Sunday, 26 February 2012

Cretan Tuna Steaks with a Baked Zucchini Casserole

Well, we could discuss now how endangered most of the tuna-subspecies have become due to modern fishing methods. We could call everyone not to eat any tuna anymore (which is not very likely to happen anytime soon). We could also discuss the outrageous price they charge for two tiny tuna steaks. Or we could simply prepare our dish, those delicious Cretan Tuna Steaks with their Baked Zucchini Casserole, and not really go into these problems right now. Suffice it to say that I haven’t won in the National Lottery, so it’s definitely not the Bluefin Tuna I’m going to cook but the more common albacore fish (acccording to Wikipedia, also called albacore tuna, albicore, longfin, albies, pigfish, tombo ahi, binnaga, Pacific albacore, German bonito, longfin tuna, longfin tunny, or even just tuna).

What you need (for 4 persons – I don’t want to ruin you!): 
  • 4 tuna steaks 
  • 1 bunch of cilantro 
  • 1 spoonful of coriander seeds 
  • Some olive oil 
  • Salt, pepper 
  • 2 kg of zucchini 
  • 200 g of feta cheese 
  • 15 cl of milk 
  • Ground nutmeg 
How to proceed: 
  • Wash your zucchini, slice them. 
  • Heat some olive oil in a big pan, add the zucchini slices. 
  • Stir-fry them until they are golden. 
  • Add salt and pepper. 
  • Cover your pan, let the zucchini steam at average heat for 15 minutes. 
  • Put the zucchini in a colander, let all the excess water drip (that may take some time). 
  • Preheat your oven, 180°C. 
  • Cut the feta cheese into small cubes. 
  • Drizzle some olive oil into an oven safe casserole. 
  • Spread out half of the zucchini. 
  • Add salt, pepper, ground nutmeg. 
  • Add half of the feta cheese. 
  • Cover with the rest of the zucchini. 
  • Add salt, pepper, ground nutmeg, the rest of the feta cheese. 
  • Pour the milk. 
  • Put the casserole in the oven and bake for 30 minutes at 180°C. 
  • Approx. 5 minutes before the casserole is ready, heat some olive oil in a pan. 
  • Seize the tuna steaks for 2-4 minutes (it depends on the size and thickness of the steaks). 
  • Grind your coriander seeds. 
  • Add salt and pepper. 
  • Just before the steaks are ready, add the fresh cilantro and the ground coriander seeds. 
  • Put the steaks on the plates, drizzle some olive oil, serve with the baked zucchini. 
Simple but oh so delicious! A perfect weekday dish, tasty with little fat and all those marvellous vitamins!  
Bon appétit! 

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Tarte au Sucre Ardennaise (Sugar Pie from the French Ardennes)

This is a world exclusive: I’m about to hand over one of my “mother-in-law’s” recipes (I’m talking about Seb’s mom, of course). And of course, to honour the dish, Seb has prepared it himself, and he has decided to share it with me, and thus with you. The Tarte au sucre is a very popular cake from one of the most beautiful regions of France, and one you’ve probably never heard about before: the Ardennes. To talk geography, the Ardennes are a French department situated in the North, near the borders to Belgium and Luxemburg. It’s a very green, region with softly rolling hills, lush meadows and ancient forests; in terms of gastronomy, you can discover many recipes using game and potatoes. One of the specialities is the boudin blanc, a white sausage (the city of Rethel is renowned for being the world capital of the boudin blanc). Last but not least, those of you who love literature will be excited to learn that the world-famous poet and enfant terrible Arthur Rimbaud was born in Charleville-Mézière, the main town of the Ardennes.

But let’s get back to our recipe. This cake requires some skill because you have to prepare a dough that might be, well, let’s say unpredictable. You’ll have to use what the French call “levure de boulanger” (you could translate it with baker’s yeast; it means fresh yeast, in contrast with yeast powder). Like for any other cake, you have to be precise when you weigh the ingredients; one gram too much, and the result might be a disaster. Let’s stress the fact, too, that this cake is delicious yet light in terms of sugar and calories (even fitted for diabetic persons).

