The Little French English Improvement Project

little french person trying to improve her english, little french english person trying to improve herself, french english person trying to improve a little bit… and blogging along the way. (Now in Deutschland)

Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

Granny recipes against alzheimer.

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on March 2, 2012

My old friend insomnia is back! It is now half past five in the morning and I have been staring at this very uninteresting ceiling for the past seven hours. Silent sleep has deserted me and in its place, ideas and thoughts bouncing off the walls like pin balls and hitting me regularly with a loud clanging ping sound. How am I supposed to sleep with all that racket? I try counting enough sheep to muffle up the noise but some ideas just ram through (he he) and get me anyway. Most of them are useless (doing push ups until it tires me out –  I don’t think so) so I send them back on their merry way until the next time they fly by. Other ideas I keep and let roll about in my head for a while until I can make sense of them. One of those tonight has turned out to be a gem.

Because you see, I have got a charity place in the Great North Run. It is now official: on the 16th of September I will be running 13 miles wearing an Alzheimer’s Society T-shirt and that not only involves some training and running shoes, but also a fair amount of fundraising (a minimum of £375 to be exact). I was mulling this over when a series of notions zoomed my way:

ߛ The solution to most of life’s challenges is cake ===> ie: bake sale.

ߛ Fact: grannies make the best cakes. There always used to be a tart, clafoutis or cake on my Grandma’s kitchen table in the good old days when she could still tell the difference between lemon and washing liquid. It was systematically a little burnt around the edges but no one cared, it tasted delish.

 ߛ I have been meaning to meet little german grannies ever since I got here. One of the point of coming to Germany was to meet the locals, and grandmas have been around for a while, they should have a lot to tell. I also of course always intended to ask them about their favourite typical recipes ; food tends to be a good starting point for any conversation.

ߛ My very good friend Steph mentioned something about old people’s homes…

PING

I have already drawn up a list of old people’s homes to get in touch with to see if I could come in and chat with the residents about cake. The security levels surrounding grannies’ kitchen secrets are normally extremely high, but with a bit of luck I might be able to coax out one or two recipes, round up a couple of friends and organise a bake sale at university. I like the idea of getting grandmas involved. It’s such a shame I did not get to know mine better before Alzheimer’s disease caught up with her. Hopefully this whole thing might also encourage other people to get in touch with their grans and get them baking…(and send me the recipes?)

However before I call all these people it would probably be a good thing to get some sleep. Night-o.

Posted in Family, Food, Germany, Great North Run, Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Lovely Mousse au Chocolat

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on June 9, 2011

A couple of days ago, or maybe it was last week, somewhen I wrote an article about cooking, and included quite a few photos of what my friend Jan calls food-porn. Don’t worry, nothing X-rated, just the kind of photos that make you drool, head for the fridge, and then hang your head in disappointment because there isn’t in there anything quite so good looking… aaaaand you have to prepare something and wait until it is cooked, baked, cooled, set, ready to eat. Anyway amongst these photos, said Jan noticed a picture of chocolate mousse and asked for the recipe, so here goes:

I found this (or at least the basic concept of it) in a book quite simply called “130 recettes au chocolat”. To whom it may concern, this book was published in 1986, so we’re not dealing with modern cuisine; it’s good old traditional stuff, full of sugarrrrrrrrrr and creeeeeeeeeam and CHOCOLATE! Perfect chocolatey perfection in a wine glass.

For four people: 25cl double cream; 100g milk chocolate + 25g cocoa powder (the original recipe asks for 125g of ordinary chocolate, but I think it tastes better my way, HA!); 5–10cl milk; 4 egg whites; 200g sugar; a little water.

1. Whip the cream until stiff and leave in the fridge.

2. Gently melt the chocolate over a low heat with the cocoa powder. When smooth, add a bit of milk to make a thick chocolate sauce and leave to cool

3. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Heat the sugar and water together in a pan. In the unlikely event that you have a sugar thermometer boil until the sugar reaches 118 degrees, or count 13 seconds after the sugar starts to boil. Then slowly pour into the egg whites while beating continuously until the mixture cools down.

