Friday, August 29, 2008

A culinary vacation in France

You may have noticed that beFOODled has a new banner. That is S's artwork and my vision of a Parisian picnic — a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread and thou. (That lipsticked empty wine glass is mine ;)

It's a very fitting banner for the blog right now, because S and I are leaving today for France for a culinary vacation! We are going on a holiday organized by Gourmet Safari, a Toronto company that offers Mediterranean cooking vacations in France, Italy, Spain and Morocco.

Our package is called Provençale Cooking in Style and it takes place at a 17th-century farmhouse B&B about halfway between Lyon and Marseille. One of the owners is a chef and he's going to teach us how to cook several Provençale dishes, including lunch for a big picnic! We'll also visit a traditional market and go on some other outings.

Jackie, the owner of Gourmet Safari, has been incredibly good to us. When I told her about our interests, she answered with pages and pages of personalized suggestions and recommendations about where to go and what to do. She once lived in Paris and worked as an au pair for French film actress Catherine Deneuve.

I'll return soon to tell you about my cooking adventures in France!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Poll results: Where in the Mediterranean would you like to take a cooking class?

The poll results are in, and after 48 votes, Italy reigns supreme as the place to go on a cooking course with the beFOODies, with France coming in at a close second!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Choux Pastry and Éclairs

On Saturday, Em and I spent the whole day making choux pastry and pastry cream to make éclairs for Ella's harvest brunch on Sunday. We had a few false starts, but eventually... success!

There were a few challenges — our pastry nozzle was small and we didn't really know how to pipe well, so our first batch was too skinny. We also opened the oven too soon and our puffs collapsed ... fffft! We weren't sure about the batter of our second batch, so we temporarily abandoned it to make a third batch, and this one led to some good ones that we could take to the brunch so the practice paid off :) We salvaged our second batch and made them into savouries by adding chopped chives and grated cheddar to the batter. Em spooned out big dollops onto the baking tray and they puffed up nicely and tasted fab.

Choux Pastry

Choux pastry was invented in 1540. About two hundred years later, someone advised to add eggs to the recipe. Fast forward to today, we now use a recipe perfected by someone named Antoine Carême.

Em and I used a scale to measure quantities.

125 g milk
125 g water
100 g butter
5 g salt
5 g sugar
163 g flour, sifted

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Mix milk, water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Take it off the heat, and add the sifted flour to the batter (Em says a real chef will know if you use unsifted!). Mix quickly until the mixture falls away from the sides of the pan and starts to form a thick ball. At this point the batter is called a panade. Put it back on the stove on low and keep mixing it around as best you can to dry out the panade. Mix quickly and note the bottom of your pan should look sticky.

Put the panade into a mixing bowl and stir until it's at room temperature. Add 4 to 7 eggs (we added four, but it depends on how your panade turns out) one at a time from a separate bowl. Fold them into the panade until the batter drops off a big wooden spoon in a V-shape.

Pipe éclair shapes onto two cold non-stick baking sheets using a piping bag with a big circular nozzle. Use a fork dipped in egg wash to score them in the opposite direction to piping. This will allow the steam to pass through the batter and makes the éclairs glossy.

Put in the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 380 F. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes or until the tops are golden. Don't open the oven until they are golden on top, otherwise they will collapse!

You'll have to test your oven to find the best temperature and time combination. Em's oven worked best when we put them in at 325 degrees and left them for about 20 minutes.

Put them on a cooling rack. Poke two holes in the bottom where you will pipe in pastry cream. After piping in pastry cream, smear some chocolate spread on top of the surface with the holes and serve!

Pastry Cream

500 g milk
4 egg yolks
100 g sugar
50 g flour, sifted

Heat the milk and a little of the sugar. Whisk the rest of the sugar into the egg yolks until light yellow and silky looking. Add a bit of milk to the eggs and mix together. Add flour to the eggs. Add to milk and bring to a boil while stirring. When the mixture thickens, pour onto a tray and cool in the fridge with some cellophane on top.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Harvest Brunch

Today S and I met some friends at the Landsdowne Farmer's Market and we all bought ingredients for a Sunday harvest brunch at Ella and Cinder's house. The photo above is from the market, and the one below shows all of the delicious dishes we prepared.

