I know all too well that planning meals ahead of time, doing the grocery shopping in bulk, and even cooking in advance, are the easiest paths to a stress-free suppertime, but being organised often takes time and time is a scarce commodity when there is a toddler and newborn in the equation. And so I often find myself at the supermarket without a clue as to what to cook for dinner, except that I am relieved to have arrived there with both kids still alive. But then begins the mad dash to complete the grocery shopping before one or both kids decide that the cramped fruit and veg section is the appropriate forum to suddenly air their wailing complaints. This often means quickly filling the shopping basket with familiar foods which I know I can randomly throw together to create a meal, and the most common protein I turn to is chicken.
I have a soft spot for jellies and make them more often than my husband would like. In fact, he only recently confessed that he was not so fond of this wibbly wobbly dessert. In his family, they often make fun of British desserts and I recall someone once receiving a packet of jelly crystals at Christmas as a joke. I didn’t get the joke, of course, and the jelly crystals looked far more enticing than the bar of soap I received that year.
As a mother of an 8-week old baby and a 2 year old toddler, there is very little time for cooking at the moment. Actually, between the feeding, back-to-back nappy changes and pukey laundry, there is very little time to do anything else. To date, we’ve been unapologetically living off take-away most evenings, interspersed with some simple home-cooked pasta dishes here and there to break the monotony. Online shopping has been a godsend, especially for pantry items (and lots of nappies), and much has to be said for store-cupboard cooking.
I first discovered pickled chillies at my local Chinese restaurant here in Zurich. Yes, Zurich. Despite having grown up in Australia where south-east Asian food abounds, and despite my countless trips to Asia since I was a wee tot, I only came across this delightful condiment during what would be the first of many stir-fries that I like to indulge in frequently at my local because I’m rather terrible at making stir-fries at home.
I have always wanted to make a Galette des Rois for the Epiphany and finally plucked up the courage today. In France, it is a cake which is traditionally eaten on 6 January, although some shops and bakeries make the most of this event by selling them up to a few months before the big date. But like any seasonal treat, such as the Yule Log or Hot Cross Buns, the window for making a Galette des Rois is brief and I’m glad to have finally tried my hand at making one. Here is Rachel Khoo’s version from My Little French Kitchen.
I am rather surprised that it has taken me this long to try this popular recipe from Rachel Khoo. In my defence, I already had a madeleine recipe to which I have been faithful to for many years, plus I felt that Rachel’s recipe was a bit fiddly for me. And with a tiny tot distracting me whenever I am in the kitchen, I didn’t think I was safe around multi-step recipes.
The constant deluge of rain this summer has led to flooding in many parts of Switzerland, including our own balcony. The window boxes which comprise my little kitchen garden have been flooded from the non-stop rain and most of my plants look somewhat miserable from having their feet wet for far too long. Perhaps the only solace in having a wet summer is being able to use the oven like I would in winter.
I think Rachel Khoo has a thing for prunes, and I’m not complaining. As someone who has a general aversion to dried fruit in baking, I make an exception for prunes. Some recipes which I have recently attempted with much success from her latest cookbook, My Little French Kitchen, include the Kugelhopf with Prunes & Armagnac and Prune & Custard Tartlets. And now I have these Semolina Burnt Creams with Prunes to add to the list.
A big, big thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway to win a copy of Rachel Khoo’s latest cookbook, My Little French Kitchen. The response was fantastic and I loved reading everyone’s entries on their favourite French food. The entries made me realise how far-reaching and popular French food really is; from the simple baguette loaf and famous croissant to the more exotic Duck à l’Orange, the entries highlighted how wonderful and delicious French food is, and how difficult it is to name just one favourite! The lucky winner will be notified by email shortly.
But my adventures in cooking from My Little French Kitchen are far from over and, this week, Rachel Khoo’s spin on the classic Far Breton has made my afternoon tea breaks that little bit more indulgent.
If you have ever travelled to France, you may have come across these little specialty cakes called cannelés. Unlike their more successfully exported cousins, the madeleines and macarons, cannelés are not so well known outside of France. Yet within France, they are a delicacy.
If you were smitten by Rachel Khoo‘s creative approach to classic French recipes in The Little Paris Kitchen, you will delight in the release of her new book, My Little French Kitchen, with her fresh take on more regional French cuisine.
My mother is someone who can effortlessly create a delicious three-course meal from a simple fridge raid, with an uncanny ability to never let anything go to waste. Sadly, I didn’t inherit this talent, nor did I inherit the palate to eat leftovers. There have been periods of frugality where I would re-serve and reinvent leftovers, but these moments have often been brief, especially once I would inevitably arrive at a point where each meal was always incorporating something leftover and I was forever feeling burdened by any excess food.
With summer in full swing in Europe at the moment, a chilled dessert is the ideal way to end a nice meal. That or a big bowl of ice-cream. And one can hardly go past the quintessential French classic, a mousse au chocolat.
My husband’s grandmother is well-known for her chocolate mousse, a treat which she often served up when my husband was a wee little boy and well into his adulthood. Alas, given her advancing age, she retired from the kitchen some time ago but I was ever thankful when she shared her “secret” recipe with me and my sister-in-law. I was bemused, but not overly surprised, to discover that her secret ingredient was the humble bar of milk chocolate, something which gave the mousse a nursery sweetness and which made it just right for the palates of little (and big) babes.
