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Joyeux 14 Juillet!

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I wish you all the best:
a good evening
some good food
lots of good drinks
and good fireworks (i love fireworks!)

An afternoon in Casablanca – Pistachio cake with orange blossom syrup

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From Bill Granger’s Simply bill (page 221)

Remember, a few days ago I was wondering about how to use the tons of apricots from my backyard.
I got some lovely ideas from Joycelyn: slow roasted apricots in orange caramel; from Melissa: chilled apricot soup with Muscat and from Estelle: tarte renversée aux abricots et au sucre muscovado.
These recipes sound good for sure, but I didn’t have le coup de foudre you need to have when discovering a recipe for the first time.

Then I completely forgot about apricots and decided to just have them fresh from the tree or in a chilled drink.
That’s only when I started browsing for a pistachio cake recipe through my cookbooks that I found the best way to use these apricots for a sophisticated dessert – pistachio cake with orange blossom syrup.

The recipe originally calls for fresh figs. But figs aren’t available yet here. Though, I was determined to make this cake with or without the figs.

Aren’t pistachio and apricots known for being a winner combination? I had find: 1) a recipe to use the apricots I had been stocking and 2) a substitute for the figs.

Pistachio cake with orange blossom syrup
This cake reminds me of lazy afternoon spent on a charming terrace in Rabat, drinking delicious thé à la menthe and tons of homemade patisseries.
The breeze, the sea, the perfumes… are set back in my mind at each bite. These days are one of the best I’ve had and thus this cake is high-placed on my top-ten favourites.
It’s definitely airy and all the flavours go so well together: pistachio, apricot and orange blossom. In one word, the Moroccan essence!

Pistachio cake with orange blossom syrup

serves 10

140g shelled pistachios
6 eggs, separated
225g caster sugar
185g yoghurt
125ml light-flavoured oil (fanny: i used 100ml canola oil and 25ml extra virgin olive oil)
150g flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 23cm springform tin with baking paper.
Finely grind the pistachios in a food processor.
Beat the egg yolks and half of the sugar until pale and frothy. Fold in the yogurt and oil. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and fold. Add the ground pistachios.
In a clean metal bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff and gradually add the remaining sugar until very firm and glossy. Gently fold into the cake mixture.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes. Then loosely cover with foil and bake for another 15 minutes.
Leave to cool completely in the tin and unmould. Serve with the orange blossom syrup and the roasted apricots.

for the orange blossom syrup
225g caster sugar
125ml freshly squeezed orange juice
125ml water
1 tsp orange blossom water

Place all the ingredients into a large pan and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until syrupy.

for the roasted apricots (adapted from Claudia Fleming’s Roasted apricots with camomile)
10 apricots, halved and pitted
orange blossom syrup

Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Sieve the syrup into a roasting tray. Place the apricots in the syrup, cut side down, then roast for about 10 minutes. Turn them over, baste with the syrup and roast for another 5 minutes. Keep aside both the apricots and the syrup.

Mousse au chocolat au lait et au caramel au beurre salé

[Caramel au beurre salé and milk chocolate mousse]

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From Trish Deseine’s Du caramel plein la bouche (page 76)

On caramel au beurre salé
Caramel au beurre salé [salted butted caramel] might sound strange but it is a classic combination. The beurre salé [salted butter] enhance the caramel flavour, resulting in a delicious treat.
Caramel au beurre salé comes from the north-west of france, from somewhere between Bretagne and Normandie. In these places, it’s a common statment to produce milk and thus cream and butter. And because of the proximity of the ocean/sea, salt is also produced for our greatest pleasure, leading to the confection of the famous caramels.

On chocolate and caramel
The association of caramel and chocolate is also un classique these days; from Pierre Hermé’s macarons Plénitude to Michael Recchiuti’s Burnt Caramel ganache.
This pair is also a favourite of mine.
It seems the caramel boosts the chocolate aroma. And to tell the truth it’s nothing but science.
Chocolate = fermented + roasted + ground cocoa beans = Maillard reaction
Caramel = caramelised sugar = caramelisation

Maillard reaction and caramelisation are both non-enzymatic browning.
Non-enzymatic browning is responsible for colours (brown tones) and flavours (subtly burnt).
As a result, chocolate and caramel are made to go together, highlighting each others.

On chocolate, caramel AND salt
Salt is an effective taste-enhancer and adding salt to a confection enable to develop its flavours. Nothing less, nothing more!

Mousse au chocolat au lait et au caramel au beurre salé
This mousse is a delight. Chocolaty, caramely!
I love the way the chocolate and the caramel complement each others to form a perfect after-dinner pudding.
I like serving this mousse (and any other chocolate mousse) in espresso cups.
Let me think… Everything’s been said! Enjoy.

Just a short note – The NY times recipe says ‘deglaze with the cream and butter’, while the butter should be added first until melted, then the boiling hot cream should be poured over. If you follow these two steps, seizing should not occur.

Mousse au chocolat au lait et au caramel au beurre salé

serves 6

100g granulated sugar
2 tbsp water
30g good-quality salted butter
200ml double cream or crème fleurette, heated to the boiling point
200g milk chocolate (38% cocoa solid)
3 eggs, separated

Make a caramel with the sugar and water.
Off the heat, mix in the butter until melted.
Then pour over the boiling hot cream and continue mixing til smooth.
Add the milk chocolate and wait for a minute or two for the chocolate to melt. Homogenise by mixing.
Mix in the egg yolks. Whisk the egg whites until they form firm peaks and fold into the chocolate mixture.
Divide between six ramekins and chill for at least 6 hours.

