Tag Archives: Comfort food

Simple pleasures – Sunday morning croissants & hot chocolate à la français/Phoebe

3 Feb

During my walk home from the nightbus after a night out in Cannes, I found myself walking past my local boulangerie. Late night to the early hours of the morning is when all croissboulangeries make their masses of breads and pastries. The smell of fresh bread is infamously amazing, however the wafts of baking croissants I believe is even better. I went to bed adamant to treat myself to a croissant in the morning. I also realised that I am actually quite obsessed with food – who plans their breakfast so determinedly (I even checked to see if I had apricot jam…) at 4am whilst knackered and (slightly) under the influence of alcohol?!

True to late night determination, two fresh, buttery croissants made their way to  my apartment. As it’s a Sunday, I thought why not go all out and have a typical French, tasty yet not so healthy accompaniment – hot chocolate in a bowl, the only way to drink it (if you are a French child, but oh well.)

As an adult, I did make myself a bit more of a ‘grown-up’ hot chocolate in a bowl. The addition of a shot of coffee makes masses of difference in my opinion. It takes away some of the sicklyness that can come from a big bowl of milky hot chocolate, plus gives you a bit of a (much needed) caffeine buzz.

Just what I needed!

My version of chocolate chaud calls for:
A china, heat proof smallish bowl that can easlily be drunk from.
About 250ml milk (if you are going really authentic then use UHT – although the French stuff doesn’t have quite the same strong taste as the UHT milk in the UK.)
1 tbsp hot chocolate powder (Poulain is a popular French brand that is the best – far better than any supermarket hot chocolate in the UK, I always bring a pot back with me!)
Shot of espresso or 2tsp instant coffee granules

1. In your bowl, mix the coffee and hot chocolate powder with a few tbsp milk to form a paste, add the rest of the milk then pop in the microwave for 1min. Stir to ensure everything is well mixed and cook for a further 40seconds.
Serve with warm croissants and jam.

 

A bit more than just sausages and mash

28 Nov

In fact – it’s actually grilled sausages with sautéed leek comté cheese mash with a hint of whole grain mustard and sweetcorn, served with proper onion and red wine gravy. Proper British winter food – a perfect use of my precious vegetarian sausages I managed to stuff into my hand luggage on my way back from Exeter last week!

This dish calls for quite a few elements but it is really easy. It is a ‘sausage and mash’ dish that is even fancy enough for a dinner party. I always think that mashed potato sometimes need an extra few elements to make it a bit more exciting, this is the perfect comfort food combination (or hangover cure…) We had our mammoth plates after I had come home from work looking like a soggy drowned rat after one of Nice’s sudden storms.
These are big portions so if you haven’t got a huge appetite, make some fried potato cakes with any leftover mash the following day (for that reason I actually regret being a greedy pig and eating it all – 3 whole potatoes each plus half a leek…oh dear.)
DISCLAIMER: A food coma may occur, you have been warned.

Serves 2 adults with eyes bigger than their stomachs.
Ingredients:
4 sausages (vegetarian or good quality pork)
For the mash:
650g potatoes
1 medium leek
50g tinned sweetcorn
60g grated comté or mature cheddar cheese
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
1tbsp milk
salt and pepper
For the gravy:
A good knob of butter
100ml red wine, cheapest quality will suffice – ours was just over 1euro, not really fit for consumption but perfect for cooking.
1 small onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped.
2tsp whole grain mustard
1tsp tomato puree (we used ketchup!)
1.5tbsp plain flour
100ml vegetable or beef stock (we found vegetable stock to be plenty rich enough.)
Salt and pepper

Method:


 1. Cook onion in butter for 2-3min without colouring. Add flour and stir on the hat for 1 min. Add the tomato puree & mustard. Gradually stir in the wine then the stock, ensuring there are no lumps. Bring to the boil then simmer gently for 30minutes or until desired consistency is reached. Season to taste.
2. Whilst the sauce is boiling, chop up your potatoes into quarters and add them to a salted pan of boiling water to boil for about 15 minutes, until soft but not crumbling. I prefer not to peel my potatoes as I like the texture of the potato skin in the mash.

