Saturday, 28 January 2012

Marinated Beef Skewers Thai-style with Braised Chicorée



Another wonderful and healthy recipe with loads of proteins, vitamins, and almost no fat. Yet, your papillae will be jumping gaily on your tongue and your mouth will water. Proof that healthy food is not necessarily dull and savourless. Luckily so.

What you need: 
  • 180g of beef/person 
  • 20 g of fresh ginger 
  • ¼ of a bunch of coriander 
  • 4 cloves of garlic 
  • 1 big onion 
  • 1 stem of lemongrass 
  • 250 g of soy sauce 
  • 50 g of sugar 
  • 5-8 chicorées 
  • A little bit of butter 
How to proceed: 
  • Prepare the marinade the day before you plan to cook your skewers (marinade: steps 2-10). 
  • Peel fresh ginger, onion and garlic. 
  • Cut the lemongrass into fine straps. 
  • Chop onion and ginger. 
  • Smash the garlic with a knife blade. 
  • Cut the beef into handy cubes (handy as in “not too big nor too small for skewers”, right?) 
  • Put the beef cubes into a bowl, add the soy sauce. 
  • Add onion, garlic, lemongrass, coriander and half of the sugar. No need to add salt or pepper because the soy sauce is already quite salty.
  • Cover with a wrap, put into the fridge. 
  • If you don’t forget it, try to stir the beef in the marinade from time to time in order to make sure all the beef is evenly covered by the mixture. 
  • The next day, steam your chicorées. 
  • In the meantime, take out your beef cubes and put them on skewers. 
  • Don’t throw away the rest of the marinade! 
  • Grill your beef skewers either in the oven, or on a barbecue, or (like I did) on a portable grill. 
  • Brown the chicorées in a little bit of heated butter. 
  • Filter the remaining marinade, add the rest of the sugar and heat it all until the sauce gets unctuous and thick. 
  • Serve the skewers with the two or three braised chicorées and the sauce. 
I served the sauce apart, in little bowls. Thus, it was easier for everyone to remove the beef cubes from the skewers (always somewhat messy) without sprinkling table and everything with sauce. Then, those who want can dip (or even soak, because the sauce is sooo tasty!) their beef in the bowl of sauce. 
I’m not a big meat-fan, I have to confess. But these skewers with their distinct, exotic flavour and that yummmmm!-sauce did it for me. And the braised chicorées were the perfect side-dish, a little bitter with that caramelized aftertaste. 
Bon appétit! 

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Marinated Peppery Red Mullet



This time, we’ll prepare something very simple yet tasty. If you want to try out this one, you will not need many ingredients; you should, however, like to eat raw fish. I’ve tried out red mullet and was very satisfied with the result: a summery-fresh taste reminding me of sun and sea and holidays.

The red mullet is a small fish you find in the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. You will recognize it very easily by its striped red-and silver skin. It is a semi-fat fish (unsaturated fat, perfect for your health) that will bring you lots of proteins as well as mineral nutrients (iodine, iron, phosphor) and vitamins.

What you need: 
  • 12 red mullet fillets (without fish bones) 
  • 1 orange or red pepper 
  • ½ cucumber 
  • 2 limes 
  • 2 branches of thyme (citrus thyme if possible) 
  • 1 spoonful of different pepper grains 
  • Salt 
  • Olive oil 
How to proceed: 
  • Cut the cucumber and the red or orange pepper into small cubes. 
  • Cut the fish fillets into stripes. Make sure there are no fish bones left. My fillets were sold with that big ’n’ bold imprint “NO FISH BONES” – my ass! But the remaining bones were scarce and easy to spot so I simply plucked them out with tweezers.
  • Put fish and vegetable cubes in a bowl. 
  • Squeeze the limes and mix their juice with 2-3 spoonfuls of olive oil. 
  • Grind the pepper grains. 
  • Pluck the thyme. It should be citrus thyme, which has a strong lemony taste – did I hear someone murmur “Duh!”? Anyway, I didn’t have citrus thyme, so I took some ordinary thyme, which lent a supplementary Mediterranean touch to the dish. 
  • Pour the lime-oil mixture over fish stripes and vegetable cubes. 
  • Add some salt, the ground pepper and thyme. 
  • Cover the bowl with a wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. 
  • Serve with thin slices of toasted bread. 
I was really surprised by the rich aroma of the lime-pepper-thyme mixture, which mingled with the relative sweetness of the red pepper and the juicy freshness of the cucumber. This accompanied so well the subtle taste of the fish! And by the way, if you leave the fish long enough (I prepared the dish at lunchtime and served it for dinner), it will remain more or less al dente, but look almost “cooked” by the limes’ acidity. 
Have yourself a nice glass of fruity white wine with this, and you’ll see how fabulous raw fish can taste! 

