Posts tagged “french

365 Challenge: Mozzarella Tart

My last installment for the 365 Challenge. This time, it’s Stephane Reynauld’s recipe for Mozzarella Tart. This is a very easy recipe to follow – and it is similar to many tomato and mozzarella tarts. However Reynauld’s recipe called for rosemary and tarragon, which is unique as many other recipes use basil. I guess this is significantly more ‘french’ as basil, tomato and mozzarella is known to be an italian combination.

The recipe also says that medium grain semolina is used to scatter on  the pastry before layering the tomatoes. This is so the semolina will absorb the juice of the tomatoes and thus prevent the pastry from becoming soggy. Unfortunately, I do not have semolina ready in my pantry and wasn’t about to buy a bag just to use two tablespoons of it. So I went onto trusty google to seek out a solution.

Many other recipes recommended baking the pastry for a bit first before adding the tomatoes. This works for me – so I pierced the pastry with a fork (to prevent it from rising too much), brushed it with egg wash, sprinkled some grated parmesan (I just can’t help myself!) and baked the pastry for about 5 minutes. This allowed the pastry to pre-cook for a bit. Once removed from the oven and cooled a little, I layered the tomatoes, cheese and herbs according to the recipe.

Instead of one large tart, I made baby versions of it, using two sheets of ready-rolled puff pastry and splitting into four squares. Very easy, very delicious. It kinda turned out to be posh herby versions of an open faced grilled cheese and tomato croissant. Yum.

Original recipe serves 6

6 tomatoes
150g mozzarella cheese
6 garlic cloves
2 tbsp medium-grain semolina
200g butter puff pastry
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked
fleur de sel
1 bunch tarragon, leaves picked
olive oil

Preheat oven to 180 deg C.

Slice tomatoes into 5mm slices, do the same with mozzarella. Peel and slice garlic cloves. Roll out pastry and scatter semolina over.

Arrange tomatoes over pastry so they overlap, then add garlic, rosemary and mozzarella. Season, scatter tarragon and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake in oven for 30 minutes.

365 Challenge: Zucchini Gratin

The team at Murdoch Books came up with this excellent idea to cook the entire list of recipes in ‘Stephane Reynaud’s 365 Good Reasons to Sit Down to Eat’. I found out about this challenge in April when I packed up the last of my kitchen appliances into the multitude of boxes which were destined for a long, arduous journey back home to Melbourne. I took the risk and went ahead to join the challenge in good faith that I would have found a home and got my kitchen appliances back. That was in April. I’ve found a perfect apartment, but guess what? The boxes with my kitchen treasures have only just arrived last Friday and with the weekend unpacking, I’m so glad I picked a simple sounding recipe to start this challenge off!

Zucchini is a very versatile vegetable – or fruit if you want to go all technical on me. Its mild flavour is great both with full, robust dishes or simple, clean ones. A couple of my favourite zucchini dishes include Japanese style zucchini tempura and mediterranean grilled zucchini salad. Mmmmm….

I have never tried making a zucchini gratin. When I received the recipe, my first reaction was “Yippee!!” because it seemed ultra simple with a tiny list of ingredients. Then I realised there’s no bread crumbs, no cheese, , no cream, no egg, no butter – basically nothing to form a baked crust. I always thought a gratin requires a crusty, rich crust similar to those of a gratin dauphinois. Maybe I just expected a recipe from Stephane Reynaud to come packed full of fat and flavour.

I was dubious. I didn’t think this recipe was going to impress me. Rounds of zucchini and onions, lemon thyme, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper. Really? That sounded too healthy. However I gave it a shot and you won’t believe how simple the preparation was and how much easier it was to cook it.

Vertically layer the vegetables tightly, drizzle olive oil, sprinkle the seasoning and herbs (I used dried herbs instead of fresh), chuck in the oven (150 deg c) for 15 minutes. That simple. No kidding.

I left it in the oven for five extra minutes as I wanted the top of the dish to caramelise more and have delicious brown bits. (Maybe I can’t let go of a gratin not having a crust!) The recipe indicated that the veggies should still be al dente.

I served the zucchini gratin with a simple pan-fried chicken maryland with fennel and coriander. The simple, clean flavours of the zucchini gratin complemented the dish and it was surprisingly delicious! The herbs enhanced the natural sweetness of the al dente vegetables. It makes for a fantastic side dish. So simple, so delicious and so, so easy to prepare. I’m sorry I ever doubted the recipe and I will definitely cook this again.

For more information about the 365 challenge and to read about other blogger’s attempts at the recipes, visit the Murdoch Books Blog here.

La Potee (French Farmhouse Soup)

La Potee Auvergnate is a rustic and hearty traditional French soup. Mostly cooked with ham hock, sausages and vegetables, it seems more like a stew than a soup really. When it’s cold and blue outdoors, it’s great to be warming up with a bowl of this stuff.

This recipe is heavily (really heavily) adapted from  Delia Smith’s soup collection. As usual, I do not have the time to be pre-soaking dried haricot beans or making stock from a smoked gammon joint. So in its place, I used canned cannellini beans, chicken stock and smoked pancetta. Works well and it only took me a third of the time.

