Ratatouille Crumble

No you read the title right: this post is a recipe for ratatouille crumble. And I can assure this dish is delicious. Although it pairs really well with some grilled meat, it makes a perfect vegetarian meal on its own as well and everyone I know who’s tried it absolutely loved it, even those less fond of vegetables. And understandably so as I think anything tastes delicious topped with flour, butter and parmesan cheese.

Ratatouille, despite the all famous Pixar movie, isn’t a popular dish, especially among children. I remember moaning whenever I was told that’s what we’d be eating for lunch or dinner. However, growing up and learning how to cook has not only helped my palate evolve, it’s also made me realise the reason I didn’t like a lot of things growing up was because they weren’t cooked properly (I see you dry overcooked fish), and this has been the case of ratatouille. Nowadays I still struggle with watery, bland and undercooked ratatouille so why assume a child would gullibly eat it?

Today I’m sharing the secret behind this delicious ratatouille (crumble aside): peel everything. Peel the courgette, peel the aubergine, peel the tomatoes. Why? The vegetables will literally melt in your mouth. The smoothness resulting from all the peeling will contrast beautifully with the crumble topping, making this dish come together perfectly. I also recommend not over stirring to avoid breaking down the vegetables. (Also: making sure to season gradually is crucial to maximise the flavour)

So let’s get right into it: this recipe will serve 5 people but a trick is to make the ratatouille and crumble mix separately, keep them in the fridge or the freezer and assemble whenever you fancy this hearty meal or have last minute guests over.

Ingredients for the ratatouille:
-2 onions
-2-3 cloves of garlic
-1 large aubergine (peeled)
-3 red peppers (bell peppers)
-3 courgettes (peeled)
-5 tomatoes (peeled)
-tomato puree
-fresh thyme
-salt and pepper
-olive oil

Make the ratatouille:

  1.  Dice the onion and throw with a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over a low-medium heat. Season with a pinch of salt.
  2. Dice the peeled aubergine (2-3 cm cubes) and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and stir gently.
  3. Mince the garlic and add to the pan.
  4. Remove the core from the peppers and dice them (2 cm cubes) and add to the pan. Season again
  5. Slice the peeled courgettes (1cm thick slices) and add to the pan. Season.
  6. Dice the peeled tomatoes (to peel the tomatoes, score their bottoms with a knife and pour some boiling water over them in a large mixing bowl. Let sit for about 2 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water. The skin should come right off easily). Add them to the pan alongside a large tablespoon of tomato puree. Season. Stir gently.
  7. Pluck the leaves off about 6 or 7 thyme springs and add them to the pan.
  8. At this point the vegetables should have started releasing water making it unnecessary to add extra water. Lower the heat and cover the pan. Leave to cook for at least 1 hour, stirring once in a while or until most of the juices have reduced.
  9. Once finished, leave to cool completely before transferring to the baking dish to make the crumble, or keeping in the fridge for later.

Ingredients for the crumble:
-200g flour
-130g unsalted butter, cold, diced.
-80g grated parmesan cheese
-salt and pepper
-handful of pine nuts (to top at the end)

To make the crumble:

  1. This is going to sound very controversial, but I like to use a food processor to make life easier. So throw all the ingredients except the pine nuts in the food processor and pulse a few times or until you have a crumble texture with small and medium pieces of butter remaining.
  2. Chill in te fridge until you want to bake the crumble.
  3. Preheat your oven at 200C.
  4. In a medium-large size baking dish, place the ratatouille and spread evenly. Add the crumble on top. You should have a very thick layer of crumble to seal the juices below but if you have too much crumble topping you can always store in a jar in the fridge or a freezer bag in the freezer.
  5. Bake the crumble for 30min or until the top is golden.
  6. 3 minutes before the end, sprinkle the pine nuts on top and let them toast (keep an eye on them as pine nuts burn fast!)
  7. Take out of the oven for 5-10min before serving.

I hope you try this recipe! If you do let me know what you think by commenting below or on my instragram (@thecroissantpostcards). And who knows, this dish might become a staple in your household !

