23 Dec 2014

Poached pears and spiced chocolate sauce

You may have to choose between cheese and dessert when you go to a restaurant, but at home, it's always cheese and dessert.
Nothing surprising here, really. We're not a land of cheese and baguette makers to then just leave them to go to waste and get stale on the counter. 
Christmas will feature the usual cheese platter of local delicacies such as Cancoillotte, Morbier, Comté and Munster, but it's for dessert that we go all out.

We've adopted the Provence originated tradition of the Christmas's 13 desserts. Yes, 13 desserts (although we don't stick to the list of 13 "official" desserts)
Amongst them, the inevitable chocolate mousse (my dad and grandpa's favourite and a Christmas tradition that goes back to generations in my family), têtes de chocolat (chocolate heads) and Billiotte biscuits from Montbeliard's Christmas market, some muffins, several homemade cakes and tarts, one or two British specialties (this year it will be a magnificent Dundee cake from our local bakery in Nunhead), and a fruit salad or poached pears.

Speaking of poached pears, they are a perfect addition to a Christmas dessert table and will accompany any cake or chocolate dessert to perfection.

how to poach pears?

Poached pears 
and spiced chocolate sauce

These lovely poached pears taste like Christmas, spice and all things nice.
I didn't want the delicious spiced syrup made to poach the pears to go to waste, so I incorporated it in the chocolate sauce (optional if the pears are an accompaniment rather that the main dessert). 
The spiced syrup gives the chocolate a lovely twist, and the end result is magnificent.

Ingredients (for 2 poached pears)

For the pears poached in spiced syrup:
2 pears, ripe but firm
300 ml water
200g caster sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon (or a cinnamon stick)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3 whole cloves
1 dried fig (optional)

For the chocolate sauce:
150 to 200g good quality cooking chocolate (I used Valrhona chocolate)


1/ In a medium sized casserole, add all the syrup ingredients, mix well, and bring slowly to a boil. In the meantime, peal the pears whole, leaving the stems on (which will make them easy to handle and also look pretty)

2/ Dip the pears into the syrup, and simmer for approx 25 min, turning them around delicately from time to time if they are not totally immersed, to make sure they cook evenly. Once cooked, take them out of the syrup and transfer to a plate to cool. (If you're making them in advance, cover the plate with cling film once cold and keep them in the refrigerator. Take them out 20min before serving to slowly bring them at room temperature)

3/ Bring the syrup back to the boil and let reduce and thicken for a further 10 to 15 mins. Take the fig out (and either eat it or cut it in quarters to serve as a decoration with the pears)

4/ Before serving, place the chocolate bracken into pieces into a small glass bowl set over a small pan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water or the chocolate will burn). Leave to melt and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of the spiced syrup (adapt the quantity depending of how thick you would like your chocolate sauce to be). Pour the sauce into a saucer, and bring it to the table so your guests can pour it on their poached pear as desired.

simple recipe to poach pear and make chocolate sauce

This recipe is dedicated to Christine, who every year puts so much effort, time and love in welcoming us to a fantastic Christmas feast.

18 Dec 2014

Mango and Lemon Cake

My to do list to be ready for Christmas:
- drink mulled wine
- see the local Christmas lights
- listen to Magic fm until feeling sick of Wham, Band Aid, Mariah and all the others
- go to a free concert of Christmas carols
- have a chocolate from the Advent calendar

I've done all of this and I still don't feel ready for Christmas. 
So, there's only one option left: an intensive Christmas Spirit mission. 
When I land in Basel airport on the morning of the 24th, I'll drive straight to our local Christmas market in Montbéliard (one of the cutest Christmas markets in France); meet my family there, buy myself a tartine de raclette; drink a hot chocolate from Ragot (the best in the universe); and freeze my feet off wandering around the market for a couple of hours before heading home. 
Then, I'll be ready to celebrate Christmas!

Happy Christmas everyone!

recipe easy mango and lemon cake

Mango and Lemon Cake

I found canned mango pulp at my local Coop and wanted to experiment with it.
So I adapted my pumpkin and orange cake's recipe, and here was the result!

It's a lovely cake off the beaten track. Super easy to make, super moist, a real crowd pleaser!

225g self-raising flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground ginger + a good pinch of cinnamon
110g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs (beaten)
200 ml sunflower oil
210g mango pulp, mashed (fresh or canned)
Zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon

1/ Preheat the oven to 180deg C (160deg C fan oven). Grease and base line a medium sized cake tin.

2/ Sift together the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl, stir in the sugar. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, oil, vanilla extract, rind and juice of lemon then stir until smooth. Add the mango pulp and stir in well.

3/ Spoon the batter into the cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 40-50 minutes until a metal skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cake.  Leave to cool for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

4/ Lightly dust the top of the cake with icing sugar.

4 Dec 2014

On the Top of the Shard, a game with a view

I was recently invited to the launch of the new Monopoly installation at The View From The Shard, on the 69th of the highest building in Western Europe, which offers a 360 degre view over London.
I had never been on top of the Shard, so I was bursting with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the weather was not great but the view was no less then impressive. From there, one can see most of London's trademarks : London Eye, The Tower of London, The Gerkin, HMS Belfast, Tower Bridge, etc.
The giant Monopoly installation is a nice additional feature to what's already an amazing experience!