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French family recipes – Martine from Brittany and her famous ‘Lotte à l’Armoricaine’

10 Oct

As you may have noticed, I am a quite the incurable food tourist- which is why La belle France, with its rich regional diversity and world-renowned gastronomy, never ceases to amaze me, or my stomach. This recent addition to my French Food Travel series takes us to the stunning coastal region of Bretagne know in English as “Brittany” where the local cuisine and characters serve to reveal the history and culture of this region. I shot a little video this time so here are the highlights – this time more in the form of a photo reportage.
All images are credited to Alexandre Planchot unless noted otherwise.

La Lotte à l'Armoricaine

A Brittany regional classic and the feature dish: La Lotte à l'Armoricaine / Monkfish in Sauce 'Armoricaine'. Image credit: Rachel Bajada

First up, we must meet our local host, and the star of this story- Martine. Martine is from Brest in Brittany where she’s most famous for her tried and tested family recipe for ‘La Lotte à l’Armoricaine’(Recipe at end of this article). When she cooks this dish, her children just happen to be free for dinner that night, and the family cat is never lucky enough to get leftovers for dinner. Martine loves nothing more than the knowledge that her recipe is the best in town.

martine_at_fish_markets

Now it's time to meet Martine

This peninsular region in the North West of France along the English Channel has a turbulent, divided past and fierce sense of self identity. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany occupies a large peninsula in the north west of France, lying between the English to the north and the Bay of Biscay to the south. The historical province of Brittany is divided into five departments including the Côtes-d’Armor in the north, from where this traditional dish originates. Today, French is spoken throughout this region, but Breton- a Celtic language that most present in the west, can still be heard all over Brittany, and Gallo, a romantic ‘langue d’oil’ is still spoken in the east.

The Fishing Port, Brtagne/Brittany

The Fishing Port, Brtagne / Brittany, France. Image Credit: Flickr user "bpmm"

In terms of local gastronomy, Brittany is most famous for local delights including Clafoutis and ‘Far Breton’

Cherry Clafoutis and Far Breton

Cherry Clafoutis and Far Breton. Image credits: Flickr users jypsygen and kriscar29

Not forgetting of course the now world-famous crêpes and galettes, to be washed down with a good pint of local Breton cider.

Ham and cheese crêpes with apple cider

Crêpes and cider. Image credit: Flickr users jypsygen and Tarnie

And then there is Cancale, on Brittany’s Côte d’Emeraude, where to eat anything but oysters would be absurd– since this region, thanks to its favourable geography sheltered from the strong winds and currents found on north Breton coast, produces France’s finest oysters and shellfish.

Oyster stand, Brittany

Fresh oysters anyone? Image credit: Flickr user Gentse Fieste

Cancale Bertagne

Brittany: Pretty as a picture. Image credit: Flickr user "zenithe"

The sauce à l’Armoricaine is a traditional French recipe from coastal Brittany where it is most commonly prepared with shellfish, or used to flavour firm white-fleshed fish such as La Lotte or Monkfish– otherwise known as poor man’s lobster. It’s creation dates back to1860 when it was first made by French chef Pierre Fraisse- a Breton who had been working in Chicago and recently returned to Paris where he opened his own restaurant serving traditional Britannic cuisine.

Old Brittany (c.1905) Vintage photographic postcard

Old Brittany. The Sea Dogs' Circle (c.1905) Vintage photographic postcard, published by Collection Villard, Quimper, Finistère, France. © Casas-Rodríguez Collection, 2009. Flickr Creative Commons

Legend has it that late one evening some customers arrived at his restaurant hoping to be served dinner just before closing time, and so they had less than an hour to eat. Using the products at hand- a few lobsters and the chef’s staples such as aromatic herbs and fresh tomatoes, he was too pressed for time to slowly cook the lobster in a bouillon (seafood stock) as he would normally do, so instead he flambéed the lobster flesh in cognac and cooked it in a sauce of diced tomato, white wine, garlic and fresh herbs.

The dish was a big success with his late night diners and when they asked what the dish was called, he named it on the spur of the moment- “Sauce Américaine”- in homage of his recent stint in America where he learnt to prepare delicious dishes but make them much faster to suit the pace of his American clientele!

Lobster fishing Brittany Archival photo

Lobster Fishing In Brittany (c.1910). Petit Port de Bestrée. - Préparatifs pour la Pêche de Langoustes. Preparations for Spiny lobster fishing. Vintage photographic postcard, c.1910 Published by Lévy et Neurdein Réunis (originally by Neurdein frères), Paris, France. © Casas-Rodríguez Collection, 2009

Bright and early at 9 am and we’re at Martine’s local market where she comes at least three times per week to buy fresh produce. La Lotte (Monk Fish) is in season, and all the ingredients for the day’s meal are sourced from her favourite market suppliers- and I can see why she loves coming here. Meet Monsieur Marcel- Martine’s poissonier du marche. What a man. Marcel wakes up, rain, hail or shine, at 3am each morning to collect and deliver the freshest seafood; and on this day, he had specially set aside for Martine the best looking Monkfish of the day’s haul.

To add to the fun, I acquired my now expert knowledge on this fish over an entertaining conversation involving a few glasses of champagne and some freshly shucked oysters at the market oyster stand. A few French fishing jokes and generation-specific expressions were lost in translation on my end over our fascinating chat, but here’s what I did understand and do remember:

Marcel_Poissonier_Brittany

Meet Marcel. Martine's charismatic local market Poissonier

The Monkfish is an angler-fish which comes from la mer du nord and is in fact, really really UGLY.

Wondering if the effects of its hit by the ugly stick was the reason that it’s rare to spot an entire fish (with its head and all) at the markets, I asked Marcel the question. It turns out the big ugly head of the monkfish actually takes up more than 50% of it’s body weight and aside from the cheeks, is mostly inedible, thus the fisherman immediately throw the heads overboard so save weight and storage space for the long journey back to the mainland.

Homard Bleu

Homard Bleu. Live Blue Lobster from Brittany

This fish has a very bland but firm flesh and so has been used traditionally and still to this day, as a replacement for Lobster- thus the name “poor mans’ lobster”. Saying that, the economic factor is becoming somewhat obsolete since it’s now not uncommon to pay over €30/kg due increasing costs related to boat fuel and transport.

cutting skin of monkfish

Thicked skinned. La Lotte (Monkfish) has seven layers of skin which also cover the dorsal.

Marcel also showed Martine and myself that the Monkfish has an impressive seven layers of skin which also cover the dorsal. A job best left to the pros I say…

Ingredients_la sauce

Sauce staples: White wine, onions, garlic, tomatoes, fresh herbs

Martine then did her rounds at her favourite fruit and vegetable stalls picking up fresh herbs, onions, garlic, tomatoes, lemons, and lastly cheese (for the cheese course after our meal bien sûr), then before I knew it we were back in the wonderful home kitchen of Martine- the place where all the magic happens.

Martine in her kitchen

Martine et sa cuisine. Are you ready?

Martine’s recipe for la Lotte Armoricaine was handed down to her by her mother, and has been a special Christmas and celebratory dish cooked by the women of her family for more than four generations.

Martine's family photos

Family tradition. The recipe has been in Martine's family for four generations

Due to the given name of this dish, to this day a battle of recipe ownership exists between the Americans and the French, who commonly refer to the sauce respectively as either Americaine or Armoricaine– ‘Armorique’ being an ancient name for the northern region of Brittany where the coast is called les Côtes d’Armor.

