FFwD – Nutella tartine

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Finally got to making the Nutella Tartine from FFwD a few weeks back! I struggled to find brioche and eventually made some in our new bread maker, just so I could make this recipe – it looked too good to miss out on;-)

It was scrumptious. We actually had it for breakfast. I loved the tartness of the marmalade with the sweetness of the nutella & a little crunch from the roasted hazelnuts.

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Excuse the blurry photo…my cell phone camera likes more light & a steadier hand!!

We also had the leftover brioche for dinner as French toast – it makes for a delicious French toast. I’ll definitely be doing that again, perhaps with the crunchy sugar as suggested in Around My French Table, another of Dorie’s delectable looking recipes 🙂

French onion soup – FFwD

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The last time I had French onion soup was in Paris, on a trip with my awesome sister 🙂

I remember it arriving in front of me in a small soup bowl, steaming and with bubbled, brown cheese encrusting the top of the bread. Below the bread was the HOT soup, flavour filled and delicious.

So, I was very excited when this recipe appeared for FFwD, a chance to make it myself.

We don’t own individual soup bowls (yet, but they’re on our wedding registry!), so I made the soup in one large casserole dish and we just dished up from there.

We loved it, though I may have slipped a little with the white pepper and so, in addition to being HOT, our soup was rather peppery! Whoops. Sorry lovely fiancé 😉

It was also a bit too steamy for the middle of a humid, hot summer…but come winter it will definitely be back on our menu.

Link through to the FFwD website to see what my fellow cooks have been up to and for the recipe you’ll need to get a copy of Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

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Chocolate truffle tart – Tuesdays with Dorie

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Second Tuesdays with Dorie post, Chocolate Truffle Tartlets. Have to admit I was a little nervous about this one – had visions of scrambling eggs in hot, melted chocolate! Not to mention I had decided to make this for pudding the weekend my folks were due to meet my fiancé’s folks for the first time… They live in different towns so it’s taken a while to happen, but with our wedding less than 6 months away it couldn’t wait any longer!

I didn’t have small tartlet pans and so I used a large one, and everything went perfectly until I forgot that I would need to bake it a little longer to make up for the larger pan. This resulted in the centre still being runny and not setting properly. But, it still tasted like heavenly brownie deliciousness:-)

And the next day, after a night in the fridge, it had set and was scrumptious! We nibbled on it for the rest of the weekend:)

Here’s a pic before I cut it…looks perfect:)

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And here’s the gooeyness!

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PS Our folks seemed to get along just fine & it was a great weekend!

Oh, and you can link to this weeks hosts blogs for the recipes or buy your copy of Baking with Julia!

Bacon, asparagus and potato salad

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A while back i read a blog post by one of the bloggers I follow, The Food Fox, about an awesome recipe for potato salad. Bit this wasn’t just any potato salad, it was the kind of potato salad you could eat as your main meal. It had crispy, fried bacon, asparagus and a vinaigrette that sounded fresh and sweet and lovely.

Now, finally, weeks later I made it for our dinner last night and wow! It was flavour laden, sweet from honey, but sharp from vinegar and mustard, and the fresh, blanched asparagus were so inspired.

If you want to read more or make it (you should!) check out the recipe on The Food Fox’s blog.

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Tuesday’s with Dorie – White loaves

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Finally!! It’s Tuesday and Tuesday’s with Dorie has kicked off. I’ve been waiting patiently for a while, first for my copy of Baking with Julia to arrive and then for the day of the first post. And here we are:-)

For those of you who don’t know about Tuesday’s with Dorie let me fill you in. Essentially it’s an online blogging, baking challenge to bake all the recipes in the recipe book Baking with Julia, by Dorie Greenspan. Twice a month we bake recipes from the book and blog about the experience. A really awesome way to learn, make new friends and to actually ensure that one cooks one’s way through an entire recipe book!

The recipe that is kicking off the challenge is White Loaves on page 81 in the book. For those of you that don’t own the book it’s well worth getting, but you can also find the recipe on the blog’s of this week’s hosts – Laurie and Jules.

My baking got off to a slightly frustrating start – weevils in the brand new bag of flour I’d just arrived home from the shops with! Aargh. Thankfully my wonderful fiancé dashed out to get me some more, while I cleaned up what I’d already done.

