Top Five in 2011

Using a little dose of the French characteristics, such as introspection, but not excessively, adding a spoonful of Google Analytics, I came up with a list of your favorite five posts in 2011 and the top recipe since this blog started.

1- Savoury Crumble: The humble crumble tops the list. Best known for its sweet version, crumbles have made a come back and savoury crumbles are definitely worth considering for the weekly menu.

2- Apple Rosemary Jelly: something soothing to do after weeks of partying.

3- Green Tomato Chutney: A old recipe liked enough to make third place. As for me I am uncertain if I like the taste or  association of these two words: green  and tomatoes.

4- Jansson Temptation: A traditional Swedish casserole made of potatoes and anchovies.

5- Savoury Polenta Muffins: There is nothing like the kitchen feeling up with the warm smell of fresh baking. However I had completely forgotten this recipe so thanks for reminding me.
Of course, this year, monthly give-aways became a feature. I also was given the opportunity to review products both will continue in 2012.

Now for your favorite recipe since records began: the impressive but so easy to make Smoked Salmon and Crab Terrine.

Hope to see you in 2012....Watch out for the first post of the year. It is great, great, great give-away. Happy New- Year.

It is Christmas

That's it Christmas is here. Time to wish all my fantastic readers a warm festive time. Thank you for your support and  your comments, I really enjoy writing for you.

Joyeux Noel
Solange Xxx

Soup of the Week: French Onion Soup

There is nothing like  an authentic onion soup to warm you up.  Few things, I learnt along the way, watching the older generation preparing this French classic:

a) Use as many onions as you can peel- I am fortunate to have this condition where by chopping onions don't make me cry. However even if you have to chop them in batches it is really worth using lots. Brown onions is what you want.
b) The secret resides in load of pepper
c) Seat the cheese on the top of the sliced baguette and brown it under the grill.

No onion soup should be without its "croutons gratinés"

Classic Onion Soup  
50g butter
1kg brown onions, thinly sliced
2 pints or just over a liter of beef stock
pepper, salt
for the croutons
1 baguette
1 garlic clove sliced
olive oil

Heat the butter in a large pan and gently cook the onion until the onion is softened but not browned. Increase the heat slightly and cook for 15 minutes stir for the last five minutes.
By now the onions should be brown and caramelised do not stop stirring, stirring now and again to stop it catching.
Add the stock and bring to the boil. Season generously. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast the bread, rub each slice with garlic, then drizzle with a little oil. Sprinkle with the cheese and grill until golden and bubbling. Serve the soup with the cheese croutons on top.

Unusual Presents: Twinings Tea and Cake

There are time when being French is rather annoying. I will forever being refered to as "the French woman". At parties, first question people will ask is: "and where about in France are you from?" Despite the fact that I have spent half my life in London.

At other times, it gives me different outlook on things and that can be an advantage. Take Christmas presents, if there is something that my French friends and family love to be given is tea and cake. "Tea at Christmas?" I hear you say. Well think about it, not such a bad idea.

Years ago, I settled for Twinings. I was told from inveterate tea drinkers  that Twinings teas is very good and there is nothing classier than there black and gold line. Take a look at this Mulled Spiced Tea Caddy, and tell me that it would not be adequate as a "small Christmas present." There is a whole range of caddies at £6.00 with a discount when you buy two. 

Moreover to buy tea online, feels right. It is the kind of item which does not need to be seen or handled. The only problem with buying on line is the temptation to buy more than tea. That is when cake comes into play. These Christmas tea gifts are really tempting, the free delivery doesn't help to resist, so come on do the "French thing" and buy some tea and cake as to give at Christmas.

Cabana, Westfield, Review

 Every now and then, Michelle as in Greedy Gourmet organises a restaurant review meet up. It is the equivalent of a pajama party for food bloggers. Loads of smiles and giggles, stories told, food paparazzi effects whenever a plate turns up and a no-non sense appreciation of every single dish.

Sarah of Maison Cupcake, Jeanne of Cook Sister!, Margot of Coffee and Vanilla, Michelle and I met at Cabana Westfield shopping center in Stratford. This is one of the two Cabanas, the other is in St Giles Piazza Covent Garden. Cabana is Brazilian Cafeteria with Poster-lined walls, planked floor, apparent aluminium pipes and a barbecue stall near the entrance which produce brightly color- coded, humongous, skewers, the lot deftly handled by Passadores who circulate in this open-space.

