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CookbookClub

#figbarcookbookclub: Classic Koffmann: 50 years a Chef

#figbarcookbookclub: Classic Koffmann: 50 years a Chef

“The difference between good food and bad food is a pinch of salt.” Pierre Koffmann (and probably my favourite quote from this book). When I first began dating a chef (oh, hi there, husband), this was indeed the secret he taught me in the kitchen. Clearly, it’s the secret of many kitchens!

September’s Cookbook Club pick from our home shelves is the brilliant Classic Koffmann: 50 years a Chef by the incomparable Pierre Koffmann. These recipes are indeed delicious, easy to follow, and contain simple ingredients. In the opening, Chef Koffmann recommends gathering ingredients for home cooking “everywhere, except for meat or fish; for these need a butcher or fishmonger you trust.” And we’d have to agree. Here in Norwich we have an array of brilliant local producers that are easy to find (nod to the Norwich Market!), many that are family run and independent businesses who really know their stuff. Having these types of ingredients helps all of the recipes in this book truly shine. You can find 6 sections: 1) entrees (appetizers), 2) poultry, meat and game, 3) fish and seafood, 4) sides, 5) desserts, & 6) Chef’s Essentials. I think the chapter that gets the most use in our household is Chef’s essentials. There are lovely recipes for stocks, mayonnaise, vinaigrette, and beurre blanc alongside choux and puff pastry recipes that you know will work. This trust is an invaluable resource for the home cook ready to further experiment. Now, all you need to add is a pinch of salt.

We’ve made Creme Caramel and highlighted the recipe below. It’s SO PERFECT you’ll never need another creme caramel recipe in your life. Don’t be scared of it: the satisfaction of watching the caramel slide out from the ramekin onto the plate is worth it.

Creme Caramel

Ingredients:

500ml milk

1 vanilla pod, split and scraped

3 egg yolks

2 eggs

80g caster sugar

For the caramel:

130g caster sugar

130ml water

Method:

Line a large roasting tin with newspaper and place four 10cm ramekins inside the tin- the newspaper prevents bubbles from forming in the caramel.

You need to start by making the caramel. Place the sugar and water in a large heavy-bottomed stainless-steel saucepan over a medium-high heat. Heat, until the caramel turns from a golden to a darker brown, then immediately remove from the heat and very carefully pour it into the bottom of the ramekins to create a layer about 3mm thick (you my have some left over caramel). Set aside at room temperature to cool and set.

Heat the oven to 130*C.

Bring the milk to the boil with the vanilla pod and seeds, then remove it from the heat and remove the vanilla pod. Whisk the egg yolks, whole eggs and sugar in a bowl until thick, then pour the hot milk over this mixture, whisking constantly, until smooth. Pour the custard over the caramel in the ramekins, then pour some boiling water into the tin containing the ramekins so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Transfer the tin to the oven and cook for 30 minutes, or until set- you can check this by inserting a small knife into the centre; if it comes out clean, the caramels are ready. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes.

To serve, simply turn each ramekin upside-down on to a plate- the caramels should slide out easily.

nb from Chef Jaime: You can experiment with this recipe by infusing the milk with different flavors (than the vanilla) like herbs or teabags.

#figbarcookbookclub : Let's Eat!

#figbarcookbookclub : Let's Eat!

Apologies for missing June's cookbook club post!!! Rest assured, that means TWO recommendations are coming for this fabulous month of July... First up for this month's Figbar cookbook club selection (straight off of our home shelves!) is Elly Pear's Let's Eat!. What can I say about this lovely cookbook except, it's fab! A lot of cookbooks claim to be approachable and fun, but this one actually is. I love the layout of chapters which includes "Freeze for Ease", "Building Blocks", "Menus".  I love the creative and intuitive movement of the dishes; for example, the "Freeze for Ease" section gives a base dish and then multiple recipes which use it to create interesting and varied meals. I love the fun and realism (Menus include "dinner for four when you want to show off a bit but not stress" which has recipes for seared scallops, smoked haddock tart, Stephen Fry cabbage, cocktails, and spiced plum dessert!). It's just a great all-rounder of a book with some delicious recipes. Can't go wrong.

