Homemade Brioche

 

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If I had to describe brioche to someone who had never tried it before, I guess I would say that it’s a hybrid between cake and bread. It often comes in loaves just like bread, but as soon as you slice it you can see the texture is lighter, and more buttery, yet not quite spongy enough to be cake. It’s because of exactly these properties that the French class Brioche as a viennoiserie, along with pastries like croissants and pains au chocolat.

The first written reference to Brioche was in the 15th century and though it’s origin isn’t confirmed, it’s generally believed to been a Norman creation (i.e. from the north of France).

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Savoury brioche is often eaten at breakfast in lieu of bread in France. Sweetened varieties can be likened to Greek Easter bread, and in fact, my favourite kind of sweet brioche, called Mouna, is also served around Easter time. Mouna is traditional in Pied-Noir or Algerian cuisine, and because this is where my Mother was born, she has made it for Easter ever since I was born.

You can use brioche to substitute for bread wherever you want to add a richer flavour and fluffier texture. For example, use it as burger or hot dog buns, or slather some cheeky nutella on top of a slice at breakfast, or, use it to make French Toast like many Aussie cafés are already doing.

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Ingredients:

  • 500 g strong flour (bakers flour or OO)
  • 20 g salt
  • 20g fresh yeast or 7g dried yeast
  • 300g unsalted butter, soft
  • 6 free range eggs
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoon milk, warm

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Method:

  1. Crumble the yeast in a small bowl, add the warm milk to it and dissolve the yeast using your finger tips or if using dry yeast, sprinkle it over the warm milk and let it activate for about 10 minutes (or until it starts bubbling on top)
  2. Place the flour, salt and sugar in an electric mixing bowl with the hook attachment (I like to use a Kitchen Aid) and mix the three ingredients together.
  3. Add the yeast to the flour and mix a little. Then add the eggs one by one and mix until combined.
  4. Knead the dough on high speed for 8-10 minutes to really work the gluten in the flour and give the brioche dough the strength and elasticity we want ( the dough should not stick and the sides of the bowl should be clean).
  5. Add the butter a little bit a the time, wait until the butter is incorporated before adding more! Knead for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Loosely cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest until double in size. Then, knead the dough on a lightly floured bench to knock the air out of it and put it back in the bowl, cover with cling film and put it in the fridge over night.
  7. The dough will be easier to work with and have a better flavour by proofing slowly overnight.

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The next day:

  1. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Take the dough out of the fridge and slightly knead it on a floured bench.
  3. Portion the dough in 100g balls, this recipe should give you about 10.
  4. Now you can form whatever shape you want, I chose to make buns with my brioche because I was having homemade Hotdogs for dinner!
  5. Place your Buns on a flat baking tray lined with baking paper, you may need to use more than one tray as we do not want them to close to each other. Loosely cover them with glad wrap and leave to proof in a warm spot until double in size.
  6. Brush the brioche with a couple of beaten egg yolk mix with a little bit of milk and sprinkle some hail sugar on top if you’re making sweet brioche or some sesame seeds for example for savoury brioche.
  7. Bake in the hot oven for 15-20 minutes, the brioche should be golden on top.
  8. Once cooked place them on a cooling rack and leave to cool.

Tip: Do not let the yeast come in direct contact with the salt as it would kill it.

 

 

 

Bastille Day Entrée : Snails in garlic butter

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As famous as the French are for crisp croissants and delectable desserts, they are equally infamous for less conventional dishes like frog’s legs and snails. Being someone who is deeply passionate about food and flavour, I believe you can’t knock something until you’ve tried it, so if you’ve never been game to try “escargot” before, this is your moment to bite the bullet!

If you need more convincing, then how about the fact that snails are high in protein and, on their own, quite low in fat. However, today’s recipe is not one for the health nuts because the key accompaniment is butter, butter and more butter. The up side is that if you were worried about your snails tasting too “snaily”, then never fear, as long as you love butter, garlic and parsley!

Serve your snails as an entrée on a bed of rock salt (to prevent the shells from tipping over and letting that delicious butter sauce escaping) with crusty baguette so that you can mop up the butter afterwards.

