Ice cream tartlets with caramelized orange

This is the time to start planning the holiday menu and why not start with dessert! Putting together these ice cream tartlets couldn’t be simpler really, I make a simple digestive cookie base, fill the tart moulds with my vanilla ice-cream and top the tarts with caramelized orange slices before serving. You can of course unleash your creativity and top your ice cream tartlets with any fruit you like. You can make those days in advance and just put the finishing touch before your Christmas or New Year’s dinner.

Yields 8 tartlets

Ingredients:
300g digestive cookies
3-4 Tbs water
4 oranges, thinly sliced
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs sugar

For the Ice cream:
500ml whipping cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1tsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean

Make the cookie crust: Place the digestive cookies a food processor and process for 30 seconds, add enough water trough the feeding tube for the cookie mix to look and feel like wet sand. Brush with oil 8 loose bottom 4-inch tart moulds and press the cookie mix on the bottom of of the moulds.

Make the ice cream: Using a sharp knife make an incision through the middle of the vanilla bean and scrape out the seed. Combine the cold cream the vanilla seed and the vanilla extract in a large bowl and beat with an electrical mixer on hight speed until firm peaks. Bring the speed to low and slowly add the condensed milk to the cream, mixing until fully incorporated, light and fluffy, about 2 more minutes.
Pour the mixture into the tarts moulds, smooth the top with a spatula, cover with a cling paper and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Make the Caramelized oranges: Heat half the butter in a large sauce pan sprinkle a few pinches of sugar in the pan and add the orange slices. Cook over medium heat for a about a minute per side and flip the oranges gently taking care not to rip the flesh . Let them cool down before using.

Serve: Take the tartlets out of the freezer about 5 minutes before serving. Unmould them, top them with the caramelized orange slices and serve.

Wine Suggestion: Serve the Ice cream tartlets with Riesling or Sauterne.

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Classic Panna Cotta with strawberries and amaretto

Classic Panna Cotta is one of those foolproof desserts which are beautiful, delicious and easy to make. You have the choice of making the heavier version using 1 little of cream, or to be calorie conscious and use whole milk only. In this recipe I suggest a combination of cream and milk for a not too heavy and yet silky rich texture. I have simplified the recipe even further by making a simple fresh strawberry garnish the flavors of which are enhanced by a touch a Amaretto and store bought strawberry sauce. It is a crowd pleaser dessert and for that reason I like to serve this classic panna cotta when we invite over new friends, whose taste I am not yet familiar with.

Serves 8

Ingredients:
2 cups whole milk
2 cups whipping cream
2 Tbs granulated gelatin
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
canola or sunflower oil for greasing the molds

For rose garnish:
2 boxes of strawberries
4 Tbs Hershey’s strawberry sauce (or jelly mixed with water)
3 Tbs Amaretto liquor
whipped cream
mint leaves

Brush with oil 8 ramekins or tea cups.

Make the Panna Cotta: Combine the milk and gelatin in a medium sauce pan and put a side for 10 minutes. Heat the milk over medium heat until the gelatin dissolves, don’t let it boil.
Add the cream and the sugar and heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot but not boiling. Stir in the vanilla extract. Transfer to a large measuring cup and pour the mixture into the ramekins or tea cups.

Chill for at least 5 hours or overnight.

Make the strawberry garnish: Wash, dry and cut in halves the strawberries. In a medium bowl combine the strawberries, strawberry sauce and the Amaretto. Set aside to allow the strawberries to macerate while unmoulding the panna cotta.

Unmould: Run the blade of a thin knife around the walls of the ramekins and dip them in hot water for a few seconds, then place a dessert plate over the ramekins and flip to unmould.

Serve: Spoon the strawberries around the panna cotta and add a few fresh mint leaves. Top with whipped cream and serve immediately.

Make it ahead: make the panna cotta the morning before your gathering or the night before, it tastes best if consumed within 24 hours. Put your washed, dried and halved strawberries in a tupperware in the fridge before dinner. Prepare the whipped cream and the mint leaves and keep them in the fridge. Just before serving, add the Amaretto and the sauce to the strawberries, unmould the panna cotta, plate and serve.