Friday, 20 January 2012

Farfalle with Artichoke Sauce



And now for something completely different… We’re going to prepare a simple and healthy meal. The recipe might prove a tad expensive right now because it’s winter and the season for our main ingredient would be June-September. I’m talking about artichokes.

The globe artichoke is a truly healthy vegetable. It contains a high rate of antioxidants and other active chemicals that help your bile flow, digestion, liver and gall bladder function and reduce your cholesterol levels. It’s rich with fibres and almost calorie- and fatless. Because of its current prize, I only bought 5 of them for the two of us (actually at 1,90 euros apiece!). That quantity turned out perfect for two meals. You have to know that normally, only the artichoke heart is eaten (approx. 15% of the whole thingy). But here’s how you use the rest as well (it would be a pity to waste so much money on so little to eat, plus I found it really tasty; and if I can do something for my cholesterol, after all that buttery pistachio cake…)

What you need:
  • 5 artichokes (for 2 persons) 
  • Two little bowls of sauce Vinaigrette 
  • Farfalle (butterfly-like pasta, hence the name – in Italian, “farfalle” means butterflies; you can use any other pasta you like, of course) 
  • 125 ml of cream 
  • Some butter 
  • Some olive oil 
  • Salt (I used celery salt), pepper 
  • Ground nutmeg 
  • A pinch of Cayenne pepper 
  • Grated Parmesan 
How to proceed:
First meal (or starter): 
  • Cut off the stems of your artichokes (we won’t eat them). 
  • Then, you have to boil or steam the vegetables. I chose to steam them (approx. 25 minutes) in order to keep them as tasty and as healthy as possible. 
  • Prepare a little bowl of simple vinaigrette for each person. 
  • When cooked, serve artichokes and vinaigrette. 
  • Take off the leaves, one at a time. Tip the fleshy base in your vinaigrette and eat. The fibrous upper part can be discarded. The thin leaves in the centre can be entirely eaten. 
  • At the end, you’ll have the artichoke heart, with its upper part covered by the choke (a mass of immature florets that look like hair). This part, the choke, is inedible; you have to remove it carefully. 
  • Put the artichoke hearts aside. I prepared my pasta the next day, so I put them in the fridge. 
Second meal (or main course): 
  • Cut the artichoke hearts in little pieces. 
  • Heat butter and olive oil in a pan. 
  • Fry the vegetables for 3-5 minutes. 
  • Add the cream, salt, pepper, ground nutmeg and a pinch of Cayenne pepper (be careful, this spice is very hot; I only use it to make the dish tastier but not to make it spicy hot, alright? If you don’t notice it, you’ve added the right amount). 
  • Lower the heat, cook for about 25 minutes (the sauce has to be unctuous and thick). 
  • In the meantime, boil your farfalle
  • Serve with grated Parmesan and a bowl of salad (salad is always great with any pasta dish). 
During the first meal, you’ll enjoy that subtle, slightly smoky taste of the artichokes mixed with the acidity of the vinaigrette. The second meal has a stronger taste; that’s why I cooked the sauce for quite a moment, until there was almost no liquid cream left. Thus, the flavours of the spices and the artichokes melted together to an exceptional result. 
Bon appétit! 

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Pistachio Gugelhupf (Pistaziengugelhupf)

Sorry for the photo"s poor quality - I was slobbering so much
that I couldn't stay focused. But please admire how very well you can see
the flowers in the background ;-))

This weekend, Paris was sun-flooded. And icy. In the warmth of my central-heated flat, I suddenly felt the strong urge to bake a nice Austrian cake. If you need that warm and cosy feeling, I told myself, prepare yourself a high-fat / high-sugar / high-calorie-recipe. Now, almost any cake from my home country will do the trick. Still, I couldn’t make up my mind. So, I flicked through my Treasure Bible with all those delicious Austrian pastry recipes. And I found something that immediately said “Bake Me! Now!”: a Pistachio Gugelhupf. I love pistachios; my choice was made.

