Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

In the early 1990s dulce de leche was in every supermarket and every recipe magazine. You just couldn't avoid it unless you hid in a cave far from civilisation. In those long lost days I decided it would be a spiffing idea to use the abundant supply of dulce de leche to make some ice cream. It turned out to be very easy to put together and very pleasant indeed to eat. And so I kept making it. In fact, I made it so often that people begged me to stop kindly suggested that I should maybe try another flavour.

So I moved on to other types of iced delight and forgot all about dulce de leche ice cream. Then, a few days ago, I came across a notebook from my younger days that wittered on about this ice cream and I really wanted to try it one more time. My very cheap ice cream machine is a simple freeze-ahead bowl type that's not particularly efficient but that's all you need for this ice cream. In fact, you could make this without a machine at all if you put the mixture in the freezer and wizz it up in a food processor part way through freezing. (Some of the basic ice cream machines available these days are a fair bit less expensive than in the 1990s and I think that they're not a bad investment if you're keen on a bit of ice cream).
Dulce de Leche Ice Cream
It may be my memory playing tricks but there did seem to be more uniformity in the dulce de leche that was available back in the 1990s. It always seemed to be thick and very smooth. Some of the product available now seems a little thinner and, as a result, you may need to vary the amount of dulce de leche that you use in the recipe. Back then I used roughly half an average jar (225 g) but you may need to increase that amount a little. The idea is to create something that's the thickness of a custard and coats the back of a wooden spoon in the first stage of this recipe. Of course, I'm assuming that you don't have time to make your own dulce de leche, but I applaud you if you do make the effort.

I reckon that this serves around six people but that does depend on just how much you like ice cream and what you feel like serving with it.

225 g - 300 g (depending on thickness, see above) dulce de leche
340 ml full fat milk
225 g whipping (or double) cream
2 tsp Frangelico liqueur (you can leave this out or add a different liqueur if that’s what you have or what you fancy)

Dissolve the dulce de leche thoroughly in the milk by heating gently and stirring continuously. It won't take long to dissolve but be careful to avoid the mixture boiling. This should create a “custard” that coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and chill thoroughly.

Combine the chilled “custard” with the cream and liqueur. Pour into the ice cream machine and let it do its stuff.

I usually made fresh batches of this ice cream shortly before eating it but if it's stored in the freezer for a while then it will be better if softened for 20 minutes or so in the fridge before serving.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Gâteau au Chocolat de Nancy

I have it on good authority that this is an ancient type of gâteau from Nancy in north-eastern France although I have to confess that I couldn't find a recipe that's older than the 1960s (due to poor research, no doubt).

It's one of those classic flourless cakes which, in this case, is enriched with chocolate. There are some recipes that do add a little flour, which will help to stabilise the cake but I'm hoping that this flourless version is as light and pure in flavour as the real thing should be. It's a recipe that's easy to remember. Essentially it's equal amounts of each ingredient (if you consider the ground almonds and potato flour as a single entity) plus eggs.

This is not the only type of cake that you might find described as a Gâteau de Nancy. The citizens of Nancy seem to have a number of treats at their disposal from large meringue confections to macarons and cakes flavoured with the local plum liqueur. They are obviously wise and happy people.
Gateau de Nancy
A small slice is lovely with coffee but the cake really comes into its own as a dessert served with a little crème anglaise or crème fraîche and maybe a few choice raspberries.

125 g unsalted butter, softened, plus a little extra for the tin
125 g dark chocolate
125 g caster sugar
90 g ground almonds
35 g potato flour, sifted
4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 170ºC. Line the base and butter a 20 cm round cake tin - a springform tin is ideal if you have one.

Melt the chocolate either in a microwave or in a bowl over simmering water. Put the melted chocolate in the bowl of a mixer (make sure it's not too hot) and add the butter. Beat together thoroughly. While that's happening, separate the eggs. Beat the egg yolks into the butter and chocolate mixture one at a time. Add the sugar and beat in thoroughly. Add the ground almonds and mix in.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Stir a couple of tablespoons of the whisked egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen it a little and then carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites together with the potato flour.