What really sold this book to me was a full page dedicated to this: "I have a hashtag on Instagram solely for ideas to use up that bag of kale in the fridge, so there's no excuse to waste any! #100wayswithkale" YES, ELLY! 

To highlight this cookbook's brilliance, and why we have it in our home kitchen, we've made the Lentil, Tomato, and Coconut Dhal. It's included in the following recipes: "as a soup", "with a 6-minute egg", "with wilted greens", and "with seared tofu, avocado, pickles and seeds". We made it with the seared tofu here, but have the rest of the dhal neatly stacked in our freezer for more when we need a quick and healthy dinner.

Lentil, Tomato, and Coconut Dhal

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp oil 

2 medium onions, peeled and finely diced

5cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated or finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and grated or finely chopped

3 tsp vegetable bouillon powder

2 tbsp garam masala (nb: Elly includes a recipe to make your own if you want!)

1-2 tsp chilli flakes, to taste

2 tsp black mustard seeds

500g red lentils, rinsed

2 x 400g tins plum tomatoes

1 x 400g tin coconut milk

flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Method:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat, add the onion, ginger, garlic and a big pinch of flaked sea salt and cook for 10 minutes until softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally.

Dissolve the bouillon powder in 1 litre of boiling water for the stock. Add the garam masala, chilli flakes and mustard seeds to the onion mixture in the saucepan, stir thoroughly, then add the lentils. Give everything a good mix. Add the tomatoes and the stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down tot low and cook for 20-25 minutes until the lentils are tender and retain no bite, stirring frequently and deeply so the lentils don't stick and crushing the tomatoes a bit as you go. Add the coconut milk, remove from the heat and season to taste with flaked sea salt and pepper.

 

(nb: Elly also gives instructions here on how to freeze this dish, how to chill it, and exactly what to do. Worth having this book on your shelves to help with meal prep!)

NB: (from Steph)- pictured here is our go-to 1x1 flatbread (again! Three times we have featured variations of this!). This time it's 1-to-1 plain yogurt to plain flour with 2 gloves grated raw garlic and 1 tsp black sesame seeds and a strong pinch of Maldon sea salt, rolled and pan-fried in a little olive oil for a quick and easy naan-type flat bread. 

#figbarcookbookclub : The French Laundry

#figbarcookbookclub : The French Laundry

We have a love of cookbooks; some may even call it an addiction to them. They are such a fascinating insight to the minds of Chefs, the creativity of different cooks, and the inside running of restaurants. When Chef Jaime and I eat at different restaurants, we tend to collect it's cookbook for our collection. After we had one of the top meals of our life at Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York City, we obtained his cookbook for his first restaurant The French Laundry. 

This beautiful book is a fine selection of images, recipes, and knowledge. It shows passion and participation in every process of the creation of a beautiful dish. The simplicity of the dishes is surprising, but it's the care and time that goes into every element that truly makes this collection of recipes phenomenal when you make them. Rest assured, none of these dishes will be ones you can make without dedicating a full day (or even weekend) to, but each bite will be worth the time and effort.

It can be a bit daunting to pick up a recipe from a chef the caliber of Thomas Keller (fangirling a bit- he's incredible), but the instructions throughout this book are detailed, thorough, and thoughtful. It absolutely does take time and patience to create these dishes, but they are achievable in your home kitchen. Sometimes special equipment is needed (an ice cream machine, for example), but generally not. We chose to highlight a lobster dish from this book (mostly because, yes please lobster every time!). You can see from the recipe it won't be repeatable here, as you have to refer back to other recipes to make it (I'll include where other recipes are found throughout the book with page numbers in the ingredients list itself if you are able to pick up a copy). You can get a good sense of this book's simplicity and an understanding of how this collection of recipes works by reading through it, and I hope it encourages you to peruse a copy or try it for yourself!  

