The best figs I have ever eaten were from my friend’s tree on the Ile de Ré – lovingly wrapped individually in kitchen paper and transported to me with great care and attention in an empty shoe box. I can only imagine what they would have tasted like directly from the tree and still warm from the sun.
If you only have a package of figs bought from the supermarket then this is a great way to spruce them up a bit. I made it for my monthly book club meet up and there wasn’t a whole lot left…
This recipe uses my flour blend and makes a lovely sweet pastry tart case. It is unusual as in this recipe there is no blind baking involved at all. If you use the tart pastry in another recipe stipulating blind baking, then line your tin(s) with the pastry, prick the base all over with a fork and bake it blind at 180C/160C Fan. It will take about 10-15mins (until it looks dry on the surface) if you’re using it for a recipe that needs a second bake once filled, and 15-25 mins if the filling is already cooked separately and no second bake is required.
Yes, you read it right, no messing around with baking beans for this recipe. Your eternal thanks are duly noted.
- 2 egg yolks
- 50g caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch (cornflour in UK)
- 250ml full fat or semi-skimmed milk
- grated zest of half an orange
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 tbsp cold butter, unsalted
- 150g my four flour blend
- 30g icing sugar
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- pinch of sea salt
- 80g cold unsalted butter
- 1 egg
- 12-15 small fresh figs, halved lengthways
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 1. Make the pastry by combining the flour, icing sugar, xanthan gum and sea salt. Add the butter, cut into cubes and rub into the mixture until it looks like gravel - with some larger pieces of butter still visible NOT like sand. If you use a food processor then use the pulse function for several second long bursts.
- 2. Add the egg and combine to a dough. Wrap in a piece of cling film and refrigerate for 2 hours (or pop in the freezer for 30mins).
- 3. Meanwhile make the orange pastry cream. In a medium bowl using a whisk, mix the egg yolks, half the sugar, cornstarch, orange zest, vanilla, sea salt and about 50ml of the total measured milk to make a paste.
- 4. Heat the remaining milk and sugar until it just starts to come to a boil, then slowly add it to the orange and egg yolk paste, whisking all the while. Return the custard to the saucepan and bring to the boil, whisking all the time. The mixture will thicken as you let it bubble gently for 10 secs. Remove it from the heat, still whisking, add the butter, whisk again and then transfer it to a clean dry bowl. Cover the surface with cling film and place in the fridge for 2 hours.
- 5. Place a rectangular flan tin on a baking tray. Roll out the pastry between two sheets of clingfilm until it is large enough to line the tin. If the pastry gets too warm to handle, place the rolled out dough on a cutting board or baking sheet and allow it to cool and harden in the fridge.
- 6. Remove the top clingfilm, place your hand under the rolled out sheet of pastry and flip it into the tin. Press the pastry dough into the corners of the tin, patching if necessary. Remove the top layer of cling film. Trim the top edges of the pastry level with the top of the tin and put the tin on its tray back in the fridge for 30mins to harden.
- 7. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan.
- 8. Spread the pastry cream in the lined tin evenly. Arrange the halved figs on top, cut side up. Brush the surface of the figs with melted butter and sprinkle with a little caster sugar.
- 9. Place in the oven and bake for 20mins. Turn the tin around, place a piece of aluminium foil loosely over the top of the tart (without pressing it down) to prevent the figs from browning too much. Bake for a further 20mins.
- 10. Remove carefully from the oven (there might be some very hot juices) and allow to cool. Serve at room temperature.
So much of my time is taken up by just making food for my family to eat that I’ve decided to start a weekly blog post featuring links to the recipes that have inspired my cooking each week, even if the originals aren’t gluten free and I succumb to my usual habit of changing things around to suit what I have to hand. That way if you see something I’ve made on my Instagram feed, you’ll stand a chance of being to figure out how to make it. And if you havent yet found my feed on Instagram it’s here.
