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Florentines

A Florentine biscuit is a French pastry that is erroneously attributed to Italian cuisine. The Florentine was first made in France at the Palace of Versailles by the king’s top pastry chefs for visiting in-laws, the Medici family of Florence.  Due to these close ties to Florence, it is not surprising that the French named this popular delicacy after the capital of Tuscany, Italy.  Florentines are made of nuts (most typically hazel and almond) and candied cherries mixed with sugar or honey and butter and baked in the oven.  They are often coated on the bottom with chocolate. Other types of candied fruit are used as well.  This recipe is a simplified version of authentic florentines.

200 g flaked almonds, toasted or 100 g each flaked almonds and hazelnuts
30 g butter, melted
2 large egg whites or 60 ml cream
100 g icing sugar
30 ml cake flour
60 ml red or green glacé cherries, finely chopped (optional)
60 ml raisins (optional)

Garnish
100 g white, milk or dark chocolate, melted

  1. Toast the almonds in a dry pan on a medium heat until light brown.  Watch them carefully as they burn very easily!  Transfer the almonds to a plate to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line two baking trays with Wizbake baking sheets.
  3. Combine the butter, egg whites, icing sugar and flour in a mixing bowl and mix well.
  4. Add the glace cherries and/or raisins if used, as well as the toasted almonds and mix well.
  5. Spoon 20 to 30 heaps of batter onto the baking sheets.
  6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden. Set the baking trays aside to allow the biscuits to harden and cool completely.
  7. Serve as is or brush melted chocolate on the underside of the biscuits.  Use a fork and make a wavy line on each biscuit.  Alternatively drizzle melted chocolate over the biscuits.  Set the biscuits aside until the chocolate has set.
  8. Store the biscuits in an airtight container between layers of baking paper to prevent sticking.

16 to 20 biscuits.
Florentines

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April/May 2015 Recipes

Although the French-inspired recipes included here are as French as the Cordon Bleu Culinary School, you don’t need to have the skills of a qualified French chef to make them. Some are classic, some are modernised, but all of them will give a French flair to your meals when you make them!  As usual, I include my own favourites as well as a few recipes by Carolié de Koster.

Also have a look at the post Getting Sauce Savvy, where I provide information on the “mother sauces” of French cuisine as well as the late Julia Child’s Tips and Hints on how to make the perfect sauce.

Carolié de Koster has contributed the mouth-watering recipes below. They are mostly from her popular Art of Cooking Recipe Book:

Be sure to check out the following French recipes that featured in other newsletters:

The Art Of Cooking Recipe Book is not available from leading book stores.  Please visit our on-line shop to order yours.  For those of you who have the book already, the Art of Cooking and Koskuns Alphabetical Indexes are now available from Cooking Up A Storm.  Please contact me for more details.

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Quick French chicken

French cookery does not imply complicated techniques and expensive ingredients.  Simple wholesome fare have been served by French cooks for generations!

8  uniform chicken portions e.g. thighs (about 1.5 kg)
5 ml salt
1 ml white pepper
30 ml cake flour
30 g butter
15 ml oil
250 g white button mushrooms
30 ml cake flour
5 ml crushed garlic or 2.5 ml garlic and herb seasoning
1 ml mixed dried herbs
125 ml dry red wine
250 ml water
5 ml chicken stock powder
15 ml tomato paste
30 ml chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
chopped parsley to garnish

  1. Combine the salt, pepper and flour and coat the chicken portions with the seasoned flour.
  2. Heat the butter or margarine and oil in a large heavy saucepan and brown the chicken portions evenly over moderate heat, turning continuously.  Remove the chicken portions and set aside.
  3. Add the whole mushrooms, stir and cook 5 minutes, remove and set aside.
  4. Add the flour,  garlic or garlic and herb seasoning and mixed herbs to the saucepan and stir over moderate heat for 3 to 4 minutes to brown the flour.
  5. Add the wine, water, stock powder and tomato paste and cook over moderate heat, stirring until a smooth sauce forms.
  6. Return the chicken portions, add the parsley, cover and simmer about 1 hour or until tender.
  7. Add the mushrooms, cover and simmer 15 minutes more.
  8. Season to taste, spoon into a suitable dish for serving, sprinkle with parsley and serve piping hot with French bread and salad or with cooked rice and vegetables as preferred.

4 to 6 servings.

Variations

  • Sauté about 8 peeled pickling onions with the mushrooms and add to the dish together with the mushrooms.
  • Increase the herbs added or substitute about 15 ml chopped fresh herbs for the dried herbs.

Notes

  • Replace the chicken with 4 turkey drumsticks for the festive period.
  • Make this dish in advance and freeze to have ready at short notice.

Carolié de Koster from the Art Of Cooking recipe book p. 314.

Quick French Chicken p. 314

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French Macaroons (Macaron)

The macaroon, often referred to as the “gem of French Pastries” is called French Macaroon to distinguish it from the coconut macaroon. A macaroon (macaron in French) is a sweet meringue-based confectionery or cookie that is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The word “macaron” comes from the Italian “maccherone” which means “finely crushed” or “a fine paste”.  A French macaroon is characterised by its smooth, domed top, ruffled circumference (referred to as the “foot”) and a flat base.  It is made with egg whites, icing sugar, granulated sugar, ground almonds and food colouring.  It is therefore gluten-free! Read my post National Macaron Day for more tips and hints on how to make these French delicacies!

