Risotto with sea urchins and clams

I saw ‘oursins’ on the market, sea urchins. They look like spiky purple balls. Usually the fish monger has opened one up to show the orange “tongues” that are eaten. This way you can see the freshness. As with all sea food, the further away from the water, the more perishable it is.
Some people eat them raw, some with eggs, I made a risotto.
I happened to have a head of cod in the freezer and made a fish stock from that, with onion and fish stock herbs, otherwise you can make it from fish bones, left over fish or you can buy a cheap fish like catfish.
I added clams and some peas for the vitamins and colour effect.

Ingredients

  • 200 grammes Arborio rice
  • One litre of fish stock
  • 200 ml of white wine
  • Two shallots
  • 200 grammes of clams
  • Three sea urchins (or more if you like)
  • 100 grammes of frozen peas
  • Olive oil, butter
  • Saffron

Steps

  1. Dice the shallots, put butter and oil in a heavy pan and let the onion brown slightly.
  2. Add the rice, stir until the rice is becoming slightly translucent, then add the wine. Stir until evaporation.
  3. Lower the temperature and add the fish stock. The best way is to add small quantities and stir until evaporation before adding more, and continue for some 20 minutes. I add relatively much stock so that I can do other things in the kitchen while the rise is cooking, still stirring from time to time. I added saffron for a yellow colour.
  4. Open the urchins with the help of a pair of scissors. Take out the orange bits, called coral, and put them aside.
  5. Wash the clams and put them in a small pan with some water, heat until the clams open. Set aside. When cooled down, take the clams out of their shells.
  6. About five minutes before the end, add the peas to the rice mixture.
  7. When the risotto is ready, the rice should have a creamy texture but not be liquid. It should coat a spoon. Taste and add salt and or pepper if needed.
  8. Add the sea urchins and clams, stir and serve.

 

 

Deer with pumpkin, chestnut and carrots

We were having four days off due to the November 1 public holiday, for All Saints and All Souls, preceded by Halloween evening, and on the market there were many kinds of pumpkins. It is also the hunting season and I had a roast of deer, or venison. French markets often have venison in season, I also saw a leg of boar with one of the butchers.

In France, there are 1.3 million hunters and every year there are some 30 million animals killed. Mostly pigeon, pheasant, rabbit and duck. However, most of this bounty stays within the hunting groups or villages and gives rise to traditional venison meals. The venison on sale on French markets often also comes from other European countries (Belgium, Poland, England) or beyond (Ukraine). A label on the animal should show its origin. A house-like contour with an F means that it is French, hunted, venison while if the F is in an oblong contour is it “tame’ venison reared in France or elsewhere in the European Community.

All venison has a strong taste and can be tough to eat. Often the meat is marinated to make it more tender. The “doe roast”, or roti de biche in French, is relatively tender and does not need to be marinated. The roast I bought was very neatly tied up with strips of fat along the sides.

I used a “roasting bag” of plastic that prevents roasts from getting dry as it traps steam and taste inside. Without such a bag, it can be done in a dish, with regular basting. I chose pumpkin because of Halloween and added three kinds of carrots. In France there is a revival of “forgotten vegetables” and carrots are available in strange forms and various colours. I used red, yellow and white carrots. The red carrots have a very dominant colouring which gives off to the cooking water. They are best cooked apart or else the other carrots get painted red.
Ingredients

  • 1 roti de biche (750 grammes)
  • Bottle of red wine (Macon)
  • 12 large carrots of various colours
  • A big slice of pumpkin
  • 20 chestnuts
  • Two onions
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Star aniseed
  • Cloves
  • A bunch of aromatic herbs (bouquet garni)
  • Chilli peppers
  • Salt/pepper
  • Butter/olive oil