Going freestyle – with the feel of a recipe rather than using a recipe to the letter seems to be a major worry for a lot of people. I do remember the early days of learning to cook – rushing out to buy a bunch of spring onions because I’d forgotten to add them to the list. These days I’d thing rather along the lines of replacing them in a recipe – a bit of leek, red onion or shallot. No rice crumbs? – then how about breadcrumbs or quinoa flakes. It might turn out differently, but just suppose it turned out even better AND you didn’t have to hare round to the market just for one item? It’s just a question of confidence and actually becomes pretty exciting. What CAN you make with only an onion, a stick of celery and a carrot??!
I hope this helps you to see how recipes evolve and helps you to use up what you already have at home, reducing waste and time to boot. It will also help me to keep an uptodate record of the recipes I try. How frustrating is it when you make a recipe that is unanimously declared delicious only to lose the recipe forever (do NOT mention my hot cross bun recipe at this point, my heart is still bleeding).
For the observant among you, yes, this was a particularly meat/fish light week, but we aren’t exclusively vegetarian.
- The quinoa and sweet potato burgers were based on this recipe by One Ingredient Chef. Instead of the parsley/sunflower seed/garlic combo I used some radish top, roasted garlic and pistachio pesto I had leftover. I also didn’t bother hydrating the ground flax and reduced that down to 2 tablespoons from 3. They were really delicious.
- The courgette besan cheela recipe is one I have taught before in my classes in Singapore. A chick pea flour ‘pancake’ with added cumin, spring onion and courgette – such a quick idea for lunch. I have submitted the recipe for publication to the summer edition of Niépi magazine, so I’m hoping that will reach a wider audience. This one I served with a cucumber and mint raita made using milk kefir kindly given to me by a dear friend. Thanks Marie-Odile!
- The banana bread recipe was made using this BBC Food recipe for inspiration. I used my usual four flour blend instead of the plain/wholemeal flours in the recipe and reduced the sweetener from 4 tbsp of agave (which I never use) to 3 tbsp of maple syrup. I also added 1/2 tsp xanthan gum as a binder. The recipe contains a yogurt but no other fat, which made the texture bizarrely light for a banana bread. It made a nice light breakfast served with unsweetened creamy fromage blanc and another splash of maple syrup.
- The gado gado recipe is one given to me by a young Malaysian woman I met while doing an internship in America back in the 1980s and have guarded preciously ever since! I have included it below, along with a marinade for satay skewers.
- 100g roasted, unsalted peanuts, ground (OR use good quality peanut butter)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped,
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1/4 tsp cayenne powder (or to taste)
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 250ml coconut milk
- 2 tbsp gula melaka (coconut sugar) or dark brown sugar
- 1 tbsp GF tamari (or to taste)
- 1 tbsp lime juice (or to taste)
- courgette, carrot, green beans etc
- bean sprouts, red pepper, cucumber etc
- boiled eggs, halved
- Place the peanuts (or peanut butter), onion, garlic, cayenne, coriander and cumin into a medium frying pan and cook together for 5 mins.
- Add the coconut milk, sugar and tamari, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 mins.
- Add the lime juice to taste and add more tamari if needed.
- Serve warm with a selection of steamed and raw vegetables and halved hard boiled eggs.
- 3 tbsp neutral oil
- 3 tbsp GF tamari
- 1 clove garlic, chopped finely
- 1.5 tsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp sugar
- Mix all together in a bowl - add cubed chicken or tofu and cover. Allow to marinade for a minimum of 3 hours, preferably 6, then thread onto soaked wooden skewers and cook on a grill pan until golden and cooked through.
Anyone who grew up in France in the 90’s or noughties, or whose children did, is likely to remember these little tartlets. Children the world over seem to leave school in the afternoon absolutely ravenous, even if they haven’t enjoyed a four course lunch such as the school system in France offers. It was quite a shock when we first arrived in France with children aged 3 and 6, to read the school menu for the week.