Salted Caramel Filling
180 g white sugar
110 g salted butter
5 g sea salt flakes (or more to taste)
5 ml water
200 ml double thick cream (Woolworths)

Basic Macaron Mixture
150 g ground almonds
150 g icing sugar
150 g white sugar
50 g water
2 x 50 g egg whites at room temperature * see Notes
Food colouring (liquid, powder or paste) 

  1. To make the filling, heat the sugar, butter, salt and water in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until melted. Cook until the syrup comes to a boil and starts to brown.
  2. Swirl the pan occasionally, taking care not to spill any of the hot sugar mixture on yourself! Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour in the cream while stirring.
  3. Cook for a few minutes on medium heat while stirring and until the caramel is smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for about 15 minutes.
  4. Place a piping bag fitted with a 7 mm plain nozzle in a measuring jug or container to keep it upright. Twist or clip the bag above the nozzle to prevent the mixture from running out.
  5. Pour half of the filling into it and scrunch up the open end of the piping bag. Be careful not to overfill it as it will be difficult to handle. Set aside.
  6. To make the macarons, pre-heat the oven to 150° C and line two baking trays with a Silicomart macaron mat, silicone baking mats baking paper and a macaron template * of your choice.
  7. Also have a piping bag fitted with a 7 mm plain tip ready.
  8. Sieve the almond flour and icing sugar into a large bowl. If the almond flour is too coarse to go through the sieve, process it with the icing sugar in a food processor until fine. Set aside until ready to use.
  9. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk half of the egg whites on medium until you have a glossy meringue.
  10. Meanwhile, place the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and heat to 110° C without stirring. The temperature can only be measured accurately with a digital cooking thermometer.
  11. With the food processor on medium speed, pour the syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream. Add a few drops food colouring to the mixture and mix until the mixture has cooled down to 40 ° C.
  12. Switch the food processor off. When you remove the whisk attachment, there will be a big clump of the mixture in the center. Knock the whisk against the bowl to free it. If the mixture has not become stiff enough to clump inside the whisk, continue beating for another minute, or until it does.
  13. Remove the bowl from the food processor and add the the almond meal, icing sugar and the other half of the egg white.
  14. With a silicon spatula, use both a folding motion (to incorporate the dry ingredients) and a pressing motion, to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl.
  15. The batter needs enough thickness that it will mound up on itself, but enough fluidity that after 20 seconds, it will melt back down. I.e. it must have the consistency of molten lava.
  16. Place a piping bag fitted with a 7 mm plain nozzle in a measuring jug or container to keep it upright. Twist or clip the bag above the nozzle to prevent the mixture from running out.
  17. Spoon half of the macaroon mixture into it and scrunch up the open end of the piping bag. Be careful not to overfill it as it will be difficult to handle.
  18. Use your one hand to guide the nozzle, the other to squeeze just enough of the macaron mixture onto the baking sheet. Stop piping just shy of the borders of the circle, as the batter will continue to spread a little bit.
  19. After piping your macaroons, take hold of the baking tray and hit it hard against your counter three times. This will dislodge any large air bubbles that might cause your macaroons to crack. Remove the template from under the baking mat and bake the macaroons for about 15 minutes.
  20. Once the macaroons have baked, cool thoroughly on the baking trays, before peeling the cooled macaroons from the baking mat or baking paper. Use a egg lifter if necessary.
  21. When the macaron shells are completely cool, turn half of the macarons flat side up and place a macaron of a matching size next to it, flat side down.
  22. Pipe about 5 ml of the filling onto the flat side (bottom) of half of the macarons. Place the other macarons on top of the filling and squeeze the two halves gently together so that the filling reaches the sides of the macarons but it doesn’t spill over the side.
  23. Store the macarons in an airtight container in the fridge for 24 hours for the filling to infuse into the shell.
  24. Take the macarons out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving.
  25. The assembled macarons can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week or frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost them 1 hour before serving.

Notes:

  • Ground almonds can be bought at speciality shops like Linda’s Bake & Pack Or Bakers Bin.
  • To make ground almonds at home, weigh the almonds and the icing sugar, add it to the bowl of a food processor and process together to avoid ending up with almond paste!
  • Separate the eggs a few days in advance and store the egg white in a sealed container in the fridge. It can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks and frozen for up to 4 months.
  • Egg yolks can be kept in the fridge for 3 days or frozen for up to 4 months.
  • Beat a pinch of salt or sugar in (depending on whether they’ll be used for sweet or savoury dishes later) to stop them from thickening too much upon freezing.
  • Defrost frozen eggs in the fridge overnight and use them straightaway.
  • Macaron templates can be printed from here.
  • Baking paper on which you have traced out guide-circles (about 2.5 cm apart) with the aid of a pencil and a 3.5 cm cookie cutter can be used instead of the template or the macaron baking mat if preferred.  In this case you will pipe the macarons directly onto the baking paper.

SaltedCaramelMacarons2

 

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Ratatouille

Ratatouille (pronounced rah-tah-too-ee) is a traditional French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, originating in Nice.  Ratatouille is usually served as a side dish, but may also be served as a meal on its own, e.g. as an entree (see the Confit Byaldo vartiation below).  Tomatoes are a key ingredient, with garlic, onions, baby marrow, eggplant, sweet peppers, basil or thyme.  The roughly cut vegetables are pan-fried and then baked, and plated as a stew. There is much debate on how to make a traditional ratatouille. One method is simply to sauté all of the vegetables together. Some cooks, including Julia Child, insist on a layering approach, where the eggplant and the baby marrows are sautéed separately, while the tomatoes, onion, garlic and sweet peppers are made into a sauce. The ratatouille is then layered in a casserole and baked in the oven.

My personal favourite is a variation of the traditional ratatouille called “Confit Byaldi” which was created by French chef Michel Guérard.  It is the ratatouille recipe they used in the Disney Pixar movie Ratatouille (2007).  It is also known as Remy’s Ratatouille (see more about the movie below). The dish consists of a piperade sauce – a combination of tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions, garlic and sugar – topped with thin slices of tomato, eggplant, baby marrow and patty pans. The dish is baked for two hours, cooled and refrigerated overnight for the flavours to develop.  It is served as an entree on individual plates.  The vegetables are fanned out accordion-style and it is finished off with a drizzle of vinaigrette.  This dish is labour intensive, but so worth it!

