Artichoke Soufflé

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever actually made a soufflé. I bet not many of you raised your hands. Why not? A savoury soufflé, in case you’ve never had one, is like a giant puff, a hot cheese pudding with a crispy top and creamy, melting cloud inside. Best of all, a soufflé is easy — not fussy, not at all difficult or only for the expert cook. This recipe creates a beautiful puffy rise but be sure to get to the table quickly as they will collapse rather dramatically very quickly. The texture is incredibly light, fluffy and airy with a very pleasant but not overwhelming artichoke flavour. Do you want to eat one yet? Well here’s how to make a delicious artichoke soufflé — why not whip one up tonight?

img_8366Serves 6

Ingredients:

4 large or 6 medium artichoke hearts, cooked
60 g / 4 tablespoons butter
30 g / 1/4 cup flour
250 ml / 1 cup whole milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
25 g / 1/4 cup grated Comté or Gruyère cheese
4 large eggs, separated

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 180 C / 360 F
Butter and flour 4 ramekins (210 ml / 7 oz)
Drain the artichokes if using bottled or canned
Purée them in a food processor until smooth, set aside
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat
Add the flour and whisk until smooth
Add the milk slowly and continue whisking
Add salt and pepper
Allow to cook for a few minutes, while whisking continuously, until thickened
Remove from heat and add the cheese, stir until melted
Allow to cool
Once the bechamel has cooled, add the egg yolks one at a time
Add the artichoke purée and mix until smooth
Whisk the egg whites in bowl until stiff
Gently fold the whites into the artichoke mixture, do not stir
Divide the mixture evenly between the ramekins
Bake until golden and puffy, about 25 minutes
Serve immediately
Enjoy!

 

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Madeleines

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imageIt’s impossible to write about this little French classic without reference to its biggest fan, Marcel Proust, (a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental novel  À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time); earlier rendered as Remembrance of Things Past, published in seven parts between 1913 and 1927. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest authors of all time).  But really, for all the “exquisite pleasure” the Madeleine brought him, Marcel Proust didn’t do a terribly good job of selling its simple charms. He describes them as having the plain appearance  of “squat plump little cakes … which look as though they had been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell”, and he neglects the Madeleine’s chief selling points: its sublime buttery flavour and light, fluffy texture.

The pre-Proustian origins of the Madeleine are a bit of a  mystery. Several legends exist attached to the “invention” of the Madeleine. They have tended to center around a female character named Madeleine who is meant to have been at the service of an important character in the history of the Lorraine – although there is no consensus over the last name of the cook nor the identity of the famous character. Some consider that the illustrious patron was 17th-century cardinal and rebel Paul de Gondi who owned a castle in Commercy. Others consider that the cook was named Madeleine Paulmier, who is said to have been a cook in the 18th century for Stanisław Leszczyński, duke of Lorraine. The story goes that, in 1755, Louis XV, son-in-law of the duke, charmed by the little cakes prepared by Madeleine Paulmier named them after her, while his wife, Maria Leszczyńska, introduced them soon afterwards to the court in Versailles. Much beloved by the royal family, they conquered the rest of France in no time. Yet other stories have linked the cake with the pilgrimage to Compostella, a pilgrim named Madeleine is said to have brought back the recipe from her voyage or a cook named Madeleine is said to have offered little cakes in the shape of a shell to the pilgrims passing through Lorraine.

I don’t know if the bosse, the bump or hump, was as iconic in the eighteenth century—the time when Madeleine were first made—as it is today, but that dome has become the holy grail of Madeleine bakers. The batter also needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour to chill and hydrate the flour. You can leave it for longer than that, even overnight. Many recipes say that the colder the dough is kept, the more likely it is that the Madeleine will form the classic bump on the back. I experimented with freezing one baking tray and not freezing the other, and found that the Madeleine baked on the unfrozen tray had a significantly smaller bump. So if that feature is important to you, be sure to freeze the pans and then get the filled pans in the oven right away. You can even go so far as to freeze the already filled pans for about 10 minutes before placing immediately in the oven.

imageimageMakes 12

Ingredients:

3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
5 tablespoons / 75 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 180 C / 360 F
Butter and flour Madeleine pans carefully
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk eggs, sugar and salt together until thick, about 5 minutes
Add vanilla and lemon zest
Using a rubber spatula, fold in flour and baking powder
Fold in butter gently
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rest at least one hour and up to overnight
Spoon mixture into prepared Madeleine pans
Bake until golden, about 10 minutes
Remove from pans
Cool on racks
Madeleines are best eaten the day they’re baked
Enjoy!

I’m hopping over to the weekly party at Fiesta Friday #138   Our co-hosts this week are  Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau and Johanne @ French Gardener Dishes

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Crispy Pork Belly

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imageGuaranteed to produce juicy, melting pork and perfect crackling. There is no secret to cooking pork belly.  It comes down to salt, pepper, olive oil and a slow roast…nothing more, just that! You’ll love it so much, you’ll probably lick the plates clean. Trust me.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 kg / 3 lb piece of pork belly
  • 75 ml / 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 3 onions
  • ½ a bunch of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
  • 500 ml / 2 cups dry white wine
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to its highest temperature
  2. Using a very sharp knife, score the skin down to the meat (try not to cut the meat)
  3. Sprinkle the skin with the salt and rub it in all over the belly
  4. Cover and chill, leaving to marinate for a few hours or overnight (optional)
  5. Place the fennel seeds (if using) into a  pestle and mortar and pound to a powder
  6. Massage the oil into the scored skin
  7. Sprinkle over the fennel mixture, and rub all over so that everything gets into the scores and down into the meat
  8. Repeat with the pepper
  9. Break the garlic bulb up into unpeeled cloves, peel and chop the onions into large wedges, then toss into the roasting pan with the thyme
  10. Put the seasoned pork belly on top of the onions in the tray, then roast for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the skin starts to bubble and turn golden brown
  11. Reduce the oven temperature to 170°C/325°F/gas 3, and roast for 1 hour 30 minutes When the time’s up, carefully open the oven door and pour in the wine
  12. Cook for 1 further hour
  13. Remove the meat carefully from the oven and test to see if it pulls apart easily. If not, cook for a little longer
  14. Cut the meat into pieces and serve
  15. Enjoy!