One’s got to adapt when real life gets in the way of domestic goddessness!

When you feel like having a soup that is filling, full of different textures and comfortingly tasty, this is the one to cook. Chunky bits of sausage, smokey pancetta and the sweetness of the carrots, leeks and savoy cabbages = pot of yum.

This now has a place in my very own soup collection.


2 x 400g canned cannellini beans
4 – 6 pork sausages
1 clove garlic
2 medium leeks, sliced into rings
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp dried wild thyme
1 medium head of savoy cabbage, shredded
200g pancetta cubes
1.5 litres chicken stock (more if you prefer soupier soups)
sea salt & fresh ground pepper
chopped fresh parsley

1. Squeeze the sausage meat out of their skins and brown them in a heavy based pot with just a touch of oil, break them up into smaller ‘balls’ while browning. When nicely browned, remove from pot and set aside. Add in pancetta cubes and fry till nicely coloured and fragrant, add in garlic, thyme and prepared vegetables (except savoy cabbage)

2. Cook veggies for about 10 – 15 minutes until tender, then add in chicken stock and beans. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Let the soup come back to a boil, then add cabbage and sausages. Simmer the soup for a few more minutes until the cabbage is wilted.

Serve with sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley and a drizzle of olive oil if desired.

Photoblog: L’Absinthe

Autumn seems to be on a hiatus here in London. It seems we’ve gone head first into winter! Thankfully, we managed to get our butts off the couch two weekends ago while the sun was shining and took a nice long walk along the canals. We headed to Primrose Hill, just north of Regent’s Park where poshy Londoners were soaking up the sun. It was just beautiful. The park that is…poshy Londoners…well they were alright.

Primrose Hill is nestled between Regent’s Park and Camden Town, and it has that quirky, artsy feel about it, similar to Camden but way more upmarket.

We didn’t just go for a long walk and not reward ourselves! Gotta be kidding right? We walked…to lunch…at this wee little French bistro in Primrose Hill.

L’Absinthe is a comfortable little bistro with a neighbourhoody feel. The owner is a tall, charismatic French man who does all the front of house meeting and greeting…yes, in French.

The menu changes regularly with several traditional regulars like leek vinaigrette, steak frites and creme brulee. Unfortunately, the leeks were out and we both weren’t in the mood for steak. So we went ahead and ordered the non-regulars.

Ham hock terrine and goat’s cheese salad for starters. Duck confit with braised red cabbage and fillet of cod with ratatouille for mains. All delicious, fresh and very Frenchy. Oooh lala!

To top all that off, there was the L’Absinthe creme brulee. And yes, there was absinthe in that thing! I liked it…there was just a little zing from the alcohol and it brought the creme to a more adult level. Mmm….hubby wasn’t a fan…but then again, he’s not into alcohol and he’s definitely not into modifications of any kind to his favourite desserts. We cleaned out the dish though. It was yum.

Now, fingers crossed there more sunny weekends coming our way so we can have more walks and more lunches…not that cold and grey is going to stop us from lunchin’….pffft.

40 Chalcot Road

Le Nemrod & Palais D’Asie

I’ve been crazy busy since I’ve been back from Paris so I haven’t had the chance to blog much. Just to keep the drooling going, I thought I’d just quickly pop these in. Two meals that I had in my last Paris trip. The first was our late night dinner on arrival to the St. Germain area where our hotel was. The hotel clerk recommended Le Nemrod to us, which I’m sure was no coincidence that it was also on my ‘to eat’ list. (Thanks again to David Lebovitz)

A busy café in a quiet residential street, Le Nemrod opens and serves till late. We were there at almost 10.30pm, plonked ourselves under a covered terrace and was served by friendly and professional waitstaff. Our first foray into the weekend ‘nom-ings’ started off with dishes like Confit de canard, grilled steak and creme brulee. I’m not quite sure if the food was really, really good or that I was ravenous. Everything tasted yummy. Although recommendations for Le Nemrod always included brunch specialties like their salad or Croque Monsieur.

We often go out of our way to visit recommended restaurants, even if it means having to trek across town. No surprise then that we took the metro to Maison Blanche in search of a Vietnamese favourite – Le Bambou. The area surrounding Place d’Italie can be described as mini Vietnam. We finally got to Le Bambou only to be told that they were closed for the day (yeah ok, we were there at 3.30pm) Boo! So we took our chances and walked into the next nearest viet restaurant – Palais De Asie.

All I really wanted was a steaming bowl of pho which I’m glad to report – was wonderfully big and delicious. I had the ‘house pho’ which consisted of pork cake, liver, kidney, blood cubes, fish cake and bean sprouts. Hubby had the Vietnamese chicken chop with rice. Both were massively yummy.

When in Paris, gotta have some Vietnamese. It’s cheap, it’s good.

Le Nemrod
51 Rue du Cherche-Midi, Paris

Palais D’Asie
93 Avenue Ivry, Paris


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