The concept is breezy: you pick a street food, sort of snack, then you turn the green disk like so, choose skewers from the barbecue list sides and salads. Skewers will get to your table until you slap the red disk on. Be aware it is not "eat as much as you like". You pay for each dish ordered so choose wisely.

This is very much a hit or miss affair. Look around before ordering. For example from the Street Food Selection or starters, the crispy Pastels (£4.65) which is a deep-fried fast food promised to be "stuffed with four cheeses" but on that day there were disappointingly near-hollow with hardly any cheese. My Salmon Ceviche was OK but nowhere near that of a Brazilian friend of mine on the other end the Sweetcorn Pamohas (£3.35), Grated sweetcorn steamed in coconut milk, spiced with cinnamon and wrap in a corn husk were a delight.

Now for the piece the resistance the colour coded skewers which are priced between £3.95 and £5.95 for roughly 3 portions. We, collectively, took this very seriously and ordered most things. The winner was the Chimichurri Black Gold Rump which looked and tasted succulent. All the meat from chicken to pork is tender but don't expect much in term of  flavours, everything rests on the sauces.

Salads (from £6.95) are enormous but would beneficiate from much much more seasonings, sides (£3.45): cassava chips were dry but sweet potato fries  "olé, come again" these were good.
I had to wait until the end, to really get excited about something and that was the desserts, Frozen Yogurts (£2.95) were marvellous. I should have started there and forgotten all about the Cool Colada (£3.95 + topping) which was a thumb down
Overall, Cabana is not without worth, it is a fun concept, staff is enthusiastic and energetic, but the food is uneven and it might be a little expensive for a barbecue.

Cabana Westfield Stratford City

5 Chestnut Plaza, Montfitchet Way
Westfield Stratford City, E20 1GL
T: 0208 536 2650
O:12.00am - 11pm, Mon - Sat
12.00am - 10.30pm, Sun

Our thanks to Cabana for having us on a complimentary basis.
Click on the following links for more reviews:
Coffee and Vanilla
Cook Sister!
Greedy Gourmet
Maison Cupcake

Nasi Lemak and Sambal Prawn

I have recently developed a passion for Nasi Lemak or Coconut Milk Rice. Being rather fickle, the object of my passion will soon be toppled by another. Though quickly replaced, favourites are never totally forgotten. In the case of Nasi Lemak, how could I ever forget the subtle flavours of coconut and ginger slowly braised in the oven.

In principle  the same happened with Gary Rhodes. Sadly Gary never was  in my kitchen. However when I arrived in England, Rhodes was  my favourite celebrity chef. Since then, I have fallen for many others but I still read and cook his recipes with delight.

This dish combines both, it is Nasi Lemak and  also a Gary Rhodes recipe. Plus, it is  great if you are looking for something new for dinner as this recipe is both easy to prepare and cook, resulting in great pleasure to eat.

For the braised rice:
  • 300g long grain rice, washed in a sieve until water runs clear
  • 400ml tin coconut milk
  • 100ml water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3-4 thin slices of ginger
For the prawns:
16-20 medium sized fresh king prawns, peeled 
1 small or ½ large pineapple, cut into ½ cm cubes 
2 tbsp light soft brown sugar 
3 tbsp thick coconut cream 
4 tbsp lime juice 
½ tsp salt
For the spice paste: 
50ml vegetable oil 
3 red chillies, each halved with seeds removed (1 or 2 more can be added for a more fiery finish) 
1cm piece of fresh ginger, sliced 
1 large red onion, sliced 
3 cloves of garlic, crushed 
2 tbsp water
For the rice:
  • Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas 3.
  • Bring the coconut milk, water, salt and ginger to the boil.
  • Add the washed rice and return to the boil. Cover the pan with a lid and braise in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes, before removing the rice from the oven. Should the rice be slightly undercooked, leave to stand with the lid on to continue the cooking process for a few minutes before serving.
 For the spice paste and the prawns: 
  • Grind together all of the spice ingredients to a paste in a small blender, adding a touch of the oil a little at a time to keep the blades turning, if needed.
  • Heat the remaining oil in a wok or frying pan and stir fry the paste for 6-8 minutes over a medium heat until fragrant.
  • Add the light soft brown sugar, coconut cream, lime juice and salt, simmering gently for a minute or two before adding the prawns and pineapple.
  • Continue to simmer for a few minutes more and the prawns are beginning to firm to the touch.
  • The prawns are now ready to serve with the braised coconut rice.  
NOTE: Freshly chopped coriander can be sprinkled over the prawns. 
The sauce, if too thick, can be loosened with a little more water or coconut cream.