A typical Gugelhupf cake tin (and a
very beautiful with that!),
photo found on
http://rocknrecipes-rocknquilts.blogspot.com

For your information, the word Gugelhupf has been coined in the Southern German-speaking regions. It comes apparently from the Latin word “cuculla” (hood) and the word “hopf” (which meant “Hefe” in Old German; it’s yeast in English). Traditionally, a Gugelhupf was thus a cake made of yeast dough (flour, eggs, milk, butter, almonds, yeast), sometimes with raisins. It was prepared in a wreath-shaped, high cake tin with a chimney-like hole in the middle: the so-called Gugelhupf Cake Tin. Today, any cake you bake in such a tin is a Gugelhupf, even without yeast. Like mine. The recipe I found seems to have replaced almonds and yeast by… butter! There’s more butter in it than I would use in a whole month. But, wow, the cake is sooooo fabulous (and wouldn’t it be, with me being the baker?)!

What you need: 
  • 250 g of butter (no typo!)
  • 80 g of powdered sugar 
  • Half a pack of vanilla sugar 
  • 50 g of marzipan 
  • Some lemon zest 
  • A pinch of salt 
  • 7 eggs 
  • 350 g of flour 
  • 125 ml of milk 
  • 180 g of sugar (you didn’t think you’d get away with only those 80 g of sugar mentionned above? Hey, I said Austrian recipe, okay?)
  • A pinch of baking powder 
  • 100 g of ground pistachios 
  • For the chocolate glaze: 200 g of black chocolate, 125 ml of cream 
How to proceed: 
  • Stir butter (yes, Ma’am, all of it!), your 80 g of powdered sugar, vanilla sugar, marzipan, lemon zest and salt until creamy. My food processor had some difficulties stirring so much butter, which is why I suggest you do it the classical way, with a hand mixer (alright, you do as you please; I will use my hand mixer next time!). 
  • Add egg yolks, 4 spoonfuls of flour and milk; stir again until creamy. 
  • Beat the egg whites and the 180 g of sugar until stiff. “Not too stiff-stiff”, says the recipe –you read that, you mumble to yourself “What the buggery f… does that mean?” Anyway, with that much sugar, my beaten egg whites didn’t exceed a certain not-too-stiff state of stiffness. Or was it because clumsy me made the tiniest drop of yolk drop into the whites? Anyone come up with a better guess? Tammy perhaps, my Baking Queen? Or Catherine? Pardon, what did you say? Ah… “Achoo!” Well, thanks anyway, Catherine. You’d better go back to bed now, sweetie. 
  • Stir in your beaten egg whites with the rest. 
  • Finally, stir in the flour (mixed with the baking powder) and the ground pistachios. 
  • Bake your cake in a Gugelhupf cake tin at 170°C, approx. 50 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. 
  • Let the cake cool down. 
  • Prepare the chocolate glaze: heat cream, throw in chocolate and let it melt and mingle without ever stopping to stir. 
  • Pour over your cake and let cool down. 
I didn’t find a Gugelhupf cake tin in my local supermarket, so I had to use two smaller tins. I kept one cake for ourselves and shared the other with my colleagues. You want to know if the cake is worth the trouble of spending all this time in your kitchen? Suffice it to say that the cake I brought to work didn’t survive very long ;-) 
Bon appétit, sweeties, make yourself a nice cup of coffee and enjoy it with the cake! 

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Salmon fillets with Dill and Balsamic Vinegar



I love seafood and fish. Here’s a wonderfully simple recipe that you can prepare after a day of hard work. It’s perfectly easy to prepare, healthy and very tasty.

Normally, I would have cooked my salmon fillets in a frying pan. If you prefer to prepare your fish this way, too, simply marinate the fillets in a preparation made of salt, pepper, dill and balsamic vinegar some hours before. Here, I will propose another preparation that does without the marinade (more convenient if you come back home from work a tad too late). As a matter of fact, I will bake my fillets in the oven; with a marinade, the balsamic vinegar wouldn’t caramelize but get burnt (and that’s really yikes!).

