The French (and Dutch, for that matter) love their flavored syrups. Mixed with water or ‘limonade’ (French lemonade, similar to Sprite or 7up), they make a very refreshing drink which is especially popular with children. This strawberry syrup is not only great in a diabolo fraise, one of my daughter’s favorite drinks, but you can also pour a little over yogurt or ice cream. Sometimes I even freeze the syrup in ice cubes and add a few to a glass of sparkling water. Feel free to try the recipe with other fruits.
Makes: 600ml fruit syrup
- 3 ½ cups strawberries, hulled
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cupl water
Roughly chop the strawberries, put them with the sugar and water in a pan and bring to the boil. Stir well, reduce heat to a simmer and gently cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow the mixture to cool in the pan. Strain into a bowl, making sure to squeeze as much syrup out of the fruit as possible. Using a funnel, transfer to a glass bottle. Refrigerate before serving. To serve, mix 1 part syrup with 4 parts water.
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.
Autumn has really hit hard this past week, and although I am not a fan of rain, there is a certain beauty in intensely hued trees towering into dark skies. It is no longer raining today, but misty. The vivid yellows on the leaves of my cherry tree and the dusty pinks in my hydrangeas keep everything from looking all too gloomy. Nature always provides a perfect balance.
I harvested the last of my apples yesterday — a harvest which has been very generous. My tree has not only provided plenty of snack opportunities, but everything I’ve baked since early September has included freshly-picked apples. Like my apple muffins with confiture de lait, my apple-pecan bundt cakes with brown sugar-cinnamon glaze, the caramelized apple cake inspired by a Julie Andrieu recipe, and my Frenchified Dutch apple pie. Yesterday it was time to make a crumble, one of the easiest fruit recipes ever. What I love about this recipe is that it is relatively easy on the waistline (a good thing after last night’s meatloaf dinner!), and it calls for simple ingredients. I always like to serve my crumbles hot out of the oven with a tiny scoop of ice cream. The contrast is absolutely delightful. Here’s my recipe. Have a cozy, autumnal weekend!
- 3 medium apples, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 tbsps flour
- 3 tbsps oatmeal
- 1 tbsp ground almonds
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- 1tbsp light brown sugar
- 35g butter
- ice cream (either cinnamon or vanilla), to serve
Preheat the oven to 200C and lightly butter a small, round oven dish of approximately 18cm. Put the apples in the buttered dish. Mix the flour, oatmeal, ground almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and sugar in a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips. Spread the mixture over the apples and bake for 30-35 minutes. Serve hot with a scoop of ice cream.
I have a beautiful apple tree in my garden. We bought it ten years ago when we were living in another house. We had a huge garden back then. It was lush and full of trees that produced the most colorful blossoms in the spring. There was even a hazelnut tree, which believe it or not, we discovered that very last autumn before moving away.
My daughter loved that garden. Sometimes she would lie by the pond and dream away, or sit at the picnic table and color or do other things that kids do. We had a husky named Meiki back then, and she loved that garden, too.
It was a bit of a wild garden. Though we mowed the lawn when necessary, we never really tended to it much. It just sort of did its own thing — and it did it quite well. We were so eager to move to our new house, but how we hated having to leave that garden behind.
Luckily, both our apple tree and cherry tree hadn’t been planted for long, so we dug them up and carefully transported them to our new house, where they got a lovely place in our new, much more civilized garden.
Every year, right around this time, I head outside armed with an old French colander to pick just a few apples for the muffins I am sharing with you today. Be warned, they are as addictive as they sound, so you may have trouble restraining yourself to just one. Because they are filled with confiture de lait, that gloriously silky French caramel sauce, they are somewhat reminiscent of candy apples. Wonderfully seasonal at this time of year, of course. Enjoy, and happy September!
Apple Caramel Muffins with Confiture de Lait
Makes 12 large muffins
- 250g flour
- 150g light brown sugar
- 2 tsps cinnamon
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 2 small apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
- 150ml milk
- 65ml sunflower oil
- 2 small eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Confiture de Lait
*You may want to line a baking sheet with foil and place it in the lowest part of your oven. Getting caramel off the oven floor is no fun!
*The confiture de lait doesn’t work the same way jam would when used as a muffin filling. The gooey sauce rather disappears into the sponge giving it a bit of extra sweetness around the center!
Preheat the oven to 200C and prepare your muffin pan. Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, soda and salt in a bowl. Add in the apples and stir to coat them with the mixture. In a jug, whisk the milk, oil, eggs and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to the dry and mix gently. Fill each muffin hole with about 1 tbsp of the batter. Then top with a tsp confiture de lait and about ¾ tbsp of the batter. Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes. Ice them with a little more confiture while they are still hot. These muffins go so, so well with a nice chai!