 

 

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Cherry blossom inspired macarons

Spring is upon us and cherry blossom trees are brightening up my pre-finals period. With a little bit of time to kill before I head back to Oxford to revise, I decided to take inspiration from the pretty pink petal rain in my street and make these raspberry and white chocolate macarons.

You will see, the flavour combination between raspberry and white chocolate is to die for (make a big batch of that ganache and you will want to bathe in it). I like to add a tangy raspberry jelly in the middle (with seeds) to balance the sweetness and smoothness of the ganache. The result is a more interesting and more delicious macaron.

I’ve already shared how I make macaron before but this recipe is suitable to make a small batch (about 15 small macarons) so the perfect treat if you’re inviting friends over for tea, or just if you have the time to stress about making these capricious meringue based delights.
Also: I have Pierre Hermé to thank for a foolproof method using Italian meringue instead of French.

As always, you will need :
-a candy thermometer
-3 piping bags with a round nozzle
-a large baking tray lined with greaseproof paper
-a fine sieve
-a really good convection oven

 

MAKE THE SHELLS

Ingredients for the shells:
-100g of ground almonds
-100g icing sugar
-a hint of red food colouring paste
-72g egg whites, cold, split in half (36g/36g)
-100g of caster or granulated sugar
-25g of still water

To make the shells

  1. In my opinion, this is the most tedious task in macaron making but you have to sift the ground almonds and icing sugar together in a bowl.
  2. Mix the food colouring into the first 36g portion of egg white and pour it onto the almond and sugar mix without stirring.
  3. In a saucepan, place your water and caster or granulated sugar and place on a medium heat to prepare the syrup. Don’t let the syrup by itself and keep an eye on it, dipping the candy thermometer in the syrup every now and then to check the temperature. When it reaches about 110C, start beating the second 36g batch of egg whites with an electric whisk in a bowl. As the syrup reaches 118C, start pouring it gently in the egg whites while still beating.
  4. Keep beating the meringue while checking its temperature: when it comes down to 50C, start incorporating it in the dry ingredients by folding it with a wooden spoon or a spatula.
  5. Once you’ve incorporated all the ingredients, check the consistency of your batter : lift a bit of the mixture with the spoon or spatula and let it drop in the mixing bowl; if the bit of mixture you just dropped spreads enough that you can’t see its shape anymore after 10 seconds, you’re good to go. If it keeps its shape, fold the mixture a little more.
  6. Pour the mixture into a piping bag with a round nozzle.
  7. If you’re using a template, place it under the parchment paper you used to line your baking sheets/trays. You don’t have to use a template and can just draw little circles with a pencil on the other side of the parchment paper; or you can do it by eye. Whichever way, start piping your shells in circles: you need to hold your piping bag vertically, and the nozzle to be really close to the baking tray. Pipe, not by making little spirals but by adding pressure to the mix so that it spreads out. NB: the mixture will spread out a little.
  8. Once the shells are piped, tap your baking tray on a flat surface, or on top of a folded kitchen towel, several times to knock some air bubbles and to let the mixture spread evenly. Then leave the shells to dry and form a skin for at least 30minutes. You should be able to touch the shells after that time and the batter won’t stick to your fingers.
  9. While the shells are left to dry, preheat your oven to 175C.
  10. After 30minutes of drying, place the shells in the oven for 11-12minutes. You do not want to open that oven while they bake except for when you reach 8 minutes and 10 minutes: at those times, open the oven door really quickly to let some steam out.
  11. When they’re baked, they should have risen above their “feet” or “crown” and should not have browned – don’t let them get golden or you will lose the pale pink colour. Take them out of the oven and after 30seconds transfer the parchment paper on your working surface so they cool.

MAKE THE GANACHE

For the ganache you will need :
-120g of frozen or fresh raspberries
-1 tsp of caster/granulated sugar
-80g of white chocolate, broken in pieces
-1/2 leaf of gelatine, soaked in cold water

  1. Cook the raspberries an sugar on a very low heat until they’ve released all their juices. Mash them and remove from the heat once you’re left with a raspberry coulis.
  2. Pass the raspberry puree through a fine sieve to get rid of the raspberries. Try to extract as much of the puree as possible.
  3. Reheat the smooth coulis again, either in a pan or in the microwave.
  4. Once the coulis is hot, remove from the heat and add the white chocolate pieces and gelatine. Wait for a couple of minutes, then stir. You should be left with a smooth purple-pink ganache.
  5. Pour in a bowl and leave to cool in the fridge.