Put the mixture into the prepared tin and gently level the top. Bake for around 25 minutes. Check that the cake is ready with a knife point in the centre. The middle of the cake should still be moist and you may see a few sticky crumbs on the knife but it shouldn't be liquid.

Remove the cake from the tin as soon as possible: leaving the cake in the tin seems to increase the chance of the top cracking and sinking too much. The cake will be fragile so be careful. Allow to cool on a rack. Many bakers seem to sprinkle this cake with icing sugar but I've noticed that bakers from Nancy don't sprinkle and so I haven't either in a belated and haphazard attempt at authenticity.
Gateau de Nancy
I feel like a bit of an outsider in the world of blog link-ups these days and so I don't usually take part. But this month Tin and Thyme is hosting the last ever We Should Cocoa link-up and so, for old times' sake, I'm submitting this cake. Over the years We Should Cocoa has been the home of many very fine, very chocolatey recipes and I'm wishing it a fond farewell.

Friday, 27 July 2018

A Delinquent Sort Of Muxu and a Glass (or Two) of Kalimoxto

You may well imagine that I'm a sophisticated and elegant man-about-town but allow me to disabuse you a little. I can be a thoroughgoing tatterdemalion if I put my mind to it. I was going through a slovenly phase (it was my butler's night off) when I put the following together. I'm probably in a lot of trouble with the people of the Basque region for mucking about with these local specialities but I swear that I do it with a great fondness and respect and only partly because I've had a glass or two of kalimoxto.

Let's start with my errant sort of muxu….Muxus

I fancied something to go with my evening espresso and so I made this inelegant, chocolatey sort of muxu. A few years ago it became the thing (at least among food bloggers) to create sophisticated, professional looking macarons. Quality patisserie is a wonderful thing but it's not what I usually enjoy baking and I'm rather glad that we've moved on a bit. The real muxu is a refined Basque speciality and mine are not the real thing: they're an idiosyncratic, delinquent tribute to the original. They're also simple to make and perfect with coffee. They do bear a distant resemblance to the sophisticated macaron although they'll almost certainly deny it. 

200 g caster sugar
250 g ground almonds (ideally not too fine if you're as haphazard as me)
100 g cocoa powder (preferably a good quality, dark and unsweetened powder)
½ tsp vanilla powder (not essential, but I like it)
4 large egg whites

Thoroughly mix together the sugar, almonds, vanilla and cocoa powder. Whisk the egg whites to the soft peak stage. Gently stir the egg whites into the dry ingredients. This will give you quite a firm mixture - don't worry, that's fine. Any serious baker would probably reach for a piping bag but I just spoon the mixture into circles of around 5 cm diameter on lined baking sheets. You should get around 24 - 28 circles of mixture, but don't worry if you get more or less - you can just shorten or lengthen the cooking time a little to make up for it. 

You now need to set the trays aside to let the crust of the muxus dry for at least 1 or 2 hours or even overnight. If you want to speed the process up, put the trays in a fan oven that's switched on without any heat.

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C. Just before putting into the oven, use a very sharp knife to cut a shallow slash across each dollop. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes. When cooked, the muxus should be crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle.

Traditionally two pieces should be sandwiched together, base to base, while still fairly hot from the oven - they will stick together quite easily. (It's how they get their name - muxu means ‘kiss’ in Basque I'm told). But keep them separate if that's what you fancy. You could also add just a little orange marmalade mixed with a touch of Cointreau to the base of the muxus before joining together. They'll store well enough in an airtight container, but they'll be more chewy than crisp after a day or so. No less tasty, though. Muxus
If you want the real muxu experience then go to la maison Pariès and, if you happen to find yourself in St Jean de Luz (or Biarritz or Paris for that matter), then why on earth wouldn't you go there? By the way (pardon my nerdiness), muxus are often called mouchous, which is a much more French looking name.
Saint Jean de Luz   
And now that we've worked up a thirst, how about a kalimoxto?

