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The BloggerAid Cookbook

4 Velveteers' Verrine

Dear Readers, my apologies for not blogging anything new for a week. After my laptop died on me a few weeks ago, I started using my old PC (used to work on this PC before Little One was born) as an alternative but there were a few things I didn't quite bargain for. Like it used to have very weak Wifi signal that would most of the time prevent me from saving my post, but that was finally fixed by Pierre with a €69 plug. However it didn't fix the age of this PC - surfing or even typing something online is something else when we are also used to newer and faster PC. Just to give a general idea: I can type faster than it can print the letters on screen! I can take 40 winks while reading newspaper or blogs. Yep, it's that slow. So please do bear with me for a while until I get a new laptop.

Today, we are going to make a Verrine. I'm sure you have seen lots of cookbooks specialising on Verrine and even had it in the restaurants, as they have become very popular lately. You might be wondering like I did, what precisely is Verrines?

"A verrine is a confection, originally from France, made by layering ingredients in a small glass. It can be either sweet or savoury, making a dessert or snack." (Wikipedia)

So what has today's 'Verrine' got to do with The 4 Velveteers? Well, after our great adventure at making au naturel Red Velvet Cake (hence our name sake - Aparna, Asha, Alessio & I) and enjoyed it thoroughly, we decided to make it into a monthly event to spur each of us to great heights in our cooking/baking arena. For this month, we decided to make a savoury Verrine. To make it more challenging, we decided to do a blind concoction: each of us picked a secret ingredient and the 4 ingredients were revealed at the same time. I picked Salmon, Aparna chose Cheese while Asha decided on Squash/Pumpkin. Now, of course, Alessio being Al, has to throw all of us out of the loop with his pick of Chocolates. Yes you read it correctly. CHOCOLATES!

This month challenge is quite a difficult one for me as I'm not a great cook like Aparna, Alessio, or Asha. I still have a lot to learn. To be honest with you, I have never made anything with pumpkin or made a verrine before. The last time I tried to make a pumpkin tart, it turned out to be a disaster but my in laws and Pierre bravely ate it all the same. (Well that's another story) Anyway, I toyed with different mix and layers in my head for weeks. At first I wanted to make a curried pumpkin version to go with fresh salmon like sashmi but my curried pumpkin turned out awful. (had to dump it in the bin) so I stroke off that idea. Smoked salmon came to my mind a little bit too late as we have already done our grocery shopping for the week, so I had to stick to original idea of using fresh salmon. Then my mind was roused by the delicious fragrance of steamed gingered salmon with nice crunchy refreshing cucumber. Now how to pair it with cheese, pumpkin & chocolates was another challenge. Soon the idea of chived mixed with cottage cheese with small bits of dark chocolates started playing in my mind - then came the idea of having something crispy like chips ...voilà pumpkin chips was born. So with all that in mind, I finally set out to make my very special verrine. Hope you'll like it too.

4 Velveteers' Verrine
Ingredients
  • fresh salmon (cut into cubes)
  • ginger (peeled, julienned finely)
  • a bit of light soya sauce
  • some pumpkin slices (thin)
  • cottage cheese or mozzarella (cubed)
  • grated dark or small broken bits chocolates
  • some chives (chopped finely)
Directions

Preparing Salmon layer

  1. In a small bowl, marinate salmon with a bit of light soya sauce, pepper & ginger. Steamed the salmon for about 10 minutes or until it is cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. (Adjust the steaming time accordingly if it's a big plate of salmon)
  2. Set it aside and keep warm.

Making Pumpkin Chips

  1. Grease a plate (microwave safe) with a thin layer of olive oil.
  2. Coat each slices of pumpkin with olive oil and spaced them out on the prepared greased plate.
  3. Microwave it for 2 to 4 minutes. Then turn each pumpkin slices over and microwave it another 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Take them out and let it crisp up on a clean plate. Continue to do same with the rest of the pumpkin slices.
  5. Voilà, you have your crispy pumpkin chips.

Preparing Cheese layer

  1. In a small bowl, mix cottage cheese or mozzarella cheese with chopped chives and dark chocolates bits.
  2. Set aside.