 This recipe and photo were kindly provided by  Malaysia Kitchen 

Love-Lovely Bittersweet Chocolate & Cointreau Tart

If you want to feel like a food goddess there is nothing better than to serve, "Une tarte au chocolat."

If desserts were like flowers and had a language attached to them, the sentiment connected to a chocolate tart would be sexiness.

If you are looking for a pudding that looks like it took hours of slaving in the kitchen but in fact was faster than the speed of light to make.

"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."

Bittersweet Chocolate and Cointreau Tart

  • 450g good-quality dark chocolate, bittersweet such as couverture, coarsely chopped
  • 225g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 250ml milk
  •  175g caster superfine sugar
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) Cointreau liqueur
  • 24 x 4cm blind-baked sweet shortcrust pastry case

Put the chocolate and milk in a large heavy based saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate just melts. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and pale. Add the egg yolks, one at the time, beating well after each addition. Whisk, in the cooled chocolate mixture, then whisk in the Cointreau.

Pour the chocolate filling int the blind-baked pastry case. Refrigerate for several hours or until set.
To serve, bring the tart to room temperature.

Carrot and Coriander Soup

Once a week I am going to try to touch base with the soup in the title of this blog. No bladi-bladi-bla, no anedoctes nor introduction, if I can help it....just a good straight forward recipe.

This week is my
Carrot and Coriander Soup

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 800g  carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1.25l (2 pints) vegetable stock or chickenstock 
  • 2tbs fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A dollop of cream or Greek yogurt per bowl, this recipe should serve 6


Heat the olive oil in a pan, stir in all the spices.
Add carrots onion and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the bouillon, the bay leave bring to boil, lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes
Allow to cool slightly, transfer to a food processor and blend- you might want to do this in batches or not to add all the liquid.
Served topped with fresh coriander, you also have to option to add a dollop of cream or Greek yogurt in each bowl.

Jom Makan Westfield

It all started at the Food Festival in Hampton Court, where I was one of the thousands of visitors who sampled Malaysian delicacies while he went in search of a decent burger. Next, an invitation landed on my virtual door-mat with a VIP pass for the ‘Malaysia Night’ in London’s Trafalgar Square. By then I was starting to appreciate and understand Malaysian most popular dishes. Having been in love with South-East Asia, for decades, I had a solid background.

subsequently, I was asked if I wanted to review "Jom Makan" newly open outlet in Westfield shopping center in Stratford (East London). I was told that the phrase,'‘Jom Makan’ literally translates as 'Let’s Go Eat'' and that, 'The menu offers the best traditional dishes from the family kitchens of Malaysia and the street hawkers of Kuala Lumpur, fused with classic Western influences to bring the shoppers of Westfield a new kind of fusion food.'
I love fusion food so Let's Go Eat.
If are not  yet familiar with Stratford Westfield center, it works this way: lower floor very fast-food, top floor fast food eateries, in between shops, shops, shops. Jom Makan is very inviting with its technicolored walls and cheerful staff. Our waitress was a mine of information and she was  keen to explain the extensive menu. The place was full but still but it didn't feel crowed at all.

All good signs.
We shared the starter: Enam Satay 6 sticks of a mix of grilled chicken and beef served with a warm peanut sauce on the side (£5.90)- I liked the sauce but the skewers didn't make a impression. It is decent food but that's all what I can say for it- mind you, I don't really recall any satay ever-

Same goes for the Roti, with the provisio, here, that some rotis have stuck in my mind as very good- this one was OK-

More research is needed for the popular Beef Randang (£6.60)A slow cooked beef which was real tender, we couldn't decide if the balance of spices was right or not. So the search for the perfect traditional Beef randang goes on.....

 Si Kelapa coconut rice (£2.00) was delicious, I loved it. The rice was cooked to perfection  and the subtle taste of coconut tingles my taste-buds all the way home. I liked my AYAM PANDAN (£6.20) too, boneless pieces of chicken, I liked the marinade, it was oozing with flavours but still delicate  and the pandan leaves wraps added a seal of authenticity.

Jom Makan offers a decent fare, the fusion doesn't really work and too many concessions are made to conform to our western taste but I am being told that a new chef has been bought over from Malaysia and will soon redress the balance.