 

"Macaroni and Cheese" 

Makes 6 Servings 

Ingredients:

2 cups creamy Lobster Broth (page 35)

1/2 cup orzo (rice-shaped pasta)

2 Tablespoons mascarpone

Kosher salt

Three 1 1/2-2-pound lobsters, "Steeped" and meat removed (see page 124; reserve knuckle meat for another use)

1 1/2 cups Beurre Monte (page 135)

1 Tablespoon minced chives

Coral oil (page 167, in a squeeze bottle)

6 Parmesan crisps (page 37)

 

Method:

Place the lobster broth in a saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Reduce the broth to a sauce consistency; you should have 1 to 1.25 cups. Set aside in the pan.

Cook the orzo in boiling lightly salted water until just tender. Drain the cooked pasta in a strainer and rinse under cold water. Shake the strainer to remove excess water and add the orzo to the lobster broth.

To Complete: If the lobster pieces have been refrigerated, bring them to room temperature.

Heat the orzo and lobster broth to a simmer. Add the mascarpone and season with salt to taste. Let simmer for a minute, then remove the pan from the heat and keep warm.

Meanwhile, place the lobster pieces in one layer in a large saucepan. Pour in the beurre monte: the lobster should be almost covered. Heat gently to warm the lobster.

Stir the chives into the orzo. Pipe a 2-inch circle of coral oil in the centre of each serving dish. Place about 1/3 cup of orzo in the center of the oil, allowing it to spread the oil out into a larger circle. Arrange a piece of lobster tail and a claw in the center of the orzo and top each serving with a Parmesan crips. 

#figbarcookbookclub : River Cottage Veg

#figbarcookbookclub : River Cottage Veg

Vegetables! We love 'em. One thing I didn't really anticipate in running a dessert bar (weirdly, I know), is quite how much sugar I'd start eating! I mean, someone has to be the official taste tester, right? But that does mean both Jaime and I quite often crave salt, protein, and vegetables. Lots and Lots of vegetables. 

One great cookbook that satisfies any veg craving we have is River Cottage Veg everyday! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. BBQ corn on the cob? Yup. Lemony Guacamole? He's got it. Beetroot Hummus? Why, yes please! Brussels Sprout winter stir-fry? Don't mind if I do!

Although- I must admit our love for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and River Cottage runs deep (so deep, he is in fact referred to as "Hugh" in our household), so we would recommend any of his books/shows/restaurants anyway, but this one is a pretty solid 'go to' in our house when we want variety. With over 200 recipes, it's hard to get stuck in a rut of making the same old, same old!

Last night for dinner, we made one of our favourites from this book: Mexican Black Bean and Tomato Soup. YUM. Chock full of veg, lovely beans for protein, and a dollop of sour cream so you feel a bit naughty, this hearty soup works through all the seasons and is generally made of staples in our household: tomatoes, black beans and red onion. It's easy to alter based on your fridgeful (for example, sometimes we roast the tomatoes first, other times we use a leftover jar of pasta sauce instead of passata, or sometimes we even throw in bean variations, extra vegetables, or toss a few tortilla chips over the top). We also tend to leave this soup pretty chunky and take the 'finely chopped' suggestion with a grain of salt (see what I did there? ;-), so if you do go ahead and make this recipe, chop it your way! 

All I know is that vegetables are great, this soup is magical, and this cookbook is often used in our house and highly recommended!

Mexican Tomato and Bean Soup

Hugh Fernly Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg everyday!

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 red onions, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1-2 medium-hot green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

1/2 tsp ground cumin

600ml veg stock

200ml roasted tomato sauce or passata

400g ripe tomatoes, cored, deseeded, and finely chopped

400g tin black beans, drained and rinsed

a handful of oregano, chopped

a pinch of sugar

juice of 1 lime

small handful of coriander, roughly chopped

sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

To Finish: sour cream, chopped coriander

Method:

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over a medium-low heat, add most of the onions (reserving a little to finish the soup) and salute for about 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic, chillies and cumin and stir for a minute. 

