Tag Archives: food

Time for a perfect chocolate cake

16 Jun
 

 

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It’s Spring time in France and as the flowers open and share their beautiful colours and perfume with the world, we begin to emerge from our homes and taste the first days of freedom, life on the ‘other side’.   

For those days inside the bubble of confinement, when masked-face trips to the shop weren’t so frequent and shelves not always so full, this Chocolate Almond Cake – comprising only a few basic ingredients, has been so easy to prepare and gives that little whoop to the spirits that only chocolate can provide.  And the added bonus – there is NO FLOUR.

I discovered this recipe many years ago, thanks to the Australian chef Stephanie Alexander , but at the time had to drop a couple of the key ingredients (I’ll explain) – and my edited version remains our family’s favourite cake.  If you are a lover of chocolate, it is perfect… 

First up. Let me explain why this cake.  Anyone who knows me knows I hate dessert.  Not hate exactly, but if it comes to ordering the Tarte aux Pommes or Crème Brûlée at a restaurant, I prefer looking up the cheese selection.  Even better, let me flick a few pages back and pore over the starters again: grilled squid, pan-fried scallops, croquetas… Imagining these small plates takes me back to the anticipatory thrill of seating yourself down at a table, excited by the unknown – ready to open that first bottle and savour that first sip.

chocolate

But!  I have a huge love for chocolate (why doesn’t everyone serve a discreet square of dark chocolate with coffee like they do in France?) – and many years ago, to mark a very important occasion, I stumbled upon this recipe.

To be honest, it was the first time I’d ever made a cake.  For the first time in my life, I had a sincere desire to bake because our baby Lilas (our first and only child) was about to turn one.  It was an important, necessary task.  There HAD to be a cake!

But where to turn with this sudden urge to take the leap and Make a Cake?  I picked up my food bible, Stephanie Alexander’s ‘The Cook’s Companion’ , and landed on the chapter Chocolate.  Chocolate won me over and so did the recipe’s provenance – it hailed from France’s ‘Reine de Saba’/ Queen of Sheba cake.  Lilas being an Australian-French baby, it felt right.  So was the idea that the ingredients were few and the method uncomplicated – it was a beautifully simple sounding cake.  And it was a perfect fit for a one-year-old’s toddler guests – so long as I dropped the brandy and the coffee.

So here’s the recipe, and apart from reducing the cooking time and adding more chocolate than the original recipe, we have served this same cake for many birthdays since Lilas’ ‘premier anniversaire’.

(p.s. I have not ever since added the brandy or coffee.  For me, spare the confusion, I adore savouring each one on their own)

(p.p.s. If you are a lover of wine like me, you’ll find this cake is a beautiful companion to wine, be it a sticky, sweet Rivesaltes-style dessert wine, a lovely red, a fresh white and why not, a glass of bubbles.  There’s a pretty damn good one that I like to match it with too…

VW cremant

 

Chocolate Almond Cake

(adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s Chocolate and Almond Cake)

ingredients:

140g dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher )

100g unsalted butter

100g ground (flour) almonds

100g castor sugar

3 eggs, separated

icing sugar (optional for sprinkling)

method:

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius

Line a 18cm baking tin with baker paper

Melt the chocolate on the stove in a double-boiler/ bain-marie

When chocolate has melted add the butter

Stir together when melted and then add almond flour and sugar, mix well

Remove from heat

Lightly beat egg yolks and stir into mixture

Beat egg whites until firm and then fold slowly into mixture, pour into tin

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Bake for 25-30 minutes for a softish centre  (the original recipe says 40-45 minutes but I find the cake is dry and too cake-like)

Cool in tin and then remove

Serve with a dusting of icing sugar or surrounded by fresh strawberries or raspberries …and some sweet or sparkling wine 😺

Et voila!

Kat xoxo

some sights #7 – pics from the South!

5 Mar

Hey, hey it’s time for some more sights from around our ‘hood!

