Baked apples stuffed with pecan and American Pale Ale beer (or apple cider) jelly

Baking apples in the oven, with nothing more than just good apples from the orchard of my grandfather.

Cooked slowly in the wood oven of my grandparents, to give enough time to the juice to be released during the cooking process and to form a light but flavorful caramel on the bottom of the dish. And when I was a child, this was the best part of this dish! With a teaspoon, I have enjoyed (and still enjoy) removing every pieces of this fruity caramel.

Warm or cold … baked apples … so yummy, so many great memories of my childhood in France.

Since this time, every winter, I am baking apples. I love them!

This is my new version of a French treat … with a little twist: beer or apple cider jelly with roasted pecans in the middle.

I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe:

Servings: 6

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

6 to 12 apples

For this recipe, I have used Northern Spy apples. You can also use Cortland, Gala or Russet. There are so many options.

80 to 120 grams toasted pecans (depending of the size of the apples)

How to toast the pecans?

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly sprits baking sheet with cooking oil. Spread pecans on rimmed baking sheet. Toast in oven until nuts are aromatic and darker in color, about 5 to 7 minutes. Cool, and coarsely chop them.

You have to watch them carefully as they are easily scorched.

12 generous teaspoons of American Pale Ale Beer or Apple Cider jelly

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Rinse and dry the apples.

Carefully remove half of the core from the apples with a sharp knife or apple corer. Do not cut all the way through, and be careful not to split them in half. Place them on a baking dish.

Stuff each apple with 1 to 2 tablespoons of toasted pecan and 1 to 2 teaspoons of jelly.

Bake in preheated oven for 90 minutes (or more if apples really big), until apples are tender.

You can eat them warm, or cold. I keep them for several days in the fridge, I love them as a snack or a small treat.

Bonne appetite!

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American Pale Ale beer jelly (or vanilla) infused yogurt pudding with caramelized peaches

This summer I cooked a lot of peaches …. mostly because I wanted to nail one recipe, and one only: a French tatin peach pie. Peach pie can be really soggy, this was my challenge. It took me 6 to 7 peach pies, but now I nail it. My peaches are perfectly caramelized and my tatin peach pie is not anymore soggy.

The positive aspect of this experience is the fact that I have rediscovered that caramelized peaches in sugar and butter is real yummy. It also brought back some sweet memories: my grandmother sweet indulgence made with peaches. I wanted to bring back these memories, with a little twist.

Peach with beer? Mummm, can we pair them?

Through my reading about pairing food with beer, I have learnt that American Pale Ale works well with caramel and fruits. Et voila!

it gave me the idea to try baked yogurt pudding with caramelized peaches and American Pale Ale beer jelly. And it was not a mistake, it is gorgeous!

I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe:

Prep Time: 15 min                   Cook Time: 30 to 45 min                    Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

4 peaches, ripe but firm

30 grams (2 tablespoons) butter

40 grams (1/4 cup) sugar

250 grams (1 cup) plain yoghurt

140 grams (0.6 cup) sweetened condensed milk

80 grams (0.3 cup) cream fraîche

4 teaspoons of Imperial IPA Beer Jelly (or one teaspoon of vanilla extract as an alternative)

1 egg, lightly beaten

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Cut peaches into quarters. Pan fry them quickly in butter (be sure to use a pan large enough to have one layer of fruits) on high heat for 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the granulated sugar and mix. Lower the heat to medium heat and wait for peaches render their juice (it can take 10 to 12 minutes). Increase the heat to high and dry and simmer the peaches until there is no more juice.

It is really important to have at that point no liquid at all because the peaches will release some juice when cooking in the oven, and if this is the case, the peach pie will be soggy.

Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the peaches from the caramel and transfer them equitably to 4 X 250 ml glass Masson jar.

Warm up the American Pale Ale Beer Jelly using a microwave or a water bath.

Mix together the yoghurt, condensed milk, cream, beer jelly and egg in a medium bowl.

Pour the yoghurt mixture over the peaches and bake in the oven for 20–35 minutes, or until the pudding is just set. I find that 25 minutes is enough but it will all depend of your stove.

When the pudding is cooked, it will look smooth like a panna cotta, but it will still be a little wobbly. It is important not to cook it for any longer once it reaches this stage, because overcooking will make it curdle and the water separate.

Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour, then serve.

The pudding will become firmer and lose its wobbliness when it is chilled in the refrigerator.

You can keep this dessert for at least 48 hours in the fridge. It is a really refreshing sweet treat.

Socca … An easy going but delicious Provençal street food

One funny thing, I never ate socca when living in France. I went to Provence several times, but never to Nice specifically (the kingdom of socca).

How did I discover socca?

