Saturday, January 29, 2011

Full Disclosure: My guilty little Kitchen Secrets

I think every cook has a little guilty secret stashed away somewhere in the kitchen. Well, here are mine: I don't think I could manage without Vegeta. I first came upon this wonderful vegetable seasoning on a trip to Croatia where it is widely used and then again found it in Turkey. Not having managed to find it anywhere in France so far I always ask German friends to bring it since all the Turkish shops in Germany sell it. I use it instead of stock cubes that I often find too salty and it also is suitable for vegetarians, which my other guilty secret most certainly is not:

There is no beef stew that I wouldn't add a tablespoon or two of this dense and wickedly delicous extract to - I also have been know to just dip a little spoon in (not a finger, noooo, never....)  just for the guilty pleasure of tasting this strangely addictive concoction. Sadly also Bovril I have yet to find in France but I am lucky to have a brother who lives in Edinburgh and keeps me in Bovril and  - no, let's not get into that one....
But I am curious to know - what are your little kitchen secrets, guilty or otherwise?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Morroccan Soup to fight the Mistral

When it is as cold outside as it has been here the last few days my mind automatically turns to soup - hearty, warming thick winter soup. So for inspiration I went into the kitchen drawer that holds my recipe scrapbook and found a recipe that I'd ripped out of some magazine and never before prepared: "Soupe Marocaine".  I almost gave up when I saw the (very) long list of ingredients but now am very glad I didn't because it most certainly was not the last time this "Morrocan Soup" made it to our table - it is delicous and the smell of cinnamon, cumin and cilantro evoked memories of a trip to the beautiful city of Marrakesh far too long ago.
Ingredients - serves 4   
500 g lean lamb - cubed, 150 g squash - peeled and cubed, 150 g canned chickpeas - well rinsed, 100 g red lentils, 2 zucchini - chopped, 2 mild white onions - peeled and chopped, 1 red pepper - chopped, olive oil, 1 can (450g) peeled tomatoes, 1 tbsp tomatoe puree, tsp powdered cumin, 1 tsp paprika powder, 1 tsp cinnamon powder, a cube of vegetable stock, salt and pepper fresh from the mill.

Heat a generous splash of olive oil and brown the lamb cubes on all sides. Add the chopped onion, season with a few rounds of pepper from the mill, the cumin and paprika powder. Stir and let cook for a few minutes. Add the chickpeas, dissolve a cube of vegetable stock in 1.5 liter of water, add and let simmer on medium heat for about one hour. Add the rest of the ingredients and the cinnamon and let simmer for another 20 or so minutes.
Check seasoning and sprinkle plenty of fresh cilantro leaves on top before serving with a crunchy baguette and a nice red wine, of course. Then let the Mistral (the icy Provençal wind from the north) blow all he wants - this soup keeps you warm!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Brouillade aux Truffes - the photos!

Step 1: Crack eggs, shave truffles on the mandoline

Step 2: Season with kosher salt and pepper from the mill, then mix with a fork

Step 3: Over a bain-marie stir with wooden spoon until just set

Step 4: Add crème fraîche, some more truffle shavings and a pinch of fleur de sel (kosher salt).
Breathe deeply. Eat. Sigh happily.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Brouillade aux Truffes - sans photos!

I know, I know - I should be ashamed of myself! I did prepare the Brouillade aux Truffes and here comes the recipe - but: I did not take photos. Thing is, we had guests and my OH who could have taken the photos was busily entertaining them . And if you don't get a brouillade on the table nice and hot- straight away that is, you might just as well  not prepare one at all.
But: two little truffles were left and right now there are another four eggs sitting on top of them and doing their very best to absorb the heavenly flavor. And as soon as they are done with the truffle brooding I will deliver the photos, promised!
For a Brouillade to serve four people you need: 6 large "truffled" eggs (eggs that have been absorbing the truffle aroma for a day or two), butter, salt and pepper, crème fraîche and one nice truffle.
Break the eggs into a bowl, add salt and pepper and a few truffle shavings and whisk together, but don't overmix.

The famous "Mandoline"

In  order to get as much mileage as you can out of your truffles you need a "mandoline" that shaves the truffles paperthin.
Prepare a bain-marie. Melt some real good butter (don't even think about margerine or other half fat stuff) in the pan that sits above the gently boiling water and pour the eggmixture into this pan. Start stirring with a wooden spoon until mixture starts to thicken. Add a tablespoon of crème fraîche, stir some more and add a few more truffle shavings.
Serve straight away on warm plates with slices of crunchy baguette on the side. The brouillade should look like very wet scrambled eggs. At the table in front of your delighted guests shave the rest of the truffle over the brouillade. Bon appetit!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Chasing away the Winter Blues

We cannot really complain about the temperature: 15°C/59°F is not too bad, even for a confirmed winterphobe like myself. But where has the sunshine of Provence gone to? One more grey and rainy day and I'll seriously think about moving to sunnier places - not!
So instead of dreaming I prepared the first steps to at least have some sunshine on a plate this weekend. Christmas and New Year's Eve done and over with the price of truffles has come down. And so I found a few real pretty ones and some farmfresh eggs and put them in a preserving jar where they will now stay until sunday. By then the eggs will have absorbed the aroma of the truffles and I will prepare a "Brouillade aux Truffes" - can't wait to share the pics and the recipe with you!