Showing posts with label cooking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cooking. Show all posts

Friday, November 21, 2014


In my house at Gamone, I’ve just assembled and installed two alarm panels like this:

The alarm on the left is a smoke detector, while that on the right detects lethal carbon monoxide gas. They both run on batteries.

I’ve installed one panel in the staircase, in the vicinity of my ground-floor wood-burning stove. The other panel is installed on a wall in the kitchen. These detectors are not expensive, and they’re easy to install. So, I’ll probably get around to installing other identical panels throughout the house.

My son François told me that he inadvertently tested his CO detector when cleaning the interior of the chimney pipe that evacuates smoke from his wood-burning stove. There were two 90-degree bends in his piping (which have since been eliminated thanks to a single vertical pipe from ground level to the roof), and it would appear that CO had collected between these bends. Consequently, as soon as François started to brush away the soot that had gathered in these bends, the CO floated down into his living room and set off the alarm.

François and I both felt that it would be reassuring if we were able to test our smoke detectors… without setting fire to our houses. At lunchtime today, I succeeded in doing just that, thanks to half-a-dozen barbecue sausages from my deep freezer. I cooked them on a flat iron pan of the kind used for making pancakes, heated by my gas range. Naturally, as the temperature rose, and the sausages sizzled, a bit of smoke escaped from the pan. Suddenly there was a piercing whistle, but I had no idea of its origin. Since I was also using an induction plate to cook vegetables to accompany the sausages, I had the crazy idea that the molecules in the induction system might be “resonating”  weirdly and catastrophically… and I half-expected something to explode. The whistle continued to shriek. Finally, I noticed that the smoke detector was also flashing a red lamp… and I realized what had happened. So, I rushed to the kitchen door and opened it to let out the smoke, which ended the whistle shrieks.

It was a successful and convincing test. Besides, I had the impression that the sausages and vegetables—which I ate on an outside coffee table, in the autumn sunshine, sharing tidbits with my dog Fitzroy (who had been just as disturbed by the alarm as I was)—tasted better than ever.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Over the last few months, my son François Skyvington has been examining the question of high-quality hamburgers (as opposed to the dull stuff sold in fast-food outlets), with a view to creating a roadside restaurant in this field. He tells me that one of the basic challenges consists of being able to create your hamburgers using the very best bread buns that can be imagined. You might say that the bun is the foundation upon which the hamburger is to be built. And, if you start with a low-quality factory-made bun, the hamburger cannot possibly be top-class.

A few days ago, at the local supermarket, I came upon a beautifully-produced recipe book on the theme of high-quality hamburgers.

Not surprisingly, the opening pages dealt with the question of how to bake perfect buns. So, I decided to give it a try. I should explain that I’ve been baking loaves of wholemeal bread for ages, first in an old-fashioned manual manner, and later by means of a bread machine (as I’ve mentioned often in this blog). But the lightweight white buns used in hamburgers are a rather different affair, and I had no experience whatsoever in this domain.

The opening line of the recipe, for 10 to 12 buns, indicated 600 g of flour, but didn’t say which variety. I decided to use plain type-45 wheat flour of the kind used by pastry-cooks. Then the recipe called for 25 g of fresh yeast. I took this to mean about two-thirds of a block of compressed yeast of the following kind:

Now, that particular amount of yeast, 25 g, was the first of a series of minor elements that made me feel that there was something slightly contrived (but not necessarily erroneous) about this recipe. Everybody knows that these familiar blocks of yeast weigh 42 g, and it would have been more natural if the recipe had been composed of measurements based upon a kilogram of flour and a cube of yeast, giving rise to a dozen-and-a-half buns.

The recipe then indicated the following list of 6 ingredients:

a teaspoon of salt
a dessertspoon of sugar
180 g of skimmed milk
150 g of water
1 egg
30 g of butter

The idea of expressing liquid quantities in grammes, rather than volumetrically (in centilitres, for example), intrigued me. But what astonished me most of all was the explicit suggestion that all these ingredients should be simply “mixed together”. Can you imagine a naive cook trying to mix into the wet flour an egg, butter and fragments of yeast? The recipe had obviously jumped over certain important details… so I decided to use my common sense and modest cooking experience.

