samedi 26 avril 2014

Kale, roasted almonds and oranges salad with a velvety garlic-chocolate-balsamic sauce

M and I live in London. It’s always moving, buzzing with life, vibrating with restaurants, bars and cafés to discover, buildings to visit, parks to loiter in… you name it, London has it! And we enjoy every minute of our life here.

Except when we don’t anymore. There always comes a point when we are longing for the smell of damp earth, the silence of nature, the ruffled noise of leaves and the appeasing greenery of the countryside. We are lucky that London has so many green spaces and parks, but it doesn’t replace a weekend in a truly rural area. 

When we lived in Paris we simply used to go to the country house for 2 days and would come back fully regenerated. As we do not have this luxury here, we made the most of our Easter weekend!

Hang in there you won’t believe it: we went camping in Northern Wales! Yep, that’s how bad we missed nature: we wanted to be alone, in the woods, far from civilisation. 

Now, it doesn’t sound very exotic, but I can assure you that there is little need to go far to see beautiful scenery, observe the busy lives of birds, sight one, no two deer during a hike and sleep among golden pheasants and woodpeckers. And don’t get me started on the sheep. No I know they are not wild, but (Northern) Wales is the land of sheep. They are everywhere! On the grass, the meadows, the roads, the gardens… And guess what!?  They are not all the same! Brown, fluffy whites, creamy, skinny, patched… all lovely and peacefully grazing in the sun with their youngsters. For my Easter I saw lambs jumping around rather than in my plate, it was refreshing  ;)

M used to be a scout, even a chief, so camping was all natural for him. Now you have to imagine that I used to be the kind of little girl who would recoil at the sight of mud and certainly wouldn’t dream of sleeping in a tent in the middle of the forest. No thank you, I was happy with my dreams of princesses and white castles.

Well nature has grown on me since then and exhausted with the urban noise, pollution and greyness (where on Earth did that White Castle go??), I arrived home one evening announcing to M that we were going wild camping for Easter weekend. He looked slightly puzzled but didn’t comment and set up to organise everything (I would have forgotten all the useful things like the pocket light or the pots and pans…what do you mean it’s pitch dark in the forest once the sun has set!??).

So off we went, randomly choosing hiking spots, walking, breathing, panting, regenerating and planting our tent where we found a nice, flat (what do you mean duh?) hidden spot in the forest.

Now I have to confess we spent the last night in a Bed & Breakfast. It was pouring rain since the middle of the afternoon and the wind was blowing wildly. I would have enjoyed the noise of the rain and the wind once I was comfy IN the tent, IN the duvet, but the prospect of pitching the tent, unpacking our bags, lighting a fire and having dinner in the downpour was not exactly alluring… BUT our B&B was lost on the far side of a lake, in the middle of nature, the owner was a lovely lady and we had an amazing Welsh/English breakfast in the sun, in very flowery china and with home-made jam. I nice end to our trip!

The following recipe is not Welsh, but I discovered it in the Green Me Up blog when we came back and it reminded me of the colours of the forest. I have modified the original recipe slightly to make it more chocolaty. Qu’est-ce que vous voulez, on ne se refait pas!

Serves 2

For the salad

4 handfuls of washed and cut kale leaves*

1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon of walnut oil (I didn’t have walnut oil so I used olive oil instead)

1 shallot

1 orange

1 handful of roasted almonds**

For the sauce

3 plump garlic cloves (fresh garlic is the best but non fresh will be perfect too

1 teaspoon of olive oil

2 full teaspoons of creamy honey

40 ml of water

1 teaspoon of powder cocoa

30g of cooking chocolate (min 70% cocoa)

30 ml balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon of almond purée

*Preparing the kale: cut around the stem of the kale leaves. Then cut the leaves roughly with a knife. Wash and spin the kale as you would with salad.

**Roasting almonds is probably the easiest thing ever. Just pop them into the oven, use the grill and…roast! It varies but when you start seeing cracks and smoke emanating from the nuts it’s ready. It works with hazelnuts and other nuts as well. I always make a lot and keep them in a bowl ready to use/eat.

The sauce: Peel and slice very thinly the garlic cloves. Mix the olive oil and the vinegar in the pan and heat gently. Add the garlic almost immediately and let it roast. Once it’s slightly golden turn off the heat and set aside.

In a small pot, start heating the water and once it’s warm (not boiling), add the cocoa and the chocolate. Mix on the heat until you obtain a smooth sauce. Add the balsamic vinegar and gently bring to a simmer for about 20 seconds. The sauce should never boil to avoid cooking the chocolate. Keep mixing often during the process.

Turn off the heat and add in the almond puree and the garlic with the honey and olive oil sauce. Mix well and keep it aside to let it cool down and thicken.

In the meantime, prepare the salad.

The salad: Energetically massage the kale with the teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and the ½ teaspoon of oil for 5-10 minutes. Cut the shallot in small pieces. Peel the orange and separate the segments. Cut them in half. Roughly cut the roasted almonds into smaller pieces. Mix all the salad ingredients.

jeudi 17 avril 2014

Exotic Chocolate Coco Bar

Chocolate Coco Bar

Ok it looks like I use another name to talk about a Bounty. That’s right because I tried to reproduce it. A homemade version with no extra unnecessary ingredients and where the coco has a genuine natural taste, which is stronger than the sugar.

Weeks ago we bought a Coconut (a real one), just for the fun of it, and that’s where it all began.
How to open a coconut? We looked at different internet videos. Apparently, one good method is to use the opposite side of the blade of a large knife. Use it to repeatedly give some blows on one line around the coconut. You will create a crack in the coconut which will eventually break. Catch the water in a glass for yourself.  To be honest we did it the amateur way, with repeated blows with the blade. It worked but there were bits of wood in the coconut and we couldn’t really keep the juice.
We had a few bits. It’s much more acid than the coco taste we are used to so we left a lot of it in the fridge for a few days, wondering what to do with it. The coconut started to dry. And that’s when it’s ready for the Chocolate Coco Bar.

Ingredients for 7 (plump) bars:

-          200 g grated coconut

-          200 g sweetened  condensed milk

-          100 g black chocolate (you can have milk one but dark is much much better)

-          20 g butter

Mix the grated coconut with the sweetened condensed milk in a bowl.
Make some sausage-shaped rolls of about 7 cm / 3 cm. Place the preparation in a frozen plate. This is not easy because of the sugar in the milk. All your fingers will be sticky.
Place in the freezer for minimum 2 hours.

Put the chocolate and butter in a bowl and mix in a bain-marie to make it liquid (I cheated by using the microwave). I used two chopsticks to soak the coco bars into the chocolate. Then put the bars back to the frozen plate.

Just time to have diner and the bars where ready!
Chocolate Coco Bar

lundi 14 avril 2014

Creamy Avocado Pasta

I don’t know about you, but as much as I love cooking, there are some evenings when I really don’t feel like lifting a spoon. 

However, there is never an evening when I don’t feel like having something full of flavours and heart-contenting for diner. 

Dilemma dilemma…

That’s why I have started to compile a few very simple recipes. 

I want to share this one with you today. It’s from the blog Oh She Glows

Both M and I were astonished by how good it is. As a matter of fact I am on my way to cook some right now!

Serves 2

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced + lemon zest to garnish
  • 1-3 garlic cloves, to taste (I love garlic and we use 2 to keep the balance with the smoothness of the avocado)
  • A healthy pinch of salt
  • About 10 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 servings of your choice of pasta (We prefer it with spaghetti)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Bring water to a boil in a pot. Add in your pasta, reduce heat to medium, and cook as per instructions.

2. In the meantime, prepare the sauce by placing all the remaining ingredients in a food processor. Mix until the preparation is smooth and creamy. 

3. Grate the lemon zest and keep on the side.

4. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and serve. Pour on the creamy avocado sauce and toss until fully combined. Garnish with lemon zest and black pepper. Serve immediately.

You cannot microwave this dish once the avocado cream has been added to the pasta. However if you keep the surplus in the fridge, you can use it for several days.

We're about to tuck in!!