A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
Dear Readers, immediately after I rejoiced blantantly to all that Spring is finally here in my post last Friday, winter slapped me hard on my face the next day with freezing cold below zero temperatures. As if that was not enough, winter threw in some snow on us last Sunday, as if to make sure that we understood that it was here to stay for a while longer and to stop dreaming about spring. Since last Sunday, the temperature stayed -3°C with snow fall now and then. On such cold days, the best way to warm ourselves up is to cook a pot of spicy hot curry like chicken curry or mutton curry or soup like tomato or leek & potato.
Leek & Potato Soup is one of the greatest classics of French homemade soups. I can easily understand why, for it is not only delicious, aromatic, nutritious but also inexpensive and filling. Leeks belongs to a vegetable family called the Allium vegetables like garlic and onions. Leeks are a very good source of manganese, vitamin C, iron, folate and vitamin B6.
Choose leeks that are firm, straight with dark green leaves and white necks. It should not be yellowed or wilted, nor have bulbs that have cracks or bruises. Buy only leeks with a diameter of 1 1/2 inch or less, as large leeks are generally more fibrous in texture. Store fresh leeks unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator in a loosely wrapped plastic bag : this will help to retain moisture and keep them fresh for 1 - 2 weeks. Cooked leeks will only stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 2 days.
Here's the simple version of the Leek & Potato soup that my mom-in-law and sis-in-law often cook at home. Hope you will like it as well. Enjoy!
This soup is simply delicious - creamy, full of flavour and tasty. Little One loves this soup, even Pierre who dislikes leeks likes it. It's an all occasion soup: as comfort soup or under the weather or just to warm us up on a cold day. It's simple, quick & easy to make and healthy too.
The above recipe is the base. You can add other herbs to it or any other ingredients like bacons, mushrooms, chicken or fish, etc if you want. You can also freeze the soup but it must not have milk or cream in it.
Satay or sate, a very popular dish in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, etc. is made up of marinated meat (chicken, lamb, beef, pork, fish) skewered on wooden or bamboo sticks, barbecued and served with different types of spicy seasonings. Growing up in Singapore, I have eaten my fair share of satay in my life time and I'm still not tired of it. That gives you an idea just how good these satay are. LOL!
So when Daring Cooks January host, Cuppy of Cuppylicious announced that we are going to make Thai Satay this time around, I was thrilled. Although it isn't the first time I made home-made Satay, it is my first time making a Thai version - so it is still something new.
(Adapted from book 1000 Recipes by Martha Day)
Marinate for meats
Preparing the peanut sauce
I was surprised that it turned out better than I expected - on its own, the satay doesn't really stands out much (perhaps I'm comparing too much to the satay I'm used to in Singapore) but when combined with the peanut sauce - it's very good, heightening all the aroma of the dish.
Satay can be served as aperitif, entrée or main course.
Instead of meats, some marinate tofu, fish, prawns, etc. Why not?
If you don't have space in refrigerator, just put let your meat marinate with sauce in a ziplock bag.
Carrots - so many kids hate them with a passion. Even my hubby won't touch that stuff no matter how deliciously it has been cooked or presented to him. I think I know why. When Little One started on her first solid food - guess what was the first most recommended food to introduce to a baby? Carrots. Since they are sweet, babies love them and as it is full of nutrients it's a baby's classic along with other infamous spinach. Unfortunately my baby didn't get to eat much either because of digestion issues. Oh well!
Thankfully there are a few ways to serve carrots to people who don't enjoy them so much. Carrot cake is one. Another one is Carottes Râpées (Grated Carrot Salad) that I'm going to introduce today. It is a very popular side French dish that my mom-in-law often prepares at home. It's available at many café and bistro menus, even at charcuteries and supermarkets where it is often sold in small plastic boxes ready to go. It's pretty easily done, requires very little time to prepare and the best of all: it's healthy, fresh and delicious. This is perfect for those who are trying to get kids or adults to eat carrot, because the lemon flavor is dominant over the carrot one. A ninja got to be sneaky
I'm so surprised by the taste and aroma of this simple salad. The fragrant lemon skin and juice dominates but doesn't overwhelm the sweet taste of the carrots, in fact the combination brings out the best of both fruit and vegetable. I'm not a big fan of carrots but this is really good. I went for a 2nd, 3rd and 4th helping without any guilt, as its so low in calories.
Home-grown lemon has very thick skin which gives this salad a fantastic aroma and taste. If you are using a lemon from supermarket (it's preferable to buy an organic one as the skin is non-treated), use only 1/3 of it if the lemon is very juicy.