Assembling Velveteers Verrine

  1. Take a verrine or a glass yogurt pot, spread a thin layer of diced cucumbers.
  2. Spread a layer of gingered salmon on top of the cucumber.
  3. Spoon a layer of cheese mix on top of the salmon layer.
  4. Spread a layer of roughly crushed pumpkin chips on top of the cheese.
  5. Serve immediately.
The Verdict

To my great surprise, it actually turned out good. The ingredients really blends well. The crushed layer of pumpkin chips gives a good flavour and texture to the chived cheese. The introduction of dark chocolate bits in the cheese was kinda odd at first but once we get over the surprise, we start to enjoy this new taste and find that it actually fits. The gingered salmon turned out really good. Overall, you have a very fragrant taste with a crunchy yet springy and refreshing savour all at once.

On the hindsight, I think mozzarella cheese would have been more ideal than cottage cheese as mozzarella is more firm and springy in taste which would go better with the soft textured salmon. For the salmon, perhaps it might have been better to steam it as a whole instead of in small pieces, to make it firmer. And also a more generous layer of roughly crushed pumpkin chips on top. I would like to make this again with this adjustment and experiment with making one with fresh raw salmon with a squeeze of lemon juice (perhaps).

4 Velveteers' Verrine
Notes

When making pumpkin chips, it is best to wipe the plate now and then or else oil accumulates and your chips will turn out to be very oily.

The 4 Velveteers (as we called ourselves) are hosting a monthly event that explores food, cuisine or our passion about something that catches our interests. All of us shares our recipes, experiences and verdicts on our blogs. Every month will be a surprise - we never know what we'll make next. So if you're interested in joining the Velveteers, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment and we will get back to you.

Do check out what the other Velveteers have come up with:

4 Velveteers' Verrine
9 comments on this post.

Hummus & Pita

Before Little One entered our lives, Pierre & I dined, quite often, at Le Baalbeck, a small family restaurant specialised in Lebanese cuisine, down the street from our apartment in Nantes. Each time, without fail, we ordered our favourite apetizer, Humus and Moutabal even though we knew that we would struggle to finish our main course afterwards, like always. LOL!

So when Michele of Veggie Num Nums, Daring Cooks' February host, challenged all of us to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Dugid, needless to say, I was thrilled. I have always wanted to make Hummus & Pita bread but never got around to make it. Especially the Pita, as my skills at making bread is somewhat a hit & miss... most of the time, it's a miss.

For those who aren't familiar with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, Pita (means bread in Aramaic) is a round pocket bread which is used to scoop sauce or dips such as hummus or to wrap kebabes, gyros or falafel like a sandwich. It is baked at very high temperature causing the flattened dough to puff up like a puffer fish, thus creating a "pocket". And when the bread cools and flattens, this pocket in the middle remains, creating a space used in various dishes.

Hummus is a Levantine Arab dip made of chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. It is served as part of a meze or as an accompaniment to falafel, grilled chicken, fish or eggplant. Hummus is high in iron and vitamin C with a significant amounts of folate and vitamin B6.

Hummus & Pita

(Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden and Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid)

Serves: 6 - 8 people

Ingredients

Hummus

  • 1½ cups dried chickpeas (soaked in cold water overnight) or well drained canned chickpeas
  • 2 lemons (juiced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed or pounded)
  • a big pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • some olive oil

Pita

  • 2 tsp regular dry yeast
  • 2½ cups lukewarm water
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
Directions

How to make Hummus

  1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Skip this part if you are using canned chickpeas.
  2. Drain, but reserve some of the cooking liquid.
  3. Puree the beans in a food processor (or use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
  4. Add in lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt & tahini and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
  5. Lastly, stir in some olive oil to get a smoother & creamier paste.
  6. Serve with pita.
  7. If not serving it immediately, keep it covered in refrigerator.

