Bread therapy

The last couple of weeks have been very busy and very stressful for me. I don’t find many things relaxing because I always have something going on in my head that makes me not relax.
Baths are great but you have to find time for that.

I’ve been making bread since quite a while now and there aren’t many things that relaxes me more than making bread. There is something about it that is different from making cakes or biscuits. I’ve been thinking about it more lately and I think I have at least a few answers.

When you make bread by hand, you knead the dough, you use your physical strengh to do it. All that stressfull energy goes into that and if you’re really in a bad mood, you can do it quite violently, it’s good for the dough anyway.

Bread isn’t like any other baking product that you make-bake-tadaa!, it has to grow, rise for a bit before you get to the next stage, I find it soothing because you don’t rush it. It’s like your little pet dough for the next 3 hours of your day.

When it’s baking, you can really smell the rustic goodness. Bread is a very ancient thing that everybody loves, it was the base of human nutrition for so long that it’s kind of included in us all.

There aren’t many things better than taking your loaf out of the oven when it’s ready. I can’t help myself from saying stupid stuff and doing little silly noises like “Oooohhhhh look at this beauty!!!”. At that precise moment, I’ll tap the loaf, in a “good boy” kind of way.

Last thing is that it makes you feel so much better about yourself once you’ve done it. You’re the king of the jungle, you just made bread!

I’m sorry if this post sounds totally bonkers but trust me, instead of a pamper evening, try the bread evening once instead.

Mylène

A sold-out Christmas

This year, Christmas was CRAZY!! We ran out of boxes for our macarons and couldn’t get anymore from our French supplier. We also got a very very very big order for the beginning of january (but we are not aloud to say anything yet – top secret) so we didn’t really have any time for anything else.

So as you can imagine, I have very little time to sit down, have a cup of tea and write something. This is why I’m not going to give you a full recipe but only a great idea.

I made a starter for christmas eve, as all the family was at home. It was a first and I’ll definitly make it again.

On the day before, I made a mushroom and courgette risotto, I cooked it a tiny bit more than I would normally do as I needed to be able to shape it afterwards.

I left it in the fridge overnight.

About 30 mins before serving…

make balls with the risotto, about the size of an egg.

Coat the balls first with flour, then with lightly beaten egg and then with breadcrumbs.

Deep fry them until golden brown. (To keep them warm, leave them in an oven).

You can present them with some rocket, lettuce and watercress.

Everybody really loved them, they looked a lot like scotch eggs so they have a bit of a surprise effect. For any occasion’s starter, it’s really great and not too filling.

Mylene

Chocolate & chilli bread

For the chocolate week, I wanted to make something savoury with chocolate.

Sadly, most of the dishes I found that use chocolate as savoury weren’t vegetarian, so I thought of bread.

This chilli and chocolate bread can be used as savoury or sweet.
I chopped my chocolate so fine that you don’t get big chunks of it that are really sweet. I also used very dark chocolate.

This bread is not too hot at all, it makes the chilli stand out but doesn’t overpower the whole thing.

For a big loaf, you’ll need:

– 500g of strong flour
– 10g of salt
– 12g of dried yeast
– a splash of olive oil
– 340ml of water
– 1 tsp of flaked dried chilli
– 2 tbsp of very finely chopped chocolate

Put the flour, salt, chillies and yeast into a bowl and mix well.

Add the oil and water and knead for about 10min until smooth and elastic.

Add the chocolate and knead for another 2min.

Put the dough in a floured bowl, cover it with cling film and leave it to raise for an hour.

Put the raised dough on your work top and knead it for a minute to knock the air out.

Shape your bread as desired; I usually make mine plaited.
Put the bread on a baking sheet, cover it with a tea towel and leave for an other hour.

Preheat the oven to 200°C, egg-wash the bread if you want and cook it for 25min or until golden brown.