It’s difficult to say how much vinegar you should add. It depends on the quality of your vinegar. Most of the time, you and I, we will have bought a pale imitation of the real Aceto balsamico tradizionale (be it from Modena or from Reggio Emilia). You have to know that the traditional balsamic vinegar is an exceptional Italian product that will cost you half a fortune. The imitations are not too bad, though; they’re just a bit more sour and haven’t aged for twelve years in their wood barrels. As a rule, try a bit of your salmon and add some more vinegar if you don’t taste the sweet-sour, slightly caramelized flavour we aim to achieve here.

What you need: 
  • Salmon fillets (one per person, with skin) 
  • Dill 
  • Ground ginger 
  • Ground nutmeg 
  • Salt, pepper 
  • Balsamic vinegar 
  • Some drops of olive oil 
How to proceed: 
  • Put your fillets in an ovenproof plate (make sure they lie on the skin side). 
  • Add salt, pepper, a little bit of ground ginger, ground nutmeg and as much dill as you want (this time, make sure it’s on the upper side). Personally, I love dill, so I added rather a lot of it. 
  • Drizzle some drops of olive oil over the filets. 
  • Preheat your oven (220°C, 10 minutes), put the fillets in the oven. 
  • Cook for approx. 20 minutes. 
  • Pour some balsamic vinegar over the fillets, cook for another 5 minutes. 
You can serve your salmon fillets with potatoes (I admit to deep-frozen, fatless Pommes Dauphine that I baked in the oven – I told you: a weekday meal) or any other vegetable you might want to eat. I served it once with fresh broccoli in cream (home-made; I’ll post the recipe soon) and found the resulting meal wonderfully balanced and tasty. 
Bon appétit, and don’t work too hard! 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Erdäpfelgulasch



This is what some would call comfort food. I’d rather call it winter food. A traditional Austrian dish: the “Erdäpfelgulasch”, which would be “Kartoffelgulasch” for my German friends (who might not know the Austrian word “Erdäpfel”, literally meaning “earth apples”). A wonderfully tasty Potato Goulash, for those who don’t speak neither German German nor Austrian German. Very down-to-earth, no-nonsense, cheap and easy to prepare.

You will have to use a lot of onion, which – together with the spices and herbs – will lend the dish its rich taste and make the sauce nice and thick. The onions must be choppedy-chopped to very tiny pieces. My mother has brought me one of those wonderful “onion hackers” (Zwiebelhacker – doesn't it just sound like a villain out of the “Grimm”-series?) last time she came to see me in Paris. This is what it looks like. It’s a real handy appliance; chops your onions in no time and helps you let off steam whenever you feel upset. Perhaps somewhat noisy, but better than yoga, let me tell you.

What you need: 
  • 8-10 big, mealy potatoes 
  • 20 g of paprika (I use 10 g of mild paprika and 10 g of spicy hot paprika; I’ve never been able to find the latter in French supermarkets and brought back several packets from Austria) 
  • 40 g of butter 
  • 6-7 big onions 
  • 1 spoonful of vinegar 
  • 1 spoonful of ground caraway seeds 
  • 2 garlic cloves 
  • 1 spoonful of marjoram 
  • ¼ l of beef broth (you can use stock cubes, of course) 
  • Salt, pepper 
  • Optional: a can of white beans, 6 Frankfurter sausages (hot dog sausages), sour cream 
How to proceed: 
  • Chop your onions (use your onion hacker if you’ve got one). 
  • Peel the potatoes, cut them into cubes. 
  • Heat the butter in a big pot. 
  • Fry the onions until golden brown. 
  • Add the paprika. 
  • Stir, then deglaze with the vinegar. 
  • Pour the broth. 
  • Add the ground caraway seeds, the marjoram; press your garlic cloves. 
  • Add the potatoes. 
  • Cover your pot and boil until the potatoes are soft and mellow (approx. 25 minutes). You’d better taste them because time indications are always approximate. And we don’t want to eat crunchy potatoes, now, do we? 
  • Add the beans and the sausages (cut into small slices). 
  • You can add two or three spoonfuls of sour cream as well to achieve an even creamier sauce (I did without it). 
  • Cook for another 5-8 minutes. 
You can serve this dish simply with some bread. In Austria, we’d have a nice tankard or two of beer with it. But you can serve it with red wine, as well. Or a glass of water. It’s a very tasty dish and, believe me, once you’ve finished your plate, you’ll forget for quite a long time how hunger feels. Alright, alright, I confess, I had some cheese and a chocolate-pear-yogurt afterwards, but that’s because I’ve become quite a guzzler, don’t you know? Cheers!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Sautéed Shrimps and Broccoli with Lemongrass and Coconut Cream