The kalimoxto is the easiest and the least stylish “cocktail” I know. In fact, you might think that I've finally taken leave of my senses. But don't knock kalimoxto till you've tried it. Obviously once you've tried it there's a pretty good chance that you'll knock it with considerable vigour. See if I care; I still like it.

I don't think I should tell you precisely which sort of wine to use, but please don't choose an expensive one. Something fruity, pleasant and reasonably cheap should do the job. Just remember to stick it in the fridge before you're thirsty. I should also be using a cheap cola I suppose but I'm a fan of some of the newer and expensive colas, especially Fever Tree Madagascan Cola and Fentimans Curiosity Cola, and so that's what I use.

Put plenty of ice cubes into a tall glass (preferably a very cheap one). Half fill the glass with chilled red wine and top up with chilled cola. Add a generous squeeze of lime. Drink.
One Too Many Muxus

Monday, 2 July 2018

Pigeon Breasts with Pomegranate Molasses and Soy Sauce

Pigeon is a very underused meat (at least it is in the UK) but it's far too nice to ignore. I remember that it became quite a trendy thing to eat in the 1980s, often in warm salads or served with soy sauce and sesame. Then it seemed to fade away again. Admittedly pigeon does have disadvantages - there's not a huge amount of meat on a pigeon and what there is can be tough. But it really doesn't have to be like that.

This sauce is based loosely on a Ming Tsai recipe from the 1990s (if memory serves) and the whole dish is simple to put together. Do make sure that you allow enough time for the marinade to do its work, though. I served the pigeon with simply steamed potatoes and roasted beetroot this time, but rice or mash (sweet potato mash, maybe) would be fine and dandy too. You could also ease off on the amount of sauce and make the pigeon the star of a warm salad with interesting leaves, new potatoes and whatever else you fancy. (That's a very 1980s option but it's one that's worth reviving).

I find that it's easier to get hold of pigeon breasts than whole pigeons these days, but if you're faced with whole pigeons, then remove the breasts and make a stock with the rest of the birds. I know that might sound like a bit of a faff but pigeon stock is lovely stuff and really useful for casseroles and sauces.

Sorry about the quality of the picture - it's what happens when you use a camera that's punching above its weight in the dark.

Pigeon Breasts with Pomegranate Molasses

This will serve 2 people.

For the marinade:
          3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
          2 tbsp light soy sauce
          1 tbsp honey
          1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
          1 clove of garlic, crushed or grated
          about 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

4 pigeon breasts, skin removed

Mix together all the marinade ingredients, pour over the pigeon breasts and place in the fridge for around 2 hours.

Drain the breasts, reserving the marinade, and fry in a little oil over a medium heat for about 4 minutes, turning once. The pigeon should be cooked but still quite rare. It's really easy to overcook the pigeon and end up with tough meat, so keep an eye on the time.

Remove the breasts from the pan and set aside but keep them warm. Pour the marinade into the pan, turn up the heat and reduce the amount of liquid a little (or as much as you fancy). Immediately before serving return the pigeon breasts briefly to the pan and coat in the sauce.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

RB’s Lemon Cake

Many people have bucket lists consisting of adventurous or highly dangerous activities like skydiving or eating at a restaurant on its opening day. But I have a bucket list of cakes. I'm much happier that way. Here's one I've just ticked off on that list.

