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Galette des rois with poached pears and frangipane

6 January 2021

January 6.

An upgrade on the simple frangipane Galette des rois, which I wrote about a few years ago, this year I added poached pears. Actually I made two galettes, one with apple sauce and frangipane and blackcurrant jam, which sounds great but ended up too sweet — everyone agreed it would have been best just with applesauce, basically a giant ‘chausson aux pommes’ (a puff pastry pocket filled with apple sauce, a staple of every French patisserie), but that is straying too far from the spirit of galette, which in my mind needs almonds, non-negotiably. The winner is the galette with poached pears.

This year I also discovered a new home-made puff pastry recipe. I usually buy puff pastry if I can find the pure butter kind, but, unlike in France where it is a staple in every supermarket, or Switzerland where puff pastry can be bought at night in a snowstorm on a motorway stop (!), puff pastry can’t always be found on every street (or Autobahn) corner. And so I had to make my own. Cue the discovery of David Lebovitz’ Quick Puff Pastry, hidden under cover of his French Apple Tart. The recipe really is easy and works beautifully, even when quadrupled for 2 galettes, each with a top and bottom.

And so too a reminder that while Galettes des rois mark the celebration of Epiphany on the 6th of January, galettes and crowns and small children squatting under the table (read about the ritual here) aren’t confined to just one day, they should last, gleefully, all month.

Galette des Rois with poached pears and frangipane
Recipe for one galette about 30 cm (12″) in diameter

Puff pastry (store-bought pure butter puff or this easy recipe, in which case double the quantity)

Poached pears
3 pears
100 g (1/2 cup) sugar
150 ml water
1 slice of lemon

Frangipane (almond cream)
90 g (2/3 cup) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
70 g (1/3 cup) sugar
100 g (1 cup) ground almonds
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
Zest from half a small lemon
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 tsp rum
fève (dried fava bean or small porcelain figurine)

1 egg yolk and 1 Tbsp milk for the eggwash

The pears — Peel, core, and cut the pears into quarters. In a small-ish saucepan, heat the sugar and water until boiling. Add the pear quarters and the slice of lemon and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Let cool completely.

Meanwhile make the frangipane — In a medium bowl, beat the softened butter until creamy. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, almonds, and salt. Add this to the butter and mix well before beating in the egg until thoroughly combined. Stir in the lemon zest, almond extract, and rum. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Assembly — On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into two circles of the same size (about 30 cm or 12″). Use a pie dish or plate to trim the circles into neat edges.

Place one circle of dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread the frangipane on the dough, leaving an edge of a good 1 cm (1/2 inch) along the circumference. Place the fève randomly on the frangipane. Now cut each pear quarter lengthwise into two or three (depending on their size), and fan out in one layer onto the frangipane to cover it completely.

Make an egg wash by beating 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons milk lightly with a fork. Brush the egg wash along the circumference of the pastry kept free of frangipane and pear. Carefully place the second round of pastry on top and press along the edge thoroughly to seal. Using a sharp knife, make a design on the galette (carefully, without cutting through, except for a small whole in the middle to let the steam out while baking). Gently brush the whole galette with the remaining egg wash.

Place the assembled galette in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes (or overnight).

Baking — When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180°C (375°F) and remove the galette from the refrigerator.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the galette is golden brown.

Serve warm (lightly reheated if necessary) according to the following ritual —

The youngest child (person) hides under the table. The pieces of cake are distributed as the name of each person present is called out ‘blindly.’ Beware of the fève when eating the cake! The person who gets is queen (or king) for the day!

Any-which-way broth

10 December 2020

Rather than a recipe this is a reminder, a reminder that broth needs no recipe. In winter I make broth as frequently as possible, and every variation depends on the circumstances.

Sometimes, I plan ahead and buy beef bones and chicken carcasses at the butcher’s. If there is time, or if I intend to make pho, I might grill the bones in the oven first, with some halved onions and pieces of ginger.

I might add bay leaves or garlic cloves, celery stalks and peppercorns; always some acidity.

Sometimes, all it takes are some leftover chicken bones, from a whole chicken or just legs, covered with water and a few glugs of vinegar.

In most cases I let the broth cook for hours, sometimes days — I turn it off overnight and light the flame again in the morning, the pot often still warm. The length of time I let it cook has usually more to do with my availability to strain and store it, before which the broth needs a few hours to cool completely.

Once broth is in the house, any combination of vegetables becomes soup in one fell swoop and our favourite winter dinner: soup with bread and any combination cheeses, ham, saucisson, smoked mackerel, pickled herring, … — our winter version of Abendbrot. Occasionally there is purpose, as for pho or ramen, and the broth becomes the star. It can, at times, be an excuse for risotto. But often broth is just an intention, a promise, an investment. Hopefully, I never open a freezer empty of broth.

