Manger

Category: Sidedish

Winter cocotte


I was so delighted to see all the carrots with character at the market on Saturday. All the deep shades and smells inspired me to make a hearty dish filled with warmth. So I picked a few purple and yellow carrots, parsnip for its sweetness, a small pumpkin for the fleshiness, topinambours for the unbelievable nutty after-taste, a fine match with chestnuts. All the ‘best of‘ the season gathered in one dish. I rushed over to my butcher, ordered one slice of poitrine fumée. I get such satisfaction from details, like a perfect slice of bacon, proudly shown to you on a sheet of white paper. I also knew that it was going to dramatically change my dish, turning it into a richly flavoured burgundy colored winter’s stew. It’s amazing what a little piece of meat can do.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

15 chestnuts (peeled and cooked)
1 small pumpkin (peeled, deseeded & cut into small slices – I used the ‘mini’ pumpkins )
2 carrots (diced)
1 parsnip (diced)
1 celery branch (sliced)
4 small topinambours/ Jerusalem artichokes (sliced finely in ‘rondelles’)
1 garlic clove (sliced finely)
1 onion (sliced finely)
150 g/ 1/3 pound slice of bacon (whole or diced)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp red wine
80 ml/ 1/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1-2 tbsp butter
A small handful of fresh chives (finely chopped)
A small handful of parsley (finely chopped)
Salt & pepper for seasoning

In a medium-sized cocotte/ pot, heat olive oil (on a medium heat) and fry the onion until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the bacon and fry for another 4-5 minutes. (Note: If you are using poitrine fumée/ smoked slab bacon like I did, I would suggest to blanch the meat in boiling water for a few minutes before frying). Add all the carrots, topinambours, celery, parsnip, garlic, squash, chestnuts and stir until the vegetables get coated. Season with salt and pepper. After 5 minutes add the red wine, reduce for 2 minutes, then add the chicken or vegetable stock. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20-25 minutes. The vegetables shouldn’t be overcooked as it is nice to keep everything on the crunchier side. When ready to serve, add butter, chopped chives and parsley. (For those who like a little extra taste, you can drizzle a hint of vinaigrette (2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp mustard, 1 tsp wine vinegar, salt & pepper – mix well).

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Purée aligot

I was so happy to be part of Joanna Goddard’s ‘A cup of Jobest recipes series again this week. I hope it contributed to a few Thanksgiving meals!

Here’s ‘The Best Mashed Potatoes You’ll Ever Have’ as featured on ‘A cup of Jo‘.

Aligot is a traditional mashed potato dish from the Aubrac region in France. They’re the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had—the melted cheese is so rich in texture. Combined with garlic and crème fraîche, aligot is the star of all side dishes. The mash is so thick, forming ribbons of cheesy strands on your plate—it is quite an experience for any cheese lover. Tomme de Laguiole cheese is traditionally used for this dish; however, it’s not always easy to find. You can substitute this cheese with Cantal, Lancashire or Cheddar. Serve aligot with a juicy steak and a smashing glass of Bordeaux red wine. Satisfaction guaranteed!

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 kg/ 2 cups potatoes (bintje or Yukon Gold), peeled and cut into chunks
150 g/ 4 tbsp. butter, cold and hard, just taken out of the fridge
400 g/ 14 oz. Tomme de Laguiole cheese, finely sliced (or substitute a cheese like Lancashire/Cantal/Cheddar)
1 clove of garlic, minced
150 ml/ 2/3 cup crème fraîche
100 ml/ 1/2 cup warm milk
Salt and pepper (for seasoning)

Cook the chunks of potato in salted boiling water for 20 minutes, or until tender.

Mash the potatoes with a potato masher. When properly mashed, place the potatoes in a large pan and start the heat on low, stirring for 2 minutes to ‘dry up’ the mash.

Take off the heat, and add the butter one square at a time, stirring in a circular motion. Gradually add the warm milk to smooth the potatoes, continuing to stir.

Place the pan back on a low heat, and add the finely sliced cheese, minced garlic, crème fraîche, salt and pepper. You should be constantly stirring in a circular motion, lifting the spoon high so you get a nice ribbon-like effect, as if you were pulling strings with your spoon. Continue this process for up to ten minutes, or until all the cheese has melted.