Many of the recipes that I publish on this blog are not particularly well known or are hard to find elsewhere. (My theory being that at least I'll know where to find them when I want them next time). This cake is an exception. It's really well known (at least, it is in the UK). You might have seen it on TV, on a recipe site, in blogs, in a book, in a magazine or you may have been lucky enough to try it yourself. I've made a lot of lemon cakes over the years but, despite my best intentions, I hadn't made this one until now.
RB's Lemon Cake
Many years ago Raymond Blanc began making and serving this cake to guests at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire and it's still made and served there today. It's actually a pretty easy cake to put together. The only tricky bit is getting the glaze just right. That's a bit of a faff, but it does give the cake a lovely finish and I'm convinced it's worth the effort.

You can find the recipe here or here (and probably quite a few other places too).
RB's Lemon Cake
I've heard this cake described as the ultimate lemon cake by some but also as a madeira style of cake with extra lemon and not really that special by others. So, is it the best lemon cake you can make? Well, sat here paying bills on a cloudy afternoon in Surrey it's unquestionably an extremely pleasant cake to lift the gloom and, yes, it's a little like a light madeira cake in texture.

On the other hand, if you happen to be whiling away a sunny afternoon on the lawns outside the Manoir after playing an incompetent and farcical game of croquet, would this be the best lemon cake you could imagine? Oh yes, very probably.
Le Manoir

Thursday, 17 May 2018


Fallue isn't an obscure Shakespearean character, it's actually one of the types of brioche that you might come across in Normandy. It's less sweet than some and uses crème fraîche instead of some of the usual butter. I promised to get around to posting this recipe when I said it was the chosen partner for teurgoule, although you really don't have to make a teurgoule to enjoy this bread.

I know that all good food bloggers should spend many happy hours mixing and kneading their bread by hand and that would be nice but I honestly don't have the time. I use a bread machine to prepare this dough and I don't care who knows it. Of course, you can make the dough in a much more traditional way if you wish. Unlike some brioche recipes, this is very simple to put together and even simpler if you use a machine.
I'm not claiming that this is an authentic fallue but it is based on some genuine Normandy recipes that I've had ferreted away for some time and that I've adapted a little for machine preparation. Fallue is usually embellished by snipping around the top of the risen loaf with scissors just before baking. This creates a sort of crown on top of the loaf. I must admit that I only make a token effort at doing this because I usually slice brioche or fallue as soon as they're cool which means that nobody's going to notice.

This will make 1 large (and I do mean large) loaf but it's a size that suits my bread machine and keeps my freezer stocked up. I use a Panasonic bread machine and add the ingredients in the order given below. Other bread machines recommend that liquids should be added first, so check the instructions for yours.

At the risk of being even duller than usual, I think a couple of notes on the ingredients might be useful.

The flour - I used a French T65 bread flour for this recipe although I know that some bakers prefer T55 for this kind of loaf. You can buy T65 flour in the UK but any strong bread flour will do the job, although you might need to add a little milk if the flour you use is very absorbent. If you do use a French flour then you may find the bread won't keep fresh for as long, so freeze any slices that you can't eat reasonably quickly.

The crème fraîche - This needs to be thick but pourable and a full fat version would be best. Where I live in the south of England there's quite a wide choice of types of crème fraîche but I know that's not the case everywhere. Very fresh crème fraîche is often used for baking in Normandy and that really isn't particularly sour so it's probably best to avoid using sour cream as a substitute. It would be better to use a pourable, double (or heavy) cream in this recipe if you can't find suitable crème fraîche.
Lait Special
16 g fresh yeast, crumbled (or substitute 7 or 8 g of dried, fast-acting yeast).
500 g bread (T65) flour (see above)
50 g golden caster sugar
Pinch of salt
100 g unsalted butter, thoroughly softened
100 g thick (but not solid) crème fraîche (or double cream, see above)
5 eggs, lightly beaten + 1 for a glaze

Add all the ingredients (except the extra egg used for the glaze) to your bread machine in the order given unless your instructions tell you to add liquids first, in which case reverse the order (see above). Set the machine to work on a standard dough program, which will probably take somewhere around 2 or 2½ hours.

