The latest issue of France magazine En Route has recently hit the newsstands across the Netherlands! Once again, this issue is packed with stories that will delight Francophiles — including my column on the history of caramel au beurre salé on page 77! Just when you thought you knew everything about this trendy French delicacy, I set the record straight by telling you about its real origins. Great reading for the holidays, so make sure to grab a copy! NOTE: the magazine is published in Dutch.
A while ago I worked on a culinary feature for Dutch women’s weekly Vriendin. The subject was cooking with different types of rice, and I also had to develop six international rice recipes. Though I grew up with Colombian parents who served rice at every meal, I hardly eat rice anymore. It just doesn’t appeal to me. I find it a rather uninspiring food. Perhaps I had too much of it in my youth. Anyhow, it was an interesting production to work on, despite the fact that by the end of the week, I never wanted to see another grain of rice again!
That must have been two years ago.
The record was broken yesterday when I was suddenly in the mood to make a pilaf. Just out of the blue, which is pretty much the way culinary inspiration hits me. Randomly. (Side note: A few nights ago I had a dream I was eating lobster at a very fancy restaurant. Wonder what will come of that.)
I scribbled the following recipe, and hoped for the best. Well, it was delicious. Though next time I think I’ll serve it with a spicy relish — like the one the paella lady serves in Duras. More on that later.
Here’s the recipe:
Fragrant Chicken Pilaf
- 1 tbsp Harissa sauce
- 1 tbsp full-fat yogurt
- 350g chicken thigh fillets, cut into small pieces
- 300 g basmati rice
- knob of butter
- 1 tbsp mild olive oil
- 3 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 cardamom pods, bruised
- 1 1/2 tsp curry masala powder
- 50g dried cranberries
- 560ml hot chicken stock
- 50g pistachios
- chopped flat leaf parsley or coriander, to serve
Mix the Harissa with the yogurt and stir in the chicken pieces. Put the rice in a fine mesh sieve and wash it under the tap until the water runs clear. Heat the oil and butter in a shallow, heavy-bottomed pan and gently sauté the shallots, garlic, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and curry masala powder for approximately 8 minutes. The spices will release their aroma and give the dish a lot of flavor. Remove the cardamom pods (this will be a bit of a search!), increase the heat and add the chicken. Cook the chicken, while stirring, for 10 minutes. Stir in the rice and cranberries. Add the stock, stir everything well and bring to a boil. Lower the heat immediately, place a lid on the pan, and allow the dish to simmer for 20 minutes. In the meantime, toast your pistachios in an ungreased frying pan, leave them to cool and chop them up. Remove the pan of pilaf from the heat, and let it stand (do not stir!) for 5 minutes. Add in the pistachios and mix through the pilaf with a fork. Using any other implement will make the rice stick. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs and serve. Note: when serving the dish, however, you will want to scrape up all the bits at the bottom!
Writing a regular food column for France magazine En Route is more than work — it’s a real learning experience. For each column I choose a typical French food item, explore its (cultural) history and then write a summary of what I learned. The whole process takes at least a week and is not the easiest of tasks, however enjoyable. Not only because there is usually a sea of information (in France, almost every food item is a BIG deal, often protected by expert organizations and boasting a long and strong history), but also because I’m not writing an article but a column, which means less words and a very different tone.
Recently, two magazines hit the Dutch newsstands with my work again: one is the new En Route with my regular column on French culinary history, the other is the winter edition of Bouillon! where you can read my story about the annual white truffle festival in Alba.
If you’re a Francophile like me, you’ll love the the new En Route which is full of great articles once again. There’s even a story about one of my favorite Frenchmen (and there are quite a few!), Serge Gainsbourg! Plus, this issue includes a booklet with the best French restaurants in the Netherlands. My article, on Agen prunes, is on page 77. If, by the way, you are looking for last minute Christmas/post holiday menu suggestions and craving Agen prunes after reading my article, may I suggest the following four recipes:
A great starter might be my salad with bacon wrapped Agen prunes. A recipe inspired by a meal at one of my favorite restaurants in Duras: Salad with Bacon Wrapped Agen Prunes.
Craving a ‘lighter’ dinner after the holidays? Not sure if duck breast is considered ‘light’, though it is less heavy than turkey with all the trimming! Try my Duck & Agen Prune Skewers.
Dessert? Here are two recipes with Agen prunes you will not want to miss. My Agen Prune Ice Cream with Armagnac and my Agen Prune Cake with Armagnac.
Both magazines are a great read and highly recommended during these upcoming days off! Happy Holidays!