Add the stock, roasted tomato sauce or passata, tomatoes, beans, oregano, and sugar. Season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice and coriander. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Serve the soup topped with dollops of soured cream, if you like, and scattered with the reserved red onion, chopped coriander, and freshly ground pepper.

N.B (from Chef Jaime): We like to top our soup with a bit of grated cheddar and some chopped avocado as well. In these images you can see the homemade bread we made- simply mix 1:1 greek yogurt to self-raising flour with some olive oil, roll out, and pan-fry in a non-stick pan! Perfect for dipping and the tang of the yogurt in the bread accompanies this soup particularly well.  

#figbarcookbookclub : A New Way of Cooking with Chocolate

#figbarcookbookclub : A New Way of Cooking with Chocolate

It's my favourite post of the month! This year, we have started the #figbarcookbookclub where we will share one of our favourite cookbooks from our home collection (of over 120!) and cook one of the recipes here along with you! Last month was the brilliant Victuals, and if you missed that post, definitely check the archives for it and the biscuit recipe.

This month's pick may seem a bit surprising to you, or maybe not! Either way, I'm super excited to share Hotel Chocolat's A New Way of Cooking with Chocolate as February's cookbook club pick. We received this book as a gift a few years ago and have turned to it for inspiration to add chocolate to literally e v e r y t h i n g. The beauty of this book is helping turn sweet into savoury in a delicate way. Yes, there is a 'dessert' section that, of course, utilizes chocolate in every recipe, but just wait till you flick through the unconventional chocolate uses: black pepper cocoa nib beef jerky, not-so-scotch egg, beetroot carpaccio, rump steak burger with cocoa beer-braised onions, cocoa brine roast turkey, citrus salad with white chocolate dressing, portobello mushroom risotto.... have I enticed your tastebuds enough? If that doesn't, then the gorgeous pictures definitely will. The book also is a lovely introduction to the Rabot Estate in Saint Lucia, Hotel Chocolat's beautiful cocoa estate, with a bit of it's history and ideals of sustainability (brilliant news since I recently read an article that the cocoa plant may be extinct by 2050!!!!! But more on that tangent another time...). As mentioned in a little footnote at the start of the book, "falling in love with Rabot Estate was easy". If this book and it's elegant dishes say anything, it's that I love the Rabot Estate too! 

But, alas (said for increased dramatics), if we can't all go to St. Lucia to eat chocolate, let's use this book to bring the warm islands to our cold February, England! 

One dish in particular has become Jaime's & my go-to for one-upping our friends in the pot-luck appetizer game (now they'll read this and know our secret!), which is this brilliant recipe for 'Smoked Mackerel Ganache'. Oh. My. Goodness, you guys. When I first made this, I thought it would be tasty, but believe me when I say, "It is tasty.". Make sure that you use only the best quality ingredients you can find for this recipe, especially the smoked mackerel, and pair it with really good quality bread. There's a recipe for cocoa nib crispbread in the book that is a great complement. 

Recipes taken from "A New Way of Cooking with Chocolate" from the Hotel Chocolat

Purchase the book here

Smoked Mackerel Ganache

Ingredients:

125g peppered smoked mackerel

100g cream cheese

zest and juice ½ lemon

2 Tbsp White Chocolate Horseradish (recipe follows)

salt and pepper

Method:

Skin the mackerel and make sure there are no bones in it. Break into smallish pieces. Place in a bowl along with all the other ingredients and use your hands to mix everything until completely combined. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days (note from Steph- the only reason it lasts in my fridge for 3 days is if I make it ahead of time for a party. I’ve never ended up with leftovers!).

 

White Chocolate Horseradish

Ingredients:

50g white chocolate (at least 30% cocoa butter content)

110g creamed horseradish

Method:

Gently melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t actually touch the hot water. (chef note from Jaime- this is called a ‘bain marie’).

While the bowl is still sitting over the pan, add the creamed horseradish and mix until fully combined with the chocolate. Remove the bowl from the pan and beat for 1 minute further. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge until needed- it will keep for up to 2 weeks. (Note from Steph – eat this for breakfast to up your avocado and salmon toast game!).