In little India, here in Toronto. Funny! We were in an Indian restaurant, enjoying our vegetarian meal. As we try not to eat too much meat, we were looking for inspiration – some ideas for “meatless meals”, and we started to look at the different ingredients used in vegetarian Indian recipes. Chickpea flour was one main ingredient of the food we were eating, and I started to look on internet what we could do with this flour… and this is how we have discovered that chickpea flour is used since a long time and with a lot of success in French cuisine.

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Socca and Cade are Provençal pancakes that go back at least to 1860. Cade de Toulon, probably the most ancient, was made from corn flour and the Socca de Nice that evolved from it is made from chick-pea flour. In that ancient time, there were cade/socca sellers at the marchés and at work sites where they provided the favorite morning meal of the workers. The cade/socca sellers used special wagons with built-in charcoal ovens to keep their wares hot while they announced them with the appropriate cries of “cada, cada, cada” or “socca, socca, socca caouda”. Some of the ambulatory socca/cade sellers (or their descendents) are still to be found in the markets at Nice, Toulon and la Seyne-sur-Mer, where the slices are served in paper cones. In Nice, the Cave Ricord restaurant has been selling socca continuously for the past 80 years.

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Socca is a simple but easy to love traditional Provence street food made of chickpeas flour. Yesteryear, it was cooked using a large round (50-70 cm diameter) copper “pie tin” (plaque) in a very hot wood-fired oven for about six minutes, until the top is golden. The copper is important for spreading the heat evenly. Nowadays, you can cook socca in the oven or on the stove in a cast iron skillet. Personally, I like to use a good quality non stick skillet or a non stick cookie sheet because socca can badly stick to your pan. I have experienced this misadventure several times in the past before I decided to switch for a non stick skillet. You can make your socca really fine and crispy, or a little more thick – still crispy outside but creamy inside. Yummy!

Chick peas (like chick pea flour) is gluten free and really nutritious: 22 grams protein and 11 grams fiber per 100 grams as well as a low glycemic index that help to control hunger cravings (satiety). It can also help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and it is a good source of minerals (like magnesium (41% daily value) and phosphorus (32%) – essential to healthy bones, potassium (24%) – help keep fluids and minerals in balance in the body and regulates blood pressure, and also iron (24%), zinc (19%), copper (46%), and manganese (80%) per 100 grams) as well as vitamins (thiamin (32%) and vitamin B6 (25%) – two of the B vitamins that help you convert food into energy, folate (104%) – essential to red blood cell development and the prevention of certain birth defects and vitamin K (11%) per 100 grams).

Unfortunately, chickpeas, like all nuts and seeds, grains and pulses, contain food phytate that can bind minerals, and prevent their full absorption. Furthermore, chickpeas, like other pulses, can be difficult to digest. However, the minerals in chickpeas like the minerals in other pulses, grains and nuts, are better absorbed when the chickpeas are prepared properly through sprouting, soaking or souring.   These traditional processes render the minerals found in these different foods more bioavailable, and can also render the bean easier to digest.

For this specific recipe, I am using the souring technique – i.e. soaking the chickpea flour overnight (or for 24 hours) in an acidic environment (lemon juice or beer + lemon juice). It also gives the final flatbread a wonderful, faint, tartness that complements the naturally earthy, nutty flavor of the chickpeas.

I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe:

Adapted from Nourished Kitchen recipe.

Prep Time: 12 to 24 hours                            Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 1 thick 12.5 inches pancake or two thin 7 inches pancakes

Ingredients

1 cup chickpea flour

3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (or only 2 teaspoons lemon juice if you use beer)

1 1/4 cups water (or 3/4 cup American Pale Ale beer + 1/2 cup water)

I will recommend to use a light beer for this recipe like the American Pale Ale from Black Oak. I find its buttered bread, english muffin kind of malt taste works perfectly with the naturally earthy, nutty flavor of the chickpeas. The hops flavors are also present with a soft aftertaste bitterness.

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for greasing the pan

1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt

 

Instructions

Dump the chickpea flour into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and water (or beer + water + lemon juice). Cover the bowl, and allow it to rest at room temperature at least 12 and up to 24 hours.

Whisk in olive oil and salt, until it forms a thin, smooth batter.

Film a non stick pan with oil and set over medium-high heat. Pour in the socca batter. Decrease temperature to medium heat. After about 8 to 10 minutes (shorter time if you are using a smaller pan) when the edges are firm, gently lift the pancake and flip it. Cook on the other side for another 2 to 3 minutes, until both surfaces are dry and beginning to brown.

Gently remove the socca from the pan, continue with the remaining half of the batter if you are using a smaller pan. Cut into squares, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with a little good olive oil.

Socca is best if eaten immediately after baking while still warm, but can be refrigerated (keep it in aluminium foil) and re-toasted for up to a week.

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Socca is delicious sprinkled with salt and pepper and served with some olive oil, cured olives, cherry tomatoes, Mediterranean cheese… You can also be inspired and creative – use or serve socca with whatever you happen to like (some great ideas here).