How to make Pita

  1. In a large bowl, pour the warm water over the dry yeast. Stir to dissolve it.
  2. Stir in 3 cups of flour - 1 cup at the time. Stir it 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes or as long as 2 hours.
  3. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well.
  4. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir.
  5. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. To check if your dough is elastic, pinch a small bit of dough, lightly coat with flour, spread it out. If it spreads easily without breaking into holes, your dough is done. If not, continue to knead.
  6. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1½ hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F - gas mark 8).
  8. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and set half aside covered.
  9. Divide the other half dough into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands.
  10. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
  11. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious.
  12. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.
PitaPita
The Verdict

The Hummus was perfect - creamy and tasty as it should be. However I added more tahini in my hummus than indicated in the above recipe to balance the taste.

The Pita was perfect too - tasty and beautifully puffed up like it should. The only thing that disappoints me is that it didn't get a bit brown like those in the restaurant. Perhaps baking it at higher temperature like 330°C under the grill for a minute or so might do the trick. I'll try this out next time.

Notes

For Hummus, it only takes about 15 minutes to make this if you are using canned chickpeas. Keep the leftover hummus covered in the refrigerator. Mine still tasted great on the 3rd day kept in the refrigerator. The bottle of tahini I bought from a local store is just grounded sesame seeds with water and not oil.

Hummus & PitaHummus & Pita
19 comments on this post.

Crispy Bacon Wrapped Prune (Devils on Horseback)

Have you ever been served by rude waitress, cashiers or customer service people? I did, not just once or twice, but many times and I'm sure you did too. Sometimes they were so bad that you'd think they are suffering from a bad case of constipation. Perhaps they are lacking prunes or dried plums in their diet!

Prunes or dried plums? What is the difference? None at all. Dried plums is just a new name for an old classic name of prunes. I'm sure not many of us know that they are also high in antioxidants. The fruit and its juice are well-known for its natural laxative effect, thus making it a common home remedies for constipation. So next time if you get bad service, give them a packet of prunes. Maybe that will help them give better service and look less constipated. LOL!

As for me, whenever I get bad services, I always remember the stories from my ex-Management professor on how he dealt with such situations. First he would kindly enquire after the well-being of the said person, much to the said person's surprise and unease, then he would ask if he/she had a rough day at work or is having some personal problems, etc. And if all answers came to a 'NO', he would then politely tell that person: 'If you aren't happy with your job, QUIT. Why make yourself and others miserable? If it's not the case, then why the bad mood?' I can assure you that teacher was truly capable of it. LOL! Would I dare do it like he did? To this date, I haven't mustered that kind of courage. Perhaps I'm a product of how my parents brought me up - the old fashion Asian culture way. So how would you react to such bad treatments? Do you remain quiet and suffer it through or do you tell them off?

Like many, Pierre and I aren't a big fan of dried prunes but what if I tell you there is a way to encourage the young and old to eat it? Eight years ago, when I first arrived in France, my mom-in-law served me this delicious French classic appetizer made of bacon wrapped prune, baked to a nice crisp. Pop one in your mouth, you will be sent on a delicious taste trip. Try this appetizer today, you will love it. Everything taste better with bacon, right?

This is my contribution to this Weekend Herb Blogging #217 hosted by lovely Anna from Anna's Cool Finds.

Crispy Bacon Wrapped Prune
Ingredients
  • 12 strips bacon (thin slices)
  • 24 dried prunes (pitted)
Crispy Bacon wrapped prune
Directions
  1. Preheat oven at 230°C (450°F - gas mark 8).
  2. If the bacon strip is long, cut it into 2.
  3. Lay a strip of bacon on a plate or board, place a dried prune at the beginning edge of bacon strip. Roll, wrapping it tightly around the dried prune until end of strip.
  4. Using a toothpick, pierce through centre of wrapped prune to hold it in place.
  5. Bake it for about 15 minutes or until bacon is grilled slightly crispy on both sides. Flip and grill the other side at mid way.
  6. Serve warm.
Crispy Bacon wrapped prune
The Conclusions

I never thought that this combination would this oh-heavenly-delicious. The taste of sweet-slightly sourish flavour of prune mix with salty crispy taste of bacon all rolled in one bite. Once you starts eating them, it's hard to stop as we are forever chasing after that 4 flavour, bite after bite. And it's obviously super-easy to make, which doesn't hurt.

Notes

You can also cook them under grill mode of your oven or pan-fry them without oil if you don't have an oven.

Crispy Bacon wrapped prune
32 comments on this post.