I'm always passing this old 'cave co-operative'  - the date on the facade always reminds me of some special people back home, and now there's always this lovely old Renault '4L'

I’m always passing this old ‘cave co-operative’, ‘Costos Roussos‘ – the date on the facade always reminds me of some special people back home(!), and now there’s always this lovely old Renault ‘4L’

This was a first for me...  the ladies in the market vans had old quilts and blankets protecting their produce on a recent market morning.  It was below freezing and bloody cold!

This was a first for me… the ladies in the market vans had old quilts and blankets protecting their produce on a recent market morning. It was below freezing and bloody cold

... and on this moring it was -4 degrees

… and on this morning it was -4 degrees

It's starting to snow, approaching Chateau Violet - a beautiful old wine property near us

It’s starting to snow, approaching Chateau Violet – a beautiful old wine property near us

Saturday morning at the supermarche... preparing delicious 'Aligot'  - yes, a delightfully light, refreshing dish, composed of cheese, cream, potatoes, cheese, garlic, butter and then some more cheese

Saturday morning at the supermarche… preparing delicious ‘Aligot‘ – yes, a delightfully light, refreshing dish, composed of cheese, cream, potatoes, cheese, garlic, butter and then some more cheese.  Come on, it IS light – really!

Wine of the Month in our house- 'Boulevard Napoleon' with local smallgoods (where are you Dad?!)

Wine of the Month in our house:
the recently bottled ‘Boulevard Napoleon‘ with local smallgoods (where are you Dad?!)

the local hospital for the old metalheads

the local hospital for the old metalheads

Sunday night and pooch is hangin' at the pizza van

Sunday night and pooch is hangin’ at the pizza van

hot drinks at the cafe after a playing in the park...but check out the tele, the kids are getting clued up on winemaking

Hot drinks at the cafe after playing in the park
…but check out the tele! – the kids are getting clued-up on winemaking

downtown Narbonne

Downtown Narbonne

Carcassonne market

Carcassonne market

butcher collage 2a

Meat, anyone? Delicacies at the Carcassonne market… lungs, heart, tripe. Note: bottom right in the tripe corner, the butcher has his Rose ready and chilling

...and another glass of Rose.  ONe of the many perks of living around here is the access to delicious, cheap wines served from tap straight out of the wall of our cave co-ops - simply BYO your own bottle

…and another glass of Rose.
One of the many perks of living around here is the access to delicious, cheap wines served from tap straight out of the wall of our cave co-ops – simply BYO your own bottle…

I love this - it's Pierre the baker's price list at the Olonzac market

I love this – it’s Pierre the baker’s price list at the Olonzac market

check out the airbrush work on the hot rod... a Renault 4L van

Check out the airbrush work on the hot rod
… a Renault 4L van

our local school celebrates 'Carnaval' each year, where everybody accompanies the school kids on floats in a tour of the village

Our school celebrates ‘Carnaval‘ each year, where everybody accompanies the school kids on floats in a tour of the village

A few things from last weekend's 'Vide-Grenier' (village garage sale):  some keyrings and an old "Science et Vie' magazine from 1944.Ashamed to say I get obssessed with many things, advertising keyrings from the 60s is one of them!  And I've just discovered there is even a name for it - 'Copoclephliie' (!!)

A few things from last weekend’s ‘vide-grenier’ (village garage sale): some keyrings and an old “Science et Vie’ magazine from 1944.
Ashamed to say I get obssessed with many things, advertising keyrings from the 60s for eg! And hang on, I’ve even discovered there’s a name for it – ‘Copoclephliie‘ (!!)

my favourite view coming out of Olonzac

my favourite view coming out of Olonzac

...and a favourite close to home, this wall in our hamlet

…and a favourite close to home, this wall in our hamlet

favourites, favourites, I think I have a thing about apples?

