Pumpkin and White Bean Stew

I love the tiled mosaic picture option on WordPress, I might be super late to the party on this because I haven’t blogged in months but better late than never right? Right. Also thanks Louis for trying to help me with picture props, you’re a pal! ❤

So yes, I went there. Pumpkin already. Or maybe I’m late to this again? I don’t want to wait until October to get orangey with my alliteration. Plus last weekend we bought about 10 different types of squash so I guess we need to get this baby rolling. I can’t complain though – finally, crisp winds are blowing, I actually wore full length pyjamas to bed this weekend and just got up mid-typing to close the windows. I feel the seasonal change coming and couldn’t be happier. (I can also postpone the leg wax for another week, winning on all fronts).

The ingredients in this stew are only pumpkin and white beans (OK and onions and garlic but that’s a given). I was planning on mixing some bacon bits but I forgot to add them to the shopping list and in the end I didn’t really care. I knew this would taste bombastic without them and guess what, I was right. Concerning the beans, I’m a soak-for-24hrs kind of gal. I have absolutely no problem with using canned beans/lentils etc, it’s just I hate the slimy preserved brine they come in. Even after washing it off, I find the beans have too much of a mushy texture for my liking so I prefer to use the soaking method. Obviously this means planning the meal one day in advance but it’s worth it.

A seperate note on the spices used: I’m a huge fan of the Apples Under my Bed blog by Heidi, and a long time ago I was reading a recipe for a tomato sauce where she swears by adding a star anise. So I tried it and and became hooked. I wouldn’t necessarily use it for pasta sauce, but in this kinda of hearty, wintery recipe I think it is essential. Just one star anise with all the rest adds enormous amounts of flavour, really worth a try!

Ingredients                  Prep. time (excl. soaking time – 30mins)                Cooking time – 2hrs

2 cups of dried white beans, soaked in water for 24hrs.
500g sugar pumpkin, peeled and diced
1 small onion, diced
5-6 garlic cloves, chopped
100ml passata
1 star anise*, 1 cinnamon stick* (about 5cm long), 3 bay leaves*,  2 long pepper sticks,* salt, pepper, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp paprika
*to be removed before eating

1. Soak the beans for 24hrs in cold water (leave an inch of water above the beans, they will expand). Once ready to use, dispose of the water, put the beans in a saucepan with fresh water and boil for 15m. This is to evacuate any toxins in the beans!

2. Drain the beans a second time and put in an oven-proof dish, preferably with a lid. If like me, life somehow didn’t equip you with a Dutch oven, cover your dish with tin foil. Again add enough water to cover the beans + 1  inch above, add salt & pepper and leave in the oven for 50mins at 180°C.

3. Meanwhile, peel the pumpkin and chop into inch-sized pieces. Chop the onion and garlic, add to the pumpkin in a bowl. Mix with olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika. When the beans are done, remove from the oven and add the pumpkin mixture to the dish, as well as the passata and the spices. This might make your dish veeery full so be careful putting it back in the oven (tin foil removed this time.) Leave to cook for a further 50mins.

4. Once it’s done, you’ll have a warming thick stew that is absolutely packed with flavour. Eat with crusty bread, a glass of red and enjoy in front of a film. These quantites will leave you with plenty to serve at least 5 people, otherwise you’ll have enough for left-over lunches and dinners. We love making life easier for ourselves right?

Aman x

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The Tart from St. Tropez

It’s the last weekend of August. The streets will no longer be empty in the morning, walking down the corridors at work will shortly be met with the buzz of colleagues whizzing in and out of offices and we’ll soon start complaining about the onset of the colder weather. Summer came reeeeally late this year for us in Paris, but boy has it hit us hard this past week, << HEATWAVE >>. The mercury went over 30C, this shit got serious.

Baking and cooking in general in this heat has been…hot. I became inspired to test out a tarte tropézienne after seeing a documentary about its origins in France’s beautiful south. Golden brown, glistening with crystallised bling with a sweet aroma of orange blossom, she’s got it going on. Though I’m definitely more tanned than she is right now 😉 those lunch-time sessions in the park are paying off.