‘Americaine’ as labelled by chef Pierre, suggests ownership to the Americans, and ‘Armoricaine’ implies that it originates from the French Armorique coast. Most Bretons today claim that the simply must recipe must come from Brittany, since all ingredients are typical of the region and because Lobsters have been fished for generations by their local fishermen.

Regardless of the friendly food tug of war between them, this dish combines the best of both worlds- the rapid preparation techniques of the Americans, and the rich flavours and regional produce that the French are famous for.

Rachel and Martine dicing onions and herbs

Martine telling Rachel the story of how the Americans and Bretons still argue to this day over who 'owns' the sauce recipe

Rachel Bajada_Martine_cooking

Martine puts the flour-coated fish into a hot pan with olive oil and butter

A relatively simple dish, the sauce is quick to prepare and the fish is cooked twice- first coated in flour, pan fried in butter and then flambéed in cognac.
When Martine poured out a shot glass of cognac in front of me I was wondering why she was offering me a digestif before the meal…then before I had time to ask, it was poured into the pan and then well…. the photos say it all!

Rachel Bajada and Martine flambée scene

"Oh we're just goingto add a tad of Cognac to the pan now...." says Martine

Flambée surpise!

Ohhhh now just a little cognac flambée.... I mean... 2 foot fire in the kitchen!!!

Martine laughs after her successful surprise flambée stunt

The satisfied grin. Just an average day in the la cuisine de Martine!

Rachel terrified after flambee surprise

"O.M.G. Do I still have my eyebrows???!!!"

spics

Secret's in the spices. Real saffron and piment d'espelette make all the difference.

Once the sauce has significantly reduced, the fish is then returned to the pan and cooked for a further 5 minutes only- cooking the fish longer than this can quickly render the flesh tough and dry.

The sauce must always be cooked slowly and gently, and no additional salt or condiments are required as an enormous amount of flavour is gained through the caramelisation of the sugars in the wine and cognac and the existing saltiness in the salted butter of Brittany. Martine swears by using Britannic butter, insisting that the salt from the Britannic ocean, when combined with products of sea and terroir, creates a truly special result that cannot be reproduced in absence of these specific products of the region.

Mijoter. Sauce a l'Armoricaine simmering

Mijoter. The sauce and la lotte left to simmer

And well, there you have it. We couldn’t wait any longer to tasted it so we decided to taste it right out of the pan!

Now... let's eat!

Chin Chin! We couldn't wait any longer so we tasted it straight out of the pan and washed it down with a good chablis. Santé!

Super bon! This dish turned out to be surprisingly simple and was honestly one of the most satisfying, delicious, homely comfort food meals I have ever eaten. Martine has been kind enough to share the recipe (please find below) but in all honesty, I’m sure that no one can reproduce it to be the same as her homemade, 4th generation family recipe goodness.

Dish of La lotte a l'Armoricaine

La lotte a l'Armoricaine. The finished dish. Of course in the end we plated it up, set the table à la Française and served with rice.

martine_laughing

Bravo Bravo et merci encore Martine!

Recipe: Martine’s ‘Lotte à l’Armoricaine’
Serves 4

• 1.2 kg fresh Monkfish fillets (or substitute for other firm white fish)
• 50 grams salted butter (obviously Martine’s is butter from Bretagne with salt de Guérande) but if you don’t live in France you will have to make do with good quality salted butter
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 1 standard tin of peeled tomato puree
• 1 tbsp tomato puree (concentrate)
• 1 white onion
• 2 shallots
• Dried herbs de Provence (parsley, thyme, bay leaves)
• 2 cloves garlic
• 2 tablespoons of plain white flour
• Half a bottle dry white wine
• 250 ml fish stock
• 50 ml cognac
• 1 handful fresh coriander
• Small pinch piment d’espelette (a special Basque-country, dried spice).
The closest substitute is cayenne pepper
• 3-4 threads saffron
• Sea salt and pepper to taste
• Juice of half a lemon

The monkfish is a tricky fish to prepare by yourself so it’s much easier to have the monkfish prepared and cut into medallions by your fishmonger.

Coat the fish fillets lightly in flour. In a heavy-based or good quality cast-iron pan, melt the butter and add the olive oil so that the butter does not burn.
Place the monkfish fillets in the pan then add the cognac. Light the cognac with a flame and flambé. Take the pan off the heat, place the fish aside in a separate dish and put it aside to rest.

Finely dice the garlic, onion and shallots. Gently cook the garlic and onions in the flambéed saucepan then the tomatoes, fish stock, white wine, piment d’espelette and herbs de Provence. Allow to simmer gently until the sauce has reduced and concentrated in flavour, for at least 20 minutes.

Finally, add the pieces of fish to the sauce in the pan and cook for only a further 5 or so minutes. Just before serving, add fresh coriander and saffron, salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with rice. Now close your eyes, pour a glass of wine and imagine yourself on the coast of Brittany…

Delicious Discoveries from the Gourmet Jury at Haute Cuisine Paris

7 Sep brioche_sml
Le Jury Gourmand gathers around Ibéric Jambon at Haute Cuisine Paris

Day 1 on the ‘Jury Gourmand’ This photo somehow resembles the last supper… slight difference though: we’re sharing ham, not bread… From left: Laura Annaert, Emmanuel Giraud, Mathilde Dewilde, Rachel Bajada, Laurent Cagna. Photo credit: Barbara Siegel

Recently I had the honour of being invited as guest on the “Gourmet Jury” at the First Haute Cuisine Paris gastronomy event in the gorgeous Palais Royale Gardens. Over two days I sat on a gourmet-jury style ‘tasting panel’ organised by Madeline Market, where I had the pleasure of discovering some of the finest, freshest and most innovative products on French gastronomy scene. (What a dreadful way to spend a weekend… ) These two days opened out a whole new world of flavours, products, cooking techniques, trends and personalities that I figured are best shared with other food lovers, rather than left as memories in the form of photos on my iPhone and jotted notes in my little black notebook.

In this post I summarise and feature the highlights and most noteworthy of my delicious discoveries, from the finest Ibéric Jambon with a nutritional lipid profile comparable to olive oil, through to an exotic Japanese Turnip, exceptional Italian Carnaroli Rice and incredible micro-herbs that literally explode on your tastebuds. Here I aim to be your ‘French Food Correspondent’ in sharing these delicious discoveries.

This is the part where I add my little disclaimer to confirm that none of the references in this post, (or on my blog for that matter) are of a commercial nature. I like to promote people and products simply becasue I think they’re great, not because I’m paid to do so. Voila!

Plate of Jamon by Origine Gourmet

‘Jamon’ variety Ibéric Jambon from Origine Gourmet (Patte arriere du cochon).
Photo credit: Barbara Siegel

Day one was all about Jambon. I must say, when I was first asked to sit on a panel purely involving the degustation and discussion of Ibéric Jambon, I was admittedly a little intimidated. For someone who had spent a large portion of her adult life as a vegetarian, the invitation was both exciting and slightly daunting at the same time. My former choice to lead a vegetarian lifestyle was what I believe originally contributed to my passion and curiosity for food from an early age; but the main drivers were the ethical, animal rights and environmental sustainability issues linked to the meat industry.

Little did I know, man did not make all Jambon equal. Many of my generalised preconceptions of this product were dispelled through the discovery of this premium, artisanal Ibéric Jambon. Meeting Pierre-André, founder of Origine Gourmet was a big eye opener. This man is on a mission to source and distribute the finest range of gourmet delicacies produced with the greatest respect for terroir, tradition, quality, and artisanal farming techniques and methodologies.