Once the program has finished, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knock back to deflate it. (The dough will be quite sticky, but don't worry, that's normal). Gently form the dough into a sausage-shaped loaf of around 30 - 33 cm in length and place onto a lined baking sheet.  Put the dough somewhere warm and let it rise again for between one and two hours until it's roughly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 180⁰C. If you want to create the “crown” then snip around the top of the fallue with kitchen scissors to make a ring of spikes. (This is much the same process as creating the spikes on hedgehog bread, if you've ever tried that). Make an egg wash by mixing the remaining egg with a little water and use it to brush the top of the fallue. Bake for around 25 minutes until the fallue is golden on top and sounds nicely hollow when tapped. (Be gentle when testing because the crust is not very robust while hot). Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Slice and serve with teurgoule if you're feeling authentic or just enjoy some slices as part of a lazy breakfast with butter (from Normandy, if possible) and plenty of jam.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018


In Normandy every Sunday morning in accordance with ancient tradition the fearless men of the Calvados region gather with their forks and hope to hunt the wild and menacing teurgoule.

OK, I'm lying. Teurgoule is indeed a speciality of the Calvados area but, let's not beat around the Normandy bush, it's a type of rice pudding.

There are a number of stories about the origin of this simple speciality but I'm not sufficiently knowledgeable or gullible to say if they're true or not. So let's just say that this is a very slowly cooked rice pudding that's usually flavoured with cinnamon. That may seem a bit of an incongruous flavour for northern France but once upon a time spices, including cinnamon, would come ashore at Honfleur and the other ports along the Normandy coast. As for the strange name, there are plenty of explanations and it's often translated as “twisted mouth” but, since it has more of a patois or slang origin, I think that “mangled mug” might be better. The implication seems to be that you'll be gobsmacked at how nice it tastes once you try it.

Traditionally this dish should be made in an earthenware bowl but a good, old-fashioned British pudding basin will work just fine. It needs to have a capacity of a little over 1 litre but, ideally, not much more than 1 litre.
As with so many traditional and regional French dishes, I’m pleased to say that the teurgoule has a confrerie to preserve and promote it and this is pretty close to the approved and official recipe. To be honest, I'm not that fond of cinnamon and I replace it with vanilla powder (my apologies to the members of the confrerie).

I'd expect this to serve 4 people but I know that there are some blighters who can't stop eating this pudding once they start so it's best to have plenty.

75 g short grain (pudding) rice
90 g golden caster sugar (actually, pure white is more usual but I prefer golden)
1 tsp ground cinnamon or vanilla powder
Pinch of salt
1 litre whole milk

Preheat the oven to 150⁰C. Mix the rice, sugar, salt and cinnamon or vanilla together and place in the bottom of your chosen dish or basin. Pour the milk gently over the rice mixture, being careful to avoid disturbing it too much. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes.

Turn the oven temperature down to 110⁰C and continue cooking for 4 - 4½ hours. (Yes, it  really does take that long). When the teurgoule is ready the top will have become dark brown and look slightly alien but the mixture underneath will still have a bit of a wobble if you tip the bowl. The teurgoule will thicken a little as it cools.

Allow the teurgoule to cool and, if you're not eating it immediately, store in the fridge. Either way, I thinks it's best served at or close to room temperature but serve it hot or very cold if that's what you fancy - it will taste good at all temperatures. There always seems to be disagreement in Britain between lovers and haters of rice pudding skin. Teurgoule is cooked for so long that the skin resembles leather in my opinion. I may well serve up the skin but that's largely to prove that it's been cooked authentically. I expect everyone to push it aside and refuse to eat it.
The confrerie will tell you that teurgoule should be eaten alongside fallue and I'm certainly not going to argue with that. Fallue is hard to find outside of Calvados and a decent brioche will do in its place (I'm in so much trouble with the confrerie for saying that). If I don't get too distracted, I may get around to a post about fallue shortly.