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Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Cola Chocolate Cake

I already know what you're thinking : another chocolate cake? Yes but let me tell you the story first. My boyfriend asked me if i could make a cake because he was hungry. He begged for a chocolate cake but i haven't any dark chocolate at home and i wanted to do the thing for either my D or F letter. Sadly i don't have any car today so i can't go shopping for ingredients and have to do with what i've got here : buttermilk (brought back from Charente by my mother), eggs (as usual - see my previous post), sugar, self raising flour, cocoa powder, coca cola... Then i remembered some Nigella's cake from How to be a domestic goddess : Cola Cake; i couldn't do any better so i whipped up the recipe and here it goes.

Tips :
- as i didn't have ordinary flour i used self raising flour
- 30 minutes of baking were enough.
- i didn't have any baking parchment so i only greased my tin with shortening and the cake unmoulded beutifully
- if i don't think of that strange thing that happened : a hole (yes a hole) was there standing at the back of the cake. If anyone has a suggestion i'm open.

Before baking thoughts : this cake is no more than a plain chocolate buttermilk cake with less buttermilk and little cola.
I think you can taste the cola in the batter; it is subtile and add a little something that brings you to wonder what it actually is. Now i can't wait to taste the cook version... 40 minutes to go

While baking thoughts : it seems to be one of those deeply aromatic cakes that fill the house with a delicious chocolate perfume.

Post baking thoughts : the cake is well-risen and looks airy and light - might be the bubbles from the cola? Who knows (i think it's because of the buttermilk factor...).
We ate it warm and it was just delicious.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005
E is for... Eggs

Look all the beautiful colours. It's so lovely.

As i haven't buy my D-ingredient i thought it was time to go for the E. And i've chosen Eggs as for me E is for egg as C is for chocolate. I couldn't do without. I mean eggs are one of the ingredients i use most. I love a simple fresh "oeuf à la coque" (soft-boiled egg) with some good baguette and emmental for a great homey supper as much as i love a sophisticated poached egg with blanched asparagus and sauce hollandaise as much as i love cakes (and you know i love cakes). The combinations using eggs are endless as you can see. They are so versatile; you can go from fancy cooking to laid-back casual cooking.
I can't live if i don't have any eggs in the fridge; and no, i'm not exagerating. For me an egg represents life. Firstly because it's oval-shaped and beautiful as the life is and then because some eggs contains embryos. OK, i see your face now saying "and then i'm eating live being"I even sometimes have periods when i think to myself "i can't eat anymore eggs, that's disgusting!"; but you know if you buy your eggs from the supermarket, most of them aren't fecondated and don't have that red spot, which is the embryo. Anyway i like to buy my eggs from a lovely farm market where you can get some extra fresh, extra large eggs. Actually my motto about the eggs is "the fresher they are the best they are".

Another thing i love about eggs is their colours and by that i mean the differents shades of their shell but also the different shades of the yolks : i love to see how red they seem to be in Italy compared to the pale white-like egg yolks in England and the perfect yellow in France.

Now let me tell you a word about the recipe i've chosen. Ever since i met David, my English boyfriend, i've been introduced to the English kitchen and all my (wrong) ideas about English food vanished : it is indeed all the opposite of what is said in France; good, homey, tasty, exotic cooking.
One of my favourites is the Yorkshire pudding. It may be my n°1 dish ever. I think i could eat an etire plate of Yorshire pudding along with some good chicken gravy. I could have this every day, for every meal. I am a Yorkshire pudding addict and definitely proud of it. When i first have those it was very satisfying and then i asked my boyfriend's mother the recipe and was very surprised there was no raising factor: sometimes the alchemy of food gives us wonderful things.

makes 6 and serves 3 or 1 if you're like me (fanny : delia says it is enough for 8 as i've already doubled the quantities to feed my Yorkshire puds (as i friendly call them)

150g plain flour
2 eggs
150ml full-fat milk
100ml water
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp beef dripping for the pan (fanny : i use olive oil and a 6-buns muffin tin)

Preheat the oven to 220°C and place the greased tin in it to get a pipping hot oil. In a bowl sift the flour, make a well in the center and gradually incorporate the eggs, milk and water. Stir until you've got a smooth batter; add seasonning. Divide between the 6 buns muffin tin and bake for 20-25min or until golden-brown and puffy. Eat straight from the oven or don't eat at all.