Une soupe couleur rubis – Gazpacho Andaluz

[A ruby-red soup – Gazpacho Andaluz]

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From Neil Perry’s The food I love (page 94)

It seems i am into colours at the moment. Pink, bleu-blanc-rouge, orange, green
I reckon it might be because of the summer; I don’t know about you, but when in summer i agree eating is only brightly coloured food.

This gazpacho andaluz is a great example = intense red soup sprinkled with emeralds, rubies, gold chunks and diamonds.
What a paradox for a soup that was originally made of stale bread, garlic, olive oil, salt and vinegar!
Though, a soup known as ajo blanco [white garlic] is still eaten in Andalusia.
Ajo blanco is a bread, almond and garlic soup served sprinkled with green grapes and drizzled of olive oil
This soup appears to be quite close from the original gazpacho and sounds very interesting.
I can’t wait to try it so I can finally sample this intriguing taste!
But this is another story…

Gazpacho is a good hint of what summer food should be: straightforward, refreshing and stunning-looking.
I think that in general, Mediterranean food offers the greastest possibilities regarding summer food.
Rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts and fish. It doesn’t only sounds good but is good in taste and for your body.

Straightforward – isn’t Mediterranean food based on simple flavours combined in the easiest way and just relying on the quality of the produce?
Refreshing – vegetables and fruits are packed with water and vitamins.
Stunning-looking – beautiful vibrant colours. Think olive oil, peppers, red onions, fresh herbs…

Gazpacho andaluz
This soup is so easy to make and a real delight to eat. Very fresh it makes a great entrée but could also make a lovely light lunch if you add freshly cooked seafood to it just before serving.
I love the way Neil Perry makes it: instead of grinding the vegetables in a mortar and pestle to get a nice texture, he suggests making a smooth soup and then sprinkling over diced tomatoes and peppers.

Gazpacho andaluz

serves 4

400g vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, desseded and roughly diced
1 small cucumber, peeled and roughly diced
2 red peppers, peeled and roughly diced
1/2 green pepper, peeled and roughly diced
2 large red chillies, split, deseeded and chopped
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
1 brown onion, chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
60ml extra virgin olive oil (fanny: I only used 30ml)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Tabasco sauce

for the confetti
1 vine-ripened tomato, peeled deseeded and very finely diced
1/2 small cucumber, peeled deseeded and very finely diced
1 red pepper, very finely diced (fanny: I used a yellow pepper instead)
1/2 green pepper, very finely diced
1 small red onion, very finely diced
olive oil

Put all the ingredients, except the extra virgin olive oil and seasoning in a blencer and add 125ml water. Blitz for at least 1 minute, until the mixture is smooth.
Sieve into a bowl and stir in the olive oil. Season to taste.
Chill for at least 2 hours.
In another bowl, mix all the confetti ingredients together and set aside.
Divide the soup between four glasses, sprinkle with the confetti and drizzle with olive oil.
If you like a bit of heat, add some Tabasco.
Serve immediately.

When Thierry Henry scores a goal… – Blueberry, raspberry and vanilla cake

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It all started last Saturday when France won 1-0 against the Brazilian team.
I’m not usually a football lover, but i have to admit i appreciate big events such as the world cup or the euro.
And as the saying goes, if you’re going to get wet… you may as well go swimming make a tricolour dessert.

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Then from Saturday, ideas started to pop in my head. One thing was clear: it had to be bleu-blanc-rouge [blue-white-red].
Let think…
Blue food? Hum… Ten minutes after = eureka, les blueberries c’est bleu non? [Blueberries are blue, aren’t they?]
Red food? Big choice: lots of berries = strawberries, raspberries, red gooseberries, red currant etc.

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I started with a blueberry, raspberry and vanilla pannacotta, but i really wanted to make something that resembled the French flag.
Then i remembered a beautiful blueberry layer cake in the 21st issue of Donna Hay Magazine. Though the recipe didn’t sound that good.
I had to find a good and simple butter cake.
At that exact moment, Bill (read Granger) came to help me with his delicious butter cake from Sydney Food.
I finally had my French glory cake!Bluebbery, raspberry and vanilla cake
The cake itself is adapted from Bill Granger’s Sydney food. I reduced the the amount of baking powder used because i wanted the cake to be dense.

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The icing is made of fresh ricotta mixed with a little fromage blanc or yogurt, icing sugar and vanilla seeds. It goes so well with the dense-almost-almondy cake.
As for the fruit topping use whatever fruits you’ve got on hand – just remember that tangy fruits like blueberries, raspberries or redcurrant help balancing the lusciousness of the cake + ricotta icing.

Bluebbery, raspberry and vanilla cake

serves 8-12

for the cake
160g flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
83g butter, softened
130g caster sugar
2 eggs
seeds from half a vanilla pod
160ml sour cream

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.
Place the butter and sugar in a bowl an cream together.
Add the eggs and vanilla seeds and mix. Add the dry ingredients, alternating with sour cream, mixing well after each addition.
Pour the cake batter into a lined 18x22cm rectangle cake tin and bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn onto a wire rack until completely cold.

for the ricotta icing and the fruit topping
250g ricotta
2 tbsp fromage blanc
seeds from half a vanilla pod
30g icing sugar
a big handful of blueberries
a big handful of raspberries

Combine the ricotta, fromage blanc, vanilla seeds and icing sugar and mix until smooth. Spread the top of the cake with this icing. Arrange the berries on top.

 

Note – this cake offers many possibilities from laid-back after-barbecue cake to posh summer dinner cake.
For the latter one, i reckon using only blueberries gives a sophisticated touche.