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Roasted Red Pepper Salad

Roasted Red Pepper Salad is among the most satisfying salads for my palate. It is all about the quality of the peppers and the way you roast and season them. Handpick the brightest red pepper you can find, grill them to perfection on a barbecue or over gas stove burner and season them generously with good olive oil and sea salt. The sweetness of the peppers, the smoky aftertaste left by the touch of fire, and the aromas of garlic, olive and thyme elevate this very simple salad into something really delicious.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
6 large bright red, firm-fleshed bell peppers
2 garlic cloves,thinly sliced
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
a generous splash of good olive oil

Roast the peppers: The way you choose and roast the peppers is critical for the end result here. The brighter red the peppers, the sweeter they are. You need smoke, so roast the peppers either on a barbecue or directly over the flame of your gas stove burner. Roast until the skin is completely black but the pepper are still firm to the touch. Place the grilled peppers in a glass bowl, cover in tightly with plastic wrap and let them sweat until cool enough to be handled, this will make the peeling much easier.

Season the peppers: Remove the seeds and stems and generously sprinkle the inside of each pepper with sea salt. Arrange them in a shallow dish sprinkle the sliced garlic and the black pepper over the peppers and add a big splash of your best olive oil (quality sunflower oil also works very well for this salad). Finish your roasted red pepper salad with some fresh lemony thyme.

Serve: You can serve it immediately, but I find it tastes better if left to sit for 1/2 hour or so at room temperature to allow the salt to be absorbed and the garlic flavor to infuse the peppers.
Serve it cut over sliced country bread as a tapa. Or make it into a individual salad course by serving each pepper in a plate alongside a ball of mozzarella and a slice of toasted baguette.

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Coq au Vin or French Chicken Stew

Coq au Vin is a traditional French chicken stew cooked in white or red wine and usually served with mashed or boiled potatoes and green beans. It is a comforting meal to share with family on a Sunday for lunch and yet elegant enough to serve to guests for supper. The process does involve a few steps but the truth is, that once you learn the French technique for making a stew you will use it to make dishes such as Boeuf Bourguignon, Civet de Lapin etc. Best of all, stews cooked in wine tend to taste even better the day after in my view, so cooking your Coq au Vin the day before your dinner party can make entertaining in style stress free. Serve it with fresh greens’ salad and buttered vegetables and you are ready to make a memorable impression.

Ingredients:
3 spring chickens (or 2 chickens, 1.3kg each)
1-2 Tbs duck fat (or 1 Tbs butter and 1Tbs canola oil)
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves peeled
1 Tbs flour
2 Tbs French brandy or cognac
1 large ripe tomato, grated
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cup white wine
10 black pepper corns
1 bay leaf
1 small bunch of fresh thyme
1 Tbs butter
400g button mushrooms
200g baby onions
salt an pepper

1. Brown the chicken: Cut each chicken in 4, separating the legs from the breast and wings. If using bigger chickens cut them in 6 pieces. Clean all the excess fat and other impurities. Wash well and pat dry with towel paper. Sprinkle with salt. Melt the duck fat in a large enough dutch oven or a thick-bottomed pot. Working in batches brown the chicken over medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a large plate and put a side.

2. Lower the heat, add the chopped onion to the pot and sauté in the same duck fat for 2 minutes or until transparent. Add the carrots and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the garlic cloves and cook for 30 more seconds. Lower the heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 more minutes. Deglaze the pan by adding the brandy or cognac and let the alcohol evaporate, about 1 minute.

3. Arrange the chicken legs in the dutch oven and pour in all the juices which have accumulated on the bottom of the plate, keep the breast in the plate. Add the chicken stock, white wine, grated tomato, pepper corns, bay leaf, thyme and a pinch of salt to the pot, cover it and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hours. Then add the chicken breasts and simmer for 15 more minutes.

4. Brown the mushrooms and baby onions: Clean the mushrooms and peel the baby onions, taking care to keep them whole. Keeps the onions in water while browning the mushrooms. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the mushrooms. Do not crowd the pan or they won’t brown. Add the mushrooms to the chicken stew. In the same pan gently brown the onions. Add them to the dutch oven. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve: Traditionally Coq au Vin is served directly from pot, so place you cast iron pot over a wooden board and serve on the table accompanied with potato puree, boiled or Hasselback potatoes and buttered French beans.

Wine Suggestions: Pinot Noir.

Tips: Browning the chicken with duck fat, not only gives it a beautiful color but also adds an extra layer of flavor to this dish, if you don’t have it just use butter and oil.
Coq au Vin can be made with white or red wine, I sometimes even make it with Rosé. When using white wine however I use freshly grated tomato instead of tomato paste because it does not affect the color of the stew as much as the paste would. Therefore, the exact same recipe can me made with red wine and tomato paste.
Adding the chicken breast to the stew later, prevent it from overcooking and makes a juicy and tender white meat.