We sampled four kinds of Ibéric Jambon on the jury, each was a unique discovery in itself- exhibiting its own distinct personality and flavour profile. Tasting a fine jambon of this quality is a sensory experience on so many levels. On the palate, it not only apports an incredible array of subtle flavours ranging from red fruits, vanilla and cinnamon to hazelnut, wood and truffle, but it brings one of the strongest sensations connected to ‘terroir’. At the moment of tasting this jambon- you really get this feeling of being magically transported to the place of its origin. An unexplainable connection between the product and the land, was produced from becomes evident through the aroma of earth, truffle, soil, wood, and fruit. I’m also convinced that the strict production methods employed in producing these special products is at the heart of this. The ‘Jamon’ variety for example, (pictured) requires up to four years of careful treatment, processing and ageing following strict traditional and artisanal methods, before the product is finally ready for the market.

A Labour of Love:

Salted for up to 15 days at a constant 5 degrees, then temperature controlled for a further 60 days at 80-90% humidity, the Jamon is then matured during a careful drying process which ensures the gradual and uniform diffusion of fats into the fibrous tissues. The maturation process lasts up to 9 months at 30-35 degrees at 70% humidity with the entire process controlled daily by a “Maesto Jamonero”. Finally the maturation is completed in special ageing caves which allow a natural constant temperature of 10-20 degrees at lower humidty, where the Jamon matures for 20 to 30 months when finally, at the end of the long process, the moment arrives when the Jambon becomes “Jamon”.

Aside from the slow, strict artisanal maturation and treatment process, almost more importantly is the story behind the original product- the actual animal that was raised under the most ideal of living conditions and with great respect for the health, well-being, happiness and physical state of the creature during its lifetime. The ‘Ibérico’ Cochon is a specific breed perfectly adapted to allow for cohabitation with other species- usually impossible with other varieties.

Honestly, these animals have a pretty awesome lifestyle. For the first year and a half, they are raised in vast open enclosures that permit the farmers to have a greater degree of control over their diet. Come October, they are released completely into the wild where they graze at full liberty in oak forests and dramatically increase their body weight until 60% of their body fat percentage is composed of fat tissue. Roaming and grazing with reckless abandon in bountiful open spaces sounds pretty good to me.

The ‘sacrifice’ of the animal is obviously an important part of the process and is carried out in a manner observing the utmost respect for the creature, and in the most humane way possible. Finally, each portion of the cochon is used to produce one of four uniquely different types of Jambon: Paletta, Jamon, Lomito and Lomo.

Furthermore, all of these utopic conditions bring specific health benefits to the product: Nutritional profiling studies on this Ibéric Jambon reveal large antioxidant properties and very high levels of Vitamis B1, B6, B12 and Oleic acid (Omega 9)- the cholesterol-lowering substance normally found in olive oil. Pas mal.

And the price, you may ask? Naturally, due to the highly idyllic conditions involved in all of the above, the Ibéric Jambon is sold for between 180 € and 450 € per kilo. It recently became available for order online with international shipping on Madeline Market where you can buy it in 100 gram packs staring from 18 €.

Rachel Bajada- Degustation de Jambon Iberic, Jury Gourmand Paris

Passion for quality- Pierre André Rouard and Jean Bernard Magescas. Trying to explain the subtleties of terroir and Ibéric Jambon... in French.. not easy!
Photo credit: Barbara Siegel

Extra-ordinary Vegetables:

During day 2 on the Gourmet Jury I discovered the fine, exotic Japanese vegetables of Asafumi Yamashita. I never imagined myself getting so excited by a pretty plate of diced raw vegetables, but the result was what I imagine would occur if Monet, Marimekko and Louis Vuitton threw a party in a veggie garden. Yamashita could honesty transform a hairy celeriac root into a plate of art with a few simple flicks of his Samurai grade vegetable knife and the elegant gestures of a skilled calligraphist.

Assiette des Legumes cru par Yamashita

Beauty in simplicity. Seasonal vegetable tasting plate by Yamashita and Sylvian Sendra, Chef chez Itineraires

Yamashita – a Japanese expat who moved to Paris more than 36 years ago to study French at La Sorbonne; through a turn of fate, fortune and pure talent has become somewhat of a French celebrity gardener. His story is both fascinating and inspiring.

Originally Yamashita was a practicing Bonsai artist when he first set himself up in Paris, until one fateful day when nearly all but two or three of his Bonsai trees were stolen. Unsure of what to do next, he turned to his other passion and natural talent- growing vegetables. Notably, there is one thing these two beautiful artisanal crafts have in common – the artful gesture (which really does sound much nicer when the French say it as “le beau geste”).

Asafumi Yamashita and Sylvian Sendra Cutting Vegetabes

Asafumi Yamashita and Sylvian Sendra

Before long, Paris’s top Michelin-starred restaurants were practically fighting over access to his limited supply of rare and exotic vegetables; all carefully cultivated personally by Yamashita on his own farm and hand delivered in person twice a week to a very select number of top restaurants and hotels. Today Yamashita’s impressive clientele list includes le George V, l’Astrance, Ze Kitchen Galerie and Restaurant Itinéraries (one of my favourite tables in Paris).

Yamashita and Sylvain Sendra- head chef of restaurant Itinéraires, united produce and passion to prepare a selection of vegetable assiettes for the Gourmet Jury. The simple manner of preparation, cutting techniques and insanely fresh, quality nature of the produce itself created sheer delight. I have never tasted fresh corn so sweet, crisp and starch-less in my life… special varieties of fresh Broccoli, cut separately to distinguish the flavour and texture of the stem, leaves and florets… rare Caviar Tomatoes, Red Carrots, Kabodjian Pumpkin, Japanese Herbs and one star vegetable that stole the show: “Le Kabu”.

Brioche with Kabu (Japanese Turnip) et confiture

A surprisingly delightful combination. Brioche au 'Kabu' (Yamashita's special Japanese Turnip variety) and confiture

The Nobel Prize of Root Vegetables goes to this incredible variety of white Japanese turnip (pictured on brioche and jam above). We tasted this impressive variety both simply sliced raw (visible on the base of the vegetable assiette on right) and also whipped up by chef Sendra in a surprisingly delicious combo with Brioche and confiture (fruit jam).

Let’s face it… turnips are normally such an unsexy vegetable. But the Kabu is no ordinary turnip. Unlike the turnips I am accustomed to (and generally not a fan of), the Kabu does not exhibit bitterness, starchy character or a dense fibrous texture. Its exterior is soft and slightly spongy, the interior flesh is delicate and refined with a slight apple-ish sweetness and the density is somewhere between the crunchiness of carrot and soft sponginess of a raw zucchini. When in season, Yamahita produces up to just 300 per month. Unfortunately, supply of Yamashita’s exotic delights is not available to the general public, so if would like to sample Yamashita’s produce, you have one of two options: either dine at one of the restaurants he supplies, or reserve well in advance for the real deal- a long lunch in his very own on-site garden restaurant where you can visit the farm and sample his produce over a delightful ‘discovery degustation menu’.

La table d’hôte de Naomi et Asafumi Yamashita, 35 € per person for lunch and 50 € for dinner. Reservations a must. +33(0)1 30 91 98 75

Incredible Cress:

Have you ever wondered how many of today’s top chefs manage to pack so much flavour and subtlety in their creations whilst keeping them perfectly well garnished and stunningly presented? Slowly I am discovering some of their tricks, and one of the secrets lies in their access to and clever usage of a commercial range of micro-herbs and specialty ‘Cresses’ – fast becoming big business in this industry.

