Mar 1 2018
The perfect accompaniments by the perfect hosts
Here’s Part II of our beautiful Sunday with the Cojans in Fontainebleau last spring and their most kind hospitality. We arrived around 10:30am and Isabelle had put together a variety of snack bowls in the living room. It was my first taste of French breakfast radish and it was one of the most amazing things I have ever tasted! Crisp, sweet and with a bite to it. The cherry tomatoes were also unbelievably sweet and tart at the same time. Maybe it’s just me, but I love the idea of serving bowls of baby vegetables as a snack.
For lunch, Isabelle started making her mum’s recipe of Gougère and Jean-Pierre was preparing his signature strawberry sherbet (with their home grown strawberries picked in the summer by the grandchildren and frozen for storage) for dessert.
Gougère is a baked savoury choux pastry made of choux dough mixed with cheese. There are many variants such as using Gruyère or Comté cheese but here Isabelle used grated Emmental cheese.
One of the crucial step of making a succesful dough is to keep stirring on the stove top on low heat. The dough gets thicker and harder to stir – great arm exercise before stuffing your face with these delicious pastries!
Who: Isabelle & Jean-Pierre
Home is: Fontainebleau (60km south of Paris), France
Family Origin: Isabelle: Vendée (Western France) ; Jean-Pierre: Paris
I can’t live without: Isabelle : Hiking shoes ; Jean-Pierre : A camera
Occupation: Isabelle: University Professor (Geology) ; Jean-Pierre: Aerospace executive (soon to retire)
Dream Job: Isabelle: Geologist! ; Jean-Pierre: Mine!
Currently I am obsessed with: ???
Childhood taste: Isabelle: Strawberries ; Jean-Pierre: Rhubarb jam (and pies)
I will always have in my pantry: Chocolate, saucisson and cheese!
I learnt to cook from: Mum (both of us) ; Grandma (for Isabelle)
Currently I am listening to: Isabelle: birds ; Jean-Pierre: mostly classical + jazz
One day I must visit: Isabelle: Planet Mars ; Jean-Pierre: Antarctica
Go to meal: ???
I am really good at: Isabelle: Dreaming ; Jean-Pierre: Sherbets
The unforgettable meal: Isabelle: Le’s dad soft shell crab ; Jean-Pierre: Seafood platter & king crab
My piece of Sydney: Isabelle: Bondi to Coogee walk ; Jean-Pierre: Taronga zoo
Guilty Pleasure: Chocolate! (there are 2 kinds of people: those who do not like chocolate and those who love chocolate among other things)
Who does the dishes: mostly Isabelle, Jean-Pierre somewhat, the sushi/pizza outlet exceptionally
You all should definitely try make this at home, the smell of it coming out of the oven is unbelievable! Isabelle’s Gougère had that cheesy crunch on the outside and pillowy on the inside. We had it served here with romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes. Simple and tasty.
A little bit of background about the wine chosen for this dish. Jura is a mountain range shared by France and Switzerland. It culminates at about 1800 m altitude, the crest line being the Franco-Swiss border, it is quite reknowned for cross-country skiing and is the coldest part of France with winter temperatures hitting regularly at -30°C.
Anyway, Jura produces a nice original wine. It is not a prestigious wine but a regional one, light and pleasant to drink (and quite affordable, which tends to become difficult these days for a good wine). Red wines typically use local grape varieties called “Trousseau” and “Ploussard” not found in other regions. They can age 3 to 5 years. The region also produces decent whites using mostly Chardonnay, and another local grape called “Savagnin”. The latter is used to make a world-unique, extremely full-bodied white wine called “Vin Jaune” which can age as long as 100 years!
Gougère is from Burgundy and Franche-Comté, which are 2 neighboring regions to Jura.
In Burgundy, Gougère is generally served cold when tasting wine in cellars, but also can be served warm as an appetizer.
Everything was delicious and complimented each other. I don’t usually drink because it gives me an awful headache especially from the red wines I tried in Australia. But the Arbois-Pupillin was delicious, easy to drink and didn’t cause me any headache! It was truly one of the most unforgettable meals I’ve ever had. Thank you again Isabelle and Jean-Pierre! Looking forward to having you back in Sydney soon.
Ingredients - Serves 6-8
- 250ml water
- 75g butter
- 125g flour
- 125g Swiss cheese (Gruyère or Emmental) 100g in small cubes and 25g grated
- 4 eggs
- salt and pepper to taste
- nutmeg (optional)
- Bring water, butter, salt and pepper to boil. When it swells (like boiling milk would do), adding in the flour and nutmeg slowly.
- Remove from the stove and stir. The dough should be quite thick, otherwise add more flour.
- Back to the stove. Reduce the moisture in the dough by stirring continuously (and fast) on medium low heat for about 3 minutes. The dough must form a ball and not stick to the saucepan.
- Remove from the stove again and let cool for about 6-8 minutes.
- Add the eggs one by one until all mixed in well into the dough.
- Save a bit of yolk from the last egg for coating the dough. Once all the eggs have been added, mix in the cheese cubes.
- Divide the dough in portions of 2-3 tablespoons on a greased baking tray and coat with the remaining egg yolk.
- Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 30-45 mins. The dough will triple in volume. The crust must be golden and somewhat dry otherwise the Gougère will rapidly deflate once out of the oven. Remember not to open the oven while baking!
Ingredients - Serves 8-10
- 500g fresh strawberries
- 200g white caster sugar
- 30ml water
- a few drops of vanilla extract or one fresh vanilla beans
- juice of a lemon
- Prepare the sugar syrup. Bring to boil the water, sugar and vanilla for 3-4 minutes until fully transparent. If you have a sugar hydrometer, bring the syrup to 19°Baumé. If too low keep boiling, if too high add water. The density of the syrup is key to the sherbet texture.
- In a food processor/blender, blend the strawberries and lemon juice until it’s become smooth puree.
- Pour the strawberry puree into the cooled syrup while stirring. NOT the other way round as it might get the sugar to crystalize.
- If you have time leave the mixture in the fridge for a few hours.
- Then pour the mixture into an ice cream maker. Machine with a built-in compressor will produce the best results in terms of texture.
Jan 31 2018
Once upon a time in a quaint town of Fontainebleau, France…
May 2017, It was a long time planned holiday and finally we arrived in Fontainebleau. Our most delightful host the Cojan family, showed us around the city and hosted beautiful lunches and dinners. We spent a couple of weekends there soaking the beauty French spring had to offer, from the colourful blooms to the tastiest fresh produce I had ever experienced!
We played Toad in the Hole game, the French version which is called Jeu de Grenouille. This particular one belonged to these children’s great great grandfather. What a great family heirloom!
It was a warm-ish spring day and our host Thierry decided to cook up an Aussie BBQ. He is married to an Aussie girl and had spent some time living in Sydney. Everything was super simple to prepare, the secret ingredient is having the freshest good quality produce. I can’t emphasise that enough. There was no marinating involved, just a bit of butter to moisten the eggplants, wrap the garlic bulbs in the foil to seal the flavour and a generous squeeze of lemon juice and sea salt to taste and Voila!
After our long lazy lunch, everyone played a bit more in the backyard. The kids explored every corner and saw bumble bees and really huge slimy snails. Then we decided to check out the annual plant market in the the city square.
And of course, a trip to Fontainebleau won’t be complete without a visit to the forest. So enchanting and full of interesting boulders. It’s my husband’s dream playground. He was super psyched when our then 2 year old girl decided to climb every rock she chose.
I hope you enjoy this way overdue post. It’s been almost a year since I took these photos and today writing this post make me want to go back there again asap. There’s one more post I have on the recipes from the Cojan family, stay tuned 🙂
BBQ Sea Bream
Ingredients - Serves 6-8
- 3 medium size sea breams
- 3 big eggplants halved
- 6 corn cobs
- 3 garlic bulbs
- handful of field mushrooms
- Halved the eggplants and score the flesh in diagonal lines then brush with melted butter and a touch of sea salt.
- Wrap the garlic bulbs in aluminium foil.
- Place the fish in the BBQ holder with scales on for easy peel when it’s cooked.
- Place everything in the BBQ for about 10 minutes.
- Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice and sea salt.
Dec 14 2017
I finally found my ideal chocolate cake recipe thanks to the lovely and talented Miss Greenberg
Rebecca: I am really interested in catering for all dietary needs and making sure everyone gets a slice of cake. I started the journey when I realised I wasn’t able to eat dairy, but needed to fulfill my sweet tooth needs. Starting with cupcakes, cookies, muffins and then went on from there. I have a fine art background and really enjoy working with my hands. After lots of different jobs in different fields, I found that cake decorating is the perfect combo for me. Greenberg & Co Cakes was established to make celebration cakes more accesible and still be beautiful and delicious.
My grandmother baked cakes for all of our birthdays and now baking is a way for me to provide a meaningful gift for people. Sharing food is very important to me and the basic nurturing need that it meets. I have social anxiety and find making food is a way of participating, but not having to participate, if that make sense. When my grandma didn’t bake our cakes, she bought them from a Jewish Bakery called Julia’s back at home in the States. She called them “Real Birthday Cakes” and I’ve been trying to live up to the expectation.
Rebecca starting the process of making a vegan buttercream using Aquafaba – a replacement for egg white. *It is composed of carbohydrates, proteins, and other soluble plant solids which have migrated from the legume seeds (in this case it’s chickpeas) to the water during the cooking process. This unique combination of ingredients gives it a wide spectrum of emulsifying, foaming, binding, gelatinizing and thickening properties. This discovery was made by a French chef Joël Roessel in December 2014. He also published recipes for floating island of Chaville, chocolate mousse, and he made a meringue made from chickpea liquid, sugar, corn starch and guar gum to demonstrate its foaming capabilities.
Like egg whites, aquafaba has the ability to form stable foams when whipped which makes it suitable for desserts such as meringues. The foam formed by aquafaba is novel in that it can remain stable for prolonged periods of time without collapsing (e.g., hours), whereas egg white foams can become dry and collapse.
Aquafaba can also be repeatedly frozen, thawed, heated, or cooled without substantially changing its properties as an egg replacer. The proteins are already denatured, and the starches are already gelatinized from the cooking process. In contrast, egg white irreversibly coagulates when its proteins are heated. The ability for aquafaba to be used at any temperature allows for novel applications such as hot foams, instant mixes, and recipes that take advantage of emulsification under heat. (*source:Wikipedia)
Who: Rebecca Greenberg
Home is: Canterbury, NSW
Family Origin: Northeast United States
I can’t live without: Potatoes & my partner (but I better say the other way around)
Occupation: Cake Decorator
Dream Job: Cake Decorator
Currently I am obsessed with: My chickens (Raptor, Houdini, Blondie & Ichiban) and learning about chicken keeping. Did you know they sleep cuddling on a roost?
Childhood taste: Very fondly remember homemade food from my mom, dad and grandma. Especially Jewish favourites like kugel and latkes. Yummmmm!
I will always have in my pantry: Masa harina to make tortillas, tamales and arepas…a lovely remnant of a not so lovely ex.
I learnt to cook from: Watching my family and lots of trial and error. I LOVE cooking shows and asking Google.
Currently I am listening to: Podcasts during the day (WTF, Lore and This American Life are my favourites). Clarissa Estes “Bedtime Stories” at night. Her voice lulls me to sleep, I will never know how the story ends.
One day I must visit: I’d really like to go everywhere given the opportunity. Really, there is no where that is not worth learning about.
Go to meal: Whatever goes with mashed potato.
I am really good at: Making things seem organised, but not actually cleaning. Convincing myself I’m not very good at things. Being patient.
The unforgettable meal: Too many to remember, but lots shared with my partner Panda, who shares my love of degustation menus.
My piece of Sydney: La Perouse beach: Little Congwong: A hidden paradise with a picnic.
Guilty Pleasure: Chocolate and Rom Coms/ Chocolate with Rom Coms.
Who does the dishes: We share. I’m very lucky.
Vegan Chocolate Cake with Swiss Meringue ‘Butter’cream
Ingredients - Serves 6-8
- Chocolate Cake
- 1 cup non-dairy milk of choice (I use soy)
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup raw sugar
- 1/3 cup neutral oil (I use sunflower)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup unbleached wheat flour
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 1/2 cup aquafaba
- 1 1/4 cup caster sugar
- 345 g Nuttelex or vegan butter of choice (room temperature)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract (or more to taste)
- Chocolate Cake. Preheat oven to 185C and grease a 6″ round baking tin. Line tin with baking paper as well.
- Combine the milk and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl and set aside to curdle. Combine sugar, oil and vanilla together. It will resemble caramel. Add milk apple cider vinegar mix and mix well. Sift dry ingredients into wet ingredients and combine well, making sure no large clumps remain. Be careful not to over mix.
- Bake for 40 minutes at 185C. Cool in baking tin and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Combine aquafaba and sugar in a bowl set over a water bath. Whisk until the mixture has reached 60C or feels hot to the touch and sugar is dissolved.
- Whip the warmed mixture in an electric mixer until cool to the touch, 5-10 minutes. Gradually add Nuttelex, 1 piece at a time, beating well after each addition. If the buttercream is warm, it may look soupy. Chill briefly and then reheat until smooth. If the buttercream is too cold, it may look grainy. Warm the buttercream over a large bowl of water and then beat until smooth. Add vanilla and beat until incorporated. The finished buttercream will be light and fluffy. It takes awhile to get there, but it will make the change.