Ella made sage-and-brown butter ravioli with toasted almond slivers, and also this amazing dish that was sort of a cross between an apple tart and a semi-sweet quiche. She has promised me the recipe, so stay tuned! She also served prosciutto-wrapped melon and many cheeses, including a great maple cheddar, which she bought recently during a trip to Prince Edward County. We also made insalata caprese and MV made her famous spicy Portuguese shrimp. S and I bought olive and potato-dill artisan breads from the market. Squeaky made mimosas with champagne, peaches and strawberries, and Em and I brought éclairs that we made yesterday and which I'll tell you about soon in another post!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Chilled Shrimp, Cucumber and Noodle Salad

Japanese shrimp, cucumber and noodle saladJapanese shrimp, cucumber and noodle salad, originally uploaded by beFOODled.

This noodle salad is another recipe from my favourite Japanese cookbook. I made it earlier this week for dinner. It's really light and refreshing, and the dressing tastes fantastic. If you keep a big bag of shrimp in the freezer and some classic Japanese pantry ingredients on hand (like those needed for this dressing), then you just have to remember to buy cucumbers and green onions to make this.

Chilled Prawn, Cucumber and Noodle Salad
serves two
recipe adapted from Jane Lawson's Yoshoku

12 cooked large shrimp, peeled
2 Lebanese (short) cucumbers
1 Tbsp dried wakame pieces (a kind of seaweed)
2 handfuls of somen noodles, each the diameter of a quarter
3 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Japanese seven-spice mix (togarashi)

1/2 tsp dashi granules (a stock made from fish and seaweed)
1 Tbsp hot water
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup mirin
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
a dollop of a sesame-based dressing like Wafu (or sesame oil)
2 tsp grated ginger and its juice (optional)

Cut the shrimp in half lengthways and set aside in the fridge. Halve the cucumbers, scrape the seeds out with a spoon, and slice into thin half moons. Put in a colander in the sink and sprinkle over with salt. Let rest for 10 minutes, then rinse and squeeze out the water. Set aside in the fridge. Soak the wakame in a cup of water until they have expanded, about five minutes. Drain and chill.

Make the dressing by dissolving the dashi in the hot water in the bottom of a big mixing bowl. Add the rest of the liquids and stir to combine.

Cook the somen noodles by dropping them into a pot of boiling water for two minutes. Drain and cool the noodles in a colander under cold running tap water.

Mix all the ingredients together in the dressing and save some spring onion for garnish. Serve cold with a sprinkling of seven-spice mix.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

French Onion Soup

French onion soupFrench onion soup, originally uploaded by beFOODled.

What rock have I been under for ignoring my slow cooker for so long? Last weekend, emboldened by my pulled pork experience, I slow-cooked a delicious French onion soup using a recipe that was given to me by my friend Christine from French class. It's easy, but it's really a weekend recipe because you need to do something every hour or so. Christine makes it in bulk and freezes it, which I think is very smart.

I used my homemade chicken stock, but I think it would have been even richer with the more authentic option of beef stock. Also, cooking with alcohol gives it great flavour. Many recipes call for cognac, but that was very expensive, so I bought brandy instead. In fact, I bet you could substitute cooking wine from SuperStore and it would still taste nice.

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup
serves two
recipe adapted from The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes by Judith Finlayson

3 onions, sliced
1 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
3 Tbsp brandy
4 slices baguette
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, grated

In the slow cooker stoneware, mix the melted butter and the onions together. Cover and cook on high for one hour.

Add the sugar, salt and peppercorns and stir. Place two clean tea towels, each folded in half so you have four layers, over top of the stoneware but underneath the lid to trap the moisture. Cook for two hours on high, stirring two or three times, until the onions have browned evenly.

The cookbook said the towels would absorb the moisture and to replace them a couple of times during this step. I found that the moisture just passed through them and condensed on the lid instead, so I just wiped the lid a few times instead of replacing the towels.

Add the brandy, chicken stock. Remove the towels and cook on high for an hour.

Preheat the broiler. Ladle the soup into ovenproof bowls. Top each bowl with two slices of baguette and grated cheese. Place the bowls on a cookie sheet, and broil until the cheese has browned, about three minutes. Sprinkle with some chopped fresh parsley and serve.

Related Posts with Thumbnails