I’d give the difficulty factor a 5/10, it’s more time consuming than anything as you have to let the brioche rise for 24hours. Pay attention to your crème patissière to avoid lumps as much as possible – I say this from experience! Enjoy readers, I’m gonna go melt on the couch with the sun in my eyes. Bisous.

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Ingredients

Brioche
300g plain white flour (I use Type 55)
75g powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
3 eggs + 1 yolk for browning
150g butter
45ml milk
15g dried yeast
Nib sugar – this has to be the big crystal pieces of sugar that do not melt in the oven, look in the baking section, a specialty shop or online.

Crème Pâtissière
500ml milk
Few drops of vanilla essence, or 1 vanilla pod split lengthways
75g powdered sugar
60g of flour
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons of orange blossom water (‘Fleur d’Oranger’)

Chantilly
125g whole cream
1 tablespoon of powdered sugar

Method

Day 1
Brioche – mix the dry ingredients together, EXCEPT the yeast. Crack the eggs in a seperate bowl. In a saucepan, combine the milk and butter together until melted. Take off the heat and let it cool until it reaches a lukewarm/tepid temperature, and then add the yeast and whisk well. If the liquid is too hot, the yeast won’t properly activate. I normally wait at least a full 5 minutes before adding it. Mix the wet and dry ingredients until well-combined, put into a bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave in the fridge overnight, I left mine for about 18 hours.

Day 2
Brioche – the dough should have risen to double its original size. remove from the fridge, rub some flour over and shape into how you want it to be baked. I left mine as a big round form, you can also make individual buns if you prefer. Place the dough in the baking tin to be used later, cover with a tea towl and leave at room temperature for 2 hours to rise further.

Crème Patissière – this is just the French word for custard basically. Let the milk warm up in a saucepan with the vanilla essence/pods. In a bowl, mix the egg yolks with the powdered sugar for 1-2 minutes. (Don’t throw the egg whites, I used them to make egg-fried rice for dinner.) Once the milk starts to boil, gently pour it in small quantities into the egg and sugar mixture, whisking well to avoid lumps. Once all the milk has been poured, transfer the liquid back into the saucepan. Add the flour which allows it to thicken, then the orange blossom water and just keep on whisking! Once boiled, take it off the heat and cover the surface with plastic film. Place in the fridge and leave until fully cooled down, at least 1 hour.

Brioche – after 2 hours of letting it rise, brush the beaten egg yolk all over, sprinkle the sugar nibs on top and place the tray into a pre-heated oven at 180C for 25-30mins. Mine was a little browner than I’d have preferred so keep an eye on the oven.

Chantilly – simply, whipped cream! Add the powdered sugar to the cream and use an electric whisker to beat until stiff peaks form. This is to mix into the crème patissière once the former has cooled down. Until that point, keep the chantilly in the fridge.

Brioche – once cooked, leave on a cooling rack. When it is cool enough to handle, cut the brioche horizantally like you would a hamburger. When the crème patissière and chantilly are mixed together, add a thick layer of the cream to the base layer of brioche, then add the layer with the sugar nibs on top. Et voila, the tart is finished. Perfect for an afternoon goûter or in the morning with a cup of tea.

(Quantities and inspiration from here and here, (sorry for the French!). Mixing the yeast in the butter/milk as well as rising times were taken from Rachel Khoo’s recipe on dulce de lèche brioche buns from The Little Paris Kitchen, as I’ve made that recipe a few times so I trust her method.)

Double-chocolate brownies, because why wouldn’t you?

The betch is back.

To-do Did
New computer: check
New job: check
No more moaning about the two previously mentioned subjects like I did before: check.

Life has evolved pretty nicely since the last time I posted. As the first line on my to-do list explains, I finally bought a new laptop. This machine feels like a beast compared to my previous 8-year old dinosaur that was literally falling apart at the nails and screws. This was a sweet purchase I was finally able to make, being fortunate enough to now be paid like a real human being at my new job!!

I very unexpectedly upgraded my professional occupation in March – during the space of a month, I had a phone interview, 3 face-to-face interviews, handed in my notice, (took a weekend trip to Bruges!) and started at the new place. In the interest of sharing, I’m now working as a communications assistant in an international economic organisation, (can I get a hell yeeeeeh). So far I’ve learnt masses and I’m loving the rich and diverse responsibilities I get to be involved with.