Every day the school lunch started with an entrée (in the true French sense of the word, an appetiser or starter, rather than the American term for a main course dish). It might be a salade piémontaise – potatoes, tomatoes, eggs and ham in a mayonnaise dressing, some slices of saucisson or the ubiquitous carottes râpées (for which I blame my youngest’s distrust of any orange foodstuffs, even though he would have you believe it was my less than stellar attempt at a pumpkin risotto chez nous). Next would follow a main course such as roast pork with coquillette pasta, or fish in breadcrumbs with carrots, then a simple cheese or plain yogurt and finally a fruit.
Of course the reality of any food produced centrally and served hours later at outlying destinations is that it is invariably disappointing, however well the menu reads. Nonetheless, hats off – ‘chapeau!’ – to the schools for trying to produce well-balanced, interesting and nutritional meals with more than a whiff of tradition about them.
Back to school leaving time then, the sortie de l’école, when parents would arrive with a range of tempting snacks or goûters for their children. This might be piece of baguette with a square of chocolate pushed inside, a petit pain viennoise, or for the maman completely on the hoof who had come directly from the supermarché, a packet of Bien Vu tartelettes aux abricots.
I found a recipe for these at the excellent French blog La Super Superette, where they have been renamed les bien-goûtues and set about to convert them to gluten free for my son who was coming home from university for Easter. They were great fun to make – now, without two young children in tow. Even my son thought they were super cute and overcame his irrational fear of orange for a sufficient amount of time to empty the tin, once I’d reassured him, of course, that no pumpkins had been harmed in their making.
- 180g my flour flour blend
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- 40g sugar
- 15g desiccated coconut
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 90g unsalted butter
- 1 medium egg
- 1-2 tablespoon milk
- 200ml apricot juice or nectar (containing about 50% apricot)
- 150g sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1g agar-agar powder
- Mix together the flour, xanthan gum, sugar, coconut and salt.
- Add the cold butter and rub in until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
- add the egg and 1 tbsp milk and mix to a dough. Add the remaining tbsp of milk if needed.
- Form into a disc then roll out between 2 sheets of baking parchment to approx 5mm thickness.
- Chill the rolled out dough before cutting out the tartlets.
- Cut the tartlets out using a small 5cm fluted cutter.
- Use a small glass (or even your thumb) to push a slight depression in the centre of the tartlet. Place on a parchment-covered baking sheet and prick the depressed base several times with a fork. Chill well for at least 2 hours (or overnight).
- When you are ready to bake the tartlets, preheat the oven to 180C (fan 160C) and prepare the filling.
- Heat the apricot juice,sugar and lemon juice together in a small pan. When boiling, reduce the heat and allow to bubble gently for 20 mins. Then whisk in the agar agar, and allow to bubble gently for a further 5 mins. Allow to cool for 5 mins at least before using.
- Meanwhile bake the tartlets for 10-12 mins or until slightly golden. Allow to cool before filling.
- Fill the centre of each tartlet carefully with the apricot mixture, being careful it does not overflow the edge of the depression. Allow to sit for 5 mins then add a little more filling if desired.
- Allow to set in the fridge for an hour before serving.
- You could also use an apricot jam, sieved and then heated with a little water until it makes a thick glaze, for the filling.
Making marmalade and jam reminds me of my maternal grandmother, Nanny. Jam seems inextricably linked to my memories of her. I remember her telling me stories of living in London during the World War II. She had been making plum jam on the day the Blitz started and she emerged from the bomb shelter with her four young children to find all the jars of jam that had been neatly lined up on the window sill smashed from the bombings. She taught me how to make jam and chutney, how to test for a set and how to sterilise the jars. I still derive a huge amount of pleasure of seeing a shelf of homemade preserves in my cellar and think of my Nanny whenever I do.
