food for thought

by michelle

Posts Tagged ‘french food

slow-cooked calamari

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Cooked long and slow in the Provençal style, calamari becomes amazingly tender with a rich and deep flavour. Enjoy  it with a crusty baguette, a fresh green salad and a crisp white wine.

This recipe, from PROVENCE Gastronomique by Erica Brown, also works with squid, cuttlefish or octopus. If you intend to clean your own calamari, do this first and cut them into rings. In a saucepan heat some olive oil and fry 1 finely diced onion until it becomes soft and translucent. Add 1kg (2¼ lbs) of calamari and 3 large peeled and diced tomatoes. Bring to a simmer then add 350ml (12fl oz) of dry white wine, 350ml (12fl oz) of boiling water, a bay leaf, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover the saucepan and simmer over very low heat for 2 hours or until the calamari is very tender. Remove the calamari to a covered bowl with some of it’s liquid and reduce the rest of the liquid by half. Return the calamari to the liquid to reheat. If necessary you can thicken the sauce with a slurry of equal parts cornflour and cold water, making sure to cook the starch. In the last minute or so add 2 minced cloves of garlic and a handful of chopped fresh parsley.



Written by michelle picker

August 8, 2018 at 12:10 am

chocolate and brandied prune terrine + walnut tuiles

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Rich with dark chocolate and with a good hit of brandy, this was the perfect dessert for a French menu. The addition of a walnut tuile added some buttery crunch.

I always keep a jar of brandied prunes – a jar filled with pitted prunes and topped up with brandy. The prunes taste better and better as they age and the brandy becomes a gorgeous syrup. If you don’t yet have any brandied prunes, place 300g (10½ oz) of pitted prunes in a bowl or jar. Gently heat ⅓ of a cup of brandy (this will slightly speed up the process) and pour it over the prunes. Allow them to steep overnight. To make the terrine you will need a terrine or an oblong container to make a long narrow loaf shape. Lightly oil it and line it with cling wrap. In a double boiler over simmering water (or on low power in the microwave) melt 180g (6⅓ oz) of chopped dark 70% chocolate and stir it until smooth. In another bowl beat 90g (3 oz) of butter and 45g (1½ oz) of sugar by hand until light then add 3 tablespoons of sifted cocoa powder and mix well. In a separate bowl beat 3 egg yolks with another 45g(1½ oz) of sugar until light and fluffy. Add the melted and slightly cooled chocolate to the butter mixture then fold in the egg mixture and finally fold in 225ml (7 fl oz) of thick cream. Add the prunes (I chopped mine into smaller pieces) with any remaining brandy and fold everything together until well combined. Transfer into the prepared mould, cover the top with overhanging plastic and chill until firm. To serve, use a hot knife to cut into thick slices and serve with crème fraîche. For the tuiles, preheat your oven to 180℃ (350ºF). Combine 200g (7 oz) of sugar, 45g (1½ oz) of flour, 135g (4¾ oz) of melted butter, 30g (1 oz) of finely powdered walnuts and 100g (3½ oz) of finely chopped walnuts. Spread the batter onto a silicone mat or baking paper in small disks (they will spread) and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until the edges are browning. Lightly grease a rolling pin, carefully remove the hot tuiles with a palette knife and lay them over the rolling pin to set into a curl. Cool and store in an airtight container. 

*adapted fro this recipe

Written by michelle picker

July 11, 2018 at 12:13 am

black truffle

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When in France I spent some time in the Dordogne, the home of the Périgord Black Truffle. I felt compelled to bring one home and here’s what I did with it.

60º eggs on potatoes fried in duck fat with shavings of black truffle.

Actually, these were really 62.8ºC (145ºF) eggs as I prefer my whites a little opaque. They need to be cooked in a water bath at this temperature for at least an equal number of minutes to their metric weight. That means an 58g (2oz) egg will take 58 minutes to cook. While the eggs are cooking, dice some potatoes and cook them very slowly in some duck fat until they are golden brown then season with salt. When the eggs are ready, place the potatoes down first then very carefully peel the eggs and place onto the potatoes. Season to taste and top with shavings of black truffle. A truly delicious combination!

How about a truffled cauliflower gratin?

