Archive for the ‘French’ Category

1st November this year fell on a Tuesday. I could have made a bridge for a longer “weekend”, but could not due to my workload at work 😦

I was glad to break off work for that one day that week for a yearly family reunion, hosted by one of my SIL’s. While driving to my SIL’s, we stopped at a friend’s house. I received a text message from F that she was giving away some of her ‘harvests’ in her garden. 

Guess what? I hand-picked the chillies in her garden. They were so, very, very fresh! She wanted only the red ones, so I helped myself to the green chillies. I didn’t mind the ‘raw version’ at all, because I knew if I left the chillies wrapped in absorbent paper in the lower drawer of the fridge, the chillies would ripen. 

And I was right!

10 days later, some of the birds’ eye chillies had turned to a lovely bright orange-crimson colour. And I knew exactly where some of the chillies would end up into 😉

Thai Chef vs Me

There was one Wednesday that I took a day off and brought my 2 sons out for lunch (Note, both boys had half-day school / Univ on a Wednesday). We went to a Thai resto near our place. 

For starter, I ordered Tom Yum Goong (TYG) for us. It was a good TYG, but I missed that Oomph in their soup. It was a wee bit too lame. 

Saturday came, and TYG was in the pipeline for our lunch menu.

So here it was, my version vs the Thai Chef’s. 


And not only that, I made my TYG in my thermomix! 


To be honest, I could eat my TYG all day without anything else that day, because it had been a while since I last made the soup! I looked back at a post I wrote; it was in March this year when I had friends over. You can read it all … Here 🙂

Because I love bold-tasting soups, I thought of a way to totally infuse the aromatics in the soup first before proceeding further. Be warned! It’s a highly seasoned soup that hits the palate and warms the heart without burning, if you know what I meant 😉

(Note: This is my own recipe using my preferred method – tried and tested – after a few trials and errors).  

Please be aware that some measurements are not given as only you will know how much or how little you want to put in the dish. Remember, “Ut quod ali cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum” or what is food for one man may be bitter poison to others. 

Ingredients A

  • 2 cm piece galangal
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 lemongrass
  • 2 coriander roots

Ingredient B

  • 5 g cooking oil / coconut oil

Ingredient C

  • 1,500 g water

Ingredients D

  • Lemongrass, bruised and halved
  • Shallots, halved 
  • Galangal, sliced
  • Bird’s eye chillies, lightly bruised
  • Kaffir lime leaves, lightly bruised with the fingers

Ingredients E

  • Fish sauce, to taste
  • Homemade chilli paste, eyeball for colour, taste and flavour
  • Salt, to taste 

Ingredients F

  • Prawns, shelled 
  • Mushrooms, sliced 

Ingredient G

  • Lime juice, to taste
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved or whole

Ingredient H

  • Fresh coriander 

Steps –

  • Place A in the TM bowl. Grind 5 sec/ sp 10  * 2

  • Add B. Sauté for 3 mins/100C/ sp 2 
  • Place D in SB and add C. Cook for 15 mins/ 120C/ sp1


  • Remove the SB and tip the aromatics in a bowl. Set aside for garnish later.

  • Transfer F in the SB. Cook for 4 mins/120C/ sp 1 or until the prawns are cooked. 

  • Remove the SB and set aside the cooked prawns, mushrooms, etc
  • Add E. Cook further for 5 mins/ 120C/ sp 2


  • Add G. Stir for 1 min/ R/ spoon
  • Assemble a serving bowl with prawns, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, some slices of galangal, bird’s eye chillies, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Garnish with H.
  • Done!


Happy 1st Anniversary!

I made the TYG to go with my Nasi Ulam and baked spiced chicken. Our Saturday lunch was the bomb, by the way, with full-blown explosion of flavours. Yup, my kind of food 🙂


There’s no better way to celebrate my first year anniversary of owning the thermomix than sharing with you some of the dishes I have conjured the past 12 months using my most used kitchen gadget today!