Not to bore you with too much real-life talk (I mean yeah, some background is nice but we all only really care about the food), lets move on to the real star of this post. Chocolate brownies. A classic. The comforting taste of gorgeous, rich, dense chocolate is loved by everyone – but admittedly, this can go wrong more often than right.

I knew I wanted to make chocolate brownies during the week, mainly to bring to the office because everyone shares something cute and delish every once in a while with the rest. And for me, you either go home-made or go home. In the past, I normally encoutered the struggle of making them too cakey; the interior was fluffy and light instead of dense. Saying that, I’m also not really on the ‘fudgey’ side of brownies, I prefer compact rather than sticky. Oh the ordeal! I had a browse on the net as to what ratios people used to get the right consistency and took to composing a recipe from here and here. Result? I honestly think they’re the best I’ve ever made and will stick to the basics of this recipe from now on, changing only the almonds for example with walnuts or cranberries etc. ALSO, for the crazies out there (jk, sometimes I’m one of them too), this recipe happens to be gluten-free and refined-sugar free. So there!

Double-chocolate brownies, because why wouldn’t you (Yes, this is the official name).

Ingredients

130g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa
60g coconut oil*
3 medium eggs*
6 tablespoons of agave syrup*
2 tablespoons of 100% cacao powder**
3 tablespoons of rice flour**
150g sliced almonds
*organic, because we’re fancy like that
** these two can quickly dry out a recipe so don’t go crazy

Method

Break the chocolate into pieces and put in a saucepan with the coconut oil over a low heat. Stir occasionally until all melted and take off the heat to cool down. (Coconut oil gives a luscious gloss to the chocolate, try and stop yourself sneaking spoonfuls straight from the pan.)

Crack the eggs in a bowl, add the agave syrup and whisk until the mixture has doubled in size. When the chocolate has cooled down, add to the egg mixture and slowly incorporate. Next add the flour and cacao powder and fold in gently.

Add a handful of sliced almonds into the mixture. Line a small baking dish with parchment paper, pour the mixture and cover the top with a light scattering of almonds. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 10mins at 170 C.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool and cover lightly with powdered sugar. Slice into squares and serve, or stuff your face with them. I leave that choice entirely up to you. Happy Sunday x

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Spicy sausage pasta bake

Evening folks, alas my absence has come to an end! Trying to find a spare moment in December to post was just impossible, and never would I have thought that January would be just as crazy! Not that I have anything against January, I just kinda see it as that meh month after Xmas celebrations, where no-one has any money and you don’t end up leaving the house. How wrong I was. Apart from not having money, that is literally a weekly occurrence ><

The beginning of 2016 has flown by, but I’m hoping that some of my objectives for this year will remain steady. I’m not really into the term ‘resolutions,’ everyone knows that’s just code for ‘this is bullshit.’ I also don’t necessarily believe in starting new ventures at the beginning of a new year – who imposes these time restrictions on us? We do, therefore we can just as easily change that and realise new objectives at any point. However from a financial aspect one of my aims for 2016 did have to wait until now, that being starting driving lessons in France!! I literally can’t stop thinking about having the freedom to do what I want on my own schedule and not having to rely on transport/Louis to drive me places that don’t necessarily interest him (see: shopping centres). Having been lucky enough to receive a nice bonus from work at the end of 2015, I can pay for the theory straight up and start saving on the side for the practical lessons. (Note: if you have the choice, do not take driving lessons in France. Costs a bloody arm and a leg and takes at least 9-12 months!! I’m biting the bullet though, it just has to be done.)

As a little goodbye to January (you’ve been fantastic), I’m posting a recipe that I just made tonight but haven’t eaten yet because our dinner guest is late :@ Oh well, it’s given me time to catch you all up 🙂 hope this tickles your fancy!

Spicy Sausage Pasta Bake

Ingredients

500-600g pork sausage (seasoned with sea salt, thyme, rosemary, espelette pepper and poked with a few stalks of cubeb/Java pepper)
3 cups of pasta
2 shallots
3 cloves of garlic
1 courgette
500g passata
2 tablespoons of light cream

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Method

Season the sausage(s) well with the herbs and spices. We bought one long sausage instead of a multipack but really wouldn’t make any difference which you get. Cook according to package instructions – should take about 20m – and in the oven if possible. You can use the same oven dish for the pasta bake, as the juices from the meat will add great flavour.

Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside. Heat a pan with oil, add the chopped shallots, garlic and courgette. Stir often and keep on a medium heat until the courgette can be easily poked with a knife. Add the passata and cream, incorporate well. Good idea to add the same herbs etc to the passata too, you don’t want the sauce to end up being bland.

Slice the sausage into coin-sized pieces and add to the sauce (make sure to remove the pieces of cubeb! You do not want to eat a whole chunk of that). In the same roasting dish as used for the sausages, add the pasta and then the sauce. Mix very well so all the pasta is coated in the tomato sauce. Put in the oven for 15-20m at 200C. Serve with bread and copious amounts of cheeeeese!!!

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Saucisse!

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Cake salé (Greek olives, sun-dried tomatoes and goat’s cheese, amongst other delights)

Season greetings little ones!

I’m having major problems with my laptop, hence the once-a-month posts. It has been on its last legs for the past 4 years (I can’t believe this laptop has lasted me since my first year of uni in 2008!), but now it is literally crumbling to pieces. Like the hinges are coming off and everything. This has made me abit scared of putting it on in case it might be the last time, so after this post I’m doing a major back-up to be on the safe side. I hope to buy a new one in the January sales!

Anyway, what’s new? Well, same old work/life routine basically, but work has been getting a little more interesting these past few weeks. Any job has its dull days, but being a PA seems to have more than its share sometimes. In the run up to the end of the year though, our schedule has been getting major crazy which has kept me on my toes more than usual so I’m not complaining (for the moment!)

The recipe I want to share with you all is for a savoury cake (in French, the word gateau means sweet cake, whereas ‘cake salé’ literally means salty cake). I find this such an easy concoction to make when you’re pressed for time or have some random ingredients lying around that you don’t want to throw away. A few slices with a cup of tea and you’re kept full for a while, pair it with a salad for a lighter meal or cut it into tiny squares to serve as apéro with a glass of bubbly. Plus the ingredients can change according to your tastes – if for some weird reason you have no affinity for sun-dried tomatoes, olives or goat’s cheese (just so you know we can’t be friends, apart from you Hannah), swap them for things you do like. See, simples!

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Ingredients

150g rice flour (half whole wheat)
50 g plain flour
10g baking powder
3 eggs
55g butter, melted
60g each of pitted Greek black dates (if they’re too salty give them a rinse under cold water), sun-dried tomatoes and semi-soft goat’s cheese, all chopped
3 rashers of pre-cooked quality ham, chopped
Sprinkle of chopped hazelnuts and Parmesan cheese on top before it goes in the oven

Method

Weigh the flours and baking powder in a bowl. Melt the butter on a low heat on the stove (it shouldn’t be boiling hot because this will ruin the eggs once mixed together).

Add the butter to the eggs and whisk. Pour into the flour and mix well. Now add the rest of the ingredients and mix until everything is evenly folded in. Line a rectangular baking tin with parchment paper and pour in the mixture.

Put in the oven at 200C for 35m or until a fork comes out clean. Serve!

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I made this a few weeks ago and it was a public holiday in France so Louis and I went for a walk in the park with coffee and the camera. Here are a few snaps of the chateau of Saint Germain en Laye on a grey day in November

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Roasted pumpkin spiced cupcakes with festive frosting

How much orange have you guys been getting in this October? Yknow what I mean – pictures of golden and fiery-hued leaves scattered on the ground, the formidable latte, pumpkin-carving, Halloween costume prep…the list goes on!

The last time we visited Fermes de Gally we picked up about 4 little sugar pumpkins and one huge butternut squash. I’ve slowly been using up the pumpkins for soups mainly but all this week I’ve had my eye on the last one to make pumpkin cupcakes. These turned out so much better than I thought – I wasn’t expecting the flavour of the pumpkin to come out that well but it had a rich, warming taste alongside the spices.