What you need: 
  • 225 g of flour 
  • 5 g of salt 
  • 22 g of granulated sugar 
  • 80 g of softened butter (don’t forget to take it out of the fridge the evening before!) 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 30 g of warm water (warm, not hot! Nody temperature, i.e. approx. 37°C) 
  • 20 g of baker’s yeast 
  • For the topping: 1 whole beaten egg, 100 g of brown sugar, several chunks of soft butter 
How to proceed:
  • In a big bowl, mingle the flour and salt. 
  • Make a sort of “well” in the middle. 
  • In another bowl, dissolve the baker’s yeast and the sugar in 30 g of warm water. Two things are extremely important: first, don’t use more water than indicated in order to allow the dough to have the right consistency. Second, the water temperature must not exceed body temperature (37°C) because you will not want to “burn” the yeast. Otherwise, the dough won’t rise. 
  • In the first bowl, pour the diluted yeast and the eggs in the well and start to knead the dough. 
  • Little by little, mix in the softened butter; the dough should become smooth. It should not stick to your fingers while you knead; otherwise, add some more flour. 
  • Cover your bowl with a clean dishcloth and let the dough rest for 30-45 minutes in a warm corner (the best would be to put it on a warm radiator). 
  • Knead the dough again while folding it delicately. 
  • Cover the bowl again with your dishcloth and let the dough rest for another 30-45 minutes on the radiator. 
  • Preheat your oven (210°C). 
  • Spread out the dough in your pie dish that you’ll have buttered beforehand. 
  • Beat an egg; with a brush, cover the pie with all of it. 
  • Sprinkle the pie with the brown sugar (try to put sugar everywhere). 
  • Add chunks of soft butter everywhere. 
  • Put the pie in the oven (210°C) for 12-13 minutes. Not a minute longer if you possess a modern oven (says my “mother-in-law”). Well, we don’t, we possess a rather old gas oven and our pie wasn’t ready at all after only 13 minutes. So, we left it in the oven for a total of 30 minutes; the pie is ready when the top is deliciously brown.
The recipe may sound simple but believe me, the result is delicious! You’re going to love its lightness and fluffiness, with that yummy taste of yeast. The top is crisp and crusty, with little “wells” where the sugar and butter have melted and caramelized. Let me tell you that the first time Seb has prepared this cake, it didn’t survive 24 hours! We had half of it after dinner (a very light dinner: raclette! LOL – and still we had the pie afterwards!) and the rest the next day instead of lunch. So Seb had to prepare another one because I didn’t stop joking that I had not had time to really taste it.
Bon appétit! 

Monday, 20 February 2012

Chicken Masala with Coriander

I promised you some more Indian curry recipes. So here’s one I prepared this week; it’s not very complicated and doesn’t take long, yet the taste is deliciously rich.

What you need: 
  • 2 red onions 
  • 80 g of coriander leaves 
  • 2 garlic cloves 
  • 2 small green hot peppers (or half a big one) 
  • 2 spoonfuls of coriander seeds 
  • 1 spoonful of ground cumin 
  • ½ spoonful of ground turmeric 
  • 1 pinch of saffron 
  • 500 g of chicken breast 
  • 400 g of plain yogurt 
  • 1 spoonful of sugar 
  • Some olive oil 
  • This time, quantities are measured with a tea spoon. 
How to proceed: 
  • Cut your chicken into little cubes. 
  • Roughly cut the onions, the garlic cloves, the coriander leaves and the green pepper. If you want a very spicy-hot dish, you can use more than the quantity of pepper I indicated. 
  • Put them in your food processor and mix them until you’ve got a nice and smooth paste. If your onions aren’t juicy enough, you can add some water. 
  • Grind your coriander seeds. I recommend you don’t buy ground coriander as the flavour is less rich than when you grind the seeds yourself. And flavour is what we want to achieve. 
  • Heat a drizzle of oil in a big pan. When hot, add the paste and stir-fry it at medium heat for 10 minutes. 
  • Add the ground coriander seeds, cumin, turmeric and saffron. Stir-fry for another 5 minutes to allow the perfect development of all these spices. 
  • Add the chicken cubes, cook for 5 minutes. 
  • Add the yogurt and sugar, cover the pan and let it simmer for 15 minutes (the chicken should be tender by then). 
  • Take off the lid, add salt and pepper, give it a last stir and serve. 
You can serve this dish with rice or vegetables and perhaps a nice little Shallot Chutney. It’s strange but I do not really appreciate fresh coriander when it’s added to a salad. Yet once the coriander is cooked, I just find it too delicious for words. Here, it’s the nice blend of fresh and ground coriander that lends that rich flavour to the dish. I had planned to keep half of it for the next day; thus, I had used much more chicken than necessary. But we found our Chicken Masala so great that there were no leftovers once we had finished eating.  
Bon appétit! 