And as they say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words‘ …


IMPORTANT NOTICE : Please be aware that I’m neither a Consultant/ Advisor nor an employee of Thermomix.  I am NOT paid anything from any parties. I just happened to own a thermomix and love doing what I’m doing and will continue doing so. 

Happy Mid-Week ya’ll!

Cheers!

Friday, 19th August. Our last day in South France.

The night before, I told hubby that I would like to re-visit an outdoor Friday market before we wrapped up our Summer hols this year. By the way, we had been to 3 this Summer: the Tuesday market at Vaison-la-Romaine and the Friday market at Carpentras. We had also done the Saturday Flea Market and Antique Fair at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

We never do the same market twice, hence, Carpentras was out. Fortunately, there were 2 other locations of Friday outdoor markets in the Luberon region of Provence. We chose Bonnieux. Bonnieux Friday market was not new to us. We had been there in one of our Summer trips. Loved the charming little village a lot!

 
Bonnieux

We left our holiday home earlier than usual at 8.30am. The distance to Bonnieux is 88 km. 

Bonnieux is one of the many historic “hill villages” in the region. Erm …. did I just say “hill”? Yup, Bonnieux is built on a plateau above the valley. It rests on top of the Luberon hills with a view of the rest of the valley. The first thing we noticed when we reached Bonnieux was the view of the church tower.


And that’s where Bonnieux market starts; around the new church at the base of the village on the small square, the Place Gambetta and extending mid-way up the village. Like all outdoor markets in the Provence, the Bonniuex market is an important weekly event for local residents who come to buy fresh seasonal produce. It’s also an important social centre, ie, a place where the locals meet up with friends and get caught up with the tittle-tattles. On the other hand, for tourists like us, we relished the opportunity to – occasionally – find exceptional deal.


I was happy to see a stall selling olivewood-carved pieces. By the way, I bought my first olivewood piece – a soup ladle – at a Christmas market some years back in Leuven. It was from Greece and I fell in love with the wooden ladle instantly, which my older son fondly called, ‘The Hobbit Spoon’. LOL!

While perusing the many different carved olivewood pieces, I sensed the guy manning the stand was gawking at me. Well, of course I felt stressy. And then I heard him talking, in almost perfect English! That’s the best ice breaker to start my morning.

Hello ma’am, do you need help?  He asked.

I asked if he was the master crafter. He said, “I wish, but all what you see here are made by a good friend. If you noticed, not a single piece is the same because every piece is uniquely hand-carved“. I was sold immediately by that remark. I bought a rolling pin, a spatula, a slice and two cooking spoons to add to my olivewood collection! *wink*


The guy told me that olivewood could last a lifetime. Olivewood is a hard and non-porous wood that will not absorb flavours, odours and it does not stain. A final word of caution from him,” You can use any type of oil to polish the wood but never use olive oil.” Out of curiosity, I asked him, “Why?” He said, “olive oil is the only oil type that will penetrate the wood, hence the grain pattern may fade.” 

Okay, Roger that!

Before I left his stall, I asked his permission for a photo. 😀

Next to the olivewood stand was a couple selling artisanal Provençal’s pistous, crèmes, confits and tapenades.

We walked slowly past their stand but the lady was very persuasive.  She hurriedly smeared some pistou on a little piece of bread and insisted we tried. And then the crème and the tapenade and the confit! We must have tried almost all the spreads given to us.

To be honest, I did not like everything I have tasted. A bit too salty for my liking.  I’m glad hubby and I agreed unanimously with the choice of spreads – crème d’Ail, crème printanière and pistou rouge. The three jars travelled with us some 1,000 km from France to Belgium.

