Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Cooking in Paris

Paris, May 21st, 2008

We had a brilliant day cooking with Samira at her home in Paris.
We loved the class we did with her in Zürich. So much, in fact that we were all inspired to visit her in Paris. Our cooking group expanded from 7 to 14 ladies for this trip. Most of us stayed at the Hotel Brighton in the 1st arrondissement, a few were over at Hotel Select on the left bank, and two lucky ladies stayed at Samira's. The Brighton is a lovely place to stay, reasonable prices for Paris, and a fantastic location. The rooms have recently been renovated and the staff are friendly and helpful.

We started off the day wandering around her local market; stopping by at the butcher, the fruit and vegetable store, the fishmonger, the baker and a wonderful cheese place. Not to be missed are their delectable little cheese tarts.

Meeting Samira at Metro Argentine before our market visit.

Our first stop - the butcher - to buy our duck breasts.

The rue Poncelet market.

The fish market.

Outside "Alléosse" - a cheese lovers heaven.
Address: 13, Poncelet - 75017 Paris. Tel. 01 46 22 50 45

With guidance from Samira we bought kilos and kilos of cheese to take back with us to Switzerland. I especially liked the Comte and the Brin d'amour. The Comte is a sharp hard fruity, cheese, similar to a Gruyere. The Brin d'amour, (translates to the branch of love), is made from the milk of sheep or goats that have grazed on wild herbs on steep Corsican hillsides. Coated with rosemary, thyme, coriander seeds and savory aromatic herbs, it has a tender, ivory-colored pâte and a delectable, slightly sour taste. Delicious!

In Samira's kitchen

The Menu

Lemon–Lime Salmon
Roquefort and Pear Tart
Scallops with Saffron Mustard Sauce and Saffron Rice
Magret de Canard with Apricot Port Wine Sauce
Perfumed Potatoes
Mixed Greens with Simple Vinaigrette
French Cheese Plate
Lemon Mousse Gateaux

Samira is a wonderful teacher, (she has a PhD in education), and even someone who doesn't like cooking will be infected by her amazing zest and enthausism. Here are the details of her cooking school, Food Unites the World (just click on it to get to the link). We spent the whole day with her. A couple of hours were spent at the markets, followed by a marathon cooking session. The food was truly outstanding. If you only have time to do one class in Paris, go to Samira's. She has also written a fabulous cook book, which is worth buying. I use mine very often.

We rolled out the door at around 7PM, stuffed and happy. After a revitalizing walk along the Champs-Élysées to Place de la Concorde we stopped off at the Buddha Bar for a drink. Perfect end to a great day.

Photos and recipes follow:

Starter: Lemon-lime marinated fresh Salmon


Lemon-Lime Marinated Fresh Salmon

500gr fresh salmon fillets
Juice of 2 large lemons
Juice of one lime
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon simple vinaigrette
2 or more tablespoons perfumed or regular olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Clean Salmon and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut salmon into small cubes, place in a medium bowl and pour juice of one lemon over salmon. Toss well. Refrigerate for an hour.

2. Remove salmon from the refrigerator, discard juice.

3. Add juice of second lemon and lime juice to salmon and mix well.

4. Mix in remaining ingredients, refrigerate until ready to serve.

5. Serve over mixed greens.

(makes 6 servings)

First Course: Pear and Roquefort Tarts


Roquefort and Pear Tart

500gr puff pastry
1 pear, firm but not too hard to eat
1 1/2 cups red wine
175gr Roquefort cheese or blue cheese
60gr fromage blanc or sour cream
2 egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
Mint leaves for garnish (optional)

1. Peel pears, cut each into six sections or pieces, and core. Place pears in a medium saucepan, pour wine over them, cover pan and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, drain pears and discard or drink the wine. Cut each half into thin slices keeping them attached at the thinner end. Set aside until ready to use.