For our Saturday dinner, I decided to prepare a meal with shrimps. I wanted to try out a new ingredient I’d never cooked with before, too: lemongrass. This is a tropical plant from Southeast Asia, very common in Philippine and Thai cuisine, with a subtle citrus flavour. You can buy it fresh, dried (less tasty, needs to be soaked in warm water before use) or deep-frozen.

I, of course, had to have fresh lemongrass. Alright, I’m maybe a bit stubborn, I admit. Anyway, let me give you a precious piece of advice: if you set out to buy an ingredient you’ve never used before, gather as much information beforehand as you can. Information and, most important: photos! I confess: I didn’t have the foggiest what lemongrass looked like! Thus, I was wandering around the fruit & vegetable section of my supermarket for quite a while, like the perfect idiot I am. They have that huge stall where they lay out everything exotic (mangos, passion fruit, yam, you name it) without really bothering to stick the price tags to the respective products. I finally took something I thought could be lemongrass and put it onto the electronic scales. Bingo! The pictogram that automatically appeared on the screen read “Lemongrass”.

Lemongrass,
photo found on http://wikipedia.org
Well, I’m just too fabulous for words, am I not? Anyway, you do not need to answer. No, really, don’t. In order to save you from making the same mistakes I made, here’s a photo. Once you know what to look for, it’s rather easy.

And now for the recipe (for 4 persons).

What you need: 
  • 500 g of shrimps (I bought them peeled, which saved me from hand-peeling them for hours) 
  • 3-5 broccoli heads 
  • 2 spoonfuls of chopped lemongrass 
  • 2-3 garlic cloves 
  • Olive oil 
  • 200 ml coconut cream (or creamy coconut milk if you don’t find the cream) 
  • Salt, pepper 
How to proceed:
  1. Peel your shrimps if you haven’t bought them already peeled. 
  2. Chop your garlic. 
  3. Chop your lemongrass into large chunks (you will have to remove them from your sauce afterwards; thus, if you chop it into tiny, tiny bits, good luck for finding them!). Remove the outer leaves and cut the two ends of the rod; you will only need the tender centre of them stem. 
  4. Heat up your olive oil (approx. 2 spoonfuls) in a wok or a frying pan (a sauteuse is even better). 
  5. Add the shrimps and the chopped garlic, fry them for some minutes (five to six). 
  6. Add the broccoli heads little bit by little bit. 
  7. Add the chopped lemongrass. 
  8. Add salt and pepper. 
  9. Cook for several more minutes. 
  10. Add the coconut cream and reduce heat. 
  11. Take out the lemongrass pieces (they won’t soften and stay rather crunchy to the bite; if you like that, leave them in your sauce). 
  12. Serve with rice. 
I really liked this new dish; it tasted sweet with that telltale subtle citrus flavour I mentioned before. Cheers then, sweeties, and bon appétit

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Sauce Vinaigrette

Photos retrieved
from:
beautyvanity.wordpress.com
blog.cryslor.com
supertoinette.com

Today, let’s see how to make a Sauce Vinaigrette. Don’t shiver, don’t fret; ‘tis a really easy recipe. And once you’ve tasted your home-made Vinaigrette, you’ll throw away all your bottles of industrial super-market salad dressing. Keep in mind: that super-market junk normally contains much more sugar, salt and cheap, bad fat (ouch! for your health) than the version you’ll prepare yourself. And the Vinaigrette is so easy to prepare that you don’t have any excuses. I mean, for heaven’s sake, you don’t even have to do any actual cooking to make that sauce!

For a starter, don’t go searching for a Monsieur Vinaigrette or a Madame Vinaigrette on Wikipedia. Vinaigrette is the French diminutive for vinegar (vinaigre). In other countries, especially in Great Britain, the sauce is also known as French Dressing.