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iles-flottantes

Serves 6

Iles Flottantes or Floating Island is a classic French dessert consisting of a poached meringue floating in a sea of crème anglaise as the name suggests it. It is known but not overwhelmingly popular in North America while it is much appreciated until today in France and can be found on the menu of most bistros there. It’s origins are considered to lie with the French countryside cooking tradition even though it is in my view one pf the most elegant and yet fuss free dessert you can surprise your dinner guest with.

Ingredients for the Crème Anglaise:
6 eggs yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk, scalded
1 Tbs corn starch
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
1 tsp cognac

For the meringues:
4 eggs whites at room temperature
4 Tbs confectioners sugar
pinch of cream of tartar
pinch of salt

For the caramel sauce:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water, divided

toasted sliced almonds

Make the Crème Anglaise: Scald the milk with the vanilla bean if using, over medium low fire, don’t allow it to boil. In a medium bowl, beat the yolks and sugar until pale, whisk in the corn starch (think of it as an insurance policy, corn starch significantly lowers your chances of failure). While still whisking slowly pour the milk into the yolks. Transfer to a clean tick bottomed pot and cook over medium low fire while constantly stirring until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Whatever you do, DO NOT LET IS BOIL.Transfer to a glass bowl or measuring cup, if using vanilla extract stir it in now together with the cognac. Place a peace of cling paper directly over the surface of the crème anglaise to prevent if from building a skin and chill it for al least 1 hour.

Make the Caramel Sauce: Combine the sugar and 1/4 cup of water in a small pot and bring it to a fast boil. NEVER STIR the caramel or it will crystalize and you would need to start over. Instead, swirl the pot to combine. Cook until it turns deep amber color. Pull away from the fire and add 1/4 cup of water, swirl again to combine. Put it back on the fire and heat until it is about to start boiling again. Let the caramel sauce cool completely before using it.

Make the Meringues: Brush 6 small ramekins or expresso cups with neutral oil such as canola and set aside. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and the salt for 45 seconds or until frothy. Add the sugar spoon by spoon, increase the speed to high and beat until the meringues mixture is glossy and forms hard peaks, be careful not to overbeat it or the meringues will collapse. Fill the expresso cups or ramekins to the rim, making sure there is no air trapped inside. Set your microwave oven to 750 watts and cook each cup of meringue for 8 to 10 seconds. The meringue will rise about 20% of its volume above the rim of the cup and you should watch it and stop the microwave before it starts to deflate. You will have enough of the mixture to be able to experiment with the first meringue. After removing it from the microwave, gently tip it out of the cup over a plate lined with paper towel, using a knife to help release it if necessary. Repeat this with all 6 cup, then refill them again without oiling the cups and cook the second batch of meringues.

Plate and Serve: Divide the chilled crème anglaise between the 6 plates gently place 2 meringues in each plate, sprinkle with toasted almonds and drizzle with the cold caramel sauce. Serve immediately.

Tips: Prepared this way, the meringues are more stable than if cooked in the oven as some recipes suggest, and much easer to make than if poached in milk, as some other recipes suggest. You can make the crème anglaise and the meringues in the morning and keep them in the fridge until dinner time, they will be fine even the day after. If you find yourself with left over meringue mixture, pipe it into bitesize roses over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cook for 2.5 hours at 90C/180C and you will have some fresh classic meringues to serve with tea.The caramel sauce could be replaced by a high quality dark honey, in case you are short of time.

Wine Suggestions: I like to serve my Iles Flottantes with a glass is good Sauvignon Blanc.

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no-knead-millet-bread

No knead millet bread topped with avocado and a slice of tomato has become a favorite breakfast of mine lately. Its dark nutty flavor gets even better when toasted. It is low in gluten and high in fiber and therefore you can indulge guilt free. This recipe yields 2 loaves, so you can eat one and free the second for later.

Yields 2 loaves

2 cups of millet flour
4 cups wholewheat bread flour
1/2 tsp dry yeast
2 Tsp salt
3 1/4 cups water
2 Tbs flaxseeds
2 Tbs golden flaxseeds
2 Tbs toasted sesame seeds
2 tsp poppy seed

Make the dough: In a large bowl mix well together the flour, salt and yeast. Make a well in the center of the mix and add the water. Using your hands mix until you get wet, sticky dough and no dry patches are left. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in a cupboard, oven or microwave for 20 to 22 hours.