2. Preheat oven to 200° C. Place the puff pastry on a work surface. Cut pastry into six 3- or 4-inch squares or rounds depending on preference. Cut six ¾-inch strips or thin rounds to use as borders. Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl. Place the thin strips of puff pastry on the edges of the squares or rounds making neat borders, and brush borders with egg yolk.

3. Place pastry on a cookie sheet covered with a waxed paper. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 190° C.

4. In a medium bowl, using a fork mix Roquefort cheese and sour cream until well blended. Mix in nutmeg, nuts and salt and pepper to taste if desired. Spread cheese mixture in the middle of the squares, top with slices of pear, and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and bring to room temperature before serving. Garnish with fresh mint leaves if desired.

The base

These are such fun to make and they look incredible. You could make smaller, bite size ones for an apero.

Cutting the pear and fanning it out.

The combination of the Roquefort, the pear and the walnuts is tantalizing. If you like blue cheese, you'll love this recipe.

Grilled Scallops with Saffron Mustard Sauce

Exceptional! The mustard seeds give it another dimension.


Grilled Scallops with Saffron Mustard Sauce

1 cup fish or chicken broth, chicken cube or fish cube also works
½ cup white wine
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon ground saffron
½ cup whipping cream
1 to 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

1. Mix the first five ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to boil over medium hear.
2. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 15 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and whisk mustard and butter into sauce, blend in the chopped tarragon and
set aside until serving time.

Use any meaty fish fillet (cod, perch, grouper or sea bass), fillets of sole, scallops, scampi or large shrimp. You can also use a combination of fish fillet, shrimp and scallops. Allow 110gr fish fillet, 2 small or 1 large scallop and 2 shrimp per person if you use a combination of seafood. All scallops or all shrimp can also be used.

Heat one tablespoon butter or olive oil or half butter half olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add seafood and sauté for three to four minutes or until light brown. Remove from heat and set aside. Add any accumulated juices from the seafood after cooking to the mustard cream sauce and simmer for a couple of minutes to heat it before serving.

To Serve: Arrange the grilled seafood on a serving plate and drizzle some of the sauce over it. Serve warm with Basmati saffron rice.

(makes 6 to 8 servings)

Saffron rice


Saffron Basmati Rice

Bring about 4 cups of water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add 1 cup of basmati rice and stir well to avoid rice lumps. Keep boiling over medium heat until rice is almost done. (about 10 minutes). Remove from stove, strain rice from water using large sieve, and return to saucepan. Mix in Saffron, crushed chicken cube (optional), and ½ teaspoon salt - if not using chicken cube. Cover and simmer on low heat until all liquid has evaporated and rice is done, about 10 minutes. Keep covered until ready to serve.

Duck Breast with apricot sauce


Roast Duck Breast with Apricot Port Wine Sauce

2 large or 3 medium whole duck breasts (magret de canard)
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons clarified butter
1 cup Port wine (Porto)
2 tablespoons good quality brandy
1 cup duck or chicken broth or two chicken cubes with one cup water
1 cup thinly sliced dried apricot
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Heat butter in a medium heavy saucepan or skillet over low heat. Add shallots and cook until soft but not brown. Add port and brandy and boil until reduced by half. Add broth and cook for 15 minutes or until reduced to one cup.

2. Stir in apricot, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Simmer sauce over low heat for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Preheat oven to 230 ºC. Heat a heavy skillet over high heat until hot. Place duck breasts, skin sides down, in skillet and cook over low heat until skin is deep golden, about 12-15 minutes. Turn duck breasts over and cook other sides of duck breasts for about 3 minutes. Remove from skillet and discard fat or save for other use.

4. Place duck breasts skin sides down in roasting pan of baking dish. Roast in oven for about seven to ten minutes depending on how well you like your meat done. Remove from oven, place on a cutting board, and cut duck breasts into thin slices. Salt and pepper slices and decoratively place slices on a serving dish. Pour hot sauce over slices and serve immediately. (makes 6 servings)



Perfumed Potatoes

1 pound baby red or white potatoes, use fingerlings if available
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup perfumed olive oil or regular olive oil
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning
8 bay leaves
10 garlic cloves, unpeeled

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Wash potatoes very well, place them in a shallow baking dish, mix in all ingredients except bay leaves, and toss well.