I’ve tried a variety of methods of making marmalade over the years. The one I keep coming back to is the one I found in a book by Claire MacDonald, ‘More Seasonal Cookery’, published back in 1987. Instead of slicing all the raw peels by hand, the whole citrus fruit are cooked in water, left to cool and then the innards scooped out and the soft peels sliced, which amounts to about 10 minutes of work all in. Some years I’ve even cooked the fruits one day and then sliced the peel and finished the marmalade the next day – I’m all for dividing up big tasks and spreading them out. I have made variations over the years, so don’t hesitate to add a slug of whisky (at the end of cooking, just before potting), the juice of some grated fresh ginger (add along with the peels), or whatever else appeals to you.
I personally like thinly cut peel but if you want to reduce the workload even more, then of course you can use a food processor to speed up the process. And to avoid anyone else being disappointed – sadly the amazing colour of blood oranges is not heat stable. Once the peel are cooked this way the peels and flesh are the colour of regular oranges, so keep your precious stash of blood oranges for recipes when their colour will sing – sorbets, curds and salads.
- 750g Seville oranges
- 750g other citrus fruits - I use 1 pink grapefruit, 1 lemon and 3-4 sweet oranges to make up the weight
- 2.5litres water + 250ml water
- 2.5kg granulated sugar
- knob of butter
- Wash all the citrus fruit thoroughly in hot soapy water. Rinse in fresh water and then place in a large saucepan, add 2.5l water and place a small plate on top of the fruit to hold them down slightly.
- Bring to a boil then allow to simmer, with a lid on, for about 2-3 hours, until the fruit peel is soft and easily pierced by a knife.
- Remove the fruit from the pan, set aside to cool slightly and set the pan plus the liquid aside for later.
- Wash the jam jars and lids and place in a heated oven to sterilise (see directions below).
- Place 2 small plates or saucers in the fridge or freezer to chill for testing the set later (directions below).
- Cut each of the cooled, cooked citrus fruit in half and, using a spoon, scoop out all the flesh and pips into a small saucepan. Add 250mls water to the pan and boil for 30 mins, then strain - keeping the water and discarding the flesh and pips.
- Meanwhile slice the peel as thinly or as thickly as you wish using a sharp knife, or using a food processor if you want a chunkier marmalade.
- Return all the sliced fruit peel to the large pan with the reserved fruit cooking liquid, add the water strained from the small pan with the liquid from the pips, and add the sugar. Bring to a boil.
- Boil furiously for 30 mins then pull the marmalade off the heat and test for a set. To do this, drop a teaspoonful of marmalade onto one of the chilled plates from the fridge or freezer and allow to cool for a minute. Using your finger, push the jam forward across the plate. If the surface wrinkles, then the marmalade is ready to set. If there is no wrinkling, then put the pan back on the heat, boil for another 5 mins and test again.
- Once the marmalade is at setting point, carefully remove remove the jars from the oven, add the knob of butter to the marmalade (it will help disperse any scum) and pot the marmalade using a funnel and label. Put the lids on while the jars and contents are hot.
- Allow to cool then label the jars and store in a cool, dry cupboard.
- To sterilise jars, wash them and the lids in hot soapy water.
- Heat the oven to 120C (100C Fan), and place the rinsed, wet jars on the oven shelf upside down for about 30 mins.
- Dry the lids using kitchen paper.
- Pot jam or marmalade while the jars and mixture are both hot. Screw lids on tightly, using a towel to protect your hands.
Gluten free sourdough seems to be the unicorn of the blog world. Plenty of people are telling us it exists, but few, if any of us, have ever seen it. This is actually the second time in my life I have trodden this path – the first time was in the tropics which had its own set of challenges. My aim there was to run a community-based project where folk could come and pick up a pot of starter, experiment with their own recipes and flours and post the results online so everyone could learn from the other participants’ experience. I eventually stopped the ‘Singapore Gluten Free Sourdough Project’ as it was called, (it had its own FaceBook page and everything!) as I realised that, having given up most bread years ago, when I first went gluten free, it was simply too pricey to keep feeding the new family pet and not learn sufficiently quickly.