Favourites, favourites… now I promise this one wasn’t planned!  I think I have a thing about apples? (you started it Mum!)

on the road, yesterday

on the road, yesterday

Short, back and sides in lovely Toulouse

Short, back and sides in lovely Toulouse

the old 'manege' (carousel), downtown Toulouse

the old ‘manege’ (carousel), Toulouse

Phew, I hope you got through that!

xo

a Naked tasting… time for some wine

24 Aug

cadavres on the table

'cadavres' (what Benji calls empties) on the table

Thought you were going to see a cheeky image of naughty bits??

Sorry, no, it’s Summer and this is often what our table looks like the morning after…

Glasses are cleared but the bottles are waiting to be packed and emptied at the village recycling bin (and how the old mesdames and messieurs of the village, seated on their bench, must love counting how many wines that Aussie girl manages to consume).

one of my favourite postcards!

...well it's not exactly the 'dames du village', but one of my favourite postcards. Can't bring myself to asking the real local ladies if I can take their photo!

It’s now past the middle of August and I can’t believe how quickly Lilas’ school holidays have passed, how many interesting people have stayed or called by,  and how much wine and food we’ve consumed.  It seems like a non-stop degustation here sometimes, with the Beroccas coming out first thing in the morning, but things will certainly slow down now that ‘les vendanges’ (harvest time) are approaching and Benji prepares the cellars for receiving grapes.  Soon he’ll be working a seven-day week and mostly absent from our daily timetable.  It’s an intense time until all grapes have been picked and are safe in the tanks or going through the press, so it’s good to make the most of it with family and friends time in this heat.

The bottles photographed above are the empties from an evening with some of the ‘Naked’ crew.  Joe from Naked and is family came to visit, one warm and windy night and an informal tasting turned into a bottle fest (with Lilas and the kids meanwhile transforming the living room into a Playmobil playground) with everyone trying the whites and reds from Benji’s range together with local cheeses, bread and mountain lamb (big merci to our friends Vincent and Isabelle who were staying that week and gave us a huge help in the kitchen – the bbq’d lamb was a treat!).   It’s always great to meet new people around a table of wine, glass in hand and every Naked tasting we’ve had has been full of laughs with interesting people from all parts.

a Naked tasting at home

a Naked tasting at home. Thanks Joe, Anna et al!

Benji's labels for Naked

The prototypes for Benji's Naked Wines range - a collboration between Vincent and Nick

You’re probably wondering what on earth Naked is.  It’s a company in the UK called Naked Wines and Benji makes and sells wine with them.  It’s been just over a year since the collaboration started and we’ve met so many great people – customers and other winemakers – and had lots of fun tasting the range over dinners, lunches and informal evenings like this one.  I know it sounds like a plug – and it is!  But seriuosly, all puns aside, it is an energetic company run by young people with enthusiasm and a love for wine, and fuelled by a community of customers – people buying and tasting wine from anywhere in the world and then sharing their experiences online.  Benji’s range has done well and we’ve learnt a lot from the forums and the feedback people have offered.  Thanks to everyone, Rowan, Joe, Amy, Sam, Fran, Simon, Frankie, Kevin, everyone, for the ride so far!

fun and wine

to market to market… part 1

19 May

no. 7, Le Marche, illustrators G. Bonmarti & G. Michel, OGE-HACHETTE

One of the great things about living where we do, is the access to good produce.  The Mediterranean climate allows for almost anything to be grown, and more and more I’m trying to buy locally from people I get to know at the local village markets.

glorious produce on offer at the market

The Olonzac market, one of the biggest in our area, is held every Tuesday morning until about 1pm.  You can find almost anything:  fruit, vegies, pastries, breads, meats, fish, flowers, fresh coffee, cheeses, olives, local honey, wine, ready-made asian dishes from the guy with his own personal dvd collection on loop in his van (Lilas’ favourite)… those hard to find ingredients for ‘exotic’ cuisine such as lemongrass, coriander and chilies and then there’s your zippers, hats, bras, oversized undies, slippers, kitchen utensils, Indian dresses, incense, second-hand books, army surplus clothing, jewellery… it’s endless.

market selection

the usual and some exotic surprises at the market

This market is growing in size each year and in full Summer has traffic jams of people, carts and pushers down the bottleneck streets – you should try pushing a pusher through this mass…

There’s Pierre with his bread.  You can spot him from a mile off, with his old van and black wool beret.  He’s like a character from a film – and his organic bread is of the old, sourdough rustic style.  He takes his time, nearly always a big smile on his face and an open pot of honey on his table to spread on his breakfast ‘pain’.   And there’s always his thermos of hot coffee and tin mug ready for dipping.  Pierre’s bread is the sort that you can keep for a week – not at all your light, airy baguette, but a full, wholesome loaf that is just divine toasted with butter and Vegemite.

Pierre and his pains

Pierre and les pains

Just up from Pierre is Laetitia, the young girl who a lot of the year has only her free-range eggs to sell.  She has a tiny stand but always many people jostling around her.  Throughout the year she sells apples, onions, potatoes, and in full summer has mountains of cheap tomatoes, nectarines, grapes, peaches and a queue leading back for miles.  You have to be quick – her tomatoes can sell out by 9.30am.

free-range eggs chez Laetitia

Laetitia’s free-range eggs

Towards the roundabout on your left are the people selling THAT saucisson (salami)…  ‘Mont Charvin’.  The one that costs an arm and a leg, full of beautiful chunks of bright green pistachios.  It’s a small investment buying even just one of their products, but once you’ve tasted the difference, you can’t buy supermarket salami again. In general I buy a lot less saucisson now, but boy do we enjoy the ’50 centimes slices’ when they’re around.  By chance, I got to meet Jacques, the maker of this wonderful product the other day.  I was thrilled to be able to tell him how much we loved his ‘salted meats’ and hear his story of how he and his brother-in-law, once butchers in Paris, settled down south and built a company from scratch offering a range of products made in the Savoie region of France, using no additives or preservatives.

the selection of 'salaisons' chez Mont Charvin

Jacques slicing a sample from the selection of ‘salaisons’ -salted meats

But before I stop by the saucisson stand, I head quickly for Valerie’s before she runs out of vegetables…

(to be continued, part 2)

lunch in the sun

22 Feb

nibbles are served

Hooray, the sun’s out!

It’s only February but as the blossom arrives, the mimosa is in full bloom and the sun creeps back into view, it’s time to enjoy some cheeky aperitifs outside with friends!

Sunday was one of those days… we gathered at our friends’ winery, Chateau de Gourgazaud, each of us bringing a plate or two, a bottle or two and enjoyed the afternoon outside sharing each other’s company and produce!  After gobbling down their required ‘feed’, the kids ran out of view, ducking back only for dessert, while we adults slowly peeled off layers of jackets and scarves and toasted the Spring days ahead and many more good vintages the come!

As the lovely ladies were nattering and preparing platters in the kitchen (I even donned my apron) and the men already outside hovering, glasses in hand around the bbq (mmn, some things never change), we enjoyed a fresh and vibrant Gourgazaud Chardonnay-Viognier 2009  with our nibbles.  Great way to start the meal…  The zesty white was a great match for the crispy courgette wedges dipped in garlic mayo (see recipe below) and the mouth-watering foie gras cooked mi-cuit’ style (it’s a semi-cooked pate, made from specially-fattened livers of geese.  Don’t ask…).

Out came B’s Chateau Maris Old Vine Syrah 2008.  Nothing like a smooth, full and fruity La Liviniere red with bbq’d meats!  It’s not an old bottle, but already has the qualities of a delicious drop that’s all too-easily drunk!  Me: ‘How would you describe this red then?’ B: ‘Bloody amazing!’.   This one was quickly guzzled down as a magnum of Gourgazaud’s Reserve 1996 arrived.  Round and lovely to get the chance to taste a wine with quite a few more years behind it.  It’s not often that we can leave them alone for that long, so much appreciated guys!

We’re looking forward to the next gathering!…

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