We may be far flung, but some things never change, no matter where we are.
Today we headed out to the countryside around Castres for Sunday lunch with the Great Aunties Maïté and Claire. Maïté moved into her new house around the time the Marsupial was born, so I’d never been before. It’s a great country house in the perfect location – surrounded by rolling hills and old farms (and the odd Mc Mansion) but only a few minutes from town. And only 45 minutes from us. We DO have family nearby after all 🙂
Sunshine, violets, primavera, birdsong – might spring finally be here? It seems ungrateful to be so eager to see the backside of this winter, considering how relatively short and sweet it was (remember the Indian summer of 2014? it was warm til November here). But my mood has been unusually affected by the short days and cold weather this year (well, that and post partum crap). So, GOODBYE WINTER!! See You Next Time.
Maïté is also on a sugar free, dairy free, gluten free diet, so that was a perfect excuse to try out this recipe I dreamed up in the night. Vaguely (very vaguely) based on the clafoutis recipe Mom and we kids have used for years (3 eggs, 3 Ts flour, 3 Ts icing sugar, 3 Ts crème fraîche combined and poured over sliced fruit), this one is just as delicious. Theoretically you could make it with almost any cookable fruit, but because it is sugar free it’s probably best to use something a bit sweet. Pears worked perfectly.
Easy Peasy Pear Clafoutis
Peel, slice and arrange in an oiled pie dish:
- 4 pears
Combine and pour over the fruit:
- 3 eggs (beaten)
- 4 heaping tablespoons of powdered almonds
- 4 heaping tablespoons of coconut cream
- a few drops of vanilla extract
Bake for 25 minutes at 200°C.
I added powdered almond to give them some weight. My version does not taste sweet (I left out the honey, coconut sugar and chocolate chunks), so one must readjust ones taste expectations. This is the cookie for when you have a CHOCOLATE CRAVING you just can’t ignore. The cocoa taste is crazy strong – I love it – but I only eat chocolate with 98% cocoa and I’ve been told thats an acquired taste, so maybe this one isn’t for everyone. (EDIT: definitely not for everyone. H hated them. I made the mistake of telling him they were cookies and forgetting to tell him they were sugar free. He is still busy telling me, as I type, that I am forbidden from bringing them to people’s houses or taking them out in public. So, I recommend these only if you’ve been on a sugar free diet for a while. Because to me they taste DELICIOUS).
Avocado Banana Chocolate Cookies
Blast with hand mixer:
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 ripe banana
- 1 egg
- ½ cup cocoa powder (100% cocoa)
- ½ cup powdered almond
- pinch bicarbonate of soda
- pinch salt
Drop spoonfuls onto parchment paper and bake for 8 minutes at 180°C.
I made this as a cake last week-end to take to H’s cousins’ home. It turned out a bit dense, and even the lemon zest cream cheese icing didn’t quite turn it into what I was hoping for. It was too bread-y, and not cake-y enough. I thought it would work better as a loaf, eaten for breakfast or goûter with some yoghurt, butter or cream cheese spread on it. And voilà, it does.
I used sweet potato, but I’m guessing butternut or pumpkin would work equally well. Last week I made it with butter as I was straying from my diet, but this week I went back to dairy-free and used rapeseed oil instead.
Originally inspired by a recipe on Happy Sugar Habits, I tweaked this a bit to fit with my diet and what I had in the cupboards.
Sweet Potato Bread
Combine dry ingredients:
- 1 ½ cups flour (I used a mix of spelt and wheat)
- ¾ cups desiccated coconut
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- spices (I used allspice, ginger and cinnamon)
- pinch salt
- raisins (or walnuts, pecans, etc.)
Whisk wet ingredients:
- 2 eggs (beaten)
- 3 Tbsp rapeseed oil
- 4 Tbsp coconut cream
Add wet to dry ingredients and beat together. Mash in:
- 1 cup sweet potato (baked and mashed)
Press into an oiled and floured loaf tin and bake at 180°C for 45-55 minutes.
This is just for me and I think it will stretch for about 3 breakfasts – I awake ravenous from a night of nursing the Miniature Night Master.
This is my second time making The Christmas Cake. The last time was when my whole family went to Australia for Christmas, and I stayed in France, working at Hidden Cabin. It was SO MUCH FUN calling up Mom and Dad with business-related questions and for it to already be cocktail o’clock Down Under. I just LOVED being all alone in the freezing cold office while they were having barbecued lobster on the beach in Santa hats. So anyway, I made the cakes, and undercooked them, and brought them to my then-boyfriend’s parents’ home for Christmas. They didn’t really get the awesome concept of whiskey-soaked (underbaked) fruit cake so I ended up eating most of it myself. I did not get salmonella.
This time round I took my time (3 days) and did it right. Hopefully. We’ll find out on Christmas Day.
Now I just have to remember to “feed the cake” every night 🙂
‘Tis the season of cardoons here in Morocco. Google image “cardoon” if you’ve never seen them. Wikipedia says:
The cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), also called the artichoke thistle, cardone, cardoni, carduni or cardi, is a thistle-like plant in the family Asteraceae. It is the naturally occurring form of the same species as the globe artichoke, and has many cultivated varieties. It is native to the western and central Mediterranean region, where it was domesticated in ancient times.
The few times I’ve had them cooked à la marocaine, I’ve found them a bit mushy and not very interesting. But H brought some back from the market a few weeks ago and I found out I do actually like them, if they’re cooked al dente. In fact I liked them so much I asked him to get more. They have a lovely artichoke flavour, and taste so ridiculously nutritious they beg to be followed by a sweet, rich dessert to make up for all that healthiness.
To prep the cardoons, chop them into 4cm long pieces and pare down to remove any spines or extra stringy bits. Wait until the last minute to rinse in cold water (otherwise they apparently get viscous as they cook).
I started out by making a tomato sauce (carrots, peeled and diced fresh tomatoes, red peppers, tomato concentrate and garlic) and letting that reduce to nice sauciness. I made it with lamb chops this time, but had I been making it with tajine bits of lamb I would have browned the meat first and cooked it with the tomato sauce.
Add lamb chops and simmer til just cooked.
Remove chops (so as to not overcook). Add cardoons and simmer until al dente. Put the lamb back in and cook for another minute, adding peel of preserved lemon (or juice of a lemon if you don’t have preserved lemon).
The longest step in this recipe is preparing the cardoons. Otherwise a fast and tasty meal that I look forward to making again. I bet it would be good with wild rice if you feel it’s lacking a carb.
Vocab tidbit for Dad (and Hélène): cardoon is from the same family as artichoke and chard, and thistle (and guess what that is in French? “chardon”!), and the French “cardes” (a similar plant) – and perhaps from the same family as a certain Mademoiselle Hélène!