Vinegar has been used for ages in order to spice up dishes or to store them for a longer period; especially in those dark pre-fridge times. In order to lessen the acidity of vinegar, oil has been added we don’t know when by we don’t know who. And there you have the basic recipe for our Sauce Vinaigrette. It is commonly accepted that is it one part of vinegar for two parts of oil. Some could argue for hours that it must be one part of vinegar for three parts of oil, but you know what? We will not argue; we will taste our sauce and add some more oil if necessary, okay?


Normally, we’d use olive oil here in France. But you can as well prepare your sauce with other neutral vegetable oils like sunflower oil. You can even choose fancier oils like walnut oil, sesame oil or whatever. Just be careful because those more exotic choices are very tasty and the mixture could become rather lopsided, okay? Don’t come complaining afterwards, sweetie.

What you need: 
  • Olive oil (or any other quality oil of your choice) 
  • Vinegar (whatever you like, actually; for health or religious reasons, you can as well use lemon juice) 
  • Salt, pepper 
  • Optional: mustard, crème fraîche, spices, chopped herbs (basil, parsley, chive are the most commonly used ones) 
How to proceed: 
  • For the basic version (we’ll call it v.1), put a spoonful of vinegar directly into your (empty) salad bowl. Why indeed use another bowl, that you’ll have to wash afterwards? What? You stubbornly insist on making your Sauce Vinaigrette in your favourite little Hello-Kitty-bowl? Well, then just go ahead. I stick to my salad bowl, if you don’t mind. 
  • Add two (or three) spoonfuls of oil. 
  • Add some salt and pepper. 
  • Whisk your sauce into a nice emulsion. 
  • Add your salad. Don’t forget to wash it before adding, though; nothing is more unpleasant than to feel your teeth crunch on something you might not care to know about. 
  • A more elaborated version (v.2) consists in adding a spoonful of mustard to your vinegar. You then whip up a smooth first sauce, to which you add your spoonfuls of oil. 
  • Version number 3, or v.3 includes some crème fraîche. I always call it the Vinaigrette Lyonnaise because a friend from Lyon has taught me how to prepare it. You start by whipping up a creamy sauce of one spoonful of crème fraîche and one spoonful of mustard. Then, you continue as if you were preparing our v.2. 
  • Once your Sauce Vinaigrette is ready, you can add other spices or chopped herbs. Or just go completely insane and invent entirely unexplored culinary territories by adding, I don’t know, garlic, shallots, truffles or even blue cheese? This is, after all, an open recipe whose limitations are your taste. 
  • Of course, this recipe will provide you with just enough sauce for a small bowl of salad. If you’ve planned to prepare a salad for your family of 20, you’ll have to adapt the proportions. But this being a culinary blog and not an arithmetic one, you go and do your maths yourself. 
I’m sure you’ll be very satisfied once you’ve started using your own, home-made dressing. Feel free to let me know if you liked it. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

What is better than sex?

One of those nice, casual dinners
with my best friends…

Photo found on:
http://www.pinkofperfection.com

To have a nice meal, no doubt. Because, above all other reasons, meals occur more often. Unless you’re on a very strict diet. Or newly wed. Or a rather pathetic former Prime Minister with Bunga-Bunga-sessions on an hourly basis in order to prove yourself something (or the world, or those hot chicks you pay handsomely). Whatever that may be (nota bene: quantity has never made a man).

Anyway, meals are very important for our well-being. No French person would contradict that truth. You see, there’s a reason UNESCO has proclaimed the “repas gastronomique des Français” (the gastronomic meal of the French) one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in november 2010. The French love to sit down around a nicely prepared table and have a long dinner with friends.

The UNESCO-proclamation doesn’t mean French cooks are better than cooks from other countries. Politicians and lobbyists have been very quick to jump to that erroneous conclusion, confounding the country’s (traditional) gastronomic meal with the country’s gastronomy. Statistics speak a clear language on that account: more than half of the restaurants in France do not prepare fresh meals but use (industrial or home-made), deep-frozen vacuum-preparations. More than half of ‘em! Including those run by star-cooks charging not gastronomic, but astronomic prices!