4. Gently fold the chocolate sauce and half the cream into the egg mix.

5. Pour the preparation into 4 wineglasses and leave to set in the refrigerator for a few hours. Decorate with the remainder of the cream ( you may notice on the pictures that I ran out) and some chocolate sauce, or chocolate flakes

Posted in Food | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

“Tous en cuisine”: converting the french to britishness…

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on June 3, 2011

Well, I was going to go swimming this morning, but it turns out the pool is closed for a major underwater hockey tournament. I am not one for text speech, but my initial (and still current) reaction was simple: WTF. I apologize to all practitioners of this noblest of sports (is it?) but I just wanted a swim, sob. SO I wrote yet another blog about food instead. I do believe in yesterday’s post I mentioned a cooking competition, and promised to say more about it, so here goes:

Have you heard of “Tous en Cuisine avec Alain Ducasse”? If you are an English-speaker, probably not because it’s French, and his year will be the first series. However, I believe it to be pretty much the same as the ITV programme“The Best British Dish”, where amateur cooks compete in front of TV cameras to create a typical “national” dish. In order to apply, you had to send in a recipe inspired by local cuisine, but adapted to your taste and personality, either by using unusual ingredients, or putting them together in an unexpected way.

Like I mentioned in yesterday’s article, I have never been able to keep to recipe instructions. The very first thing my mam taught me to cook was bolognese sauce, and very soon after that, I started adding herbs and chilli to it, much to the despair of my little sister’s over-sensitive tastebuds. I suppose this habit could be a problem if I one day decided to go into gastronomy, where you have to have standards, and recipes have to be the same from one day to the next, but for a competition like this, where you need creativity and inventiveness, it’s just what I need! So anyway, I had to come up with a savoury recipe for four people. Personally I’m more of a dessert-person, but this is what I turned up with, my take on “Potée au choux”: the crumble anglo’vergnat———>

Potée is in my opinion one of the most typical specialities in the Auvergne. Basically, it’s a big old soup: you take salted pork, cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes and turnips and boil them in water for EVER with salt, pepper, garlic, cloves and a bouquet garni. Then as it often happens for this sort of dish, on the first meal you eat the meat and veg, and on the following day, or in the evening, you have the soup with croutons, or more traditionally, poured over bread and cheese.

Like many of these traditional hearty country soups, it can be a bit blobby, and there’s plenty of room for improvement if you want to make it look more fancy and posh. In a bold move I decided to turn it into a crumble and by thus adding a lovely crumbly crunchy topping of rye bread and cheese, both personalize my dish and solve the blobbiness in one fell swoop.

I thought it was bold and inventive, but when I told my french friends about it, I only had to say the words crumble and english for them to start laughing and sneering and saying “what a waste of perfectly good ingredients”. Whoever you are and wherever you come from, you will be aware that british cuisine does not have the best reputation, and nowhere does this prejudice go deeper than in France. As a matter of fact the French are very intolerant to any sort of foreign food or flavours, but the relationship between France and English being what it is, the indigenous on both sides have difficulties seeing past the frogs legs and snails, or the jelly and SPAM. I could go on forever about culinary racism, but this blog is already way too long. My point is, if I do get through to the next round, I’ll carry on putting britishness into my recipes to prove my point to these miscreants!

Posted in Food, France | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Slaving over a hot oven

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on June 2, 2011

However observationally impaired you might be, if you’ve read any of my blogs or if you think you know me at all, it can’t have escaped your notice that I’m a bit of a foodie. By the way according to the OED:

foodie, n.  /ˈfuːdi/

colloq: A person with a particular interest in food; a gourmet.Sometimes distinguished from ‘gourmet’ as implying a broad interest in all aspects of food procurement and preparation.