Overall our experience was relaxing. The staff is friendly and know their dishes. We both enjoyed the experience. The portions are really large which gives you a feeling of good value for money. So all in all, a good choice if you are shopping in Stratford Westfield.
Jom Makan Westfield on Urbanspoon
My thanks to Jom Makam's management for having us as guests.

Carrot Pineapple Snowballs

Inspired by the recipe above, I created the scrumptious balls below.

Stated like this, it sounds really grand. However, in the reality of the kitchen, it often happens that you have a recipe, an aim, guests arriving and half the ingredients are missing.

I have built quite a reputation for using fish instead of chicken, an ingredient instead of another, "as long they have the same hue, that will do." Life is not perfect and if we can't have fun with what we have, I ask you: "where is the enjoyment going to come from?"

So "them snowballs" might be on the degenerated side of the good looking balls but they taste absolutely fantastic, they are great fun to make, take no more than 15 minutes to prepare and are easy enough to involve the kids in the cooking process.

 The sweetness of the carrots marries very well with the freshness of the pineapple.
Carrot Pineapple Snowballs
Makes 12 balls

425g can pineapple juice
175g grated carrots
200g self-raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
85g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
85g melted butter
150g single cream

To decorate

Juice of the pineapple
100g icing sugar
100g desiccated coconut 
A dozen of small cake decorations, I used edible flowers and chocolate hearts but the choice is yours

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 and line a muffin tray with 12 paper cases or if you have a 6 muffin-holes tray bake two batches. The ball will freeze undecorated for a month.

Drain the pineapple and reserve the juice
Crush the pineapple with a fork or a hand blender for a smoother texture
Melt the butter and let it to cool

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients that's the self-raising flour, the bicarbonate of soda and the sugar.

In another bowl beat the eggs and add all the other ingredients: the melted butter, cream, carrot and crushed pineapple stir well.
Add the "liquid ingredients" to the dry ingredients and stir quickly until smooth
Spoon in the cases
Bake for 18 minutes or until golden brown

To decorate
Mix 5 tbsp pineapple juice with the icing sugar
Put the desiccated coconut onto a plate or a tray
Peel the balls from their cases and spread icing all over each one. It will get very messy
Roll each  ball in the coconut shreds and decorate with the items of your choice.

Tefal Sensorielle Stir-Fry Pan : Product Review

Wave if you remember this?

 Unless you cook Asian cuisine on a very regular basis, the old fashion wok is the kind of ustensile which is used once in a blue moon. Moreover once used, it tends to get forgotten and languishes in the kitchen cupboard for ever.  Cumbersome, difficult to heat to correct temperature and impossible to clean, the traditional wok is theory.

Enters the Tefal Sensorielle 28 cm Non-Stick Stir-fry Pan, retail price at £29.00 :
Once the ridiculous marketing jargon, intensium non-stick + resistal base + Thermo-spot technology, translated, I was keen to give it a go. My first stir-fry "tuna steaks and stir-fry vegetables" was perfectly cooked.

I will not be able to comment on the intensium non-stick or in plain English the long-term non-stick, just yet. Tefal claims that most metal utensils except knifes and whisks can be used. This stir-fry pan looks very solid, a quality product. It is certainly deep and large enough to fry for a family of 4 and it is light which makes tossing comfy and easy.
The red dot: I was ever so sceptical about the thermo-spot technology but it works well. When the pan reaches the correct temperature the dot turns solid red. However what sold it to me is that the Tefal Sensorielle Stir-Fry Pan fries without oil, how cool is that?

The pan works on induction, it is dishwasher safe with the usual proviso.
My conclusion: I am not giving it back and it is not going to disappear in the cupboard's Bermuda triangle.

Traditional Tarte Tatin

traditional French dessert, tarte tatin, tatin, dessert

This post was written five years ago. The connection between dishes and memories which I mentioned in the original post has since taken an extra dimension. This recipe is my dad's. A year after, I photographed his signature dish and posted his recipe, he passed away.But, his name is still associated with the marvellous Tartes Tatin, he used to cooked, the traditional way. 

The secret of his successful upside-down tartes was to "plonk" a little dollop of butter in each  apple where the core originally was.

As the Inheritance Recipes is hosted on Pebble soup, it felt appropriate to bring back the spotlight on a recipe tried and tested many times  tried and tested recipe.