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Tuna-Tomato Pie à la Seb

I would be a liar if I pretended to have prepared this dish myself. I had planned to, I swear, but my boyfriend Seb just beat me to it. When I came home from work, the pie was ready to be cooked, the oven hot, and even the kitchen cleaned up! So, in honour of my sweetie, I decided to call it the “Tuna-Tomato Pie à la Seb”.

What you need: 
  • 1 ready-to-cook puff pastry 
  • 400 g of tuna (canned) 
  • 3 fresh tomatoes 
  • 3 onions 
  • 3 eggs 
  • Mustard 
  • A little glass of milk 
  • Celery salt 
  • Pepper 
  • Ground nutmeg 
  • Dried oregano 
  • Olive oil 
  • Grated cheese 
How to proceed: 
  • Chop the onions into strips. 
  • Fry them in a drizzle of olive oil with a pinch of dried oregano. Don’t forget to crumble the oregano between your fingers to enhance its flavour. 
  • Preheat your oven, 200-220°C. 
  • Spread out the puff pastry in the pie dish and prick it with a fork. 
  • Coat the bottom with 1-2 spoonfuls of mustard. 
  • Spread the fried onions. 
  • Slice the tomatoes. 
  • Spread them on the onions; add some celery salt and pepper. 
  • Spread the tuna on the tomatoes (crumble it between your fingers to avoid lumps). 
  • Add some more oregano on top of the tuna. 
  • With a fork, mix three eggs and a small glass of milk. Add celery salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg, a pinch of oregano. 
  • Pour over the tuna. 
  • Add some grated cheese on top. 
  • Put the pie in the oven, cook 25-30 minutes at 200-220°C (I cannot be more precise as my oven is an old-fashioned gas oven where temperatures are approximate at the best of times). 
Seb served the pie with a nice salad (lettuce, tomatoes, shallots and Sauce Vinaigrette with Balsamic Vinegar). Easy to prepare, delicious, a nice weekday dish that you can propose as a starter whenever you have guests (just serve smaller slices). Thank you, sweetie, I really appreciated not having to cook this time! And, most importantly, thanks for such a wonderful dish!
Bon appétit! 

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Keema (Indian Ground Meat Curry)

Today, we will prepare a traditional Indian curry. I’ve always wanted to cook Indian recipes but thought they might be out of reach for my limited cooking skills. Then, I bought the “Curry Party”-book (written by Jody Vassallo) and found out that her explanations were so simple that even I could muster the delicate blend of spices necessary for such an exotic (yet exciting) enterprise.

I’ve prepared many curries ever since, and the Keema is amongst the easiest. You need quite a lot of spices and herbs, and you should heed the exact required quantities. In the beginning, I was a bit too enthusiastic and often added the spices without measuring them. But now that I follow the recipe meticulously, the result turns out much rounder, more complete, more accomplished.