Paris Restaurnant dishes from Kei and MaSa using Specialty Cress

Decorative Dishes: Kei Restuarant Paris using flowers and microherbs,
MaSa Restaurant Paris using Scarlett Cress

On the Gourmet Jury we tasted a wide range of these tiny, delicate ‘mini cresses’, flowers and micro-herbs supplied by Koppert Cress. The range across these special products is just overwhelming. I had never been exposed to such a diverse array of products like this in Australian restaurants to my memory, so for me it was a real eye-opener.

Here are some of the most interesting products I tried:

Dushi Buttons – (pictured) These tiny white flower buds burst with sweetness and minty, chlorophyll-like flavours; it’s most often seen used by chefs in desserts, with marshmallow, or to compliment goats cheese

Scarlet Cress – A deep red, decorative cress with earthy spinach and beetroot flavours. Often served with fish, meat and game. (Pictured in photo from dish at MaSa)

Limon Cress – (Pictured) From the basil family, this powerful leaf has strong aniseed and lemon character. I have seen it used in restaurants to flavour sorbets and garnish fish.

Honny Cress – An amazing leaf with neutral sweetening properties. Similar to Stevia, this product will no doubt soon be widely used as a natural sugar alternative

Elephant Garlic flower (buds) – Tiny purple flower buds from the Elephant Garlic plant. Packed with aroma and sweet garlic flavour

Salty Fingers– A plant grown along the coasts of tropical America and Asia. It’s crispy, salty, slightly bitter with a cactus-like texture.

Sechuan Buttons
– These inconspicuous little yellow flowers are seriously feisty and create more of a ‘sensation’ rather than flavour experience. Thank goodness that was the last one we tried- my tastebuds were on fire and completely out of action for a good 20 minutes after that little piece of dynamite landed on my tongue!

Plate of Scarlet Cress

Scarlet Cress - exhibits the delicate, earthy flavour of beetroot

Limon Cress and Dushi Buttons

Incredible Cress: Limon Cress (left) is packed with aniseed and lemon flavour.
Dushi buttons explode with sweet mint-cholorphyll flavour

The Italians:

Now, what food event is complete without something fine and Italian? No, I’m not talking pasta, or cheese, or Italian dolci- this time it’s Italian rice.

I have the lovely Sophie from Gourmetise to thank for this little discovery. Sophie is the ultimate specialty food hunter. When she told me “You simply must try this Italian rice” my response was something along the lines of “It’s rice, Sophie. Rice is rice, what’s honestly so special about it?”

In the end, I did try this rice, and really, I was blown away. I love it when something so simple is just so darn good. This special variety of Italian-grown and produced rice grain called “Carnaroli” by Acquerello was cooked using the absorption method, with a little olive oil and sea salt for good measure- and that was it. I would have been happy to eat that as my lunch for a week straight- honestly.

This special rice is grown, aged and processed on the 16th Century Colombara farm by the Rondolino family in northern Italy. They use a patented whitening process whereby the unhusked whole rice grain is aged for at least one year then slowly and gently whitened using a helix then restored with it’s original rice germ. The end result is this superior product that retains the nutritional profile of brown rice but cooks similarly to Arborio – staying perfectly intact without losing starch or vitamins.

I made a risotto with it recently (guided by the expert instruction of an Italian friend of course) just to test it out myself, and the results were superb. (Check out the risotto we made here).

Photo of Acquerello Rice

Acquerello Rice. Not just ordinary rice.


The Art of Eating:

Now finally, you have probably noticed by now how much I love CHEESE so I just couldn’t go past this gorgeous creation by designer Sebastian Bergne who exhibited his “Eat & Drink” table-wear range at Haute Cuisine Paris. No kitchen is complete without a good cheese board, and besides, you need to order one to go with the cheeses you can smuggle through the French border, next time you’re in town.

Cheese Board by Sebastian Bergne

Coup de Coeur - Beechwood 'Jerry' cheeseboard.
The understated elegance of Sebastian Bergne design.

Palais Royale Gardens, Paris

One of my favorite city havens. The gorgeous gardens at Palais Royale, Paris.
Photo credit: Barbara Siegel

The Annual Paris Summer Shutdown: Ten Great Paris Restaurants Open This August

14 Jul

Outside Pamela Popo Paris. Photo by Pascal Montary

Pamela Popo, Paris. Photo by Pascal Montary



Before you read further, please note this article was published for summer 2011.
For 2012, Paris by Mouth has done the hard work for me and published a list of restaurants open by date over this summer here.

Summer in Paris 2011 is now setting into full swing. As I write this I look over my normally buzzing Parisian neighbourhood and remark at what a ghost town it has become already. Welcome to the mass Parisian exodus otherwise know as summer holidays.

From here until the end of August the Parisian population will be largely replaced with bright-eyed, heat-stroked, sandal-blistered, HUNGRY gourmet tourists from all over the world.

Unfortunately over the summer holidays most of the best addresses are closed for at least 3-4 weeks over August, so for gourmet travellers looking for great food in a good restaurant, it can often present quite a challenge. But don’t be discouraged; I have done all the hard work for you. After receiving numerous emails this week from people planning a visit in August and asking for recommendations on good places to eat that are actually open, I figured I should share the fruits of my research with you all.

After going through my own list of favourite Paris restaurants and foodie spots, I have personally phoned every single one of them to check their closure dates and times over the holidays, and here is my top 10. With this golden list you will never be caught in the tourist trap of succumbing to some crappy Paris bistro eating stale baguettes, bad steak tartare, drinking burnt black coffee or being served reheated ham and cheese crêpes.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to call ahead and book or check opening hours with restaurants. As much as I’ve aimed for accuracy with the given times and dates, it’s still possible that these places could spontaneously close- that’s the French way.

————————————————————————————————————
RESTAURANTS IN PARIS OPEN FOR ALL OF SUMMER 2011:

Ordered by least expensive to most expensive

Comptoir de l’Arc

73 Avenue Marceau 75116 Paris (Champs Elysees/George 5) +33 1 47 20 72 04

Monday – Friday, lunch and dinner. Closed weekends

I almost selfishly considered leaving this place off my list as it’s one of my favourite summer hangouts and I like to know that I can arrive and actually get a table! This place has the typical ‘summer in Paris’ vibe and friendly buzzing ambience right next to the Champs Elysees and l’Arc de Triomphe. The food is of consistently good quality and inexpensive especially given the location. You will find dishes like Poached Trout Salad, Chicken Brochettes and Creamy Risotto, Grilled Market-fresh Fish and classics such as Steaks and comforting Buttery Potato Puree. The cheese plates and desserts are fairly fail-proof too.

Pamela Popo

15 rue Francois Miron, 75004 Paris (Marias) +33 1 42 74 14 65

Every day, lunch and dinner

(Pictured in feature image) Fresh on the Marais scene, Pamela Popo is the new kid on the block and coolest place to be seen. Situated right next to one of the oldest original condition buildings in Paris and in the heart of the one quartier in Paris that never sleeps, owners Thomas and Mickael have all your needs covered. With an inviting outdoor terrace to take a drink, do some people spotting or get your cigarette fix, a cosy and intimate first floor for private parties and couples, everyone enjoys this spot for a different reason. The menu changes weekly depending on seasonal produce and is alternated with some crowd pleasing favourites such as Mushroom and Asparagus Ravioli with Savoury Pain Perdu, Crab and Avocado Millefeuille with Wakame Emulsion and if you’re still up for it- Rich Chocolate Hazelnut Praline Mousse.

