Almond and Cherry Pithivier

pithivier3_lefermier_070215

There’s one cooking show that I could watch endlessly over again. For me, it’s the perfect mix of Francophilic nostalgia, mouth-watering food and my style of cooking: rustic. It is…Rick Stein’s French Food Odyssey. If you’ve never had the pleasure before, you can find it online: www.amazon.com . You’re welcome.

pithivier_lefermier_070215

With its focus on French favourites, there are lots of dishes on Rick’s menu that were regulars at the dinner table growing up, but one that I have never tried was something called a Pithivier, and so, I decided to make one. My only regret…I shouldn’t have waited so long!

pithivier4_lefermier_070215

Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets butter puff pastry
  • 125g softened butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolk
  • 125 almond meal
  • 15 flour
  • 2 tablespoon Kirsch (cherry liqueur)
  • 225 fresh cherries, stone removed

pithivier2_lefermier_070215

Method:

  1. Cut a disc of puff pastry using a medium size plate (about 25 cm) for the bottom and a slightly larger one for the top (about 29 cm), using a larger plate. Rest them in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  2. For the almond filling, cream the butter and sugar together until white and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and one of the yolks, gently add the almond meal, flour and Kirsch, stir until combine.
  4. Stir in the pitted cherries.
  5. Place the smaller disc on flat baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Spoon the almond mixture in the center and spread it to about 2.5 cm of the edge.
  6. Beat the remaining yolk with 1 tablespoon of cold water and brush the edges of the bottom disc. Place the larger disc on top of the filling and press the edges together to seal, pressing out any trapped air. Press the outside of the edges of the pastry with a fork to give it a attractive finish. Place the Pithivier in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius (428F). Brush the top of the Pithivier with the rest of the egg wash, then with the tip of a small sharp knife, score radiating arcs from the center out towards the edge, taking care not to cut too deeply. Make a hole in the centre to let the steam escape.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 220 degrees Celsius(428F), until the pastry puffed up and is golden. Then lower the temperature to 180 degrees Celsius(356F) and bake for a further 40 minutes or until a skewer pushed in the middle comes out clean. If it start to become too brown, loosely lay a sheet of foil over the top.
  9. To give the Phitivier a classic glazed appearance remove it from the oven, increase the temperature to 220 degrees Celsius (428F). Dust the pastry with icing sugar and bake for 4 minutes.
  10. Transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool slightly, then serve with vanilla bean ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.
  11. I also recommend a glass of Chateau Viranel “Gourmandise” available from www.airoldifinewines.com.au
Advertisements

Apricot Tarte Tatin

 

tartetatin2_lefermier_200115

The story of the Tarte Tartin gives hope to everyone who is absent-minded in the kitchen. This “accidental” dessert is credited to the sisters Tartin who ran a hotel in the town of Lamotte-Beuvron, in France’s Loire Valley. One of the sisters, Stephanie, was known as an excellent cook but also a bit of a scatterbrain. As the most popular version of the story goes, one day she left the apples for her apple pie in the pan for too long and so they over-caramelised.

Not wanting to waste the apples, but wanting to hide the mishap, she covered them with tart pastry and placed the whole pan in the oven to bake. Once cooked, she flipped her concoction back over to serve in order to make it look like a normal tart.

If only every kitchen disaster could be such a hit with guests!

The great thing about this recipe is that it works just as well with any fruit that caramelises nicely. I was lucky enough this summer to have a bumper crop of apricots on my tree and they worked beautifully for this Tarte Tartin. Peaches also work a treat and for the savoury lover, some juicy cherry tomatoes rival their sweeter cousins.

tartetatin3_lefermier_200115

Ingredient:

  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 50 ml water
  • 15-20 apricots
  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • 50 ml rum
  • 1 sheet butter puff pastry

tartetatin_lefermier_200115

Method:

  1. Preheat oven at 180 degrees Celsius
  2. Put the sugar and water in a medium sauce pan, give it a stir and cook the sugar until it caramelize.
  3. Pour the caramel into a tart dish, glass or non stick is preferable, and make sure it covers the entire base.
  4. Cut the apricot in half, remove the stone and place them on top of the caramel cut side towards you. Once you’ve layed down the first layer of apricots, repeat the process once more. When you flip the Tatin you’ll see the nicer side of the apricots.
  5. Dice the butter and place it on top of the apricots. Pour the rum on top of the fruit.
  6. Place the pastry over the apricots, tuck the sides in and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Once cooked, leave it cool down a little bit then carefully flip it over. A good way to do it is to place a tray on top of the tart and using two towel flip in one move.
  8. I suggest you serve the Tarte Tatin with a delicious vanilla bean ice cream and a glass of Chateau “Suduiraut” Sauterne available from http://www.airoldifinewines.com.au .