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Monday, August 29, 2005
When i am craving for sugar i make delicious scones

From Mrs Beeton's cookery and household management (page 1176)

Recently i've been literally craving for sugar. It might be the stress of the new university year coming or it might simply be me. Anyway, just 2 hours after lunch i began to feel the hunger again. I wanted to make the cake for my D letter, but didn't have the main ingredient at home so i decided i could make the never-fail scones from Mrs Beeton's cookery and household management.
Me, taking the pictures in my boyfriend's lovely garden

Makes 7

200g flour
1/2 tsp salt
50g sugar
50g cold butter
4 tsp baking powder
125ml milk (fanny : i found it was a little too much, 100ml would have been enough)
50g dried fruits (fanny : i used half raisin, halfs golden sultanas)

Heat the oven to 220)C. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Rub in the fat. Add the milk and miw lightly to form a soft dough. Knead until smooth and add the dried fruits. Roll out on a flour surface to 1,5-2cm thickness (fanny : see the picture below) and cut into rounds, using a cookie cutter. Place on a floured baking sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes until well risen and golden-brown. Cool slightly on a wire rack. Cut each scones in 2 and fill with whipped creme fraiche and strawberry jam. (fanny : i like to use creme fraiche instead of double cream because i love the contrast between the intense sweetness of the jam and the great sourness of the cream; but use mascarpone if you prefer.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005
B is for... Banana

Admit it! You had a banana whithin the last month. Bananas are like apples, they're everyone easy eating fruit. When eating a banana i don't make a mess like the one i make when i eat a peach.
I probably love all the fruits in the world, but a banana is a banana and holds a special place in my heart. Maybe it is because of the mashed bananas my mother used to make for me, or because of the intense creaminess of the fruit, or because you can make just everything you want with a banana : from a luscious cake to a simple caramelised gorgious banana... The list has no end but i hope you understood : I LOVE BANANAS.
Look at the fruit : a moon-shape, a soft velvetiness, a lovely honey colour. What's wrong with all that. Nothing and that is the point. There's nothing about bananas i don't like. Except the white thing (hope you know what i mean since i don't know how to call it) that is under the skin and forms "stripes". But this is easy to remove, so then i just love bananas.
My first banana experience was certainly a plain mashed banana without sugar. Then i grown up and could mash my own banana, what a glory. I started to add a little honey, or brown sugar. And by the time i could use the stove, the first thing i made was a caramelised pan-fried banana. It was just so delicious. From this time i've understood something very crucial : bananas and toffee are a match made in heaven.
I still love bananas (can you count the number of times i've already told you that...think i'm getting old and forget what i've just said). Maybe more than i ever did. I usually have a banana for dessert when i'm at school but i now use bananas iw lots of cakes; i reckon they give extra moisture and extra creaminess. Here i've chosen to make a cake with bananas and toffee-ish taste (provided by another much-loved ingredient of mine : maple syrup). In this case the bananas don't give that extra moisture but a lovely perfume and a great contrast between the airy texture of the sponge and the smooth "fondant" (means melting) of the cooked bananas.

