26 Feb 2014

French Glacé Cherry and Pecan cookies

When I arrived in London 5 years ago, I didn't know the city at all, so looking for a place to live promised to be a tricky task. I asked advice from my colleagues and also the very few people I already knew in London (which was 2; La petite Soiz and her British Boyfriend)

I quickly found out that everyone had a say (= a strong opinion) of where I should live. Soiz sent me a detailed and absolutely obscure email filled with secret codes like " you want to be in NW or EC, but avoid SW" (I didn't want to look stupid at the time so I didn't say anything, but I only understood 2 months later that she was referring to London areas by their postcodes)
Her boyfriend, a born and bred Londoner, was adamant: wherever I was to settle had to be north of the river Thames. I wasn't sure why, but it seemed that living south of the river implied that you were some kind of "fake" Londoner (not to say a loser).

Eventually, I found a place in the North West of London, in zone 2, which was close enough to my job and I assumed consequently on the right side of the tracks river (sigh of relief).

As time passed by, I gradually understood how your neighbourhood plays a big role in socially defining who you are as a Londoner, and how you actually become a girl/guy from North London or South London - whether you like it or not - and that once you've picked a side of the river, chances are you'll probably never cross it again.

If you live in Hackney or Bethnal Green, you're a hipster
If you live South Ken, you're a rich (most likely) Frenchy
If you live in Old Street or Dalston, you're a bad ass
If you live in Swiss Cottage, you're nobody, but if you live in Belsize Park (which is next door): you're super posh and your best friend is probably Gwyneth Paltrow.

Well, never say never; so after having been a NW (North West) girl for 5 years, in a few weeks I'll cross the big river and become a SE (South East) Londoner.
More on that later!

easy cherry and pecans cookies

French Glacé Cherry and Pecans Cookies

You're going to think that I'm really into glacé cherries these days, which I kind of am, just because it's one of the products I work with and therefor I've discovered lots of cool recipes using it in a different way.
This recipe has been developed by Anthony Kindred, Master Baker and owner of Kindred Bakery in London, and I like it so much that I haven't adapted it yet. 
I surely will in the future, but for the moment I'm content with the original version!

makes approx 15 large cookies
225g packed brown sugar
120g granulated sugar
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
300g flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
270g old-fashioned rolled oats
150g chopped pecans, toasted
360g  French glacé cherries, 100% natural

1/ Pre heat oven to 190c
2/ Cream the sugars and butter, and then add the vanilla extract
3/ Beat in the eggs, one at a time
4/ Sieve the flour, salt and baking powder and gently add to the mix. Do not over mix
5/ Stir in the oats, pecan nuts and French glacé cherries
6/ Line a baking tray with baking parchment
7/ Divide mix into balls between 40-80g depending on preference and space out on a prepared tray leaving 25mm between each one, pressing down slightly
8/ Bake for about 15 mins until golden around the edge. Leave to cool for 15 mins before transferring to cooling wire and leave to cool completely before storing in a cookie jar.

Why weighing each cookie individually before baking? to ensure they all are the same size and will therefor cook at the same speed. This will ensure consistent cookies!
Why waiting for the cookies to cool completely before storing them in a jar? Because otherwise they will release steam in the jar and become soft.

Different sizes for different cookies: the bigger the cookies, the more soft in the middle and crunchy on the edges. Small cookies will be crunchy all way through 

french glace cherry and pecan cookie recipe

This post is dedicated to La Ptite Soiz, my London mentor ;-)

19 Feb 2014

Chocolate and Raspberry Creamy Dreamy Tart

Almost five years ago to the day, I arrived in London with my suitcase to start a new life. 

Despite my fears and doubts, it didn't take me long to realise that it was the best decision I'd ever made.
Looking back, it's true that time really flies, as so much has happened in those 5 years. 
  • I started off as the new 'expat' in my company but since then I've been promoted twice
  • I fell in love with British gastronomy, especially the baking and made a blog out of it
  • I witnessed Will and Kate's love story developing into a royal wedding and then into a royal baby
  • I celebrated the Queen's diamond jubilee
  • I went to the London 2012 Olympic Games as a VIP, visiting as a Samsung Global Blogger and got to know bloggers from all over the world
  • I've been to see the majority of the West End musicals that have came out
  • I saw the integral series of Friends on TV, 4 times - and managed to avoid watching X Factor for 5 years 
  • I've witnessed so many people moving in and out of my house 
  • My heart melted and got broken a few times, and then I met the Man 
  • I've spent hours and hours waiting around in airports, and sadly now know every single line of Easyjet and Ryanair's T&Cs 
  • I got back into acting and through that met some amazing new friends

There's an urban legend going around London expats that says your 5th anniversary is decisive. If you don't go home after 5 years, then you'll stay in London for your the rest of your life. I don't know what's going to happen in the future, but for now, I'm not going anywhere!
chocolate and raspberry tart recipe

Chocolate and Raspberry 
Creamy Dreamy Tart

Whether you choose to add raspberries or banana, any other fruit in this tart, or to keep it 100% chocolatey, you won't be disappointed. I was waiting for such a creamy and rich delight to come into my life, and now that I found it, I won't let it go!