Regular readers of my blog will know that I had a love affair with The Little Paris Kitchen in 2012. I loved the TV show, the recipes, Rachel Khoo. Despite having been a consumer of French food since I was a child, I was never as inspired to cook it until Rachel Khoo hit our screens with her fresh take on the old French classics.
Though, that’s not to say that every recipe I have tried has been a success … I had set out to blog about quite a few recipes from her book, only to find that some of them did not turn out so well. But in the hope that my findings might help others, here are a few reviews (please excuse the photos … most were taken just seconds before eating!).
A little while back, I had posted quite a few reviews on recipes from Rachel Khoo’s delightful French cookbook, The Little Paris Kitchen. For a short time, it looked like I was cooking my way through the book, and indeed I was – just a lot of the recipes haven’t made it to my blog for various reasons. Having been distracted by some events in recent months, I’m hoping to do a little catch-up here on the blog, starting with this post on Rachel Khoo’s Chicken Dumpling Soup, to be followed shortly by an in-depth review of a few other recipes from The Little Paris Kitchen.
For me, The Little Paris Kitchen has been a choice cookbook purchase this year. It’s rather rare that I am inspired to cook so much from one cookbook, even when a recipe hasn’t worked out or if I find the instructions to be a little confusing, or even when a recipe doesn’t even excite me in the first place!
When I first saw the segment on Rachel Khoo’s cooking show for her Chicken Dumpling Soup, I marvelled at how simple it looked, but I never thought I would actually try to make it; when I think of a chicken dumpling soup, I think of my mother’s version which is heady with coriander (cilantro), spring onions, pepper, chillies and lime. Now that is a soup which can comfort and chase the blues away.
But in the spirit of trying new recipes, I gave Rachel Khoo’s version a try.
It was never really my intention to cook my way through Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen, but so rarely has a cookbook resonated with me so much that I have found myself trying a new recipe from this book every few days since I first purchased it. If only I had this level of enthusiasm for all of my cookbooks!
With the weather warming up recently in Zurich, I was curious to try the Coq au Vin Skewers so that we would have an excuse to fire up the barbeque for the first time this year. But unlike most casual barbeque recipes, and as with most of Rachel Khoo’s recipes so far, this dish required quite a bit of advance preparation. Though, this is perhaps more a feature of French cooking than Rachel Khoo’s cooking style in itself.
If you love beef stews, you will love this French classic, boeuf bourguignon. With the weather in Zurich being its typical and formidable grey in April, beef stew has been on the menu a few times in recent weeks, but having cooked my way partly through Rachel Khoo’s wonderful new cookbook, The Little Paris Kitchen, I was drawn to her recipe for boeuf bourguignon because of her pairing with baguette dumplings. I instantly loved the sound of these dumplings and was curious to see if they could provide a fresh change to this classic dish which is so often served just with boiled or mashed potatoes.
Here is another fabulous recipe from Rachel Khoo with her take on the French classic, a Croque Madame. Most people would be familiar with a Croque Monsieur which is a toasted cheese and ham sandwich, commonly served in most French bistros for lunch or as a light snack. For a more decadent treat, the Croque Monsieur is also sometimes coated with a béchamel sauce and baked in the oven until the sauce is golden and bubbling.
A Croque Madame, on the other hand, has the addition of an egg.
Rachel Khoo’s version is to make them in a muffin tin, producing gorgeous little snack-sized savoury treats which would be perfect at breakfast, brunch or lunch.
I have been cooking quite a bit lately from Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen and am loving everything I have tried so far. This is a bit of a revelation for me considering that I am quite familiar with French food, having grown up eating this cuisine as a child and now married to a French husband. Sure, I have always enjoyed eating French food but, for so long, everything I had eaten had been prepared in faithful reproduction of the classic, such that a coq au vin in one bistro was very likely to taste the same at another. As much as I love French food, my feeling was that it was a bit monotonous at times.
Rachel Khoo brings a lovely, fresh twist to French cooking which has struck a note with me. Quite often, the Vietnamese like to take French classics and give them a fragrant tweak, often involving punchy spices like star anise and gutsy herbs like lemongrass and coriander, but Rachel Khoo’s influence comes from her British upbringing and her Austrian-Malay-Chinese background, a combination which is sure to turn heads in the kitchen.
Pot-au-feu literally translates into English as “pot on the fire”. It is a classic French beef stew, a peasant dish at heart. Traditionally made from beef bones and stewing beef, the broth is typically served as a clear soup, preceding the main dish of sliced beef with vegetables which have been cooked in the broth. It is honest and hearty French fare. Although the dish may take several hours to cook, you are not required to do much during this time, other than to skim the surface of the soup and to check that the meat is continually submerged. This makes it an ideal dish to make when you have time to potter about the kitchen and can look forward to a simple, yet satisfying, supper.
Recipes abound for pot-au-feu and they are all variations of the same blue-print. The beef bones are necessary to add richness and depth to the soup, and oxtails are perfect for this type of cooking, in part because you can also eat the tender and sweet meat later. But the stewing beef is what is traditionally served at the table, so you should find a cut which needs a few hours of cooking time, such as beef brisket or beef shank. In Switzerland, the beef is often labelled “Pot-au-feu”, making it clear what the cut is intended for. But “Bouilli de boeuf maigre” is also a good choice. In Australia, I recall buying cuts of meat simply labelled “soup beef” which would be perfect here. You could also use beef cheeks, which are wonderfully tender and flavoursome upon cooking, though they take longer to cook and you might need to order these from your butcher.