When the cheese has melted perfectly, your aligot purée is ready! Voilà, c’est prêt! Serve immediately.

November rain

I was so delighted to be featured on Sous Style this week. It’s one of my favourite lifestyle sites, filled with great ideas, recipes and stories on interesting people.

We had a lovely lunch at home, with our friends David and Sheyenne and their kids Balkis and Naturel. Don’t you just love their names? As my guests are vegetarians, I came up with a veggie-friendly menu with a French touch. For starters, we had chestnut soup with tapioca pearls and crème fraîche, followed by crêpes sarrasin (buckwheat pancakes) with squash, green cabbage and Roquefort cheese, served with a typical Provençal dish called Tian de légumes (vegetable tian). It looked like a little masterpiece on the table. Finally, I made a luxurious Calvados apple tart, again, served with crème fraîche (yes, I think you must know by now that I am all about cream). The Calvados (apple brandy) soaked apples bring you all the warmth needed on a cool November day. And that almond crust… is heavenly.

It was a lazy rainy afternoon, filled with fun and laughter. The girls were singing and dancing, the boys played with the dogs, the lunch dragged on for hours and hours, just how it should be.

You can view the feature here.

Chestnut soup with tapioca pearls
1/2 pound/ 230 g whole, peeled and cooked chestnuts (for the soup)
1/4 cup/ 60 g cooked peeled chestnuts (chopped, to sprinkle on soup)
3 cups/ 750 ml chicken stock (or vegetable)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 onion (sliced)
3 tbsp of small tapioca pearls
Salt & pepper for seasoning
Crème fraîche for serving (1 tbsp per bowl)
A small handful of finely chopped parsley

In a large pot, melt the butter on a medium heat and fry the onions
for 2 minutes. Add the chestnuts, continue frying for 1 minute, then
add stock, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Bring to a soft boil and turn down
the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Let the soup cool slightly,
then transfer to a food processor to smooth all the ingredients into a
velvety soup. Return to pot, add the tapioca and cook for 15 minutes
on a low heat (or until the tapioca becomes translucent). Serve in
individual bowls with a teaspoon of chopped chesnuts, a big spoon of
crème fraîche and parsley.

Squash, green cabbage and Roquefort buckwheat pancakes

For the filling:

1 pound/ 450g butternut squash
1/3 cup/ 80ml vegetable stock
1 cup/ 150 g green cabbage (chopped)
1/4 pound/ 100 g Roquefort cheese
Butter or olive oil for frying

Chop squash into small cubes and fry in olive oil until golden for 4-5
minutes. Add stock, cover and simmer for ten minutes until cooked and
tender. Drain any excess liquid and set aside. In a pan, fry in olive
oil the chopped cabbage for 5 minutes on a high heat. Add salt and
pepper. Cabbage must be slightly al dente. Set aside.

Buckwheat pancake batter (sarrasin)
2 cups/ 250 g buckwheat flour
2 eggs
2 tbsp/ 30 grs melted butter
1 pinch salt
2 cups/ 500 ml milk

In a large bowl, mix the buckwheat flour and make a well in the
middle. Add the eggs in the center, slowly combine and stir the milk,
melted butter and salt. Make sure to stir constantly and firmly so you
won’t get lumps in the batter. Cover with a plate and leave to rest
for at least an hour.
Heat your oven on a low heat so you can place your pancakes to keep
warm. When the batter is ready, melt a teaspoon of butter in a frying
pan. Add one ladle of batter to form a pancake. Fry approx 2-3 minutes
on a medium heat until golden. Flip sides and repeat. In one corner of
the pancake, place a enough squash, cabbage and crumbled Roquefort.
Fold pancakes in half and fold again to form a triangle. Leave on heat
30 seconds to gently melt the Roquefort. Serve immediately.