First, I made sure that the salt and sugar were interspersed throughout the flour. Then I took my familiar blender (used for pastry) and made sure that the butter was totally integrated into the flour.

Then I scrambled the egg into the milk and water, and did my best to “dissolve” the fresh yeast in this liquid. Only then did I pour everything into the flour and start to mix it all together. In fact, the measurements were ideal, in that the resulting mass of dough could be kneaded comfortably (and thoroughly) on a floured table. The recipe then told me to leave the dough in an oiled salad bowl, covered with a wet cloth, for an hour and a half. By the end of that period, the dough had risen nicely, but not excessively.

Since the dough was quite elastic, it was not a simple task to cut it up into regular-shaped buns, but I did my best. (I’ll need to invent some kind of a trick solution at this level.) The recipe suggested a funny method for covering the top of each future bun with sesame seeds. I was advised to wet a few paper towel sheets and roll them into a ball. Then I used this damp ball to moisten the upper surface of each bun before pressing it into a saucer of sesame seeds. Finally, the buns were baked at 200° (in an oven housing a cup of water, to moisten the atmosphere) for 20 minutes. And the outcome of my first attempt at bun-baking was most promising.

Esthetically, they are not as regularly round as orthodox buns. I didn’t realize that, once the dough has risen and then been cut into bun-sized fragments, the elasticity of each fragment of dough defies all attempts at reshaping the bun. (Here again, there’s obviously some kind of a secret technique that I haven’t yet grasped.) Viewed individually, each bun was—if I can say so with modesty—a tiny masterpiece.

The interior was light and airy, yet firm: a little like English scones.

After a few minutes under a grill, the interior surfaces were toasted perfectly.

I decided to add some ham, cheese and olives for a tasty toasted lunch.

I conclude that the principles of bun-making outlined in the above-mentioned book are correct and workable in a domestic kitchen, even though they would appear to be derived from an industrial process about which I know nothing. I now intend to pursue my research towards the ultimate home-made hamburger… including French fries made with a fabulous French-made minimum-oil device—the SEB Actifry—that I shall be receiving tomorrow. Unfortunately, I’m not at all sure that my investigations might help my son, because there is a huge gap between all the interesting cooking experiments that can be carried out at home and the cost-effective solutions that are required in a commercial restaurant environment.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Basic vegetarian rissoles

My gastronomical enthusiasm for supermarket minced steak (for my standard chile con carne dish) was dampened by the recent horse-meat affair. And vegetarian urgings emerged in my imagination. Unfortunately, such urgings remain largely cerebral, rather than making my mouth water. That's surely a cultural failing due to the fact that I've never really been initiated by friends, restaurants and fine cooking into the marvels of meals without meat. To be totally honest, I lived for years under the ridiculous illusion that vegetarians were weirdos with visceral links (maybe there's a better adjective than "visceral") to astrologists, alchemists, religious ascetics, Seventh-Day Adventists and six-day bike-riders. I imagined that you would only have to ingurgitate a few vegetarian dishes and you would soon find yourself refusing, not only pork, but alcohol and vaccinations. Retrospectively, I realize to what extent I've often "reasoned"—even as an adult—in a ridiculous mindless fashion, governed by a set of stupid superstitions, no doubt developed during my boyhood. So I hardly need to explain that I remain, for the moment, an uninspired and uninformed vegetarian cook: the equivalent of the proverbial husband in the kitchen who can't boil an egg.

Back in 2011, I was proud to have unfathomed, as it were, the secrets of a mythical meat dish from a Greek restaurant of my student years in Sydney [access]. Today, my culinary achievements, far more modest, are presented in the following dull photo, which would be rejected instantly by any self-respecting cooking magazine or website.

Here, there is no horse meat. Indeed, there is no meat of any kind whatsoever. My delicious rissoles are fake steaks, concocted out of soy protein and dried cereals (oats, wheat, etc).

I was interested to learn that it's easy to store such uncooked rissoles in the deep-freezer. And they can then be cooked easily and rapidly on an iron grill plate placed above my gas burners, with a little olive oil.