Now in France, the lure of mastering sourdough has caught me in its spell again. I dont know whether its the almost magical concept of creating raised bread without adding yeast, or rather my inability to just let something go that I’m failing at. The sourdough bread I have made to date is definitely showing signs of improvement. I’m not ready to post a bread recipe yet, so bear with me. If you are intrigued enough to have a go before then, I recommend the website Cultures for Health – a veritable mine of useful information.
One thing you do have to get to grips with, if trying sourdough, is what to do with the fairly large amounts of starter that are discarded on a daily (if kept at room temp) or weekly (if confined to the fridge) basis. That’s where these crackers come in. The GF flours are too pricey to just consider just throwing away. I happen to love crackers. Crunch is the thing I really used to miss. exactly the craving that led me to eat two toasted slices of homemade seeded bread several years ago with frightening consequences including a trip to the hospital.
These crackers are infinitely changeable. So far I have made chestnut and sage ones, smoked sea salt and nutritional yeast ‘cheesy’ ones and these, a vegan sweet version made with coconut oil, cinnamon and a scattering of cocoa nibs. They aren’t too sweet, but are interesting enough to disappear steadily from a jar in my kitchen, maybe just a little too quickly.
- 1 tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp warm water
- 140g Lisa's GF flour blend (www.biencuitglutenfree.com/my-flour-blend/)
- 30g soft dark brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 40g coconut oil
- 120g discarded sourdough starter (see above)
- small handful of cocoa nibs
- Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan).
- Mix the ground flax and warm water and set aside to form a gel.
- Mix together the flour blend, sugar, salt and cinnamon in one bowl.
- In another bowl combine the coconut oil (warmed slightly if needed to make it completely liquid), sourdough starter and the flax egg from step 1.
- Mix the wet ingredients and the dry together and mix to a firm dough.
- Place a sheet of baking parchment on a baking sheet and place the dough on top, flattening it slightly.
- Place another sheet of baking parchment or cling film on top and roll out thinly, approx 4mm. If necessary use half the dough on each of two baking sheets.
- Remove the top sheet and sprinkle the dough with the cocoa nibs. Replace the top sheet and give one last roll to press the cocoa nibs into the dough. Discard the top sheet of parchment/paper. Score with a knife or GF pizza cutter into square or diamond shaped crackers, but leave the pieces all joined together.
- Bake for 15-20 mins until lightly golden. You might need to remove the outside crackers and leave the inner ones to cook for a few more minutes.
We are going on a train trip tomorrow to see the marchés de Noël in Strasbourg – reputed to be the best in France. Part of the excitement is the train trip itself, a few days away in a new place and the chance to drink vin chaud and eat cookies at unreasonable hours of the day (and night).
Sometimes it’s nice to look up an old gluten-filled favourite and accept the challenge of converting it to an edible gluten free version. I know it’s something that a lot of people struggle with so I thought I’d show you how I go about it.
I was in the mood for something wholesome on a purely superficial level, so I opted for this recipe of Katie Stewart’s – rolled oat and raisin cookies, from her 1990 book ‘Entertaining with Katie Stewart’, an oldie but goodie. Oats, dried fruit, butter and enough brown sugar to slay a reindeer at fifty paces. That will do nicely.
The original recipe calls for :
100g SR wholemeal flour
100g rolled oats
50g seedless raisins
25g chopped walnuts
100g soft brown sugar
2 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp water
What I did:
1. Sub the flour.
Add 1 tsp GF baking powder per 125g of four flour blend to make it self-raising.
So for this recipe using 100g flour, I added a scant 3/4tsp of GF baking powder to 100g of my four flour blend.