Vegetable tian

4 tomatoes
3 large zucchini
2 aubergines
2 garlic cloves
A handful of finely chopped parsley
3 bay leaves
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper for seasoning

Preheat the oven to 210°C/400°F. Clean all vegetables and slice them
finely into equal ‘rondelles’ (round slices). Sprinkle the aubergines
with coarse salt for 20 minutes, then rinse them with boiling hot
water. Drain. Rub garlic all over roasting pan, then align the slices
tightly alternating with each vegetable. Sprinkle sliced garlic all
over, place the sprigs of thyme and bay leaves on top, drizzle with
olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Cook in oven for 30 minutes.
When ready, sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve immediately.

Calvados apple tart
5 apples, peeled, cored and sliced into small chunks
1/4 cup/ 60 ml calvados
5 tbsp/ 60 g brown sugar (cassonade)
3 egg yolks
1 cup/ 250 ml crème fraîche or sour cream
3 tbsp ground almonds
Additional crème fraîche to serve on the side.

For the pastry:
2 cups/ 250 g plain flour
2/3 cups/ 150 g butter (softened at room temperature)
1/4 cup/ 30 g caster sugar
1/2 cup/ 60 g icing confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup/ 80 g ground almonds
1 egg
A pinch of salt

Chop apples and soak in the calvados for 1 hour.

For the crust:
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together until the mixture
forms a homogenous dough. Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and
place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Take out 30 minutes before
rolling out. On a floured parchment covered surface, roll out the
dough to fit your tart pan. Line tart pan with the pastry dough, and
cut out excess overhang dough approx. ¼ inch/ 1 cm off the rim. Fold
in the excess dough to make a double thick rim. Pierce dough with a
fork all over and place in the freezer for 30 minutes to one hour.
This will prevent your crust to shrink when blind baked.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 210°C/ 400°F.

Blind bake the tart for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 180°C/ 350°C.
Take the tart crust out. Drain apples and keep the remaining calvados.
Sprinkle tart with 2 tbsp sugar and place the drained apples all over
the tart. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. If the crust starts to
brown too much, cover edges with aluminium paper. Take the tart out of
the oven. Increase oven heat again to 400°F. Beat together the egg
yolks, cream, remaining sugar and reserved calvados and pour mixture
into the tart all over the apples. Sprinkle the ground almonds on top
and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Serve warm with a tbsp of crème
fraîche on the side.

Lunch with my husband

Friday was the last day before the Toussaint. It is a Christian holiday to honor and pray for the deceased (All Saints day – November 1st and All Souls day November 2nd), where relatives gather and visit family graves, decorating them with chrysanthemums, which is the official flower for Toussaint. The kids get to have a well-deserved two weeks holiday from school, the best treat they could ever get. This time of the year is all about union and family, celebrating fall with all the pumpkins, squashes, mushrooms, brown ferns, acorns and pomegranates.

My husband and I realized it was the last Friday before a two-week fanfare parade at home with les enfants, so we decided to have late romantic lunch. Our days are filled with non-stop activities, from work, dogs, gardening, cooking and kids, so we really value a bit of quiet time together. We were thinking of going out to a nearby bistrot, but luckily I had a duet of coquelets in the fridge, and lots of squashes on my kitchen table, almost too pretty to eat. As much as I enjoy eating out, I had a great recipe in mind for those little chickens so we just had to stay in. I layed an elegant yet rustic table, opened a bottle of St Julien wine, and we happily savoured coquelets à la moutarde (spring chicken with mustard), roast thyme potatoes and baked squashes with garlic cream. Sometimes simplicity works best. This meal is inspired by all the countless lunches we had in Paris at Yves Camdeborde’s ‘le Relais du Comptoir‘ (9 Carrefour de l’Odéon 75006 Paris). It’s one of our regular (and favourite) places to eat for numerous reasons. The food is excellent, we adore Yves Camdeborde, the terrasse is charming, they have given me the best seats throughout my pregnancies, seen all our kids grow up and you can eat there at any time of the day. The menu is fantastic and we always order the same dishes. ‘Coquelet à la moutarde’ or ‘Joue de boeuf with coquillettes’ (beef cheeks with small shell pasta). When we are back in Paris, it’s one of our first obligatoire stops.