Join Coffee and Vanilla and I, in June, with your own Inheritance Recipes, Here is the linky

The original post 
Have you noticed how the mention of one dish in a conversation can trigger a wealth of memories? In this case, the phrase appeared on Twitter. Michelle, the owner of Greedy Gourmet a blog known for its excellent photography and straight talking, was enquiring about tips to bake a Tarte Tatin.

I got in too late, hers was in the oven by the time I replied but yours mine still be in progress. The traditional Tarte Tatin is a caramelised apples upside down tart.

So here we go for My dad's Tarte Tatin

6 Braeburn apples, peeled, cored and cut into quarters. Braeburn is best but Cox will do
100g caster sugar
60g unsalted butter, diced
30g unsalted butter, melted
300g puff pastry, rolled into a 24cm round (3mm thick)


1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C/160°C/gas 6.
2. Put the tarte tatin dish on the hob, over a medium heat, cook the sugar and diced butter to a brown caramel. This is where you have to be very careful not to explode the plate, so ceramic or metal dish and do not attempt this on a ceramic hob
3. Arrange the apple quarters very tight, around the edges first, with the core facing up and drop a little extra butter where the core and brush with melted butter.
4. Cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven and place the disc of puff pastry on top, tuck in the edges and, with a knife, prick a few holes in the top to allow some of the steam to escape during cooking.
6. Cook in the oven for a further 40 – 45 minutes until the puff pastry is golden brown and crisp.
7. Allow to cool at room temperature for up to one hour before de-moulding, apple-side up, on to the serving plate.          

Yam and Pumpkin Moussaka

You just have to try this yam and pumpkin Moussaka recipe, it needs a little planning, the list of ingredients being slightly involved: pumpkin, red onions, yellow squash, mint, parsley and yam but the result tastes delicious.

At first,  I was contemplating sliding this post in the Curious Ingredients series, not for the yam but the pumpkin. You would think that yam is a tricky vegetable to purchase but not at all. The surprise came from pumpkin. Imagine, I was told by the not so knowledgeable vegetable shop-keeper around the corner that pumpkins are out of season at the end of November. Only one natural conclusion can be drawn from that: "pumpkin is a decoration and not a vegetable". Contrary to yam which can be found all year around though not at all ecologically friendly.

Now pay attention, here come the encyclopedic bit: Yam is extremely versatile. It can be barbecued roasted fried grilled, boiled smoked. I remember it from the Filipino and strikingly purple dessert: halo, halo. Yam means to sample, to chew or to eat depending on the language.

The variety of yam you are likely to come across in the UK is not purple but has an ugly dark brown skin and beige flesh. The skin is supposed to be hard to peel but often is not. I wondered if is because, by the time yam gets to our markets it is not freshest of vegetables any longer.
Taste wise it is slightly slimy. I am conscious now that I should not apply for the yam PR job however used in this recipe yam is good. Its function is to replace the potato and soak up all the extra oil that moussakas even vegetarian ones produce.
Yam and Pumpkin  Moussaka

Serves 2/3

For the  béchamel:
25g butter
30 g all-purpose/plain flour
300ml  of whole milk
1 large eggs, lightly beaten
250g Greek feta cheese
100g grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
For the vegetables:
olive oil for sauteéing
2 large red onions, coarsely chopped
flour for dusting
1 pound or 500 g of pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into smallish pieces
1 pound or 500 g of yellow squash, trimmed but not peeled, and cut lengthwise
1 pound or of yams, peeled and cut into medium slices
salt and pepper
1 handful or chopped fresh mint
2 handful of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Make a bechamel by heating the butter in a small pan, add the flour and whisk vigorously don't let it brown add the milk a little at the time as you carry on whisking, I often use the hand blender.
when the mix is creamy add the cheese turn the heat off, season to taste don't forget the nutmeg and reserve

Prepare the vegetable
Caramelise the onions: in a saucepan on hot, add a tablespoon of oil when hot, add the onions, stir well, and reduce the heat and leave to cook for 15 minutes or until the onions have coloured a little.

While this is cooking dust the pumpkin and the yellow squash with flour
shallow fry the pumpkin, reserve. Repeat with the yellow squash
add oil to the pan and saute the yam: place the yam slices in hot oil and cook until brown at the edges.

Assemble the moussaka
In a large ovenproof dish
layer first all the yam, salt, pepper, one third of herbs
then the onions and pour bechamel to cover
now for the pumpkin, more herb, more bechamel
last the squash, the rest of the ingredients

This recipe and adapted from the excellent Zester daily



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