2. Tuck bay leaves around potatoes. Spread garlic cloves over potatoes and bake for 40 minutes, turning potatoes once every 15 minutes.
(makes 6 to 8 servings)

The Ladies

Cheese Platter

Served with a green salad. The salad dressing we made was superb.


Simple Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar, sherry vinegar, or red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning (optional)
8 or more fresh raspberries (optional)

1. Beat or whisk mustard with vinegar until creamy.

2. Slowly beat in oils. Keep beating until mixture becomes thick.

3. If using red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar ad herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning and mix well.

4. If using raspberry vinegar, add fresh raspberries, blend them into the dressing while crushing them with a fork.

5. Place in airtight container and refrigerate. It keeps for one week.
(Makes ¾ cup)

Lemon Mousse Cake


Lemon Mousse Gateaux

2 large eggs
½ cup sugar
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup ground unsalted pistachios or walnuts (optional)
4 large egg whites + 2 tablespoons sugar

1. Preheat over to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch spring form pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Butter and flour parchment paper and set aside.

2. Mix flour, baking powder and nuts if using any in a small bowl and set aside.

3. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in large bowl until slowly dissolving ribbon forms when beaters are lifted, about 5 minutes. Fold nut mixture into egg mixture and set aside.

4. Beat egg whites in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

5. Fold egg whites into flour mixture in two additions. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for about 15 to 18 minutes or until tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on rack for five minutes. Cut around cake in pan and turn cake out onto rack. Remove parchment paper and let cake cook completely.

Lemon Mousse

Lemon Curd:
2 ½ cups sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup fresh lemon juice
3 large eggs
5 large egg yolks
½ cup unsalted butter cut into small pieces

5 tablespoons water
4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (1 ½ sheets = 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin)
6 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 ¼ cup chilled whipping cream

1. Place sugar and cornstarch in heavy large saucepan and mix well. Gradually add lemon juice while whisking until cornstarch dissolves. Whisk in eggs and egg yolks.

2. Add butter and stir the mixture over medium heat until it begins to thicken and comes to a boil. Boil for about ten minutes to cook the cornstarch. Transfer lemon curd to a bowl and cool at room temperature. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. (Can be made up to four days in advance.)

3. Place 5 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin evenly over water and let stand for about ten minutes.

4. Pour one cup of the chilled lemon curd in a small saucepan and place on medium heat until very warm. Remove from heat and set aside. Heat gelatin mixture over medium heat and stir mixture until all gelatin has dissolved and mixture becomes clear making sure not to bring mixture to a boil. Whisk warm gelatin mixture into warm lemon curd until well blend. Gradually add 2 cups of the chilled lemon curd to the warm gelatin mixture and blend well. Set aside. Refrigerate any remaining lemon curd.

5. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until whites are thick and glossy. Fold whites into lemon gelatin mixture in 4 additions.

6. Beat cream in another bowl until peaks form. Fold whipped cream into egg white lemon mixture in 4 additions until well blended.

7. Return cake to pan, pour lemon mousse over cooled cake to fill the cake pan. Refrigerate any remaining lemon mousse. Refrigerate lemon mousse gateaux until mousse is set, about two to three hours or overnight.

8. Remove lemon mousse gateaux from pan. Gently spread one cup of the reserved lemon curd over lemon mousse gateaux. Place reserved lemon mousse in pastry bag fitted with small star tip and decorate around top edge of the lemon mousse gateaux. Chill gateaux until ready to serve. (Can be made one day in advance).

You can serve it with sliced fresh strawberries or place whole strawberries on top of lemon mousse or on top of the cake before pouring the lemon mousse over.


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