The mystery of the lost bananas - see note below
From bills Open Kitchen (page 100)

50g unsalted butter plus 100g unsalted butter, softened, extra
55g brown sugar
60ml maple syrup
3-4 bananas, sliced in half lengthways
230g caster sugar
4 eggs (fanny : use only 3 if they're large
1 tsp vanilla extract
155g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C. To make the topping, place the butter, brown sugar and maple syrup in a small sauce pan. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the sugar melts and the syrup is rich and golden. Pour the syrup into a 23cm geased or non-stick springform cake tin (fanny : i lined my tin with a double layer of foil and a layer of non-stick baking parchment) and arrange the sliced bananas, cut-side down, over the base of the tin.
To make the cake, place the extra butter and caster sugar in a bowl and beat until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one a t a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt and gently fold through the mixture. Spoon the batter evently over the bananas and caramel and smooth the top with a spatula.
Place the cake in the oven on a baking tray to catch any escaping caramel and bake for 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Transfer to a large serving plate. Serve warm with vanilla icecream if desired.

Note on "the mystery of the lost bananas" : as you can see ("can't see" would be more appropriated though) on the picture, the bananas have disappeared. First i though they had melted but then i thought... Bill says to "spoon the batter over the bananas", but my batter was to liquid to spoon. Actually the eggs i used were too large so the batter was thinner and the bananas were "swallowed by the batter". The mystery was resolved. Elementary my dear Watson !!!

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Sunday, August 21, 2005
A is for... Arborio Rice

My boyfriend's dad, Peter, went food-shopping to Valbonne today and brought me back some lovely and juicy raspberries packed in a sweet green paper case. The thing is that i deeply love the pink on green look. I love it so much i decided to take some pictures. Then a wonderful idea came to my mind : i could do an alphabet featuring all my favourite ingredients. But the word "raspberry" starts by an "r" and the first letter of the alphabet is an "a". I had to find my favourite-beginning-by-an-a ingredient. And after a minute or so i chose riso Arborio (yes i am an Italian speaker) or less fancily Arborio rice.
The principle of Fanny's Food Alphabet was born: each day or so i will pick up a new ingredient, take a picture of it , describe it and make a recipe using it.Since i was a child, i've always loved pearls, their lovely satiness... And i now love Arborio rice for the same reasons i used to love pearls. Arborio rice grains are round, pearly looking and soft. But as you can't make necklace with them they must have something else. Hum, let me think, it might be their high-startch level. It is indeed. And this point is crucial because it allow to make the most delicious risottos.
I've come across risottos relatively late in life as my mother always said that risottos were hard work and also because i wasn't so fond in rice. But then i discovered a way to cook rice i loved and crispy basmati rice became one of my classics. As the saying goes you may as well go swimming : I had to try a risotto, tried it and became a risotto addict; i mean they're dead easy to make : just add some stock when there nearly isn't anymore and so on until you've got a smooth, al dente, lovely risotto.

serves 6

255g mushrooms (one type or a mixture - fanny : i used half field mushrooms, half girolles)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small handful of thyme, picked and chopped (fanny : i used a tsp of dried thyme instead)
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
salt adn freshly ground pepper
1 handful of parsley, rougly chopped
1 pinch of chilli powder
a squeeze of lemon juice

Slice the mushrooms thinly, but tear the girolles, chanterelles and blewits in half. Don't cook all the mushrooms at once - do them in 2 or 3 batches. In a very hot pan heat a tbsp of olive oil and add the mushrooms and thyme. Cook for about 1min, toss them, then add the garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook for another couple of minutes and then taste - if they're nicely cooked add some parsley, a very small pinch of chilli poxder and a squeeze of lemon juice. Toss again, taste again - by now they should be pretty much perfect. Chop half the cooked mushrooms.
At basic recipe (fanny : below) Stage 2, after the first ladle of stock has been added, add the choped mushrooms, and add the remainder at Stage 3.

1L chicken stock
1 tbsp olive oil
3 finely shopped shallots, or 2 medium onions
1/2 head celery finely chopped (fanny : i didn't use any)
maldon sea salt and black pepper
2 cloves galic, finely chopped
400g Arborio rice
100ml dry white vermouth (fanny : i just used a bottle of dry white wine i had in the fridge)
70g butter
85-100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Stage 1. Heat the stock. Then in a separate pan heat the olive oil, add the shallot or onion, celery and a pinch of salt, and sweat the vegetables for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and after another 2 minutes, when the veg have softened, add the rice. Turn up the heat now. At this crucial point you can't leave the pan, and anyway this is the best bit.
While slowly stirring, continuously, you are beginning to fry the rice. You don't want any colour at this point. You must keep the rice mooving. After 2 or 3 minutes it will begin to look transluscent as it absorbs all the flevours of your base. Add the vermouth or wine, keeping on stirring as it hits the pan - it will smell fantastic! It will sizzle around the rice, evaporating any hash of alcohol flavours and leaving the rice with a tasty essence.
Stage 2. Once the vermouth or wine seems to have cooked into the rice, add your first laddle of hot stock and a pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a highish simmer. Keep addind ladlefuls of stock, stirring and allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take about 15 minutes. Taste the rice - is it cooked? Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. Check seasonning.
Stage 3. Remove from the heat and add the butter and the Parmesan, saving a little of the latter to go on the top if you like. Stir gently. Eat as soon as possible while it retains its moist texture.
This risotto is all i love about risottos : it's creamy, earthy and delicious. I heart the slight taste of Parmesan that adds a little extra earthyness. It is definitely a wonderful dish for a cold wintry day. Indeed it is just what you need when it's freezing cold outside : an easy but warming thing to make ... and to eat.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005
A day in the kitchen with my beloved cousin

Two sweet things making a sweet thing...
Recipe from Mes 100 recettes de Gâteaux (page 108)

I have a cousin from Brittany and she decided to spend some days on the Frecnh Riviera with me. So here the story goes.
Today the weather was a bit moody; so guess what we did? We cooked a delicious cake from a much-loved book of mine : "Mes 100 recettes de Gâteaux" from C. Felder. It is called Vol Blanc (which means white flight, i can't tell you why really, maybe it's its "white colour and lightness" as my cousin just said).
Anyway it's a lovely summer cake made of fromage blanc (a French thick and creamy yoghurt) and cream mousse and red fruits. Here we used raspberries because it was the only red fruit i had in the house.

serves 8

for the biscuit base
120g caster sugar
4 eggs, separated
120g plain flour
icing sugar
for the mousse
75g caster sugar
50ml water
3 egg yolks
4 gelatine leaves
1 tbsp Cointreau (céline and fanny : we used rum)
250g fromage blanc
300g whipped cream
for the filling
250g frozen red fruits (céline and fanny : we used raspberries)
50g caster sugar
200g white chocolate
- The day before put the frozen fruits in a bowl in the frigde along with 50g of caster sugar.
- Preheat the oven to 210°C. Drain the fruits and keep the raspberry syrup for later. Put the white chocolate in the fridge.
- Prepare the biscuit base: beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks and add the sugar a little at a time until you've got a firm meringue. Add in the egg yolks and beat again for few seconds. Sift in the flour and mix carefully with a wooden spatula.
Divide the mixture between two 18cm lined tin, sift some icing sugar over and bake for 12-15 minutes (céline and fanny : it only took 10 minutes to get a lovely golden colour).
- Soak the gelatine leaves into cold water.
Bring the sugar and water to the boil and simmer for 1 minute. Pour the syrup over the egg yolks and beat with a mixer until cold, white and frothy.
- Drain the gelatine and melt it in the microwave (fanny : i'm so happy i discovered we could melt the gelatine in the microwave; it only takes 10 seconds...). Mix the meleted gelatine with a tbsp of Cointreau and add to the egg yolk mousse. Finally fold in the fromage blanc and whipped cream with a rubber spatula.
- Pour the mousse in a 20cm pudding basin, lined with cling film, until half-filled. Soak one of the biscuit in the fruit syrup and put it over the mousse. Add the fruits and the remaining mousse and top with the other soaked biscuit.
Chill for at least 2 hours.
- Grate the white chocolate and sprinkle over the unmoulded cake. Voila...Don't you think it's nice?

