This weekend while having lunch at Het Hert (great, little restaurant in Naarden, by the way), my husband and I discussed our vacation plans. Every year the same question arises: “Duras or something else?” — in France, obviously. We have been visiting Duras every summer since 2009 and every time we fall in love with the village and surrounding area even more. Driving into Duras always feels like coming home. So much so, that I’ve even joked about having lived there in a past life. We love that place so much. But we also love all the other villages and cities in the area. Like Miramont, Sainte-Foy-la-Grande, Monségur, Issigeac, Soumensac, Marmande and Bergerac. And of course places like Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux and Arcachon, which are a little further away and well worth the drive.
So, as you may have guessed, it didn’t take long for us to decide that this summer it was going to be Duras, for the ninth time! We rented a beautiful house from one of our friends there and I am already looking forward to August! Our hotels for overnight stops in Vierzon and Orléans have also been booked. Yay!
But first, plenty of other things to look forward to — like our trip to Le Touquet-Paris-Plage in April and working on my cookbook. Most of my days are spent immersed in studying, writing about and practicing French cuisine. Yesterday I made a lovely Flan Parisien (hurray for the new oven — which came in a week late, but still). For lunch, I quickly threw together a Salade Lyonnaise. Of course, I could not find frisée salad (something to do with it being Sunday and living in a Dutch suburb), so I had to settle for romaine, which wasn’t a bad alternative. I wrote a very rough recipe, which I am sharing with you today. The full (and improved recipe) will be in my book — more about that in due time!
Have a great week!
- 1 1/2 tbsps red wine vinegar
- 4 tbsps sunflower oil
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp dried chervil
- 1/2 dried parsley
- Fleur de sel & freshly cracked pepper
- 6 handfuls of crisp lettuce leaves
- knob of butter
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 100g lardons
- 1/4 baguette, cubed
- 3 tbsps white wine vinegar
- 3 fresh eggs
In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar, oil, mustard, dried herbs and salt and pepper to make a dressing. Reserve 1 1/2 tbsp of the dressing and toss the lettuce leaves in the rest, making sure they are coated with the dressing. Divide over 3 plates. Melt the butter in a frying pan and gently sauté the shallots. Add the bacon, increase the heat and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the cubed bread and toss for another five minutes. In the meantime, bring a large pan of water to a simmer for the eggs. Add the vinegar and stir with a whisk to create a whirlpool effect. Add each egg one by one to the water and poach for 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 minutes, depending on their size. Add the reserved dressing to the bread and bacon, give it a final stir and divide over the salad. Top with the poached egg, season with a little salt and serve.
Last Sunday I spent a few hours looking through old cookbooks in my attic. A collection that is busting out of its seams, perhaps even a slight addiction. Some of those cookbooks have treasured recipes that I have made countless of times for my family and have since become favorites. A good example is Feast by Nigella Lawson. No birthday goes by without her old-fashioned chocolate cake. And what would Halloween be without slime soup or blood-and-guts potatoes? Nigella’s recipes (especially the ones found in her first books) bring back lots of fond memories.
Looking through Nigella Bites, I was reminded of her wonderful meatball recipe and decided I wanted to let it inspire me to make a nice Sunday evening meal. For some reason, I was craving meatballs with rice, smothered with thick, hearty tomato sauce. The results were absolutely delightful, so I’m sharing the recipe with you today.
And because no Sunday dinner would be complete without dessert, I decided to make her walnut coffee cake (found in Kitchen). Granted, it calls for an exorbitant amount of butter, but oh man was it delicious!
Doesn’t it look good? It was gone in three days…
Now on to that recipe! PS: The tomato sauce is probably one of the best tomato sauces EVER. And no, not sponsored at all. For those in the Netherlands, the sauce is available at Albert Heijn.
Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
- 500g ground beef
- 1 egg
- 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
- 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 2 tbsps chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tsp Himalayan salt
- freshly-cracked pepper
- 3 tbsps breadcrumbs
For the sauce:
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- Himalayan salt
- freshly-cracked pepper
- 1 bottle (330ml) Campisi Salsa Pronta di Pomodoro
- 165ml water
- 165ml milk
- rice, to serve
- chopped parsley, to garnish
Knead all of the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl and shape into 9 meatballs. Refrigerate for 1 hour. To make the sauce, heat the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed casserole and gently sauté the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the milk) and cook for 5 minutes. NOTE: put the water in the bottle and shake to get out every bit! Stir in the milk and cook for a minute or so. Drop in the meatballs (you do not have to brown them), place a lid on the pan and cook for 20 minutes. Turn the meatballs over gently, place the lid back on the pan, this time slightly ajar, and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Remove the lid and allow the sauce to cook for three more minutes or so. Serve the meatballs with rice and sprinkle with parsley.
One of my favorite ways to officially end the holiday season is with a French Three Kings cake, otherwise known as a galette des rois. The delicate treat consists of almond cream slathered between two layers of flaky pastry. It is eaten to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th, though it is available at French bakeries throughout the entire month.
