Hit & Miss

A Utilitarian Meal

Spaghetti garlic cauliflower crumbs herbes de provence3

Have you ever made pasta with garlic breadcrumbs before? Or even Aglio Olio? If you have, then you’d understand how simple this dish is. There are times when I want full, robust flavors but there are times when I just want a simple dish, taking stock of yet another week rapidly coming to an end.

The weather is slowly staying on the 30s, heat wave is announced, rain come and go in a blink of an eye. The mosquitoes aren’t shy to visit either so we’ve been burning citronella on all corners of the apartment. I get woken up from time to time in the middle of the night just because it is so warm. I miss having air-con!

Herbes de Provence

Finally we are settled, I feel settled. For the next 9 months or so. As part of integration process with la vie en France, I had to attend civic course, complete with national anthem, history lesson and learn my rights as a resident and a woman. I had to do a CV in french and attend a professional competence evaluation. Luckily, they left me alone when it comes to french language. And no, it’s not for citizenship. In total, I had 4 certifications that are extremely precious to renew my carte sejour next year.

This weekend would be the first that we don’t need to go out and hunt something for the apartment, which is a relief. And we’re going to celebrate our anniversary too.
Cauliflower Pasta

Anyway, I’ll stop yabbing. Here’s the recipe.. (more…)

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I Snack. We Snack.

Dill Pakora

When I was hunting for chickpea flour to make Socca, I knew right away the next thing I was going to make is pakora, my all time favorite Indian snack especially Gobi Pakora (with cauliflower). I know it’s not the right thing to make since my throat has been itchy the past few days, but if there’s a thing I couldn’t resist, it’s deep fried snacks.

Dill Pakora 3

Of course, pakora is not complete until you make the chutney. But I’m going to confess, mine didn’t taste as great. I suspect it’s because I over-pounded the herbs, turning it a little bitter. I need to get a private lesson with M’s sister.

Dill Pakora 4

I was a little worried since H isn’t really big on dill and has never eaten a pakora before. But when he continuously asked if I was done with the photos and if he could eat more, I know my husband adores the snack as much as I do.

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If Words Have Flavors

Turkey Water Chestnut Burger

After making Spinach Tofu Gyoza the other day, I still have more than half can of water chestnut. My knowledge on this ingredient is rather limited. What else can you do with water chestnuts? As far as I can recall, I only encounter them in Chinese cuisine, often inside dumpling (soup) or over stir fry broccoli. So here I’m injecting these Chinese flavors into a regular turkey burger.

Turkey Water Chestnut

I was rather surprised at the beginning how well it turned out to be. Then I made it again the second time just to see if we still love it as much. Yes we do.

It is very juicy, very light since the turkey mixture is lightened with the water chestnut, and the crunch is actually a nice change to the usual meaty burger. The entire tomato & salad ensemble adds to an overall light and healthy meal. I’m really really pleased.

water chestnutTurkey Water Chestnut Burger 02

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Like A Glass of Red on Friday Evenings

Luisa, this one is for you.

Earlier this week, Luisa forwarded a recipe that she thought I would enjoy. Soon after, I trawled the net trying to figure out what this Socca is, whether it is french despite the Italian sounding name and why my french husband has never heard about it. Worse, why we didn’t even come across this when we were in Nice last year! So I picked up a bag of chick pea flour at a Bio store earlier today and got busy.

Socca Spinach Sundried Tomato Goat Cheese

The original recipe didn’t really say how liquid the mixture should be (creamy is the instruction). So I tried cooking them at various degree of mixture thickness. The goal is a “savory crepe” that will be stuffed, then folded, then baked. After adding 4 tbsp of water, I realized the crepe is so thick that after eating just one, I would be quite stuffed. The chickpea flour is heavier than regular all purpose flour. Then I worked my way to 7 tbsp of water. For me this is ideal. With the help of flat spatula, I was able to spread them and get them cooked to a right thickness.

I think you still can go to 8 tbsp as long as you didn’t spread them out too much, but much thinner than this, your socca will be crispy. It will break during stuffing and folding. Also, some chickpea flour is coarser than others, so need to adjust the water quantity as well. I’m using organic chick pea flour here.

Socca
The Tools I used

The proposed stuffing is spinach, which is an excellent vegetable. The problem is that I am very sensitive to bitter taste in spinach, ugh. So I made a reduced balsamic vinegar sauce (Thanks Masterchef!), which is really just a boiled Balsamic Vinegar.