Preheat your oven to 190ºC (375ºF). Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a sauce pan, then stir in 3 tablespoons of flour. Stir and cook for a few minutes making sure there are no lumps. Whisking constantly, slowly add 2 cups of heated milk. Bring to boil and cook until it thickens. Remove from the heat and add 1 teaspoon of salt, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, ½ a cup of grated Gruyère, ½ a cup of grated parmesan, some shaved black truffle to taste and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Mix thoroughly and set aside. Cut the cauliflower into florets and cook them in some boiling salted water until just al dente. Butter your oven dish, spread the cauliflower evenly on the bottom and cover with the sauce. Finally, top with a mixture of grated Gruyère, grated parmesan and breadcrumbs. Bake until golden brown.

Written by michelle picker

October 4, 2017 at 12:16 am

chervil soup

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Chervil is related to Parsley, but is more delicate and has a mild licorice or aniseed taste. Widely used in French cooking, it is one of the four traditional fines herbesThis delicious soup highlights it’s flavour and is very useful when you have a glut of chervil.


Separate the stems from the leaves of a large bunch of fresh chervil. Cook the stems in 4 cups of chicken stock until they are tender then strain through a fine sieve and discard the stems. While the stems are cooking purée 2 egg yolks, ½ a cup of cream, the chervil leaves and the leaves from 2-3 stems of parsley. Transfer the purée to a bowl and whisk in 1 cup of the broth then whisk this mixture back into the remaining broth until smooth. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Reheat the soup gently making sure it does not boil.

Written by michelle picker

February 22, 2017 at 5:43 am

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salmon wellington

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Milan made this impressive salmon wellington (or should I say Saumon en croute), as the main course of a delicious lunch in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. He didn’t pass on the recipe so I hope he approves of this one.


Cook 70g (2½ oz) of well-rinsed quinoa for about 15 minutes until tender. Drain, cool under running water, drain again, then set aside. In a large pan, fry 3 crushed garlic cloves in butter before adding 300g (10½ oz) of baby spinach leaves. Allow the spinach to wilt then leave it to cool. When cooled, squeeze out any excess moisture and chop it finely before adding it to the quinoa. Add a large handful of finely chopped dill and a little lemon zest and season to taste. Now prepare your salmon. Cut the fillets in half horizontally to make 2 thinner fillets and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place a piece of ready-made puff pastry into your oven dish, making sure it comes up the sides and is long enough to cover the top. Place a piece of salmon onto the pastry then spread the quinoa mixture over it and put the other piece of salmon on top. Cover the fish with pastry, moisten the edges to seal then brush with a beaten egg. Chill for 20 – 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 180°C (350ºF). Make cuts in the top for steam to escape and bake for 25-30 minutes.


Written by michelle picker

November 24, 2016 at 5:53 am


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On a recent trip to southern France, I was delighted to see my friends Franbi and Milan who invited me to a wonderful lunch. The starter was Franbi’s pissaladière, a traditional onion, olive and anchovy tart which originated in Nice.


I don’t have Franbi’s recipe but I hope she approves of this one. To make this tart you can use ready-made puff pastry. Place it in a greased pie dish or oven tray and refrigerate while you prepare the filling. Heat some olive oil in a heavy pan and gently fry 4 large sliced onions until wilted. Add some sprigs of fresh thyme, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and continue to cook until the onions are caramelised. If you want to hurry this along you can also add a little brown sugar at this stage. Spread the onions onto the prepared pastry then lay good quality anchovies over the top in a criss-cross pattern. Place Kalamata olive halves in the spaces between the anchovies. Bake the tart in a moderate oven until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.

Written by michelle picker

September 19, 2016 at 5:48 am

chocolate mousse with brandied prunes

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Hervé This, a French physical chemist who pioneered molecular gastronomy, is responsible for a number of popular cooking techniques. Among them is this chocolate mousse (chantilly) made from only 2 ingredients: chocolate and water.


To make brandied prunes simply place prunes into a glass jar, cover with brandy and wait – after a few months the brandy will infuse into the prunes and the syrup will be thick and sticky. If you’re in a hurry, soak the prunes in a little hot water until the water is mostly absorbed then add a little brandy and set aside to cool. For the chocolate mousse prepare an ice bath with equal parts water and ice. In another bowl (which fits into the ice bath) pour 270ml (9⅛ oz) of boiling water then add 350g (12⅓ oz) of chopped good quality dark chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted. Place the bowl over the ice bath and whisk vigorously until the mixture has the consistency of whipped cream. Working quickly, place in a serving bowl or individual bowls and refrigerate. If you over-whip the mixture just reheat it, add a couple of drops of water and start again.

Written by michelle picker

September 7, 2016 at 5:59 am