In 2012, hubby bought a fedora at the Wednesday market at Saint Rémy de Provence. This year he bought another felt hat at the Friday market at Bonniuex. The lady manning the booth claimed  the hats were from Panama. The price per hat was surprisingly on the cheaper end tagged between Eur 5 to Eur 50, compared to what we saw at the flea and antique Saturday market at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue with price tags of above Eur 70!! The hats were also from Panama! 


Bonnieux outdoor market is a lot smaller compared to several other markets we have been to, but, nevertheless we loved the colours, smells, sounds and the busy, social environment interacting with the traders, most of whom surprised us with their almost flawless English. 


Curious 

Bonnieux’s steep and narrow streets are lined with renaissance old buildings, most of which are built on top of even older structures. 

We made a curious stop. We saw many people going in a small shop. There was no one manning inside the shop. All we saw were hand-made figurines dressed in period costumes placed on different miniature location replicating an era of Bonnieux

Seconds later, a guy came in the shop and asked us if we understood French. Someone replied ‘yes’, so the guy babbled in French which I could understand a little bit here and there. I later learnt that the guy and his late father hand-built the miniature replicas. Absolutely brilliant!


What’s Up Yonder?

We thought Gordes was high and steep, but Bonnieux was even higher with steeper steps! We seemed to be climbing up and up endlessly. We felt we could reach for the stars! It was amazing to see how the little enthusiastic boy was climbing the stone steps. I couldn’t help taking a snapshot of the lil lad. He seemed to be enjoying the climb tremendously, leaving his Mum, Dad and sister far behind. 


The kid (like my kid) was probably curious to see what’s up yonder! The last 86 stone steps led to “Vieille Eglise” (old church) and the magnificent old cedar trees.

If you are wondering if the church is being used. The answer is “Yes” and it’s opened occasionally for tourists visits, marriages and funerals and special services such as the Christmas Eve Mass. Unfortunately, the “old” church was closed that day because there was a rehearsal for a matrimonial service. Ah well … too bad.

Anyway, we enjoyed the view from up yonder looking down the beautiful view of Monts du Vaucluse, and the villages of Gordes and Roussillon


By the time we got down to road-level, we were famished!

We left Bonnieux and drove 30 minutes farther to Lourmarin.

Lourmarin was such a hustle and bustle little village with its several wonderful cafes and restaurants. It was probably the best place to have lunch after the market. Oh by the way, Lourmarin’s open market day was also on a Friday!


Every restaurant was full house. We were lucky to find a table for 4!

With such a hot day, our colourful summer salad plates were to die for. We licked our platters clean!

Gorgeous!


Reality 

With holidays, it seemed the days were too short! I wished the days would drag longer, because I knew our lunch at Lourmarin spelled our final eat-out in the Provence. And then reality folded in! *sob*

Another reality was, I had achieved climbing up 64 flights of stairs (not steps), walked a total of 49.33 km with a total of 82, 804 steps in 2 weeks (including sedentary days). Yay! Thanks to an App I had on my iPhone 🙂

TGIF !

Have a fantastic weekend!

Cheers!

In part 9, I wrote about our laid-back, relaxed and lazy day which wrapped up in a lovely find almost in the middle of nowhere. 

The following day was a complete surprise for me and the boys; an unplanned trip. Hubby kept mum all morning and did not want to tell us where we were heading to. Well, I love surprises, so no complaints there! All I saw was the journey had a distance of 77 km on the GPS. It could bring us anywhere…

While I was dozing off, I suddenly woke up and found that hubby was driving on a long and winding road…

Huh? Are we driving up Le Mont Ventoux again?

Erm… wait a sec… it looked as if the long and winding road followed the line of shady bulwarks.


And then we saw the most appealing vision of a very charming fortress perched on the edge of the high Plateau de Vaucluse

The alluring fortress is called Gordes, a hilltop village crowned by its Renaissance castle. 

By the way, Gordes is ranked as one of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages in France‘.  

Houses are built on slopes and narrow cobbled streets that coil through the town leading to steep steps. 

To be honest, I had not been walking so strenuously in a long while and climbing up the so many steps was the best work out ever! 

It was such a joy strolling around the narrow streets that climbed up between tall houses. 

The best discoveries were the perfectly restored dry-stacked walls built from years gone by and the panoramic view of the valley and mountains of Luberon

Breathtakingly stunning!

And by the way, Gordes is one of the “in” villages of Luberon where many movie stars and artists have made their home. We found that out when we walked back to the foot of the hills. After the long walks and sweating buckets under the glaring August sun, we were in dire need of something cold and refreshing to rehydrate our body. 

We stopped at Le Renaissance. Because it was such a hot day, we headed for the shady terrace. A butler stopped us and asked if we were there to eat. We said, “no, we just want to drink“.  He replied, “sorry you can’t sit here“. He sent us away and pointed to the tables and chairs in the open space under the glaring sun!!

My sons and I ordered fresh juices while hubby had his pastis. When we were done, I goggled at the price tag in disbelief! 

What?! Eur 45 for the drinks?!!  That’s a lot of Euros to impart for just 4 drinks. That’s daylight robbery.

We ain’t no movie stars or famous people and we certainly felt the pinch immediately.


After paying the bill, we left and walked downhill along the narrow streets of cobblestones and found a crowded little terrace or patio (shaded) . I was attracted to that restaurant because of the sound of one of the set lunches. It was roasted chicken legs with lavender honey,  for only Eur 16.50 plus dessert. Hubby and I went for that.

The boys had à la carte of Salade niçoise and Salade gourmand. 

In hindsight, after ogling at my older son’s plate of Salade niçoise. I should have gone for that!

Too late!

If not for the lavender honey, the roasted chicken plate was nothing at all. There was not much finesse in the presentation with dollops of mashed celeriac and mushy courgette at the side. The dessert was one miserable scoop of chocolate ice cream served in a small air-tight jar.


We left Gordes at 3 pm and was home by 4 pm. The boys went straight to the pool while I tried to align the photos on my iPhone to document some memorable moments of our sunny Summer hols in the Provence in this post 😉

I was looking forward to the next day as it would be our last and final shopping day…

Cheers!

I first ate this dish in one of our frequent summer breaks to the Provence (South-East France).  My family loves garlic, hence, a dish called “poulet à l’ail” (garlic chicken) on the menu card would not shrug us off in any way, however, we learnt that it was not just another garlic chicken dish.  We were stunned when the waiter told us “Beaucoup d’ail sont allés dans ce plat de poulet” or lots of garlic went into this chicken (dish). Then I recalled of the renowned recipe called “Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic“.  The waiter just winked back at me.

 

Damn, it was brilliant! And I am not kidding.

 

Reliving Provence in Belgium ?

 

I tried to find the origin of the dish. It’s rather obscure, if you ask me.  I double checked with a French colleague who hailed from Marseille and he confirmed the method of cooking the chicken is very Provençal, id est with the fresh herbs, generous amount of garlic, cooking wine and the slow oven-roasting technique by using the extra-heavy cast iron casserole dish or “French oven” or “Dutch oven”.

 

On the other hand, this same dish is ubiquitous to the French-speaking Canadian of Québec while the Americans know this garlicky chicken dish from The Stinking Rose restaurant in San Francisco. The resto has a catchy motto which goes like this, “We Season Our Garlic With Food“. Cool!

 

Wherever the origin of the dish may have come from, I have a gut feeling that it’s a Medieval dish.  Just visualise the poultry cooked in lots and lots of garlic and herbs in a heavy cast iron cauldron suspended above hot charcoals or open fire.  Erm… to shoo away the vampires, perhaps? Ha ha …

 

40 cloves of garlic sounds dangerously lethal, but trust me the slow-cooking mellows the pungent smell of the once raw garlic taste into something very sweet, creamy and buttery-mild paste. This is a very rustic dish, a comfort dish that can be consumed all-year round with the family sitting together at the dining table.

 

And here’s my creation of  THE One Chicken and 40 Cloves of Garlic!

 

  

 

 

There are several ways of preparing this dish.  I’ve experimented and fiddled my way through the many occasions I have cooked this “garlicky” chicken and I found the one I made with the herb-spice-butter mix rub the best.  There’s no need to brown or sear the meat prior to baking it.  The chicken will brown nicely once placed in a pre-heated oven at 230 – 250 deg Celsius for the first 30 minutes or so, uncovered and then slow-roasting the chicken for another hour at 160 deg Celsius, covered. Then again the temperature of the oven depends on the type of oven you own.

 

By the way, the authentic way of cooking this dish is using an earthenware pot, with its lid sealed with a a paste made of flour and water to retain the moisture. The chicken becomes juicy and beautifully tender during the slow cooking in the oven.  I don’t have an earthenware dish, but an enameled cast iron casserole dish (similar to Le Creuset but of a humbler brand)


The original recipe was based on a French cookbook which was at my disposal (for reading and trying out the Provençal cuisine) during one of our summer trips to the Provence.  The cookbook was tucked neatly on the kitchen shelf in our rented cottage.  By the way, all the recipes were in French. I could not recall the title of the cookbook because I was trying to memorise the ingredients of the “poulet aux 40 gousses d’ail”. 


Fortunately, the ingredients used were simple to find and the cooking method was quite straightforward. 


Ingredients –

 

  • 1 whole chicken ( I used Val Dieu chicken, 1.7 kg)
  • A bunch of fresh rosemary (yes FRESH, please!)
  • A bunch of fresh thyme (there you go, FRESH again! )
  • 3 whole knobs of garlic (circa 40 cloves)
  • 1 drinking glass White wine plus 2 Tbsp (I used blends of Semillon and Chardonnay. Note:  this is optional. You may use chicken broth or just water) 

Herb-Spice-Butter Mix  (own method)

  • 40g cold butter
  • Fleur de sel (I strongly recommend to use this salt instead of the common table salt. I bought this moist hand-harvested sea salt in Camargue Note: Fleur de sel or Flower of salt has more mineral complexity than common table salt. Another alternative is coarse sea salt )
  • Black peppercorns
  • Dried Persillade (which I bought at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence)

  

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven 
  2. Use a pestle and mortar to grind the black peppercorns, fleur de sel and Persillade before mixing them in the butter to form a herb-spice- butter mix
  3. Rub the herb-spice-butter mix all over the chicken and inside the cavity.
  4. Tuck in a third each of the fresh herbs and about 10 cloves of garlic inside the cavity of the chicken.
  5. Prepare a bed of herbs with the remaining Rosemary and Thyme and some cloves of garlic in an ovenproof dish and rest the herb-spice-butter rubbed chicken on this glorious bed.
  6. Use the rest of the garlic cloves and sprinkle them nonchalantly around the chicken
  7. Add 2 Tbsp white wine in the casserole dish
  8. Roast with the lid open between 20 – 30 minutes
  9. Lower the oven temperature and add the glass of white wine. Close the lid of the casserole dish and continue slow-roasting the chicken for 1 hour.
  10. Remove the chicken to a clean serving plate and keep it warm.
  11. What’s left in the casserole dish makes a deliciously sweet and fragrant sauce. For this, use your imagination 😉

And that’s it!

This was probably one of the tastiest chicken dishes I have made and not only that, it was so simple to cook.   

   


I’m linking this post to Little Thumbs Up April event “CHICKEN“, organised by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen of my little favourite DIY, and hosted by Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe 

 

Because I have used Rosemary, Thyme and Persillade, I’m linking this post to Lavender and Lovage’s Cooking with Herbs April Linky

 



This post is also linked to Tasty Tuesdays @ HonestMum


  



Have a wonderful weekend!


Cheers!