Short Bread

Short Bread

shortbread1_lefermier_231214

Shortbread started off with very humble beginnings – as the slow cooked off cuts of bread dough. Eventually, butter took the place of yeast to more closely resemble the shortbread we know and love today. With its buttery richness it’s not hard to imagine that shortbread was once considered a luxury and could only be afforded for special occasions such as weddings, Christmas or New Year’s Eve. A particular variety known as “petticoat tails”, flavoured with caraway seeds was apparently a favourite of Queen Victoria.

For this iteration of the Scottish favourite, I used classic gingerbread cookie cutter shapes, which would be perfect to use if you’re cooking with the kids! For a more grown up version, you could create the classic shortbread fingers or the wheel shape sliced into triangles (i.e, the petticoat tails).

Ingredients:

  • 500g plain flour
  • 300g unsalted butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 vanilla pod (seeds only)
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder

shortbread2_lefermier_231214

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius (356F).
  2. Mix the sugar, diced butter (soft) and vanilla seeds in an electric mixer until the mixture become creamy and slightly white.
  3. Then add the egg yolk and whole egg and mix until well combine.
  4. Sieve the flour and baking powder together and add it to the butter mix. Mix on medium speed, until you have a smooth dough.
  5. Roll the dough on a slightly floured bench to the desired thickness, I recommend about 3-4 mm.
  6. Using a pastry cutter cut different shapes and place them on a flat baking tray lined with baking paper.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or so until the sides of the short bread becomes golden. Cool them down cooling rack.

shortbread3_lefermier_231214

Cherry Clafoutis

clafouits2_lefermier_161214

Early summertime is cherry season and traditionally this means adorning the top of a freshly baked pavlova with these juicy little jewels for Christmas day dessert. But if you want to try something a little different (and you wouldn’t be food lovers without a sense of culinary adventure) then may I introduce a dainty little dish called the clafoutis.

This fabulous flan-like dessert is a traditional dish of the Limousin region of France and is rather peculiar in that it contains cherries that are unpitted. It may sound odd and like a lot of work to ensure you don’t chip a tooth with every bite, but believe me when I say that the pips add an extra nutty nuance that makes it worth the effort. Just make sure you let your guests know before they tuck in!

Traditional cherry clafoutis:

clafoutis3_lefermier_161214 

Ingredients:

  •  185 mL thickened cream
  • 125 mL full fat milk
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 50g plain flour
  • 30g almond meal
  • 400g cherries
  • 1 Tbsp Kirsch

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 F).
  2. Pour the cream into a small saucepan. Split the vanilla pod in two, scrape out the seeds and add both to the cream.
  3. Heat the cream gently for a couple of minutes, remove from the heat, add the milk and leave to cool. Take the vanilla pod out.
  4. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until the mixture becomes slightly white and foamy.
  5. Sieve the flour, mix it with the almond meal and then add it to the egg mix. Whisk well to avoid lumps.
  6. Gently add the cooled cream and whisk until combined.
  7. Arrange the cherries at the bottom of your cake tray (use a 23cm or so baking tray), pour the mix over the cherries to about ¾ of the tray.
  8. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden on top. A good trick to check if your Clafoutis is cooked is to plant a skewer into the centre, if it comes out clean then it’s cook!
  9. Dust with icing sugar and serve with a dollop of cream while still warm.

With this delicious dessert i recommend a Chateau Coutet “Sauternes” available from http://www.airoldifinewines.com.au

clafoutis1_lefermier_161214

Christmas Day Lunch “Aussie Style”: Part 1

garlicmussels_lefermier_021214

I hope you enjoyed a taste (get it?!) of some of the French dishes that I love cooking and sharing during the holiday season. Over the next few posts I’ll show you what’s on my menu for an Australian Christmas Lunch, but with a small French twist of course!

Summer in the land down under is all about seafood, and we are so lucky to enjoy such great quality produce. It’s a must on the menu so for my Christmas Day entrée I’ve chosen Mussels in a white wine and garlic sauce. The sauce is just as important as the mussels in this dish and shouldn’t be left behind. So, make sure to pair with a fresh baguette or loaf of your choice.

Main is the classic turkey, but for those of you who find the whole bird daunting, why not try a Turkey breast roast! You can treat it almost like a pork loin roast, with a flavoursome stuffing (like the fig, hazelnut and orange one I’ve made), served with a sweet cranberry relish to top it off. It’s much easier, still looks impressive on the Christmas table and will also taste delicious as leftovers in a Boxing Day sandwich.

I’d never had a trifle before I’d come to Australia, but now I couldn’t imagine a Christmas day without one. Family secret ingredients abound with this dish, and I’d wager that no two taste the same. I love this kind of dish, which allows people to truly make it their own. It may not be haute cuisine, but it’s fun, casual and refreshing on a hot day, which to me describes the perfect Aussie Christmas dish to finish off a festive family gathering.

So dig in, and have a very Merry Christmas!