What you need: 
  • Some olive oil 
  • 2 red onions 
  • 1 spoonful of fresh ginger 
  • 2 garlic cloves 
  • 1 or 2 small green chilis (or half a big green chili; they have to be very spicy) 
  • 1 cinnamon stick 
  • 3-4 cloves 
  • 750 g of ground lamb (or ground beef) 
  • 1 ½ spoonfuls of coriander seeds 
  • ½ spoonful of ground cumin 
  • ½ spoonful of ground turmeric 
  • 2 potatoes 
  • 200 g of crushed tomatoes (you can use canned crushed tomatoes, of course) 
  • 200 g of plain yogurt 
  • 155 g of peas (fresh or frozen, not canned; I bought frozen peas with carrots to add an extra-flavour and some extra-colour to the dish) 
  • 2 spoonfuls of fresh coriander leaves 
  • Rice 
  • (PS: measurements for tablespoons) 
How to proceed: 
  • Peel the potatoes, cut them into small cubes. 
  • Grate the fresh ginger. 
  • Grind the coriander seeds. 
  • Chop the onions. 
  • Chop the garlic and the green chilis (don’t lick your fingers right after this step, don’t rub your eyes, don’t touch any remotely delicate part of your body!! Just a friendly warning from someone who wanted to taste if his chili was spicy enough – it was, and my tongue aflame!). 
  • Prepare all the spices so that they’re easy to grab. 
  • Heat some olive oil (or any other vegetable oil) in a pan or a wok. 
  • Fry your onions for 5-10 minutes until they’re golden-brown. 
  • Add the garlic, chili, ginger, your cinnamon stick and your cloves. 
  • Stir-fry for another 3 minutes; most spices develop their flavour much better when heated for a while. 
  • Add the ground lamb at high heat. If you can’t find ground lamb, you can use ground beef. To my regret, I had to because I couldn’t find ground lamb in the supermarket and wasn’t sure my food processor could really grind the lamb the way it should. 
  • Add the ground coriander seeds, the cumin and the turmeric, stir-fry for 2 minutes or till the ground meat looks nice. By now, a deliciously exotic smell should fill your kitchen. 
  • Add the potatoes, the tomatoes and 25 cl of water. 
  • Cover the pan and let simmer for 20 minutes. 
  • In the meantime, cut your coriander leaves. 
  • Take off the lid, add the yogurt, the peas and the coriander. 
  • With the lid off, let the dish simmer for 10 minutes or more. 
  • Prepare your rice (Basmati or plain rice, whatever you prefer). 
Serve the meal either in separate plates (I prefer to keep my rice out of my sauce in case the sauce is too spicy; it’s sort of an emergency exit for my mouth) or in a big plate (my boyfriend prefers to mix the rice with the curry). This dish is a real treat, worth the time spent in the kitchen. It’s not too spicy-hot (if you go by my indication re. the chili) yet still an explosion of flavours in your mouth. Serve it with a nice, fruity red wine (we had a neat bottle of Bourgogne) – the wine’s flavour will be magnified by the spicy food. 
I swear to all the Hindu Gods – this is India at its best! 
Bon appétit!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

M’chermel Chicken (Moroccan Chicken Tajine with Lemon and Olives)

Arctic Frost still breathes through Paris, and my want for warmth and sunshiny dishes is still very strong. Why not prepare a nice Moroccan tajine then?, I thought. It’s a slow-cooked stew braised at low temperatures, resulting in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce.

Now, FYI, a tajine, or tagine, is a dish from North Africa named after the special earthenware pot in which it is cooked. The traditional tajine pot (cf. the Wikipedia photo to the right) is formed entirely of a heavy clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking. The cover is so designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving. As I don’t own a real tajine myself, I prepared the dish in a simple pot. What’s important is to cover the stew and to cook at really low heat.

What you need (for 4 persons): 
  • 6-8 chicken legs (or chicken breasts; I prefer them even if the meat is drier than that of the legs –beat me!) 
  • 1 onion 
  • 1 spoonful of ground ginger 
  • 1 spoonful of turmeric 
  • 1 spoonful of saffron 
  • Fresh Parsley 
  • Fresh coriander (or ground coriander) 
  • 1 spoonful of paprika 
  • 1 spoonful of ground cumin 
  • 2 candied lemons (if you don’t find that, you can use fresh lemon, but the taste is not the same) 
  • Some pitted green olives (as many as you like, actually) 
  • Some chicken broth (or half a bouillon cube) 
  • Salt, pepper 
  • Olive oil 
  • Optional: 4-5 potatoes
How to proceed: 
  • Prepare the marinade for the chicken: mix some olive oil, the chopped parsley and coriander, paprika and cumin. Cover the chicken with it, put the preparation in the fridge (for at least 2 hours; better still, prepare the marinade in the morning if you want to cook the recipe for dinner). 
  • Cut the onion into slivers. 
  • Heat some oil in your pan (or your tajine pot if you’re lucky enough to own one). 
  • Add the marinated chicken (with the marinate), the onion slivers, olives, salt and pepper. 
  • Add the ginger, turmeric and saffron. 
  • Stir until the chicken has got a nice colour. 
  • Add the chicken broth (your chicken should be more or less covered by the liquid). If you’re as lazy as I, you can use half a bouillon cube and add some water. 
  • If you want, you can add some potatoes (like I did). Peal them, cut them in halves, add them now.
  • Cover the stew, cook at low temperature for 20-30 minutes. 
  • Take off the lid and cook some more until the sauce gets unctuous. 
  • Cut the candied lemon into slices. 
  • Add the slices, cook for 2-3 minutes. 
  • Serve with couscous (semolina) or rice. 
Really delicious, a fabulous blend of flavours and textures; spicy without being hot; and the candied lemon gives the whole dish that sweet-sour extra-touch… Not to mention the semolina soaked with sauce. A treat! Enjoy with bon appétit

