Tag Archives: recipes

Algerian Semolina Bread (Khobz el Dar)

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My father is Algerian; his family emigrated to France when he was a toddler, along with other tens of thousands of their countrymen in search of a better life.

My grandmother’s cooking was said to be excellent, even though food was scarce and she had a lot of mouths to feed with very little money. She sadly passed away shortly before I was born so I never got to try her food, but my father has been quite successful in re-creating some of her dishes. Her recipes revolved around a few North African staples like semolina, which is cheap and nourishing. It is also surprisingly versatile: it can be used to make sweet pastry, or steamed and served as part of “couscous”, or made into bread like here.

Baking, however, is not among my father’s skills set, so he never attempted to make this bread himself. Instead, he would buy it, along with delicious pastries, from the Algerian butcher’s (the butcher’s wife and mother would bake a load of bread and pastries to sell in the shop, usually during religious festivals).

When my aunt offered to show me how to make this bread,  I jumped at the chance. I was surprised at how easy it was, and was mesmerised by the transformation of semolina into a smooth dough. This is my aunt’s recipe; every family will have a slightly different version of this bread (some recipes call for part-wheat flour, part-semolina, some omit the seeds) so feel free to experiment and add your own touch!

This bread is at its best on the day it is made, but will keep rather well for 2-3 days if you wrap it tightly in foil. Don’t worry if it seems a bit drier on the second day, because it will then be delicious lightly toasted and served with either cold meats or cheese. It is absolutely sensational with butter and jam, too! Any slightly stale leftovers can be turned into breadcrumbs, to make the crispiest chicken nuggets!

You will need:

750 g semolina flour
1 tsp salt
7 tbsp sunflower oil
250 to 300 ml water
20 g fresh yeast (or 10 g dried yeast)
2 tsp warm milk
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tsp nigella seeds (aka black onion seeds)
1 egg, beaten, for glazing

Method:

In a large bowl, combine the semolina and salt, then add the oil and mix with your hands so the oil is evenly distributed.

Gradually add the water, mixing with your hands, until you have a slightly sticky dough. Turn out onto a large wooden board and knead for a few minutes until the dough starts to feel smoother.

In a small bowl or cup, mix the yeast and milk to a paste.

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Add the sesame and nigella seeds to your dough and knead to distribute. With your fingers, create a small hollow in the dough then pour in the yeast and milk mix, and knead for about 10 min, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Shape the dough into a disc 2 to 3 cm thick, then cover with a thick cloth and leave to prove somewhere warm for 1 to 2 h.

Preheat your oven to 220º C/ 200º C fan/ Gas 7. Sprinkle a non-stick baking sheet with semolina.

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Gently transfer the risen dough to the baking sheet, and with your thumb create a hole in the centre of the disc, going all the way through. Brush the top with the beaten egg, and bake for about 35 min, or until golden brown on top, and you get a hollow sound when tapping the bottom.
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Filed under Bakes, Bread, Breakfast

The Post I Never Thought I Would Write: Christmas Pudding

Having grown up in France, Christmas pudding was an alien concept to me until a few years ago. I had heard tales of steamed puddings made months in advance, and containing some sort of animal fat, but I  just assumed it was one of those popular stories that have very little to do with reality. After all, us Frenchies are always ready to believe that our British friends would eat all sorts of weird concoctions… (Which is a bit ironic when you consider that we eat snails and frogs’ legs).

As it turns out though, the legend was true. I started coming across Christmas pudding recipes in all the food magazines I was buying during the run-up to my first Christmas in England. And there it was, among the numerous ingredients listed: shredded beef suet.  I won’t lie to you: my first reaction was made up of equal parts of disbelief and disgust. There was no way I was ever eating that!

hen one day, someone offered me a mince pie (another recipe I had never heard of before, more on this in a future post). I ate it, liked it, then discovered I had just consumed suet. And I had enjoyed it. This was when I decided that I would give Christmas pudding a go. But I wasn’t going to buy it; oh no, not I! I was going to make it. So off I went to the shops, I purchased a pudding basin, the dreaded shredded suet, and some brandy and set to work.

What I produced looked and smelt ok, but I had to wait a few weeks for Christmas to come round before I could taste it. In the meantime, I dutifully “fed” my pudding with more brandy at regular intervals, reasoning that even if it turned out to be revolting, it might at least get me a little bit tipsy…

The long-awaited day finally arrived, I reheated my pudding, and served it (not flambé, as I couldn’t find any matches). I took my first bite, and was instantly hooked. It was warm, rich, moist, had a lovely flavour, and yes, you could definitely taste the brandy. I did not tire of the leftovers either, in fact I was rather disappointed when we eventually finished it. Which is why I would encourage anyone to have a go at making this, especially if like me, you have a pre-conceived idea that it will be revolting.

 This is a James Martin recipe which I copied out from somewhere a few years ago (very, very vague credits, but credits nonetheless); I like it because of the ginger, which gives it a lovely, warm flavour. Enjoy!

Post-Christmas edit: I just thought I would let you all know that my family loved this pudding. Even my very sceptical Dad grudgingly admitted that it was “rather nice”. Not bad…

You will need (for 1×1.5l pudding):

175 g sultanas
175 g currants
70 g dried figs, chopped
50 g mixed peel
45 g glacé cherries, halved
50 g dried apricots, chopped
100 ml brandy
50 g stem ginger, chopped + 2 tbsp of their syrup
1 apple, grated
Juice + zest 1 orange
3 large eggs, beaten
125 g shredded suet
125 g fresh, white breadcrumbs
175 g light muscovado sugar
90 g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp mixed spice
Butter, for greasing

Method:

In a bowl, soak the sultanas, currants, figs, mixed peel, cherries and apricots with the brandy overnight.image

The following day, mix in a large bowl the ginger, syrup, apple, orange juice and zest, eggs, suet, breadcrumbs, sugar, flour and mixed spice. Mix in the soaked fruit.

Butter the pudding basin, fill with the mixture. Smooth the top and cover with a circle of greaseproof paper. Cover with a sheet of foil with a folded pleat down the centre, and secure it by tying it tightly with some string. Tie a loop of string on either side of the basin to act as handles.
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Stand the basin on top of an upturned saucer placed in a deep, large pan. Pour boiling water in the pan so it comes about a 1/3 of the way up. Cover and steam over a gentle heat for 5h, topping up with more water if necessary.

Cool the pudding in the pan, then remove foil and paper. Cover with cling film and store in a cool, dry place. Every so often, prick the surface with a skewer and drizzle a bit more brandy.

To reheat, steam for an hour or so.

To serve, heat up about 50 ml of brandy, pour over the pudding and light straight away with a match. Let the flames die down, then serve.

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Filed under Cakes, Christmas, Desserts

The Art of Speed-Baking: Soda Bread

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I cannot do without bread. I don’t know whether it is due to being French, or just a matter of taste, but I have to eat bread several times a day. I know bread has been the victim of bad press recently, and I know lots of people who proudly announce that they have “cut out bread”, and proceed to tell you how much better/happier/thinner they feel, but for me, it just wouldn’t do. Tell me I have to cut out bread, and I will ask you for a length of rope and directions to the nearest rafter.

Since moving to Britain, I have been paying more attention to the bread I eat. I never really needed to before, as fresh, traditionally made bread is still the norm in France, and finding good bread is very, very easy. In Britain, things are different. Although there is a bit of a baking revival at the moment, and new bakeries are opening, selling proper, additive-free bread, sadly none are to be found near where I live.

The only shops selling bread around here are supermarkets, and frankly the offering there is not really exciting. The choice is mainly between pre-sliced industrial loaves, which remind me of the little squares of sponge we used to use at school to wipe the chalk off our slates; or the “nicer” bread, usually labelled with something along the lines of “artisan” or “tradition”. Although much better than the other option, this bread still doesn’t quite taste like the real thing, and is very expensive for what it is (I saw a sourdough loaf selling for £2.00 last week; this would bring our bread budget to £8/week!!).  

This led me, a few years ago, to start baking my own bread. I now bake twice a week, to provide enough for 3 people for breakfast, sandwiches to take to work, dipping in soup, etc. I used to knead by hand, but since receiving my KitchenAid a couple of years ago, I have been happy to delegate this task to the trusty mixer. It doesn’t take up much of my time, doesn’t cost a lot, I know exactly what is in my bread, and I can make any type of bread I want.

As easy as I am finding it though, sometimes life gets in the way of baking. One night last week for example, I realised at around 21:30 that we had no bread left for the following day; and it was rather late to start making proper bread, as I intended to go to bed at some point that night, rather than wait for the dough to prove. The answer? Soda bread of course! 40 min flat from when you start weighing out the ingredients, to when you pull a gorgeous, golden-crusted loaf out of the oven… this really is speed-baking!

Soda bread is delicious lightly toasted, with either butter and jam, or cheese. It is also perfect alongside a nice, hearty soup.

 

You will need (for 1 loaf):

170 g wholemeal flour
170 g self-raising plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
300 ml buttermilk or full-fat milk

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200ºC/fan 180ºC/ Gas 6.

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients, then add the buttermilk or milk and mix to a slightly sticky dough.

Line a baking tray with baking paper, sprinkle a bit of flour on it. Shape the dough into a round, place it on the tray and flatten the top slightly with your palm. With a knife, cut a cross on top of the loaf.

Bake for 25-30 min, or until nice and golden on top, and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath.

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Filed under Bakes, Bread, Breakfast

How to Make Friends and Influence People: Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Cake

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Every so often, I find myself in a situation where I badly need a favour from someone. I tend to feel very guilty asking for favours, though; I am always worried of imposing on people. So I usually come up with a way of returning said favour, and this normally involves cake.

There are also times, like now, when I want to thank someone with more than words. And this, too, normally involves cake. In this instance, I wanted to repay my long-suffering work colleagues for their kindness. I applied for a promotion recently, and had an interview which went well, but despite the good feedback I received, the position was given to someone else. I was obviously very disappointed, and I must have looked rather upset because all my lovely colleagues have done since I found out, is try and cheer me up. They even went as far as saying that they were delighted that I didn’t get the job because it meant I wouldn’t have to leave the office, and would still be working with them.

I suspect that this statement was partially motivated by the fact that I do often bring cake to work, especially as I am always in need of testers when I am working on a new recipe. But I also know that they meant it. So, thanks guys, I am really glad to be working with all of you.

If, like me, you rely on cake to do the talking at times, then this is a great recipe to have up your sleeve. It is quick and easy to make, the ingredients are likely to be in your kitchen already, and it can convey a message pretty well.

You will need:

200g good quality dark chocolate
4 eggs
Pinch salt
150 g caster sugar
50 g plain flour
150g butter, at room temperature, + extra for the tin
A handful raspberries (frozen are fine)

Icing sugar, to serve.

Method:

If you are using frozen raspberries, take them out of the freezer and lay them out on a sheet of kitchen paper.

Preheat your oven to 200ºC/ fan 180ºC/ gas 6. Butter a 26 cmØ cake tin, or deep tart tin (I use a fluted one, but a straight-edged one is fine too).

Break up the chocolate into even-sized chunks, place into a heatproof bowl. Find a pan on which the bowl can sit securely, with plenty of space between the bottom of the bowl and the bottom of the pan. Bring water to the boil in the pan, and place the chocolate on top, taking care that the bowl isn’t touching the water. Turn the heat down to a simmer and leave to melt for a few minutes without stirring.

Meanwhile, separate the eggs. Add a pinch of salt to the whites and whisk to stiff peaks.

Mix the butter and sugar until combined, but do not overmix (this will give the cake a fudge-like texture). Add the melted chocolate and mix thoroughly. add the egg yolks one by one, mixing all the while.

Add the flour and stir until incorporated. Add the egg whites a bit at a time, mixing delicately to avoid losing any of the air trapped inside them. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, scatter the raspberries on top (it doesn’t matter if they are still partially frozen), and press down gently on the fruit so it sinks into the batter a bit.

Bake for 20-25 min, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 5 min, then turn out onto a wire rack. When completely cool, sprinkle with icing sugar.

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Cold Weather: 0, Greedy Frog: 1! Slow-cooked Beef and Dumplings

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I came back from visiting my family in France with, among other goodies, a new, huge, heavy cast-iron pan. I had been coveting one such pan for a very long time, but the price tag meant that I couldn’t afford one; not unless I defaulted on my mortgage payments, that is. My amazing parents, however, decided to buy one for me as an early Christmas present (have I mentioned they are amazing?), and it is fair to say that I have rarely been as excited as I was when I opened the box.

I know some of you might think that I am pretty pathetic, getting all excited over a pan like this, but I don’t care what you think, because I’VE GOT A NEW PAN!!!!

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Well, that’s the gloating neatly out of the way now, so let’s talk a bit about the recipe…

This dish is delicious, a mixture of meltingly tender beef, tasty veg and gravy, and light, fluffy dumplings… It is the ultimate antidote to cold, dark evenings. I like to make a big batch of this on a Sunday, and keep some back for the Monday night; I find it incredibly comforting when it starts getting dark on a Monday afternoon, and with the whole working week still ahead of me, to know that there is a lovely warming meal waiting for me at home that just needs re-heating…

This stew will freeze beautifully (without the dumplings), and any leftover sauce works really well with pasta, especially if you cook the pasta in it. Oh, and it is also very cheap to make!

The dumplings recipe is Jane Grigson’s, from “English Food” (one of the first cookbooks I bought after moving to England, I was very intrigued by the notion of a whole book about English food…).

You will need:

For the stew:

1 kg beef shin, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
20g butter
2 onions
3 carrots
2 celery sticks
1 leek
4 cloves garlic
250g chestnut mushrooms
10g dried wild mushrooms (I used chanterelles)
1 handful plain flour
salt
pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
25cl red wine
1 tbsp tomato puree
500 ml beef stock
200 ml hot water

For the dumplings:

125g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
60g shredded suet (vegetable suet is fine)
Water
1 tbsp chopped herbs of your choice (I used thyme)

Method:

Rehydrate the dried mushrooms in a bowl of hot, freshly boiled water.

Chop the onions, carrots, celery and leek. Quarter the mushrooms. Crush and peel the garlic.
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Season the flour generously with salt, pepper and the oregano. Toss the meat in the flour until evenly covered.

Heat up the olive oil and butter in a large, heavy-based lidded pan. Shake any excess flour off the meat, and add to the pan; turn regularly until brown all over.

Add the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and leek, and cook gently for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the tomato puree and cook it out, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure all the tasty bits are incorporated in the gravy. Bring to the boil, then add the stock, the rehydrated mushrooms with their water, and top up with hot water if needed (the liquid needs to cover the meat almost completely.

Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to the minimum setting, put the lid on, and leave to simmer gently for about 4 hrs, stirring every so often.

30 min before you are ready to serve, make the dumplings. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and suet in a bowl. Mix with enough water to form a slightly sticky dough. Flour your hands and form into dumplings; I usually make 6 large ones but you could make up to 12 smaller ones.

Check the seasoning of the beef gravy, and add your dumplings to the pan, making sure there is plently of liquid there as they need to be poached. Put the lid back on and cook for another 10 to 20 min, depending on the size of the dumplings. Serve with hot, buttery mash.

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Filed under Mains, Meat dishes

Lime and Sage Roast Chicken

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If I have been a bit quiet lately, it is mostly because I have been spending some time at my parents’ in France, and I have been rather too busy eating what other people had cooked, to be doing any cooking myself…

But I have brought back a few new cake and tart tins, a brand new cast iron pan (it is huge!) and some Valrhona chocolate. And I can’t wait to start experimenting with my new toys!

In the meantime, here is a nice, easy but delicious Sunday recipe.

Have a great day everyone!

You will need:

1 chicken (preferably free-range)
1 lime
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt
Pepper
About 2 tbsp dried sage

Method:

Weigh your chicken, and calculate the cooking time: it should take 20 min per 450 g, plus 10 to 20 min overall. Preheat your oven to 190C/ fan 180/ gas 5.

With strong kitchen scissors, trim off the end of the legs through the joint, and the pointy tip of the wings.

Cut the lime in half, prick the cut side a few times, and put both halves in the chicken cavity. Season the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper, and add about half the sage.

Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and the rest of the sage.

Roast for the required time. Always check at the end of the cooking time that the chicken is thoroughly cooked: prick the thigh and check that the juices are clear; if there is any hint of pink, put it back in the oven for a few minutes.

Rest the cooked chicken on a large plate under a double sheet of foil, then carve and enjoy!

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Filed under Mains, Meat dishes

Liebster Blog Award

Thank you very much to Fae for nominating me for this award! I urge you all to go and have a look at her delightful blog Fae’s Twist and Tango. Her recipes are mouth-watering and show a true love of food and life. Fae clearly knows her way around the kitchen, and her relaxed style would inspire anyone to cook! So please, go and have a look at this little gem of a blog!

Now for the rules:

1  Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you. 2  Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back. 3  Answer the 11 questions proposed by the person who nominated you. 4  Select 11 people for the award. 5  Pose 11 new questions to the new nominees.

Fae’s questions:

1. What inspires you? More often than not, inspiration comes when I am confronted with an almost bare fridge and cupboard, and have to produce a meal in under 30 min. Talk about pressure…

2. What is your favorite dessert?
 Oooh, I cannot possibly narrow it down to just one! There is lemon tart, melt-in-the-middle chocolate pudding, profiteroles, sticky toffee pudding, Tarte Tatin… I could go on!

3. What is your favorite comedy? I always laugh at Friends. Always!

4. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a teacher by day, and a dancer by night (no, not this kind of dancer! a ballet dancer), and claimed I wouldn’t need any sleep. I didn’t become either, and I do (badly) need my sleep…

5. Why did you start a blog? I wondered whether anyone outside my immediate circle would enjoy my food…

6. What is your favorite part of blogging? Trading comments with other bloggers, coming across wonderful ideas, great writing and stunning photos from all over the world.

7. What would be the name of your ‘reality show’ to describe your life? “In the Kitchen with the Greedy Frog”

8. If your were to give a speech on any topic, what would it be? The correct use of ‘s and s. It drives me bonkers when people get it wrong.

9. If you changed your name, what would you change it to? Madonna. I bet I could get a table at any restaurant in the world at very short notice…

10. What is your dream career? teacher dancer food writer

11. If money was no object, where would you live and why? I would buy my own little Greek island, and enjoy the food, wine, and sunshine…

 

And my 11 nominees are:

1. Thoughts of a Lunatic: The Lunatic is funny, engaging, intelligent, touching, but above all, unique. I list following her blog among the best things I have ever done.

2. 5 Kinds of Rice: A brilliant, inspiring, mouth-watering, non-recipe-based food blog. I long to be invited for dinner over there… (hint 😀 )

3. Happiness Stan Lives Here: This blog is a wonderful glimpse into the fun- and love-filled life of a true lover of food. Some seriously yummy recipes, and a killer sense of humour to boot; what’s not to love?

4. The Foraging Photographer: I am always fascinated by her pics, and I am not even into nature that much… Unmissable!

5. Palisadespete: Now, here is a blog that takes trivia to a whole new level. I absolutely love it!

6. Gas Station Gastronomy: A very original concept, and hilarious too! You just HAVE to go and read it!

7. Righter’s Kramp: Musings about life, family, the toughies life throws at you, and deep-fried candy bars…

8. Do Not Get Sick In The Sink, Please: The subtitle of this blog says: News and Sex. Mostly Sex. What it doesn’t say, is that it is very, very funny!

9. Mrs Fringe: I am hooked to this New Yorker’s writing; you will be too if you follow this link…

10. The Green Study: Here too you will find a truly talented writer; this blog is a real pleasure to follow!

11. Snotting Black: A very funny lady, who will make you laugh about pretty much anything.

 

As I am both too lazy and too tired to think up 11 new questions, I shall do my bit for the planet and recycle Fae’s questions…

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