Far Breton aux pruneaux

It's June, it's cold and I am longing for the perfect "warming" dessert. I may have been re-acquitted with it at Easter when He and I went to Brittany.

This part of France tradionally the land of craggy landscapes, magic tales, legends from ancient times, dolmens and menhirs and........buckwheat - farine de sarrazzin because it is darker than plain flour.

On the morning after the first evening, we were offered a traditional breakfast among other goodies there was a dessert I had long forgotten the existence of:  un far. far means flour and un far is a sort of clafouti like a dense flan cooked in the oven. Soft and delicious it is rather basic and easy to prepare here is the recipe.....and if you thought that a dash of rum for breakfast is outlandish, may I urge you to think again.

150g plain flour
125g sugar
4 eggs, beaten
500ml whole milk
Dash of rum
200g pitted prunes
1 egg yolk, beaten
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
Sift the flour into a bowl, add the sugar and mix. Make a well in the centre, add the 4 eggs and whisk vigorously until the batter is smooth.
Pour the milk in little by little, whisking all the time. Add the rum. Butter the inside of a 20x22 or 24cm gratin dish. Pour the batter in and scatter the prunes through it, pushing them under the surface slightly.
The dish needs to cook for 30 minutes before removing and brushing the top with the beaten egg and then put back for a further 25-30 minutes.
Serve warm with crème fraîche.

TOTAL Day & Mastering New Techniques

A month ago TOTAL Greek Yogurt hosted their first MasterClass. It was based at prestigious cookery school  Atelier des Chefs. The theme was Leading a Healthy Lifestyle.
A lovely brochette of food bloggers were invited. The day was an over-all success: I learnt new techniques such as making quenelles, plus I am now able to put a face on blogs I read regularly.
It turned out great though the start of the day had been rather unpromising. Expert nutritionist and state registered dietician, Hala El Shafie took the stage first. 20 minutes in her presentation she had not broken any new grounds, this was textbook stuff regurgitated to an audience of well-learnt foodies. She took the cake, not literally after-all this was supposed to be a healthy lifestyle talk,  when asking questions she went on ignoring completely the correct answers and  urging the audience to check their facts. Had she checked her audience she would have seen some pretty disgruntled faces.

But then it all picked up magnificently when blogger Phil Moore made her intervention. Phil went through a difficult time with her relationship with food. I always assumed most people had problems with nutrition but when it is really bad, nobody talked too openly about it. So it was right impressive to see that Phil had tackled the problem one step at the time, moreover she had recorded it very publicly in her blog Skinny Latte Strikes Back, and found solace and strength in her readers' support. A modern tale of battles with demons.
At midday, we went on cooking, it was like a little factory from the 1950's, everybody was having a ball at trying their best under the watchful (and amused) eye (or should it be eyes) of chef Andre Dupin
We used TOTAL Greek Yogurt to cook, make sauces and instead of cream, The trick is to use the 2% rather than the 0% to cook as you need a little fat for the sauce not to split. Some dishes were nicer than other but it is all a matter of taste because they all tasted good.

 We had a go at  
 Making  Samosas with a Minted Yoghurt Dip 

Pipping for White Chocolate Mille-feuille with Spiced Plums 

Tossing a frying-pan like chefs do for our Medallions of Pork with Gribiche
and Fennel

And much more......I learnt how to make quenelles and it is simple when you know ....make your concoction, take a tablespoon fill it with what you have prepared, put another spoon on the top of the first so that it makes a little mould, have a go at the brilliant 

Total Greek Yoghurt Tartare of Mackerel with Minted Cucumber Soup

Serves 6
12 fillets of mackerel
1 banana shallot
25g cornichons
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
50g 0% Total Greek Yoghurt
10g tomato ketchup
3ml Worcestershire sauce
25g capers in vinegar

For the soup
1 cucumber
A garlic clove
1/4 bunch of fresh mint
3 pinches of fine salt
10ml white wine vinegar
50g 0% Total Greek Yoghurt

*Start by preparing the mackerel: fillet the fish if necessary and remove the pin bones. Remove the skin from the fish and then dice the flesh. Keep refrigerated while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
*Peel and finely dice the shallot. Chop the cornichons into small pieces. Pick the leaves from the parsley and roughly chop. Mix these chopped ingredients with the mackerel and add the capers and yoghurt.
*Mix well and the add the ketchup, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. Taste the Tartare mix and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
*To make the soup: peel the cucumber and the garlic and pick the mint leaves. Place the ingredients in a blender with the salt and the white wine vinegar. Blitz for a minute to make the soup.
*Add the yogurt and pulse the mixture for 5 seconds. Check the seasoning.
*To serve: place a large quenelle of the Tartare mix in the middle of a small bowl and pour the soup around. Serve immediately.