No recipe broth

Bones — chicken and/or beef. They can be raw, roasted specially, or leftover from another meal (leftover bones keep in the fridge no longer than 2 days, but can be stored in the freezer in a ziplock bag until needed).

Acidity — cider or red wine vinegar, or lemon juice, a large glug equivalent to a few of tablespoons

Aromatics — black peppercorns (a small handful), bay leaves, onions (skin on), unpeeled garlic, slices of ginger or fresh turmeric root, celery stalks, …

Salt — I usually salt the broth later when I want to use it, but salt can be added before cooking.

Place the bones in a large pot. Cover with cold water. Add acidity and aromatics as inspired. Bring to a boil and then simmer very gently for at least 2 hours and up to a couple of days, checking on the water level regularly and adding water as needed (the water does evaporate fairly quickly). I usually turn the broth off overnight or when I need to leave the house, and turn it on again when I can.

When ready, strain the bones and aromatics through a fine-mesh sieve and harvest the broth in a bowl. Let it cool completely before storing in the fridge (no longer than 2 days) or in the freezer.

Chicken liver mousse

13 November 2020

It used to be perfect for apéro, and since those days are on pause I’ve started making it regularly, for no particular reason. Every few weeks recently, so that it can be there for a quick lunch or ‘Abendbrot’ dinner (German for bread and cheese and cold cuts, in this house usually also with soup or salad), or even breakfast. It has become part of a rhythm, like my weekly bread.

Chicken livers in any form is one of my favourite things, and this has become indispensable. It’s always devoured and often fought over in this house. So easy to make (thirty minutes) and completely addictive.

Chicken liver mousse
This is very similar to my chicken liver terrine from ten years ago, but processed into an unctuous mousse. So in the absence of a food processor, the livers can be chopped by hand.

600g chicken livers
300g butter + Olive oil
3 shallots or small onions, thinly chopped
Fresh sage and/or thyme
Brandy and port (or marsala or Madeira, whatever is open and on hand)
Salt and pepper

‘Trim’ the chicken livers, meaning cut off the sinew and carefully remove any green (it’s the gallbladder which is bitter).

Melt the butter in small saucepan, reserving a large tablespoon to cook the livers. Once melted, remove from the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan with the reserved tablespoon of butter and a little olive oil. Add the shallots (or onions) and cook gently until translucent and just barely starting to brown.

Turn up the heat and add the livers, drained of any excess liquid (otherwise they will stew rather than brown). Cook over high heat, turning over once, for 3 to 4 minutes, until starting to brown.

Lower the heat to medium, add the herbs and give them a swirl in the pan to meld the aromas. Now add a few glugs of alcohol, about two tablespoons each of the sherry and marsala (or port).

Continue cooking for a minute or two until the livers are just cooked through (cut one open to check — it should be pink).

Transfer the livers and onions (take out the herbs) to a food processor. Process until blended. Add about 250g of the melted butter gradually to whip up a mousse. [=> Reserve just enough butter to cover the mousse with a layer of fat at the end.] Taste. Season generously with salt and pepper. Taste again.

Transfer the mousse to a bowl or terrine, cover with the remaining melted butter. Let cool before transferring to the fridge for a few hours at least.

The mousse keeps for a couple of days.

Autumn soups

9 November 2020

Occasionally (or, possibly, fairly often), I binge-buy vegetables. Last Wednesday was such a day. Whatever the reason — (ir)rational distractedness? — I apparently ordered, from our London supplier of local British produce Farm Direct, carrots, cauliflowers, broccoli, leeks, turnips, kohlrabi, pumpkin, celery stalks and root, onions, peppers… I may be forgetting something? — Mushrooms!

I rarely buy food with the intention of a specific recipe. Usually, especially with produce, it’s what looks good and is available, and since the season has changed there was exaggerated enthusiasm about all the new things. Which doesn’t solve the problem of what I will be doing with all of this, but an easy guess would be: soup!

Here are a few autumnal soups that I like going back to, over the years.

Creamy spiced lentil soup

A soup in shades of green

Spicy lentil and red kuri squash soup

Parsnip and butternut squash soup with sage

Soba noodle soup with meatballs and bok choy

Cream of cauliflower soup with salmon roe

Five-ingredient pumpkin leek soup

Pear and Stilton elevenses

23 October 2020

October 23. Cycling through the park speckled golden with leaves and sunlight this morning is a memory for today. Autumn at its most perfect. And already the sky is overcast, dulled and dreary, a few drops even. In London the weather changes five times a day, it’s about catching the rays.

This snack, which may just as well lengthen the sun or brighten a rainy morning, is my favourite thing in autumn.

Pear and Stilton elevenses

A perfectly ripe pear, peeled or not

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