Carrot, apple and cumin soup.

I saw a post on Instagram a while back. It was a recipe and I can’t remember what it was. What I do remember, is that it had an enormous list of ingredients, which probably explains why I can’t remember the dish. Sometimes I think my food is totally boring and déja vu, but when I see friends and family dig into my meals with gusto, I realize that they enjoy the simplicity of my meals. Or they must be starving.

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There is a certain flair to preparing a meal or a dish and it has nothing to do with the amount of ingredients. You really don’t need much to serve a delicious meal. The main ingredient of course is always the love with which you prepare ita very kitsch and Facebook- favorite ingredient, but it holds true nonetheless.  

I have my own flair in the kitchen. First and foremost, is chaos. No matter how well I prepare beforehand, it finally turns into chaos. I start off very well, very organized and I can even keep it up for a while. My working surface stays clean, I keep an eye on the food brewing on my stove, I watch my oven, I rinse used utensils to keep my sink clean and empty, I have hot water at hand to add to hot foods. Suddenly it all goes wrong. Bowls are everywhere, I have no room to put hot oventrays, I have no clean wooden spoons left, the sink is filled to the beams, the fridge door is open, I can’t find the band aid, the stove is rattling with lids bouncing up and down. The tempo in the kitchen is now on full speed. Somehow though, I am still in control. And I am enjoying all this havoc around me. Chaos is not always a bad thing.

kitchen-chaos

Another character of my “personal kitchen flair” is my attention to serving a meal, a dish, or even just a simple sandwich. I believe a dish can’t leave the kitchen without that last personal touch. I always serve a meal with colour.  A dull and colorless dish in front of me, robs me of all envie.. desire. There are gazillions of ways to add colour to a dish. The easiest and most available to everybody, is a sprig of herb, usually one that you have used in your dish. What? You don’t use herbs in your food? You should start right away! It is one of the most sensual flairs in food…chopping and chipping herbs, smelling and tasting it.

food-styling

Having all the ingredients for a dish exhibited on the counter, gives me such a kick and it incites one of my biggest flairs in my cooking. When deciding on a dish, I gather all my ingredients and place them on my working surface. I remember my mother doing it very differently, which is why her kitchen was neat and there was always enough space, even though she had a small kitchen.  She fetched every ingredient as she needed it. For a carrot soup, she fetched an onion, cut it and added it to  her casserole. While the onion fried, she fetched 6 carrots, cut it and added it to her soup. Step by step, she continued and by the end, the table was set, the kitchen clean and we sat down for a delicious meal of soup and bread. I,  on the other hand, fetch my whole potager (vegetable garden), all the herbs I might possibly want to add and everything else in between.I am like an orchestra conductor. I want to see my whole ensemble in front of me and then I lift my hands and the music begins. I love seeing all those fresh produce before me, deciding on the go what I would like to do to my soup, ( I think the Americans call it “cooking from the hip”?), Always keep the tune in mind though and, just like an orchestra, never allow a dish to become cacophonous.

January is a month of diets and soups. Since I am utterly hopeless at diets, I opt for soup. In our home, carrot, apple and cumin soup is a favorite with all ingredients healthy enough to not feel bad about indulging.

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Carrot, apple and cumin soup.

  1. Fry 1 chopped shallot and 1 tsp cumin seeds for few minutes until the shallot is transparent. Don’t burn the mixture.
  2. Add about 8 big carrots, peeled and cut.
  3. Add 3 cups of home made chicken stock, or 3 cups of  water with one cube of chicken stock.
  4. Bring to the boil.
  5. Peel 1 large Granny smith apple and remove the core. Cut into chunks and add to the soup.
  6. Leave to simmer over medium heat until the carrots are very tender.
  7. Remove from the heat. Leave to cool a bit.
  8. Mix the soup to a creamy consistency. Pour the soup through a sieve to get a smooth velvet soup.
  9. Pour into a clean pot and reheat gently.
  10. Season with salt and pepper and add créme fraîche to taste. The soup must have the consistency of cream…it is soup, not a puree. If it is too thick, add some full cream milk or cream.
  11. Serve the soup warm in bowls with a small quenelle (dollop)of créme fraîche and a spoonful of apple salsa.  Sprinkle with pepper and drizzle some olive oil.

Apple and cumin salsa:

  1. Cut 1 granny smith apple in brunoise,(small dice), add lemon juice, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1 chopped spring onion . Season with salt and pepper and mix.

Serves 4 people

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PS: You can follow me on Instagram for more regular short posts at ronellesatelier

à bientôt

Ronell

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Galette des rois aux pommes…and January ambiance at Coin Perdu.

And so we have come to the end of 2016. May we all have a year of good health and a good dose of adventure.

