Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nigella, erm, Express

I belong to a community of Nigella followers, we also worship Nigel (Slater), some of us like Jamie (Oliver), we drool at Bill(Granger) and so forth. Well, it so happens that a few days ago, Nigella, concomittently as Jamie, published a new book. You won't have escaped it, especially if you live in the UK, where it accompanies a BBC series where the voluptuous Nigella explains at length that she is über-busy, always rushing from one black cab to the next in her workaholic schedule of Hausfrau and TV chef/author. She still finds five minutes to drop by Waitrose, her supermarket of choice, the high-end of food stores, to buy everything she needs to cook up express delights for her children and millionaire husband.

I know I sound mean and unsupportive, but I've heard echoes about the first shows that weren't entirely to her advantage. The food sounded rich in saturated fat and Nigella herself quite ill-at-ease (check out the Times video clips, you'll know what I mean). In spite of all this, I can't wait to see it, goes without saying.

The book, which I have decided to order anyway, after hearing from forum friends that it was really good, hasn't disappointed. It is a chunky book with retro illustrations and plenty of pictures, all carefully styled and photographed. The recipes are split into different chapters, from breakfast to impressive dinner party dishes, comfort food, Italian or Mexican recipes...

Either they are quick to whip up on a weekday night, at least as quick as phoning in a pizza or some Chinese or heating up ready-meals, or they are assembled in under ten minutes and are slowly simmered to be eaten later.

So far, I have really enjoyed reading the book and selecting recipes to try, and perhaps because they're rather fast food, I have managed to cook from the book all weekend, and have even been going on, just to try new things and use my book, but also because the bonus of Nigella Express is that, quite often, the lists of ingredients are kept to a minimum, which does make life easier when shopping and chopping.

So, without further blah blah, let me show you what I've made so far...
Quick chilli. This is one recipe I'd normally turn my nose up at, not being a fan of ready-made products, even basic tomato sauce, but the point of such a book is to try and use shortcuts where you need to, and even if Nigella does have a penchant for trashy recipes, they seem to work well. So what the hell, instead of subsisting on bread and cheese on lazy days, why not make a quick chilli? It uses tomato sauce out of a jar (I used Barilla Napolitana, which seemed basic enough and trustable) as well as sweet chilli sauce (from the Chinese aisle or shop-Yeo's -nobody pays me to tell you that, it's just for the nosey ones out there!), something I'm not otherwise particularly fond of. Well, it was truly delicious, the best chilli I've ever made, and I made up a few in my time, as this used to be my party staple as a young'un.
Mustard pork chops with gnocchi -this is a really bad picture I'm afraid.
It was quite quick to whip up, and despite the gnocchi is really evocative of Normandy (cider, grain mustard-mine comes from Rheims, but anyway). I must say, though, I think one tablespoon of mustard is TOO MUCH! It was quite vinegary, so much so that the skin over my upper lip was tingling, perhaps you know that sensation too. I would do it again but with only one teaspoonful.
"Go get'em smoothie" ie frozen banana, ovaltine, milk, honey and coffee extract (or something similar-which I subbed, as suggested, with peanut butter). You've got to love the name of the smoothie, and if you make it, you'll love it too. It's really rich and creamy although it is good for you. At least it's lower in fat than most ice-creams...

Coq au riesling became dinde au riesling since I used turkey meat from what is sold as turkey osso bucco - sliced leg pieces. There can't be much difference in matters of taste to using chicken thigh meat. As suggested, I made this one day in advance for the stew to stew on and develop nice flavours. I even stuck to Riesling, using a Luxembourg version, which was lovely fruity and fresh. Like many stews, it isn't very photogenic, but was rewarding in terms of taste and texture, the meat really tender and the sauce a pale creamy colour.

On Sunday night, I made the butternut and sweet potato soup, using Hokkaido squash, which has a nice chestnut flavour. It wasn't so express as Nigella said, because frozen bags of butternut and sweet potato cubes don't exist here, as Waitrose have yet to discover the potential of the Luxembourg clientele, but it was quick enough.

Testerday, I've made the lazy loaf of bread but can't decide whether I like it or not. It is very dense, chewy and "moist", bringing back memories of the unedible Norwegian Mountain Loaf from Nigella's How to Be a Domestic Goddess.

And for dinner, I made broccoli and stilton soup using not Stilton but Fourme d'Ambert, a lesser known blue cheese. I loved it, because, of course, I like broccoli and I like blue cheese even more.

Seven recipes from a new book in three days is a record for me. I guess you can now appreciate the full meaning of the name of this blog, ha ha.

Nigel's stew

Dear readers, the following is my first brave post on Cookbook Addict, dating back Nov 2005. By brave I mean I had just told the world that I had a blog and was coming back to it after letting it hang uncared for for months. I was a new convert to Le Creuset and Nigel Slater, perhaps the most loveable of all food writer, hence a post combining both fresh loves (boh relationships are still going strong, thank you).

