samedi 18 mai 2013

The gratin dauphinois secret...

is turnips. Not potatoes at all. Turnips.

I feel rather bad about the girl who came for supper yesterday and who, having eaten a large plate of it asked me what the secret to my potato gratin was. Rather sheepishly I told her that in fact it didn't contain a single potato so the secret was basically turnip. And nutmeg. And masses of proper cream. Salt and black pepper. And that's it.

It cooks more quickly than its older potato-based brother. And it's definitely lighter, whilst still providing that cream-laden, "this must be bad for me" high that you get from a really good gratin. In an ideal world I think it's better cooked on a low temperature for an hour or so, to stop the cream burning and drying out.

Yesterday's version was made to accompany rare roast beef with salsa verde (of which more later) and asparagus. There were lashings of burgundy and a chocolate and orange cake for pudding. We were trying to feel summery but as it's still only ten degrees in Paris, we lit a fire.

Kate, Paris, May 18th

Chocolate and orange cake

I think I am quotation obsessed at the moment. You will probably think this one is a bit too pink to be any good but if you can get over the colour I think you'll see why I like it. 

I'm not a huge cake eater and not a great cake maker either. I think I'm a bit "approximate" in my approach to cooking to be a good pastry cook. Recipes are all guidelines as far as i'm concerned, which is fine when you're roasting lamb but disastrous when you're making macaroons. Anyway, this cake is good for approximate cooks because you can follow the recipe vaguely and it always works out. It started off as a Nigella recipe for something called a spiced christmas chocolate cake but I doubt she would recognise it here.  I like it for pudding with crème fraîche or just as it is.

50g dark chocolate
150g butter
6 eggs
250g granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g ground almonds
1tsp cinnamon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
4 tsps espresso powder

Pre-heat the oven to 180°. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Whilst this is melting, measure out the remainder of the ingredients as this cake is really all about mixing from here on in. Beat the eggs and sugar with a whisk until they are glossy and pale yellow and have almost doubled in size. Remove the melted chocolate / butter from the heat and add to the ready whisked eggs. Add the almonds, the cinammon, the coffee and the orange and gently mix everything together. Pour into a buttered cake tin and cook for 25 mins. Leave to cool for at least an hour before turning it out. Patience is not my principal virtue but the memory of my still warm chocolate cake hitting the kitchen floor when my mother in law had just arrived for supper is not one I wish to relive in a hurry...

Kate, Paris, May 21st