So that’s me.

By now I’ve already discussed books, languages and karate; well cooking is just as important to me as all of the aforementioned. Wherever I go, whatever my mood, I need a decent kitchen. It isn’t even just about being able to eat what I want when I want, cooking is just therapeutic. A bit like ironing, except after the cooking comes the eating, and other people’s reaction to it, all the aaaahs and mmmmmhs… It is always a pleasure seeing my mam’s face light up when she sees a nice neat pile of freshly  ironed clothes and linen, but it isn’t quite the same thing. Once I lived in CROUS acommodation and all I had was a 10L fridge and 2 hot plates to share with a dozen other people on the same floor. I was miserable.  And incidentally I lost a bit of weight, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise. However, I wouldn’t go back to those days of eating nothing but sandwiches microwave-zapped potatoes and scrambled eggs and dehydrated soup. Nooooo way!

Anyway I’m much happier now and although my kitchen is small-ish, it’s more than enough to be inventive with, and I must confess, I went slightly overboard these past few days, producing all sorts of foodstuffs, but as ever, mostly sweet things. As time goes on I am becoming more and more of a dessert expert. My main problems however are:

-first, picking out a recipe (whenever I offer to be in charge of lunch, I systematically end up spending hours pouring over cookbooks)

-secondly, sticking to it. I never EVER follow a recipe through. There is always something added in or taken out. I reduce the amount of sugar, add cocoa powder, use a different tin, add icing, replace cream with coconut milk… (this actually led me to enter a cooking competition, but I’ll write this another time, shall I? )

In the meantime, here are a few photos of my latest achievements, or “foodporn” as my friend Jan calls it

chocolate mousse

cheesecake

more cheesecake

fresh bread

fresh pasta

a honeycomb rose for mother's day

more more cheesecake

my entry for the cooking competition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

so what do you think, does it look nice?

Posted in Food, Life, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Making “Macarons”

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on January 15, 2011

I really should have written and posted this long ago, since those pictures date back to the 29th of December. I have had a busy time since then, what with new year and my exams and everything… But I’ll try not to go overboard and into the great sea of randomness, this post will be devoted to the lovely sweet almondy perfection of macaroons. Mmmmmmh…

I don’t know what the state of macaroon affairs is in your country, but a couple of years ago in France, Macarons were the crème de la crème of french culinary trends. Instead of giving people chocolates, or biscuits, you would give them a box of many coloured, many flavoured macaroons garnished with creams, ganaches, jams, chocolates and nuts. People even had the stuck together and piled into fantastic macaroon pyramids. The cream of the crop were to be found at Ladurée, apparently. I personally have never tasted those, but like everyone, I know the name, and next time I go to Paris I’ll investigate: in case you wondered, I have managed to live 23 years in France and never set foot on the Champs Elysées, so it might be a while yet.

But anyways, the point is that  for Christmas my sister bought me a kit intitled: Macarons Moelleux Muffins, which included: 1 recipe book, 4 silicon muffin forms, 4 metal circles, and a reusable piping bag with a selection of nibs. I can’t wait to make all sorts of things with it! And so, on the 29th, I was making macaroons. I was quite apprehensive, since quite a few people had told me how very hard, complicated and tricky it is, which made me very afraid of wasting large amounts of almonds and be left with dozens of unused egg yolks. However, as you may have noticed from the pictures, that fortunately didn’t happen and I immediately posted the photos on facebook. I loooove to show off.

Despite what most people will tell you, I found making macaroons rather easy and straightforward, once you’ve understood how they work. I cooked my firs batch too quickly, which meant that the top cracked and collapsed as they were cooling down. The second batch was slightly better, and the third one was utter perfection! Apparently a good way to prevent this from happening is : after you’ve made piped out little piles of dough, you leave it to dry for at least 15 minutes, and when you bake them, open the oven door on a regular basis to let the moisture out. You dry the macaroons almost as much as you bake them, really. And by the way, the raw preparation tastes soooo good . I added a teaspoon of cocoa powder to give my macaroons a browny beige colour and it was simply yummy. I licked the bowl clean in no time after  I had finished.