Add the seeds: Tip the dough over a floured surface, it should be very wet. Sprinkled over the flaxseeds and the sesame seeds and fold the dough several times on itself to make sure the seeds are well incorporated. Divide the dough in two equal part and place each of them in a standard nonstick poundcake or bread mould. Sprinkle with the poppy seeds, you can add some flaxseed as well, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise a second time for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 250C/480F.

Bake: Cover the moulds with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, lower the temperature to 210C/410F and bake for 20 more minutes.
Remove from the moulds and let the loaves cool over a rack in order to preserve the crust. Leaving them cool in the moulds would result in soggy crust.

Tips: This recipe will produce a crusty of the outside and very soft on the inside dark bread. It is quite low in gluten and high in fiber. I keep mine for up to 3-4 days on a bread board covered with a tea towel it retains its moisture. I enjoy best my no knead millet bread toasted, as toasting it turns the seeds fragrant and delicious.

 

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Homemade Bounty Bars

My latest posts are dedicated to my son’s food cravings. Homemade Bounty Bars are among David’s favorite guilty pleasures, fortunately they are quick and simple to make. It is important to use full fat desiccated coconut, the low fat variety will not do. As to the chocolate, I use alpine milk chocolate bars but you can pick your preferred type, just make sure not to add more milk than necessary or your bounty bars glaze may not harden sufficiently. But don’t worry…worst comes to worst you would have to lick your fingers.

Yields 15

Ingredients:
2 cups of desiccated coconut
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup cream of tartar (optional)
1/2 cup condensed milk
200g milk chocolate
1 Tbs unsalted butter
2-3 Tbs milk

Make the filling: In a large bowl mix together the coconut, sugar and cream of tartar. Drizzle the condensed milk over and knead it gently into a thick dough. Wash your hand and oil them well with canola or sunflower oil. Roll the coconut mixture into 15 rolls, try giving them the shape and size of store-bought bounty bar. Arrange them in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and put in the freezer for about 10 minutes while you are making the glaze.

Make the graze: Chop the chocolate, add 2 to 3 spoons of milk and melt it over a double boiler. Dip each piece in the chocolate then place it back on the parchment paper and chill until firm.

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Pizza Margherita

Pizza Margherita is my 5 year old son’s favorite take out food and over time I decided to perfect the recipe and start making the pizza at home rather than constantly looking for pizza joints. The pizza dough can be made in advance in large quantities and frozen. Fresh tomato sauce and good mozzarella cheese make it particularly gourmet.

For the pizza dough:
4 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour (or substitute half for bread flour)
2 tsp dry yeast
1 1/4 water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbs olive oil

For the pizza sauce:
1 1/4 cup of peeled and strained tomatoes
1 1/2 Tbs tomato paste
1 tsp salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs olive oil

fresh basil leaves
400g mozzarella cheese, sliced

Make the dough: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and knead for 5-7 minutes until smooth and elastic. Form a ball, brush it with olive oil to prevent it from drying, cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and put in a warm place to rise to double its size for 4 hours or in the fridge overnight. Transfer the dough to a floured surface, divide it in 4. Roll each piece in a smooth ball. If not using the same day, wrap the dough in plastic and freeze. Thaw overnight in the fridge, or at room temperature for at least 3 hours before using. If you are using the dough the same day, place the ball in a baking sheet 2 inches apart, cover with a kitchen towel and let rise a second time for about 1 hours.

Make the sauce: Combine all the ingredient together, mix well and let sit to allow the flavors to combine while you are rolling the pizza dough.

Preheat the oven to 250C/475F with a pizza stone inside for at least 20-30 minutes. A cast iron skillet works too.

Bake: Using a rolling pin roll each ball of dough into a 11-inch circle, spread a couple of tablespoons of sauce over it, top with mozzarella and bake on the stone until the crust turn golden around the edges and the mozzarella is melted and with a few brown spots.

Serve garnished with a few fresh basil leaves and pinch a freshly ground black pepper.

Wine suggestions: Pizza Margherita pairs nicely with Chardonnay, dry rosé or Grenache.