Snails in garlic butter:

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Ingredients:

  • 1 tin of snails
  • 1 container empty snail shell
  • 300g butter, soft
  • ½ bunch parsley, washed and finely chopped
  • 80g garlic, peeled and grated
  • 10 ml Ricard or Pernod
  • 300 g rock salt

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Method:

  1. Mix the soft butter, garlic, parsley and Ricard together well and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Drain the snail and give them a quick rinse. Put one snail per shell and spoon the garlic butter on each shell.
  3. Place the rock salt on a flat baking tray, or you can use foil like i did, place the snails on top of it, the salt will help the snail stay upright so the butter doesn’t run away!
  4. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.

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Serve hot with some Baguette on the side and a glass of Chateau Ollieux Romanis “Corbière Blanc available from http://www.airoldifinewines.com.au 

Coq au Vin

 

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Coq au Vin is considered one of the all-time classic French recipes. Presumably, the original recipe called for Rooster, as the translation of the dish’s name is “Rooster in wine” but today it’s very much considered a chicken dish. This one-pot wonder is a delightful concoction of browned chicken, red wine sauce with salty pork lardons and mushrooms.

The best thing about this dish is that it tastes even better the day after you’ve cooked it because all the ingredients steep together overnight, making it a perfect dish to prepare in advance for guests or a busy week ahead.

More traditional recipes call for Burgundy wine, but I chose to make this recipe with Shiraz as I feel it gives the sauce more depth of flavour. There are some regions in France that use white wine for Coq au Vin, so really, you can feel free to experiment with your favourite grape variety.

Ingredients:

  • 1 free range chicken, around 2 kg and cut into 12 pieces
  • 2 litre red wine (I used shiraz but burgundy or Bordeaux are also popular choices)
  • 1 Bouquet garni (Make a fresh one from thyme, parsley and bay leaves – no pre-made teabags!)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stick, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 brown onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 3 cloves
  • Peppercorns
  • 1 small glass cognac or brandy

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Method:

  1. Put the chicken pieces into a deep cooking pot. I like to use my Le Creuset Round French Oven for slow cooking.
  2. Add the celery, bouquet garni, brown onion, carrots, garlic, cloves, peppercorns, cognac and red wine. Leave to marinate for 5-6 hours or overnight in a cool spot in the kitchen.

For the Sauce:

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 25g unsalted butter or duck fat
  • 40g plain flour
  • 4 slice pork belly rashers, diced or cut into Lardons
  • 350g button mushroom, cleaned and quartered
  • 1 brown onion, diced

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Method:

  1. Take the chicken out of the marinade, discard the vegetables and pour the remaining wine into a jug.
  2. Place the cooking pot on high heat and add the olive oil and butter (or duck fat). Place the chicken into the pot and seal on all side until golden brown. Remove from the pot and keep aside.
  3. Add the onion and lardons to the pot and cook until slightly brown.
  4. Sprinkle the flour over the top of the onion and lardons and slowly add the wine while whisking. Whisk well to make sure everything is mixed through.
  5. Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper and cook for 1 ½ -2 hours on a low heat with the lid on but slightly open to let the steam out.
  6. Heat up a non-stick frying pan without anything in it. Add the mushroom and cook until they stop releasing water. Add them the pot ½ hour before the end of cooking.

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Side:

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch purple Baby Dutch carrots, peeled
  • 1 bunch Baby Dutch carrots, peeled
  • 1 bunch white Baby Dutch carrots, peeled
  • 12 Kipflers potatoes, cleaned, peeled and cut in half

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Place the vegetables on a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with Herb de Provence and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook for 45 minutes or until tender.

I suggest you serve the coq au Vin with a fresh crusty baguette and a glass of EVOI Cabernet Sauvignon available from Airoldi Fine Wines.

Watch the how to video below or visit my Youtube channel  here for more.

 

Haricot Couennes

Haricot Couennes

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On my recent trip to France I had the pleasure of joining my Mum in her kitchen to prepare a family feast. For the main course we made Confit de Canard (Confit Duck Legs) and on the side, a dish I had completely forgotten about these past few years, but was overjoyed to be reacquainted with. Haricot Couennes is a slow cooked lingot bean dish (the same beans as used for a Cassoulet) with roughly chopped chunks of pork rind (known as Couennes), onion and herbs. The fatty pork rind injects oodles of flavour and the stewing process creates a rich sauce, just begging to be mopped up with crusty rustic bread. A traditional dish of the Dordogne region, it was the perfect garnish for our duck, but it would work equally well with a good steak, chicken breast or pork fillet.