Usually, a figurine (fève) is hidden inside the cake. Tradition says that the youngest person in the household gets under the table and says who gets which piece. The person who finds the figurine is crowned king or queen for the day. I am happy to say that this year I was crowned queen! And no, I didn’t cheat!
In the past, I always purchased my galette des rois from one of my favorite French bakers here in the Netherlands, Le Fournil de Sébastien, but this year I decided it was time to make my own. And it couldn’t be easier!
Here’s the recipe!
Want to see a video? Click here!
Galette des Rois
- 100g butter, softened
- 100g sugar
- 2 eggs
- 100g almond flour
- 1 1/2 tsps almond extract
- 2 28cm circles of puff pastry
- 1 whisked egg
- 1 stone figurine, or whole almond
- 1 tsp apricot jam & 1 tsp water
Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Cream the butter and the sugar using a standing or hand-held mixer. Beat in the eggs one by one. Beat in the almond flour and almond extract. Place one of the pastry circles on the baking sheet and spread the almond cream over the surface, leaving a free edge. Don’t forget to place the figurine on the almond cream. Brush the whisked egg along the edge and cover with the second pastry circle. Seal the edges well with your fingers and then crimp. Brush the galette with beaten egg and place in the fridge for one hour. Preheat the oven to 200C. Remove the galette from the fridge, brush with egg again and carve a nice pattern on the pastry using the back of a knife. Make a few air holes in the pastry. Bake the galette for approximately 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180C and give the galette an extra 20-25 minutes. Check after about half an hour to see if the galette is not browning too much and cover with foil if necessary. Whisk the jam and water and heat. Brush the cooled galette with the jam. Delicious with a glass of Champagne!
Welcome to 2017, a new year in which I hope to continue bringing you recipes that will inspire you to get in the kitchen and make memories at your table! We had a restful and peaceful Christmas filled with copious amounts of love and good food — and oh was the food really good! From the three-course lunch at our favorite French restaurant, Bel Ami, which kicked off our vacation, to my husband’s traditional shrimp cocktail with whiskey (the best EVER!), to the lunch I had in Amsterdam with my teenage daughter at Dragon City, a Chinese restaurant she picked out which turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise! Authentic, well prepared food and great service. The Hong Kong milk tea (my first!) was ridiculously good!
As we were taking down the tree on Sunday and packing up yet another year of memories, I told Hans that as of Monday, we would be back to sensible eating. Though truth be told: breakfasts and lunches are like something straight out of a health food book, yet I can t seem to stop thinking about making French winter classics such as cassoulet, choucroute and tartiflette. After all, we’re smack in the middle of winter!
On Monday we had salmon with cauliflower mash and peas, but yesterday all I wanted was a hearty hachis parmentier, a warming dish of a meat filling topped with mashed potato which is similar to a cottage pie (usually made with beef) or shepherd’s pie (made with lamb). All of these recipes were traditionally made with the previous day’s leftovers. My recipe is made with lean beef (hey!) and topped with a mash made of mostly celeriac which is lower in carbs than potatoes and has a lovely earthy taste. Maybe not that bad after all? Ah well, perhaps we should just focus on enjoying the foods that go with the seasons. I’ll bring out the lighter fare when nature tells me it’s time to do so — and for now, that’s still a few months away!
Happy new year and I hope you enjoy my first recipe of 2017!
PS: Here’s a little video of the finished, steaming, dish!
- 500g peeled celeriac, chopped into medium chunks
- 200g peeled potatoes, chopped into medium chunks
- olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 2 sprigs of rosemary, needles finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 500g lean ground beef
- 3 tbsps tomato puree
- 3 tbsps red wine
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- fleur de sel & freshly cracked pepper
- 1tbsp flour
- 100ml hot beef stock
- 2 tsps Dijon mustard
- 3 tbsps crème fraîche
- freshly grated nutmeg
- butter, to top the mash with
Preheat the oven to 180C, lightly grease a round 22cm oven dish with a little oil and place the dish on an oven tray covered with aluminum foil. Boil the celeriac and potatoes. Heat a little oil in a casserole and gently sauté the onion, carrot, garlic and rosemary for about 7 minutes. Increase the heat, add the beef and brown it well (about 5 minutes). Add the tomato puree, wine, sugar, bay leaf and salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every now and then. Stir in the flour followed by the stock. Allow the dish to cook for about 8 more minutes. Drain the celeriac and potatoes, add the mustard, crème fraîche, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Mash, leaving it rather chunky. Transfer the meat sauce to the oven dish and top with the mash. Run the prongs of a fork through the mash and top with slivers of butter and an extra grinding of fresh pepper. Bake for 25 minutes. Place the dish under a hot grill for a final 5-8 minutes and serve with a green salad and mustardy vinaigrette.