Steps

  1. Take the roast out of its wrapping, collect the bloody liquid.
  2. Put on paper napkins and, if it was in the fridge, allow it to come to room temperature.
  3. Clean the carrots and cut in uneven parts.
  4. Take the wiry texture out of the heart of the pumpkin, peel and dice.
  5. Make a cross-like incision in the bottom of the chestnuts, put them in a heat-proof dish and set in the oven for at least 20 minutes at 175 °C.
  6. After that time, test if the shells have let loose, if not; continue, if yes; take out and let cool.
  7. Slice the onion in half and stick cloves in them.
  8. Put in a pan with a crushed clove of garlic, a piece of peeled ginger, star aniseed, aromatic herbs and chilli peppers.
  9. Add water and bring to the boil, after 15 minutes, add half a bottle of red wine and continue cooking, and reducing, for another 15 minutes.
  10. Pour the liquid though a sieve and set aside.
  11. At this point, you need 45-60 minutes to finish and you can take a break until about an hour before the meal.
  12. The oven needs to be preheated at 200 °C.
  13. Put the roast in the plastic bag, add the “mulled-wine” liquid, tie the bag securely (the bag will balloon so do not give it too much volume or it may burst against hot parts of the oven).
  14. Put the bag in a heat-proof glassware dish and set in the over, reduce heat to 180 °C.
  15. Put the carrots and pumpkin in several pans of water, add salt and cook. When the chestnuts have cooled down, peel them and remove the flimsy pellicle.
  16. After about 25/30 minutes if you like the roast pink or 35-40 minutes if you prefer it well done, take the roast out of the oven.
  17. Open the bag – taking care to avoid getting scorched by the heat – and take out the meat and put on paper napkins to rest.
  18. Pour the liquid in a pan and reduce at high heat to get a sauce (taste at start but do not add any pepper or salt until the very end because the reduction of the sauce will concentrate the taste).
  19. Drain the carrots and pumpkin.
  20. After at least 15 minutes of rest, slice the roast.
  21. Present surrounded by carrots and pumpkin, add sauce and chestnuts. 
  22. Serve.

Sea bass with seafood

Several people have asked for the recipe of the dish that I used on top of my Facebook page. It is a picture I took for my entry in the “Tous en Cuisine” contest. I had to submit a recipe for a “plat salée” with a picture. At first I was at loss about what a salty dish was but in turned out the opposite of a sweet dish or dessert. So it had to be a main dish or starter.
I made papilottes of sea bass, with lime, cilantro and seafood. I was not selected, though, the finals are in late November.

Ingredients

  • A medium-sized sea bass. The best are caught with small boats but they are also the most expensive. Farmed sea bass is cheapest.
  • Six oysters
  • A handful of palourdes, clams
  • A bunch of cilantro
  • Fresh ginger
  • Four limes

Steps

  1. Skin de bass and lift the fillets. Make at least four rectangular pieces.
  2. Shuck the oysters and set aside.
  3. Clean the palourdes.
  4. Wash the cilantro and wrap in paper towel.
  5. Peel the ginger and slice a dozen matchstick-size “batonnettes”.
  6. Wash the limes and cut them in quarters.
  7. Preheat the oven to 200° C.
  8. Lay the fish fillets in aluminium foil and squeeze the juice of a quarter lime over it.
  9. Wrap them “en papilotte” that is, fold the foil to the top and twist the packages closed.
  10. Lay the parcels on the rack in the preheated oven, lower temperature to 150 °C and cook for 15 minutes. (Because of the heat and the contact with the rack, there will be brown stripes on the underside of the fish which looks interesting in the presentation).
  11. Put the palourdes in a skillet with some water and cook until the shells open.
  12. Let it cool down.
  13. Cut the cilantro.
  14. When the fish is ready, keep the oven on. Take out the parcels and lay the fish on an oven-proof dish, the striped side up.
  15. Scatter lime, cilantro and ginger around it.
  16. Then add the cooked clams and the raw oysters, add pepper.
  17. Put the dish back in the over for a few minutes to allow the oysters to set.
  18. It’s ready for serving.

On the picture you also see half a grilled head of fresh garlic, sesame seeds, Japanese pepper and some diced onion, but that is optional.

Cauliflower, cabbage and cheese

I am not a vegetarian but it is good not to always eat meat, poultry or fish.
So when I found some left-over vegetables in the larder, remains of an enthusiastic shopping spree on the Sunday market, it was not too hard to decide what to do.