Serve with a good red wine such as Hermitage or a Cote Rotie. Available from www.airoldifinewines.com.au (côte rôtie only).

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Ingredients:

  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 bunch thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 10cl white wine
  • 250g lard (pork rind)
  • 1kg haricot beans (unless you can find lingot beans)

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Method:

  1. Soak the beans in cold water the night before.
  2. Cook the haricot beans in salted water for about 1hour. You still want the beans to be a little firm. Once cooked, drain half the cooking liquid and keep the other half in the pot with the beans.
  3. At the same time, but in a separate pot, cook the lard in salted water but for ¾ of an hour, as this will soften the lard. Drain all the liquid and place the lard to the side.
  4. Heat up a large casserole pot (a Le Creuset or similar is ideal, if you have one) on medium heat with some olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and thyme and cook for a few minutes. Then add the tomato paste and cook a few more minutes, to get rid of the bitterness of the paste.
  5. Dice the cooked lard and add it to the casserole, give everything a good stir and deglaze with the wine.
  6. Add the beans and the cooking liquid. Cook for about 15 minutes, season with salt and pepper.

 

 

 

France Culinary Travel Diary – Carcassonne and Toulouse

Le Fermier

France Culinary Travel Diary – Carcassonne and Toulouse

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Though it’s commonplace for French kids to grow up being surrounded by chateau-a-plenty countryside, and villages filled with wooden shutters and terracotta tiled roofs, even I was in awe when I laid eyes on the medieval fortress city of Carcassonne. With a history dating back to Roman times, full of sieges, ruin and renovation, the city walls still hold many secrets.

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What’s not a secret though, is that some of the best Cassoulet in the world can be found here, and because it’s a regional specialty it won’t cost you an arm and a leg either. It’s hard to find somewhere to eat within the fortress walls that isn’t “touristy” but I couldn’t have been happier with my choices, which were a little more tucked away. The first was L’Adelaïde and the second was Le Chaudron. The cassoulet at both ticked all the key boxes: crispy top layer, stewed Lingot beans, confit de canard & saucisse de Toulouse, while Le Chaudron’s version also featured pork to their dish, which was the point of difference for me to declare theirs my favourite. A word to the wise, Cassoulet is incredibly rich and filling so it’s best enjoyed at lunch and in the cooler months.

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After Carcasonne, The Madame and I stayed in Toulouse so we took the opportunity to try another variation of the Cassoulet. I could taste the difference immediately between each towns’ version. My Toulouse Cassoulet from Cave au Cassoulet, was saucier (with a hint of tomato), richer (thanks more duck fat being included in the recipe) and, in my opinion, used more delicious sausages (as I’d expect considering the city of Toulouse is the sausage’s namesake). Though I heartily enjoyed every Cassoulet, my overall favourite remains Le Chaudron’s in Carcasonne. It’s all a matter of personal taste though, so if you’ve found somewhere you think serves better, let me know in the comments below! And, if you can’t head to France anytime soon, but are craving something hearty for a cold winter’s day, check out my recipe and try your hand at it.

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For lunch on the go in Toulouse that’s a little lighter on the stomach and the pocket, you can’t go past Pikanik, a super trendy but equally delicious sandwich and salad bar that was packed by lunch time with students, office workers and tourists alike. For under 10€ you get your choice of salad or baguette, drink and dessert, and it’s even less if you don’t want all 3.

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The true gem of Toulouse though, as a coffee lover, is La Fiancée, a Salon de Café that served coffee to rival the best Melbourne cafés, including perfectly poured lattés! The staff were friendly, the decor justifiably hipster and the location perfect for people watching. A must visit!

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My Carcassonne & Toulouse Picks:

  • L’Adelaïde – 5 Rue Adélaïde de Toulouse 11000 Carcassonne
  • La Chaudron – 6 Rue Saint-Jean 11000 La Cité Carcassonne
  • La Cave au Cassoulet – 54 Rue Peyrolières 31000 Toulouse
  • Pik nik – 6 Bis Rue Roumiguières 31000 Toulouse
  • La Fiancée – 54 Rue Peyrolières 31000 Toulouse