December 30th, 2011
When I go shopping for vegetables in Paris, it’s like going on a treasure hunt. The vendors whether they be at the marché or on the streets have such a variety of produce, it’s always difficult to decide on what to buy. Some vendors let you choose your own products while others snap at you like little dogs, that it’s only their right to choose which produce you take home! I have learnt to deal with this with a shrug and a smile.
While the Parisians are attracted to the tropical fruit that we see in our gardens back home (like passionfruit) I am hovering over the winter vegetables like pumpkin and different coloured carrots. On this occasion I fell in love with the lovely round zucchini or courgette. They have a deep dark green skin with little yellow freckles and I thought they would be lovely with a stuffing and roasted in the oven.
The inside flesh comes out so easily you will only need a spoon to hollow it out and this recipe could be used for the more common zucchini.
Recipe for Stuffed Zucchini
6 Round Zucchini
1 1/2 cups of rice
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
The inside of the zucchini that you have scooped out
Can of diced tomatoes
Lemon juice and slices of lemon for serving
Chili to taste
1/2 cup of shaved parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375°C. Cut a thin slice off the tops of the round zucchini and discard them. Using a small spoon, scrape out the flesh, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick wall. Coarsely chop the flesh.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the diced zucchini, garlic and cooked rice and season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring until barely tender, about 2 minutes. Now add the can of diced tomatoes and a cup of water. Cook until the rice is cooked and has soaked up the liquid. Add more water as necessary. Season with salt and pepper and chili to your liking. Transfer to a bowl.Season the zucchini cups with salt and pepper and brush the outside with olive oil. Mound the stuffing in the cups. Squeeze lemon juice over each and sprinkle with parmesan cheese before placing the lid back on. Set the zucchini on a baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, or until tender and heated through. Serve hot or at room temperature with a slice of lemon.
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December 28th, 2011
Now that the Christmas rush is over we can all sit down and relax for a while. I know I need some time off around this time of year. Luckily with so many left overs, meals are sorted for a few days. “You can have turkey sandwiches or ham rolls!” I can hear half the world yelling to their families.
I thought I would show you one of the desserts I made for Christmas day. I also made my Berry Merry Pavlova as it is a family favourite. As we were in Paris for this Christmas I took advantage of the colder weather and made a hot dessert. I poured the mixture into the glass containers that you buy yoghurt in at the supermarkets. I kept eight of them and intend packing them in my suitcase in bubble wrap as I love the shape. Christmas in Paris is very different to Christmas in Brisbane. December is the month that people start to focus on the present buying and food preparation. The stores don’t start putting out decorations and products in September. As the weather is cold, there are lots of winter outdoor activities like ice skating that pop up in front of Hotel de Ville and the Eiffel Tower. It has a less commercial feeling about Christmas. I didn’t experience the Christmas rush at the supermarkets either which was a great relief.
So back to the Chocolate Hot Pots. They are pretty simple to make and taste wonderful. Sometimes they rise a little high in these small containers and I have to trim them up a bit, so you might choose to make yours in one big dish. You could give everyone a spoon and tell them to just dig in! I served mine with raspberries. They would also taste great with cream or ice cream.
Recipe Chocolate Hot Pots
Ingredients serves 4
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- 1 cup gluten-free self-raising flour
- 3/4 cup caster sugar
- 250grams of dark chocolate
- 1/2 cup cocoa
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 2 eggs beaten
- 30g butter, melted
- 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 3/4 cups boiling water
- raspberries and gluten-free icing sugar, to serve
- Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Lightly grease small containers or an 8 cup-capacity ovenproof dish.
- Combine flour, caster sugar and 2 tablespoons cocoa in a bowl. Add beaten eggs, vanilla. Melt chocolate with the butter over boiling water until runny. Stir to combine. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top.
- Place filled containers in a ban marie or a dish of water that comes half way up the sides of the dish.
- Cook for around 20 mins or until light a fluffy with a gooey centre.
December 23rd, 2011
Recipe: French Chestnut Dressing for Turkey
By Jacqui Guglielmino
Vendors sell hot chestnuts on Paris streets, an autumn tradition. Photo by Jacqui Guglielmino
On every street corner in the busy areas of Paris vendors sell marron chaude (roasted chestnuts). The smell wafts through the air as you emerge from the Métro station and you know Christmas will be here soon. When you purchase some from a sidewalk vendor he constructs a cone of newspaper and fills it with hot chestnuts for you to enjoy. Their warmth stays with you as you walk along enjoying the delights of Paris.
These humble little morsels have been part of French culture and history for a long time. King Louis XIV’s chef wrote about “Le parfait confiturier,” (The Perfect Jam) which is believed to be the first marron glace (candied chestnut). Chestnuts are a great source of protein and they saw the French through times of famine at the end of World War II.
Chestnuts can be bought in several forms: fresh from the green grocer in the shells that should roasted before eating. I have made the mistake of not piercing them before putting them in the oven. What a disaster! The hot chestnuts exploded in the oven spewing shells all over the place, so remember to pierce them before roasting. Some people do this with a fork, others makes a slit or a cross with a knife.
You can also buy chestnuts in a jar preserved in brine, known as marrons entiers, which saves you the trouble of roasting and peeling.
If your tastes run more royal, buy the marron glacé for a dessert in which the chestnut meat is coated in candied sugar.
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