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!

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The seasons are a’ changing : Sundays, spring and waffles

Coucou tout le monde!

I have been very absent during the past few weeks and I apologise. I’m aware that I’ve neglected the blog a bit but new things have been happening for me recently, one of which is that I got a job!

It was extremely difficult trying to find a more professional, permanent job after I’d finished au pairing last year. I looked for jobs literally every day during the last few months and after a bunch of interviews that led to nowhere I was feeling quite dejected #thestruggleisreal.  Then, I got offered this assistant position in a law firm in February and my start date was for the week straight after!

I feel like I didn’t really have time to process the change as it has occurred so quickly, and rather than switching on the laptop in the evenings or weekend I’ve preferred to spent time with the boy and friends as I’ve been seeing them less and less. Now I feel like I’m into my routine of work and I thought I can’t let another week go by without posting on the blog. So don’t fret, I’m back 🙂

Yesterday was March 21st, officially the first day of spring. Paris has been seeing a change in weather recently as we’ve had some really gorgeous sunny days (despite the huge pollution storm this week *cough cough*). With this new job, I feel like I can start making personal changes too that weren’t so easy to realise before. I’m now in a position to start saving money and use it for a number of projects – a vacation with the boy, potentially look for a new apartment (we hate our neighbours!!) and maybe even take up driving lessons again. I’m so fortunate to finally be a in a position where I can take control of my life again and I’m so excited to start moving things in the right direction!

And there are definitely some changes that need to be made on the food side of life too. Now I haven’t mentioned it much on the blog but I am obsessed, OBSESSED, with this French dish called raclette. What is it? In a nutshell, it’s hot melted cheese over a plate of potatoes and selection of sliced meats. (Raclette is the name of of the cheese and also the verb ‘to scrape’ in French, because you scrape the cheese onto your plate.) If your mouth isn’t watering right now, we can’t be friends. In the past few months, we’ve been eating this dish regularly…like, sometimes once a week regularly. It’s becoming a problem. The pounds I’m shedding from my wallet are building up on my body!!!!

This is really a winter dish that people eat especially in the mountains when they go skiing as it is obviously a very hearty meal that will fuel you up for a day on the slopes. But when you’re just eating it watching the new season of House of Cards, all that fat, salt and carbs are going to accumulate until you turn into a wheel of cheese yourself. So, with spring on its way in I say goodbye to raclette… and fondue… and mont d’or…. Now I have NEVER given up a food for a certain period of time in the hopes that I will lose weight or whatever but I do believe in moderation plus with the change in season it just doesn’t make sense to keep eating such rich, wintery foods.

With that said, I leave you my lovelies with a little recipe for Sunday Waffles that I’ve started making this past month. I realised that the boy had a waffle machine which we NEVER USED!!! Crazy I know. It’s a little decadent too which makes it perfect for a Sunday afternoon treat 🙂


Sunday Waffles with home-made chocolate sauce

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Prep time: 15m      Cooking time: 15m

200g plain flour
5g baking powder
50g sugar
150ml milk
100g butter, melted
2 eggs
Pinch of salt
Optional: a few drops of vanilla essence

Method

Pre-heat the waffle maker.

Measure the flour and put in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, salt and baking powder.

Put the butter in a small saucepan and melt over a low heat. Whisk the eggs with the butter, ensuring the butter isn’t toooo hot otherwise the eggs will curdle. Make a hole in the flour and pour the butter and eggs.

Next, add the milk in small quantities and continue to whisk until you have a smooth batter.

Thinly slice some butter on to a paper kitchen towel and use this to grease the plates of the waffle machine. You only need to do this at the beginning. Start pouring the batter in, be careful not to put too much in otherwise when you place the lid down the mixture will leak from the sides (this has happened to me more than once!)

Chocolate Sauce

2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp 100% cacao powder
Honey to sweeten as desired

To make your own chocolate sauce, melt the coconut oil in a pan over a low heat and add the cacao powder. This will be very bitter without any sweetener so add honey if you desire.

Pour the chocolate sauce over the waffles and top with whipped cream and a few sliced strawberries. Serve!

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Home-made Granola

This has been on my to-do list for the longest time and last week I finally got around to making it. Result? Simple, cheap and tasty. Granola (aka CEREAL people) is an easy breakfast option and also versatile for snacking as it’s lightweight and packed with good calories. You don’t need to cover it in sugar either to get a sweet boost as the honey and banana coating are sweet enough, plus if you add fresh fruit to the mix there’s just no way to go wrong. I’ve read other people adding a variety of fruits in the cooking stage so why not mix it up and see what happens!

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Home-made Granola

Prep time: 10m         Cooking time: 30m

Ingredients

Half a cup of at least 3 different types of nuts you like – I chose hazlenuts, whole almonds and brazil nuts
Half a cup of rolled oats
1 ripe banana (I only had frozen bananas so I left one to defrost and mashed that up)
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
2 tablespoons of almond butter
2 tablespoons of honey

Method

Line a small baking tin with grease-proof paper and pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Roughly chop the nuts so they’re at least half their original size, if not a quarter depending how big or small you prefer. I tried putting them in the mini-blender but it turned the nuts more into powder than small pieces.

Put the nuts into a large mixing bowl along with the oats. In another bowl, mash up the banana and add the almond butter, honey and melted coconut oil. Mix well and add this to the dry nuts and oats.

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Ensure all the dry ingredients are coated in the wet mixture. Pour evenly onto the grease-proof baking paper that you have lined a baking tin with. Bake in the oven on a low heat for about 30m, making sure to STIR every so often so that it doesn’t end up as one big flat slab. Stirring also helps the underside cook rather than having a crispy top layer and soggy bottom.