MAKE THE RASPBERRY JELLY

For the raspberry jelly you will need:
-75g of frozen or fresh raspberries
-1 tsp of caster or granulated sugar
-1 tsp of lemon juice
-1/4 of a gelatine leaf, soaked in cold water

  1. Cook the raspberries and sugar on a very low heat until you get a puree.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice.
  3. Add the gelatine and stir well.
  4. Leave to cool in the fridge.

ASSEMBLING

Once your ganache and jelly have cooled, they should not have a runny consistency. You’re ready to assemble.

  1. Unless you used a template, pair up your shelves according to matching sizes.
  2. Place the jelly and ganache in individual piping bags.
  3. For each pair, turn one shell over.
  4. Cut the end of the ganache piping bag and holding the bag vertically, pipe a generous amount onto the shell (you want to cover 3/4 of the surface of the shell).
  5. Cut the end of the jelly piping bag, and stick the tip in the middle of the mount of ganache. Pipe a smaller amount, enough so you can see the ganache mount grow.
  6. Top with the other shell, delicately adding pressure so the filling can reach the edges.
  7. Place in the refrigerator and keep in the fridge for at least 5 hours before serving. (I find they taste even better the day after.

ENJOY !!

Citrus detox

It’s just the start of 2017 and you know what it means : this whole new-year-new-me phase is grasping us all. I won’t  repeat what everyone’s been reading everywhere, about resolutions being dropped by February 13th etc. I think it’s fine if the “new you” doesn’t make it past January. Even if bad habits come back, at least you took a short break from them. And that always feels good, especially after the holiday feasting that constitutes the whole of December. You know, when the calories didn’t count, and yet you don’t fit in that dress any more when comes January 1st.

I’m not one who believes in juice cleanse, or any cleanse for that matter. However, I do believe our vitamin intake has decreased during the holidays to make room for starchier foods. Seriously: how colourful were your plates around Christmas ? Unless the rainbow trend has been inflicted on mash potatoes, I’m pretty sure pale colours had pride of place. That’s when this magic juice comes in the picture : made of clementines, oranges, lemon and ginger, it doesn’t get more vibrant and citrusy than this.

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It’s zingy, it’s fresh and tasty, it’s what we all need after all this wine and cheese we’ve wallowed in these last weeks. I call it the Vitamin C Challenge !

And to top it all, a juicer is not necessary to make it.

For a big mason jar, or to split in 2 glasses, you will need :

-2 big oranges, or 4 small oranges
-4 clementines
-1 lemon (or less, depends how you handle that zing)
-a small piece of ginger

a juicer or a lemon squeezer + fine grater

If using the juicer method:
-peel your oranges and clementines
-throw them with the ginger in the juicer
-squeeze that lemon
-it’s ready

If using a lemon squeezer:
-grate your ginger in the glass
-split the oranges, clementines in half and squeeze their juice out
-pour in the glass through a strainer if you’re not a pulp person
-squeeze the lemon
-done !

Let me know if you make this juice by commenting below or tagging me @thecroissantpostcards xxx

 

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Dessert-like Burrata

I wish I could say I invented this, but I didn’t. I owe this piece of beauty, and the genius combination of flavours to Camille from La Buvette in Paris, 11e. Her little bar à vin is one of my favourite spots in the city to enjoy a good glass of chilled Alsace white wine and some gorgeous things to nibble on : I mean, if you’ve spent any time in England like me, you must know how unappealing beans can be, yet Camille turns them into the most instagrammable dish, using chunky beans, extra virgin olive oil, rock salt and of course, coriander flowers (and other edible colourful things).

My favourite plate to get at La Buvette, among other things, is the burrata. Served with sourdough bread, and sitting in olive oil, it’s proper creamy foodporn right there. And again, it’s made pretty photogenic with a sprinkle of dried raspberry powder. Speak of thinking outside of the box.