The recipe that follows is translated from the website of “l’atelier des chefs”. I first spotted them on youtube a while ago when I was looking for tips to make choux pastry, and they have very good short explanatory videos, I highly recommend you take a look (Especially if you understand french). I didn’t follow their recipe exactly, but almost. It’s very well explained. Here is my translation of their recipe (I’ve only translated the basic macaroon preparation):

Macarons au sucre cuit:

Ingredients:

185g powdered almonds (not just ground, really powdered as thin as you can, sieve it to check)

185 g icing sugar

30g non sweetened cocoa powder

150g egg whites

200g caster sugar

5cl water


1. Preheat the oven 160°C, mark 5

2. Pour the icing sugar, almonds and cocoa powder in a food mixer, set for30 seconds to make a fine powder, then sieve into a bowl

3. In a heavy based pan, mix the caster sugar and water with a spatula and cook until it reaches 118, 119 degrees celsius. If you do not have a sugar thermometer, that point comes about 3 minutes after the sugar starts boiling. It must still be colourless. (The video is quite helpful at that point, you get a good idea what it’s supposed to look like)

While the sugar is cooking, beat half the egg whites until almost quite stiff, when the sugar reaches the right temperature, pour it into the beaten egg whites, whilst beating them at the same time, and until the bowl cools down slightly.

4. Pour the rest of the egg whites into the almond/icing sugar/cocoa mixture and mix. Slowly incorporate the stiff egg whites to that mixture. You must end up with a slightly liquid light mix which produces a long ribbon when you lift it.

5. Fill a piping bag with your macaroon mixture and pipe onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. (a little trick: in order to prevent the baking paper from lifting off the tray, you can stick it down at the edges with a bit of your mixture). Tap the tray against the table to allow for any small bubbles to come to the surface.

6. Place in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes (mine took more like 15 minutes, actually),  turning the tray half way through to allow all the macaroons to cook evenly. Don’t forget to open the oven door regularly while the macaroons are baking to allow the moisture out of the oven and avoid the macaroons cracking.

7. Let them cool down before attempting to remove them from the baking paper, or they’ll just fall apart.

8. Enjoy!

Posted in Food, France | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

♪♫♫♪♪Well the weather outside is frightful…

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on November 30, 2010

Or so most people seem to think. This is where my weirdness shines through once more: I love snow! Is winter my favourite season? Hmmm, I don’t know for sure, but it is certainly a time when get to do a whole load of things I absolutely love! Going into the woods looking for the perfect christmas tree. Coming back home after a walk and warming your hands on a hot cup of tea (I even like that sensation when you suddenly recover a sense of touch and your skin burns  and itches). Snowball fights. Walking in the woods and shaking branches over people’s head to make them look like snowmen. Finding a patch of pure white snow and walk across it just for the sake of turning around to look at your footprints… And there are also so many indoorsy things to do as well: cooking and baking christmassy stuff that fill your house with the smell of spices and citrus fruits, decking the halls with boughs of holly (tralalalala lalalala)… And sitting snug and warm in an armchair sorting through the remaining Quality Street chocolates looking for something other than “strawberry cream”, and peeping through the curtains every now and then to say: oooooh what a dreadful weather!

But snow is really what turns it all into winter (and therefore pre-Christmas time). Everything that happens before the first snowflakes start falling is just preparation. Mise en place. Last weekend for example I made traditional mincemeat (for people who don’t know what it is, you’ll get an explanation further down), and stored it into jars. And I left it at that. But now… I feel like making a bit of pastry, bringing out my muffin tray and get cracking. And with that I’ll have a glass of mulled wine, please! The perfect winter snack: mince pies, a tangerine and mulled wine. Mmmmhh!