As you can gather from the presence of the two bottles in my photo, I tend to be a heavy-handed user of both Worcestershire sauce (like my Walker uncles out in Australia) and soy sauce... which explains why my vegetable mixture (deep-frozen product) has a blackish look. Basically, though, the above meal is unadulterated (clearly-identified ingredients), tasty and healthy.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pumpkin scones

In the middle of a hot summer, life's not easy for pumpkins, which crave for water.

But they survive, and perk up—as sprightly as ever—as soon as the sun goes down. Then, in autumn, the harvest is so impressive that you end up wandering what you might do with all your glorious pumpkins. Well, here's my well-tested suggestion: Make pumpkin scones !

First, you need to produce pumpkin purée. Slice the pumpkin into big pieces. Remove the seeds, but don't touch the skin. Place the pieces on a non-stick tray (called Tefal in France) and bake at 200 degrees for an hour and a quarter. Let the baked pieces cool, then detach the soft pumpkin from the skin and place the fragments in a big bowl.

To transform the baked pumpkin into a purée, the ideal solution is a a gadget such as you see in the above photo. (My daughter Emmanuelle first informed me of the existence of this inexpensive soup-making device, many years ago, and told me that it would change my life... and she was spot on.) I soon had a pile of pumpkin purée.

Pumpkin purée is great stuff in that you can ladle it into plastic bags, each bag holding a cupful of purée, and deep-freeze it for your winter scones. Now, let's look at the recipe for pumpkin scones. At one stage, you'll need an essential ingredient that Americans (world champions in the domain of pumpkin scones) designate as pumpkin pie spice. In France, this product is obtained by mixing together four familiar spices, shown here:

Here's the precise recipe:

— a tablespoon of cinnamon (cannelle)

— a teaspoon of ginger (gingembre moulu)

— half a teaspoon of nutmeg (muscade moulue)

— half a teaspoon of ground cloves (girofle moulue)

Add a pinch of salt and mix. Keep the mixture in a sealed jar. For each batch of pumpkin scones based upon the preparation I'm about to describe, you'll only use a teaspoon of the mixed spices.

Here in France, people who would like to try out superb Anglo-Saxon recipes such as scones are often mystified unnecessarily by the names of three basic ingredients, whose French equivalents are shown here:

For French readers of my blog, here are the explanations:

— So-called buttermilk is simply fermented milk: a Breton product designated as lait Ribot.

— Anglo-Saxon baking powder is simply the French stuff known as levure chimique alsacienne, sold in its familiar little pink paper packets.

— Anglo-Saxon baking soda is simply the French product designated as bicarbonate alimentaire.

In France, these products can be found in your local supermarket. Once you've got everything in place, the preparation of pumpkin scones is quite simple.

Dry ingredients. In a big bowl, mix together 2 cups (260 grams) of flour, a third of a cup (75 grams) of sugar, a teaspoon of spices (as described above), a teaspoon of baking powder (levure chimique), a half-teaspoon of baking soda (bicarbonate alimentaire) and a dose of genuine vanilla.

As far as the vanilla is concerned, a convenient solution is the sachet of powdered vanilla sugar. If you resort to the liquid extract, then a few drops should be added to the moist ingredients (described below). The nec-plus-ultra solution that consists of grinding dried vanilla beans from Madagascar is applicable if you happen to have a son such as my François who visits all kinds of exotic places on his archaic moped.

In the usual pastry-making manner, use a pastry-blender device or a pair of knives to insert 125 grams of unsalted butter (beurre doux) into the flour. Here's a photo of a pastry-blender:

Stir in a generous quantity of raisins (I prefer the soft white variety) and walnuts (from Gamone, of course).

Moist ingredients. In a small bowl, mix half a cup (an 8th of a liter) of pumpkin purée with the same volume of buttermilk (lait Ribot). Stir well.

Insert the moist ingredients into the big bowl of dry ingredients, and stir lazily until everything is humid: just enough, but no more. On a floured board, pat the dough into a flat slab, and cut out eight fragments. Place them in small non-stick pie cups of the Tefal kind: a must for pie-makers.

