My first soufflé

Having spent 12 months of my life cooking recipes from every country in the world, I am often frustrated by the restrictions I place on my own cooking approach. I hate waste, the thought of spending hours cooking something that doesn’t taste good and my overriding obsession with tidiness hold me back from throwing caution to the wind. So with a determined and unleashed frame of mind, I decided to tackle my first ever soufflé. I’ve watched countless masterchef episodes where they have failed and succeeded in equal measure. As my palate prefers savoury, I opted to try a cheese and herb version adapted from a Nigel Slater recipe. All up it took about 45 minutes to make and was much simpler than I anticipated. I was rewarded with not only a tasty lunch, but a small sense of overcoming some of my self inflicted shackles. I felt I cooked mine a tad too much so I’ve reduced the cooking time – it should still be creamy inside.

Comte and chervil soufflé
Serves 2

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

a knob of butter
5 – 10g parmesan, grated
150ml milk
1 bay leaf
2 large eggs, separated
30g plain flour
30g butter
50g comte cheese, grated
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp dried chervil
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (fan)
Butter 2 ramekin dishes and then scatter each with grated parmesan shaking to cover all sides
Bring the milk and bay leaf to boil in a small pan, turn off the heat and set aside
Melt the butter in a pan and then add the flour, stirring continuously for a couple of minutes
Remove the bay leaf from the milk and add to the butter & flour, stirring to blend
Take it off the heat and let it rest for a minute or 2 before adding the egg yolks and stirring to a smooth consistency
Stir in the comte, mustard, chervil and seasoning
Whisk the egg whites until frothy but not stiff and then gently but thoroughly fold into the mixture
Pour into the ramekin dishes and tap to even out the surface
Cook in the preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden brown on top

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A day in a professional kitchen

As much as I love cooking, I also love eating out and one of our regular haunts is The Beehive pub and restaurant in White Waltham. We’ve visited many times since it was taken over by Dominic Chapman, who we knew previously from The Royal Oak in Paley Street. His food, quite simply is outstanding and never disappoints. Having been an avid Masterchef fan for years, I’ve always wanted to ‘do a service’ in a professional kitchen but it’s not exactly something you can buy on Amazon!! So I penned a message to Dom asking if he’d be kind enough to let me join him for a lunchtime service and lucky for me, he said yes!

So with great excitement, enthusiasm and some comfortable shoes (Dom’s recommendation!) I made my way to The Beehive for 9am on Tuesday morning. The kitchen is quite small but extremely organised. After meeting the team – Katie, Dave and Johnjo, I was given the task of preparing the beautiful fresh wild garlic that had arrived that morning. I then moved on to spelt bread loaves and with Johnjo’s guidance, I rolled and shaped the dough, placed them into their tins and watched them prove. I was delighted with Dom’s later comment ‘Nice bread Nat’! I watched in awe as the well rehearsed teamwork glided through the lunchtime service without a hitch and 30 covers later it was done. My final task of the day was by far my favourite, which perhaps has something to do with the fact that it’s one of the best dishes I’ve ever tasted and is one of Dom’s signature dishes – Rabbit lasagne. In all fairness, the hardwork had already been done so it was simply a case of assembling the lasagnes for dinner service. It was both therapeutic and rewarding bringing together all of the lovingly prepared ingredients into the final dish.

After 6 and a bit hours of being on my feet, I was definitely ready for a glass of wine!! I have the upmost respect for everyone in the restaurant business purely for the hours they put in, the care and love they give to their job and because it is seriously one of my favourite past times. Thank you Dom and team for welcoming me into your kitchen for the day. A very special day that I will remember forever.

In honour of my fabulous day and National Pie week, I cooked Dom’s chicken and mushroom pie … it was yum!

My top 20 recipes

1. Taiwan – Taiwanese minced pork

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2. Chad – Kachumbari (Chadian tomato and onion salad)

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3. Switzerland – Fondue

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4. Mexico – Chicken Enchiladas

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Chicken enchiladas

5. Paraguay – Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)

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Sopa Paraguaya (corn and cheese bread)

6. Italy – Risotto milanese

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Risotto alla Milanese (risotto with saffron)

7. Finland – Kalakeitto (fish stew)

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Kalakeitto (fish stew)

8. Luxembourg – Bouneschlupp (green bean soup with smoked bacon)

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Bouneschlupp (green bean soup with smoked bacon)

9. Spain – Tapas
Champinones al ajillo (garlic mushrooms)
Garbanzos con chorizo (chickpeas with chorizo)
Tortilla (Spanish omelette)
Croquetas de jamon (ham croquettes)
Padron peppers

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10. Sweden – Köttbulla (Swedish meatballs)

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11. South Korea – Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef)

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South Korea – Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef)

12. Honduras – Banana bread

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Honduran banana and coconut bread

13. Nicaragua – Tres leches (Three milks cake)

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14. Guyana – Roti (flatbread)

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Guyana – Rotis (flatbreads)

15. Guatemala – Chicharrónes (crispy pork skin)

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Chicharrones

16. China – Char Sui pork (“Fork roast” – Cantonese barbecued pork)

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Char Sui Pork (Cantonese BBQ pork)

17. Comoros – Poulet au Coco (Comorian coconut chicken)

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Poulet au Coco (Comorian coconut chicken)

18. France – Bœuf bourguignon (beef braised in red wine with onions and mushrooms)

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Bœuf bourguignon (beef braised in red wine with onions and mushrooms)

19. Micronesia – Kelaguen Chicken (Marinated chicken with coconut, spring onion & chilli)

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20. Solomon Islands – Fish curry with tomatoes

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Fish curry with tomatoes

A whole brill

On Friday I was lucky enough to pick up a whole brill half price in my local supermarket. I was quite surprised to see it there in the reduced section and as I like to challenge myself, I quickly grabbed it and put it in my trolley.