I had a head of cauliflower and a quarter of red cabbage. The head was not very big but nicely firm so I cleaned it and pulled/sliced away the leaves. The red cabbage I cut in slices – with a knife, not in the kitchen machine. The machine is easy and quick but you have a lot of washing up to do and the cabbage shreds are very fine.

The vegetables went in two separate pans. The cauliflower was submerged in salted water, the cabbage only had a small level of water. After 15 to 20 minutes, you can test whether the vegetables are cooked. The cauliflower needs to remain firm, the cabbage tender. I had added cinnamon to the cabbage and you can also add apples.

I had set the oven on 150 °C. I drained the cabbage and put it at the bottom of a round dish. I took the cauliflower out of the water and put it on top of the cabbage. I sliced some Maroilles cheese and made incisions in the cauliflower. I put the cheese in the incisions and put the dish in the oven for 15 minutes.

That’s all there is to it. Nice, tasty and healthy.

Pot au feu

The ‘cauldron on the fire’ is a French winter dish with a very long history. The name evokes a large cauldron with water hanging above a wood fire in which meat and winter vegetables are slowly cooked
The methods of cooking have changed but in modern France too, this hearty dish remains popular in autumn and winter and supermarkets sell special meat and vegetable packs.
The dish is neither a soup nor a stew, it is almost a one-pan meal as you are supposed to first drink some of the beef stock and then eat the vegetables and meat separately, with gherkins and mustard for instance.
The difficulty lies in cooking the meat. Normally, when you want to have a tasty stock you cook the meat above boiling temperature so that the juices and taste flows from the meat to the stock. But if you want to cook meat in liquid, you would keep the temperature below the boiling point so that the taste of the cooking liquid is imparted to the meat while the meat keeps its taste.
The solution of the cauldron on the fire was that the temperature remained relatively low – the wood fire was maintained but not high – while the cooking time was long. That still applies today; slow cooking. However, that can mean that the cooking liquid remains relatively watery and some people want to keep the remainder of the stock for storage in the freezer to use later.
A solution, as in this recipe, is to take two kinds of meat; a fibrous and relatively cheap cut for the stock and a tender piece to be cooked in the stock towards the end of the time.
The choice of vegetables is almost endless. Onion and leek are important for the taste of the stock.
The cooking time of vegetables varies with their tenderness and their role in the dish. I use a base of onion, the green part of leeks, winter carrot and turnip as a base in the stock, while celery, smaller coloured carrots and the white of leeks are added towards the end to keep “bite” when presented with the stock. The cooking time is for at least three hours but it can take much longer. It helps when you plan in advance and start making the stock on one day and continue a following day. Overnight, any fat in the stock will have set on the surface of the cooled-down stock and will be easy to remove, if wanted.

Ingredients

  • 1 kilo of fibrous beef, such as gite or plat de cotes (brisket)
  • 500 grammes of tender meat, paleron, (silverside)
  • 4 leeks
  • 2 ognions
  • 1 turnip
  • 6 varied carrots
  • 2 marrow bones with marrow
  • laurel, pepper corns, salt, cloves
  • optional – root celery, rutabaga

Steps

  1. Lay the plat de cotes in two litres of water and slowly bring to the boil. When scum arrives at the top, remove with a slotted spoon.
  2. Lower the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile , peel the onions and put cloves in them, clean the leeks, leave them as long as the pan allows and tie them together in a bunch.
  4. Clean and cut the carrots and other vegetables. 
  5. Add the onions, parsnip, laurel and some salt to the pan.
  6. Simmer for another 30 mins before adding the leeks and carrots and continue for another 30 mins to one hour.
  7. Add the other meat to the pan, continue cooking and spoon off any new impurities.
  8. Lower the leeks in the pan and take them out again when tender (15 to 20 mins).
  9. Add the marrow bones and continue for 30 mins.
  10. At this stage, taste for salt and pepper and let it cool for at least 15 minutes if you tend to serve the same day or let it stand overnight.
  11. The following day, reheat slowly, take out the meat, bones and vegetables and cut it up.
  12. Remove herbs, cloves etc.
  13. Serve the meat, vegetables and stock separately

Because food is more than fuel for the body