I am Growing my Own

I know some people do it without shouting about it on roof tops. In fact, as you will see below, 29% of households in the UK have a vegetable garden. Considering the size of the back garden, it would be very difficult to grow more than one potato plant and with a waiting list of 120 years to get an allotment in  Greenwich, I am not counting my carrots, just yet.

However, just the other day, he came up with a fabulous link. The plan is to use a small and currently derelict part of St Alfege Park for a community vegetable garden. I applied, lo and behold, I got a call. I was as excited as a baby flea. If I were to volunteer,  help to clear the site, build raised beds and a greenhouse, I would be given a little plot where to grow my own.
So on Saturday morning, with visions of punnets full of black tomatoes, I went to St Alfrege park. The Park is an ex-cemetery, ancient tomb stones act as wall paper around the edge. The stones were removed in the early 1900 when London grew bigger and new cemeteries were being built at the edge of town.
As the grand-daughter of a grave digger, I was immediately put in charge of what was under....... I would not be surprised if the first time I dug, I hit a skull or two. So stay tune to see how I am getting on with my bones and beets. In the meantime if you fancy looking at some really interesting stats and advice, click on this very well conceive site created by Grow your own infographic from LoveTheGarden.com

Grow your own

And the Winner is...........

Congratulations to Mark of Buttaz Blog, you are about to receive a Gourmet Vegetables box  worth £17.25 from Abel & Cole. Do email me your postal address and as luck have it, if we are fast enough, next week you will be able to feast on your favourite vegetable as the box will contain a bunch of beetroots. How lucky is that?

Thanks to everybody who took the time to tweet and comment. It has been great fun to read them all. I am not certain yet what the June give-away will be, but I am definitely working on it.

Last but not least, sorry for all of you who try to enter while Blogger was down. Don't do that to us again, Blogger or we will leave you.

Number generated by http://www.random.org/

Coffee is More Than Just a Drink

Rarely can I function without 2 mugs of coffee, first thing in the morning. If I could be on intravenous coffee drip throughout the day without inconvenience, I would. Though I have to say, the addiction is more related to the smell than the brew self. I like the smell so much that I have been wearing it as a perfume for the past two decades (Vanille & Cafe, Parfum du voyage).

Sometime ago, I read a novel which was set against the background of the arrival of coffee on the Dutch stock exchange. A scene stuck in my mind : the hero's wife chewed the beans raw,  not knowing what to do with them. Of course nowadays, coffee is a social binder and as I appreciated lately a superb ingredient. A little gem of an ingredient which proved very handy last week when my mum came to stay.

This mother of mine, doesn't cook and mainly doesn't eat much, to keep her figure to a size 6. Present her with the best dishes and she will pick at them, make funny mimic and invariably mention the fat content. Strangely enough she loves cakes, actually I suspect her to live on biscuits and cakes of all sorts.

Therefore for her arrival I  made a tarte au chocolat and a coffee cake. Three days later with very little help, all were gone but for a small slice which I managed to rescue to photograph.

Coffee Cake with Coffee Liqueur Icing
as seen in Decadence by P. Johnson
180g self raising flour
3 Tbs ground espresso coffee or 2 Tbs instant coffee
170g soft unsalted butter
180g sugar
 3 eggs, beaten
dash of vanilla essence
Coffee Liqueur Icing
250g icing sugar
1 Tbs Kahlua or coffee liquor
90g of cream cheese
1tsp of coffee liqueur
1tsp of natural vanilla extract
Grease and flour a 22 cm round  mould. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Sift the flour, baking powder and coffee into a mixing bowl. Add the soft butter and the sugar and beat until the butter is incorporated and the mixture is crumbly. Mix the beaten egg with  vanilla and add to the dry mixture. Beat with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes until the mixture is thick and white.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for about 40 - 45 minutes.
Once cake has cooked, allow to cool and, cover with  icing
Coffee Liqueur Icing
Sift icing sugar into medium bowl, stir in combined coffee liqueur, vanilla, and the cream cheese; stir until smooth.

Dream Job

Some time ago, I was asked to review for a new website. However, it is not until now that the site has gone life that I can tell you all about it. What a job, what a site: Taster in chief  for chocolatier.co.uk. Yes that is correct, my job is to go round and about or even sit down at home to taste fine chocolates before writing about them. 

A Dream Job.

