Dressed to Impress: En Papillote

"En Papillote" is basically a posh denomination for a fun and easy way of cooking. Often applied to fish it can also be used for chicken or vegetables on their own.

All what you have to do is slice thinly the vegetables, wrap all the items in a parchment or a tin foil and cook the parcel in the oven gas mark 200C for 20 minutes or on the barbecue so that the food cooks in its own juices, keeping the moisture in the bag which will swell with hot steam. When cook slide the bag on the diner's plate and watched at they unwrapped their parcel, never falls to impress, serve with new potatoes or couscous or rice

It is an healthy way of cooking which suits perfectly food with delicate flavour here are some ideas:

Dry vermouth or dry white wine, thyme, parsley, dill with fennel, carrot, celery and shallot or onion.

note that fennel has a strong flavour which is not to every body's taste could be replaced by leek

A taste of the East : Soya sauce, a splash of sherry, just a drop of sesame oil with julienne of ginger, garlic, sweet peas

Be adventurous: White wine or dry vermouth, tangerine or orange slices, fennel, red onion, chives

Provencal style: Chopped (seeded, drained) tomatoes, olives, oregano,capers, garlic.

North African way: garlic clove, 1 tsp cumin seeds, extra virgin olive oil, juice of 1 lemon + zest or one finely chopped preserved lemon,1 jalapeño pepper, seeded 1 bunch coriander, salt & pepper to taste

Now for the more complex question of which fish? whole gutted and clean trouts, soles, salmon fillets, breams mostly farmed so sustainable, they never achieve the same flavour as there "free range" counterpart but when it comes to cod should we still provide a demand when stock are being depleted? is there still plenty of fish in the sea?
My understanding is that the quotas are not doing much good as a lot of the cod is caught by trawling-nets when fishing other species and then thrown back in the sea. As consumers we seem to be only a small part of the answer, the solution resting firmly with the political powers and the fishing industry.
My answer to that one is that I have not stopped buying cod but I diversify what I buy and look out for new yummy recipes, don't hesitate to comment would love to know how you tackle the issue.

Fun with Jam Drops

"A cup of coffee, friends and a natter" rates in the top five of my feel-good list at the moment, so yesterday as I was getting food ready for diner, Anne was coming around, I thought it would be nice to finish the meal with coffee and biscuits, slumped in cosy corner, exchanging news. Looking for a biscuit recipe in my new bible "the baker" by Leanne Kitchen, I knoooow, I still can't believe it is a real name either, but more of this in another post, I spotted jam drops.

When I was very small, at school, they taught us how to make "lunettes", biscuits shaped like spectacles, sprinkled with icing sugar, the eyes filled in with jam. Jam drops obey the same principle and they could have been named "eye balls" but I guess that would not have been very appetizing. There is nothing to them, they are a little time consuming to make but I have not had so much fun in the kitchen for a long time and they are delicious.

Jam Drops

Makes 32

80g unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup / 80g caster sugar
2 tblsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup /125g self-raising flour
1/3 cup/40g custard powder or instant vanilla pudding mix
1/3 cup raspberry jam/100g ( I used recently home made strawberry jam)

1. Preheat the oven to moderate 180C/ 350F/Gas 4 and line two baking trays with baking paper.
2. Cream the butter and sugar in a small bowl with electric beaters until light and fluffy, or a fork will do, Add the milk and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the sifted flour and custard powder and mix to form a soft dough. Roll heaped teaspoons of the mixture into balls and place on the trays.

3. Make an indentation in each ball using the end of a wooden spoon. Fill each hole with a little jam. Bake for 15 minutes, cool slightly on the trays, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Jam drops will keep up to 7 days, stored in a cool place in an airtight container, or can be frozen in which case, you will have to be really fast as they disappear so quickly.

Not Quite A Domestic Goddess Yet : Tomato Tarte Tatin

For me Tatin conjures up images of cataclysm, well, what can you expect from a recipe created out of an accident.
Once upon a time "there was 2 spinster sisters who lived in Lamotte-Beuvron, a small rural town in the Loire Valley of France, owned and ran the hotel called l'Hotel Tatin in 1888. The elder sister, Stéphanie, dealt with the kitchen. She was a particularly fine cook but was not the brightest of people. Her specialty was an apple tart, served perfectly crusty, caramelized and which melted in the mouth. One day during the hunting season, during the midday scramble, Stephanie placed her tart in the oven the wrong way round. The pastry and apples were upside-down but, nevertheless, she served this strange dessert without giving it time to cool. The French call this dessert tarte des demoiselles Tatin".
Once upon another time, much much later than 1888, my parents where invited to stay with his mum who then run a lovely B&B where everything was perfect in the Peak District. My dad always keen to show his culinary talents took upon himself to make une Tarte Tatin, there was lots of excitement all around as he swapped his persona for that of a stereotypical male chef : giving orders, swearing a lot. What we had not foreseen was that there is a world a difference between cooking with a gaz stove and a metal plate and using an halogen cooker with china dishes.