3. When your potatoes are just starting to boil, in a separate frying pan, sauté your chopped leek in a good knob of butter on a medium heat. They should be soft and not burned within 10 minutes. Try to use all of a leek – including the majority of the green part.
4. Grill your sausages on a medium heat for around 15 minutes. Brush them with oil and place them on a shelf where they will not sit in their own fat. Remember to turn your sausages every 3/4 minutes. They will take around 12-15 minutes to cook. Grilling is always the healthiest/tastiest way to cook sausages.
5. Drain your potatoes and return them to the pan on a very low heat to dry out before mashing.
6. Add a good knob of butter to the potatoes and the milk. Mash in the saucepan until you have your desired ‘mashedness’. Season. Mix in the mustard and then add the leeks, sweetcorn and cheese and combine. The cheese should start to melt and you will want to just scoop it out of the pan then and there to eat.
7. On warmed plates, add a good few dollops of mash, your sausages and your gravy.

Eat, then have a good sleep.

Soaked coffee and walnut cake

27 Nov

Coffee and walnut is one of my all time favourite cakes. Delia Smith’s ‘Austrian coffee and walnut cake’ has the best recipe I have tried. What makes it so tasty is that as soon as the cake is taken out of the oven, coffee syrup is poured over to soak into the cake, giving it an amazingly moist, coffee enriched flavour and texture. In theory it should be baked in two sandwich tins, with each cake having a share of the coffee, meaning that you get the syrupy loveliness in two cakes. However, as I only have a loaf tin, the bottom two thirds of the cake was comparably a lot drier to two sandwich tin cakes soaked in syrup. I used my own buttercream recipe that is simple and can be made with everyday storecuboard ingredients.
I served this as part of my Exeter-inspired afternoon tea with some friends in Nice. My parents visited and also had a few slices – a proper ‘feed a crowd’ cake!

TIP: If you are using a loaf tin, it’s tempting to make more syrup to allow the bottom half of the cake to complement from it, however do not do this as it would give your cake a soggy top!

Serves 8
Ingredients:
For the cake –
1 ½ level tablespoons instant coffee mixed with 2 tablespoons boiling water
75g walnut halves
175g self raising flour
1 ½ level teaspoons baking powder
175g softened butter
175g caster sugar
3 eggs

For the syrup –
1 level tablespoon instant coffee
50g Demerara sugar (I used caster as I had nothing else and worked perfectly)

For the coffee buttercream –
125g softened butter (I prefer to use salted – I find it gives a richer taste)
200g icing sugar

1 dessert spoon instant coffee dissolved with 1 ½ tablespoons boiling water.

Method:
1. Preheat your oven to 170C (fan). Reserving a few for decoration, roughly break up your walnut halves and spread them on a baking tray. Toast in the oven for around 8 minutes. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, sieve your flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Then, simply add all the other ingredients apart from the coffee and walnuts and mix together with a wooden spoon or use an electric whisk so all of the ingredients are well combined and the mixture drops off a wooden spoon when tapped against the side of the bowl.
3. Fold in the coffee mixture and walnuts. Divide the mixture between 2 greased sandwich tins with the bottoms lined with baking paper. If you do not have sandwich tins, a loaf tin will do providing it is well greased. Pop into the oven for 30minutes or so (for sandwich tins) or around 45 minutes (for a loaf tin) until a skewer comes out of the middle of the cake clean.
4. Whilst the cake is baking, make the coffee syrup by placing the coffee and sugar into a heatproof jug. Add 55ml boiling water and stir briskly until the coffee and sugar is dissolved.
5. When the cakes are cooked, leave to cool for 5 minutes then remove from tins and place on a wire rack to cool. Pour the syrup equally over each cake whilst the cakes are still warm so the syrup is absorbed better.
6. When the cakes are cooled, spread with a good slathering of buttercream and decorate with the remaining walnut halves. To make the buttercream you simply mix together the softened butter with sieved icing sugar added a little at a time. When all the icing sugar has been added, dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water. You should have a strong, syrupy coffee. Mix this into the buttercream and you will have a delicious creamy coffee buttercream. I dare you not to lick the bowl!