Derrière

69, rue des Gravilliers. 75003 Paris (Marias) + 33 1 44 61 91 95

Every day, lunch and dinner

Another gem in the Marais, you can literally walk up rue Tiquetonne and find 3-4 great addresses open year-round. If you didn’t know about this place you could easily walk past it but once inside you won’t want to leave. Great for an awesome meal or cocktail over sunset sitting in the buzzing courtyard or on the comfy, sexy lounges- the trendy and super friendly staff will show you true Parisian hospitality. Try the Grapefruit and Sweet Pea Salad, BBQ Chilli Oil Squid with Grilled Aubergine, Farm Chicken Poached in Red Wine Sauce and Prawns in Seafood Bisque served as Oeuf Cocotte.

Le Tir Bouchon

22 rue Tiquetonne 75002 Paris (Montorgueil/Etienne Marcel) +33 1 42 21 95 51

Open every day lunch and dinner, except Sunday lunch

This is one of my fail-proof favourites. Located in a romantic little laneway in the heart of Paris just off rue Montorgueil, you’re guaranteed to have of those “God I Love Paris” moments when you dine here. The food is mostly traditional French but you can also find slightly modernised takes on the classics. They make an awesome Tarte Tatin, Goats Cheese Salad with Sweet Balsamic, and a range of great pastas and ravioli- just don’t order the Pasta with Foie Gras Sauce if you want to be able to walk yourself out of the restaurant.

Mini Palais

3 Avenue Winston Churchill 75008 Paris (Champs Elysees in Grand Palais) +33 1 42 56 42 42

Open every day, lunch and dinner

If you’re looking for something a little more upmarket, gastronomic or romantic, you will love the Mini Palais. Boasting attentive ‘French style’ service and a location right off the Champs-Élysées next to the Grand Palais, and stroll from la Seine, Mini Palais also has a breathtaking view of the Eiffel tower. Signature dishes include Baked Escargot in Cherry Tomatoes with Almond Butter, Penne ‘Risotto’ with Chorizo and Basil, Pan-seared Scallops with Celeriac Purée and Coconut Emulsion, and their famous Baba Géant au Rhum. You can read a nice little anecdotal by Hilary Davis here

Cafe de la Paix

12, bd des Capucines (75009 Paris (Opera / 9eme)
+33 1 40 07 36 36

Open every day lunch and dinner, Sunday brunch

Open since 1862, originally to serve the Grand-Hôtel de la Paix , this famous café was designed by Charles Garnier, the architect of the Paris Opéra (located across the plaza). If you can get past the hefty price tag and manage to relax into the whole vibe of ‘Parisian arrogance’ that so we love to hate, then you will really enjoy a little piece of La Belle Epoque at this address over the course of a luxurious Sunday brunch or designer patisserie.

L’Arpège- Alain Passard

84 Rue de Varenne 75007 Paris
+33 1 45 51 47 33

Lunch and dinner degustation menus every day Monday – Friday.
Closed weekends.

Fortunately for us mere mortals, Alain Passard actually keeps the doors of his 3 Michelin star restaurant open for the entire summer. Moreover, unlike the restaurants of Ducasse or Robuchon where seeing ‘The Chef’ in the kitchen is like a rare celebrity sighting, Alain prides himself in maintaining a steady in-house presence at L’Arpège, where he can be seen gracefully fleeting between tables, personally welcoming and charming his already swooning, pleasure-state patrons.

Now, I’m no professional food writer so it’s somewhat intimidating to write about such a special place, but I can honestly tell you this: Alain is an alchemist, a magician, and a true artist. So if you’re planning a ‘special’ trip to Paris, then it’s quite simple really: forget about that Prada purchase… treat yourself to Passard! Purchases will one day be forgotten but dining experiences like this will last you a lifetime.

Colunching and Codining in Paris

If you’re travelling alone, like meeting locals or other expats when you visit new cities, would like to practice your French, or just love dining in a group environment, then co-lunching or co-dining is always a great option for visitors to Paris. This new concept is the hottest new thing in the city of lights and is fast becoming a huge hit in the US and soon in Oz. You just jump on the website and choose from one of the pre-organised dinner or lunch events happening that day/week then RSVP. You can see whom you will be dining with, which languages they speak, and you each pay only for what you ate, at the end of your meal. That way you are guaranteed a good table, good company and hopefully a good time making new friends. Check out the site here

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RESTAURANTS IN PARIS OPEN FIRST HALF OF AUGUST:

Spring Restaurant

(Closed 14th – 31st Aug)

6 rue Bailleul +33 1 45 96 05 72
Open Tuesday – Saturday for dinner, lunch on Friday only

Spring barely needs an introduction, given all the hype that this spot and Chef Daniel Rose have received since recently reopening. It’s ‘all on’ and nothing’s done by halves in this place, from their in-house baked bread through to the 64 Euro tasting menu which changes daily and features impressive dishes such as Duckling Stuffed with Apricots, Crispy Shredded Veal Breast with Orange Confit, Sparkling Sea Urchin, and Rich Chocolate Ganache with Salted Caramel and Chestnut. The moment plates land on the tables at Spring commands a dramatic moment of sacred silence, stalling the most animated of conversations. The atmosphere is kept chaud chaud chaud with a featured open kitchen and an expressive chef who isn’t exactly known for mincing words with his staff. Fortunately you can still enjoy one of the tops tables in Paris during the first half of August. If you can’t initially get a reservation, try calling again early afternoon on the day to see if there have been cancellations for that evening.

Retro Botegga

(Closed 13th – 22nd Aug)

12, rue Saint-Bernard, Paris 75011 +33 1 74 64 17 39

Open Tuesday – Saturday from 10 am to 11 pm
Sundays 10 am – 2pm
Mondays 10am – 8.30pm

God I love this place. I hope I don’t regret promoting it on my blog, as there are only four tables in this special ‘Little Slice of Italy in Paris’- two inside and two outside.

Opened only five or so months ago by talented ex Rino Sommelier Pietro and charismatic business partner Salvatore, this Italian duo has recreated the heart of rustic Italy in the hip Oberkampf district of Paris. With an impressive selection of imported Italian wines, each personally matched to your tastes- you simply cannot have a non-eventful, unforgettable night in this place. Pietro is modest about his cooking abilities, but what he does in that tiny kitchen of his with simple ingredients, top quality fresh produce and a retro charcuterie slicer is really something else.

Claude Colliot

(Closed 13th – 31st August)
40 rue des Blancs-Manteaux 75004 Paris +33 1 42 71 55 45

Open Monday to Saturday

This is one of my favourite styles of cuisine. Light, refined, inventive, delicate and produced with strict respect for fresh produce of the season. Signature dishes include Oyster Sorbet, White Asparagus and Rhubarb, Girolle Mushrooms with Apricots Pochés, Capucines-Jaune d’oeuf entire, fresh almonds (dairy free), and Smoked Volaille à la Reglisse. A three-course lunch menu is only $29 Euros.

A gorgeous meal that’s light on both the calorie and travel budget allowance- gotta love that.

Le Chardenoux des Près

(Closed 14th – 22nd August)

27 rue du Dragon, 75006 Paris + 33 1 45 48 29 68

Open every day lunch and dinner

The latest concept by Cyril Lignac, this chic French bistro in Saint Germain is a great spot for visitors seeking well-executed French bistro classics cooked with love and French flair. Dishes include pâté de canard en croûte, émietté de tourteau et salade de pommes de terre, carpaccio de dorade au gingembre, curry de lotte, tartare (au couteau) frites, côte de cochon noir de Bigorre au saté, riz au lait, and profiteroles.

