24 December 2013

Gingerbread Cookies with Rum

In 6th grade, there was a programme in a bigger school to help French speaking kids (like me) learn English. It was called the "immersion year" where for a whole year, half of it was dedicated to learn English and the other half was the normal programme but crammed into half a year. Quite intensive, but I made the cut!

To make us learn English, not only did I had to watch the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Full House (watching tv as homework! score!) but they made us do lots of oral presentations, or show-and-tell they called them.

In one of those show-and-tell, I talked about those cookies I baked.

Should've known then I was destined for a life of baking and cooking!

These cookies are from an old recipe book that is falling apart. They were called swedish christmas cookies.

I have tweaked the recipe a little and a lot over the years. And I think the best ingredient is the rum. It gives a beautiful aroma and tastes yummy too. You could substitute with rum extract if you wanted to feel more safe if those cookies are made for little ones too.

To make them you'll need:

1 cup of butter
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup golden syrup
2/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon dark rum
pinch of salt
4 1/2 cups of plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon powder ginger
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon

It is best to start this recipe the night before you want to make them as they are best if they spent a night in the fridge. But 2 to 3 hours will do just fine (I am one impatient cookie, you see).

Cream the butter and the brow sugar together. Add the syrup, honey and rum. Mix for about 5 minutes with an electric whisk on medium speed.

Sift the flour and add to the mix along with all the spices. Your dough should be quite loose, not too stiff. Cover with cling film and refrigerate.

When you are ready to bake, take the dough out of the fridge and roll out as thin as you like your cookies to be (hint: the thinner you roll them our, the more cookies you'll get!) and cut out with Christmas shaped cutter.

Pop on a baking tray covered with baking paper, and bake in a preheated oven to 350 F / 180 C. Bake for about 8 minutes, but if your cookies are really thin, 5 minutes could be enough too. Keep an eye on them to be sure.

You can sprinkle them with sugar before popping them in the oven if you want to keep the decorating simple. Or wait till they have cooled down completly and decorate with pretty icing, I choose white but red and green would be fitting too!

I happen to think this little ginger man is a festive obligation, don't you agree?

17 December 2013

Roasted Garlic, Butternut Squash and Sage Quiche

I love a good quiche. Not the ones you buy pre packed that are quite heavy and have soggy pastry. But the homemade ones. They make a good supper and an even better leftover lunch, just saying.

They are ridiculously easy to make, plus you can pretty much put whatever you want in them. The more traditional ham and cheese to make a quiche lorraine is quite delicious. But a more autumnal one is always welcomed on frosty nights.

Squash and pumpkin are an autumn staple. They taste sweet, and the colour is so vibrant. It brings any dish alive. The roasted garlic adds a punch of flavour to this quiche. And the sage, well I never really use sage except for stuffing, so I thought, why not? And it works. It works all beautifully.

To make it you'll need:

1 recipe for shortcrust pastry (I use this one from BBC Food)
1 small butternut squash, cut into small cubes
1 whole head of garlic
a few sage leafs
4 eggs
150ml single cream
75g goat cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 F / 180 C.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the butternut squash, garlic and sage leafs on it. Add a little glug of oil (I used rapeseed oil) and some sea salt and pepper to taste.

Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Leave to cool.

Prepare your pie dish with the pastry and blind bake it; 10 minutes with some baking beans, then 5 minutes without to get the crust golden.

Place half of the butternut squash, garlic (get the skin off the cloves) and sage in the pie crust. Mix the cream and eggs together and pour over, then arrange the rest of the butternut squash, garlic and sage over it. Crumble the goat cheese over the top and pop in the oven for 40 minutes.

This quiche is amazing hot from the oven, or cold as well. No discriminating the quiche here.

10 December 2013

The Bestest Pecan Pie

Growing up, I never liked pecan pie. Which is a bold thing to say for having grown up in North America. Almost blasphemous dare I say! I thought the texture was all wrong. Grainy, like a cooked custard gone all eggy. Just wrong. Complete food aversion.

Then my mum made a pecan pie from a recipe she found in a magazine and happily proclaimed that I was going to love this new version of a pecan pie. And she did it, she cracked the nut, literally!

My mum makes this pie every time someone comes around. Or even if no one is around. And she has done so for the last 20 years. It is that good.

So gooey. So damn sweet. And the best part? No eggy texture. Just smoothness baby.

So are you ready for this bomb of a recipe?

To make it you will need:

1 recipe for shortcrut pastry (I used this recipe from BBC food - but you could also use a ready made one, just make sure it's all butter with no nasties added to it)
300g soft brown sugar
4 tablespoon flour
250 ml double cream
3 tablespoon maple syrup
cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg to taste (I use about 1/8 teaspoon of each depending how I feel!)
whole pecans, enough to cover the whole pie
1 tablespoon cold butter cut in teensy tiny squares

Preheat your oven to 350 F / 170 C.

Roll your pastry nice and thin and prepare your pie dish. I used a fancy rectangle flan dish, but a traditional pie dish is A-OK.

In a bowl, mix the brown sugar with the flour. Make sure there are no brown sugar lumps.

In another bowl, mix the cream, maple syrup and spices together. Then whisk this mix into the previous one.

Transfer to the pie dish.

Arrange the pecans on top, carefully, then add the little squares of butter over them. This will make them brown nicely.

Put in the oven for 45 minutes but keep an eye on it as sometimes, if the oven gets too hot, the pecans start to move and get immersed in the sugar mixture. It will taste just as nice if this happens, but it won't look as pretty.

Let cool completely before serving.

Dare I say a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top is totally amazing? Well there, I said it.

Pecan perfection (and a super crumb on my pastry base as well).

7 December 2013

Poaching Fish

Now I'm not talking about going fishing illegally into some random lake here. But about a different way of cooking the said fish! A fish acquired at your local fishmonger. Legally. Whatever fish tickles your fancy. For me it was salmon this time, as I am trying to load up on healthy omegas to help me through this cold weather.

Poaching fish sounds scary for some people. But I think it is actually quite a sofishticated way of cooking it. See what I did there? Oh lord.

The main thing to remember when poaching is to be gentle. It is all about submerging the fish into a simmering liquid, not a crazy bubbling lava. This will ensure the fish remains moist and does not get all dried up. Also the flavouring of the liquid used to poach. Important.

I made a little broth with:

a handful of chopped leeks (I keep mine in the freezer, so handy)
big old pinch of sea salt
3-4 whole peppercorns

Put all of the above into a big saucepan and cover with lots of water. You want to fish to be submerged, not poking out of the liquid. Then bring to a slow simmer and then pop your fish in for about 5 minutes depending on how big your piece of fish. I had two smallish fillet (about 7 oz each).

I also made some pea puree for 2 with:

1 tablespoon of butter
1 shallot finely diced
2 cups of frozen peas
250 ml of veggie stock (I use Bouillon)
125 ml of white wine (you can substitute for same amount of stock if you don't want to use wine)
1/4 cup single cream
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a pan and fry gently the shallot for 2 minutes or so. Add the peas, the stock and the wine and bring to a high boil and leave until the liquid has all but evaporated. Remove from the heart, add the cream and the seasoning and blitz with an immersion blender to a coarse sort of puree consistency (you don't want it soupy).

Transfer to a plate. Place fish on top. Add some herbs and lemon zest if you wish. And dig in!