Over that same weekend I also went out into the woods to get some holly, ivy and fir branches to make the advents wreath. With the leftovers (and I had quite a lot of them) I also made a nice wreath to hang on the door of my flat. And at first I did wonder: “is this too early? Am I turning into one of those people who start decorating waaaay to early, so early it’s almost ridiculous?” But then today it snowed. And somehow it’s enough to justify Christmas decorations.

Soooo… Mincemeat and mince pies (Google kindly informs me they are known in America as mincemeat tarts..) I hadn’t planned on explaining them at first but it occurred that my french friends wouldn’t know what I was going on about, so a quick description is in order.  Basically mincemeat is a mixture of fruit(dried, candied and fresh), sugar, spices and BRANDY, and you use it as a filling to make mince pies. It is absolutely lush. I usually use Mrs Beeton’s traditional victorian recipe, with a couple of so-called improvements, which end up a bit like this:

200g chopped suet/ 150g raisins/ 200g sultanas/ 200g glacé cherries/ 200g crystallised ginger/ 200g chopped candied peel/ juice and rind of 1 orange and 2 lemons/ 200g apples, peeled and grated/ 250g soft brown sugar/ 250ml brandy, 1tsp each of dried ginger, cinnamon, mixed spice. (not fixed, you may add in or omit what you like)

Mix it all up in a bowl. Cover and leave for two days, stirring occasionally (this prevents it from fermenting later on), and then store in jars. If you want to be sure it’ll last, you can boil the jars afterwards to seal them.  Like most of Mrs Beeton’s recipes, this one could probably feed an entire victorian household (including the downstairs staff). But because it keeps so well (being only fruit, sugar and alcohol), you can keep it from one year to the next. Not that it happens on a regular basis though, I’ve never had difficulties using it all up. I love making traditional english Christmas recipes. And if ever another french person tells me this winter that it is oxymoronic to talk of english cuisine, I’ll just stuff a mince pie or tow into their mouths. It’ll have the double advantage of shutting them up, as well as proving them wrong and spreading the good word. Yay!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Carrot cake, the cure to political despair

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on October 26, 2010

Holidays, at last! – or so I feel I should be saying. Strangely enough, it feels like it has been no time at all since Uni started again back in September. It probably has something to do with this ongoing strike I have mentioned a couple of times already and which you have all probably heard of. In some subjects I’ve only had a couple of lessons over the past month and a half, and unfortunately those tend to be the subject where I am most behind (like Russian – a mix of strike, illness and the lecturer giving birth means I have been to about two lessons) . However, maybe this bout of strike will abate over the holidays. Strikes usually do, which is why our clever government times them so carefully. When people go on holiday, they don’t watch the news as much, they don’t go to work or university so they don’t get to discuss those sorts of issues with their co-workers and co-students. Also, during holidays, people don’t care as much, or at least they don’t want to care. Especially with the sort of weather we have been having lately. And the fuel shortage. And the general deflation of people’s spirit. People would rather stay at home gathering chestnuts and relaxing reading a book by the fireplace than use up their few remaining liters of fuel to go to wet marches in empty streets for something most people hardly believe in any more. It’s all a bit depressing.

Honestly, this new law adding a couple of working years is not that unreasonable. It is true that we live longer, but it is also true that we have to study longer also. Take me for example, I agree that my life may be longer than previous generations’. But my studies won’t be over for another three years if everything goes to plan. I’l be 26, and I’ll still have 42, maybe 43 years to work, so that takes me all the way to 68-69 years old by the time I can claim a full pension. If I work these 42 years throughout, without breaks or sabbatical. It seems an awfully long time. But who knows, maybe by that point they will have figured out a way to make us live forever. Oh my God, an eternity of working all the time. Not an appealing prospect.