I started this blog a few months back, but somehow got a bit shy and stopped posting as I couldn't face telling friends and family about it. But I have regained some of my original confidence, and for this I have to thank the exceptional talent of a certain Mr X. And I've even decided to tell the world about it, after all, what's the point of a blog that doesn't get read?!
Let's just hope I find time to post regularly! You'll have to show tolerance for my lack of technical knowledge (posting pictures at the right place, doing links and so on) as well as for the fact that I'll try to write both in French and English, but perhaps I'll only find time for one version on some days...

So because it's about food, and cookbooks, and food cooked thanks to cookbooks, here is today's worth...

Having recently purchased a gorgeous new Le Creuset pot, I have started cooking easy one-pot casseroles and stews as you just need to chuck in a few bits and bobs, let the whole simmer and voilà, you get a nice, hot plateful (or two!) of something comforting. It's just what we need with the weather turning winterly and a small baby needing attention ;) I have come up with old classics like ratatouille and bolognese sauce, even an easy (though not quite authentic) curry with chicken breast and potatoes, a beef and carrot stew, beef gulasch. Tonight I wanted something new that would make me put to use the lovely Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater. I took a few liberties, seeing as I don't enjoy soaking and cooking beans, and couldn't find any flat-leaf parsley or fresh mint in the local supermarket.

Lamb and bean casserole with leeks (I am also taking liberties with the title and recipe, sorry Nigel!)

The resulting dish is hearty and creamy. The beans lend their flouriness to the stew, the leeks have melted into the sauce and the lamb is tender.


500 g slices of a leg of lamb, cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic
1 tbspfresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
2 big leeks, trimmed and sliced in 3 cm pieces
1 tbsp flour
a big tin of white beans, drained
150ml cream

Preheat the oven on 150°C
Heat some olive oil in a flameproof casserole dish and brown the meat on all sides. Then remove and set aside.
Sauté the leeks in some more oil if necessary, until cooked but not browned. You may need to put the lid on and let soften on lower heat. Then add the garlic and thyme, let cook a further three minutes before sprinkling the flour on the whole and mixing thoroughly.
Pour 550ml water, then add the meat and the beans. Bring to the boil, put the lid on and transfer to the oven for about an hour.
When the time is up, take the casserole out of the oven and add the cream, give it a good stir and sprinkle some fresh chopped parsley and mint leaves if you have any.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Welcome to the cookbook geek!

So. This is the sister blog to cookbook addict, my original blog. I have decided to split it in two, one in French and the other in English, which makes my blogging activities slightly less schizophrenic and easier to oversee, especially for readers. At least, I hope so. Most of you will get here because you already know me in my cyber life, so there is no need to explain that I am not a native speaker of the English language, nor have I grown up in Britain or wherever else the Queen rules or used to rule. Nope. I am a Parisian-born food lover with a strong attachment to all things in English, be they cookbooks, peanut butter cups or digestive biscuits. And I live in a small country they call Luxembourg, but really, it's the crossroads between Belgium, Germany and France, where all things converge. But don't tell them I said that. It's a lovely place;-)
Let me show you my kitchen first...

Now you may wonder why I have named this blog "The cookbook geek". Let me just copy/paste the following, which was my answer to the question "What do you expect from a cookbook?"
"Ideally, it should have pics, but I have some without any that I like browsing anyway. When it comes to the pics, they should be sexy, "food porn" pics that make you long to eat the food. I also pay attention to the quality of the paper, the colours, etc. And of course, last but not least, I have to be inspired by the contents. I don't want to have another cookbook with the same old recipes recycled once more. Now I have also come to love books that tell stories about the food and dishes, or the writer.
On the whole, the cookbooks usually made me aspire to the lifestyle they present, iykwim...

I sound like a total cookbook geek..."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Faire manger l'immangeable

J'exagère un peu, mais pour le Papa, par exemple, le chou-rave, ou kohlrabi, c'est immangeable. Je n'ai jamais trop compris pourquoi, mais par peur de le faire blémir, je n'en ai jamais acheté en Allemagne, où on le trouve partout toute l'année, et où il est aussi commun que, euh, la choucroute en sachet. Un jour, j'en ai mangé chez sa mère pourtant, c'était très bon. Et sa soeur me l'a fait goûter cru, aussi super. Les goûts et les couleurs, franchement...
Pour les ignares, voici une photo. On peut parfois l'acheter avec ses tiges, mais que faire des tiges?
Cru, il a le croquant juteux de la pomme, en moins charnu (comme les poires nashi en fait), et un petit goût de radis très doux.
Cuit, c'est plus délicat à cerner, car le goût s'estompe, à moins peut-être de le cuire longtemps à l' ne sais. En tous cas, la fois où je l'ai apprécié chez Oma (la grand-mère outre-Rhin), il était cuit dans de la crème avec des lardons, alors évidemment, allez-vous dire, comment ne pas l'apprécier, je mangerais même des salsifis de cantoche si on les noyait sous la crème et les lardons... mais ajoutez-y du parmesan et là, ça en devient presque décadent.