Spicy butternut squash soup

22 Nov

This is the second recipe using the other half of the butternut squash I bought last week. Another wintery, comforting meal. Butternut squash gives a really thick, wholesome soup which makes it easily substantial enough with a lump of bread and cheese for a good dinner.
I took inspiration from Lorraine Pascal’s recipe and used a good sprinkle of chilli and ginger, along with a squeeze of lemon before serving.
This feeds 4 for a starter or 2 for a main course, it is a very good value meal, especially if using dried chilli powder or flakes and dried ginger.

Ingredients:
Half a butternut squash
1 medium onion
1 garlic clove
1 Whole chilli or a pinch of flakes/powder (or as much as you like – depending on how adventurous you are feeling!)
Half a vegetable stock cube diluted with 1 litre water
One thumb’s worth of grated fresh ginger or a pinch of dried ginger
A squeeze of lemon (or lime) juice
Salt and pepper

TIP: Add curry powder instead of chilli and ginger for another take on spicy butternut squash soup!

Method:
1.Heat your oven to 190celcius (fan)
2. Half your butternut squash lengthways, season with salt and pepper and place a peeled garlic clove into the hollow of the squash. Put in the oven for around 40minutes or until you squash is soft and easily scoopable.
3. While your squash is cooking, heat a tablespoon of olive oil large saucepan on a low heat and once heated, add your onion. It should soften and not sizzle and burn if the heat is correct. Fry your onion for 5 minutes then add your spices. Take off the heat if the onion is cooked. Prepare your stock.
4. Once the squash is soft, roughly cut your garlic clove and add it to the pan, then scoop out the flesh from the squash and add it to the pan.
5. Pour your stock over and with a hand held blender, blend the ingredients together.
6. Reduce on a simmering heat until you have your desired consistency. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to serve. You can also add a blob of crème fraiche!

Butternut squash and sage fried pasta

21 Nov

Fried pasta is one of my favourite things ever. I am always the one who likes the crunchy bit of pasta in the corner of the lasagna dish. There is something so satisfying about slightly crunchy cooked pasta; sauces always seem to intensify with frying too, especially with a spoonfuls of extra Parmesan!

I’m not going to lie, it’s not the healthiest. However a plate of fried pasta can easily be justified – fry in olive oil and use vegetables… there we go J
I recently went for a weekend in Exeter to visit a few friends. We made a big butternut squash risotto before a night out and my love for squash was rekindled. Due to Nice’s constant mild temperature (I am actually craving it to be a bit cold and rainy now and then – I want an excuse to get into bed and watch Downton Abbey on repeat whilst eating chocolate) I haven’t really cooked any seasonal winter dishes. Therefore, a squash was bought.

This is the first of two dishes we made; it’s an adaptation of www.thekitchn.com’s recipe!

Serves 2:
Half a butternut squash.
1 small onion
2 tablespoons fresh or dried sage (we used dried – economical students :D)
50g Parmesan
Large clove of garlic
150g farfelle or rigatoni pasta (we used a combination)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Method.
1. Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius (fan.) Half your butternut squash length-ways, scoop the seeds out and peel (it’s an effort but worth it!)
2. Chop your squash into 1 inch cubes.
3. Finely chop your onion and garlic.
4. In a large baking sheet, toss the squash, onion and garlic with a few glugs of olive oil, sprinkle with half the sage and season well. Leave for around 40 minutes until the squash is soft.
5. Cook your pasta to packet instructions. Drain well and set aside.
6. Meanwhile, in a heavy bottomed frying pan, heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the rest of the sage on a medium-high heat for 2 minutes. If you have two frying pans, then heat them both up to save having to fry in two batches.
7. Add half the pasta and squash mixture to the frying pan (or half in each pan) and heat until the pasta is going brown around the edges (or until your pasta is as crispy as you like). Try and mix your pasta and squash together so it becomes a sort of sauce.
8. When cooked, add half the Parmesan to the frying pan and mix well.
9. Serve onto hot plates and sprinkle on the rest of Parmesan. Enjoy!