The squash with garlic cream was a little last-minute idea. Baking it nearly naked (only with one garlic clove, salt & pepper) was simple, so I wanted to add crème fraîche for extra density (I just can’t help it, I love cream and butter so much). The cream melts in the squash and does the job all by itself creating a perfect garlic cream mash. It was a real hit!

Roast coquelets à la moutarde (serves 2)

Ingredients:
2 coquelets (spring chickens, or you can roast 1 chicken)
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp strong classic mustard (I use Maille)
1 tbsp Savora mustard (it’s a special mix of mustard and spices – available at supermarkets – I also love using this for my quiche lorraine)

Preheat oven 180°C/350°F.

In a bowl, mix 3 tbsp of mustard, 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt. Place chicken in a roasting pan. Spread the mustard marinade all over the chicken including the cavity. Place one garlic clove in each chicken and a 2-3 small sprigs of thyme. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Halfway in cooking time, pour some of the dripping on the chicken. Repeat if necessary. Bake for 35-40 minutes for a coquelet (spring chicken) or 1 hour-1 hour and a half if you are using a larger chicken.

Baked squash with garlic cream (serves 2)
2 squashes (I used carnival squash, but you can use any small-sized variety)
2 garlic cloves (peeled)
120 ml/ 1/2 cup crème fraîche per squash (alternatively you can use sour cream)
Salt & pepper for seasoning

Preheat oven 180°C/350°F

Slice the top part of the squash (leaving you with a lid), remove the seeds. Season the inside of the squash with salt and pepper, add one peeled garlic clove and close the lid.
Place squash in a roasting pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until soft. When ready, remove the lid and leave to cool on a plate. Scoop out the garlic and 2 tsp of squash and add to the crème fraîche. You can mash it up with a fork or place in a food processor and mix for a few seconds for a creamier sauce. Pour cream back into squash and close the lids. Serve on a plate with a spoon.

Roast thyme potatoes

Preheat oven 180°C/350°F
10-12 small potatoes, roasting types (I count 5-6 small potatoes per person)
Sprigs of fresh thyme (or dried thyme)
Coarse sea salt
60 ml/ 1/4 cup olive oil
Rinse potatoes, slice them in half or quarters depending on size. Place in roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, sprigs of thyme and coarse sea salt. Mix well and bake for 35-45 minutes (give the potatoes a good stir halfway).

You can roast both the potatoes and the chicken at the same time. I start with the potatoes first for 15 minutes, then add the chicken to the pan – this saves space & time.

From quail to quince

The vineyards around Médoc are looking very handsome these days. The grapes have ripened to a velvety dark colour, looking robust and just about ready to be picked. I found out this week harvest dates will be postponed till October. It has been a dry year and the grapes need to mature for a few more weeks. Rumour has it that 2012 will be a good year.

Once in a while, we love going on a little family escapade. We drive through tiny villages, stop by a château and chat with winemakers. By chance, we met M. Gilles Hue, proprietor of Château Haut Garin, located in Prignac-en-Médoc. It’s exactly the kind of small château you want to find, where you can chat with the owner on wine, on the art of enjoying baguette, on the practicality of his old Citroen car and his general remembrance of things past. We bought a bottle of his cru bourgeois 2000 (the bottle cost 8 euros). Since I had previously bought a few quails, I had the idea to cook them wrapped in vine leaves. So I picked a few leaves from the vineyards and hurried home to make another little feast.

M. Hue was not pleased with his baguette delivery this morning – it was too soft. So he left it standing by the kitchen window for a crustier effect.

M. Gilles Hue, proprietor of Château Haut Garin.

On our way home, we saw a beautiful line of trees leading to what it seemed to be another château. And there it was, a hidden gem, a treasure left to its own devices, in the middle of the Médocan nature. A fairy-tale castle built for princes and princesses, tucked away in the bushes, fallen into ruins and reminding us of an elegant past. We were transported on a journey through the history of this abandoned castle where a lot is left to our imagination. The overgrown garden looks like the land time forgot. Could the story behind the castle’s abandonment be of lost fortunes? My daughter Mia suddenly looked like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, grabbing Harry (our little furry Jack Russell) in her arms – he was scared of the big white bull in the garden, she was frightened by the ghostliness of the castle. I am always the hopeful romantic, thinking it was fate that we found this castle and one day it shall be ours.