(serves 10)

1 shortcrust pastry
300g good quality chocolate
75g caster sugar
2 eggs
400g double cream
250 g fresh raspberries

Make the chocolate and raspberry tart

Preheat the oven at 180deg C.

1/ Line a pie dish with the shortcrust pastry, prick it all over and refrigerate for 15 min. 

2/ Once well chilled, cover with baking parchment and baking beans and bake for 10/12 min until just golden. Leave to cool.

3/ In the meantime, make the filling. In a saucepan, pour the cream and the sugar, and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat. 

4/ In a bowl, break the chocolate in pieces. Pour the hot cream over it and mix with a spatula until the chocolate is completely melted. Add the eggs and mix well.

5/ Scatter the raspberries all over the pastry case (apart from a few that you'll keep for decoration) and pour over the raspberries the chocolate mixture. Bake again the tart for 10min until the sides are set and the middle still a little wobbly. 

6/ Leave to cool completely, decorate with the raspberries kept aside, and serve.

Adapted from Jamie Oliver's magazine.

13 Feb 2014

#Valentine's day quick fix: French glacé cherry and pistachios financiers

Bloody tricky Valentine's day.
You play it cool, pretend you absolutely don't care about Valentine's day, still secretly hoping that a Valentine's card or flowers will appear in your lounge on Friday night.
The Man, for all his amazing qualities, has shown that he's a man like many others though: he can't read your mind.
So what do you do?
You bake a cake.
Cake is always a good answer to life's many dilemmas. 

cherry and pistachio cakes

French glacé cherry and pistachios financiers 
Financiers are little almond cakes, often called "friands" in the UK. They usually are very nice. But this version, developed by Cindy from Petit Gâteau, one of my favourite bakers in London, is one step higher in cake heaven.
Pistachios and French glacé cherries (you'll find 100% natural ones in most supermarkets) are an amazing addition to these little wonders.
Trouble is you'll probably find you want to eat more than one! 

(makes 8 financiers)

50g plain flour

50g ground almonds

150g caster sugar

80g unsalted butter

4 egg whites

Vanilla paste

A dozen pistachios, roughly chopped

A dozen French GlacéCherries, halved

Prepare the French glacé cherries and pistachios financiers: 
1/ Preheat your oven to 200°C (th 7). 

2/ In a large bowl, mix together flour, ground almonds and sugar.

3/ In a pan, melt the butter over medium heat until it turns golden brown. Then pour over the dry ingredients and mix everything together with a spatula or a wooden spoon.

4/ Add the egg whites and vanilla paste, and mix thoroughly.

5/ Pour the batter into a financier or muffin baking tin.

6/ Add pistachios and FrenchGlacé Cherries halves into each financier (dividing the total quantity between the 8 mini cakes).

7/ Bake for 15-18min.

8/ Let cool down for 5 minutes before removing from the tin/mould and cool down completely on a wire rack before eating.

4 Feb 2014

My Coronation Chicken

I've been told that Coronation Chicken is a bit of an old-fashioned dish. A blast from the past.
So if you do talk to me about Coronation Chicken, I immediately imagine myself sitting at an old wooden table, taking part in a street party during the 70s, wearing flared trousers, a flower power shirt and surrounded by kids with page boy haircuts running around.
Although I only discovered it a couple of years ago, it has a very specific place in the image I have of my parents lives when they were my age. (Even though my parents never ate Coronation Chicken and aren't British, they did wear flared trousers).

Invented 60 years ago for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, coronation chicken belongs to one of these Indian inspired, traditional British dishes, created to represent the British Empire. A big hit at its creation, it still is one of Britain's all time favourite picnic dishes and sandwich fillings.

In my quest to discover and experience traditional British cuisine, I couldn't not give it a try!

recipe low fat coronation chicken

Coronation Chicken
As I never do as I'm told, I surfed the web for days to look at all the recipes I could find and picked things I liked here and there to create my own take on this recipe.
It's a light version of the recipe, as I used half of yogurt and half mayonnaise.


1/2 chicken, cooked and shredded ( I used the leftovers of a cold roast chicken)
a good pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 cm piece of fresh ginger, very finely chopped
1 good drizzle of lemon or lime juice
2 heaped tbsp mango chutney
a small handful of ready-to-eat dried apricots, finely chopped
1 tbsp curry powder
3 tbsp of mayonnaise
3 tbsp. Greek yogurt
1/2 handful of flaked or roughly chopped almonds, toasted
Green salad (I used baby gem lettuce) or bread to serve

Prepare the Coronation Chicken:

1/ In a small dry pan, toast the curry powder for a few minutes, until golden (it will prevent it from bringing a harsh taste to the dish). Pour the powder in a small bowl and leave aside.

2/ In the pan again, toast the almonds dry until golden brown. Leave aside.

3/ In a medium bowl, mix the mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, curry powder, mango chutney, lemon or lime juice, salt, pepper and mix well.

4/ Add the apricots and shredded chicken, mix well. Just before serving add some flaked almonds.

5/ To serve : I served the coronation chicken in baby gem lettuce leaves that I used as wraps, sprinkling some toasted almonds on top of each wrap just before serving.