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RESTAURANTS IN PARIS OPEN SECOND HALF OF AUGUST:

Ze Kitchen Galerie

(Closed 31st July- 15th August)

4 rue des Grands Augustins 75006 Paris +33 1 44 32 00 32
Open Monday – Saturday lunch and dinner, closed Saturday lunch

A great address for lovers of inventive, modern, risk-taking fusion French food. Especially if you prefer flavour to portion size, a great wine list, and appreciate open gallery style kitchen and well-designed loft spaces, this is your address for the second half of August. Menu includes Miso Wagyu Beef, Shrimp and Crab Ravioli with Thai Basil Pesto, and White Chocolate Wasabi Ice-cream with Lychee Jasmine Emulsion. Hungry yet?

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Here is an interactive map of this guide on Journly with each address pinned to its location.

Map of paris restaurants open in august on journly.com

Click through for an interactive map of these addresses on Journly.com

If you liked this guide, check out more like this on TravelSort

And just finish painting the Paris picture, here’s one of my favourite photographs by Robert Doisneau: “Les Coiffeusses au soleil”/ “The Hairdresses in the Sun” PARIS 1966.

Les Coiffeusses au soleil, Paris, 1966 by Robert Doisneau

Les Coiffeusses au soleil, Paris, 1966 by Robert Doisneau

Enjoy your trip to Paris and if you have any of your own favourites or personal dining stories from a past summer visit to the city of lights, feel free to drop in a comment below.

Agnes’ Alsacien Rhubarb & Almond Tart / Tarte à la Rhubarbe à l’Alsacienne

22 May

French Rhubarb tart

Recently I took a weekend trip to Strasbourg- the capital city of Alsace situated on France’s East bordering Germany and only 2.5 hours out of Paris on the high-speed train.

To me, Alsace is a perfect example of France’s great regional diversity. Arriving in this region really gives you the impression of crossing borders: the architecture, local gastronomy, culture, climate and even language are so uniquely, strikingly Alsacien. Hosted by the lovely Agnès and friends, my weekend getaway just outside the capital of Strasbourg turned out to be both a cultural and gastronomic delight. If I had to put my Alsacien culinary impressions into three words I would call it the “Land of choucroute, pork, and pastry”– and lots of it!

Alsacien cuisine, strongly based on Germanic culinary traditions, is marked by the use of pork in various forms. Additionally, the gastronomic symbol of this region is undoubtedly “Sauerkraut”- or in French “Choucroute”. That is, slow cooked white cabbage. And this is one thing I have really grown to love. On this trip I must say I had one of my all-time most memorable meals. After luckily scoring a table at the famous “Maison Kammerzel” perfectly positioned to bask in the midday sun at Place de la Cathedral whilst dining to the sound of street musicians and church bells, I ate my first Choucroute aux trois poissons – un vrai plaisir! How they turn the humble cabbage into something as savoureuse and mouth-watering as this, seasoned with the delicate flavours of juniper berries and cumin and finished off with a light lemony butter sauce…I will sadly never know, since the famous recipe form this restaurant recipe is one of the region’s best-kept secrets.

Anyway, aside from eating of course, my most treasured travel experiences are undoubtedly those that involve cooking with locals. On this particular trip, I was shown first hand how to prepare three typically Alsacien dishes:

Firstly, a lesson in the famous dish ‘Baeckeoffe’ (a hard-core, heavy, meat and potato dish designed for the thick of freezing winter).

Secondly, since white Asparagus is also in season right now and the local produce was of impressively quality, our neighbour showed me the traditional blanching method in boiled water with salt and sugar, served at room temperature with a heavenly light mousseline mayonnaise in which she folded in whipped egg whites at the end. Divine.

But of course the one thing you simply cannot beat is cooking with produce freshly picked right out of the garden. My lovely host Agnès is luckily enough to live in a stunning Alsacien home, tastefully and artfully renovated by her very own hands with gardens and surrounds so magical in their blossoming springtime beauty that this place practically teletransports you into a romanticised scene from a children’s fairy tale- right down to the original Alsacien stove restored to pristine condition in her kitchen.

Original Kitchen. I have serious kitchen envy

Agnès, an avid nature lover, keen gardener and passionate home cook had a real treat planned for me. My trip coincided perfectly with the first rhubarb of the season- growing in her garden directly beneath the kitchen window. And just to sweeten the story further, by Alsacien tradition- the first Rhubarb of the season gets baked into a pie. Now is this the stuff fairywonderland is made of or what?

picking rhubarb

Agnes and her home-grown rhubarb

Lucky me had the honour of sharing the baking (and eating) experience personally with Agnès who has, over numerous variations, now perfected her very own Tarte à la Rhubarb recipe. This delicious treat, I can confirm, perfectly balances the slightly tart character of the rhubarb with the sweetness and softness of the almond biscuit cream base with the delicately crumbly sweet butter pastry.

A note on Rhubarb: The French, for some reason all seem to peel their rhubarb, and their asparagus too for that matter. Personally, I don’t see the point since when you peel it you lose the gorgeous red colour by removing the skin, as well as a lot of the fibre and the nutrients in the outer layer. Additionally, if the rhubarb was also totally organic or grown in your garden then there are no pesticides nasties to worry about. I’ve also had this conversation with my local organic greengrocer at the markets who simply tells me “Il faut eplucher la rhubarb Madame” but when I ask why, I get the classic French response “it’s just what we do”. So… to peel or not to peel- it’s in the end up to you!

fresh rhubarb

Wine Matching: Some of the world’s greatest dessert wines come from Alsace. Try a Gewürztraminer, the perfect match for this tangy tart.

Thanks to Agnès for her hospitality, recipe sharing, and our sneak peak into her delightful fairy-wonderland home.

Recipe: Agnès’ Alsacian Tarte a la Rhubarbe

Ingredients:

• 1kg grams rhubarb, diced into small pieces or 10 cm pieces, arranged spirally
• 75 grams sweet butter shortbread biscuits- crumbled
• ½ cup almond meal
• 1 sheet shortbread pie pastry (pastry recipe here)
• 3 eggs
• 250 mls fresh cream
• 1 tbsp vanilla essence or I pod fresh vanilla seeds
• 150 grams icing sugar
• 3.5 tbsp caster sugar or raw sugar
• Slithered almonds- to serve

Directions:

• Preheat your oven at 200 degrees C/420 F.
• Peel (or simply rinse well and don’t peel) the rhubarb and cut into small pieces or 10 cm strips as desired.
• Place them in a colander placed over a bowl and sprinkle with the icing sugar. Leave it to rest for 1 hour, stirring and turning the rhubarb each 15 mins so that the rhubarb sweats out its water content.
• In the meantime, position the pastry into the base of the pie dish, leaving 2 cm’s of pastry overhanging to allow for shrinkage. If you have a conventional oven, you can very lightly blind bake your pastry base now however bear in mind that this tart does not need a lot of heat to cook through. (Agnès’ traditional oven did not need this and the pastry cooked right though without pre-baking).
• After very lightly blind baking or if not required, crush the shortbread biscuits into fine crumbs and combine the biscuit crumb with almond meal evenly in the base of the pastry
• In a separate bowl whisk well together the cream, vanilla and egg
• Once the rhubarb has lost a lot of it’s water, drain and remove from colander and place evenly or arrange longer strips spirally into the pastry tine, over the crumb base.
• Sprinkle remaining caster or raw sugar over the top
• Pour egg and cream mix over the rhubarb and sprinkle with slithered almonds
• Cook for about 20 minutes, taking care that the top does not burn or cook too quickly
• Remove from the oven. Allow to cool to room temperature and using a sharp knife, shave off excess pastry from the edges of the tin.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, fresh cream and/or Gewürztraminer wine.