Once the oats and nuts have cooked and hardened to your liking, remove from the oven and leave to cool. Then put the granola in a sealed container and refrigerate until needed. Serving suggestion – Greek yoghurt, honey and berries!

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Oat Cakes aux Pomme-Poire

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Morning everyone!

I’m so happy it’s Friday, I’m looking forward to spending the weekend with friends and especially tomorrow night where we’ll be having raclette at home *drool* I’ll be posting about that separately, just know that this dish is the single best thing in the entire world.

Apart from my Apple and Pear Oat Cakes (translation of the title!) of course. This is a very simple recipe consisting of three essential ingredients – oats, 1 egg and a home-made compote of apples and pears – but you can add other ingredients too such as chocolate chips, shredded coconut, chopped dried fruit etc. Initially I used to mash up a ripe banana and add that to the mix as it is thick enough to bind as well as providing natural sugar; however after using the compote I much prefer the consistency and taste of the apples and pears!

What is compote? >> This is a French name for a mix of blended fruit. It can come in a variety of flavours, such as banana and apple, chestnut and rhubarb, and is a staple in most French homes as an afternoon snack for little kiddies. The classic variety is simply apple, so just think of it as eating apple sauce!

Method

>> Peel and chop your apples and pears, place in a pan with water (not too much, you don’t want more water than fruit), and cook on a medium heat for about 25m until the fruit starts to soften. I used one of each because that’s what I had lying around in the kitchen and the pear especially was very ripe which helped with the sweetness factor.

>> In a bowl, mix one mug of oats with one egg. Add your optional ingredients at this point.

>> Once the fruit has softened, place in a blender and mix until smooth (or lumpy, however you like it!) Add to the oats.

>> The mixture should be quite wet but resist the temptation to add more oats because this could result in making the cakes stodgier than you would want. Heat some coconut oil in a pan and with your hands, make flat round discs and place in the pan. Cook for about 5m on each side until golden in colour. Serve with honey, yoghurt or au naturel.

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Homemade Galette de Sarrasin with Cheesy Chorizo and Egg

Happy Sunday!

I know that might be a bit of a misnomer for some of you but being currently out of the job loop means I don’t get that dreaded Monday feeling, which has pros and cons all of its own! The Boy and I used to go for long walks in Saint Germain most Sundays but we haven’t in a while, so in order to make the most of the beautiful autumnal weather we had today we spent some time at the park .

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However, before we indulged in such sunshine we spent the morning making from scratch galette de sarrasin (those buckwheat savoury crêpes I mentioned in one of my previous posts). So so so so good!!!

Credit where it’s deserved – The Boy made the batter and the galettes themselves tasted exactly like the restaurant version, not to mention the delicious ingredients I added – cheese, spicy chorizo and a sunny-side up egg on top. So filling too, I couldn’t believe he didn’t want seconds!

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The recipe is as follows:

The batter

2 eggs
250g buckwheat flour
50cl of cold tap water
40g of melted butter
Dash of salt (and pepper)

Mix all together, you’ll find it has a much more watery consistency than standard crêpe batter. Pour a ladle-sized amount into a very hot pan (I used extra virgin coconut oil to fry these bad boys and you couldn’t detect a hint of its flavour; standard butter or oil are obviously fine too). Once you’ve got a good stack going on, you can keep them on a plate in the micro-wave or oven so they stay warm.

The filling

Slice your chorizo and heat in a pan with about half a tin of chopped tomatoes (I didn’t add oil as the meat itself has enough). I added chilli powder and paprika to strengthen the look and taste. In a seperate pan, crack however many eggs you require and leave to cook. When all is done, put your galette back in the pan to regain some heat, sprinkle the cheese and add the chorizo and the egg (see photo above). Fold the sides, (if you can manage!) and slide on to your plate.

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Break fast is served 🙂

Every day can be Pancake Day!

Now I haven’t made crêpes at home in a looooong time. If I ever eat them in Paris it’s usually the savoury variety, known as galettes de sarrasin (roughly translated as buckwheat cake as this is the type of flour used) when I’m out at a restaurant, called crêperies, which cater specifically to these flying-saucer beauts.

New best friend

New best friend

The only time I really desire to make them at home is on Shrove Tuesday as we call it in the UK, (usually simplified to Pancake Day when I was growing up, which works just as well). In France it’s known as ‘Mardi Gras’ meaning ‘fat Tuesday’ and there is also another special occasion when the French love whipping up the batter, called La Chandeleur celebrated on February 2nd (this is another Christian-based festival commemorating the presentation of Jesus).

History lesson over! We had some batter left from last night when we made crêpes for dessert, which were really delicious and light after a heavy meal and so decided to make them again for breakfast. I used Nigella Lawson’s recipe which can be found here (I got 10 super-thin crêpes out of the batter), simple and fuss-free. We also added a splash of rum and liquid cane sugar, just to live on the wild side.

I don’t have pictures from last night as we were all too busy devouring them, but I ate mine with melted chocolate on the base, sliced banana and whipped cream from the can on top. The boy and his friends crushed a handful of M&M’s in the pestle and mortar and sprinkled it on theirs with chocolate too. As you can see in the picture, this morning I added raspberry confiture and honey to the mix. Other great toppings you could use are: nut butters such as almond or peanut, desiccated coconut with honey, chocolate and berries, caramelised apples with ice-cream…the possibilities are endless and equally as mouth-watering!

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