The wonderful cake and Max, the dog who secretly whishes he could have a cake this big for himself only. Let him dream, please.

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Friday, August 12, 2005
Chocolate espresso cake with caffe latte cream - SHF # 11

From Feast (page 292-293)

I thought i would never be in time, but i did it. Here i am for the 11st edition of Sugar High Friday, hosted by lovesicily. The theme chosen is coffee.

I'm not a big coffee drinker. Actually i hate having coffee for breakfast or even after a meal. I find it too strong. But i love coffee icecream, caffe latte... Everything sweet with coffee in it is a real treat for me; this the reason why i've chosen a chocolate espresso cake with caffe latte cream from Nigella's wonderful Feast - Food that celebrates life. I love this book : the pictures and the recipes. So far this is the book i've used most (and as i've already said i don't cook that much from cookbooks so i really mean it is a good cookbook despite the negative reviews).

serves 10-12

for the cake
150g dark chocolate
150g butter
6 eggs
250g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g plain flour
5 teaspoon instant espresso powder (fanny : i only had granules that i crushed with a rolling pin)
4 tbsp coffe liqueur (fanny : i didn't have any)
for the caffe latte cream
75g white chocolate buttons
375ml double cream
2 tsp instant espresso powder

Take everything you need out of the fridge to bring to room temperature. (... fanny : as you know, Nigella loves writting so i'll make it short).
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter and line a 23cm springform tin (fanny : on the book's pictures i saw that the corners or the cake were a little burnt so i lined my tin with 2 layers of foil and one layer of baking parchment; at the moment i haven't unmold the cake so we'll see what we'll get!!!).
Melt the chocolate and butter in a microwave and set aside to cool slightly. Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together until thick, pale and moussey. They should have at least doubled in volume, even tripled (fanny : it takes around 7-10 minutes to get the right consistency).
Gently fold the flour and espresso powder, taking care not to lose the air you have created, and finally add the melted chocolate and butter, folding gently again. Pour into the prepared tin and cook for 35-40 minutes, by which time the top of the cake should be firm, and the underneath a bit gooey. Immediatly pour over the coffee liqueur (fanny : i didn't) and then let the cake to cool completly on a wire rack before releasing from teh tin.
For the cream, melt the white chocolate in a micriwave, and let it cool. Fold in the cream and espresso powder, whipping the latte cream together to thicken it a little.
Sit the sprung cake on a plate and fill the middle sunken crater with the caffe latte cream and dust with a little cocoa.

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Friday, August 05, 2005
About my book...

Above are some delicious blueberry and raspberry jam muffins. The recipe will be in my book. This will not be the picture though because i really have to improve my photography and this blog is a good way to do so

Due to the popular demand, i feel obliged to tell you a little bit more about my book and when i say "my book" i mean the book i'm writting.

I first decided to write a book around Christmas this year. I thought it would be a great idea to write down all my favourites recipes just to keep them in mind. So i started to collect all the recipe i wanted to included. I had divided my book in 6 chapters; each one being an occasion that usually brings me to cook. But since i am a student and that the book contained over 300 recipes, i give up everything. It was too much work. And the summer holidays arrived. I did some shoots for my book...

Then i decided i had to do a book that is easy to handle and i'm used to think that a book with too much recipes is a book that stays on the shelf. I wanted a book i could use myself. So i chose to write a single book on each of the previous book's chapters.

At the moment i'm writting a book about breakfast, it will be an anthology of almost 100 recipes with a picture for each. Indeed i think that pictures are one of the things that help me to choose between two cookbooks. I also want the recipe to be clear. I do love Nigella Lawson, but i think that her recipes are a bit too long (on the paper).

Even if i reckon that this book is the good one i can't help thinking to my old cookbook, which was pretty good too: it gave menus for lunch and dinner...