A savourer!

rhubarb tart tarte a la rhubarb

C’est le Combawa! Haute Pâtisserie flavours with edible art by Hugo & Victor and Pierre Cuisine

22 Apr
combawa mousse with raspberry balsamic coulis

Combawa (Kaffir Lime) Custard Mousse, Crêpe Dentelle and Raspberry Balsamic Coulis.
Recipe by Pierre Cusine, styling and photography by Rachel Bajada

Ah le Combawa. How it happens that we only just found each other, I just don’t know, but this exotic ingredient known in English as “Kaffir Lime”- is becoming the star of the show in French patisserie from gourmet desserts to chocolates and macarons.

This is one of the things I just love about modern French gastronomy- the flavour pairings are exotic and surprising. Take an Asian lemon-grassy lime citrus, the fruit of which is often disregarded for being overpowering and acidic, then masterfully match the aromatic qualities of it’s zest with the delicate flair of French patisserie and what do you get? A delicious… love child. A really good-looking… Eurasian one.

I first really discovered the combawa when I recently had the fortune of meeting and interviewing Mr Hughes Pouget – a visionary and talented award winning pâtissier and co-founder of Hugo et Victor, Paris Haute Patisserie concept stores take gourmet patisserie and l’art du chocolat to a whole new level.

When walking into the gorgeous Hugo et Victor store on Paris Rive Gauche, I could only explain the sensory experience as something in-between the excitement of diamond shopping in a high street jeweller, and the gastronomic indulgence of the dessert degustation in a Michelin star restaurant. Need I say no more. The creations by Hugo et Victor strike a perfectly balanced chord between art, fashion and food. In describing the concept, Hughes Pouget himself explains:

“There is something beautiful and fabulous in this ‘universe’… I wanted to create something in-between a pastry shop and a restaurant so that customers have the freedom of choice… so we follow the seasons and the markets- for example we replace the tangerine with the blood orange and during winter we have the Combawa… essentially we created a ‘menu’.“

Hugo et Victors ‘Seasons’ concept is a real hit and it makes so much sense. They alternate their best-seller classics with seasonally introduced flavours across a palette of delicacies from chocolate through to patisserie and even give wine matching recommendations to complete your experience. And as for the Combawa, Hugo et victor now have their own private plantation on the French Riviera to ensure a stable, non-imported, and top quality supply of this exotic fruit normally only gown in the southeast again region.

Hugo et Victor Combawa desserts

Image Supplied. The Combawa Verinne and Combawa Tarte by Hugo et Victor, Paris.
Put it on your 'Must eat when in Paris' list

For those visiting Paris, The Hugo et Victor Combawa tarte and Combawa Verrine (pictured above) should go immediately on the ‘must eat’ list. When I asked Hughes Pouget where he gets his flavour pairing inspiration from, he explained that in his time travelling all corners of the world, he picked up many ideas applicable to patisserie which often resurface years down the track .

“For two years I travelled all over the word… between Singapore, Shanghai, Tokyo, brazil so the inspiration is my travels- as in life, in my work, it’s important to be very curious”.

And so, inspired by this delicious discovery I set out to recreate something delicious that we can all create ourselves, starring this exotic ingredient.

Now, of course I love desserts, but creating something sophisticated and refined that would do justice to this ingredient seemed best left to the experts. So I decided to enlist the help of a much more talented cook than myself. Who better to collaborate with than the illustrious Pierre Cuisine!

A well known and very popular French food blogger famous for his ambitious creativity and original culinary creations, (not to mention his well-maintained incognito status), Pierre’s recipes are an interesting contrast to his day job in finance where I imagine his unsuspecting colleagues have no idea what he is capable of in the kitchen after hours!

Like many food bloggers, Pierre has no official culinary training, but his imagination, passion for food and many years of experimentation in the kitchen result in some absolutely superb and inspired dishes…
Artichoke pannacotta with almonds, pistachio and pinenuts; Calamari surf and turf with Basque Jambon and spicy broth; Cashew cheesecake with coriander-candied lemon cream and pink radish; Chestnut cream and foie gras amuse bouche… the list of deliciousness goes on!

You can see all of Pierre’s creations here but in the meantime- here is a little video to warm you up to the recipe for our very own combawa creation:

Combawa Custard Mousse on a base of Crêpe Dentelle with Raspberry Balsamic Coulis.

The recipe which can be found in English and French further down the page.

Combawa custard mousse with raspberry coulis

Combawa (Kaffir Lime) Custard Mousse, Crêpe Dentelle and Raspberry Balsamic Coulis by Pierre Cuisine. Image © Rachel Bajada

Recipe: Combawa (Kaffir Lime) Custard Mousse, Crêpe Dentelle and Raspberry Balsamic Coulis by Pierre Cuisine

Serves 4

The Combawa Custard Mousse
• 1 Combawa (Kaffir Lime) zest
• 2 eggs
• 2 large tbsp of mascarpone
• 2 sheets of gelatin
• 2 tbsp caster sugar

Whisk egg yolks with sugar to a creamy white consistency; add the mascarpone and whisk again until the mixture is silky and smooth. Finely grate the zest of the kaffir lime using a micro-zester and mix again to combine.
Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks (with a tiny pinch of salt) .
Carefully fold the egg whites into the combawa and egg yolk mixture.

Prepare and fill a pastry bag with the combawa custard and leave to rest in the fridge for approx 30 mins, allowing the gelatin to thicken the cream.

To form the combawa mousse ‘logs’, Pierre creates plastic tubes using clear plastic projection sheets rolled into narrow cylinders and sealed with cello-tape.

After 30 minutes remove the piping bag from the refrigerator and gently pipe the combawa cream into the individual tubes. Seal the tube ends with cling film and return the tubes to the fridge to finish setting. If you are pressed for time, you can place the tubes in the freezer to set quickly.

Crêpe Dentelle Base

• 1 packet of Crêpes Dentelles

Place the crepe dentelles (or a substitute sweet caramel-like wafer biscuit) in a sealable zip-lock bag and roll over the bag with a rolling pinner until they are crushed into crumbs.

Raspberry Balsamic Coulis

• Approx 20 raspberries for 4 people, plus 3 fresh berries per serving
• 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
• 2 tbsp icing sugar

Place the raspberries, vinegar and sugar in a saucepan and cook on low heat for approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat and strain the coulis through a fine sieve of tea strainer to remove seeds. Set aside and allow the coulis to cool. Once cooled, pour into a plastic-nozzled sauce dispenser and place in fridge for 10 minutes before serving.

On the plate carefully arrange a rectangular strip of the crushed crepe dentelle to form the base .
Gently release the seals on the plastic cylindrical molds and slowly ‘roll out’ the combawa mousse log, placing it on top of the crushed crepe base .
Add the fresh raspberries and draw a line of raspberry coulis lengthways.

Serve at a cool temperature.
Enjoy!