Flatten each scone in its tray, then brush the top surface with a mixture of an egg beaten with cream. Sprinkle the top of each scone with chunks of pistachio nuts or sesame seeds. Place the Tefal cups on a large Tefal tray, so that the underside of the scones won't be scorched. Bake at 200 degrees C for some 20 minutes. Here's the result:

In all modesty, I have to admit that these are surely the finest scones I've ever tasted. To be eaten with a glass of cool Sauvignon.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Roast pork "Bangkok-en-Royans"

In France, in a butcher's shop or in the meat section of a supermarket, when you buy a piece of pork to be roasted, you generally get a rolled cylinder of lean pork sheathed in a thin layer of fat, tied up with string. That standard solution is not the only kind of pork to be roasted. Every Friday afternoon, a local pig farmer, Emmanuel Micolod, opens up his modern butcher's shop in a wing of his old stone farmhouse.

See his French-language website at Emmanuel's shop enables us to purchase cuts of top-quality pork and pork-based delicatessen foodstuffs. And you can phone up beforehand to make an appointment with Emmanuel's wife Maria Micolod to get your hair cut, in an adjoining wing of the farmhouse. (That's a frequent rendez-vous for my daughter Emmanuelle when she visits Gamone.)

For my roast pork, I simply ask for a big chunk of échine (shoulder). Back at home, I cut it into two or three strips, a few centimeters wide, then I call upon my magic Thai powder, purchased in the shop of a friendly Asian lady in Romans.

Apparently this is the product that Thais use to obtain their red roast pork. The pork is macerated in a solution made with this powder. The red color comes from the inoffensive E129 food dye, while the flavor is obtained from two strong spices: cinnamon and anise. Inevitably, like everything of this kind that comes out of Asia, there's some monosodium glutamate in the powder, but I don't see anything of a questionable nature in their list of ingredients. Once the pork has been macerated for a day or so, I simply slip the pieces into plastic bags and place them in my deep-freezer.

Before roasting, I let the piece of pork thaw out slowly in the sun. Then I placed it in a Pyrex dish and covered the meat in fresh bay leaves (from my vegetable garden). I roasted it slowly, for almost an hour, in an oven at 200°. And here's the final roast pork dish, which I've named "Bangkok-en-Royans":

The hot pork (straight out of the oven) is seasoned with green pepper grains and capers, and sprinkled lavishly with fleurs de sel and freshly-ground dried pepper grains of the Ducros 5 berries kind. The meat is accompanied by a few slices of my pickled walnuts macerated in honey and cherry brandy, and the greenery is simply tender parsley, straight out of my garden.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Kitchen pliers

Do you mean to say that you use a pair of pliers when you're preparing a meal in the kitchen?

Yes, they're ideal for removing the last few bones from slabs of fresh salmon.

And that's helpful in the preparation of my sushi dish.

Maybe you're trying to identify those strange dark circular slices in the middle, surrounding the squirt of hot-as-hell wasabi. They're pickled walnuts. In fact, I picked green walnuts just a few weeks ago, pricked them and soaked them in brine for a week or so to remove the toxicity, let them dry in the sun for three or fours days, and then placed them in a mixture of clear pine honey and kirsch (cherry brandy) to macerate.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Glorious salt marshes of France

The product known in French as fleur de sel is a prestigious gastronomical salt composed of white crystals formed by the evaporating effects of wind upon the surface of salt marshes. I didn't even know that such a product existed until I arrived in France.

The expression fleur de sel might be translated into English as "flower of salt", but those words don't mean much. Besides, I don't believe that anybody talks of "flower of salt" in English. So, I'll stick to the French expression. Here's a packet I bought a few days ago:

Think of it as super salt. The fleur de sel crystals are expensive, of course, because they're collected manually. When you sprinkle these extraordinary gastronomical gems on meat, for example, they add a wonderful salty crunchiness to the eating experience. Chefs add fleur de sel to their preparations at the last minute, so that the crystalline structure is not destroyed by the cooking.

The most celebrated French salt marshes are those of Guérande in Brittany. For countless ordinary shoppers in France, salt and Guérande are synonyms.

But the most ancient salt marshes are those of the Roman city of Aigues-Mortes, on the edge of the Camargue delta of the Rhône.

Most often, the salt marshes are a dull blue.

Their geometrical splendor stretches to the horizon.

Periodically, harmless algae add a glorious pink hue to the salt marshes.

Who would have said so: Salt is beautiful! And tasty, too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gamone cake

I started making this cake long ago at Gamone, and I'm still at it, particularly when the weather starts to cool down and I like to be reminded of summer fruit such as apples and figs.