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Baba au Rhum

 

 

Baba au Rhum is another French classic which I like to prepare when expecting guest for dinner. It s elegant, wildly appreciated by most and can be prepared hours in advance. Use the best quality rum as you will clearly taste it in the babas. I use artisanal vanilla pod flavored rum from Mauritius offered to me by friend native of the island. The modern baba was invented in Paris around the beginning of the XIX century, but its original version was introduced in France by an exiled Polish king, Stanislaw Leszczynski whose daughter later married king Louis XV and brought her personal pastry chef to Versailles. Rum was at the times substituted for sweet Malaga wine and a pinch of saffron was added to the dough.

Ingredients for the dough:
3 Tbs unsalted butter at room temperature plus more for greasing the molds
2 Tbs canola oil
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 Tbs dry yeast
2 Tbs sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup of dry black currents ( or raisins)
2 Tbs good quality rum

For the sirup:
6 Tbs rum
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the glaze:
1/2 cup apricot jam
1 Tbs water

250g whipping cream
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Make the dough: Combine the warm water, dry yeast and sugar in the bowl of an electrical mixer and set aside for 10 minutes until bubbly. Put on the mixer on low speed and add the eggs, then the flour, the salt, the soft butter and the canola oil. Increase the speed and knead for 5-7 minutes. The dough will be very soft, almost like batter. Cover with a kitchen towel and put in a warm place to rise to double its size, about 60 minutes.

Stir the black currents with 2 tablespoons of rum in a small bowl and set aside.

Butter well 8 small kugelhopf molds and place them in a shallow baking sheet.

When the dough has doubled its size, fold in the soaked in rum currents with a spatula. Then spoon the dough into the kugelhopf moulds, half way full, cover them with a damp towel and let rise a second time for 45 minutes. The dough should reach the rim of the molds.

Make the sirup: Combine the sugar and water in small sauce pan and boil over high heat for 5-7 minutes until the sugar has dissolved and the sirup starts to slightly ticket. Set aside to come to room temperature and stir in the rum and the vanilla extract.

Preheat the oven to 185C/375F.

Bake the babas for 15 minutes, then tap them out of the moulds and let them cool on a rack.

Make the glaze: Combine the apricot jam and water and heat in a microwave until warm and runny. Pass the glaze trough a sieve and discard the solids.

Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla extract, transfer it to a pastry bag and put in the fridge until needed.

Assemble the babas: Very slowly pour the sugar and rum sirup in the hole of the babas and watch them miraculously absorb it all. Then gently brush the glaze over each of them. Pipe the whipped cream in the center and serve.

Serve with the same kind of rum used for the preparation of the babas.

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Montreal Bagels

Bagels is what the kids and I make when we feel homesick. Montreal being our hometown, we have a thing for bagels. My five year old son was basically raised in expatriation, first in the Middle East and then in Africa and yet he is probably the most fervent fan of the Canadian breakfast institution also known as Tim Hortons. I am not really a donut lover but a toasted bagel with cream cheese on Sunday morning in January, when the thermometer easily hits the surreal but very much possible -40C, is a real treat. This bagel recipe will give you a quite authentic Montreal bagel shop taste. The secret is in the dense dough (don’t be tempted to add more water that the recipe calls for) and the sugar water bath you offer to the bagels before baking them. Enjoy!

Yields 12 big bagels

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup of lukewarm water
1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
1 1/2 Tbs honey
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbs canola oil
1 Tbs salt
2 Tbs sugar
sesame seeds, poppy seeds, flax seeds

Make the dough: Combine the lukewarm water and the dry yeast in the bowl of an electrical mixer fitter with a dough hook, add the honey and let it sit for 5 minutes until bubbly. Add the flour, oil and salt and knead for about 10-12 minutes allowing the dough to rest for 30 seconds every 3 minutes. Cover with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour, it should increase in volume by 50%.

Parboil: Sprinkle an even layer of corn meal over a large baking sheet and set aside. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, punch the air down and cut it in 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball, then punch a hole in the middle with your thumb and shape the bagels using your index finger and your thumb. Line them in the baking sheets 1 inch apart, cover them with a kitchen towel and let the bagels rise a second time in a warm place for 45-60 more minutes.

Preheat the oven to 210C/425F.

Bake: Brush with oil and sprinkle with flour a large baking sheet. Bring about 4 inches of water to boil in a large saucepan, add 2 tablespoons of sugar. Parboil the bagels for 30 seconds per side 2 to 3 of them at a time. Drain them very well and line them in the baking sheet. Sprinkle with seeds while the bagels are still wet and bake them in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes.

Serve the bagels toasted with cream cheese and smoked salmon.

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