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Coq Au Vin (French Chicken Stew)

Coq au vin is one of the most well known and popular French chicken dishes. It consists of chicken braised with wine, bacon and mushrooms. Although red wine is typically used, white wine can also be used to make Coq Au Vin Blanc. It can be prepared a day or more before serving, which will result in an flavourful stew.

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Chocolate Soufflé With Grand Marnier Orange Sauce

The combination of chocolate and orange is truely magical. It is a classic flavour combination, used and enjoyed in a variety of recipes by foodies across the world. In this souffle recipe, quality dark chocolate is combined with orange flavours to take it to a whole new level. According to Lindt Maître Chocolatier Thomas Schnetzler, creator of Lindt Excellence Orange Intense Dark Chocolate, the secret behind this classic combinaion lies in its contrast: the chocolate is rich and intense and it is balanced by the fresh, zesty tones of the orange, creating an overall experience that is both nostalgic and exhilarating.

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Duck à l’Orange

Duck à l’orange, aka Canard a la Bigarade, is a classic French dish consisting of whole roasted duck with orange sauce. It is probably one of the most well known of all the duck dishes. It is said that it was the American chef, Julia Child, who made Duck à l’Orange famous with her popular recipe book,  Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961). Child, who was the first chef to It is believed by many that Duck à l’orange had its heyday in the 1960’s when every French restaurant served it, but it can still be found on many restaurant menu’s worldwide. Be sure to also try my recipe for Duck Breast With Orange Sauce.

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Crêpes Suzette

Crêpe Suzette is one of the most popular and well-known French desserts. So much so that National Crêpe Suzette Day is celebrated annually on the 6th of May. Crêpe Suzette consists of crêpes (pancakes) with an orange sauce. It is served flambé.   The crêpes can be made in advance or if you are pressed for time, use shop-bought crêpes. You can even use South African Pancakes to make Crêpe Suzette! If you like the combination of orange and alcohol, be sure to also try my recipe for Duck à l’Orange!

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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 transfer the mixture to a serving dish or individual containers or glass jars, cover and refrigerate.

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Olive Tapenade Palmiers

A palmier (French for “palm tree”), is a French pastry that gets its name from its resemblance to a palm leaf.   It is also known as elephant ear, palm leaves, French hearts, palmeritas (Spanish).  It is made from puff pastry, so it is crispy and flaky.  The traditional sweet palmier is coated with sugar, but a variety of savoury fillings ranging from olive tapenade to sundried tomato paste, to basil pesto, can also be used.  Palmiers are made by folding the left and right sides of the pastry to the middle, then folding the dough in half again length-wise, sandwiching the first folds inside. Sliced into individual cookies, this is what gives the palmiers their distinctive “palm” or elephant-ear shape. You can also roll the sides of the puff pastry toward the middle, making even more layers and giving the palmiers a more rounded look.

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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.

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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 from her ever-popular Art Of Cooking recipe book.

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

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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.

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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 image 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.  A brioche mould (pictured below) can be used for a variety of different recipes, for instance my Orange, Almond and Polenta Cake.

1 x 10 g sachet instant yeast
500 ml cake flour
150 ml lukewarm water
125 g 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 the recipe for French Brioche Rolls by Carolié de Koster from Art Of Cooking page 842.

Photo credit: https://www.delscookingtwist.com

Freshly baked brioche.
Silicon Brioche mould.
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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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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.
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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 De Koster’s version can be whipped up in a few minutes and it can be enjoyed on occasion as part of a healthy lifestyle.

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