Eat toasted with butter, jam, cheese or just as it is.

finished loaf

Mylène

Couscous dish

We all have a certain dish or type of food that suddenly reminds us of childhood and mummy’s cooking. A chocolate cake, a rice pudding, a stew… One of mine is a couscous dish.
It’s basically a north African curry.
In France, there is a big north African community because of the old French colonies (like Indian community over here).
It’s not exactly like a curry (the couscous dish is a one and only) as curries are different; made with different types of meat, fish, vegetables, hot or mild…

This North African curry is usually made with 3 types of meat all added together (lamb, chicken and hot sausages) but like we’re vegetarians, I only make it with the vegetables.
After a couple of attempts, mine tastes very close to my mum’s but still there is something different…

What can I say, I can’t compete against the couscous queen!!

Anyway, this is my version.

For a 4 hungry people couscous, you’ll need:

– 1 big onion, chopped
– 3 garlic cloves, crushed
– 1 big carrot, chopped in half an inch slices
– 2 courgettes, roughly chopped
– 2 peppers (any color), chopped
– Half a tin of chickpeas
– One tin of chopped tomatoes
– 1 stock cube
– 1 dessertspoon of ras el hanout (north African blend of spices)
– 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika
– Salt and pepper

Fry the onion in a large saucepan.

After 5 min, add the garlic. When the garlic starts cooking, add the carrot and spices.

Leave it for 3 min then add the chopped tomatoes and the stock cube. Cook with a lid for about 15min then add the other vegetables. If you don’t have enough moisture, just add some water.

Leave it to simmer for a while (30 min).

When your vegetables are cooked, put the chickpeas in. Season to taste, it needs quite a lot of salt.

Put it aside, lid on and wait for 10min before eating.

Serve with couscous (what we call couscous in the UK is actually only the name of the whole dish; we call it couscous semolina in France).

Mylène

Holidays in Brittany

This summer, we went to visit my family in Brittany in the family house I grew up in.
We had such a lovely time all together, the weather wasn’t the best but we made up for it with a lot of time just enjoying the company of each other.

I don’t really have any recipe to share from the holiday, only ideas.

As my little sister and brother love salted caramel, they were jumping around when I told them I could make some just as good as the one they buy at the supermarket, “Before you leave, can you make 1..no 3…no 8 jars of it pleeeease?” they pleaded.

So to make them extra happy I made salted caramel ice cream as my mum has an ice cream machine.

I followed a plain vanilla ice cream recipe and added a portion of salted caramel sauce (you can find the recipe on my last post).

At the last minute some more people arrived to eat with us so my “6 servings” ice cream became a “10 servings”.
To serve my ice cream, I sprinkled some crushed shortbread and put a little curl of chocolate on it.
I think it made all the difference.

Also, we had crêpes made on a special breton pan. Nearly all the older folks in my family make them.
They make it look so easy but when I have a try, it comes out looking more like mangled lace than pancake!

It’s a tradition to have buckwheat pancake batter as a savoury and a slightly sweet wheat batter for sweet.
I’m useless at making Crêpes Bretonnes. To make them properly, you need a lot of practise.
My mum is always saying that I should buy a pan and make them in the UK. I don’t think I’ll be motivated enough to practise regularly but who knows? Maybe one day soon….

Watch this space.

Mylène

My version of the best ever mash

Everybody has already experienced  eating bad mashed potatoes: bland, super-thick and really difficult to finish. I have experienced quite a lot with mash over the years and I think I’ve found the recipe I really enjoy.

You’ll need:

–  A couple of potatoes
–  Butter
–  Milk
–  Crushed  garlic
–  Cheese
–  Nutmeg
–  Salt and pepper

Cook the potatoes in salted water, mash them while still hot and add all the ingredients.

I didn’t give you the exact quantity of each ingredient because it’s totally up to your taste. If you like your mash thick, just half a glass of milk will do; if you like it really rich, you can put quite a lot of butter (really don’t hesitate, it will make a difference) and cheese. Don’t underestimate the power of your seasoning. I think most people are scared with salt and pepper but really, you MUST season enough if you want a good result. Nutmeg is mash’s best friend, it reveals all the flavours; don’t abuse it, just a good pinch would do.

