Savoury Clafoutis

clafoutisAccording to Rachel Khoo, savoury clafoutis are se very fashionable dish in Paris. I don’t know how accurate Rachel’s trend monitoring is, but the idea made immediate sense for me:

Instead of sugar and apples, pears or cherries, use savoury ingredients such as goats’ cheese, cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, a pinch of rosemary, a spoon full of mustard and a drizzle of chilly oil.

Or, if you want to think of in in another way, you can think of it as a quiche without the base. To compensate for the lost support offered by the shortcrust base, you add two spoon full of white flour to the mix – e voila! a savoury clafoutis. Even less work than a quiche, and just as good. Here’s how it goes:

Make 1 1/2 pint of a mix from crème fraiche, yogurt, milk, double cream. Add 4 eggs and two extra egg yolks. Make sure to have at least 100ml milk and 100ml double cream in the mix, and don’t make it too lean.

Whisk in 80g of white flour, a teaspoon of good mustard, salt and black pepper to taste.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line your favourite baking dish with backing paper. I use a 28cm dish, 3cm deep.

Find all suitable leftovers: Dice or crumble goats cheese, blue cheese, Reblochon or Gruyere cheese. Add cherry tomatoes, olives if you like, Swiss chard. Asparagus might work, roasted peppers most certainly will. Be inventive! Add a sprinkle of rosemary, then pour the batter over it.

Shake the dish a few times to let trapped air escape, then decorate the top with some slices of tomato. I add a generous drizzle of chilly-infused olive oil, but that might not be to everyone’s taste.

Bake at 180C for approximately 45 minutes. The time varies with the depth of your dish and the temperature of the batter when you start. It is ready when it has risen over the entire diameter of the baking dish, bubbles a little (mostly towards the edges), and has a lovely golden colour.

Remove from the heat, and let cool down in stages: first, leave on the counter, in the tray, for about 10 minutes. Then, lift the whole thing out of the tray with the paper, and put it on a cooling rack. Another 10 minutes later, see if you can remove the paper, so that the bake doesn’t get water-logged from the trapped steam.

Serve luck-warm or cold. It’s lovely, it’s like a quiche, but it doesn’t even require making a base: A Saturday lunch winner!


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This Week, I’ve Been Mostly Eating…

Gourmet Burger This week, I struggle to categorize my eating. Some was bachelor food but not all, some is south-east Asian and Chinese-inspired food (but not all), so whichever category label you want to put on it, here it is:

Re-fried pasta with bacon and egg (also known as Schinkennudeln),

A Chinese-esque noodle soup (a much beloved quickie),

A fruity and hot Singaporean Laksa (a much beloved hottie – fruity on account of the newly discovered Tamarind, by the way),

A slow-cooked Beef Rendang (a much beloved sweetie), and

Medallions from loin of pork, roasted with courgettes and feta cheese, served with rice.


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Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin in the making What can be better than a fresh hot Tarte Tatin to follow a meal of Chourcoute de Mer? I can’t think of anything, and a recent panel of judges (assembled around my dining table) seemed to agree.

You’ll find Tarte Tatin recipes anywhere. This one works for me – adopted from the much loved Larousse Gastronomique, and adjusted to my needs.

Tarte Tatin is a caramelized apple cake, baked upside-down. It’s pretty simple to make, especially if you cut corners and use ready-made deep-frozen shortcrust pastry for the base. I am sure more restaurants do the same.

Key to making Tarte Tatin is your baking dish. It needs to go over fire on fairly high heat, and it needs to go into the oven. There is no way to transfer the caramel from a frying pan into a baking dish; you’d spoil it. I use a stainless steel 280mm frying pan, and unscrew the handle just before it goes into the oven.

Once you’ve found a suitable pan (one with a double-life as a baking dish), then you’re good to go:

Buy frozen shortcrust pastry, the kind that is already rolled-out to fit a 280mm dish. Defrost one sheet, keep the other for another day.

Slowly melt 180g butter. When melted, mix with 180g caster sugar and seeds from one vanilla pod. Mix well, allowing most of the sugar to dissolve and the vanilla to distribute.