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Flambéed Kiwi Pie

It’s currently so icy in Paris that I wanted to see some summer warmth in my plate. That’s the reason why I’ve decided to prepare a Flambéed Kiwi Pie. It’s an easy enough recipe, and for those who like their cakes to be on the sour-sweet side, a real treat! It is rather sour, a bit like the famous French Lemon Pie (which I simply love) so be warned! I say this because my boyfriend’s comment was, “Ugh, I don’t like it!” “All the better for me, dude”, I said, “leaves more of it for me!”

The recipe I was following didn’t explain all the steps (as if, by some miracle, one could guess what to do!) but worry not, my sweeties: I will share the to-do’s and the not-to-do’s that I’ve learned the hard way (“learning the hard way” means I fucked up the first time, pardon my French, then fucked up something else the second time, pardon my French again, and finally, this time, I did it all right).

Uhm, by the way, I could be a total show-off by telling you I made the puff pastry myself. But you know what? I’m much too honest for that game. I simply bought a ready-to-use puff pastry in the supermarket. Pushed by the bad-bad-bad show-offy side that somehow survives in me, I did look up the recipe for the puff pastry (see? I am honest). But when I realized the preparation (and the step-by-step description) would have taken me hours, I decided I’d spare my karma such a negative input and would not lie to you. So there you are: puff pastry? Just buy it, for Heaven’s sake!

What you need: 
  • 8-9 kiwis 
  • 80 g of sugar 
  • 1 lemon 
  • 1 puff pastry 
  • 40 g of butter 
  • A small glass of Whisky 
How to proceed: 
  • Peel the kiwis. Whether you do it with a knife or a peeler doesn’t matter; it’s a sticky business because of the kiwi juice. 
  • Cut them into thick slices. 
  • Prepare the puff pastry: spread it out in the pie dish and prick it with a fork (otherwise it will expand during cooking; not so nice). 
  • Squeeze the lemon. 
  • Pre-heat your oven (200-220°C will do nicely). 
  • Heat the sugar and the lemon juice in a big casserole. We will want to get a nice caramel. The recipe told me to heat the sugar and once it had caramelized, to add the lemon juice. Smart asses! The sugar stuck to the casserole, and I was never able to make caramel with it! Thus, I deducted it might be better to add the lemon juice right in the beginning, and ta-daa! The caramel was wonderful! 
  • Add the kiwi slices and the butter. 
  • Caramel-fry the kiwis for 3-5 minutes. 
  • Add the Whisky. I said Whisky, so do not use anything else. Being no Whisky-aficionado (rather, like the late Queen Mum, a Gin-and-Tonic-fan), I hardly ever buy any, but I always have some rum at home (for cooking purposes only). So I tried it with rum. Not really yuck-yuck, but the taste of rum overwhelms all the rest. So, rum is a big no-no. Let’s stick with Whisky, if you don’t mind. 
  • Take a lighter and flambé your kiwis. The Whisky has to be hot, otherwise it won’t work (believe me, I took the casserole off the heat, for fear of burning something. Never flambéed anything that way!). 
  • Let the kiwis cool down. 
  • Put them on the puff pastry. 
  • Do not add the remaining juice! The recipe was very vague about it so I added it. Such a nice juice, it would be a pity to not use it, I told myself. Big, oh big mistake! The juice on top of the kiwis never hardened while cooking. It did run through the fork holes and under the puff pastry, though; and there, it hardened, of course. Afterwards, go and try to cut some nice cake slices with your puff pastry all but caramel-glued to the pie dish! It was a sheer disaster; oh no, we don’t want that, sweeties! 
  • Put the pie in the oven, 200-220°C, approx. 25 minutes (or longer; watch the pastry – when it turns black, you’ve left it too long in the oven – haha!). 
  • It’s ready: eat and enjoy! 
I simply love this pie; even loved it when I fucked up two or three things. It’s fresh, it tastes of summer heat, and – boyfriend preferring chocolaty sweets – I’ve got it all for myself! 
Bon appétit! 


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