2. Replace the gluten. We need to add a binder, either xanthan gum, psyllium husk or pixie dust, so our cookies don’t fall apart.
If using xanthan gum I add it in roughly the following amounts:
Cookies 1/4 tsp per 125g flour
Muffins and cakes 1/2 tsp per 125g flour
Breads up to 1 tsp per 125g flour
If I am using psyllium husk I use 2-3 times the amount of xanthan gum.
If I’m using pixie dust as a binder then I use the following amounts:
For cakes, muffins and cookies 1/2 tsp xanthan gum = 10g pixie dust
For breads 1 tbsp xanthan gum = 30 – 40g pixie dust
There are no hard and fast rules about which to use when. I’m a firm believer in trial and error, but also an advocate of keeping a kitchen journal so you know what worked and what didn’t. Personal preference also plays a role – I am trying to do away with as much xanthan gum as possible as I simply can’t tolerate it.
In this case I decided to use psyllium husk, 1 tsp.
3. Make any personal changes depending on what you have to hand. I have two types of GF oats at the moment. Some from the UK which are quite fine and traditional in type, and also some jumbo (coarse, old-fashioned oats). I decided to use 50g of each.
I had also run out of soft brown sugar so used 80g of soft brown and 20g of white sugar. I find a mixture often works well in cookies. Brown sugar gives colour, taste and a bit of chew, white sugar adds crispness.
I personally don’t like nuts in cookies. But I do like chocolate and happened to have some mini GF chocolate chips in my cupboard that I wanted to use up, so I subbed the same weight, 25g of choc chips for nuts.
I omitted the water, as I felt it wasn’t necessary. Why add a binder and then more liquid for the binder to work on?
4. Bake a few as a trial. The recipe says to roll the dough into balls and bake like that. My first cookies stayed very thick and I prefer them to be thinner, so I flattened the balls before baking. Check the baking time for the size of cookie you are making – consider weighing them as you make them so they are uniform. I made slightly larger cookies and found a longer bake at a lower temperature worked best.
5. Taste test. Personally I find these a little sweet and perhaps a tad too buttery.
6. Take a note of what you might try next time. I might reduce the butter and sugar by 20g. I think I might add a little vanilla too.
So here is my current GF version of Katie’s recipe, with the caveat that **next time I would reduce the butter and sugar slightly and add vanilla extract**:
Raisin, choc chip & oat cookies
based on a recipe by Katie Stewart
3/4 tsp GF baking powder
1 tsp psyllium husk
pinch of salt
100g oats (half rolled, half jumbo)
75g seedless raisins
25g mini chocolate chips
80g soft brown sugar*
20g granulated sugar*
2 tbsp honey
*please read the comments above!
1. Combine the flour, baking powder, psyllium, salt and oats in a bowl. Add the raisins and choc chips.
2. Meanwhile heat the butter, sugar and honey over a low heat until just soft enough to be liquid and combined. Do not allow to get hot.
3. Stir the butter mixture into the dry ingredients and combine thoroughly. Set aside for 10 mins while preheating the oven to 160C (140C fan).
4. Line a baking sheet with a piece of baking parchment. Take teaspoonfuls of the mixture (about 24g) roll into a ball then flatten onto the baking sheet. Bake for 20 mins. Allow to cool for 5 mins then place on a wire cooling rack.
Brandade de morue is a dish with a bit of a reputation of being a bit of a slog to make. I don’t know anyone who makes their own. Even back in 1960, when ‘French Provincial Cooking’ was first published, Elizabeth David commented that the majority of French housewives in Provence bought it ready-prepared. Of course, in Nimes they would have been purchasing it in a small shop that had made it their specialty over the preceding century (at least). Nowadays the supermarket Monoprix and the frozen food store Picard seem the major suppliers to the nation.
And yet that reputation seems, as reputations often are, rather undeserved. Yes, it is made with salt cod that has to be soaked overnight in cold water, but that task seems hardy onerous. I made this tried and tested recipe for supper last week and it was quite speedy. I used a 400g package of skinned and deboned pieces of salt cod that speeded the cooking and flaking process up considerably.