Combawas/Kaffir Lime

Combawas/Kaffir Lime

step by step: how to make combawa mousse

Step by step- how to make the combawa custard mousse and raspberry balsamic coulis

Recette: Mousse de Combawa, Crepes Dentelles et Balsamique de Framboises

Pour 4 personnes
Ingrédients:

Pour la mousse au combawa
• 1 combawa
• 2 œufs
• 2 cuillères à soupe de mascarpone
• 2 feuilles de gélatine
• 2 cuillères à soupe de sucre

Battez les jaunes avec le sucre jusqu’à ce qu’ils soient blanchis, ajouter la mascarpone et fouetter pour bien mélanger. Râper les zestes de combawas et mélanger à nouveau. Battez les blancs d’oeufs avec une pincee de sel pour obtenir une consistence.
Bien battre le mélange au fouet, et incorporer délicatement les blancs d’oeufs battus avec la crème combawa.

Remplissez la creme dans une poche à douille et mettez le contenu au lréfrigérateur pour une durée de 30min (le temps que la crème prenne un peu).

Faites des tubes avec du rhodoïd ou des feuilles en plastiques de rétro projecteurs. Fermez les tubes d’un cote avec un ruban a adhésif et de l’autre cote avec du film transparent.

Après 30 minutes vérifiez si la crème a commencé à se solidifier.
Commencer à remplir les tubes de crème. Fermez les bouts des tubes avec du film transparent ; et puis consolider avec du ruban a adhésif. placez le contenu dans le réfrigérateur jusqu’à ce que le désert soit servi.

Les crêpes dentelles

1 paquet de 2 crêpes dentelles

Ecraser les crêpes dentelles (ou tout autre biscuit) dans un sac de congélation avec un rouleau à pâtisserie jusqu’à obtenir une poudre.

Le coulis de framboises au balsamique

• Environ 20 framboises (3 ou plus pour chaque personne)
• 2 cuillères à soupe de vinaigre balsamique
• 2 cuillères à soupe de sucre glace

Dans une casserole, mélanger les framboises avec le vinaigre et le sucre.
Cuire le mélange à feu doux jusqu’à ce que les framboises soient cuites (environ 5 minutes).
Passez le coulis de framboises au chinois pour se débarrasser des graines.
Laissez le coulis se refoidir..

Sur l’assiette de service poser délicatement la poudre de crêpes dentelles en forme rectangulaire.
Démoulez la mousse combawa et placez-la sur les miettes de dentelles.
Ajoutez les framboises fraîches tout en dessinant une ligne de coulis.
Servir frais.

La petite cuisine à Paris. Paris private dining for two chez Rachel Khoo

12 Jan khoo
Rachel Khoo Kitchen

La cuisinière. La petite cuisine. Copyright © Rachel Bajada

I love meeting cool people doing cool new things. Recently I was a guest at the first of many private dining experiences to come at ‘La petite cuisine à Paris’ (literally ‘The little Paris kitchen’) a unique new project by the talented British, now Paris-based culinary creative Rachel Khoo.

After packing up and leaving a fashion career in London to study Pâtisserie at the world-renown Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Rachel began by baking sweet treats at Paris’ specialty cookery bookstore, La Cocotte. Four years on, she now jets around Europe cooking and catering for prestigious events, launches and private parties. In between all of this, she has also found the time to knock out 2 wonderful cookbooks in French: Pâtes à tartiner and Barres de céréales: Muesli & granola.

‘The little Paris kitchen’ is the now the delicious testing ground for her next recipe book where she will be developing and perfecting all her recipes to go in the publication. “La Petite Cuisine” is her first English publication and is due for release in Spring 2012. The concept is simple and is sure to fill a growing craving for simple, modern, uncomplicated recipes that reinterpret traditional cooking techniques and traditions from the godmothers of French cuisine such as Elizabeth David and Julia Child. Rachel Khoo’s goal is to “Make French food fun.”

What better way to start than to invite people, two at a time for a memorable, delectable experience as taste-testers in her private kitchen where all her culinary creations are made with the ingredients sources at her local produce markets, fromagerie and favorite specialty stores and boulangeries.

Update as of March 19th, 2012. Rachel Khoo now appears on BBC two at 8.30pm Monday evenings UK time. The Paris “Test Kitchen” is therefore no longer open but you can get your fix of Rachel Khoo and her delightful recipes and tiny kithen on TV and through her new book. Enjoy!

La Petite Cuisine eye candy

La petite cuisine- eye candy Copyright © Rachel Bajada

Cosy Corner La Petite Cuisine

Cosy Corner, La Petite Cusine Copyright © Rachel Bajada

So… back to LE FOOD! Well Rachel cooked up a delicious storm in a teacup in her tiny Paris kitchen for myself and other lucky guest- the fabulous Amy Thomas from the super godiloveparis blog.

Le Menu:

Entrees:
Creamy bèchamel cauliflower gratin with a hazelnut crumbs

Mains:
Sticky lemon & lavender roast chicken

Dessert:
Baked apples with a sweet spiced bèchamel sauce

Bread: From Du Pain et des idées in Paris’ 10eme. This stuff is dangerously good bread by the way- still warm and fresh out of the oven when it landed on the table- it took some serious restraint for me to stop eating it! Oh the simple pleasures…

La petite cuisine a paris- table for two

La table. L'inviteé. Le pain Copyright © Rachel Bajada

Preparing cauliflower gratin with roast hazlenuts Copyright © Rachel Bajada

Comfort food. Finishing touches on 'Gratin au choufleur avec noisette chapelure' Copyright © Rachel Bajada

Cauliflower Gratin - Choufleur Bechamel

Creamy comfort food. Can't beat it. Copyright © Rachel Bajada

Roasting Lavender lemon chicken

Chicken roasting with lemon and lavender glaze Copyright © Rachel Bajada

Sticky lemon and lavender roast chicken

Flavour harmony. Sticky lemon & lavender roast chicken Copyright © Rachel Bajada

Preparing baked apples with cinnamon

The art of the apple. Preparing sweet spiced apples with cinnamon Copyright © Rachel Bajada

Preparing apples for baking in papillote

Spicy sweet bundles Copyright © Rachel Bajada

Spiced baked apple with vanilla crème anglaise bechamel

Spiced baked apples with vanilla crème anglaise/sweet bechamel Copyright © Rachel Bajada

Now of course, this post would not be complete without a recipe! Rachel’s menu was based around making the perfect béchamel, and what I loved about her approach was that the same base for this sauce called the “Roux” can be used to make both a sweet or savory sauce- depending on the seasonings and aromatics you use.

For a savoury sauce– follow the standard Bèchamel formula (here is a good recipe for a classic béchamel sauce) and add a combination of classic aromatics such as:

Onion
Bayleaf
Clove
Nutmeg

Rachel also suggests:

Saffron, orange zest, turmeric or cumin

For a sweet sauce or alternative to crème anglaise:

Simply leave out the salt and savoury additions above, and sweeten with sugar to taste, adding fresh vanilla seeds and optional spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg.

Here are Rachel’s top three tips for the perfect bèchamel:

1. Use whole milk. Semi or skimmed just won’t give you that rich creamy taste.

2. When you add your milk to the roux (flour and butter thickener) make sure to do it a slow, gradual stream and then whisk, whisk and whisk!

3. Classic bèchamel aromatics are: onion, bayleaf and clove but feel free to experiment with non traditional flavours such as saffron and orange zest or tumeric and cumin.

Bonne Bèchamel!

At elizabeth david's table- book

Inspiration at the table- modernising old school classics

Pates a tartiner- cookbook by Rachel Khoo

Published success. Recipe books by Rachel Khoo

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