Back home I cleaned the vine leaves and the quails. I enjoyed wrapping the birds in the leaves and securing each one of them with butcher’s twine. I felt like a determined Babette (from Babette’s feast – a must-see food-lover movie) in the kitchen. My table was glowing thanks to the golden Chasselas grapes from Moissac. They always warm my heart as Moissac is my grandmother’s hometown. It’s a beautiful village, home to the impressive Saint-Pierre Abbey dating back from the 7th century. When you adventure about you will find ancient medieval monasteries, famous for their quince jams and honey. The remote lives of the monks chanting in the hills remain a mystery. It certainly provides a lot of inspiration for a novel.

Talking about quince, we bought several big ones last week. My youngest baby daughter Gaïa loves my home-made quince compote with honey and cinnamon. I try not to buy ready-made baby food anymore (unless I am travelling). I enjoy preparing little meals which I store in old labelled jam jars. To end the quail dinner, I made a quince tarte tatin. Quince have a delightful tangy taste, a mixture between pears and apples. This simple quince tarte tatin recipe is perfect for autumn evenings (and winter too!). The golden caramel melts through the quince, need I say more? I always serve this gourmand dessert warm with a obligatoire dollop of crème fraîche.

Ingredients:(serves 4)
Roast quails with vine leaves
8-10 quails (2 to 3 per person)
8-10 slices bacon
A sprig of fresh thyme
Chasselas grapes, or good-quality smaller grape variety
40 ml cognac
25 g butter (at room temperature)
5 cloves garlic (halved)
Vine leaves (smaller ones are better, 2 leaves per quail)
Butcher’s twine
Salt and pepper

Peel and deseed grapes (you can save a lot of time if you buy seedless grapes!), place in a bowl and soak in cognac for 2 hours. Clean vine leaves and pat dry.
Preheat over to 200 °C.
Wash and dry the quails. Add half a clove of garlic, thyme, 2-3 peeled and deseeded grapes, sprinkle with salt and pepper inside the quail. Rub the quail all over with butter, wrap with bacon. With butcher’s twine, tie the quail around the circumference, turn the quail over and tie the twine around the circumference again. Place a vine leaf on top, and one on the bottom, and secure with a small piece of twine. Sprinkle quails with salt and pepper.
Roast quails, and after 15 minutes, pour the grape mixture with cognac all over. Roast for a further 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how golden the quails look. Turn quails halfway. Make sure to check if the grapes and cognac don’t dry up or burn.

Serve with pan-fried potatoes with garlic and thyme.

Potatoes with garlic and thyme:
10 small potatoes (slice)
3 garlic cloves (sliced)
Olive oil
A sprig of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Slice potatoes, leave the skin on (6-7mm thick). In a large frying pan, heat olive oil on medium heat, add potatoes, making sure they are all coated in oil. Stir frequently so they don’t stick to the pan. After 10 minutes, add garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Lower heat slightly and continue frying. The potatoes should be cooked after 25-30 minutes.

Quince tart tatin with crème fraîche

Quince tatin

Quick & easy shortcrust pastry:
300 g plain flour (sifted)
150 g butter (diced and at room temperature)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
80 ml lukewarm milk

In a large bowl, mix butter, salt sugar and butter. Mix well with your hands, pour milk gradually and form a soft dough. Shape into a ball. On parchment paper, sprinkle a generous amount of plain flour, roll dough with a rolling-pin. Form a circle slightly larger than the diameter of the cake/tart tin.

