Friday, November 30, 2012

France's best loved Desserts

It had to be chocolate! Of that I was fairly certain when I spotted the headline "The 40 Desserts the French like best" on the title of Gourmand Magazine at my local supermarket checkout. I would have betted on Mousse au Chocolat, but no, Fondants au Chocolat made No.1, relegating good old Mousse to No. 3! I really don't see the attraction of these little muffins with the molten chocolate heart, much preferrring solid classics like the Tarte au Pommes (No. 4), Crème brûlée (No. 7), Tarte au Citron (No.15) or a good old fashioned Clafoutis (No.18) but I guess we have to be thankful that "foreign intruders" like Banana Split and Brownies had to share a ranking at No. 21!  So tell me please: What is your best loved dessert?
Fondant au Chocolat as seen on Gourmand's title

Gourmand magazine

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

No more publicity please!

Do you also get those flyers announcing all the special offers your local supermarkets have on offer? Here in Provence almost every second letterbox has a sticker "Pas de Pub svpl" (no publicity flyers please) but until now I have always wanted to have on that would say "Pub svpl" (yes, please give me all those flyers and leaflets) because I like to see what's going on. I actually like to study all those pre holiday offers - where to get the best oysters or goose liver, the freshest lobsters, tastiest capons and best wines and champagne. Because that is what all holidays in France are - an excuse for an extravagant feast.
Well, my passion for studying these offers has been pretty much killed off I am afraid. And before you look down I have to warn not only all vegetarians but everybody else, who, like me likes to eat meat but not always thinks too much about what his food looks like in its natural state.
Because this is what I found in today's leaflet advertising this weeks special offers in my local supermarket:

For the royal price of just € 2.20 there are half a pig's head (without tongue and brain as is so helpfully stated) plus two pig's feet to be had. € 2.20 = $ 2.80! And just in case you are wondering - these are the main ingredients for the famous French "fromage de tête" or head cheese - meat in aspic that is. The pig's feet being the source of the jelly that binds the "cheese" together. Too much information? Definitely. Now where do I get that "Pas de Pub" sticker?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Marks & Spencer eat you heart out - or my mushroom soup

Sometimes I prepare recipes again and again and then somehow just forget about them. Happened to me with this mushroom soup. When I lived in London for a few years, Marks & Spencer sold such a wonderfully flavorful and delicious mushroom soup I never even thought of preparing my own.  But as these shops do, all of a sudden they stopped selling it. So I saw the error of my ways and found this recipe to prepare my own and just as tasty soup. And then forgot about it. Totally. This Tuesday it was freezing cold and our Provençal market had but two items in abundance: walnuts and mushrooms. And all of a sudden I remembered and then even found my old recipe - the search took longer than the cooking...
5 dried porcini and 600 gr (1.3 pounds) chestnut mushrooms
olive oil
2 shallots and 2  cloves of garlic
2 sprigs of thyme
1/2 l (2 cups) vegetable stock
3 tbsp crème fraîche (thick cream)
salt and pepper, some stalks of flat leaf (Italian) parsley
Soak the dried porcini in 1/4 l  (1 cup) warm water until soft. Clean the chestnut mushrooms with a brush, save two mushrooms for decoration, roughly chop up the rest of the mushrooms. Peel and also roughly chop the shallots and garlic. Heat a splash of olive oil, add mushrooms, shallots, garlic, the leaves of the tyme and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Add the soaked porcini. Pour the soaking water of the porcini through a filter to catch any remaining dirt, then add the filtered soaking water and the vegetable stock to the mushrooms and season with a few rounds of the pepper mill and a pinch of salt. Let simmer for about 10 minutes before liquidizing the mixture with a stick blender. Stir in the crème fraîche, adjust the seasoning if necessary and decorate with mushroom slices and some chopped parsley.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cauliflower and Fennel Soup

I have to admit - I am partial to pretty soups. A bright red pepper soup or a pale orange carrot soup served on a white plate is as pleasing to the eye as it is delicious. Sadly with this soup you will have to work on the presentation, as pretty it is not. But its grey paleness hides masses of flavour and the Pastis gives it  a certain something très Provençal! Ladle the soup into a brightly coloured plate, sprinkle lots of parsley on top - et voilà - one more delicious soup to chase away the cold and winterblues.

Peel and chop 2 cloves of garlic and one half of a big white onion. Gently fry in a good slug of olive oil until soft.

Chop one fennel bulb (discard the hard core) and add to the pot. Sprinkle one tsp of tarragon leaves and keep on stirring until the vegetables are softening.

Add the florets of half a cauliflower, 1/2 liter (2 cups) of vegetable stock and let simmer until the cauliflower is soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper, a good slug of Pastis and some crème fraîche and mix until smooth. Serves 4

I'd like to give credit for the inspiration of this soup to Tim Vidra of E.A.T. whose Halloween post made me buy the cauliflower of which I only used half (and very good it was roasted according to Tim's recipe, too!) and to Claudia of A Seasonal Cook in Turkey whose delicious Cauliflower Soup recipe reminded me of this one that I had all but forgotten about. Thank you!