But the gastronomic meal still plays a very important role in France. I know that the eating process holds a high status in other countries, too. The Greek, for instance, can spend hours and hours eating (been there, done the same, gained five kilos, sweetie). But the French meal is unique, has particular rules and can last a whole night (especially during the Christmas season).

So here’s the recipe for a typical gastronomic meal “à la Française”.

What you need:
  • Nice people to invite (friends or family) with whom you’re willing to spend some time
  • A huge table (preferably with chairs)
  • Bits and pieces of decoration (I recommend a nice tablecloth, cloth napkins plus paper napkins, why not some candlesticks?, glasses, cutlery and nice kitchenware – paper or plastic plates, glasses and cutlery are a big No-No! by the way)
  • A precise idea of what your guests like to eat and do not like to eat (do not, on no account, prepare roast pork for a tableful of vegetarians, okay, sweetie?)
  • Enough time to prepare your meal
  • Enough money to buy it all
  • A good stomach and a healthy thirst
How to proceed:
  • First of all, think organisation. For a real gastronomic meal “à la Française”, you need to envisage at least the following courses: aperitif with nibbles; first course; main course; salad; cheese; dessert.
  • Prepare your meal in time. If you start preparing the first course or put the turkey in the oven when your guests arrive, that won’t do. They expect you to be present most of the time, to be charming and witty. And they expect their turkey to be ready before midnight and not to be raw.
  • Set the table in time, too. I’ll tell you more about decoration and how to correctly place all those darn pieces of cutlery and all those glasses in another post, I promise.
  • When your guests ring the door-bell, don’t leave them outside in the rain, for God’s sake! Let them in and lead them into the living room. Normally, aperitif and nibbles are taken in a relaxed, informal atmosphere. Careful: informal does not mean you can pat the bottom of your best friend’s wife or fondle her breasts (unless invited to do so by either of them, of course). Avoid talking about the following three No-nos: politics, money, religion.
  • Propose an aperitif (that can range from Champagne to Gin-Tonic). Always think that, though it may seem uncouth, there are people who do not drink alcohol (former drunkards, pregnant women, teetotallers, health-fanatics). Always provide water and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Don’t forget your nibbles. What good does it do to spend hours preparing your special Greek Fried Spinach and Shallot Balls if you forget them in the fridge afterwards? For a starter, I propose peanuts and olives. But for more elaborate nibbles, you’ll have to come back here because I’ll post some nice recipes (including said Greek Fried Spinach and Shallot Balls).
  • When everybody is passably tipsy from their aperitifs, seat them around the table and serve the first course, main course, salad (lettuce), cheese and dessert.
  • Between the courses, let your guests breathe a bit; they may want to open their pants’ flies, fan themselves, go to the bathroom, whatever. Don’t haste ‘n’ hurry. Take your time. Don’t go back to the aperitif bottle, though, and don’t fall asleep.
  • Very important: never ever serve your salad with an industrial dressing from the supermarket. It has to be a home-made Sauce Vinaigrette, of course (and you’ll find the recipe on this blog soon).
  • Another important thing: eat your own meal. If your guests see you hesitate or frown with disgust or sniff with a pinched nose, they might just get that vague inkling that you wouldn’t even feed your meal to your own dog.
Now, enjoy yourselves, Bon appétit, and cheers, sweetie!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Vanillekipferl

No personal photo this time, sorry,
sweetie, but the grandson of one
of my best friends has eaten almost all
of this year's production

Photo found on:
http://www.mowielicious.com

So let's get started, sweetie. I know it's not Christmas anymore (or not yet – it depends on your point of view, or as Einstein taught us: everything is relative). But although in Austria, we traditionnally prepare these nice and yummy cookies right before Christmas, they're so fabulous that you can make them anytime you want. Just remember: as Austrian cake 'n' cookie recipes go, it's a teensie bit on the high-fat-high-sugar-side.