Filling
3 large quince (or 5-6 small ones. Peeled, cored and cut into 2 cm thick wedges)
200 g caster sugar
100 g butter (diced and at room temperature)
1 tsp cinnamon
20 g sugar (for sprinkling)

Tip: I would advise to make the caramel in a sturdy pan and pour into the cake tin. Cake tins are usually very thin and somehow my caramel never seems to ‘work’ well.
In a 20 cm large pan, add sugar and melt on a low heat. Do not stir until the sugar has melted and starts to turn ‘golden blond’. At this point, take away from heat and add butter. Stir until butter has melted, and immediately pour into cake tin. It should cover the entire base. Set aside.
Peel, core and cut quince into 2 cm wedges. Carefully arrange the quince in the cake tin, round-side down. You may need to cut some of the quince into smaller pieces to fill in the gaps. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon frequently. Seal the tatin with the rolled shortcrust pastry. Tuck in the edges, gently spike the dough with a fork all over. Bake for about 30 minutes until the pastry is golden, then remove from the oven. Cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm with crème fraîche.

Sunday best

Out of all the days of the week, Sunday is the golden day. We take time off and enjoy a quality ‘déjeuner‘. Our kids love this family ritual, and I secure it by making sure to cook something memorable. I would like to imagine my children’s lives bookmarked by food memories, especially Sunday lunches. It’s a sacred moment in time where all the ingredients matter.

With so many recipes ideas flowing in my head, I always have a soft spot for Lyonnaise cooking. In a way, it’s the French equivalent to my other food love which is Shanghainese cooking. They both have a point in common where a lot of elements are ‘drunken‘ by wine and spirits. There is also a lot of sourness mixed with sweetness, refined and preserved meats. My identity is defined between these two food cultures where East meets West. It’s good to know where you stand.

I made a Xérès vinegar chicken à la Lyonnaise, a classic dish filled assertive with flavours. I love serving this with braised endives and red wild rice from Camargue – the tangy sauce is a big appetite opener and goes perfectly well with the slightly bitter taste of the endives.

Ingredients (for 6 people) :

6 large chicken legs
80 g butter
2 tbsp olive oil (for frying chicken)
3 shallots (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 garlic cloves
3 tbsp plain flour
2 large tomatoes (chopped)
6 bay leaves
300 ml white wine
150 ml Xérès vinegar
150 ml chicken stock
A handful of chopped chives
Salt and pepper

Chop shallots, onion and garlic cloves. Chop tomatoes to small squares. Set aside. Dissolve 1 cube of chicken stock in 150 ml warm water and set aside.

In a frying pan, heat olive oil and fry chicken legs till golden on both sides (approx 4 minutes on each sides). Set aside on a large plate.

In an oven-proof large cooking pot, melt butter and fry shallots, onion and garlic for 4-5 minutes on a medium heat, drizzle flour, mix well, and add chicken legs. Stir gently so the chicken gets coated. Add wine, vinegar and reduce for 4 minutes, still on a medium heat. Add chicken stock, season with salt and pepper. Add bay leaves and tomatoes. Cover and place in a preheated oven (210°C) for 25-30 minutes.

When ready, sprinkle with chopped chives and serve immediately. I serve this dish with braised endives and wild red organic rice from Camargue (bought at my local organic health store).

Braised endives:

3 endives/ chicory (leaves plucked and washed)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
A pinch of salt

In a large pot, melt butter until golden, add endives, stir, add salt and continue stirring for 3 minutes. Lower heat and cover. Cook for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

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.

Ratatouille

Whenever I cook a ratatouille, my kitchen smells like a Provençal market, filled with Mediterranean scents. Even though ratatouille is a grand classic French dish, you won’t often come across it in the restaurant menus. This is a true ‘home-cooked’ meal, to be eaten in the best traditional way, with a golden fried egg on top. I always feel invigorated when I cook this meal, not only is the scent uplifting, but the deep and rich colours of the mixed vegetables give you a sense of culinary wisdom – as if your body was a temple and you are about to make a healthy offering.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

2 medium-sized onions, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
3 courgettes/zucchini, sliced
1 large aubergine/eggplant, cut into cubes
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
40 ml red wine (optional)
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Slice all the vegetables accordingly.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and cook the onions until they are transparent. Add the peppers and cook for 3 minutes. Then add aubergine, courgettes, garlic, thyme and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 3 minutes. Finally, add the chopped tomatoes and the red wine (optional), stir gently, cover and cook for 25 minutes on a low heat.
Serve with a fried egg, sunny-side up.

Note: Fresh thyme makes a world of difference for this dish.