Chou-rave pour un débutant curieux
1 beau spécimen fraîchement récolté chez le primeur (à défaut, en GMS)
3 cc de crème épaisse
une petite poignée de lardons
un peu de bouillon en poudre

Eplucher, et détailler le chou en bâtonnets. Les mettre dans une casserole avec un fond d'eau, un peu de sel et une pincée de bouillon. Ajouter deux cuillérées de crème, remuer et couvrir. Laisser cuire à petits bouillons jusqu'à ce que le jus s'épaississe et que les morceaux de rave soient attendris mais avant qu'ils ne soient mous. Al dente, quoi.
Faire dorer les lardons dans une poêle sans matière grasse. Les verser dans la casserole avec une cuillérée de crème. Servir poivré et parsemé de parmiggiano fraîchement râpé.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dîner de filles, recettes de filles

Quand deux filles se font un dîner, elles se racontent des trucs de filles, et quoi de mieux pour accompagner culinairement des papotages de filles que des recettes créées par d'autres filles?

Un plat principal trouvé chez Julie Andrieu, qui m'apprivoise tout doucement, car si vous me connaissez un peu, vous vous rappelez que c'était pas le grand amour entre nous avant qu'elle publie son livre sur le chocolat. Figurez-vous que la bibliothèque municipale de Luxembourg a certains de ses ouvrages (c'est peut-être même l'auteure la mieux représentée), et comme je me suis inscrite la semaine dernière, j'en ai profité pour emprunter sa "P'tite cuisine", que j'avais failli acheter à sa sortie. Failli, car après l'avoir feuilleté, j'étais assez sceptique. Certaines recettes utilisent des produits surgelés et des combinaisons assez improbables (sucré-salé, bof bof). De plus, on ne peut pas dire que le stylisme et les photos donnent vraiment envie de se mettre à la popote -photos de légumes encore gelés en sachet plastiques... pas trop mon truc, car moi, je revendique mon goût pour le livre de cuisine en tant que bel objet, avec des photos qui mettent l'eau à la bouche et donnent envie de foncer enfiler son tablier.

Enfin, comme l'emprunter à la biblio ne me coûte que 25 centimes (même si ça me donne la nostalgie des bibliothèques parisiennes entièrement gratuites et présentes dans tous les quartiers, ah, la bibliothèque Vandamme...mais je m'égare), ça valait la peine de le tester tout de même. Eh bien on y trouve des recettes rapides et chouettes malgré tout, et surtout celles qui sont photographiées donnent envie, comme quoi, c'est dommage qu'un choix stylistique pâtisse au reste du bouquin. Pour les desserts, j'aime moyen, mais j'ai noté des recettes au poulet, des galettes de quinoa ou d'ébly qui me plaisent beaucoup.

Et ce poulet au citron et aux amandes me faisait envie, donc il a été fait pour nous les filles et nous a vraiment beaucoup plu."Testé et approuvé pour le blog" m'a affirmé Laurie, lectrice de blogs et amie, donc vous pouvez nous faire confiance.

Ensuite, pour ne pas oublier que son nouvel opus est sorti il y a peu de temps (en même temps que celui de Jamie), une recette de dessert coulant au chocolat de la belle Nigella, parue dans son premier livre (How to Eat), mais qui revient sous différents avatars dans chacun de ses livres.

Alors, ami lecteur, et, au passage, permets moi d'exprimer ma joie de revenir bloguer et de te compter parmi mes fidèles, même si je réside désormais en terra incognita, sans plus tarder, voici les recettes.

Poulet au citron et aux amandes (adapté de Julie Andrieu)
Pour deux
2 blancs de poulet
50g d'amandes émondées
2 cs de jus de citron et un peu de zeste râpé
1 oignon haché
1 gousse d'ail hachée
2cs de sauce soja

Découper le poulet en lanières de 1 cm de large. Le faire dorer une minute dans de l'huile neutre chaude avec l'ail. Réserver.
Faire dorer les amandes et les oignons, puis verser le soja et le citron, laisser bouilloner une minute et remettre le poulet deux-trois minutes pour finir de le faire cuire. Servir avec du riz blanc et un peu de coriandre fraîche.

Coulants au chocolat noir pour 2 gourmandes (d'après une recette de Nigella Lawson)
80g de chocolat noir à 70%
50 g de beurre (un peu moins que l'original)
100g de sucre
20g de farine
2 oeufs

Faire fondre le beurre et le chocolat très doucement.
Dans un bol, battre les oeufs, le sucre et la farine jusqu'à obtenir un mélange homogène.
Quand le chocolat a quelque peu refroidi, le verser sur les oeufs tout en battant. Réserver jusqu'au moment du dessert.
Préchauffer le four à 200°C. Beurrer et fariner deux tasses ou ramequins. Verser l'appareil dedans et enfourner pour 10-12 minutes. Servir encore chaud et se pâmer de plaisir.