Thursday, August 02, 2007

French Journey continued....

I have been some what culinarily distracted...easy to happen in the big day Greek, next day Turkish, Japanese etc.

So where was I...Day 2 of the French Culinary Challenge. This is how it went...

Woke with vigour...croissants and coffee fo breakfast will I ever get sick of this?!!

Breakfast was quick as I had a busy day at work ahead of me. Lunch I had prepared the night before, so I grabbed it from the fridge on my way out the door.

Garlic Soup

2 bulbs of garlic(about 30 cloves), separated
125ml of olive oil
125g streaky bacon, finely chopped
1 large potato, diced
6 Cups (1.5 litres) of chicken stock
3 egg yolks
1 tsp thyme, 1 bay leaf, 2 tsp oregano, 3 whole pepporcorns tied up in small piece of muslin (otherwise known as a bouquet garni)

1. Smash and peel the garlic (smashing it makes it easier to peel)
2. Heat 1 Tb of the oil and cook the bacon over a moderate heat for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and potato and cook for a further 5 minutes.
4. Add the stock and bouquet garni and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Put the egg yolks into a deep conical bowl. Begin whisking, gradually adding the oil in a thin stream. Continue whisking until it has thickened (this is a basic mayonnaise base). Whisk this mixture into the hot soup. Strain the mixture into another bowl or saucepan. Season to taste and gently reheat.

Serve this with a fresh baguette or another fresh crusty bread.

You may wonder why I chose this soup (garlic and all) to eat at work, but the garlic is well cooked and you shouldn't really have any breath problems unless you are particuarly sensitive.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

French Culinary Challenge Day 1 - Part 2

Ahh dinner...its been long time coming!!

I think one of the key things about French cooking is their wonderful use of herbs. fresh is great, but dried also has its place. So tonight I thought the flavours of sage, rosemary and parsley should be the central to my meal. What did I decide to cook? The first vegetable that came to mind was the humble potato...leek, garlic, cheese need I say more...I made my own version of potato gratin and the recipe went like this.....

Pip's Potato Gratin

6 large potatoes, peeled and very thinly slice into discs
1 leek, sliced thinly and washed thoroughly
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup stock (chicken or vegetable)
1/4 c milk
1 large handful of mixed herbs (I used sage, rosemary and Italian parsley), roughly chopped
1/2 c grated cheese (sheeps milk cheeses such s pecorino, roy de vallee or ossau irraty work well)

1.preheat the oven to 170 degrees.
2.Layer the slices of potato, garlic, leek and herbs in an deep oven dish.
3.Combine the milk, cream and stock together in a jug. Beat with a whisk or fork until combined and a little frothy.
4.Pour the milk mixture over the top of the layered vegetables.
5.Top with grated cheese. Cover the dish with foil.
6.Place in the oven and cook for around 2 hours. For the last ten minutes remove the foil and remove when it is golden and bubbling.
7.Please let this dish cool for 10 minutes before attempting to eat it as you will burn your mouth out otherwise!

Ahh the perfect winter warmer!

Friday, April 21, 2006

French Culinary Challenge Day 1 - Part 1

Well day one of the French Culinary Challemge is here and I am up early, hungry and eager to embark upon the trip to the bakery for my fresh croissant! I guess I could have gone last night, but that wouldn't have been very French(visits to the bakery occur daily) nor as fresh. So where did my croissant come from today? Deganni's bakery in Fairfield (there are few of the around, but good quality stuff and interesting range of cakes) most importantly they make their croissants with all butter. I have found that many Australians make their croissants with margine or a mixture which results in a very different taste and texture and the French would never dream of using anything but butter!
Now for the important details I didn't heat up the croissant (when they are fresh there is reallly no need to...) I enjoyed it with homemade plum jam and a cafe au lait.(A large milky french breakfast coffee)I have never worked out with it is ok to dip your croissant into the coffee or whether that is the height of rudeness (I did) maybe someone can let me know the etiquette?
So by about 11 o clock I am starving ( I have not yet adapted to filling up on white flour pastry only...) so I decide a classic nicoise salad might be the trick to get me through the day. Ok so these are my best tips....use tuna canned in olive oil (you can drain off the excess oil so the salad is not too oily) the texture and flavour is far superior...Boil the potatoes in stock to add some extra flavour...use the smallest sweetest tomatoes you can find and don't over boil your egg....!The recipe goes like this....