Last year had seen very little of me here on my blog. Even though blogging is mostly  n “ancient” practice and replaced by Instagram, I still love my little blog very much, going on 10 years this year. I have set one important goal for myself and it is to get back to my foodblog. I hope you will walk along side me. It is always more fun to have company!

Just as we think we have had enough of eating after Christmas and new year, les galettes de rois land on our plates. We love our galette des rois. Made of a fluffy puff pastry and filled with a variety of fillings, the most popular being almond cream, it is served around a table  with coffee and tea…and friends. If you find the trinket in your helping, you have the honours of presenting the next galette des rois…wearing the crown of course, in this case, a twined olive branch.

And so I invite you to my table. Let s serve the coffee and slice our galette. Bon appetit!

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You can find the recipe for my galette des rois aux pommes(with apples) at this link…galette des rois. It is the basic recipe of puff pastry, filled with an almond cream. This time round, I added some apples for some change.

This is what I did:

  1. Peel and cut 3 Granny smith apples in chunks and caramelize in a TBSP of butter, a pinch of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg and about 2 TBSP of sugar. Add 2 tsp lemon juice and the rind of 1/2 lemon. Add 2 TBSP of currants. Caramelize until the apples aare soft and caramelized. Leave to cool.
  2. Follow the basic basic recipe for galette des rois up to step 8. (Spread the almond cream in the center and place a trinket in the filling.)
  3. Spoon the cool apple filling on top of the almond cream.
  4. Cover with the second circle of pastry and squeeze the ends together.
  5. Baste the top with egg yolk and draw a pattern of your choice with a knife on the top.
  6. Leave for 30 minutes in the fridge.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes at 200 degr C. Lower the heat to 180 degr C and bake for another 10 minutes until golden brown.

Serves 6 people

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Last year we had a gentle winter and even though it made life easier, it wasn’t what nature needed, or what we needed for that matter.Our winters need to be cold for new life in spring. And so we have our cold again this year with white, frosty mornings which are so magical, I feel like I have been transported to a different world.

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A few images from my garden from this sudden very cold January.  It reminds me how fortunate I am to live in a country which have four spectacular seasons.

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à bientôt

Ronell

coq.NEF

A scoop of yogurt mascarpone cream and grapes, flambéed with Armagnac bring total silence to the dinner table.

In my garden, we have delicious grapes growing all along our terrace and balcony. I have no clue what they are called, but I devour them.  I have planted my two favorites in the potager: Chasselas and Muscat; of which we had our first harvest this year. The wine grapes( the domaine of mon chéri) will hopefully be planted next year with proper fanfare when all our friends and children and their friends will show up(hopefully!) with muscle and vigour to help. They will be rewarded with great food…cooked by me of course!

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. I managed to grab the last two bunches of grapes of this  season for a dessert I  have been planning to post, but haven’t yet found the time to do it. I bought  the last of les raisins d’Italie, a nice green and firm grape, perfect for this dessert.

Yogurt marcarpone cream with armagnac flambéed grapes.

What else can I say. I just simply love dessert. Leaving a restaurant without finishing my meal off with dessert, is…to say the least, sad, or better yet, depressing. It needn’t be a fancy affair. A yogurt. Or a fruit. A scoop of ice cream. In this case fruit and yogurt and a luscious cream. Oh, and a drizzle of Armagnac lit up to a pretty blue flame. Et voilà, c’est fait. Dessert is served.

Yogurt marcarpone cream with armagnac flambéed grapes.-004La recette:

  1. 200 g Greek yogurt( the sour of the yogurt adds a nice flavour to the dish)
  2. 200 g mascarpone cheese
  3. 1 vanilla pod
  4. 2 TBSP castor sugar
  5. 500 g grapes , stems removed(You can use mix of black and green grapes, although the black grapes do do tend to lose their colour  during the cooking process.
  6. 2 TBS butter
  7. 3 TBSP brown sugar
  8. juice and grated rind of 1/2 lemon
  9. 50 ml  Armagnac

► Whisk the mascarpone until light. Add the yogurt. Slit open the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and add to the mascarpone/yogurt cream along with the castor sugar. Mix well, cover and refrigerate until needed. Wash the grapes (of your choice) and remove the stems. There is need to remove the seeds, unless you can do it without breaking the grape. Melt the butter and sugar in a large pan. Add the grapes, lemon juice and grated rind. Let simmer over gentle heat for about 4 minutes. Be careful not to break the grapes open. Heat the Armagnac in a little saucepan, remove from the heat and light up with a match. Pour the flaming alcohol immediately and gently over the grapes. Leave to simmer for another 2-3 minutes until slightly syrupy. OR Pour the warm Armagnac onto the grapes  and flambée. Take care not to splash the flaming alcohol. Leave to cool down a little. Place a generous dollop of mascarpone in each bowl/plate and spoon in a helping of grapes. Finish off by drizzling  some   syrup over the grapes and cream. Enjoy.