Several years ago my sister and I spent a wonderful few days taking a cookery class just outside Toulouse, where we learnt about all things duck, how to fillet flat fish, and what makes the perfect lemon tart. Since then I’ve only attempted to fillet a John Dory once or twice, so a large brill was definitely a step further in testing my knife skills.

When I got home I unpacked the brill and set about filleting it. I certainly wouldn’t win any awards for speed but I was pretty chuffed with my effort. My husband never used to eat fish at all and he is still somewhat nervous when he has to ‘face’ a fish head! Fortunately for him, all of the filleting was done by the time he got home.

I made fish stock from the bones and head, froze 2 large fillets and kept the 2 remaining fillets for our dinner – Brill with butter and tarragon. It’s such a simple recipe and I wonder why I don’t cook it more often. I felt ‘proper cheffy’ as I deftly spooned the frothy butter over the fish in the pan. It was a decadent delicious triumph, even if I say so myself.

Serves: 2

Prep time: 20 minutes (if you are filleting the fish yourself, otherwise 5 minutes)
Cook time: 6 – 8 minutes

2 brill fillets
plain flour
50g butter
2 tbsp veg oil
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
handful of chopped fresh tarragon

Put some flour on a large place, add the fish, cover with flour on both sides and shake off the excess.

Reserve 20g of the butter. Heat the oil and remaining butter over a medium high heat in a non stick frying pan large enough to hold both fish side by side. When it sizzles, add the fish skin side down and cook for 3 minutes. Turn them over and cook them on the other side for 3 minutes. Sprinkle the first side with salt while the second side is cooking.

Transfer the fish to a warmed plate. Return the frying pan to the heat, add the remaining butter and when its melted and starts to sizzle, lower the heat and add the lemon juice. Place the fish back into the pan skin side up, sprinkle with the tarragon and rapidly spoon over the melted butter for about 30 seconds (smile while you do this!). Serve immediately, pouring the sauce equally over each fish.

Inspiration for the weekend

Struggling for inspiration on what to eat this weekend? … Why don’t you get in the kitchen and try out one of the a year cooking the world 10/10 picks?

Sweden – Köttbulla (Swedish meatballs)

South Korea – Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef)

Micronesia – Kelaguen Chicken (Marinated chicken with coconut, spring onion & chilli)

Taiwan – Ló͘-bah-pn̄g (minced pork rice)

Guyana – Rotis (flatbreads)

Chad – Kachumbari (Chadian Tomato & Onion Salad)

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South Korea – Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef)
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Micronesia – Kelaguen Chicken (Marinated chicken with coconut, spring onion & chilli)
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Taiwan – Ló͘-bah-pn̄g (minced pork rice)
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Guyana – Rotis (flatbreads)
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Chad – Kachumbari (Chadian Tomato & Onion Salad)

Radio stardom ;-)

On Monday I was on the radio for the very first time in my life and I absolutely loved it!
Marlow FM contacted me a couple of weeks ago having found out about my challenge and they invited me in for a chat on their food & drink slot, presented by Donna Thacker & Pauline Howe Davies.
They were super friendly and genuinely excited to hear about my project.
It is available on their website if you would like to listen to it –
My slot starts from 1. 36 mins in 🙂

How to start?

It’s really difficult to know where to start or how to approach this challenge, so I am going to have a bit of a practice run. For 2 weeks I’m going to see how long it takes to do my research, select the recipes, buy the ingredients, cook the recipe and then write the blog.
After several Google searches, I have a list of 196 countries.  Yesterday I printed out all the countries & put them in a pot, except I seem to only have 195 (likely due to poor scissor use!) … so when I pick my last set of countries from the pot, I’ll find out which is the missing one and save it for the final recipe!
The 9 countries I’ve randomly picked from the pot to feature over the next 2 weeks starting from tomorrow (yikes!) are:-
       Singapore
       Iraq
       Bhutan
       Guinea
       Central African Republic
       Kyrgyzstan
       Haiti
       Cyprus
       Panama

The challenge

Inspired by a TED talk I recently listened to by Ann Morgan, I’ve decided to set myself a challenge.  Two of my greatest passions are food & travel, so I am going to cook a recipe from every country in the world over the course of a year.  Not quite Julie & Julia (one of my favourite films), but an exciting foodie adventure none the less.
I would like to think that I’m quite an adventurous cook, but the reality is that I stick to what I know, both in ingredients and recipes.  So in order to broaden my culinary skills and experience .. this is my challenge!
I really want to ensure that I cook authentic recipes that originate from their respective countries, so I am appealing to my friends to help me ‘keep it real’ and if you know of or find any relevant recipes, please do share them with me.
Wish me luck!