Porcini Mushroom ravioli with sage and lemon butter

10 Nov

After yesterday’s purchases in Ventimiglia market (fresh pasta heaveeeeeeeeen) we were itching to try the mushroom ravioli for lunch. With ravioli or any filled pasta, I always think it’s easy to mask any flavour inside the pasta with overpowering flavours and heavy sauces. I really wanted to taste the delicate mushroom flavour inside the pasta, so opted for an ever so simple yet complimenting sauce of butter, garlic, lemon and sage. 

With such good pasta, you really don’t need any more flavours. Butter makes for a more luxurious sauce if you are only cooking with a few flavours. It was a perfect easy Saturday lunch, definitely had a cheeky glass of rose to go with it too! 

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Serves 2:

2 portions mushroom ravioli (about 350g)
Rind of half a lemon.
Good squeeze lemon juice.1 clove of garlic (we had a monster of a clove, looked like a giant’s thumb – so only used half)
1 dessert spoon dried sage
50g butter
Salt & pepper to season
Handful of rocket to garnish

We served out pasta with an avocado, tomato and rocket side salad drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and ground pepper – get your 5 a day 😀

Method:

1.Cook your pasta in simmering water with a splash of olive oil (about 5-6 minutes for fresh ravioli, you don’t want to overcook them as the filling will start to leak out of the parcels.)

2. While your pasta is cooking, in a frying pan on a medium heat, melt the butter and add the garlic so it slowly fries, then add the sage, lemon zest and lemon juice. You may need to add some more butter if it reduces too much. It should smell lovely and rich when you are cooking it! (I got way too excited for lunch!). Season with salt and pepper.

3. Drain the pasta then add it to the frying pan. Gently coat the pasta with the sauce.

4. Divide onto plates and sprinkle with a handful of rocket.

5. Serve with a side salad and parmesan if you like!

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Super-quick last-minute birthday butterfly cupcakes

8 Nov


As part of my uni studies, I have been lucky enough to end up in Nice, France for the year (sun, warmth, amazing fresh seafood and Mediterranean veg, not to mention specialist olive oil shops (!) – my HEAVEN!)

Tonight is my friend’s birthday meal and it’s quite frankly illegal to have a birthday party without a birthday cake in my eyes (and stomach…)! Patisserie shops are everywhere, my local patisserie has a selection of around 20 bite size variations of larger patisserie, that changes almost every day (I am currently in the process of slowly trying every one…)

However, larger celebration ‘cakes’ – are around 35euros a piece. In France, you can’t really get a traditional birthday Victoria sponge, and my student pocket couldn’t really afford such a splurge on a cake, so I thought it would be a better idea to buy a selection of the mini delights, and make my own last minute, incredibly easy traditional British cupcakes!

Ingredients are minimal, stuff to be found in your cupboard/fridge whatever the day, making it an ideal Sunday afternoon unplanned bake (in France, even in the middle of Nice, EVERYTHING shuts down on a Sunday!)

Makes around 12 large cupcakes –
100g butter softened

140g caster sugar

150g self raising flour (I used plain flour+1tsp baking powder due to the lack of self-raising in France)

2 large eggs

To decorate:
150g butter softened
280g icing sugar
12 frozen (defrost first) or fresh raspberries, or any other berry you fancy!

TIP: Buying a large bag of frozen berries will last you ages, it’s about half the price of fresh berries, and you can keep them in your freezer for whenever you fancy a berry fix!

Method:

  •  Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius (fan)
  • In a large mixing bowl, add all the cake ingredients and combine until you have a smooth batter. You may have a add a few drops of milk to make the batter fall  off a wooden spoon when tapped.
  • Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cases and fill each one about 2/3rd full.
  • Bake for around 20-25 minutes, until slightly golden and firm to touch.
  • Whilst cupcakes are cooling on a wire rack, make the buttercream. Soften the butte r in a large bowl, little by little sieve the icing sugar into the bowl, mixing until you have a good consistency. The butterceam should not be too runny. It should be thick enough to hold shape on top of the cupcake.
  • To make the butterfly wings, use a sharp knife to slice off the top part of each cake. Cut that circle in half.
  • Add some buttercream inside the hole that you have just made in the top of the cake, then arrange the two halves on top of the buttercream at an angle to make the wings.
  • Repeat for each cake, then pop a raspberry on each cake and enjoy!

Maximum pleasure with minimum ingredients and time!