Little One caught a bug after New Year and was sick for 3 days. It was no fun for her and me. You would think with her being so sick, she would be calling out 'mama' all the time .... oh no no no, the first word Miss Cheeky cried out while being so sick in bed in the middle of the night was Babar (the elephant) - her favourite story character. Each time she woke up, it's 'Babar' or 'mama, Babar' - meaning she wants to watch her favourite DVD Babar. Since then, it is always Babar, the first thing that is on her mind when she wakes up. I think we made a mistake when we introduced her to Babar.
Back to cooking, today I'm going to share with you a very nice recipe that involves lots of eggs and cheese. A Soufflé is easy to whip up yet delicate to bake. It's spectacular looking but must be eaten immediately after taken out of the oven or else it will crumble under its own weight (and that would be a pitty !).
It turns out very beautifully even when we removed it from the mould. For me, the taste is a bit like scrambled eggs with cheese. I simply love it. The texture is like soft bread that melts in your mouth. Little One who doesn't like cheese nor eggs was tugging in her share mouthful after mouthful.
One warning though, this soufflé is more nourishing and filling than it looks. After a few mouthful, I was already full. Given the ingredient list, it's not entirely surprising, eh ?
Soufflé goes very well with white wine like Bourgogne or Alsace. Other cheese than emmental should work, it might be interesting to experiment here.
HAPPY NEW YEAR !
How was everybody's Christmas and New Year? Hope all of you had a wonderful time!
Little One had a great time with lots of gifts from Santa... a rocking horse and a toy bus before Christmas, then on Christmas day, a tricycle, lots of books, and more toys. Santa was very generous with her ... he knows she has been a very good girl through out the whole year (obviously he was not watching during her lunch and dinner )
This Christmas, we had a big roasted turkey with stuffings and chestnuts - which as usual took a few days to finish . But some things remain a tradition in the family like having a home-made foie gras on the table. Every year, a few days before Christmas, we will be out hunting for the perfect looking raw foie gras in supermarkets, and then try to cook this delicate dish to perfection.
Foie gras, a luxury (and somewhat controversial) dish, is one of the most popular delicacies in French cuisine and traditionally consumed as a cold entrée, usually eaten with crusty or toasted bread. Foie Gras can be from duck or goose liver, however duck liver is easier to find in supermarkets and cheaper than goose liver. It's also easier to bake. Finding a proper raw liver outside of France might be a challenge, but it helps a bit that frozen ones also exists and can give great results.
Preparing a foie gras isn't complicated at all, in fact it's a very simple recipe. The real difficulty is in baking : too much or too hot and the liver will melt and you'll just get a big chunk of fat. But you want it to be cooked enough as well...
It's simply delicious as it should! If you get it right, it must be smooth and firm like cold butter, and have a very slight bitterness. The preparation might gross you out a bit, but rest assured that the result is mouthwatering
It's sometimes served with a sort of cold sweet onion confit, which goes very well with it.
As for wine, it goes well with sweet white wine (vin moelleux) like sauternes or champagne.
Our mini summer vacation at Pierre's grandparent's house up in Brittany was great - love the big old house and the vast green for our little ninja to run about and explore on her own, not forgetting the trips to the seaside: she loves running after the waves and refused to return home even though she was turning blue from cold. She also had a great time playing ball with her 96 year old great grandmother and was up to non-stop mischiefs around the house - climbing on the chairs and the stairs (I had a little heart-attack-moment when I found her half way up the stairs to the 1st level looking for her grandmother). Little ninja enjoyed herself thoroughly, can't say the same for her parents. We were suffering terribly from IWS (Internet Withdrawal Syndrome). As much as we were enjoying ourselves with the slow and tranquil pace of life in Brittany, I don't know if we could have survived 1 more week of surfing via a telephone line. Gosh! It's great to be back in civilization - first thing I did when I got back (after unpacking all the stuff of course) is kiss my ADSL modem. Man, I miss it so much. All I need is just switch on my PC and all the pages flow so fast, pulled out of thin air through the magic of Wifi.
Now, back to the kitchen... today I'm going to introduce a wonderful appetizer called Taboulé - a North African appetizer that consists of herbs mixed together with tomatoes, cucumber and couscous. The original recipe is made up mainly of parsley and mint and Bulgur instead of couscous, however the dish has become popular in France in a slightly modified form.
My very first taste of taboulé was at Michèle's house. It was very sunny that day - a perfect day for BBQ (that's what we had) and we were all withering under the summer heat till Michèle brought out this lovely and cold delicious looking bowl full of fresh veggies and some sort of wheat in it. I was rather intrigued by it. At first mouthful, I fell totally in love with this dish.