What you need:
  • 350 g of flour 
  • 200 g of butter 
  • 100 g of sugar (granulated or powdered sugar, whatever you prefer) 
  • 1 packet of vanilla sugar 
  • 100 g of ground almonds 
  • 1 egg (well, I added a second one) 
  • A bowl filled with powdered sugar 
  • A generous amount of time
  • Even more patience
How to proceed:
  • If you want to prepare these cookies, don’t forget to take the butter out of the fridge in time; it has to be mellow. 
  • First, you have to knead the flour with the butter. Let me warn you: you’ll have to do it with your hands; the whole process, by the way. The dough might be too compact for your food processor. So wash your hands, sweetie, and take off those diamond rings, cheers.
  • Then, you add the sugar, the vanilla sugar, the ground almonds and the egg (or the 2 eggs, like I did).
  • You knead until you’ve got a nice, compact dough. It should be crumply but not too much (mine was, that’s why I added the second egg, and from then on, everything went just fine). 
  • Switch on your oven, 180-200°C. 
  • Put baking paper on your baking sheet (you wouldn’t want the cookies to stick to your sheet, now, would you?). 
  • Prepare your dough by rolling it between your hands until you’ve got three or four even ‘rolls’ or ‘sausages’. 
  • Then, you cut little pieces off each roll (approx. as thick as your thumb). 
  • Roll each little piece again, then shape it into a little crescent and lay it on the baking paper. 
  • When you’ve filled the baking sheet, put it in the oven. It takes about 10-15 minutes for the cookies to be ready (they should harden but shouldn’t get burnt). I can't tell you exactly how much time it will take; that depends on your oven. See, my mom gave me this recipe over the phone, and her instructions were very precise: "bake'em for a coupla minutes". Right.
  • While the cookies bake, prepare another baking sheet. 
  • When the cookies are ready, take them out (it would be silly to let them burn down to black lump right?) and put the new baking sheet in the oven. 
  • While the cookies are still hot, you put them into the bowl with the powdered sugar and cover them entirely. Then, you take them out and let them cool on a plate. 
  • When all the cookies are cold, you can store them for a month or more in a nice little box, preferably in a cool and dry place. 
In my memory, the whole process was rather long. But when I made the cookies myself for the first time, I was astounded how easily and quickly the dough was prepared. I only discovered then that the long long long long process started with the preparation of the cookies one by one.

But they're worth it. Kids just love'em. I hope you’ll enjoy, too. See ya soon, thanks, cheers, sweetie.

(Recycled post: this post has been originally published on my other blog, Confessions of a Wannabe Writer, on Dec. 12th 2011. This is a slightly edited & corrected version).

Monday, 2 January 2012

The Debut Post

"Eddie: Is champas all right with you Pats?
Patsy: Lovely darling."
You remember that scene from "Absolutely Fabulous", now, don't you? The one when main character Edwina (Eddie) Monsoon opens the fridge and asks, "Should we finish off the beluga or should we have some smoked salmon nibbly things?" And her best friend Patsy Stone answers, "Oh whatever sweetie." Eddie: "All right, we'll finish off the beluga."

That line is the starting point. Imagine you're fabulous. I mean, come on, you've landed on this fabulous blog, so you must be fabulous yourself. So you're fabulous, and I am fabulous, and we can say we're enjoying our fabulousness. Now, you've just finished off the beluga, haven't you sweetie?, and you don't feel like digging into the smoked salmon nibbly things. Not just yet. No, you'd rather have some nice little real-time meal. Something my Mama could've made. Good old Austrian cooking (i.e. garanteed tasty calorie bombs). Or perhaps something fancy, something exotic? Moroccan, maybe, or Thai, or even Indian? Or some posh high-brow French cuisine?

Well, pat yourself, sweetie. You've chosen the bestest place ever for that kind of hankering. This is, after all, the Fabulous Food Blog! A place where I will share my most fabulous recipes with you. No kidding, I will! With the odd home-made photo to show you how the result should look like (hopefully) or how it should absolutely not look like (I can't promise perfection, sweetie!). With tips and tricks, things to avoid, things you should remember, secrets and scandals (my, that tomato has such a slutty life-style, let me tell you!).

Welcome to you then, sweetie. Feel free to comment; feel free to enjoy; feel free to copy the recipes and give me your fabulous feetback.

We'll have a fabulous time here, I promise you. Now, if you could excuse me for a sec, my glass is empty; I'll have to get a champas refill right now... Right, cheers, thanks a lot, sweetie.
Hi there, sweeties!

This space will open soon.
And believe me – it will be fabulous!

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