The movie Ratatouille (2007), from the creators of “Cars”, “The Incredibles”  and Finding Nemo (to name a few), the main character is Remy, a provincial rat.  Remy is not ordinary rat though.  Not only is he literate, he has developed a passion for cooking after watching numerous cooking programs on TV.  Remy’s culinary hero is French chef Auguste Gusteau, author of “Anyone Can Cook” and owner of Gusteau’s, a restaurant in Paris with no less than 5 Michelen Stars!   After running for his life from his family home in rural France, Remy ends up in Gusteau’s very busy restaurant kitchen, where he meets Linguini, a clumsy young man hired as a garbage boy, the film’s other main character.  Remy’s passion for cooking and Linguini’s eagerness to learn sets an hilarious and exciting rat race into motion that turns the culinary world of Paris upside down.  This movie is a must see!

olive oil (for brushing)
450 g aubergine, sliced into 0.5 cm thick slices and quartered
15 ml olive oil
2 large onions, sliced
5 ml crushed garlic
500 g baby marrow, sliced in half lengthwise
3 large tomatoes, cubed
5 ml salt
5 ml dried origanum
freshly ground black pepper

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C and line a baking tray with a Wizbake sheet and set it aside.
  2. Transfer the aubergine to the baking tray and brush each slice with oil on both sides with a silicon brush.
  3. Grill for 10 to 15 minutes on each side until just tender.
  4. Transfer the aubergine to a chopping board and set it aside to cool.
  5.  Stir-fry the onion until cooked.
  6. Steam the baby marrow until crisp tender and add it to the onions.
  7. Chop the aubergine into cubes and transfer it to the saucepan.
  8. Add the tomato to the saucepan and stir-fry for a few more minutes.
  9. Add the salt, origanum and garlic with a 5 ml measuring spoon and add it to the saucepan. Add a few grindings of pepper to the saucepan.
  10. Cover the saucepan with a lid and cook on a medium heat for 20 minutes.
  11. Transfer the ratatouille to a serving dish and serve it as a vegetable side dish.
Ratatouille5
Ratatouille aka Provencal Vegetable Stew
Ratatouille3
Ratatouille aka confit byaldi
Ratatouille aka confit byaldi from the movie Ratatouille

ratatouillemovie3

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Sole Meuniere

Sole meunière is a classic French dish consisting of sole, usually filleted, that is dredged in milk and flour, fried in butter and served with the resulting brown butter sauce and lemon. Sole has a light but moist texture when cooked and has a mild flavour. The French word “meunière” means “miller’s wife” and refers to the way the fish is dredged in flour before cooking, i.e. in the manner of a miller’s wife.

This was Julia Child’s first lunch when she arrived in France, and it changed her world.  As she recounted in her memoir My Life in France, it was “perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley… I closed my eyes and inhaled the rising perfume. Then I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth… The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter… It was a morsel of perfection… It was the most exciting meal of my life.”   The meal proved to be life-changing, sparking her culinary curiosity and a desire to learn French cooking. Read my post American Food Icon: Julie Child for more info on Julia Child.

± 400 g skinless sole fillets
125 ml milk
80 ml cake flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
15 ml olive oil
15 g butter
15 ml parsley, finely chopped

Lemon Butter Sauce
50 g butter
15 ml lemon juice

Garnish
lemon wedges

  1. Rinse the fish fillets and pat dry.
  2. Put the milk into a shallow dish about the same size as a fish fillet.
  3. Put the flour in another shallow dish and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the butter.
  5. Dip a fish fillet into the milk, then into the flour, turning to coat well, the shake off the excess.
  6. Put the coated fillets into the pan in a single layer.
  7. Fry the fish gently for 3 to 4 minutes until lightly browned, turning once.
  8. Transfer the fish to a warmed serving platter.
  9. Wipe the frying pan clean with absorbent kitchen towel and return the pan to the heat.
  10. Add the butter and stir until the butter is melted. Add the lemon juice, remove the pan from the heat, and pour the lemon butter sauce over the hot fish fillets.
  11. Sprinkle with parsley and garnish with lemon wedges.

Serves 2.

sole-meuniere

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French Toast

French toast is the champion of brunch. Nothing says “weekend” like tucking into crispy triangles of bread dripping with syrup or honey.  In France, French toast is referred to as “pain perdu”. It is referred to as “lost bread” because it is a way to reclaim stale or otherwise “lost” bread. The hard bread is softened by dipping it in a mixture of milk and eggs, and then pan-fried in butter.  It is served with a dusting of icing sugar and jam or syrup.  It is also known as eggy bread, gypsy toast or omelette bread.  In France, pain perdu is served as a dessert, a breakfast or an afternoon tea snack.

See my post “New Foodie Movie:  French Toast” for info on this South African movie that will be released on 24 April 2015.  If you haven’t been to Paris, France, it will feel as if you’ve been after you have seen it through Lise’s eyes!

Be sure to also try Carolié’s recipe for Baked Apple French Toast.

6 large eggs
375 ml milk
2.5 ml vanilla extract
6 slices day old bread, sliced 1 cm thick (sourdough or Brioche works well)
15 g butter (for frying)

To serve
syrup to drizzle
icing sugar to dust
fresh seasonal fruit, e.g. blueberries or raspberries

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 120°C.
  2. Beat together the eggs, milk and vanilla essence in a mixing bowl.  Set it aside.
  3. Place the bread in a shallow baking dish large enough to hold the bread in a single layer.
  4. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and soak for 5 to 10 minutes.  The soaking time will be determined by die denseness of the bread – the denser the bread, the longer it needs to soak!
  5. Turn the slices over and soak for about 10 minutes more.
  6. Heat the butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
  7. Fry a few of the bread slices at a time in the pan until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
  8. Transfer the french toast to a serving dish and keep warm while cooking the remaining slices of bread.
  9. Keep the french toast warm in oven until ready to serve.
  10. Serve warm with syrup, a dusting of icing sugar and fresh fruit.

6 servings.

FrenchToast

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Floating Islands

This impressive French dessert, also known as Snow Eggs, consists of delicate meringue clouds that rest in a sea of crème anglaise (French for “English cream”), a light pouring custard used as a dessert cream or sauce.  Be sure to also try Carolie’s Poached Meringue on Golden Gooseberry Custard.

Crème anglaise
500 ml fullcream milk
6 to 8 large egg yolks
125 ml white sugar
1 vanilla bean

Meringues
6 to 8 large egg whites, at room temperature
65 g white sugar
pinch of salt

Caramel
150 g white sugar
45 ml water

  1. To make the crème anglaise, combine the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan.
  2. Split the ½ vanilla bean lengthwise then scrape out the seeds and put them, and the pod, into the milk.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. (Use six if you want a standard custard sauce, eight if you prefer it extra-rich.)
  4. Make an ice bath by nesting a medium size metal bowl in a large bowl filled with ice and a little cold water. Set a mesh strainer over the top.
  5. Heat the milk until steaming. Whisk some of the warmed milk mixture into the egg yolks, then scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan.
  6. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom, sides, and corners of the pan, until the custard is thick enough to coat the spatula. Don’t let the mixture boil.
  7. Immediately strain the custard through the mesh strainer into the chilled bowl.
  8. Remove out the vanilla pod, wipe off any bits of egg on it, and return it to the warm custard. Stir the crème anglaise to help cool it down. Once cool, refrigerate.
  9. To make the meringues, line a baking sheet lined with a clean tea towel or paper towels.
  10. In a large, wide saucepan or casserole, fill it about halfway with water and heat it until it comes to a lively simmer.
  11. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment at medium speed, or by hand with a whisk, whip the egg whites with the salt until they are foamy.
  12. Increase the speed of the mixer (or your whipping, with the whisk) until the egg whites begin to start holding their shape.
  13. Whip in the 1/3 cup sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until the whites hold their shape when you lift the whip. Do not overwhip or the meringues will be dry.
  14. Using two large soup spoons, scoop up a generous amount of the meringue onto one spoon – it should be heaped up so high that it threatens to fall off – then take the second spoon to scrape it off, dropping the oval of meringue into the simmering water.
  15. Don’t crowd too many into the pot; they should be allowed to float freely. Doing six at a time is usually a good number.
  16. Plan on getting sixteen meringues from the egg whites, total. But don’t worry if you don’t; two makes a good portion for some people, others want three.
  17. Poach the meringues for 3 to 4 minutes, then flip each one with a slotted spoon, and poach for another 3 to 4 minutes.
  18. Remove the meringues with a slotted spoon and put them on the lined baking sheet. Poach the remaining meringues.
  19. When all the meringues have been poached, pour the crème anglaise into a large, wide, chilled bowl.
  20. Nest the meringues close together on the top, floating them in the crème anglaise.
  21. To make the caramel, heat the sugar and water in a skillet, swirling it as little as possible, if necessary, so it cooks evenly, until it turns a medium amber color.
  22. Turn off the heat and use a spoon to drizzle the caramel over the meringues.

6 servings

Do-ahead notes: You can make the crème anglaise up to three days in advance and refrigerate it. The meringues can be made the same day of serving and refrigerated as well. The caramel is best made and drizzled at the last minute although can be done 1 to 4 hours ahead. The longer you let it sit on the dessert in the refrigerator, the more it will soften and become sticky. A few hours usually is fine, though. No part of this dessert can be frozen.

SnowEggs

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Potato Croquettes

Croquette, from the French croquer, “to crunch”, is a small breadcrumbed fried roll that usually has mashed potatoes and/or ground meat (veal, beef, chicken, or turkey), shellfish, fish, cheese or vegetables as a main ingredient.  It is usually shaped into a cylinder, disk or oval shape, and then deep-fried.

500 g potatoes, peeled and cubed
375 ml water
15 g butter
2.5 ml salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk

Crumb Coating
100 ml cake flour
125 ml dried breadcrumbs
1 large egg

To fry
2 liter canola oil

  1. Peel and quarter the potatoes and place in a saucepan with the water.
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer partly covered until completely tender and quite dry.  If not dry enough the mixture will be too soft to handle and shape into croquettes.
  3. Remove from the heat, mash the potato very well with a potato masher and add all the remaining ingredients.
  4. Mash well until a smooth, thick mixture is formed.  Allow to cool.
  5. Divide the mixture into 12 equal portions and lay the portions on a Wizbake sheet.
  6. Roll into neat cylinders or patties with floured hands.
  7. Coat with flour, dip into beaten egg and crumbs and refrigerate until required.
  8. Pour enough oil into a large deep saucepan to fill it to a depth of 6 to 8 cm and heat to moderately hot.
  9. Fry the croquettes a few at a time until golden brown and crisp.
  10. Drain on absorbent paper and arrange in one layer on an ovenproof serving platter.
  11. Serve immediately or allow to cool and reheat at 220°C when ready to serve.
  12. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving and serve as the starch of the meal.

6 servings.

Notes

  • The potato mixture into balls or sausages instead of patties.

Recipe by Carolié de Koster from Art Of Cooking p. 401.

potato-croquette

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Brioche

Brioche is a French pastry and is made in the same basic way as bread, but the dough is as rich as a pastry because of the extra addition of eggs, butter, liquid (milk, water, cream, and, sometimes, brandy) and occasionally a bit of sugar.  Brioche is often baked with fruit or chocolate chips and served as a pastry or as the basis of a dessert.  It is ideal for making French Toast due to its dense texture.

The dough can be baked in any loaf pan, but the classic Brioche shape is achieved by using special fluted brioche moulds or a big Brioche mould (see images below).  The traditional shape of a brioche is that of a round lump topped with another smaller round lump or topknot (hence its original name, meaning “with a head”), though it can be baked in regular loaf or muffin tins with great success.  Both the large and individual brioche moulds (pictured below) can be used for a variety of different recipes, for instance my Orange, Almond and Polenta Cake (see picture below).

1 x 10 g sachet instant yeast
500 ml cake flour
150 ml lukewarm water
125 butter, melted
5 ml salt
30 ml white sugar
4 large eggs
500 ml additional cake flour

Egg Glaze
1 large egg
30 ml water

  1.  Mix the yeast with the cake flour in a small mixing bowl before adding it to the rest of the ingredients, except the extra flour, in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat well.
  2. Add sufficient of the additional cake flour to form a soft dough.
  3. Knead lightly on a floured surface for 4 to 5 minutes until smooth.
  4. Flour the bowl, return the dough to the bowl, cover and allow to rise in a mildly warm spot for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and grease 12 x 9 cm-wide brioche tins with butter.
  6. Knead down the dough lightly and shape the dough into 12 equal portions.
  7. Divide each of the 12 portions into a larger portion and a smaller portion – the smaller portion should be one quarter the size of the larger portion.
  8. Transfer the larger portion of dough in the bottom of one of the brioche tins.
  9. Force a hole into the center of the larger portion of dough with your fore finger, reaching all the way down to the bottom of the tin, and stick the smaller ball in the hole. This keeps it from popping off during baking.
  10. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.
  11. Place the tins on a baking pan and lightly brush the tops of the brioche with the egg glaze.
  12. Allow it to rise in a mildly warm spot until doubled.
  13. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden and firm.
  14. Allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
  15. Serve warm with butter only or sweet or savoury accompaniments as preferred.

12 brioche.

Notes
The dough can also be baked in a 12-hole muffin pan or a large brioche mould.

Recipe adapted from French Brioche Rolls, Art Of Cooking page 842.

brioche6
Brioche baked in individual moulds

 

Brioche7
Brioche dough in large Brioche Mould – ready for the oven
Brioche9
Frenshly baked large Brioche
Brioche8
Large Silicon Brioche Mould With Supporting Ring
SiliconeBriocheMould
Cinnamon Pannacotta
Orange cake
Orange, Almond and Polenta Cake

 

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Quiche Lorraine

Quiche or savoury pie makes exceptionally good light meals, starters or side dishes.  A basic crust and custard are used, while the ingredients are variable, e.g. spinach and feta quiche, pear and blue cheese quiche, etc.  Quiche is a classic French dish.  It consists of a open-faced pastry crust with a filling consisting of a savoury custard base and variable ingredients such as cheese, meat, seafood, and/or vegetables.  Quiche Lorraine does not contain any cheese and is named after the Lorraine region of France.

Crust
250 ml cake flour
1 ml salt
2.5 ml baking powder
75 g chilled butter, grated
1 large egg

Filling
250 ml hot full cream milk
250 ml cream
6 large eggs
2.5 ml mixed dried herbs
2.5 ml salt
125 g cooked bacon, cooled and finely chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C and grease two 22 cm pie dishes with butter or non-stick cooking spray.
  2. To make the pastry, place the dry ingredients and butter into the bowl of a food processor and process on pulse until crumbly.
  3. Add the water a few drops if necessary until the pastry holds together and is neither dry nor sticky.
  4. Knead the pastry gently on a floured surface just until smooth.
  5. Press the pastry into the pie dish and cover evenly over the base and sides of the dish.
  6. Refrigerate the pie dish while making the filling.
  7. To make the filling, beat together the cream and milk and add the eggs and seasoning and set aside while preparing the filling.
  8. Spoon the bacon evenly over the crust, pour the milk and egg mixture over the bacon.
  9. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until pale golden and firmly set in the centre.
  10. Allow to rest a short while before cutting into neat triangles.
  11. Serve warm with salad or allow to cool, cover and refrigerate until required.

8 servings.

Recipe by Carolié de Koster from Art Of Cooking p. 638.
QuicheLorraine
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French Onion Soup

In France this soup is standard bistro fare and is simply referred to as gratinee which refers to the topping of toasted bread and melted cheese.

7,5 ml olive oil
15 g butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped/5 ml crushed garlic
2.5 ml sugar
7.5 ml fresh thyme, finely chopped
20 ml cake flour
125 ml dry white wine
750 ml prepared lamb or beef stock
15 ml cognac (optional)

Toasted Baguette (Croutes)
½ Baguette, sliced into 1 cm slices
1 clove garlic, sliced in half
extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle
75 g Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese, grated

  1. Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan with a 2 L capacity over a medium-high heat.
  2. Add the sliced onions and cook for about 15 minutes until they are softened and beginning to brown.
  3. Add the garlic, sugar and thyme and simmer for about 30 minutes until the onions are caramelised, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the flour and stir until well blended.
  5. Stir in the wine and stock and bring to the boil.
  6. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 45 minutes.
  7. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  8. Stir in the cognac, if using, and cook for 5 minutes more.
  9. Set the soup aside until ready to serve.
  10. Pre-heat the oven to 180 º C.
  11. Place the baguette slices in a single layer on a baking tray.
  12. Place the tray in the oven and toast the bread until it is golden brown and crispy on both sides – be careful not to burn it!
  13. Rub each toasted slice with the halved garlic and drizzle with a little oil.
  14. Heat the grilling element of the oven.
  15. Spoon the hot soup into heated soup bowls and place the bowls on a baking tray.
  16. Float a piece of toasted bread on top of the soup and top the bread with some of the cheese.  Do the same with the other soup bowls.
  17. Place any leftover toasted bread on a serving platter.
    Place the soup bowls in the oven and grill for 1 to 2 minutes or until the cheese has melted.
  18. Place each soup bowl on a side plate and serve immediately with the extra bread.

4 servings.

FrenchOnionSoup

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Chicken Liver Pâté With Bacon & Port

Pâté is a mixture of cooked ground meat and fat minced into a spreadable paste. Common additions include vegetables, herbs, spices, and either wine, brandy or cognac.  Pâté can be served either hot or cold with crackers or crudité.  It can be served as an appetizer at a dinner party, or as a light lunch.  It takes less than a half-hour to prepare, and it will firm up in the fridge in a few hours. Simply pack the mixture into a serving dish or glass jar, cover and refrigerate.  Be sure to try Julia Child’s Chicken Liver Mousse recipe too!

250 g chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
125 g rindless bacon
100 g butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
5 ml crushed garlic
250 g chicken livers, rinsed
30 ml port or sweet sherry
2.5 ml salt
125 ml fresh cream
15 ml canned green peppercorns (optional)

Topping
50 g butter
100 ml parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Crostini
1 French baguette, cut into 1 cm-thick slices

  1. Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized cubes on a chopping board with a cook’s knife.  Set aside. Chop the bacon coarsely as well.
  2. Heat the butter in a large saucepan and add the onion, chicken and bacon and stir-fry until cooked.
  3. Add the garlic, chicken livers, port or sherry, salt, cream and peppercorns, if used.
  4. Bring to a boil to reduce the liquid.  Remove the saucepan from the stove and set aside to cool.
  5. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.
  6. Transfer the pâté to one large serving dish or to a few smaller dishes.
  7. To make the the topping, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the parsley.  Simmer for a few minutes to cook the parsley.
  8. Pour the butter and parsley mixture over the pâté to seal and set aside to cool.
  9. Cover the dish/dishes with cling wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  10. To make the crostini, heat the oven to 180°C.
  11. Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet in a single layer (do this in batches if needed).
  12. Bake until toasted, about 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat with any remaining slices.
  13. Serve the pâté with crusty bread rolls as a starter or stir into cooked pasta.
  14. Alternatively, transfer the chicken livers to a container and set aside to cool down before storing in the fridge.

Variations

  • Substitute the cream with yoghurt or cottage cheese for a low-fat pâté.
  • Leftover cooked chicken or bacon can be used.

Makes about 600 ml.

Recipe by Carolié de Koster from the Art Of Cooking recipe book p. 26.

chicken-liver-pate-1

ChickenLivePateInRevolCups2
Chicken Liver Pate in individual Revol crush cup

 

 

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Marvelous Meringues

Meringue, also known as “forgotten cookies” due to the fact that it is baked at a very low heat for a long time, is a type of dessert associated with French, Swiss and Italian cuisine.  It is made from whipped egg whites and sugar as well as some form of acid, such as lemon, vinegar or cream of tartar.  A binding agent such as salt, corn starch or gelatine may also be added to the eggs.  

French meringue is sometimes referred to as ordinary meringue at it is the most basic and the least stable until baked of all the meringues. Egg whites are beaten until they coagulate and form soft peaks, at which point sugar is slowly incorporated until the mixture has attained full volume; is soft, airy, and light; and stands at attention when the whip is lifted. French meringue is customarily spooned or piped into different forms, including dessert shells (such as vacherins) and cake layers (as in a dacquoise), and baked, later to be topped with fruit, mousse, or whipped cream. It is also often folded into batters (for lady fingers, sponge cakes, soufflés, and the like) and baked.

There are actually three basic techniques for making meringue and they are differentiated by the extent to which the egg white foam is heated and the resulting stability of the meringue.  The three styles are known as French, Swiss, and Italian meringues.

Meringue can be used as the basis for various desserts including Baked Alaska, Eton Mess, Floating Islands (aka snow eggs), Pavlova, as a topping for Lemon Meringue Pie, and many more.

Swiss meringue is prepared by gently beating egg whites and sugar in a pan that sits above boiling water, without touching it. When the mixture reaches 50°C and the sugar is completely dissolved, the mixture is pulled off the heat and beaten vigorously to increase and attain full volume and then at a lower speed until cool and very stiff. Swiss meringue is smoother, silkier, and somewhat denser than French meringue and is often used as a base for buttercream frostings.

Italian meringue is made with boiling sugar syrup, instead of caster sugar. This leads to a much more stable soft meringue which can be used in various pastries without collapsing. In an Italian meringue, a hot sugar syrup (115°C) is whipped into softly whipped egg whites till stiff. This type of meringue is safe to use without cooking. It will not deflate for a long while and can be either used on pies and Baked Alaska, or spread on a sheet and baked for meringues.

French Meringue

4 large egg whites
750 ml cups icing sugar
5 ml vanilla extract
Pink Gel Food Coloring
150 ml Nutella

  1. Preheat oven to 120°C and line baking trays with Wizbake sheets and set it aside.
  2. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or use hand mixer and place in a large bowl.
  3. Beat until light and foamy on low speed. Turn off the mixer and add the vanilla extract.
  4. Carefully, add the powdered sugar and beat on medium speed for 20 minutes. The meringue will get thick.
  5. Add some pink food gel and fold the gel through to create a marbled effect.
  6. Spoon the meringue into a silicone piping bag fitted with a star nozzle.
  7. Pipe the meringues in circles starting in the center and swirling outward in a circular motion.  Repeat until all meringue is used.
  8. Turn the oven down to 100 °C and bake the meringues for 10 minutes.
  9. Switch the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven overnight to dry out or at the lowest setting for 3 to 4 hours until completely dry.
  10. Remove the meringues from the oven and set aside to cool completely.
  11. Spread 15 ml Nutella on the flat bottom of one meringue and cover with a 2nd meringue to make a sandwich.
  12. Transfer to a serving plate or store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

French-Meringue-Chocolate-Sandwich-Cookies2

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Creamy Mocha Mousse

This recipe is a simplified and healthier version of the ever-popular classic French dessert, Mousse au Chocolat.  In her book “From Julia Child’s Kitchen“, Julia introduces chocolate mousse as follows: “It’s a sin, wickedly rich and fattening, but every spoonful is glory …”.  I had a look at Julia’s chocolate mousse recipe but decided that it is too labour intensive and too high in fat!  Carolié’s version can be whipped up in a few minutes and it can be enjoyed on occasion as part of a healthy lifestyle.

200 g dark chocolate, chopped
100 ml espresso or strong black coffee
500 ml cream
3 extra large egg whites
75 ml castor sugar

To serve
extra whipped cream
extra chocolate, grated

  1. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof mixing bowl over a medium saucepan of simmering water or cover and microwave on Medium for about 2 minutes or until melted.
  2. Add the coffee and 100 ml of the cream to the melted chocolate and stir in gently.
  3. Cool to room temperature.
  4. Beat the egg whites until frothy and gradually beat in the sugar to firm a firm meringue.
  5. Stir 125 ml of the chocolate mixture into the beaten egg-white. Add to the chocolate mixture and mix lightly.
  6. Beat the remaining cream until stiff and add two thirds to the chocolate mixture.
  7. Mix until evenly blended and pour into one large or 8 to 10 smaller bowls or stemmed glasses.  Place in the refrigerator to set.
  8. Spoon the remaining cream into a piping bag with a small rosette nozzle and refrigerate.
  9. Pipe cream rosetttes onto the chocolate mousse when set and garnish with chocolate shavings.
  10. Cover with cling wrap if not served within a few hours.

Note
Can be made up to 3 days ahead.

Recipe from Carolié de Koster’s Art Of Cooking, p. 528.

Mocha Mousse

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Gourmet Chocolate Mousse Cake

This decadent cake is ideal to make for a special occasion.  Chocolate Sponge Layers are filled with mousse and set.  The filling may be made with any flavour of chocolate – dark, milk, white or caramel – for  white or caramel, use only baking chocolate.  The sizes and shapes of the cakes as well as the kinds of finishes (glazes, icings, vermicelli, chocolate shavings, nuts, nut filled chocolates, fancy chocolate shapes, chocolate curls, chocolate honeycomb) are highly variable.

Chocolate Sponge Cake Layers
4 large eggs
250 ml cake flour
200 ml sugar
pinch salt
15 ml baking powder
125 ml oil
125 ml water
5 ml vanilla essence

Variable Chocolate Mousse Filling
200 g dark / milk / caramel / white cooking chocolate
75 ml milk
15 ml gelatine
30 ml water
4 large eggs, separated
10 ml sugar
5 ml vanilla essence
250 ml cream

Garnish
250 ml whipped cream
icing sugar to dust

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease 2 x 26 cm spring form cake tins or one medium or two small loaf tins well with butter.
  2. Beat the eggs and vanilla and gradually beat in the sugar. Beat very well until quite thick and pale yellow.
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients over the beaten mixture and beat slowly while adding the water.  Beat until evenly blended, divide between the prepared tins and spread evenly.
  4. Bake for about 8 minutes or until risen and firm if tested with the fingertips.  Do not over-bake, for the cake will easily become too dry.
  5. Remove the cakes from the hot tins to prevent shrinkage and leave to cool.
  6. To make the filling, break up the chocolate coarsely and place with the milk into a suitable glass bowl.
  7. Cover and microwave on MEDIUM for 2 to 3 minutes or until the chocolate has softened completely if tested with the tip of a teaspoon.
  8. Stir the milk into the chocolate until evenly blended.
  9. Place the gelatine in a small jug, and cover with water and microwave on MEDIUM for 30 seconds or place over the steam of simmering water until melted.
  10. Add to the chocolate mixture and stir until blended.
  11. Beat the egg yolks and sugar very well with an electric beater until quite thick and pale yellow.
  12. Pour in the hot melted chocolate mixture and vanilla and beat until smooth.
  13. Using two bowls, beat the egg whites until firm but not dry and beat the cream until stiff.
  14. Add both to the chocolate mixture and fold in until evenly blended.
  15. Refrigerate about 20 minutes (while cake is baking and cooling) to become slightly firm before filling the cakes and completing.
  16. Line the base of a round spring-form tin which will hold the round layers snugly, with baking paper.  Alternatively, line a suitable deep rectangular container, which will hold the sponge layers snugly, with a layer of baking paper, protruding well over the sides to help lift out the cake after it has set.
  17. Turn over one sponge layer into the container, peel off the paper and pour over the mousse.  Turn over the second sponge layer onto the mousse, peel off the paper and cover the container.
  18. Refrigerate at least 3 to 4 hours or until completely firm and set.
  19. Release and remove the rim of the round tin and place on a board for cutting. Or lift out the rectangular cake with the aid of the paper and place on a board for cutting.
  20. Cut the round cake into 12 – 16 wedges with an electric knife – wipe the blades clean between cutting.  Or cut the rectangular cake in half lengthwise and crosswise into 6 to 7 neat slices (about 10 mm x 40-50 mm).
  21. Whipped cream piped into patterns or rosettes on top of the slices can be decorated with chocolate shavings.

12 to 16 servings depending on the size of the slices.

Notes
To support the mousse while setting a tin one size smaller than the size used is needed to allow for shrinkage of the sponge layers after baking. The cold, set cake slices neatly and has many possibilities as far as shape and size is concerned.

Chocolate mousse cake-2

The cake pictured below was decorated in chocolate leaves in autumn colours.  To make the chocolate leaves, brush the chocolate over the underneath side (where the veins are) of cleaned ivy or rose leaves quite thickly. Wipe the chocolate off the edges with the tip of a finger to prevent the chocolate leaves from breaking when the leaves are removed. Place onto a tray and allow to set, or if the weather is warm, refrigerate a short while until set. Remove the plant leaves carefully and decorate the cake with the chocolate leaves and pressing them lightly into the topping or glaze to keep in place. Alternatively, transfer the chocolate leaves to a large container and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chocolate mousse cake

Recipe by Carolié de Koster from the Art Of Cooking recipe book p. 593.

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Raspberry Clafoutis

Clafoutis (pronounced kla-foo-tee), is a classic French dessert and is quick, easy and simply delicious!  It is France’s best kept secret. Clafoutis recipes call for nothing more than what most of us have on hand in the kitchen, plus some fresh fruit. The clafoutis comes from the Limousin region of France, and while black cherries are traditionally used, there are numerous variations using other fruits, including red cherries, plums, raspberries or blackberries.  When other kinds of fruit are used instead of cherries, the dish is properly called a flaugnarde.

300 g fresh cherries, pitted
1 medium lemon, zest only, finely chopped
100 ml cake flour
45 ml castor sugar
3 large eggs
450 ml milk
5 ml vanilla essence
icing sugar to dust

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190 º C.
  2. Combine the flour and sugar in a medium mixing bowl and stir in a little of the milk to prevent lumps.
  3. Add the rest of the milk, the eggs and the vanilla essence and beat by hand until well blended. Grease a 20 cm square oven-proof dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Spoon the cherries into the bottom of the dish and sprinkle with the lemon zest.
  5. Gently pour the batter into the dish.
  6. Bake for about 40 minutes or until firm and golden brown on top and a metal skewer or toothpick inserted into the middle of the Clafoutis comes out clean.
  7. Dust with icing sugar and serve hot, at room temperature or cold.

6 to 8 servings.

Variation
If fresh raspberries, blueberries or cherries are not available, use sour cherries.  I have used Goldcrest with great success.  Drain the juice and reduce it to make a sauce.

RaspberryClafouti2
Raspberry Clafouti

 

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Chicken Liver Mousse

I just had to include Julia Child’s chicken liver mousse which I adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Be sure to also try Carolié de Koster’s Chicken Liver Pâté With Bacon & Port from her Art Of Cooking recipe book.

500 g chicken livers
30 ml minced shallots or spring onion
30 g butter
80 ml cognac
60 ml whipping cream
2.5 ml salt
1 ml allspice
1 ml white pepper
1 ml dried thyme
125 g butter, melted

  1. Remove any greenish or blackish spots from the livers, as well as any sinew. Cut the livers into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Pat the livers dry, then place in a large mixing bowl and cover with milk. Cover and let sit in a refrigerator for at least two hours, or overnight.
  3. Melt butter over medium heat in a sauté pan until foam has subsided.
  4. Sauté the livers with the shallots in butter for 2 to 3 minutes, until the livers are just stiffened, but still rosy inside. Scrape into the blender jug.
  5. Pour the cognac into the pan and boil it down rapidly until it has reduced to about 50 ml. Scrape it into the blender jug.
  6. Add the cream and seasonings to the blender jug, cover and blend at top speed for several seconds until the liver is a smooth paste.
  7. Add the melted butter and blend several seconds more. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  8. Pack into a jar, seal and chill for 2 to 3 hours.
  9. Serve with fresh bread.

Makes about 500 ml.

chicken-liver-pate-2

 

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Beef Bourguignonne

The unequalled classic, rich beef stew is known as “Boeuf Bourguignonne” means “beef in burgundy” or good red wine.  The dish originates from the Burgundy region in France.  The amount of wine added may be adjusted or even omitted to suit personal preference. The success of the dish depends on the quality of the meat and correct cooking methods.

1 kg stewing meat, e.g. topside, silverside or shoulder roast, cut 2 cm thick
75 g rindless bacon rashers, coarsely chopped
2 medium onions, cut into wedges
400 g button mushrooms
15 g butter
15 ml canola or olive oil
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
15 g additional butter
75 ml cake flour
125 to 375 ml dry red wine plus water to make up 750 ml
10 ml beef stock powder
5 ml sugar
5 ml salt
30 ml parsley, finely chopped

  1. Trim any surplus fat from the meat and cut into neat 2 cm cubes.
  2. Heat the butter and oil in a heavy-based saucepan and add one third of the meat at a time.
  3. Brown over moderate heat, stirring from time to time, and place in an oven-roasting pot.  Repeat with the remaining meat.
  4. At the same time, place the bacon in a 2nd saucepan and fry gently until crisp.
  5. Remove the bacon, add the meat, onions and mushrooms and cook gently, stirring from time to time until the onions are light golden and set aside.
  6. Add the extra butter to the saucepan in which the meat was browned and add the garlic.
  7. Cook gently, stirring for 1 minute, then add the flour and stir until golden brown.
  8. Stir in the wine, water beef stock powder, and sugar and stir continuously until smooth and thickened.
  9. Pour the sauce over the meat and bacon, cover and oven-braise 40 minutes at 160 °C until the meat is almost tender.
  10. Add the onions, mushrooms,  salt and black pepper to taste.
  11. Stir to combine, cover and oven-braise for a further 20 minutes or until tender.
  12. Sprinkle generously with the parsley and serve piping hot with rice and vegetables.

6 to 8 servings.

Recipe from Carolié de Koster’s Art Of Cooking, p. 235.

Boeuf Bourgignon

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Poached Meringue on Golden Gooseberry Custard

A divinely-textured creation which will leave guests speechless and eyes firmly focussed on the dessert!  Also see my recipe for Floating Islands.

Meringue
3 large egg whites
pinch cream of tartar
125 ml   castor sugar
400 ml milk
1 ml  vanilla essence

Gooseberry custard
1 x 410g tin gooseberries
50 ml cornflour (Maizena)
30 ml white sugar
pinch salt
350 ml milk, reserved from poaching, made up with additional milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
250 ml cream
30 ml white sugar
toasted flaked almonds
additional gooseberries (optional)

  1. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until peaks form and gradually beat in the castor sugar to form a very stiff meringue.
  2. Use two spoons to scoop out neat egg-shaped portions of meringue and place a few at a time onto the hot milk to poach.
  3. Turn over after 2 minutes and take care that the milk does not boil.
  4. Leave 2 minutes more and lift out with a perforated spoon.  Place into a large colander to drain while poaching the remaining meringue.
  5. Refrigerate in a covered container for a few hours or until required.
  6. Liquidise the gooseberries with syrup until smooth and strain into a saucepan through a fine sieve, rubbing with the back of a spoon until only the seeds remain.  Bring to boil.
  7. Combine the cornflour, sugar, salt and milk and stir into the boiling mixture.
  8. Bring to boil while stirring. Add a little of the hot mixture to the eggs and mix well.
  9. Stir into the saucepan and cook over low heat while stirring continuously until the sauce starts to thicken. Remove from heat and stir a while longer.
  10. Cool and refrigerate.
  11. Beat the cream and sugar until stiff and spoon about 1/2 of the whipped cream into a piping bag to make rosettes.
  12. Add the remaining cream to the gooseberry custard and fold together until evenly blended.
  13. To serve, pour the gooseberry custard into a large wide glass bowl of a suitable size or onto individual serving plates.
  14. Spoon the drained poached meringues onto the custard, garnish with cream rosettes and sprinkle with a few flaked almonds and gooseberries if used.

6 to 8 servings.

Recipe by Carolié de Koster from Art Of Cooking p. 560.

Floating Islands