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Too effing irresistible

Ingredients

1 sugar pumpkin – weighed in at just under 500g
Powdered cinnamon or 4 spices – between 4-5 tablespoons
220g plain flour
5g baking powder
100g powdered brown cane sugar (the frosting will be quite sweet to compensate)
2 eggs
120ml olive oil (I put abit too much in, so added 2 tablespoons of honey to mask the taste)

Method

Peel and dice the pumpkin. Place in a roasting dish with a drizzle of oil, and about a tablespoon each of brown sugar and cinnamon on top. Roast in the oven for 20m or until soft on 200C.

Beat the eggs, sugar and oil. Add to the flour, cinnamon/4 spices and baking powder. When the pumpkin is ready, mash well and add to the mixture.

Divide the batter into cupcake cakes and bake for about 15m on 200C. Allow them to cool completely before piping the frosting, otherwise it will just melt into a big mess.

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Winter light is not my friend…

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Frosting

200g of cream cheese
50g of unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
300g powdered sugar
Red and yellow food colouring

Method

Beat all the ingredients together using an electric whisk. Divide the mixture in two, adding the food colouring to one half. This will produce a lovely orange tone leaving the other natural. Leave both bowls in the fridge for at least 30m to firm up before piping.

When ready, scoop the mixtures into separate piping bags with a nozzle of your choice, and get to it! I Youtubed a bunch of videos to get an idea of what I wanted and am really pleased with the patterns!

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Bulgarian delights – Banitsa

Greetings beautiful people!

I’m so so happy it’s the weekend, finally a lie-in when I needed it the most, as have started to get abit sick these past few days (thank you Louis for passing me your cold).

Hmm, what else will I treat myself to this samedi and dimanche? Firstly copious amounts of home-made chai, YUM! Secondly, copious amounts of red wine, because duh. I’ve just popped open a bottle, after having an exhausting but satisfying day picking fruit and veg at our local coup de coeur, Les Fermes de Gally. Today we got pumpkins (!!!), leeks, rosy apples, onions (Louis has his eye on making French onion soup, always welcome), fresh corn, green bell peppers and the most fragrant carrots I’ve ever smelt. I have to do a full-on post about how incredibly useful, cheap and gratifying it is not only buying your produce locally but also getting your hands dirty in the process!

I also want to share this little recipe with you guys, something I learnt about 5 years ago at university that my amazing Tanya taught me. This is a traditional Bulgarian dish called banitsa, made from feta cheese sprinkled between layers of phyllo pastry and topped off with a sweet egg mixture and put to bake. A dash of sugar helps take the edge off the salty feta which literally melts in your mouth. I made this for Louis to try especially as he’d never had it before, and ended up making it twice in one week after my tastebuds realised how much they’d missed it. Thank you Tanya for teaching me, I have never forgotten it and gladly so because it is a winner.

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This is a perfect, simple option for breakfast or even lunch with a fresh salad on the side. Comment faire? Good job I’m here to tell you how –

Ingredients

8 sheets of phyllo pastry (I say 8 purely based on the pack I bought which sold 8, but I also think it’s a good minimum. If you have a few more just add some more feta)

1 brick of feta cheese (around 250g) crumbled by hand

2 eggs

50ml of milk

Teaspoon of sugar

Method

First, crumble the feta into small pieces, around the size of a thumb-nail but honestly do not feel the need to be pedantic about that. You just want to ensure that there’s enough feta to sprinkle on every layer of pastry (at the same time, don’t be too stingy for fear that you won’t have enough. You will).

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Line your baking tray with a sheet of baking paper or cover the base in some melted butter so the pastry doesn’t stick. Stick one layer down and start sprinkling feta. Lay another sheet down and repeat, continuing until all the sheets are finished. (Mine were too big for my baking tray – no biggie, just cut off the edges that spill out with a pair of scissors).

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In a bowl, crack the eggs and add the milk and sugar. Whisk. Before pouring this over the pastry, which when baked gives a golden colour and creamy taste, you want to cut through your layers of pastry and feta to make squares, as so.

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This ensures the mixture seeps through all the layers evenly. It can be abit tough cutting through raw pastry, again get out the scissors if it makes it easier.

Pour the egg mixture on top and pop into a pre-heated oven for about 15-20m on 180 C. This doesn’t take long to cook at all, it’s just cheese and egg!

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When ready, eat hot because it is at its ultimate best when fresh out of the oven I swear.

Bon appétit!