Nicoise Salad

1 small can of tuna in olive oil
1/2 punnet of cherry tomatoes or a couple of small sweet tomatoes,halved
a small handful of green beans
1/4 red onion, diced
a small handful of black olives
1 egg, soft boiled
1 large potato
fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
balsamic, olive oil and little mustard to dress the salad

1.Wash and cube the potato and boil in stock(optional)until soft. Drain and set aside.
2.Boil the egg in fresh water until soft boiled about 5 mins.
3.Top and tail the beans (cut off the ends) and halve them if they are large. Steam them over the top of the boiling egg. Refresh with cold water once they are tender.
4.Now time to compile. Toss the potatoes in the bottom of a large bowl and mix with the onion. Toss through a teaspoon of your favourite mustard and parsley. Season lighlty.
5.Arrange the beans and tomatoes on top and drizzle with a little balsamic and olive oil. Again lighlty season.
6.Drain the can of tuna and break up with a fork, arrange on the top of the salad. Top with egg slices (obviously this means you have to slice the egg!)and finish with the olives and some extra parsley. You can add a little more balsamic and oil if you think you need it.
So next instalment...dinner....

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Cheese Photo Gallery

Thursday, April 06, 2006

And the bread is rising....

So how did my bread turn out...pretty good actually, not terribly tangy yet, but that will come as the starter ages. It also took a long time to rise, but again that will improve with time, I think the general flavour and texture of bread is improved with slow rising, I guess its just a little bit difficult to make unless you going to be around the house for a good chunk of the day. Lucky I was and I combined the day of "making stuff" by catching up on some well needed cheesemaking...I say that because I find making cheese an extremely meditative and also well needed because I have a backlog of people waiting for some cheese! I made brie, fetta, haloumi and ricotta. The haloumi will form part of dinner tonight, while I will marinate the fetta in a few days. The brie will take 3-4 weeks before it is ready.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The sourdough is bubbling

The is something most satisfying about creating something from scratch as you would all well know!....but then there is an extra level of satisfaction when what you have created has several stages that take days or longer to grow...I am talking about cheese and sourdough bread....that's wht I have been up to lately...
First with the bread - I have been making my own bread and baked goods for quite sometime, but as I mentioned in an earlier entry it has been many years since I have made my own sourdough starter, although I have lways sought out bakeries who use one and I love the flavour, infact my favourite thing are the sourdough croissants I buy from the Kingfisher Bakery in Northcote, Melbourne, but I am looking forward to making my own. Now it is pretty easier to make a sourdough starter all you need is flour and water, but this time I did a little more research to find some other approaches to making the starter. I used a combination of ideas in the end.Here is the recipe -

Sourdough Starter

1 cup flour
1 boiled potato (peeled) mashed, with some the cooking water retained
1/2 cup potato cooking water, cooled
1/2 cup water
3 sultanas or raisins, chopped

Mix all ingredients together to make a smooth paste.
Place in a non metal bowl (ceramic is good) in a warm place and cover with cheesecloth or a thin material that will allow the starter to breathe.
Stir the starter everyday. It will take 3-5 days for the action to start happening ie.bubbling with a sour smell. After this time keep the mixture in the fridge. Use about 1 cup of starter to every 600g of flour and replenish the starter with equal quantities of flour and water to keep it going.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

So what am I going to do about it......and other tales of a simpler life!

It has been a while since my last post and you are probably wondering what I have been doing lately reflectioon to my last comments?
I do feel like I have had a culinary epiphany of sorts, one that seems to have taken me back to my roots. This week I have started making cheese in ernest after sourcing some raw milk. I have also made a sourdough starter for bread which is currently bubbling away nicely in the corner(that is something I haven't done myself in years, relying on commercial yeast to cover my lack of planning!) I have done a lot of research into free range and organic meats available in my area and I am very excited about Bills Butcher in Belgrave who stock almost solely organic meats and do a great deal of their own smoking which is fantastic and it's not overly expensive. I am exploring the world of sprouted grains(apparently sprouting makes the grains easier to digest and the nutrients contained within easier to absorb)It seems that most of what I am discovering are not new ways of treating food, but very old ways, its funny how we think we have made so many advancements in technology and yet we don't always make life better, infact often its quite the opposite we make it more complicated in so many ways.
I don't think it is that strange to want to know where your food is coming from...while we are becoming more interested in artisan products we rarely ask questions about the origins and treatment of those goods and while somethings I love to source from overseas, there are some things that we just shouldn't. I enjoy eating seasonally it gives contrasting flavour and feel to the culinary year and yet there are still many people who want strawberries all year round and therefore source from big chain supermarkets and consequently have probably never tasted a good strawberry....
Growing things yourself is the obvious answer to ensure quality and taste and the purest of treatent, but obviously that is not always possible, so thats where farmers markets come in to it and roadside stalls, get to know who grows and rises what in your area, it will be quite an education. There is a certain amount of pride taken in knowing where the food your eating is from and one that I consequeently find myself raving to others about...
Change doesn't have to be big to be significant.....
and p.s.blueberries are a nutrional giant and they taste brilliant too - bonus!