Regional cooking Part 2: Roasted Duck Breast with Braised Red Cabbage

 

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In our modern day efforts to “eat healthy”, carbs have become the bad guy on many people’s dinner menus. While I definitely wouldn’t even go carb free personally (I’m a Frenchman so bread is in my blood!), I do feel some benefit to taking a break from it in my evening meal. This is relatively easy to do in summer, when the heat naturally has me reaching for fresh, light flavours, but come winter and the craving for richer comfort food must be satisfied.

This is where this ripper of a dish swoops in to save the day!

When most people think duck, their mind instantly goes to the peking variety, but the bird is also very popular in France and served just as one would serve chicken breast. Duck has a deeper and richer taste though, making it ideally suited to the colder months.

And, as I showed in my Two Ways With Cabbage post last winter, cabbage needn’t be relegated to coleslaw territory all year ‘round, as it’s delicious when cooked, adding an element of sweetness which complements almost any meat dish.

Ingredients:

  • 500g red cabbage , core removed and thinly sliced
  • 1 brown onions thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spiced
  • 250g apples diced (optional)
  • 50g butter
  • 2 duck breast

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven at 170 degrees Celsius.
  2. Layer the cabbage, onions, vinegars, sugar, spices and apple if you decided to use them, in a casserole dish.
  3. Sprinkled the butter across the top, season with salt and pepper and cover with a lid or foil.
  4. Cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
  5. Increase the oven temperature to 180 degrees Celsius.
  6. Leave the duck breast out to warm up and reach room temperature. Using a sharp small knife score the duck fat, it will give it a great look and make it crispy. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Heat up a small frying pan on high heat. Start cooking the duck on the fat side. Once the fat has a golden colour, drain the fat and seal the flesh side of the breast for about 30 second. Cook the duck in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 8-9 minutes for medium rare.
  8. Leave the duck rest for a couple of minutes before slicing it. Spoon some of the cabbage on two plates and place the duck on top.

Bon Appétit

Le Fermier

 

Almond and Cherry Pithivier

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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.

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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!

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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

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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

Apricot Tarte Tatin

 

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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.

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Ingredient:

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

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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

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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

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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.

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Cherry Clafoutis

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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:

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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

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Christmas Day Lunch “Aussie Style”: Part 1

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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

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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!

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