Balsamic Reduction Sauce

Much, much better. The Socca is so delicious to eat on its own, so maybe one of these days I’m going to try the kind that’s sold in the street of Nice.

Luisa, do share if you, too, make a variation of your own. Thanks again for telling me about Socca!

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As Stubborn as An Adolescent Boy

I have always been idealistic & stubborn but I think today, my stubbornness goes to an all new level. This feels like my spring roll wrapper quest (here and here) that I never really completed nor posted in between of my tries. I can only fail so much! But today, after three recipes and one short cut, I hung my apron and washed my hands. My stomach couldn’t take it anymore. I need to run right after I post this.

Chesnut Paste
Several posts ago, I mentioned a little about my epic failure of making the french dessert Mont Blanc. Lesson learnt in this particular case is I should be more selective in the recipes I follow. However, the question remains: what should I do with the 900+ grams chestnut paste I have on my hand? Beside licking my wounds and gathering courage for another Mont Blanc attempt.

Leafing my fave Chinese recipe book, I recalled a classic Chinese dessert: red bean pancake. Voila! Chestnut pancake will be my french twist. How smart am I! So I started making the pancake skin using her recipe. Pretty simple: flour, egg, water.

Chinese Pancake Skin Take 1
Chesnut Pancake Take 1

The problem with her recipe is that it yields a thick pancake, so not the red bean pancake I like from a Chinese restaurant in Singapore. So not the red bean pancake I ate on the streets of Hong Kong. I think the skin is too thick and too filling.

Then I tried to tweak her recipe. I omit the egg and dilute the mixture further. Even my brand new carbon steel crepe pan couldn’t handle this mixture. It sticks and holy (lots of holes, mind you). The absence of egg means there’s nothing really binding the mixture together. The water-flour mixture spits the moment it touched the hot pan. There I went again to flush the mixture down the toilet.

I searched for yet another recipe. I avoided those that requires mixing the flour with hot water, knead the dough and let it rest for 30 mins – very much a flour tortilla recipe. So I know this is not what I am looking for. Finally I found a recipe resembling to what I want, completely disregarding the custard powder embellishment. And again I tweak the recipe.

Lastly, just because I’m curious.. on my last & final attempt, I made one with brick pastry (a thin pastry sheet common in the South Mediterranean cuisine like Algeria, Morocco & Tunisia, can be used for baking though usually for frying; not to be confused with filo pastry who’s inherently North Mediterranean, predominantly used in baking).

Brick vs Homemade
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When The Wind Brings Warmth

Cheesecake Pot

This wasn’t what I wanted to do with my brand new mixer, but alas, I overwhipped my cream (yes, again even with a stand mixer) while I was trying to figure out whatsapp, instagram and what have you. I’m so not a multi tasker. So my grand plan to make a Mont Blanc failed miserably. Not giving up, but I will keep it for another day. Mont Blanc isn’t usually done with sablé breton, a crumbly pastry from Normandy, but I like to mix and match stuff. And try everything at least once.

I like to think I’m pretty familiar with dough and I’ve done pâte sablée (another crumbly pastry) few times but this sablé breton is just way too moelleux, way too soft that I wonder if my eggs are too big, hence disrupting the liquid to dry ratio – see, I won’t have this problem in Angola. I would complain that my eggs are not yellow enough or just too small.

Sable Breton

It pains my heart to see the dough thrown away or unused, so I bake them as cookies. H has been munching them non-stop. They are indeed great cookies: crumbly, sweet peppered with crystal salt. But I wonder what else I can do with it.

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This is what happened. (more…)

I Leave My Heart With You & The Children

CC: This one is for you. 

Muffin Tray

My friend, CC, is going to inherit this old, battered 2.5 yo muffin tray. She’s going to help baking muffins & cupcakes for the children at the St. Isabel orphanage. So I thought why not share with her a recipe using muffin tray that she can prepare for herself & her family.

I find falafel is one of the most budget friendly dishes to make. Dried chickpeas, bread crumbs, cumin seeds, onion, garlic, parsley/cilantro/ both, paprika, salt & pepper – all dumped into a (mini) food processor. It costs almost nothing and yet if I go to the Lebanese restaurants here, I can easily feed a village with falafel.  The “downfall” of falafel is its method of preparation: it’s deep fried. I don’t mind but for the sake of health and trying everything at least once, and for CC, let’s make a baked falafel in a muffin tray, shall we?

Falafel 01
Go here for the basic recipe. If you wonder why my fried falafel is a flat disk (instead of round balls), I was trying to skimp on oil, heh!

Baked Falafel 02Baked Falafel 03
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