But whatever happens, whatever our government turns up with -and I think I have said it before, no-one will be completely happy about it. And if nothing happens, no-one will be happy either. So the protests in France are just the expression of general unhappiness. I’m somewhat surprised that other countries haven’t done it before us; we are far from being the unhappiest nation on the face of the earth, but then again, there is that expression that striking is the french national pass time. And in the meantime, I simply cannot figure out what I should hope for: for it to calm down, or for people to stick to their principles. And what would both of these options imply about the French. Do we want to give up, or are we just acting like a petulant child. In any case, these holidays will be a trial for this grève movement. Students are trying to keep things up. I saw an interview of a marching schoolgirl on telly the other day. She didn’t stay on for long enough for me to see whether she knew anymore than I do about the situation, but she mentioned facebook and text messages as a way to keep things going.  If facebook can help organise flash mobs to sing Do-a-deer-a-female-deer in a railway station, why can’t it be used to keep a protest going. Now only remains to see how many pupils and students went on strike only to skive off lessons, how many really are convinced by the slogans they write on their banners, and how many are fed up.

Now let me move on to something cheerier: CARROT CAKE. yum.

I am not being a traitor to the striking movement, I just believe in comfort food and cooking. Besides, we  live on an isolated farm in the Auvergne, fuel is scarce, and I have no driving licence anyway. So CAKE. Carrot cake. My own recipe. Well almost. It’s a variation around Jamie Oliver’s carrot cake, which I believe can be found out there somewhere on the internet, but adapted to fit my tastes, and hopefully those of my family. I still haven’t baked this in France for them, and I hope it isn’t to spicy for them. But come on: carrot cake, what can possibly go wrong. Every time I make it, it reminds me of our holidays in Ireland when we were small. Every second year or so, we’d go up to Ireland, the emerald Isle, the land where the Shamrock grows et, etc… and have a great time. We would spend the days outside on the edges of cliffs, chasing sheep and standing stones, visiting breweries, going fishing, riding ponies, eating in pubs, chancing upon sessions led by three bearded Irishmen drinking pints of lemonade, sniffing out which houses had peat burning in their fireplace… And we would regularly buy soda bread and carrot cake.

Carrot cake is so lovely and moist and flavoursome. It has such a characteristic taste and, in Ireland, it comes complete with a thick layer of very sweet and tangy icing, the recipe of which I simply cannot find. Can anyone help me with that? My little sister has been asking for it, and I miss it. Haven’t been to Ireland in ages!Anyway, in the meantime, here is my recipe, I’ll post a picture of the final result later on:

250g unsalted butter;   250g soft light brown sugar (I sometimes make that half-and-half sugar and golden syrup to make it moister);   5 large eggs, separated;   zest+juice of one orange;   170g self-raising flour;   1 heaped tbsp baking powder;   100g ground almonds;   100g shelled walnuts, broken;   1 heaped tablespoon ground cinnamon;   pinch ground cloves;   pinch ground nutmeg;   1 heaped tbsp ground ginger;   250g carrots, peeled and grated.

1: Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC

2: Cream the butter and sugar in a big bowl until pale and fluffy. Stir in the egg yolks one by one and the orange zest and juice, gradually. I say gradually, and I mean it. Otherwise you’ll end up with lumps of fat and sugar swimming in a sea of yellow liquid. Not very appetizing.

3: Sift in the flour and baking powder, then add the almonds and walnuts, spices and carrots. You’re more than welcome to add more spices depending on how you like your carrot cake. I like it quite spicy and tangy, so this time I might add some lemon rind. I’ll see.

4: In a separate bowl, beat the eggs whites with a pinch of salt until stiff, then fold very carefully into the cake mixture.

5: Pour into a prepared baking tin and bake for at least 50 minutes. If the top of the cake becomes too brown, cover with tin foil and place in the oven. As with most cakes, you can test the cake by stabbing it with a knife, when the blade comes out clean your cake is ready.

Please let me know if you know a good carrot cake icing recipe!

Posted in Food, France, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »