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French Recipes

28 April 2010

Crab and barramundi ravioli


I promised the follow-up crab and barramundi ravioli and here it is! It was a cheat's version as I used store-bought egg-based wonton wrappers. It worked a treat and is a great shortcut for those of us who are time-starved... And hungry.

The filling was one I used in my last recipe for stuffed zucchini blossoms. It's a winner. The kind of filling you just eat straight out of the mixing bowl with a big spoon.

This is going to be a short post. Thank you for all your messages, comments and emails. Up next, a strawberries and cream crepe cake.

Continue reading "Crab and barramundi ravioli" »

20 January 2009

Dark Chocolate Souffle


The soufflé, once the bane of my existence, is now something I enjoy cooking and relish eating. The chemistry of this dish is one that fascinates me and I often think about the trials and errors of the first chefs who invented and perfected it.

The soufflé, a French invention, is dated back to late 18th century and translates to “breath of air”. Soufflés can be served hot or cold and sweet or savory.

The technique of preparing a hot soufflé begins with the making of a roux – a combination of melted butter and flour – which acts as a base and thickening agent, like that of a Béchamel sauce. The next steps are pretty simple and are laid out in my recipe below.

In my experience, the trick to soufflés is not to over-mix. Have a steady, yet gentle hand when combining the egg whites to the roux sauce. The second, and probably most important point, is to not open the oven door when the soufflés are cooking.

I usually press my nose against the oven window in anticipation of the majestic rising until it gets too hot. It's a wonderful thing to watch a soufflé rise. The joy is fleeting, however, because once you open the door, you have about 40 seconds of wonderful puff followed by rapid deflation. As you can imagine, taking photos of a soufflé happens at Formula-1-pit-stop-pace.

Whenever I'm making one, I always wonder how restaurants can serve soufflés when they're so briefly at their perfection.

This is my fifth time making a souffle and my third successful attempt. My first two attempts were abysmal failures - they tasted great, they just didn't rise. I called them "shriveled toads" at the time.

Soufflé number 3 was also successful but had a slightly heavier texture as I used coconut milk in a Thai-inspired Pandan souffle .

Souffle number 4 was also successful and punctuated with hints of passionfruit.


Continue reading "Dark Chocolate Souffle" »

03 December 2008

Making Madeleines


There is much debate over the origin of the little French sponge cake, the Madeleine, however there are two things that are certain; that the small French town of Commercy in the Lorraine region, proudly stake their claim over the shell-shaped cakes; and, that Madeleines have earned their timeless place in literature in Marcel Proust’s The Remembrance of Things. In the beginning of his autobiography, Proust is overwhelmed by a stream of childhood memories after he tastes the citrus-infused Madeleine with a drop of tea.

“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the [Madeleine] crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me...But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.

Today the Madeleine remains loved for its simplicity and delicate citrus flavour as if kissed by a lemon tree.


This is my second attempt at making Madeleines. The first time was miserable. What should have been an airy, soft cake with a slightly crisp exterior was dense and dry. After my first attempt I shied away from trying again and hid my Madeleine tin in the back of the cupboard. This was about a year ago.

It wasn't until recently that I was browsing on the Quince Handcrafted Cuisine website in Vancouver when I saw a Saturday afternoon class promising to teach students how to make the best hot chocolate and Madeleines ever. I enrolled immediately and headed off for an hour of tasteful education.

From Quince owner and chef, Andrea Jefferson, I learned how to make perfect Madeleines. It's all about finding the right balance between the whisking and folding of the batter while keeping it aerated with millions of tiny bubbles. Chef Andrea has a straight forward, no-nonsense approach to cooking. She is only particular about those things which require precision; baking measurements is one of those things.

On her recommendation during the class, I have only included the ingredient measurements in grams. While 130 grams of eggs was approximately 3 medium eggs, the size of eggs may vary from country to country, so my advice? Buy some scales and they don't have to be expensive. Mine were $16.

I've put together 10 step-by-step instructions to Madeleines you'd be mad to miss. Enjoy!

For more inspirational cooking classes check out Quince at:

Quince - www.quince.ca
1780 W3rd Ave Vancouver
Tel: 604.731.4645

Continue reading "Making Madeleines" »

14 October 2008

Homemade Chocolate Truffles


Ganache -- a combination of cream and chocolate that forms the velvety  heart of truffles. It can be used to glaze cakes, to coat nuts or be coated with a crisp layer of chocolate.

To make ganache, gently heat cream until it starts to boil and then pour it over chopped chocolate or chocolate buds, all the while constantly stirring until the mixture is smooth and silken.

Let the chocolate/cream mixture cool to room temperature and then cover it and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours. I usually let it set overnight.

I also like to add a little liqueur like Grand Marnier. Some other flavours that go well include coconut essence, a tablespoon of black coffee or try rolling the ganache in desiccated coconut or chopped pistachios or hazelnuts.


Truffles are surprisingly easy to make but be prepared to get your hands dirty. It's a rather messy affair and you're likely to end up with chocolate in your eyebrows.

But don't despair, the mess is worth the result. Just lay down a sheet or two of newspaper and remember this tip -- keep your hands cold.

Ganache is delicate and sensitive to heat. When it comes to rolling time, I  always have a bag of ice next to me and in between every second rolling of the truffle balls I simply lay my chocolately hands on the bag and cool them down.

It does wonders for the truffles and makes things less gooey.

Check out these easy step-by-step instructions for making truffles. If you're not using nuts in the centre, then just skip over point 6 and 8.

Continue reading "Homemade Chocolate Truffles" »

25 September 2008

Plum Clafoutis


Over the past few weeks the farmer's markets have been bursting with tiny black plums. Sweet, succulent and even a little tangy, the plums are ripe for eating, stewing, poaching and in this case, baking...in a clafoutis.

It was only until I attempted to make this baked dessert, that I discovered that it is actually French, specifically from the Limousin region. I have always thought it was Greek. The word 'clafoutis' just sounds so Greek to me but then again 'tiramisu' sounds Japanese!

My clafoutis differs from the Limoges' version which traditionally uses un-pitted black cherries. It is thought that the kernel (pip) imparts an almond-like flavour into the batter when baked. Instead, I used the small black plums, with the stone left in.


While the plums I used were sweet to the point of being over-ripe, the cooking process seemed to reawaken their tart bite.

A clafoutis is somewhere between a cake, a custard, a sweet omelette and a souffle. But really, I shouldn't grope for a category: it is what it is. It's a clafoutis. And it's delicious.

Continue reading "Plum Clafoutis" »

13 June 2008

Profiteroles with Dark Chocolate Orange Ice Cream


I made profiteroles for the first time a few days ago and here they are! The orange chocolate ice cream filling was actually an afterthought when I realised that the crème patisserie (pastry cream) was going to need three hours to chill.

I simply couldn't wait that long and luckily I had the ice cream sitting in my freezer. It was meant to be and it was perfect match. I've been meaning to make mini ice-cream sandwiches for a while using brioche and vanilla ice cream but these profiteroles were an excellent substitute.

The recipe I used for the choux pastry was from epicurious and like the reviews said, it was easy and they turned out perfectly. However, I wasn't so sure at the start if things were going well as the choux looked too runny and I wasn't sure how they were going to puff up, if at all. I used a pastry bag to squeeze out 'tall rounds' and as soon as I squeezed them out they promptly deflated and spread out. Not a good start.

Round two. I grumpily scooped all the miserable little chouxs back into a metal bowl and then put the bowl by the window to cool down. Incidentally, I'm in Vancouver where it's meant to be the start of summer and it's 10 degrees. So I cooled the choux  for about 15 minutes and let it firm up a bit and then spooned it back into the pastry bag and gave it another go.

The 'tall rounds' weren't exactly skyscrapers but they were keeping their tallish roundish shapes so I whisked them into the oven and then magically before my eager eyes, they rose.

Continue reading "Profiteroles with Dark Chocolate Orange Ice Cream" »

06 February 2008

Pandan Soufflé -- a soufflé with a Thai twist


Over the past few weeks I have been attempting to make a soufflé. Let’s just say that each time has been miserable in its own special way.

The first recipe I used omitted the flour resulting in a rocket of egg whites, at first so promising and then so demoralizing, when it grew as tall as a chef’s hat and then proceeded to fall from that great height.

In my second attempt, the soufflé failed to rise at all. In fact, it looked like a shriveled up little toad. I must admit though, it was a delicious little toad. But that’s not the point: because it looked awful and so I cried.

Anyway, I finally plucked up the courage to try my hand again, and, as the saying goes: third time lucky.

I decided to do something a little different – to give my soufflé a twist, a Thai twist. Some of the most common ingredients found in Thai desserts include coconut milk, palm sugar and the deliciously fragrant Pandanus leaves, known in Thai as Bai Toey.

Pandanus leaves are very versatile. They are used to not only flavour desserts but savory dishes as well. They are often folded like origami to make little containers for the desserts. They are used to flavour iced water and for their natural green food coloring. And, because they smell so good, they are even used as air fresheners in taxi cabs!

The combining of coconut milk with pandanus leaves is a perfect alchemy. Their combination adds a fragrant complexity whenever they appear together.


So, there you have it: a soufflé Thai-style. It was delicate, subtle and delicious. The only thing I would change next time would be to add a little more palm sugar. I used three tablespoons, next time I will use four. I also think this recipe would be even better with duck eggs but I can't seem to find them in Vancouver. Duck eggs, which also feature largely in Thai custard desserts, are much richer than chicken eggs.

I was lucky enough to buy a whole bunch of the fresh pandanus leaves from the South China Seas Trading Co however they always carry frozen packets as well.

Now that I know I have an endless supply of the leaves, I have been giddy with all the coconut-pandanus possibilities. Coconut-pandanus pie, coconut-pandanus crème brulee, coconut-pandanus cheese cake, coconut-pandanus gelato – it’s endless. If any of these should emerge from my kitchen, I shall be sure to let you know.

I am submitting this post to Weekend Herb Blogging which is being hosted this week by Ulrike from the blog Küchenlatein.

Weekend Herb Blogging 

Continue reading "Pandan Soufflé -- a soufflé with a Thai twist" »

06 December 2007

Kale & Smoked Bacon Quiche


Kale; not only is this winter green high in Vitamins C, A, B6, K, Magnesium and various antioxidants, it is also delicious. In fact, the health benefits of Kale sound pretty incredible. It is touted as reducing the risk of various cancers, reducing the risk of skin and eye diseases, and generally keeping the immune system healthy. Popeye would certainly approve.

So after reading about all these benefits, I raced out and bought me some and made a Kale and Smoked Bacon Quiche. Its dark green, curly leaves have a lovely texture somewhere in between English Spinach and Seaweed. Kale can be eaten in a variety of ways: steamed, raw, in soups or as in this case, sauteed and then baked.

I cheated with the pastry. I didn't make it. Instead I bought it from the A La Mode pie shop at Granville Island Public Market. Their pastry is of course excellent, being a pie shop, and it saves me the hassle of making my own when I want a quick and no-fuss dinner.

I just spent an hour trying to come up with a clever name for this story. I came up with things like 'Hail, Kale!', which I dismissed for its Nazi connotations. Or 'If Popeye was alive today, he'd choose Kale', which is clearly way too long and unwieldy, and lastly 'Kale: health and vitamins' Holy Grail', which, seeing as we are talking about a leafy vegetable, may be overstating things a little.

So after tortuous deliberation, I settled on 'Kale & Smoked Bacon Quiche'. Pretty clever don't you think?

I have submitted this post to Weekend Herb Blogging being hosted this week by Simone of the blog Briciole.



Continue reading "Kale & Smoked Bacon Quiche " »

25 November 2007

What a tart!


A tart indeed...a dark chocolate mousse tart with raspberries on top. This is my entry for this month's Waiter there's something in my...topless tart, being hosted by Cook Sister.

I got up at 8am today and started making this rather decadent dessert. I hadn't had any breakfast so I kind of ate bits and pieces of the ingredients. A raspberry here, a spoonful or three of chocolate mousse there...that sort of thing. Now, it's entirely justifiable to taste as you cook. It's the only responsible thing to do in the circumstances. However, as I am typing this out, I'm trembling from the early morning overload of sugar. Deep breaths.

The tart was pretty easy to prepare. I used my chocolate mousse recipe I made for Bastille Day a few months ago (minus the orange rind). The tart base was simply finely crushed biscotti mixed with a couple of tablespoons of melted butter. I could only seem to find biscotti with almonds or raisins in them so I opted for the latter. I just picked them out when I crushed the biscuits.


Continue reading "What a tart! " »

05 November 2007

Breakfast for one: Eggs (salmon) benedict


Syrie had to go out early this morning. So I woke up today alone and with the kitchen to myself. I love cooking breakfast for myself. Syrie prefers the simplicity of a dippy egg or the wholesomeness of bircher. This morning, though, I cooked myself my favourite breakfast: Salmon Benny!

After almost three years of living in Vancouver, I have yet to find a place whose Benny I love. In Sydney, I loved Le Petit Crème's on Darlinghurst Rd (although it was so rich, you often developed slight feelings of regret for the following half hour). Most of the Benny's I've sampled recently, however, have no tang. They taste like a cheesy butter sauce. I think the difference is that I learnt to make Hollandaise with lemon juice and vinegar. I'm not sure vinegar is widely used to make Hollandaise around here.

There are lots of variations on Eggs Benedict. My favourite replaces the ham or bacon with smoked salmon.

Continue reading "Breakfast for one: Eggs (salmon) benedict" »

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