Garlic Mussels:

Ingredients:

  •  2kg Mussels
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 Brown Onion
  • 200g butter
  • 6 clove garlic
  • 250mL Dry White Wine

garlicmussels3_lefermier_021214

Method:

  1. Heat up a deep cooking pot on medium heat with a little bit of olive oil.
  2. Dice the onion and crush the garlic. Wash, dry and chop the parsley.
  3. Put the mussels into the hot cooking pot, pour in the white wine, onion and garlic, cover with a lid and cook for approximately 3-4 minutes until the mussels open up.
  4. Add the parsley and butter, cook for a few more minutes on low heat so that butter slowly melts and combines with the mussel juice.
  5. You can thicken the sauce a little bit if you want with a little bit of corn flour mixed with some water or leave the sauce as is, which is what I did as I find it refreshing.
  6. Serve straight away with some crusty, fresh bread to soak up all the delicious juice!

garlicmussels2_lefermier_021214

I recommend a Chateau “Briand” Bergerac Blanc to go with the garlic mussels, available from www.airoldifinewines.com.au

 

Christmas Eve Dinner “à la Française”: Part 1

VolauVent_lefermier_241114

Joyeux Noël! | Merry Christmas!

 

Celebrating Christmas in the summer is still something I can’t get used to after so many years living in Australia. I love white Christmases and all the hearty Christmas foods that are so soothing to eat in the freezing winter. That being said, I absolutely love seafood and so being able to crack into a beautiful, fresh crayfish at Christmas Day lunch is something I relish.

Luckily I don’t have to choose between re-creating the nostalgic feasts of my childhood Christmases and indulging in new summer festive food traditions because I always celebrate Christmas Eve French-style with my brother and his family, and then an Aussie Christmas Day lunch with my wife and hers.

So today, I thought I’d share a perfect menu for both and maybe inspire you enough to share some of my favourite family dishes with yours this holiday season.

Christmas Eve Dinner “à la francaise

Most French families will kick off any family meal with a delicious terrine or pâté. I posted a recipe for a great Huntsman Terrine a while back, which you can check out here, otherwise you can pick up a ready made slice from most good quality delis.

For Entrée, I’ve chosen a duck and mushroom vol au vent. The hero of this, aside from the light-as-air pastry, is the Girolle mushrooms (they’re called Chanterelles in Australia), which hail from my region in France and are delicious and meaty in texture.

For main, I couldn’t go past a beautiful pork loin (with the skin on as crackling is a MUST!) that I’ve filled with a sage, pistachio and cherry stuffing, and a classic garden salad on the side.

Lastly, a true French Christmas treat is a Bûche de Noël, which is a sponge, rolled with and covered in crème au beurre (Italian meringue whipped with butter). It’s super rich but there’s like nothing else. You can flavour them too, so I chose to do coconut, white chocolate and passionfruit.

And there you have it. Joyeux Noël and bon appétit!

Chanterelle Mushroom and Duck Vol au Vent with a Port Sauce

VolauVent3_lefermier_241114

Ingredients for the Vol au Vent:

  • 4 sheets puff pastry
  • 2 duck breast
  • 50g Chanterelle mushroom (dried)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 shallots
  • ½ bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 50 mL milk

VolauVent2_lefermier_241114

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (392 F).
  2. Take the pastry out of the fridge or the freezer (leave it warm up a bit if it’s directly from the freezer).
  3. Whisk the egg and the milk together to make an egg wash.
  4. Using a round pastry cutter cut the 4 vol au vent bases and place them on a flat baking tray lined with grease proof paper. Cut 3 more circles for each one, then using a smaller cutter cut the middle out, so only the outside ring remain. Brush the base with the egg wash and place the ring on top, press down gently to make it stick and repeat the process until you have 3 layers on each Vol au Vent.
  5. Put them in the fridge for 15 minutes before baking them.
  6. Take the Vol au Vent out of the fridge, brush them with egg wash and bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Soak the mushroom in warm water for 10 minutes, then discard the water.
  8. In the mean time, grate the garlic, finely chop the shallots, wash and chop the parsley.
  9. Take the fat off the duck breast and dice them (about 1 ½ cm).
  10. Heat up a medium size shallow frying pan with olive oil on high heat. Cook the shallots, chanterelle mushroom and garlic in the pan for 2 minutes on high heat, tossing from time to time. Then add the duck and cook for about 3 minutes on high heat.
  11. Add the chopped parsley and stir.
  12. Add the port sauce and toss well so that all the ingredients mix together.
  13. Spoon the mix into the warm Vol au Vent and serve immediately.

IMG_4908

Ingredients for the Port sauce:

  •  1 brown onion
  • 4 clove garlic
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 200 ml port
  • 350 ml beef stock

Method:

  1. Finely dice the brown onion, grate the garlic and finely chop the thyme.
  2. Heat up a medium size saucepan with a little bit of olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and thyme and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat.
  3. Pour the port in the saucepan and reduce by half, then add the stock and reduce by half again.
  4. Mix a little bit of corn flour with water, enough to make a runny paste. Slowly add it to the sauce until you reach the desired consistency. Check seasoning and set aside.

With the Vol au Vent I recommend a chateau “Briand” Bergerac red available from www.airoldifinewines.com.au