The site looks really stylish, informative and entertaining. It will  contain reviews (by meeee), interviews conducted by Jenny Linford, food writer and author of several books.
So do expect to hear all sort of chocolaty news in the future, sorry 've to dash going to do a bit of research about chocolate  flavoured with sea-salt.

Give Away # 6 : Abel & Cole Gourmet Box

Due to Blogger being down, the deadline for the draw has been postponed to the 18th May
Here is the May Give-away :
Your very own Abel & Cole Gourmet Medium Gourmet Box worth £17.25 including
9 types of vegetables, some pretty adventurous ones.

There are so many things, I'd love to tell you about Abel & Cole and their work with local farmers, their wide choice of organic food, their inspiring recipes and enthusiasm about sharing their knowledge of healthy food but right now what you want to know is how to WIN a box.

Method #1: tell me in the comment box what your favorite vegetable is.

Method #2 : Tweet this competition, I made it easy, copy and paste the text  below and let me know in the comment box
@ Solangeweb Win a Free Abel & Cole Gourmet Box delivered to your door  & spread the word

You can do either/or, both is best.
Abel & Cole delivers to most areas in England and South Wales, due to the nature of the prize, The winner must live within Abel & Cole's delivery area. This can be checked by entering postcode at www.abelandcole.co.uk. Should the winner live outside the delivery area, then the box can be delivered to a friend or family member’s address within our delivery area, think "present"
Terms & Conditions
  • The winner is randomly chosen by the Random website.
  • Entrants must be 18 years or older.
  • The winner will have a week to email me the iraddress and I'll send a voucher immediately. If the winner has not given sign of life during this time, the prize will automatically go to the runner-up.
  • competition ends on the 13th May - Good luck -

Buckwheat Galettes - Galettes au Sarazzin

So it may not have been beach weather and handkerchiefs were in short supply. But what a thrill it was to walk along the beautiful Saint-Lunaire sandy beaches, being one of handful of people enjoying the misty blues of the seascape and the promise of a fish meal on a terrace overlooking the sea.
But not before an overnight stay in Dinan. A medieval town on a hilltop which has many fine old buildings some as early as 13th century.
None of the hotels we stayed in Brittany did break the budget and each offered a personal touch. Especially at breakfast: weird and wonderful home cooked jams, complete with the runny strawberry as to prove that none were Bonne Maman's or a slice of home-make "far aux pruneaux" a thick crepe with dried prunes...hmm delicious.
Talking about crepes, the "inescapable" Breton's staple. The savoury pancake being made with farine de sarazzin -buckwheat flour- available in most English supermarkets....had I known...
The trick is to cook the pancake in salted butter and to make sure that you allow at least 1 hour for the mixture to rest before use.
The array of fillings defies the imagination, it would seem that a mischievous fairy whirls her wand over each menu whispering "longify" so that the list covers a whole page and any choice becomes right impossible so that reliance on Galette complète is a must
I was told that each breton household has their own basic galette recipe and though this seems quite ridiculous, I wold be incline to believe it so here is that I used a lunch time with my newly bought buckwheat flour.
Buckwheat Galettes
will make 8 galettes

For the batter:
- 225 grams (7 ounces) buckwheat flour
- 2 eggs
- 500 ml (1/2 quart) milk
- 500 ml (1/2 quart) water

For the galettes:
- salted butter

For the topping
-grated hard cheese of  your choice
-slivers of ham
-1 egg per galette
Step 1 : Prepare the dough.
Put the flour in a large mixing bowl and dig a little well in the center. Break the eggs in the well, and whisk them gradually into the flour in a circular motion. Pour the milk in slowly, whisking all the while. Add the water, still whisking.
 Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap, and store in the fridge for at least two hours,
Step 2 : Make the galettes.
Take the bowl of dough out of the fridge. Whisk the galette dough again, as some of the flour will have settled at the bottom of the bowl.
If you're making several galettes in a row, preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). This is where you'll keep the galettes warm while you make the others.
Heat up a large non-stick skillet over high heat. When it is very hot, put in a sliver of salted butter. When it is melted, but before it browns, spread the butter evenly on the surface of the skillet. Pour a ladleful of dough in the skillet, and swoop the skillet around so that the dough spreads out in a nice even circle. Let cook on medium-high heat for a few minutes, peeking underneath with a spatula from time to time to check on the cooking.
Flip the galette when it's nicely golden underneath,
Melt grated cheese and slivers of ham on the top, break an egg on the top, leave to melt and cook
Put the galette in a large baking dish or on a cookie sheet and into the oven to keep warm while you make the others.


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