It's a very refreshing appetizer with a minty-parsley-lemony aroma, the crunchiness (and coolness) of cucumber and the lovely flavour of tomatoes all mixed into one. I like how all the herbs and vegetables complement each other so lovely together. The dash of Tabasco gives it a very light kick. It's great dish for summer.
What I like best about this dish is :
A quiche is a pie made up mainly of eggs, milk or cream in a pastry crust with other ingredients added such as meats, vegetables or cheese. The great thing about quiches is that they are simple and quick to prepare, and offer an almost unlimited number of variations. The most well known, if not canonical form of quiche is the quiche Lorraine, a French classic from the region of (you'll never guess!) Lorraine, located along the German border. It's a nice entrée, but can also constitute a light meal served alongside some salad (and in fact busy French people in search of a simple lunch can find them in snack shops, bakeries, cafés, butchers, etc.)
Preparation: 5 minutes (yay!)
Baking : 35 minutes
Serves: 6 (as an entrée)
Unless you don't like bacon (and who doesn't like bacon?), it's hard not to enjoy this pie. When I first made this dish, I was surprised how simple it is to make and remembered how much I used pay for this in Singapore.
As I was saying earlier, there are many possible variations to this dish, including:
My search for this recipe started about 5 years ago when I had a similar dish at my friend's place. I meant to ask her for the recipe but forgot about it by the end of the evening. Then one day I stumbled upon this recipe by accident : I do not know if it is exactly the same as my friend's but when I did it, it had a similar taste and fragrance. I hadn't made this for 3 years but after my green Thai curry, I had a sudden craving for Thai food and since Pierre didn't recall ever having it, I decided to have another go at it
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 5 minutes
This salad is very refreshing and aromatic. I love the aroma of freshly squeezed lime juice mixed with fish sauce with a tint of spicy sourness. The coriander and the onions enhance the taste of this salad further. Pierre likes it almost cold, so I ran it through cold tap water after step 2, before adding the sauce to cool it down.
Bird's eye chili are very hot, hotter than fresh cayenne pepper. So if you are not used to that amount of spiciness, substitute it with cayenne chili or some other chili that is milder. Also dried chillies are hotter than fresh ones.
Gougères [goozhair] are savory choux pastry with cheese - a specialty from Burgundy (France), traditionally made with Gruyère. These are mainly served as aperitifs.
My first taste of gougères was made by my mom-in-law who is quite a great cook. At the first bite, I fell in love with it immediately. It is so rich in flavour and I love that crunchy cheese toppings with the softness inside. It is very hard to stop eating it after the first one - which is probably a tragedy for your diet. Ever since then, I have always wanted to try making some myself but I didn't have the time and also I thought it was very difficult to do. Surprisingly it wasn't as complicated as I thought. In fact, it is very simple and easy to do and it doesn't take very long to get the batter ready for baking. If I can do it pretty quickly even with my baby girl clinging to my legs all the time, you can do it in a shorter time than me.
This recipe is taken from my mother-in-law's favourite cook book which is an old classic : Cuisine et Vins de France by the famous Curnonsky.
(taken from Cuisine et Vins de France - Curnonsky)
My mom-in-law said : "wow! Ils sont beaux. Mmm...félicitations. Ils sont bons et très bien réussi. Bravo!" (translation : wow! They turned out so beautifully. Mmm...congraulations. They are very good and perfectly done.) Didn't get any complaint and the whole batch disappeared in a rather short time, so I guess it was a success
Pierre and I felt that it would have tasted even better if we had added more cheese. And that the last batch of gougères baked with grated cheese on top tasted best as it had a very nice cheese aroma and crispy top.
Be warned: making these puffs using a wooden spoon needs a lot of muscle work. I did it like my MIL - use an electric mixer. I was tempted to do it manually but my MIL warned me that I will have a sore arm if I went down this road. Thank goodness, I listened to her: I could literally feel the pain of my poor hand held mixer - it was going fast at first and then laboured with great pain. My arms got tired just holding on to it !
Cheese: any type of strong cheese would do. We used cantal for our gougères because of its somewhat strong flavor, but you can experiment with whatever you have around (old blue cheese is also an option). The cheese can also be grated instead of cutting it into small cubes, making the puffs more homogenous but loosing the chunks of melted cubes.
Regarding eggs, my MIL used 6 big eggs whereas I used 8 medium size eggs. And the beating of the eggs, I followed my MIL advice - beat them all together at once. Glazing of the gougères is optional. My mom-in-law (MIL)and I baked ours without glazing and it still tasted very good. As for the thick cream, my mom-in-law always bakes hers without it. I baked mine with it just to see if there is any differences but I found none.