The figs have emerged in fact from my deep freezer, while the apples come from a crate, sitting outside, that's more or less reserved for the donkeys. The cake is one of those upside-down things. That's to say, I lay out the fruit on the bottom of a cake dish and pour the cake mixture (eggs, butter, sugar and flour) on top.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cooking experiment

Last Saturday, my daughter took me to a wonderful restaurant in Tain-l'Hermitage, Le Quai, on the banks of the Rhône.

That was the view from our table. The old suspension bridge enables pedestrians to stroll across the river to the neighboring right-bank town of Tournon. In doing so, you move from the Drôme department into Ardèche. These two communes—Tain l'Hermitage and Tournon—are located at the heart of an exceptional viticultural territory, whose wines are labeled Côtes du Rhône.

Emmanuelle and I order the same main dish: carré d'agneaux (lamb cutlets) and gratin dauphinois (sliced potatoes roasted in cream). It was delicious. Amazingly, although that celebrated potato dish bears the name of the ancient French province in which I've settled down, the Dauphiné, I realized (with shame) that I had never actually cooked it at Gamone. So, I had to make amends for that laxity.

Inevitably, by the time I got around to preparing a dinner of lamb cutlets and potatoes at Gamone, my daughter had returned to her busy existence in Paris. So, she'll have to evaluate my culinary achievements solely from the following photos. For the lamb cutlets, I adopted a recipe based upon breadcrumbs, mustard, olive oil and aromatic herbs.

The authentic recipe for gratin dauphinois is surprisingly simple. The essential ingredient is Charlotte potatoes, which are particularly firm. (I must admit that I don't know if this ideal licensed variety exists outside France… and, if so, under what name.) And you need half-liquid cream of the kind sold in plastic bottles.

Slice the potatoes as thinly as possible. In an ovenware dish, place a layer of sliced potatoes, apply salt and pepper, and cover with cream. Repeat this to obtain four or five layers. Roast slowly: an hour at 150°. So, if you're cooking the lamb and the potatoes in a single kitchen oven, you'll need to insert the potatoes well before the lamb.

The sauce is obtained by the usual technique of déglaçage (deglazing). This consists of scraping up everything from the ovenware dish in which the lamb was roasted, transferring it to a frypan, applying heat for a few minutes in order to get rid of grease, and finally adding a bouillon concocted with a vegetable cube of the Maggi or Knorr kind.

My cooking experiment was totally positive. But, at Gamone, two elements were missing: the company of my wonderful daughter, and the view of the Rhône. On the other hand, Sophia and Fitzroy each got a bone and a bit of sauce.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Gamone fish recipe

This recipe for cooking a fish is extremely simple, but you need to have a garden with herbs. The fish in question happens to be a common sea-bass, which I bought at the local supermarket.

The general idea is that you stuff and surround the fish with everything you can find in your herb garden: thyme, rosemary, chives, sage, fresh bay leaves, etc. Above it all, sprinkle a lot of freshly-ground pepper, dried oregano leaves and a bit of olive oil. Then you simply roast it slowly in a mildly-hot oven (180°), until it looks right. Once it was cooked, I removed the charred herbs and served up the fish with Ebly wheat rice, covered in parsley.

This simple style of cooking reminds me of memorable fish dinners, long ago, in outdoor restaurants on the Greek island of Tinos.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Quiche du roi soleil

I've already mentioned the French tart known as a quiche lorraine [display]. Well, I've just invented this variation on the quiche theme, to be known as the quiche du roi soleil [Sun King Quiche].

That's a reference, of course, to Louis XIV [1643-1715]. You may recall that I spoke of this great French monarch in an earlier blog entitled King's anus [display]. In this new quiche, the spokes of the wheel (which might be imagined as rays of the Sun) are composed of midget asparagus shoots.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Favorite recipe book

I would imagine that many individuals, keen on cooking, have a favorite recipe book. When I settled down at Choranche in 1994, I used to talk a lot about cooking with my friend Georges Pontvianne, owner of the Jorjane hotel-restaurant. I was amused to learn that, in the kitchen, Georges was accompanied constantly by his battered copy of an old-fashioned French cooking bible: the Escoffier, published in 1919.