To the uninitiated it is a mixture of cooked fish, with potatoes, some garlic and olive oil. I’m trying to avoid using the words ‘fish pie’ but that is how I initially persuaded my children to eat it. I really enjoy the addition of some crème fraîche and a little lemon zest to lighten the taste and texture of a dish that can otherwise be a bit heavy with the taste of the olive oil. It is a perfect dish to make ahead and reheat. It needs just 20 mins in the oven and a dressed green salad to accompany it. Why not give it a go – it will taste better than anything those French housewives were spending their francs on back in the 60s!
- 400g skinless, boneless salt cod pieces
- 250ml milk
- several sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 peppercorns
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice
- 1 clove
- 400g floury potatoes, cut into large cubes
- 5 garlic cloves
- salt and pepper
- 60ml olive oil
- pinch cayenne
- freshly grated nutmeg
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- 4 tbsp crème fraiche
- large knob of cold butter
- 4 tbsp gluten free breadcrumbs
- Place the pieces of salt cod in a dish, cover with water and a lid, or cling film, and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning drain off the water, replace with fresh water and leave until ready to prepare the dish (so a total of 12-24 hours soaking time).
- Place the cod in a medium pan with the milk, thyme, bay, peppercorns, allspice and clove. Bring to a gentle simmer for 15 mins - the surface should be barely moving (any faster a simmer and your fish might toughen). Drain the fish and discard the milk. Flake the cod into smallish pieces.
- Meanwhile cook the potatoes with the whole garlic cloves in boiling salted water until the potatoes are soft. Drain the potatoes and garlic and reserve a small cup of the cooking liquid.
- Heat the cooked garlic cloves and the olive oil in a small pan, crushing the garlic with a fork, then heat the oil gently for a few minutes. You are not aiming to cook the garlic, just to infuse the oil with the garlic. Set aside.
- Mash the potatoes with a masher or ricer into a large bowl, then add the flaked, cooked salt cod, the garlic and its oil and beat all together with a wooden spoon or spatula.
- Add the cayenne, grated nutmeg to taste, lemon zest and the crème fraîche. Beat well together. Add a few tablespoons of the potato cooking liquid to lighten the mixture and beat well to combine. The mixture should have the texture of soft mashed potatoes. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed.
- Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan). Grease a gratin dish or similar ( I used two Le Creuset mini frying pans) and add the mixture, smoothing the surface. Scatter the breadcrumbs over the top and dot with small pieces of butter.
- Bake for 20 mins until golden and serve hot with a dressed green salad.
Let’s face it, if you’re not a Brit, mincemeat is a bit baffling. I recall visiting the Marks & Spencer store on the Boulevard Haussmann in Paris quite a few years ago and seeing a young French couple perusing all the Christmas food items. They picked up a pack of mince pies and as they walked towards the counter I heard them say they’d be looking forward to having them with their aperitif before dinner that night.
Mincemeat has been around since the Crusaders returned bearing spices from their conquests. Recipes dating from the 15th century include dried fruits, chopped beef (including ox heart!) and venison, and sweet spices, like cloves, cinnamon, mace and nutmeg, bound with vinegar or wine and used as a filling for pies. Regional variations include finely chopped neat’s tongue – I’m not sure what a neat is, but be assured it is probably available at vast expense at the Grande Epicerie.
Nowadays the meat element has either been reduced to the presence of suet (beef or vegetarian) or omitted entirely. I prefer it without, and opt for a version with cooked apples, which reduces the chances of jars fermenting in your cupboard. Having had that experience, I can confirm it isn’t pretty.
