chocolate tarte

the (mis)adventures of an aussie girl in a kitchen somewhere in europe

22 Oktober 2006

La belle France

Here are some impressions from a wonderful afternoon in Strasbourg. Naturally, a large bulk of the time was spent sampling the local produce, drooling in front of store windows and running around an enormous French supermarche. We might be a long way from Bondi but 2 gorgeous hosts, a bottle of champas, snails baked in a garlic butter sauce and fresh French oysters go some way in making up for this fact. Bon appetit!

18 Oktober 2006

Francoise's Cream of Chocolate

"...And when all these had been eaten, a work composed expressly for ourselves, but dedicated more particularly to my father.... a cream of chocolate, inspired in the mind, created by the hand of Francoise, would be laid before us, light and fleeting as an 'occasional piece' of music, into which she had poured the whole of her talent" (Marcel Proust - Swann's Way)

On the dessert menu for the past few nights we have brought to life the spirit of the servant Francoise from the Marcel Proust novel Swann's Way and recreated Francoise's Cream of Chocolate. Guilty of having not yet started on Proust, this is what I consider the ideal introduction. This cream of chocolate is silky and exquisite.

Francoise's Cream of Chocolate
serves 6
100g plain cooking chocolate, broken into pieces
100g caster sugar
500ml milk
6 egg yolks

Preheat the oven to 130C. Bring the milk to the boil on the stove, add the chocolate pieces and let melt gently, stirring with a wooden spoon. In another bowl, whip the sugar with the egg yolks.
When the chocolate has completely melted, pour into the bowl with the eggs and sugar and mix quickly and vigorously. Pass through a strainer.
Pour the liquid into 6 small ramekin dishes (or coffee cups) and place in a bain-marie in the oven for about an hour (or until set). Leave to cool before serving.

11 Oktober 2006

onion cake and sweet wine

Another alcoholic must this Autumn is the Federweißer. This is a young, sweet, bubbly, still-fermenting wine with a high yeast content, lending it a cloudy appearance. It is typically made with green grapes but the red version is also becoming popular. Confronted by the dilemma of which to buy, I chose both.

Federweißer (feather-white) is enjoyed from September through to October and is traditionally accompanied by Zwiebelkuchen (onion cake).

Onion Cake
(recipe makes 16 slices)

200g butter
400g plain flour
5 medium eggs
500g onions
500g red onions (or leeks when your local store has no red onions)
2 Tbs oil
300g fresh cream
150g sour cream
salt and pepper
100g thinly sliced bacon

Cut the cold butter into small cubes. Kneed flour, butter, 2 eggs, 5 teaspoons cold water and a dash of salt to a smooth dough, Wrap up in plastic wrap and place in the kitchen for an hour. Meanwhile peel and slice the onions into rings. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Combine the fresh cream, sour cream and 3 eggs and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
Roll out the dough on a well-floured workbench into a square shape (ca. 34x41 cm). Place in a greased baking form (ca 32x39 cm) and raise the edges. Scatter the fried onion on the dough and pour over the cream. Lay the bacon over and bake for ca. 30 minutes.

05 Oktober 2006


At least 600km north-west of München, one tiny kitchen is belatedly helping the Bavarians celebrate Oktoberfest. Inspired by television clips of thousands of beer-drinkers dressed in dirndl and lederhosen, we've decided to do our thing for German breweries and pour the stuff straight into our main meal.

This dish, adapted from a Belgian braise, has a lovely malty quality, I think. We've used König Pilsener, a light coloured beer brewed in close-by Duisburg in accordance of course with the German Purity Law of 1516. The kitchen smelled amazingly warm and welcoming with this stew in the oven but it does take a hardy stomach to open up a bottle of beer early in the morning. Luckily, I am just the girl for this job.

Beef and Leeks Braised in König Pilsner (adapted from Julia Child)
serves 4
1kg piece of lean beef, cubed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 cups leek, finely sliced
salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic, mashed
1 cup beef stock
1 cup Pilsner
2 Tbs brown sugar
3 bay leaves
5 Tbs parsley, chopped
1 Tbs cornstarch
2 Tbs white vinegar

Heat the oven to 150 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a pan and brown the beef in batches. Set aside. Reduce the heat and fry the leek lightly for about 10 minutes, stirring. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper and add the garlic. Arrange the beef on the bottom of a casserole, season with salt and pepper and arrange the leeks over the top.
Heat up the stock in the original beef frying pan, scraping up the cooking juices and add the sugar. Pour this mix over the beef and leek and pour in the pilsner so that the leek is just covered. Add the bay leaves and parsley and bring to a simmer on the stove. Now cover and place in the oven and cook slowly for 2 and a half hours.
Blend the cornstarch together with the white vinegar. Remove the bay leaves from stew, drain the cooking liquid and pour into a small smallpan. Add the cornstarch and vinegar mix and simmer for 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour back into the meat.
Cover the casserole and slowly simmer on the stove. Serve with potatoes and more beer.

01 Oktober 2006

navel contemplation

Mr. Big has to work all weekend, our mini-break to the sea has been cancelled, it's raining and I am at home in danger of imitating a really desperate housewife. One who doesn't clean though. I am a bit bored. So I thought I'd contemplate another kind of navel and finally make my Dad's orange marmalade.

He has sent me a new and improved recipe. The only crucial factor is to get the proportions of fruit, sugar and water right and there should be no need to use commercial pectin.

He explains that jams are set by a "complex reaction of sugar, acid and pectin..citrus fruits and green apples are rich in acid and pectin. If the jam does not set, lemon juice can be added or a third by weight of crisp, green apples. Some people add a half a lemon which can be removed later, some tie lemon seeds in muslin which are fished out later, but as the seeds rise to the top they can easily be removed anyway. Finally, boiling for a longer time may also do the trick".

Happily, the proportions for this marmalade are just right as is and the jam worked out perfectly without resorting to any nifty tricks. Our apartment may still be a bit messy but it smells like a tropical holiday.

Orange Marmalade
750g oranges (look for fruit which is small and ripe)
1 lemon
1.5L water
1.25 kg sugar

Firstly, wash the fruit, then quarter and finely slice. Boil gently for 2-2.5 hours. Add the warmed sugar, heat gently til dissolved, then boil vigorously for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to stand for 10 minutes, then pour into glass jars.