Monthly Archives: September 2012

Bean stew a la Bretagne

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Bean stew a la bretagne is a very rustic, homely and filling dish. What is it? it’s basically stewed beans with different kinds of meat, in a fragrant tomato sauce. It takes a long time to cook, but preparation takes hardly any effort, that’s why I like it. Just throw everything together, let it cook for a couple of hours and it’s done. How good does that sound? Maximum pleasure for minimum work 😉

This essentially is a polish dish, my grandma and my parents have always been cooking it ever since I can remember.. I’m not sure why is it called ”a la bretagne” it probably has nothing to do with France and french people have never heard of it ( or would be terribly offended :P) but it certainly is delicious. So, let’s get to it.

What you will need is:

400g of dried white beans , soaked in cold water over night, then drained.

2 onions

3 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp of dried marjoram

200g of smoked bacon

300g -400gof some sort of good quality smoked sausage (a polish one would be ideal)

Any other sausage you’d like to add to it to fill it up

2 tbsp of smoked paprika

2 tbsp of tomato puree

1 bay leaf

3 all spice peppercorns

Salt,pepper

1-1,5 l of stock

So, what you’ll need to do is soak your beans in cold water overnight to rehydrate them. This is a very important step so you must not skip it. Once they’ve been soaking slowly drain them, pop them into a big stew pot along with your stock, bay leaf, allspice, garlic cloves(you can chop them if you want to) and your smoked sausage. All of those aromatics will penetrate the beans and flavour the stock, which eventually will become the sauce. Cook it until the beans are soft. It might take up to 2-2,5 hours, but you don’t need to attend to it every 5 min. just check it every now and then for the amount of liquid and stir a bit. Once the beans are almost soft, take out the sausage, cut it up, fry it with onions,bacon and whatever other meat you’d like to add to it, until it’s golden brown. Throw it into the beans. Add the tomato puree and loads of dried marjoram. Taste for salt,pepper (it could need a bit of sugar just to balance out the sharpness of tomato puree). Cook it in a bit, so the sauce thickens up. Once the beans are fully soft, it’s done. Harty, hot and full of flavour. My tip is to make it 1 day ahead then serve it when all the flavours have married together. 😉 Make sure you serve it with plenty of the tomato sauce :] good luck and enjoy!

 

 

Simple spinach and creme fraiche risotto with chicken :)

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Tasty spinach and creme fraiche risotto with pan fried chicken breast 🙂

Risotto is a timeless classic, it’s creamy, it’s filling and made properly – tastes like a milion dollars. Here’s my fresh spinach and creme fraiche risotto, with carmelised chicken breast 😉

What you’ll need to feed 2 people is:

2 shallots- diced finely

1 tbsp of oil

1 tbsp of butter

200g of risotto rice (arborio)

2-3 tbsp of creme fraiche

2 tbsp of cold butter

3-4 handfuls of french spinach – blanched and chopped finely

Salt, pepper

About  1l of stock – chicken or vegetable

2 cloves of garlic

1tsp of dried thyme

1 glass of white wine.

Let’s get started!

Take a heavy-base pan and fry your shallots and garlic on 1tbsp of butter with oil. Once translucent add thyme and the rice. Once the rice has absorbed the oil and became a bit see-through, add the wine and let it absorb it. Once the rice has absorbed the liquid, stard adding the hot stock bit by bit and stir it. Every now and then, when the rice looks dry, add more stock and keep stirring- that will help the rice to release it’s creamy starch. About 10 min before the risotto is ready, heat your pan and pan fry your chicken breast. Season it well with salt and fresh black pepper. Once it’s carmelised well, let it rest,and finish off the risotto. When the rice has absorbed all of your stock and is cooked, turn the heat off, stir in the cold butter, creme fraiche and spinach. Check for seasoning . it’s ready to be served up.

Serve in a deep dish, plate some risotto, carve the meat and serve on top, decorate with fresh herbs- I used chives. Enjoy 😉

 

Easy no-bake rafaello cake :)

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I normally don’t bake a lot, somehow the idea of very precise measuring etc scares me. Baking is really an alchemy to me- as oppose to cooking, which is art- you can add some more of this, or that, and nothing awful will happen. Sometimes you do crave something sweet though..a cake or a pudding.. what do you do then? I look for really easy recipes that can quickly satisfy my sweet tooth. This ”cake” isn’t really a cake, but let’s call it that. You don’t have to bake it or be overly precise.. it’s also delicious. It was inspired by rafaello bon bon – for those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s a bon bon, covered in coconut shards, fillet with sweet, thick custard and an almond. It’s delicious. So I decided to combine those flavours in something that could be called ”Rafaello cake”. Here we go 😉

What you’ll need :

A square or rectangle tin (about 20x20cm)

2 packages of crackers – you can use natural or salted ones (TUC crackers are fine)

1,2 l of whole fat milk

1 big glass of sugar

200g of butter- cold

5 egg yolks

200g of coconut shards

Almond extract – 1 drop, a little goes a looong way.

Coconut extract (optional) 1 drop.

Vanilla extract- 1 tsp

4 tbsp of flour

5-6 tbsp of potato starch (aardappel zetmeel)

A few handfuls of almond flakes – brown them on a dry pan while tossing all the time, until golden. You will need them for decoration.

So, let’s get started. The only cooking process in this cake is making a thick custard. Let’s take it step by step then:

1)      Take a large pan and put 3/4 of your milk in it, heat it up gently with sugar in it, until it disolves.

2)      Whisk your 5 egg yolks in a bowl, add your flower and potato starch. Whisk in and add a touch of milk. It’ll seem a bit thick and lumpy, but it’ll disolve, just keep whisking. Add the milk bit by bit until you’ve used all of it and the lumps in the mixture are gone.

3)      When the milk in the pan is warm but not boiling, add the egg-milk-flower mixture, keep stirring continously while you’re pouring it in.

4)      Once it’s in the pan with the hot milk keep whisking fast all the time. Don’t let the eggs scramble, it’ll seem runny and thin, but it’ll thicken after 1-2 min.

5)      When it gets really thick- sort of like thick bechamel sauce, take it off the heat and add grated coconut. Let the mixture cool completely.

6)      When the mixture is cold, use a mixer, and mix in the cold butter a tablespoon at a time.

7)      Once all the butter is incorporated, add your vanilla, almond and coconut extract. Mix through. It’s ready.

8)      Take your tin and take a few tbsp of the mixture ( it’ll just keep the crackers in place while you smear on the layers. Put the first layer of crackers in, then coconut mixture, then crackers, then mixture. It should be enough for 3 layers of each. Finish off with coconut custard mixture. Sprinkle over the toasted almonds and let it set overnight in the fridge. Once it’s very cold it’ll firm up and will be easier to cut. Enjoy 😉