I finally swapped over to suet-free mincemeat when we lived in France the first time around. I shall never forget the look on my poor butcher’s face when I asked if he had any suet – something seemingly unknown in France. Having done my vocabulary homework beforehand, I was able to explain it that I was hoping to buy some fat that encases the beef kidneys. “What for?”, he enquired. To add to dried mince fruit and spices to make a kind of special Christmas patisserie. Needless to say, he didn’t ask me to bring one in for him to sample – either with an aperitif or a tasse de thé.
Are you living in Paris and wondering where you can find festive gluten free baked goods?
Perhaps you are new to gluten free baking and would like to try a taster baking class out to find out more about my way of teaching.
Or maybe you have a gluten free visitor this Christmas and would like to offer them something traditional and homemade.
If one of these is the case then maybe my mince pie masterclass is for you!
What you’ll learn:
- the different types of gluten free flours available and where to source them in France
- how to substitute GF flours one for another in recipes
- how to convert regular recipes to GF
- what the different types of binders are and how they replace gluten in GF recipes
- how to make a blend of GF flour that is 50% wholegrain and suitable for all your GF needs
- how to make mincemeat without suet (usually palm oil) contained in most commercially available mincemeat
- how to make additive-free butter pastry, suitable for quiches, tarts and pies
What the 25€ fee includes:
- a hands on class for a max of 6 people lasting approx 2 hours, plus the recipes to take home
- all the ingredients for each person to make their own dozen mince pies during class, ready to eat or freeze at home
- a glass of wine, tea, coffee and some festive nibbles while we work
- Mon 7th December 10am – 12 noon (2 places remaining)
- Fri 11th December 10am- 12 noon (4 places remaining)
How to book:
Please complete the form below, making sure to let me know which date you are interested in, and I’ll contact you to arrange deposit payment via Paypal/cheque to secure your place.
These classes will be taught in English, but if you are interested in a class in French then please let me know your preferred days and times via the contact form below:
In the throes of trying to nail this recipe, I have discovered that I’m pretty picky. That won’t be news to many who know me… but still, I was surprised how many recipes for gluten free muffins I trialled failed to make the grade. A chocolate muffin should be dark, moist and chocolatey. It doesn’t seem so very much to ask, but it wasn’t until fell back onto one of my own top tips for GF baking – using whole milk yogurt – that I was happy with the result.
Whatever your take on what you use elsewhere in your hot drinks and general cooking, I always recommend using whole milk products for GF baking. Whether it’s butter, milk or yogurt, the fat in whole milk products helps lock moisture in, combatting the driness that is always the enemy of the GF baker. Whole milk products are also free of thickening agents, which can only be a good thing.
If I hadn’t been making them for a coffee-phobe today, then I would try using a shot of espresso to replace part of the volume of milk. A little coffee always flatters the flavour of chocolate, and it’s a trick used with great success in chocolate mousse. And now that gets me thinking of using any leftover muffins as the base of a chocolate cherry triflesque (if that is a word) dessert , with cherries and chocolate mousse layer. Watch this space…
- 130g Lisa’s four flour blend (or other gum free GF blend)
- 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
- 25g cocoa powder
- 75g sugar
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 125g natural whole milk yogurt
- 60g milk (or espresso coffee + milk combined, see above)
- 50g cooled melted butter or oil
- handful chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 200C (180C Fan). Place 8 muffin cases on a baking tray.
- Combine the flour, xanthan gum, cocoa, sugar, salt and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl and whisk together to combine well.
- In a second bowl combine the egg, vanilla, yogurt, milk and butter (or oil) and mix until combined.
- Make a well in the dry ingredients, scatter in the chocolate chips (holding a few back for topping) and then pour the wet ingredients in. Stir slowly with a spatula until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated, but the mixture is still lumpy. Do not over mix.
- Fill the muffin cases 3/4 full. Top with the reserved chocolate chips.
- Bake in the oven for approx 20 mins, until the top springs back when pressed with your finger.
- If baking in mini muffin cases then bake for approx 15 mins.