Written for professional chefs, the Escoffier (360 pages in this new facsimile edition) does not contain a single image of any kind whatsoever. Moreover, it's not really a book of recipes in the conventional sense, but rather a set of terse indications concerning the essential ingredients and procedures for the preparation of every imaginable dish. But these summarized descriptions won't be meaningful unless the reader is already well-versed in the terminology and basic principles of professional cooking.

I've often wondered whether an English-language edition of the Escoffier might be a meaningful and successful publishing project. The main problem, of course, is that most modern readers are accustomed to enticing photos of the ingredients and prepared dishes, and they've forgotten—as it were—that cooking skills remain a kind of "science" based upon a set of axioms and principles, rather than a vast collection of instructions, data, advice, hints, tricks, etc, enhanced by colorful language and images. This way of looking at haute cuisine is particularly apparent when we watch TV shows such as Top Chef and Master Chef, where the actors are generally performing in the style of artists and engineers, but often with neither a script (memorized recipe) nor a blueprint, let alone a safety net.

My personal favorite recipe book is a little like the Escoffier in that it contains lots of words, and no color photos.

I seem to recall that Christine gave me this excellent little book as a friendly parting gift back at the time our marriage was breaking up, and I was moving into an independent studio in Paris (just across the street from the apartment where Christine carried on living with the children). With her typical practical sense, Christine surely realized that this gift of a good book on cooking was a charitable gesture akin to participating in the safeguard of a species in danger of extinction: the emancipated ex-husband. And it's a fact that I have indeed survived and—from a cooking viewpoint—maybe even thrived.

One of my favorite recipes in the Sylvie Marion book is a traditional Jewish delicacy which is remarkably easy to prepare, and very tasty: pâté of chopped chicken livers. Back in the Marais neighborhood of Paris, long ago, I recall the big dishes of this delicacy (usually accompanied by chopped boiled eggs and onions) in Jo Goldenberg's delicatessen in the Rue des Rosiers.

Besides the chicken livers and a couple of onions, there's one essential ingredient: goose fat (which I purchased in a jar at the local supermarket). You use the goose fat solely to fry the chopped-up onions. Meanwhile, the chicken livers are grilled slowly in an oven, then chopped up and left to cool. I gave a few hits of the pulse button of my Magimix food processor to mix the livers and onions—along with a handful of fresh chives, and seasoned with paprika and pepper— until they formed a homogeneous paste. Then it needs to be chilled for a few hours before being eaten on toast.

In the above photo, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (current president of the International Monetary Fund) is preparing a huge slab of beef in his Washington apartment, while his wife Anne Sinclair (a celebrated French TV journalist) mixes a salad. Apparently, the future president of the French République (I hope) is particularly fond of pâté of chopped chicken livers, which probably evokes the cultural environment of his childhood in Morocco.

Yesterday, in deciding spontaneously to prepare this Jewish delicacy (for the first time in years), was I influenced by my favorite little recipe book? Or was I rather inspired by thoughts concerning my favorite presidential candidate?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Great Australian pie

My daughter used to refer to this dish as "steak and Sydney pie".

If I tell you that I'm never again likely to cook another steak and kidney pie of this nature, there's nothing poignant in my declaration. My words simply reflect the fact that this pie incorporates the very last packet of Gamone lambs' kidneys that was stored in my deep freezer, and that I have no intention of getting back into the lamb-grazing business.

Naturally, I could start the preparation of another such pie simply by going along to the local butcher's shop to buy lambs' kidneys. But I probably won't do this, since I prefer to stick to the basic Australian meat pie made out of minced steak. Now, I can hear purists complaining that, in daring to even talk at one and the same time about steak and kidney pie and ordinary meat pies, let alone being rash enough to compare them, I reveal my confused notions of Australia's famous dishes. It's a fact, as I've already pointed out in previous articles, that my dishes prepared here in France, using non-Australian ingredients, cannot possibly pretend to be orthodox. Besides, it's such a long time since I moved away from the kitchens of Waterview and Grafton that I've forgotten all my know-how… if ever I had any. Maybe it would be more honest if I were to abandon all references to Australia, and designate these various dishes as pure creations of Gamone.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chicken pie

I consider this dish as a simple variation on the theme of meat pies, since it's inspired remotely by my adolescent gastronomical memories from Australia.