I find that the garlic gives a little kick which is just perfect with potatoes.

When I don’t feel too guilty and that I have left over cream, I use it instead of milk and the difference is actually quite amazing.

The options are endless, you can add parsnip or sweet potatoes, egg yolk, goat cheese…

It only takes you 2 minutes to transform an old boring mash into something delicious so don’t hesitate.

Mylène

Using left-overs from your recipes

Some recipes require only the egg whites, some only the egg yolks, some only half of the pot of cream you just bought…  Most of the time, these left-overs end up in your bin or resting in a plastic tub for weeks… With the prices of food what they are, you can’t really afford waste. Here are some ideas for recipes with these kind of leftovers.

Egg Whites: You can make amazing tasty meringues, crispy on the outside and soft inside, with a very simple recipe: Weigh your egg whites, whisk them and add during whisking the same amount of sugar. When it’s firm and shiny, stop whisking and add the same weight of icing sugar, incorporate it with a wooden spoon. Lay little bits of this mixture on a tray. Cook it in a very very low oven (90-100°C) for about an hour (depends how big are your meringues) or until you can press the meringue without it to break.

Egg Yolks: I have the most amazing recipe of (kind of) crème brûlée ever! It’s dead simple and really quick to prepare. In a pan, pour 150ml of milk and scrape in a vanilla pod. When it arrives to the boil, remove from the heat and add 80g of sugar (or less if you like it less sweet). Leave the mixture to infuse for 5 min. Meanwhile, whisk 3 egg yolks with 150ml of double cream, add the vanilla milk with the vanilla pod removed and pour the mixture into 4 individual ramequins which can allow being put in the oven at high temperatures. Put them in a tin, half filled with water and put it in the oven at 180°C for about 20-30 min. Allow them to cool down and put them in the fridge. This recipe is really nice because you can use your egg yolks, cream and milk left-overs. You can change the flavour as well (crushed nuts, pistachio paste, chocolate…). I usually serve it with a tiny meringue and a layer of homemade caramel sauce on the top (don’t try if you’re on a diet).

You can make delicious pasta carbonara, tasty quiches with you egg yolks as well.

Cream: well, anything really; quiches, pasta and mushroom with a bit of mustard, chocolate truffles, a chocolate sauce, mixed with milk and chocolate, you can have the most amazing hot chocolate you ever tasted.

Milk: rice pudding (recipe in an older post), hot chocolate, confiture de lait (basically the French “dulce de leche” just AMAZING, we call it ‘milk jam’, it’s just milk with sugar and vanilla cooked for ages in a pan… Recipe to follow!

I hope these ideas are going to help you to use your leftovers in amazing tasty dishes.

Mylène

Sorting out a website and more

These last few weeks, we were thinking about selling our goodies online; we thought about it since we started our business but we didn’t have a real think about it until the last few months.

At the same time as trying to create a website, we ordered safe and beautiful boxes to send our stuff in. We finally got macaroon boxes and decorated biscuit boxes and they look absolutely amazing! I’m so happy with them! Even if the website isn’t ready (at all), I’m really excited about it!

Anyway, I had a quite busy week last week but very nice. I had a lot of occasions to celebrate : 3 Birthdays and, of course, Valentine’s day. This year was the first year when I really felt creative about it so I let my imagination go!! Valentine’s day is really big over here compared to France where people don’t really celebrate lover’s day.

I made a whole meal as a valentine’s present, my starter was a roasted red pepper soup with goat cheese. It was very tasty!

Here’s the recipe:

For 3 people, you’ll need:

–  4 red peppers
–  1 medium onion
–  1 clove of garlic
–  Half of a potato
–  Half a litre of vegetable stock
–  1 desert spoon of sugar

Cut in half and de-seed your peppers. Roast them under the grill until the skin goes black. Put them in a jug and cover it with cling film. When it’s cooled down, remove the burned skin, chop your peppers and leave them in a bowl.