From there on out it was pretty plain sailing, except I think I over-mixed my dough:-( The result being that I don’t think my bread rose enough.

We haven’t eaten it yet, it’ll be our breakfast for tomorrow morning, but we’re very excited. I’ll report back!

Ooh, I’m back! Just had my first slice. Bread and butter for breakfast:-) It’s rather dense and heavy, but the taste is wonderful (I think the butter really adds a little something) and its super springy. Next slice – toasted with peanut butter.

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Ready Steady Cook January 2012

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Tandy, over at Lavender and Lime, has an awesome little challenge called Ready Steady Cook for bloggers all over to take part in. It’s reminiscent of the TV show, where contestants are given a set of ingredients that they must use to produce a starter, main meal and dessert. In Tandy’s version a group of bloggers provide one another with a list of 7 ingredients that they can use, and then each blogger also picks one pantry ingredient – these are then available for use by all the participants.

I received my list of ingredients from Original Cin and they included:

  • Pork Belly
  • Sesame seeds
  • Apples
  • Onions
  • Hot English mustard
  • Honey
  • Sorrel

A very interesting list indeed, I’d never cooked a pork belly before so that was quite daunting, and I was thrown by the sorrel – sage with pork, apple and sage, these are familiar, but sorrel was interesting and I can’t say I’ve ever used it! Though admittedly we do have a bloody sorrel bush in our garden…

Now, I do have some confessions, and I must apologise Tandy, but I struggled to get this challenge done – I’ve hardly been cooking recently as can be seen by my very quiet blog. So I have to admit that I did not make a starter, wracked my brains trying to think of something, but just never got my act together! And I didn’t use the sorrel…mmm, maybe sorrel soup for starters?

My main course was a slow roasted pork belly, which I started at a temperature of 240 °C for 30 minutes to get the fat to go crispy and then turned down to 170 °C for an hour. Before roasting I glazed the pork belly with a mixture of 2 Tbsp single blend olive oil, 2 Tbsp honey, 2 tsp Hot English mustard and 1 tsp of sesame seeds. I was really happy with the balance of honey and mustard, as it can be so easy to get this wrong. I also roasted quartered onions alongside the pork, they soaked up the drippings of glaze from the pork and were sweet and delicious.

Unfortunately, during the cooking I started to notice an unpleasant smell coming from the oven, I persevered through until the pork was down, but by the end it was pretty clear that our pork belly had the foul smell of boar taint! It was inedible and we ended up eating oven chips for dinner. Apparently one is not meant to eat male pigs, only females, however I think the Spar supermarket butchers do not follow this rule as this is the second time in 2 months that meat from a Spar store has had boar taint (the first was our Christmas gammon). It was very disappointing and frustration after spending all that time in the kitchen, for no reward. I think it may take me a while to try a pork belly again…though I have had a successful and delicious gammon since Christmas, so maybe there is hope.

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For dessert I went to an old favourite – apple crumble 🙂 I love apple crumble, in any form or combination – in fact, I think it will be one of the puddings for our wedding later this year! I tried a slightly different variation this time, cooking 3 large Granny Smith apples on the stove top with about a tablespoon of demarera sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon until the sugar had caramelised a litle and the apples were soft. An amazingly comforting smell. I then made the crumble with flour, butter and demarera sugar – I used less butter than usual (diet, diet, diet!) and as a result ended up with a far more crumb like texture to the crumble. I covered the apples still in the pan with the crumble mixture and baked it in the oven for 30 mintues at 180 °C. It was lovely, again the balance between the tartness of the apples and the caramelisation of the sugar was just right for my taste and the cinnamon gave it that homely smell.

20120131-082154.jpgPlease excuse the awful photo!  Oh, and I may have cheated and served a little ice-cream with the crumble – so much for that diet!

I really enjoyed this challenge, I liked pushing myself to come up with recipes, rather than relying on books or blogs for inspiration. I look forward to the next round and will hopefully have more time and be less distracted in order to do a proper job!

Thanks Tandy!

Follow the link below to see what everyone else got up to…

 

FFwD – Broth braised potatoes

So I skipped last week’s FFwD because it was a delicious sounding cake and we were on “diet”, but this week I’m back and finally back on my blog, I have missed it!  Life is still feeling a little crazy and I don’t actually think we’ve been cooking any interesting food, at least I don’t feel like we have 😦 Until this week…a little help from Dorie and we had some delicious potatoes to go with succulent, pan fried chicken breasts and veggies and then much thanks to my lovely fiance for finding an awesome recipe for a chicken tagine, which got me back on the cooking horse!  Now, I’m back to wanting to cook everything, all the time!  Will hopefully blog the tagine soon, it was out of this world and so much fun to make 🙂

Back to potatoes, we were amazed by how much character cooking the potatoes in the broth gave them.  And I was super chuffed at how quick and easy it was.  I think we’ll be using this often in the future to jazz up potatoes.

Dorie comments in the book that she feels they go well with white meats and I can certainly agree that they were great compliment for our chicken.  I’m not sure about the suggestion for reducing the broth after removing the potatoes – I felt that the flavour was then too overpowering and preferred the subtleness in the potatoes themselves.  But that’s just me…

I have to say that Around My French Table is fast becoming my favourite recipe book – love everything about it, from the layout, to the recipes, to the writing.  I finally received my copy of Baking With Julia, also by Dorie Greenspan, and I have to admit that it is not calling my name so loudly yet, it doesn’t have quite the same feel for me – though it does seem to be a wealth of information. Still excited for the start of that challenge though – Tuesdays with Dorie here we come 🙂

The recipe can be found on p. 358 of Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.

FFwD – m. jacques’ armagnac chicken

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The finished product

Aah, it’s been a crazy week! One week since my first FFwD post (bubble-top brioche) and one week since my wonderful boyfriend popped THE question and became my wonderful fiancé! No one tells you how crazy life gets just after an engagement – well I can tell you it’s hectic. Then add to that starting a new job this week…and I think I can be forgiven for my slackness in blogging this week, that, and the fact that I haven’t actually eaten at home this week – until this chicken dish on Thursday night.

The recipe on this weeks French Fridays with Dorie schedule is M. Jacques’ armagnac chicken – a chicken done in a casserole dish with onions, carrots and potatoes and critically, the armagnac. Or in my case – whatever whisky my fiancé will let me have my hands on 😉 Somehow, I don’t think it’s going to be the Johnny Blue…

On reading the recipe it looks pretty easy – just throw it all in a casserole dish and leave it to cook for an hour. Fan-freaking-tastic! This week, easy is my friend. Actually, there were a few other steps, which I might have ignored…we were in a little bit of a rush, friends had a little baby girl today and visiting hours were right around dinner time, so I might have skipped some steps to make it a case of just throwing it all in the dish!

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In the oven we go

And it was – easy – and delicious! The chicken was super succulent and the veg was soaked in the flavourful whisky juices, mixed with the aroma from the fresh herbs. Try it, it’s too easy not to.

The recipe can be found on p. 204 of Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.

French Fridays with Dorie – Bubble-top brioches

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Be warned folks for some reason I developed a serious case of the waffle on this post!

So I’m pretty new to the blogosphere, from the point of my own blog, but also to the sheer mass of wonderful blogs that are out there.  Sometime ago I came across Tuesdays with Dorie, a blog along challenge to bake something from Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking: From My Home to Yours – it looked like such an amazing community of likeminded bloggers and bakers.  But alas, it was a closed group, meaning that no more bloggers could participate, although you could still read their posts about the baking adventures they were having.  Through that I discovered French Fridays with Dorie – a similar concept, except that there were no limits as to who could join, and that the recipe book (Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan) contains all manner of French food, and so it is a combination of cooking and baking.  Yippee…I wanted in.  And so after waiting an absolute age for my copy of the book to arrive, I can finally participate.