Peel 5 or 6 medium sized apples and remove the cores. I usually use Braeburn. Cut into eights.

Distribute the butter and sugar mix evenly across the bottom of the pan. There’s no need to cover the walls. Lay out the apple slices nicely into that mix. Make an effort to lay them nicely, but don’t be too disappointed if things shift about a bit in what comes next:

Put the pan over fairly high heat, maybe 8/10. Don’t stir, don’t shake, just keep an eye on it and adjust the heat as necessary. You want the butter to boil fairly violently, without splashing out of your pan. Do so until the butter and sugar mix makes a dark golden caramel.

Remove pan from fire and let cool down completely. (This is the state shown in today’s photo.)Do something else for two hours, then cover the apples with the shortcrust pastry. Tuck in the edges. Put aside.

Return to the tarte 30 minutes before you want to serve it. Pop into the oven (which you have pre-heated to 190C) for 30..35 minutes, top and bottom heat. Begin watching it after 20 minutes in case it darkens too quickly.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for five minutes. Just allow the temperature to drop a little, without allowing the caramel to set. Now flip it onto a serving tray, and serve immediately. Goes extremely well with a scoop of nice vanilla ice cream.


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Choucroute De Mer

choucrouteDeMer This is the perfect split between my German home cooking and my current home in England. I call it Fish and Chips, Brittany-style for the English, Sauerkraut Unn Fisch for the Germans, and Choucroute de Mer for the French-aware among us. I have heard of French people denying this meal’s authenticity, but trust me. You’ll find it in many places in Brittany.

It’s simple, it’s surprising, it’s different, it’s impressive, it’s delicious.

For 4 to 5 people, you’ll need a large jar (850g?) of Sauerkraut (=Choucroute). In England, you can now get it in most Supermarkets, and in all Polish Delicatessen. Per head, you need 120g of salmon (smoked salmon filet pieces preferred) each, 100g of white fish such as Cod or Haddock, and a couple of large prawns or langoustines.

First, cut half an onion into half rings, fry with a little white fat or lard and a good handful of dry cured lardons (or small pieces of good quality bacon). Add 850g Sauerkraut (drain it in a colander first), half a cup of dry white wine, 3 crushed juniper berries, 2 bay leaves, a pinch of salt. Cover, reduce the heat and allow to simmer on very low heat. Time is not critical provided the heat is very low.

Heat butter in a frying pan and gently fry pieces of salmon fillet. I prefer using lightly smoked salmon. When using fresh salmon, which has more moisture, I suggest dusting it with a mix from wheat flour and ground ginger.

Heat up milk in another frying pan – about 1 1/2 fingers deep. Don’t bring it to the boil, but close. Add 4 juniper berries and 2 bay leaves, then gently simmer the white fish pieces in it. This needs time (15 minutes?) because you’ll be cooking at only 80 Celcius, approximately. If the lardons (or the bacon) hadn’t done it already, now was the moment to realize this is not a kosher meal.

Meanwhile… heat up a good amount of olive oil in a small wok or pan. Add some real fire with some red chillies and a heap of fresh garlic, then fry the prawns.

Now finish the Sauerkraut with a generous amount of double cream. Stir this well under.

You’re done!

Put a nice heap of kraut on each plate, salmon and white fish on top, crowned by some hot prawns. Serves well with steamed potatoes or crispy potato wedges. Goes with white wine, and lots of Aaaaaahs.

Trust me. I know it sounds weird, but it really is lovely (and recently got approved by yet another crowd at my table).


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Pavlov’s Cat

DonGiovanniDrinks The daily morning ritual, following the personal hygiene, starts with myself going downstairs. This wakes the cat or, in the rare cases that he’s outside, brings him back immediately.

He needs feeding immediately, and tells me so in no uncertain terms.

Most of the days, there’s still food left in his bowl, and he is always far from starving, but he always needs a little bit of fresh food. I used to think that he needs some kind of reassurances about the continued supply of food, but I have now decided that he is more likely conditioned to the sound of his food hitting the glass bowl. He’s a true case of Pavlov‘s cat.

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