However, the most surprising flavour combination was when that burrata was served to me with vanilla infused olive oil and fresh raspberries…

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It may sound strange, but it all works in beautiful harmony: a marriage ceremony between the soft vanilla and the creamy burrata, cut with a little sweet and a little tart touch of raspberries. And if you thought vanilla and olive oil shouldn’t be near one another, well, you’re wrong. They compliment each other in such a unique way you have no choice but recreate it at home !

Hence why I bring you the “recipe” and hope you’re inspired to combine these flavours in other dishes (a Panna Cotta ?).

Ingredients :
-1 really good quality burrata
-2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil (my favourite is from Provence)
-1/4 tsp of fresh vanilla beans (don’t throw the stalk away ! instead, store it in sugar ;D )
-a handful of fresh raspberries

Mix the vanilla in the olive oil. It’s better to do this in advance to let the flavours mingle but you can also do it just before serving.
Place the delicate burrata in a serving plate and shower it with the vanilla infused olive oil.
Cut the raspberries in half or quarter and place them on top and around the burrata.
Done. Serve with some toasted sourdough bread.

Enjoy this plate with a glass of white wine, as an appetiser or after a light meal. Either way, it’s the perfect way to start of finish dinner.

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Vietnamese Caramel Pork

This is a recipe that’s very close to my heart, it brings back so man childhood memories. It’s probably my favourite dish of all time… My mom used to cook this caramel pork stew for special occasions and it was always super exciting when she did as we all loved it. My siblings and I would request it for our birthdays. Sadly she doesn’t have time anymore so I’ve learnt to make it myself and can now have it whenever I want! I’m sharing with you this very special recipe that truly embodies what Vietnamese cuisine means to me:  comfort-rich-sweet-sour-salty all at the same time. I’ll warn you beforehand: it tastes and smells a lot like fish sauce! Some people mind but I love that, the fish sauce smell takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen in Saigon. Serve this stew with some jasmine rice and you’re in for a treat!

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This recipe makes enough stew for 4 to 5 people

Step 1: Make the marinade

You will need:
-600g to 700g of pork shoulder (you can use a leaner cut if you prefer)
-4 small shallots or 2 big ones
-a thumb size chunk of ginger.
-3 to 4 cloves of garlic
-1tsp sugar
-3 tbsp of fish sauce
-1/2 tsp salt
-black pepper
-chilli flakes or fresh chilli (to taste)

Peel your ginger, garlic and shallot and cut them into chunks.
In a pestle and mortar, crush together the garlic, ginger, shallots and chilli. (If you don’t have a pestle and mortar you can just slice the shallot very finely and grate the ginger and garlic.)
Cut your meat into 2-3cm size chunks.
Mix all the marinade ingredients and leave for the flavours to mingle for at least 1hour (best overnight of course).

Step 2: Cook the stew

You will need:
-the marinated meat as well as the marinade
-vegetable oil
-2 to 3 tbsp of caster sugar
-2 tbsp of fish sauce
-1.5 can of coconut milk
-200mL boiling water
-4 hard boiled eggs, shelled

+ jasmine rice to serve

In a heavy bottom saucepan, add 1 to 2 tbsp of vegetable oil and sear the chunks of pork.
Once they have coloured, add the rest of the marinade and cook.
Once the shallots, garlic and ginger are cooked, pour in the coconut milk, fish sauce and boiling water with a good pinch of salt.
While the coconut milk heats up, in another sauce pan, put the sugar on medium heat to turn it into caramel. You want the caramel to go really dark, almost burnt. Once you’ve reached a really dark colour (but not burnt), pour it in the other saucepan, into the coconut milk which should have heated up by then.
Add the hard boiled eggs to the stew.
Ideally, all the chunks of meat and the eggs should be covered, if they’re not add some more boiling water (the stew will reduce anyway). Cover and reduce the heat to low to let the stew simmer for at least one hour and a half.
Depending on how fatty your meat is, you might have more or less fat separating at the top of the stew. Using a spoon, you can scrape some out.
30min before serving, cook some jasmine rice.
Once it’s all ready, remove the eggs and slice them in half or quarters. Serve the stew on rice and top with a few pieces of hard boiled egg.

Ta-da!