So please tell me what you think because as you can see i'm still not sure about what to do.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Fish, chips and mushy peas

Yummy fish and chips with mushy peas
From: Jamie's Dinners (page 21)

I've been craving for these for months and months. Actually i've never had fish and chips in England, but the first i ate were in Ottawa (Canada) in a local English pub.
As my boyfriend's family is English, i thought it was the good moment to try and make them.
I used Jamie Oliver recipe. I love Jammie's Dinners. I will always remember the day i bought this book; my boyfriend (who lives in Kingston) and I decided to spend one day in London to look for a cake stand (i can't find one in France, if anyone knows...). But at the end of the day, the rain started to fall and i still didn't have my cakestand; so as soon as i saw a Waterstone, i rushed into it. And guess what did i see on the shelf : Jamie's dinner at just 14£95... I had my treasure for the day. In the train back towards Kingston, i couldn't help thinking about this beautiful pink and green (my 2 favourites colours) book. Weither it was raining or not, weither i had my cakestand or not, i had this book and was so happy for it

Here is the beautiful story and here comes the recipe
serves 4

Good fish and chips are becoming harder to find these days, but there are still some good boys out there making the real deal. However, if you want to make your own at home, here's the recipe I use. Unless you've got a really big fryer I'd say it's not really worth trying to make fish and chips at home for more than 4 people - otherwise it becomes a struggle. Other things to have on the table are some crunchy sweet pickled gherkins, some pickled onions (if your other half isn't around!) - and pickled chillies are good too. Then you want to douse it all with some cheap malt vinegar and nothing other than Heitz tomato ketchup.

sunflower oil for deep-frying
1/2 tsp sea salt (fanny : i used 2 tsp)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper (fanny : i used 4 tsp)
225g nice white fish fillets, pinbonned (fanny : i thought 225g weren't enough for 4 so i bought 800g and there was nothing left on the table...I used cod fish.)
225 flour, plus extra for dusting (fanny : 420g were a little too much as i had loads of batter left, but i can make some onion rings tomorrow and who's gonna blame me for that?)
285ml good cold beer (fanny : i used 460ml of a french beer called 1664)
3 tsp baking powder
900g potatoes, peeled and cut into chips

for the mushy peas
a knob of butter
4 handful of podded peas
a small handful of fresh mint, leaves picked and chopped
a squeeze of lemon juice
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

To make your mushy peas, put the butter in a pan with the peas and the chopped mint. Put a lid on top and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add a squeeze of lemo juice and season with salt and pepper. You can either mush the peas up in a food processor, or you can mash them by hand until thay are stodgy, thick and perfect for dipping your fish into. Keep them warm while you cook your fish and chips.
Pour the sunflower oil into your deep fat fryer or a large frying pan and heat it to 190°. Mix the salt and pepper together and season the fish fillets on both sides. This will help to remove any excess water, making the fish really meaty. Whisk the flour, beer and baking powder together until nice and shiny. The texture should be like semi-whipped double cream ( i.e it should stick to whatever you're coating). Dust each fillet in a little of the extra flour (fanny : i forgot to do this, but nothing went wrong), then dip into the batter and allow any excess to drip off. Holding one end, lower the fish into the oil one by one, carefully so you don't get splashed - it will depeend on the size of your fryer how many fish you can do at once ( fanny : mine is about 30cm diameter and i can do 3 fillets at once). Cook for 4 minutes or so, until the batter is gloden and crisp.
Meanwhile, parboil your chips in salted boiling water for about 4 or 5 minutes until softened but still retaining their shape, then drain them in a colander and leave to steam completely dry. When all the moisture has disappeared, fry them in the oil that the fish were cooked in at 180°C until golden and crisp (fanny : as you can see in the pic, i was so in a hurry to taste at this gorgeous fish and chips, that my first batch of chips wasn't cooked enough...). While the chips are frying, you can place the fish on a baking tray and put them in the oven for a few minutes at 180°C (fanny : mine stayed in the oven for about 30 minutes!) to finish cooking. When they are done, drain them on kitchenpaper, season with salt, and serve with the fish and mushy peas.

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