It took no time for the china to explode, the melting caramel to burn on the halogen, my dad to swear even louder, his mum to run around in horror, mine to try to help and me to wish that the cursed Tatin sisters had never been born.

Understandably, Tatin remained a taboo recipe for a long time, I can only eat savoury Tatins but never attempted to make one until the other day, as I was reviewing Easy Food magazine, I was attracted to the Tomato Tarte Tatin like a magnet to the fridge. As far as I know curiosity only kills cat, so I tried. It is just delicious, though you will agree the presentation was worthy the sisters' first attempt.
As seen in Easy Food Magazine
serves 4-6
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp thyme leaves
finely chopped
400g cherry tomatoes
1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
cut to fit over a 20cm/8in ovenproof flan or quiche dish
100g mozzarella
goat’s cheese or Parmesan shavings
Fresh basil leaves
to garnish
2 tbsp olive oil for drizzling


Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6 and grease an ovenproof quiche or flan dish with a little butter and set aside.

Put the balsamic vinegar, sugar, and thyme into a nonstick frying pan and heat until the sugar has melted. Bring to boil. Add the tomatoes and stir until they are completely coated with the syrup. take the frying pan off the heat and set it aside to cool.

Arrange the tomatoes in the bottom of the buttered dish and drizzle the sauce on top. Unroll the puff pastry and flatten out slightly with a rolling pin. Cute out a round slightly larger than the buttered dish. Place the circle of pastry on top of the tomatoes. Trim the edges or tuck them down the sides of the dish.

Bake the tart in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until it is well risen and golden brown. Place a large serving dish upside down on top of the tart dish and carefully turn it upside down so that the tomatoes are on top, protecting your hands with a thick towel.

Tear the mozzarella cheese into small pieces and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Garnish with a few leaves of fresh basil and serve drizzled with a little olive oil.

Fat 28g - Carbs 40g - Energy 437Kcal - Protein 9g - Sodium 3g - Fibre 3g
Tale of the tarte Tatin found in whatscookingamerica.net
En Francais dans le texte
POUR 4-6
Ingrédients :
2 cuillères a soupe de vinaigre balsamique
2 cuillères a soupe sucre semoule
1 cuillère a soupe de thym finement haché
400g tomates-cerises
1 feuille de pâte feuilletée prêt-roulée
coupez pour l'adapter au-dessus d'un plat a flan 20cm
100g de fromage de chèvre ou copeaux de parmesan
Feuilles fraîches de basilic
pour garnir
2 cuillères a soupe d' huile d'olive
Méthode :

Préchauffez le four 200C/gas à la marque 6 et graissez un plat a tarte allant au four avec du peu de beurre et le mettez de côté.
Mettez le vinaigre balsamique, le sucre, et le thym dans une poêle antiadhésives et faire chauffer jusqu'à ce que le sucre ait fondu. portez a ebullition.
Ajoutez les tomates et remuez jusqu'à ce qu'elles soient complètement enduites du sirop. retires la poêle outre du feu et placez-la de côté pour faire refroidir.

Arrangez les tomates au fond du plat beurré et versez la sauce sur le dessus.
Déroulez la pâte feuilletée et l'aplatissez dehors légèrement, decoupez un rond légèrement plus grand que le plat beurré. Placez le cercle de pate sur les tomates. Équilibrez les bords ou rempliez-les sur les côtés du plat.

Faites cuire la tarte dans le four préchauffé pendant 25 minutes, ou jusqu'à ce qu'elle soit bien levée et brun d'or.
Sortes du four, placez un grand plat sur le plat a tarte et tournez-soigneusement a l'envers de sorte que les tomates soient sur le dessus, en protégeant vos mains avec une serviette épaisse.
"Déchirez" la mozzarella en petits morceaux et places les au dessus des tomates. Garnissez avec quelques feuilles de basilic frais et une peu d'huile d'olive.

Gras 28g - Glucides 40g - Énergie 437Kcal - Protéine 9g - Sodium 3g - Fibre 3g

I Like my Pizza from Syria

Choice is a good thing but too much choice can be bad, for this very reason, pizza can be the most annoying dish on earth. 

For me, going to a pizzeria is always quite traumatic: after much humming and hawing to choose which topping I would prefer, I invariably change my mind when the waiter is about to leave the table with my order; and that is only picking the toppings, if there is also a choice of dough the whole outing turns into agony.

I suspect that master pizza bakers have secret competitions somewhere in the hill around Naples to produce the most unlikely combination of toppings. I am sure they dream up silly toppings and give them Italian names. I can hear the discussions, “What about the Pomegranitela: crayfish, asparagus, and pomegranate pizza, and for this season’s vegetarian choice, the Sisistellina: salad, spring onions, spices, and to top it all . . . come on . . . why not? Be new, be trendy . . . spaghetti, that should be a winner.”

I am sorry, but I do like some things to be simple; this is why I like the pizzas in Syria – no nonsense, full of flavor, simple one-choice pizza. Some of you might say that they had the same in Morocco or in Algeria. I raise my case, across several countries one kind of pizza.

I had forgotten all about the pizza from Syria but as I was reviewing Feast Bazaar: India, Morocco, Syria by Barry Vera, I was flooded with memories of my time spent in Syria. There it was, recipe and all, I had to make it straight away and it was as delicious as I remembered. Here it is, if you would like to have a go, and if you have experienced some silly toppings, let me know with your comment.
Cinnamon Lamb Pizza with Oregano Makes 4

35g wholemeal flour
435 g plain flour, plus extra, for rolling
2 teaspoons fresh yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
21/2 teaspoons salt
420ml water
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
300g minced lamb4 tablespoons tomato sauce
4 balls buffalo mozzarella
2 large sprigs oregano, leaves picked

To make the pizza bases, place the flours, yeast, sugar, and 21/2 teaspoons salt into a mixer with a dough hook. With the motor running, slowly add 420ml water and 2 teaspoons of the oil. Leave the mixer on low speed for 10 minutes, or until a smooth, firm dough forms.

Divide the dough into four even portions, place on a lightly oiled tray, and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave for about 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Roll out each portion onto a lightly floured surface to create four circles that have a 12 cm diameter and are 5mm thick. Preheat the oven to 220C (425F/Gaz7).

Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over medium heat.

Add the onion and cinnamon and fry for about 2-3 minutes, or until the onion is soft.

Add the lamb and cook for 20-30 minutes or until it is crispy, Make sure you keep stirring the mince to break it down into small pieces. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.

Place the pizza bases on baking trays.

Spread 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce over each one, spreading all the way to the edge.

Sprinkle the lamb evenly over each base, then tear the buffalo mozzarella over the lamb.

Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the pizza bases are golden and crispy.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the oregano. Season and serve immediately.

Curious Ingredients- Preserved Lemon 2- & Artichoke bottoms

Now that I had found preserved lemons, a whole jar of them, and so far used just a couple, I needed new recipes. Whom better to turn to than Claudia Roden. Claudia is THE Middle-Eastern food specialist and has been so for 30 years, so I could not go wrong. With spring being more like autumn, a warm salad was in order. The other curious ingredient which lurked in my kitchen was a can of Artichoke bottoms that I inherited.
Last month, Sue, from across the garden, moved to Toronto, her generous legacy means that a lot of new ingredients are now wandering in my kitchen. They come out of the cupboards are pondered over and go back in. The recipe for "Artichoke and broad bean salad with preserved lemons" can be found on http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/database/artichokeandbroadbea_81561.shtml. Great, it was going to take care my "curiousest ingredients" + It also contained my "favorite", well,one of them: broad beans. It is very tasty, perfect for a rainy spring day.

Curious Ingredient: Preserved Lemon -1-

While away from my blog, I have been busy writing book reviews. Fickle? may be, but I did have fun, made lots of contacts renewed the sources of inspiration, ferreted for ingredients that would spice my recipes and came across preserved lemons.
I have always wanted to try them on. They were not easy to locate, Phil had mentioned that he spotted some in Tesco's but it was Delia who came to the rescue. As I was reviewing her latest book, I spotted a jar of them, now that I new what the packaging looked like it would be much easy. Armed with a mental image and a brand. Belazu. I started the hunt again.
Belazu, "the Mediterranean food and ingredients retailer" started as a company 8 years ago, they seem to be some of the good guys reinvesting in well worth to fight for causes. You will find their products in supermarkets such as Sainsbury, Waitrose, Tesco, you can also buy direct, they encourage to team up with others which is nice since it reduces the transport impact on the environment.
Now that I had my curious ingredient I got cracking on that Moroccan chicken recipe as seen in Delicious and amended according to availability and mood.
Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Chickpeas
Serves 2
2 chicken thighs and 2 drumsticks
2 preserved lemons, quartered
100g cooked chickpeas
1 red onion
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 garlic gloves
6-8 green olives (that I did not use)
275 ml dry white wine
coriander leaves to finish
salt & pepper to taste
Mix of spices as follows
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp cardamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp chili powder
2 tsp brown sugar
Heat 1 tsp of oil in a casserole and when it is very hot stir-fry the onion (chopped) for 5 minutes
Mix the spices all together
Half the spices blend and mix that half with the rest of the oil, make cuts in the chicken flesh and rub the mixture in, all over.
Stir the garlic and the rest of the spices into the onions, add the lemon quarters, olives and chickpeas and place the chicken on top.
Pour in the wine, season with salt and pepper, cover, bring the heat down to simmer and cook for an hour.
Serve with couscous.

Friday the 13th

Friday 13th was the day Lindy from Lindytoast chose to draw names out of the virtual hat for her Terrinerama competition. Pebble Soup won again that prompted me to come back and announce the good news to you. I was out of action for a little while due to an hospital stay, you don't want to know, the staff was great but the food was brrrrrrrr, scary. You can look forward to new posts from tomorrow, in the meantime let's bring back that fun post Terrine Anyone?


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