Bonne Appetite!

Beer Infused Rice Pilaf…. Made with American Pale

I know, it is a little clumsy to start my blog with the sentence … I love rice! But this is true.

Despite the fact that I am a Frenchy (with some Canadian influences now) and bread is my motto, my brother Jean Michel and me have grew up eating and enjoying one kind of rice: Le Riz Taureau Aile or more specifically the rice from Camargue (the south region of France). This rice is similar to the Italian Arborio rice. it is flavorful, creamy and sticky. It made the most amazing rice pudding, and it is the best side dish for our creamy sauces like the famous blanquette de veau (veal stew). If truth be told, our childhood culinary experience has left a indelible mark on us. We cannot stand bad quality rice at all!

The result, I have a passion for rice… any kinds, and I love cooking dishes with it. In fact, my favorite comfort food when I am tired, a little depressed and I really need to reconnect with my childhood is a bowl of rice with butter. I love the taste of rice with butter… it reminds me my grandmother rice.

Rice with beer, why not?

The idea came to me when I was reading a series of articles about the use of wine in French and Italian cooking. Generally, wine goes into stew and sauce (as well as dessert) in France. In Italy, wine is also used to bring flavors into pasta sauce and risotto. That was it! Italian cooking practices gave me the idea to try to infuse rice with beer. I could go with risotto, but I have decided to try rice pilaf for a change. It is a more easy going preparation and everyday dish. But don’t take me wrong, it can be complex and subtle and more importantly, yummy.

What is rice pilaf?

When you start to read about rice pilaf, you are discovering that there is an interesting and opulent story behind this simple dish.

It is an integral part of formal and informal meal in Asian and Middle East cuisine. Pilaf was known to have been served to Alexander the Great at a royal banquet following his capture of the Sogdian capital of Marakanda (modern Samarkand). And it was first documented by the celebrated Persian scholar Abu Ali Ibn Sina in tenth century, who in his books on medical sciences has dedicated a whole section to preparing various meals, including several types of pilaf. After that, it has spread all over the world and is nowadays an important component of our worldwide culinary practice.

Pilaf is made of a good quality rice like Basmati or Jasmine rice, cooked in a broth seasoned with different ingredients like onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, coriander seeds, nuts, dry fruit, saffron as well as meat, fish, lentils, beans, pasta, vegetables… The grains remain separate and in some recipes, you can obtain a fluffy and soft rice, but neither soupy nor sticky.

I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe:

4 to 6 servings                                 Preparation 15 min                            Cooking time 25 minutes

Ingredients

1 onion (or 4 shallots), finely chopped

1 tablespoon (15 grams) olive oil

1 tablespoon (30 ml) butter

2 cups (370 grams) Basmati rice

1 1/2 cups (355 ml) water

1 1/2 cups (355 ml) American Pale Ale beer

For this recipe I have chosen to use an American Pale Ale from Black oak. The taste of this beer is sweet initially with a lightly toasted cereal grain, more biscuit-like than bready as well as slight notes of tart citrus, pine, and herbal hops that can work quite well with sweet onion in this rice dish.

Fresh curry leaves (facultative)

Curry leaves are an herb native to South Asia, unrelated to the ground spice mix called curry powder. They’re an essential component of South Indian cooking, adding a subtle aroma to simple dishes or complexity to highly spicy dishes. It has a peppery flavor and it releases a deliciously nutty aroma when fried in hot oil. Curry leaves can be used in the same way as bay leaves are used in the West. You can find them in Indian grocery shops.

I love to use curry leaves because we are not using a lot of (or not at all) salt in our cooking at home. We cook rice without salt… the nice fragrances come from the rice itself the saffron and the curry leaves

Salt and Pepper

Preparation

In a saucepan, lightly brown the onion in olive oil/butter over medium heat, add the curry leaves and cook for 30 seconds

I am not doing this normally but I am going to do this next for maximum fragrances. Normally, I add the curry leaves with the water when cooking rice.

Season with salt (facultative) and pepper.

Add the rice. Cook, stirring, until the grains are well-coated and some look translucent and the whole mixture smells toasty, about 3 minutes.

Toasting the grains in oil until they start to look translucent helps them separate so they won’t clump. It adds flavor, too.

Add the beer and the water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 18 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

Remove from heat and fluff the rice with a fork. Then cover the pot with a clean dish towel and seal with the lid for 10 minutes.

The towel absorbs steam, so the rice stays fluffy.

I have served this rice pilaf with sauté spinach for our dinner. It was really good, very flavourful.

I think it will work perfectly also with barbecue or sweet spicy tomato sauce because this rice pilaf has some tanginess flavors with some after taste bitterness. With the left over, I have made a tuna salad with parsley, tomatoes, cucumber and avocado. It was delicious!

Bonne Appetite!