Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Haggis Parmentier- Burns Supper French-Style!

This 25th January we celebrated Burns Night in France. Not so strange really, as 'the auld alliance' between the French and the Scots goes back to 1295. Indeed, as late as 1903, any Scots person who wanted to live in France was granted French nationality automatically.
This alliance was forged of course through a mutual distrust of the English- and- oh dear!- I don't suppose much has changed there over the centuries.

Anyway, fusion cooking (Franco-Scots) was the order of the day last Sunday and, after a smoked salmon starter, we piped in our haggis in the guise of a Parmentier.

As the only haggis I could lay my hands on was brought over tinned from the UK (but very good it was even so), it needed a bit of dressing up.

The tinned haggis was moistened with a little whisky and gravy, topped with a potato puree, dusted with grated emmental and breadcrumbs and baked in a hot oven (190-200 degrees) until bubbling and golden.

I thought it might be a bit over-substantial, but it disappeared faster than a 100 metre sprint at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Haggis Parmentier

I accompanied it with roasted turnips and heritage carrots (known here as legumes oublies and very much in fashion too).
These were particularly delicious.

Beaautiful veg in the market

Thoroughly wash, peel and prepare the veg then parboil (or microwave them) until just starting to be tender.
Toss the hot veg into a baking dish with a good glug of olive oil, two tablespoons of honey, 1 tablespoon of coarse grain mustard, two whole cloves of garlic and loads of salt and pepper.

Roast along with the Parmentier.

Mustard roasted 'forgotten vegetables'

Normally, I have veg leftover to make a Spiced Clapshot Soup the next day, but not so this time!

Spiced Clapshot soup with Haggis Samosas


For pudding we had chocolate moelleux ( see last week's post for the recipe) with Scottish raspberries (frozen of course but so what?) and whisky creme anglaise.

Moelleux with Raspberries and Whisky Custard

There was a small amount of the main dish leftover- so I made it into Haggis Cocotte ( a refried hash with a baked egg in the centre- yum!)

Mash up the leftover haggis and potato, make it into a large round and then fry it in a pan until beginning to caramelize underneath. Turn it over and fry on the other side. Slice it down the middle and into quarters and then combine each of the quarters with the one opposite and fry again on both sides. That way you get the lovely crispy bits running through the hash.

Making a hash of it

Divide into individual ovenproof dishes and make a well in the centre of each one.
Break an egg into the well, dust with a little black pepper and gruyere cheese and bake at 190 degrees for 12-15 minutes until the white of the egg is set properly (test with a knife).

Haggis Cocotte

And so yet again we have toasted the Baird of Alloway in a fitting manner. How will we do it next year? O wad some pow'r the giftie gie us to know that one!

Cul sec!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Comfort Food

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It has been a sad and shocking start to our French adventure. For two days, as we travelled across France, we listened closely to the radio broadcasts- first the terrible events at Charlie Hebdo, then the manhunt, Francois Hollande's grave speech and finally the awful hostage taking and denouement in Paris.

But the solidarity shown everywhere- and at the marches on Sunday- the call to the French people to respect the values of liberte, egalite, fraternite brought home to me how in times of stress we turn to the old comforts and reaffirm what is important to us. Whether that is tradition, religion or family rituals.

So, how can I show my solidarity with these sentiments? Well, as the intention of this blog for the next few months is to bring you a flavour of France, I have decided to look backwards- at old fashioned comfort food French-style.

Pencils are powerful here in France..

I am beginning with a dish of braised endives with ham.

Endives are becoming more readily available in the UK- but are often unpopular because of their bitter taste. This can easily be rectified with the addition of a little sugar to the cooking liquor and by braising the endives in vegetable stock rather than plain water.

Allow one medium endive per person.Slice the endives in half lengthways, heat a little oil in a frying pan and place the endives in the pan cut-side down. Brown a little, then add a teaspoon of sugar, a crumbled vegetable stock cube and a cup of water. Cover and braise for 20 minutes until the endives are tender.
Meanwhile, make the sauce by melting a tablespoon of butter and mixing in a tablespoon of plain flour. Add 400 ml of milk and bring to the boil, stirring frequently to thicken. Take off the heat and whisk in plenty of salt, pepper and a teaspoon of mustard, along with a grating of nutmeg. Then shoot in 100g of grated emmental or strong cheddar. Allow to cool and then add 1 egg yolk to the sauce. ( Keep the egg white for making either of the dessert recipes on this page.)

Uncover the endives and boil off any remaining liquid.

Next wrap the two endive halves in a piece of good ham. (Rubber gloves can help at this stage if the veg are too hot to handle.) Lay in a buttered gratin dish and cover with the cheese sauce.

Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs (something I will never be short of in France as there is always a piece of stale baguette left after a meal, begging to be blitzed into crumbs and frozen for later use.)

Breadcrumbs in plentiful supply already in the freezer
A final dusting of cheese (Parmesan would be good) and nutmeg if you like it, and the dish is ready for the oven at 200 degrees for 20-30 minutes until golden.

Braised Endives with Ham

If you have leftover cheese sauce, make tartines with slices of French bread, spread with butter and topped with ham, tomatoes or whatever you have in the fridge, then spread with the cheese sauce and grilled until bubbling and golden.

Tartines ready for the grill
Tartines for the table

For pudding, use up the egg white either in macaroons for a sweet ice cream sandwich- or make a chocolate moelleux and serve with custard or creme anglaise.

For the macaroons- beat 2 egg whites until at the soft peak stage. Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence, 100g of caster sugar and 200g of dessicated coconut. Mix together until it all binds.
Grease two baking sheets and line with baking paper. Place spoonfuls of the mixture into biscuit rings and press down firmly with a spoon to make round shapes. Bake at 170 degrees for 10 minutes or so. Watch carefully and remove from the heat as soon as they are golden.Allow to cool.

For the pudding- sandwich a scoop of your favourite ice cream (I used salted caramel) between two macaroons, drizzle over some caramel sauce, maple syrup, chocolate sauce, cream- whatever you fancy et voila!

Sweet Macaroon Sandwich
A chocolate moelleux is a soft, gooey cake not unlike a brownie. It is not to be confused with the ubiquitous chocolate fondant- which has a runny centre.

You need
 200g of dark chocolate
150 g soft butter
100g sugar
50 g self raising flour
2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites

Beat the egg whites until just forming soft peaks, beat the butter with the sugar and then add the whole eggs one by one. Melt the chocolate in the microwave with a splash of water for 1 minute. Mix it into the eggs and butter, then add the flour. Carefully slide in the egg whites, folding them into the mixture rather than stirring them in. Pour into a greased cake tin and bake at 150 degrees for 25-30 minutes- crucially, until the top is firm but a cocktail stick inserted into the very centre still comes out with some gooey mixture on it. That way you have a chocolate cake with a squidgy centre which is the key to it success.

Just out of the oven

Things don't get more comforting than that.

If you want to jazz up the presentation, make a puddle of creme anglaise and chocolate sauce artistically arrranged:
Chocolate moelleux

For everyone everywhere, who enjoys writing- whether it's a witty rejoinder on Facebook, articles for magazines, blogs or stories- and for anyone anywhere who needs some comfort at the moment- I hope this blog entry shows you a bit of solidarity.

For Charlie