Chop the onion, garlic and potato and cook them for 5 minutes in a bit of oil. Add you peppers and stock and cook for about 15 minutes. Blend your vegetables and season with salt, pepper and sugar.

You can serve it as it is or with a piece of goat cheese and a drizzle of cream.

Also this week, we worked in a lovely shop in Northampton: St Giles Cheese.

We supply them every week with a selection of our stuff. They are really nice people who care about local businesses and the quality of their products, I really recommend this shop, and not just because they sell our stuff!

Mylène

Focaccia mon amour…

Since I arrived in UK, I noticed all the Italian food you can find in the supermarkets here; we don’t get the chance to get it in France. I was surprised to see Italian breads, sauces, risotto… Italian food is so popular over here. I then realized I didn’t even know half of the Italian famous dishes.

Anyway, I discovered the existence of focaccia on a food programe on TV.  It looked amazing and I couldn’t wait to try it.

Obviously, the focaccia has to be thin and not thick like you usually find them in England. The dough is very very wet so it makes the kneading quit unusual but not bad at all, I actually enjoyed doing it.

My focaccia was really nice, light and very tasty. It didn’t last very long  at all, it’s very moreish. So for my very first one, it was a success. It was very easy to make so if you fancy making it, don’t hesitate and give it a go!

You’ll need:

–  500g of strong white flour
–  7g of fast action yeast
–  3 table spoons of olive oil plus more for kneading and topping
–  400ml of cool water
–  10g of salt

Mix together the flour, yeast, salt, olive oil and half of the water. Add the rest of the water a bit at a time.

You will soon think you need to add flour but don’t, it would be a big mistake.

Knead this wet dough for 5 minutes. Oil your worktop with olive oil and put the dough on it. Knead it a bit more and put it in a oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave it at room temperature for an hour.

Then pour the dough in two medium tins, covered with oiled baking paper. Press it gently to take the shape of the tin or tray. If your fingers stick to the dough, just put a bit more oil. Leave it at room temperature for an hour, without cover.

Preheat your oven at 220°C. Press gently your focaccia with the tip of your fingers to make little holes. Sprinkle with salt, rosemary, thyme… You can put garlic, olives…

Put in the oven for 20 min or until golden. Drizzle with virgin olive oil and serve warm with feta cheese, olives, dried tomatoes,… I personally love it on its own.

Absolutely delicious!

Halloween

As you know, Halloween is here and it doesn’t only mean kids coming to knock at your door for treats . It means an other occasion to make seasonal and fun recipes.

When I think about Halloween, I especially think about pumpkins. They are wonderful for loads of things. Pies, soups, toasted seeds for a healthy snack, muffins, ice cream, cupcakes, cheesecakes,…

I couldn’t wait to try some recipes. So let’s buy pumpkins!

The first recipe I tried was a pie.

It was a “normal” pumpkin pie recipe that I found in one of my vegetable cook books. I used very dark sugar instead of light brown and all I could taste was the sugar and the spices. I couldn’t taste the pumpkin at all. It was still good but not wonderful. Well, maybe it’s only personal taste.

I wasn’t totally impressed by the pie so I had to try something else. I then made cupcakes. I used a recipe found on the internet, very easy to find. I made them and they looked really good and tasted great!

 

I was glad with the result of the cupcakes but I still had half a pumpkin to use.

I didn’t even think about it for one second, it had to be soup otherwise the kitchen would have been full of goodies and I would have been too tempted to resist eating them!

The soup was very nice, especially the texture but if I could have had another variety of pumpkin, it would have been much better (the one I had was grown for the size and shape and not for the taste). Anyway, here is the recipe…

You’ll need

:

– 1kg of pumpkin
– 2 sweet potatoes
– 2 onions
– 2 cloves of garlic
– 800ml of vegetable stock
– a pinch of cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg
– 200ml of cream (less or more, depends of your taste)

Chop all the vegetables. Cook for 5 min the onions in some olive oil. Add the other vegetables and cook for 2 min. Add the stock and the spices. Cook until the pumpkin is tender.

When it’s cooked, blend the vegetables and add the cream. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy!