Friday, February 22, 2013

Le fancie: Smoked Salmon Rillettes

Recently, I had lunch at a French-style pub. Yes, there is such a thing. I mean, it’s called ‘Le Pub’, after all.
PS: One day, I’d love to eat at a restaurant called ‘Le Pantalons Fancie’, like on American Dad.

For starters (les hors d'oeuvres), we shared a well-stocked charcuterie plate that featured a luscious duck rillette.
I just love rillettes, it’s such a French dish, so richly textured and usually swimming in delicious graisse (that’s French for fat). So it’s not a dish that you want to have too often if you value your health.

 Duck rillette in a tin, with accompaniments.

But how about these salmon rillettes, with no duck fat to be seen, just tangy crème fraiche to tie all the flavours together? Don’t mind if I do!
Not much to say about this recipe, except that it looks super-swish, is super easy to make, and it’s the perfect dish to impress, well, anyone. It’s bound to be on the menu at Les Pantalons Fancie.
Smoked salmon rillettes
serves 8

300g piece of skinless salmon fillet, pin-boned
200g smoked salmon, chopped
2 tblsp finely chopped cornichons
1 eschalot, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1 tblsp finely chopped dill
¼ cup finely chopped chives
200ml crème fraiche
Toasted baguette slices and cornichons, to serve

1. Place the salmon fillet in a saucepan and cover with 4 cups of boiling water. Cover with a lid and stand for 30 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked.
2. Remove poached salmon from the water and pat dry with paper towels.  Flake the flesh into a large bowl and cool completely.
3. Add smoked salmon to the cooled poached salmon, together with the chopped cornichons, eschalot, lemon zest, dill, chives and crème fraiche. Season with salt and black pepper, then stir until just combined.
4. Serve the rillettes with toasted baguette and cornichons.
Rillettes can be stored in a covered container in refrigerator for up to 2 days. Serve at room temperature.

recipe adapted from delicious (February 2013) 

Salmon, before and after poaching, with eschalot, chives, lemon and chopped cornichons

Add smoked salmon to the poached salmon, together with lemon zest and crème fraiche

Serve with crusty bread

Très fancie!
And please pardon the imperfect French in this blog post!.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Oh, Fig!

In terms of complexity, this is dessert is pretty simple, really. But when has this blog been about making things that are difficult?  Never!

Did you ever take Sewing at school? Do they even teach that anymore? Well, I remember back in my day, when we had to make a 4-gore skirt, or a pair of trousers (in gabardine!) or a t-shirt (in stretch fabric!), and we would spend hours poring over the pattern books at the local fabric store (do they even have pattern books anymore?). I would always make sure that the pattern I chose had ‘Easy/Facile’ printed on it because there was no way I could handle anything that wasn’t Facile. 

My rudimentary sewing skills meant that my patterns were always from Butterick or Simplicity – no fancy schmancy Vogue patterns for me, no siree! Of course, there was no guarantee that I wouldn’t sew my own finger to the trousers I was attempting to stitch together, but there was definitely less risk with a Butterick pattern. No matter that everything I made had to be taken apart and sewn back together again (properly) by my mother, who was a trained dressmaker – what a disappointment I turned out to be to her...

Anyway, here is a très facile fig dessert that would also be perfect for breakfast, just substitute the biscotti for granola or muesli.  Hope you give it a go and enjoy (which is more than can be said for my gabardine trousers).

Layered Figs
serves 1

2 slices biscotti, roughly crushed
3 tblsp Greek yoghurt
3 tblsp honey
1 or 2 ripe figs, sliced

1.  Place some of the crushed biscotti in the bottom of a glass.
2. Top with a spoonful of yoghurt
3. Drizzle some honey on the yoghurt
4. Top with a couple of slices of fig
5. Repeat the tiers, finishing with a layer of fig.
6. Serve
Fresh figs - they do not ripen once picked, so get good ones to start with.

A couple of pretty layers, and it's done.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Risotto variations

It has taken a while (a couple of years, to be exact), but I've finally found a basic technique for risotto that I can make without referring to a recipe. You see, I've always wanted to be able to throw a couple of ingredients together in a pot, give it a quick stir, then arrange it attractively on a plate with a cheerful garnish of parsley. But my inherent worrying nature kicks in whenever I try something new, and I have to constantly keep looking up the recipe in case I've left out a step - even when all it says is 'put the ingredients in a pot and stir'.

Not only is this basic risotto really simple, the standing around for 17-20 minutes, stirring, is not such a big deal, either. You can spend the time checking your Instagram feed, or daydreaming, or shooing away the cat who is always nosying around whenever there is food.  Oh, and to make things even easier, I've discovered that stock cubes are not so bad after all. I use Massel chicken stock cubes (contains no flavour enhancers and no meat/chicken), and it provides a taste that is better than the packaged stock that I used to use.

Basic Risotto
serves 2

25g butter
1 tsp olive oil
3/4 cups arborio rice
¼ cup white wine (optional)
450ml hot chicken stock (or 1 ½ chicken stock cubes dissolved in 450ml boiling water)

1. Melt the butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add the rice and stir for 30 seconds, to coat the grains in the butter/oil.
3. Add the white wine, if using, and stir until the wine evaporates, about 1 minute.
4. Add a ¼ cup of the hot stock, stirring until the liquid evaporates. Repeat until all the stock is used. It should take about 17-20 minutes for the stock to evaporate, and the rice should be cooked but not too soft, and ready to serve.


Porcini and mushroom: Soften a handful of dried porcini mushrooms in hot water for 15 minutes, then drain and chop. Add porcini and sliced button mushrooms to the rice about halfway through cooking. Top with crisp prosciutto before serving.

Leek, asparagus and parmesan: Soften some chopped leek in the melted butter and oil (4 minutes)  before adding the rice. Cook as per basic recipe, adding a couple of stalks of chopped asparagus during the second-last ¼ cup of chicken stock. Allow risotto to stand for a minute before serving with grated parmesan cheese.

Mushroom, bacon, onion, spinach: Cook finely chopped onion in the melted butter and oil for 3 minutes before adding the rice. Cook as per basic recipe, then add mushrooms and spinach during final ¼ cup of chicken stock. Top with crisp bacon to serve.

Yes, yes, I use 'chicken' stock cubes. It does taste good, but.

 Porcini mushrooms give a rich flavour to this risotto. So does the crispy prosciutto.

Green and mean, this leek and asparagus version ticks the vegetarian boxes.

This risotto is pretty much a 'throw all your leftover bits and pieces in' version. 
Again, very flavoursome and easy to make.