Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thickening liquids (gravies / sauces)

Did you know that if you add boiling liquid (e.g. boiling milk) to your 'roux' (butter and flour paste) to make a sauce it will not make lumps (or much less so). You must then still continue cooking it because if you don't your sauce will have that "flour" taste.

To thicken a meat sauce: Drain the liquid from the meat through a strainer into another pot. Keep the meat aside. Melt butter in the original casserole pot and when melted add flour (about 1:1 e.g. 2tbsp each). Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes without browning while stirring. Bring the pot with the liquid to a boil and then add the boiling meat liquid to the flour-paste while beating quickly. It will thicken the sauce nicely. Cook this gravy for about 5 minutes while gently simmering to cook the flour. Then return the meat to the casserole and stir through.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Extracting mushroom water

This was so interesting and I was amazed since I didn't realise mushrooms contained THAT much water!!

Chop mushrooms finely, put handfull at a time into a clean cloth, wrap close and twist so that it squeezes the mushrooms. The water in it gets squeezed out this way and you won't get a watery dish.

I had to do it over the sink so much water came out!

Friday, June 11, 2010

La Paupiette de Garganuta (giant stuffed beef roll) stuffed with Farce Nicoise (Olive, pimento, garlic and parmesan)

Giant stuffed beef roll
The end-result looks fabulous and very impressive and you can tell a white lie and say that it was extremely difficult and time consuming to make. But alas, it's just following the process and not tricky at all.

The tops and sides were wrapped with bacon before using the silicone bands to close the whole thing.

Before being browned (stove top) and then braised (cooked in oven in stock and vermouth):

Served with buttered parsley baby potatoes:

My family did me proud by nearly finishing the whole thing.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Madeleines and loads of butter

I just finished spending 2 hours in the kitchen making Madeleines, a butter icing and a Frangipane (thick almond custard) from scratch.

I made about 100 Madeleines and it's quite time consuming. The Madeleine pan I got has 20 small shapes and it takes about 1 tsp of batter to fill each one. But the time is worth the taste! It's awesome.

They didn't come out quite as pretty as the experts' ( but I'm not complaining.

Then I tried my hand at some butter icing and a "Frangipane" custard that I'm going to use on Mille Feuille ( on Wednesday. Tastes great! But oh my, the butter, the butter, the butter. I went through about one whole block of unsalted butter for the Madeleines, the icing and the custard. And never mind the eggs.

Not for the faint hearted

In Julia Child's biography the writer mentions that Julia and co-authors of Mastering the Art briefly considered and then decided against including Canard à la presse since no one out of only a very few gourmet restaurants owns a "duck press". My first impression of what this is was completely off!

Check this out - if you have it at this restaurant (the oldest in France) you get a certificate. Not sure if it says "brave" or "stupid" on it:

Quiche Lorraine and nifty cooking accessory

Quiche Lorraine

This is so easy to make and if you buy pre-made short crust pastry it's even quicker. Important to note that you have to par-bake the pastry before you add the filling otherwise the pastry might still be raw and the filling cooked.

Nifty cooking accessory: The silicone cooking band

These are really great for anything that needs to be tied and cooked and you can either dispose of them afterwards (if you feel splurgy) or just wash and re-use. A packet contains 25 in 5 different colours so you can make individual items and identify them by colour. These are used to truss a whole chicken (when you fold the wings and legs in before baking) or for any rolled meat dish, like Paupiettes (beef rolls). Below I made a herb bouquet with one:

Pretty isn't it?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sauce brune

First of all I need to say that I would never have thought of cooking a brown sauce for 2 hours and that excludes the preparations which probably took 30min+. But it smells divine. SinceI'm not going to copy recipes directly here (copyright and all that) I can just say, it's got veg, it's got bacon and it's got stock with herbs. And it simmers gently like some secret potion releasing a most glorious aroma.

The sauce is per request to serve something "saucy" with the food and it's been a bit of a puzzle on what to serve with a quiche. Since the "sauce brune" when variated with herbs and butter (sauce brune aux fines herbes) can be served with eggs, I thought to give it a bash. (verdict to follow)

This is what it looks like before the flour is added to brown and the beef stock:

After the stock and the herb bouquet is added:

Quiche Lorraine - easy peasy. The short crust pastry is half-cooked in its pan and awaiting the filling and baking. Don't foresee any problems :)

Short crust pastry

Note on Short Crust Pastry - it works much better if you actually use a pastry cutter. Last time I tried the pastry the butter wasn't worked in enough at this stage and when I added the water it was a soggy, muddy mess. It worked out fine when I added some flour but not ideal since I had to knead it a bit much. Also a note on adding the water. Recipe says 4 - 4.5 tbsp. Rather start by just adding 3 and then add the 4th after some of the flour has been incorporated. Only THEN a couple drops more if needed.

Doing the fraisage might need 2 - 3 repeats to make sure the butter is nicely blended with the flour. But be gentle, yet firm. A bit like with kids I suppose. And don't let the pastry get warm. Rather chill inbetween.

What is fraisage?

A whole new horizon

Ok - so a very dear friend of mine suggested I start a blog, chronicling my new-found interest (dare we say passion) for cooking. French cooking to be specific. My response was that food blogs are so yesterday and it seems everyone is doing them. BUT then I thought that reading some of these blogs have actually helped me thus far in my interest in learning how to cook French. Now, if a total novice at cooking can start to get things right, maybe I can share some failures and successes.

There are probably dozens of people out there who started cooking after seeing the movie Julie and Julia who in part tells the story of Julia Child. Well, I'm one of them and got bitten so bad by the foodie bug that I promptly went and bought BOTH volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking as well as a DVD set containing twelve episodes of The French Chef that aired in America in the 60's and 70's. I've had my books for 2 weeks now and they already look as well-thumbed as old editions.

So - here's my intention to photograph the final products of what I attempt and to give some feedback on the process. I'm cooking from Mastering the Art of French Cooking and although the instructions are absolutely fantastic and fool-proof (idiot-proof in my case) I will see where I can add some insight - and maybe some step-by-step pics of the process.