to thicken (after approx 5 minutes), stir continuously until you feel a caramel texture. Take away from heat on/off and stir until the sugar crystallizes. Put almonds on parchment paper and let them cool. This process can take up to 12-15 minutes.

Pre-heat oven 180° degrees celsius. Roll out pastry on a floured surface and line the tart baking pan (I use a small 20 cm pan), and place parchment paper with marbles (or any oven-proof weights). Pre-bake your shortcrust pastry approx 15 minutes. Set aside

In a food processor, smash pink pralines into chunky bits. In a pan, add pralines and crème fraîche, boil gently for 15 minutes until the mixture is thick and glossy. Leave to cool for 5 minutes and pour in the pastry shell. Leave to cool and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Easy shortcrust pastry

125 grs plain flour
60 ml water
90 grs butter
1/4 tsp salt

Mix water with salt in a large bowl. Slice butter into cubes. Mix all ingredients together, ‘working’ the dough 5 minutes. Shape into a ball, wrap with cling film and place in the fridge for at leat an hour.

Ile flottante:

3 eggs yolks
175 ml milk
1 vanilla pod (or 1 tsp vanilla essence)
75 grs sugar

For egg whites:
3 egg whites
40 grs caster sugar (for egg whites)
1/4 tsp salt

Separate egg whites and egg yolks. In a saucepan, add milk, sugar and vanilla – bring to a gentle boil. Take off the heat and whisk in the egg yolks. Bring back to the low heat, and whisk for 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens slightly. Set aside and leave to cool.
In a large glass bowl, whisk the egg whites, when the mixture starts to set, gradually add sugar and salt, and continue to whisk until firm peaks appear. Place bowl in a microwave for 40 seconds on a low setting. This will firm up the egg whites. Should you not have a microwave, you can place large spoonfuls of required egg whites in boiling water for 30 seconds.
Pour custard into bowls, and shape round large balls (with a large slotted spoon) of egg-whites to place on custard. Drizzle with crushed pink pralines. Serve with a slice of pink praline tart.

Marie-Antoinette’s secrets

The roses in our garden have been the main attraction these days. They are so beautiful and smell like heaven – we have many different types with inviting names like Pierre de Ronsart, magical moment, Sombreuil and Félicité. In Rome a wild rose would be placed on the door of a room where secret matters were discussed. The phrase ‘sub rosa’, means to keep a secret — derived from this ancient Roman practice.
Meringues are so beautiful to make from the beginning till the end – there are so many endless flavours you can add. Inspired by our garden roses (organic of course), I made some candied rose petals, pink rose flavored meringues with a rose cream and strawberries. I serve these little treats with tea from Ladurée called Marie-Antoinette, a blend of China black tea, citrus notes, rose and jasmine. It was only fitting to call these meringues Marie-Antoinette’s secrets.

6 egg whites
300 grs caster sugar
1 tsp red food coloring
2 tbsp rose-water
25 cl whipping cream
sliced strawberries

Candied rose petals:

1 egg white
25 organic rose petals
35 grs white sugar

Candied rose petals:

Clean delicately the rose petals, and brush each petal gently with the frothy egg white. Sprinkle petals with white sugar and dry on a small wire rack or parchment paper covered plate for half a day, or even overnight.

Pre-heat your oven 140° celsius.

Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks start to appear, then you can start adding the sugar gradually, spoon by spoon, and the food coloring and 1 tbsp rose-water until the whites become glossy then stiff – this should take approx. 10-12 minutes. I use an electric whisk.

On a parchment line baking tray, form 26 little meringues. I use a pastry bag with a medium tip. Bake for 30-35 minutes. I always like my meringues to be slightly softer inside. When ready, open oven, switch off the heat, and leave to cool in the oven for 10 minutes, then place on a wire rack and leave to cool.

To make the rose whipped cream, whisk the cream until it starts to stiffen, add the rose-water and 25 grs sugar. Whisk again until it becomes fluffy and stiff.

Slice the strawberries. Set aside.

Make meringue ‘sandwiches’ – take two meringues place whipped rose cream, add sliced strawberries and place the other meringue on top. Repeat procedure for all the meringues.