► Serves 4 people.

To set food alight, is something everybody always enjoy. with ooh and aahs, mesmerized by the flames licking the food, we stare at the show. It can of course be very dangerous and not at all should children be allowed to do it. For those inexperienced, don’t do it like you see chefs doing it on television with big drama and whooshing  up to the ceiling.with 50 ml of alcohol, you already get a spectacular flame, so if you want to be on the safe side, split it up into two flambés. Don’t lean over the casserole you are about to flambé and stand far enough away, but still close enough to have control on what you are doing. You can pour a little alcohol into  stainless steel soup ladle with long handle to heat up directly over a flame and light up, then pour the burning alcohol over the pan for effect. Or you can add the alcohol to the warm grapes and then set alight. In both cases, switch off all other gas flames on the stove, stay away from candles and any other flames. If you feel unsure, skip the flambé step. just pour in the Armagnac alcohol over the grapes and let it cook for about 3-4 minutes for the alcohol to cook off. Enjoy and be safe above all else!

Yogurt marcarpone cream with armagnac flambéed grapes.-001cooking 2015à bientôt, Ronelle

coq.NEF

Autumn with chestnuts, walnuts and prunes.

Autumn is the most melancholic time of year for me. It is also the most beautiful. Every time, when I drive off the road in my efforts to admire the colours, I think this year is the most beautiful I have seen. Then comes the next autumn and the same thoughts go through my mind. As well as driving off the road.

chestnuts, walnuts and prunes for autumn.

All over the villages in France, les fêtes d’automne are celebrating with enthusiasm ..well…autumn. With stalls of food and bric and bracs, dancing in the streets and musicians sounding with loud self confidence their sometimes false chords into the air. But who cares! Everybody is having fun.

Fete de la chataigne3One such a fete was la fête de chataigne at Beynat, close to home. An atmosphere of vivacity reigned..for me in any case.  Everything was there; Trophies for the best chestnut harvest. Traditional artisans who made their sabots and combed their wool, embroidered their linens and wove their baskets the old fashioned way. By hand, of course.You could buy roasted chestnuts, apples by the crate, walnuts, nutcrackers(of which I bought one, simply because I am too lame to say no!) the meal of the day was home made boudin(blood sausage) with…frites. The French love their frites at markets. The usual crepe a la nutella was ever popular.

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I have to admit that I love to go to all these markets, and fairs and fêtes and foires and brocantes. I love browsing and tasting, having coffee(but of course!) I love the atmosphere of exuberance and fun, touching stuff, turning it upside down. I love the smells of food finding its way to my nose. I love the excitement of finding a tiny something for a tiny price; a pot of home made confiture, a piece of sauccisson with walnuts(my favorite), or an old coffee cup or two…simply just for remembering a great morning.

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So, did I buy a tiny something for a tiny price. Oh yes I did! Chestnuts.  For this delicious accompaniment. I ‘m not a big fan of chestnuts, but this dish is divine. I can eat it by the spoonful. It only consists of chestnuts, walnuts and prunes. Some butter(salted) and some chicken stock, or if you prefer, vegetable stock, in which case, it is completely vegetarian. The most fascinating aspect of this dish is that it is autumn at its best. It smells and looks and tastes like forest. OK, you might  need a little imagination and heaps of enthusiasm, but autumn is short. Enjoy it.

La recette:

  1. A handful of cleaned, cooked chestnuts. (It is much easier to buy the vacuum packed cleaned and cooked ones, just ready for use. It is quite an ordeal to clean and cook them. I will show how in a next post for this one is already starting to resemble a marathon.)
  2. A handful of prunes, seeds removed.
  3. A handful of walnuts, removed from the shells with the help of your fancy nutcracker.
  4. A big knob of butter
  5. A drizzle of  olive oil.
  6. A TBSP honey.
  7. Fresh thyme, milled black pepper and mixed spices.
  8. About 1 full cup of chicken stock(or vegetable stock for vegetarians)

Heat the olive oil and salted butter in a frying pan. Add the chestnuts, prunes, mixed spices, milled pepper and fresh thyme (stripped from the stems). Sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the walnuts, honey and the chicken stock to the mixture. Leave to gently simmer on low heat just until the juices turned to a thick sauce. Remove from the heat. Serve with roasted chicken, rabbit or venison.

Serves 4 people as accompaniment.

cooking 2014

à bientot

Ronelle