As you see, contrary to what I said recently in a comment to my reader Annie, jokingly, I do in fact keep stocks of canned peas… which are just right for this quick-good-food preparation.

The recipe is elementary. Throw a few bits of white chicken flesh into a small quantity of boiling water. After a few minutes, hang on to the greasy liquid while using a knife and fork to transform the cooked meat into shreds. Make an ordinary white sauce with melted butter, flour and cream. Take it momentarily off the heat source. Use the above-mentioned liquid to enlarge the volume of sauce, while placing the mixture back onto a lowered heat source and stirring continuously. Add the shredded chicken, followed by salt, pepper and Provençal herbs. Use this mixture to fill a traditional puff-pastry pie (with chimney). The surface, painted with egg and milk, was sprinkled with sesame seeds.

If ever you felt like serving up this dish with leeks or peas (maybe in an ambiance of authentic Breton music from Princess Nolwenn), make an effort to get the spelling right. Avoid the presence of pie-loving dogs.

Friday, March 11, 2011

French quiche

This everyday French delicacy is known here as quiche lorraine, and this name is transposed into English (I'm told) as egg and bacon quiche. The term quiche (pronounced keesh) is derived from a German word for cake, and the adjective Lorraine designates a north-eastern region of France that shares a common border with Germany. This foodstuff, generally in the form of individual pies, is now sold in bakeries and pastry shops right throughout France, but the commercial product is rarely as tasty as the homemade dish… because the home chef normally uses generous quantities of superior-quality ingredients.

The recipe is quite simple. The bacon used in France is marketed, not in slices (as in English-speaking countries), but in the form of small cubes about a centimeter thick. They're fried for a few minutes, placed on the pastry, and then covered with a mixture of four eggs beaten with cream. Sprinkle grated emmental on top. I also decided to place chopped parsley and halves of miniature tomatoes on the surface. Cook slowly (about 25 minutes) in an oven at 180 degrees.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Peasant pie

This so-called peasant pie is a delicacy from the wooded Jura region of eastern France.

The basic ingredient is the celebrated sausage from the village of Morteau, to the east of Besançon, just alongside the Swiss border at the level of Neuchâtel.

These pure pork sausages are smoked slowly using resinous woods (pine, spruce and juniper), and this operation gives the sausage skins (natural pork gut) their amber color. As for the peasant pie recipe, it's remarkably simple (and there are no onions or liquid):

— roll of puff pastry
[Authentic peasants would have made their own pastry.]
— bottom layer of steamed potato and carrot slices
— middle layer of sliced sausage
— upper layer of cooked asparagus
[Peasants may have used leaks instead of asparagus.]
— topped (inside) with shredded Emmental cheese
— upper covering brush-daubed with mixture of egg yolk and milk

It goes without saying that many other kinds of cooked pork sausages might be used instead of the French Morteau variety. Don't forget the chimney in the middle of the pie. Best baked slowly (30 to 40 minutes) in an oven no hotter than 180 degrees. Eaten preferably in the presence of a genuine and admiring peasant's dog.

CONCLUSION: The only problem with my homemade pies at Gamone is that each one gives rise to several meals. I've never been courageous enough to test the possibility of deep-freezing dishes of this kind. Incidentally, I now know why the Good Lord invented big families, particularly in pious rural environments where food resources were meager and waste could not be tolerated. He did this in order to justify the preparation of king-sized peasant pies, which could be consumed at a single sitting.

REACTION FROM FITZROY'S FRIEND IN BRITTANY: I was surprised when Christine expressed her surprise that Fitzroy is absent from the first photo, as if I might be treating him harshly. I'm afraid that the idea of expecting Fitzroy to pose calmly for a photo alongside a dining-room table holding a peasant pie is unthinkable for the moment. Fitzroy is perfectly capable of scaling near-vertical rocky embankments. He does that regularly to inspect such things as the rustling of grass, or the movements of a lizard or a bird. So, the challenge of jumping up onto a table to devour a sweet-smelling peasant pie would be a quite simple and worthwhile affair for Fitzroy. When it's warm enough to sit outside for meals, I'll have to handle this educational problem.