Now, I’m not sure if I have just been living under a giant rock or if Dorie Greenspan’s fame and brilliance has just not made it to sunny South Africa, but I had not heard of her until discovering the blog challenges.  But I think more people should know about her – Around My French Table is beautiful; I’m not one for bland recipe books that just give me a list of ingredients and some instructions – I want to learn, be entertained and hear more about the dish I’m making and the story behind it.  Not all that dissimilar from the way I write I guess…

So, my book arrived on the 3rd of January 2012 and the first recipe challenge blog post is due on the 6th January – yikes!  But I was excited and there was no way I was missing it, plus it is most convenient to start the challenge at the start of a new year.  So, first recipe bubble-top brioche…

Brioche is delicious, sweet eggy bread.  It’s often used in desserts, but also as a savoury option.  I remember when I worked at a hotel in England the pastry chef, Cheryl, did an amazing bread and butter pudding with brioche, it made it so much richer and fuller than using regular bread.

So Dorie reckons that brioche is not that difficult to make provided you have patience, time and a stand mixer.  Um, excuse me, did you say stand mixer?!  Oh dear – I lust after a stand mixer, but I don’t have one, mmm, now what?  She does claim that you can do it by hand, obviously that’s how it was done in the good old days, so I figure why not, I can do this.  And I do have a hand mixer with dough hooks, even if it is crazy out of control fast with no discernible low or medium speed. So I blundered ahead, feeling very uncertain, but excited at the same time.

I couple of other issues came to light while reading the recipe, not major, but just adding to the challenge – all oven temperatures are given in degrees Fahrenheit, not a major issue as I just converted to the degrees Celsius we use in SA, and the recipe calls for all-purpose flour which we don’t get here in South Africa.  I managed to found some conversions and went with cake flour instead, just adding a little extra (2 tbsp per cup) to convert it.

The rules of the challenge are that we don’t publish the recipe, thus encouraging people to buy the book, so you can find it on pg 494 – 496 of Around My French Table.

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I have baked bread before, but many, many years ago and so it almost felt like my first foray into that world all over again, that and the fact that brioche dough is very different to other bread dough – much softer, being almost like a batter at some points – was enough to make me panic!  Enter calm boyfriend to speak reason to me. Between a bit of hand mixing, some electric hand beaters and their super speed I think I eventually got it to the elusive right point.

20120105-210044.jpgAfter the first rising – so chuffed that it has actually risen, I was sceptical!

After an evening of rising and slap downs the dough finally goes into the fridge overnight to rest, Dorie says this helps to give the brioche its beautiful texture.  The following morning involves dividing the dough up, with the help of lots of flour to avoid a sticky mess, into 3 balls per muffin tin to create the 3 bubbles of the bubble-top brioche.  It then rises for another couple of hours and then gets brushed with egg and baked at 200 ◦C.  Mine were browning a little too quickly and so I placed a tent of tin foil over the top to slow things down.

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I was a little silly and for some reason made mine in giant muffin tins, not sure why, but it meant the dough didn’t rise over the edges to give that bubbled over look.  But they still looked good coming out of the oven, if a little too dark blonde.

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20120105-210127.jpgBreakfast (or lunch in our case) of champions

We ate them with boiled eggs, cream cheese, smoked trout and dill, inspired by the suggestions in the recipe book.  They were yummy, although I think maybe a little dry, but the centre was definitely springy and stretchy just like Dorie said they should be.  We also tried them with Nutella for afternoon tea – delicious, although this may be the case for anything with a Nutella component!

20120105-210135.jpgA little dark on top, but lovely inside

All in all a great success me thinks.  Would I make them again? Probably not for a while, but I would like to see if I could get them just a touch moister and to make them in a normal size muffin tin or perhaps as a loaf so it’s more amenable to becoming French toast!

First French Fridays with Dorie completed.

Oh and by the way, Tuesdays with Dorie have just finished their first recipe book and are about to embark on the next book – Baking with Julia – thus opening up to new members again.  I have agonised over the decision of whether to participate, I have ordered the book and will probably wait until it arrives to make my mind up.  It is a huge commitment to bake once a week – my waistline and bathroom scale are quivering in fear at the mere thought of it, but the challenge would be amazing and I could learn so much.  Another concern I have is a comment Dorie herself made saying that the first book was like the introductory course and this book will be the advanced one – there is no way I am anything but a novice baker.  People have also commented that you NEED a stand mixer (excuse to finally buy my KitchenAid perhaps?) and that many have killed hand beaters in the process of trying to bake some of the recipes…