A crepe for Candlemass. I don’t really need an excuse to make pancakes at home, but this is one of those festivals with a food connection that I adore. So I am indebted to a foodie friend for posting about having crepes today in Paris and the Candlemass tradition. It is a pity I couldn’t quite get to Paris but the girls were happy with Daddies efforts.
Candlemass is a Christian Holy Day celebrating when Jesus was presented at the Temple. It is celebrated on the second of February and is the last feast of Christmas. In some countries the Christmas decorations are taken down on Twelfth Night in others they remain in place until Candlemass. Many Christians take candles to be blessed in a church which are then used for the rest of the year. The candles symbolise Jesus as the ‘ Light of the World ’.
The tradition of eating crepes is attributed to Pope Gelasius distributing pancakes to pilgrims arriving in Rome. The round golden pancakes are also said to be symbolic of the sun and celebrate the arrival of Spring. This tradition could date back to Roman times and offerings of made of cake. Today in France when making the pancakes they are flipped from the pan in the right hand while holding a gold coin in the left to ensure household prosperity for the rest of the year.
Crepes and Pancakes
A crepe is a very thin pancake which can be made in a pan or on a cast iron griddle plate. These plates were placed over a fire but now are electrically heated. Crepes are cooked across France, Northern Europe, and North Africa. Crepes can be sweet and served with sugar and lemon juice, fruit, whipped cream, Nutella and Maple syrup. The classic recipe is Crepe Suzette with the pancakes skilfully made and served at the table. They are flambéed in a sticky caramelised sauce of sugar, butter, orange juice, and zest and orange liqueur.
Savoury pancakes or galettes are often served for lunch and can be filled with ham, cheese, sautéed mushrooms, baby spinach, and ratatouille. Pancakes are commonly made from wheat flour, but you can make them with buckwheat which will make them suitable for coeliacs and people who are gluten intolerant.
For a sweet pancake add a dessert spoon of caster sugar to the beaten egg and milk.
I’ve recently featured a lot of soup recipes. From a really tasty store cupboard classic to a spicy Thai inspired coconut fish soup. In the run-up to Christmas I’ve just time for one more, a rich Shellfish Bisque. Now as you would expect living on an island and working as a chef, I have recipes for lots of different shellfish bisque recipes. Traditionally a bisque is a French soup. You can make your shellfish bisque can be made from lobster, crab, prawns, and crayfish. The shells are used to make a stock and then you incorporate the meat into the finished soup.
What is the difference between soup and bisque?
Bisque is thought to have derived from either the word Biscay, as in Bay of Biscay. Biscay is famous for oysters and other shellfish. Alternatively, the name could have evolved from the shellfish being twice cooked, in French, “bis cuites”. Certainly, when I make crab or lobster bisques in commercial kitchens the shells are first roasted lightly, then simmered with vegetables and herbs before being strained. Traditionally a bisque is thickened by grinding up the shells and you need some pretty powerful industrial food processors to accomplish this. At home, you can thicken with flour or adding a handful of rice to the cooking stock. The name bisque is now often used for thick and creamy roasted vegetable soups.
I have slightly altered the recipe to allow for the fact the most household food processors are not built to break up extremely tough crab shells. Using prawns gives a slightly sweeter if less intensely minerally flavoured soup but it is never the less a real show stopper. This would be an ideal start to your Christmas day dinner.
Delicious sun-ripened summer vegetables from Jersey
We are coming to the end of a beautiful Jersey Summer. What do you think of when you think of food and Jersey summer? Is it some of our amazing seafood? Fresh strawberries and thick Jersey cream? We are lucky to have so much fantastic food right on our doorsteps from the humble hedge veg, dedicated producers big and small, and all fishermen and farmers. I think this rather special version of Ratatouille called Confit Byaldi captures the best of our island, our horticultural heritage, and delicious sun-ripened local produce.
When I made the first trial batch of Confit Byaldi my daughter and I sat and ate a massive bowl just on its own, it really is that good. I suggest it would be lovely at lunchtime with some fresh crusty bread or tasty supper piled in a baked potato. As a side why not serve Confit Byaldi with some sauté, local diver-caught scallops or pan-fried sea bass or with grilled Halloumi and Jersey Royals. The recipe for Confit Byaldi is not complicated but does involve a little preparation so is perhaps best made a day in advance and the flavours, if you can leave it alone, do improve overnight. As an added bonus the red pepper sauce is brilliant with pasta or as an accompaniment for grilled fish like Sea bass and Bream.
Confit Byaldi 4 generous servings
For the Pepper Sauce
2 Red Peppers, remove the seeds and stem and cut into chunks
1 teaspoon Parsley, washed, dried and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
For the Red Pepper Sauce
Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pan and sauté the onion of twenty to thirty minutes until soft, add the garlic stir and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the red pepper, chopped tomato, any juices, thyme, bay leaf, sugar and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for twenty minutes the take off the lid and simmer to reduce any liquid for another ten minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cool, remove the herbs, season generously and blitz in a food processor until smooth. ( This can be made in advance ).
For the Confit Byaldi
Heat your oven to 325 F / 160 C / Gas Mark 3. Spread a layer of your prepared pepper sauce in the bottom of a twenty-centimetre oven-proof casserole or baking dish. From the side of the dish, arrange a row of alternating slices of the sliced vegetables, overlapping so that just a little of each slice is exposed.
Continue overlapping the vegetables in a close spiral until the dish is filled. Sprinkle with the thyme, season well with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil.
Cover with baking paper and foil and crimp edges to seal well. Bake until the vegetables are tender when tested with a paring knife, roughly two hours. Uncover and bake for a further thirty minutes to colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
You can now cover and refrigerate overnight if you wish. Serve cold or reheat in 350-degree oven until warm as required, carefully lift from the tray with a spatula and drizzle with tomato dressing.
For Tomato Dressing
Gently mix ingredients together in a small bowl.
What to Drink? In the Walt Disney film Ratatouille, the world-famous chef Thomas Keller invented a version of Confit Byaldi which was served to the imposing restaurant critic with a bottle of Chateau Latour. If you cannot afford this I would recommend a classic French Syrah or good Australian or Argentinian Shiraz, a great match for the rich umami sweet vegetable flavours.
Now I am a chef who loves his Sunday lunch and I cannot place the thinnest spatula between beef, lamb, and pork but as a family, we have a clear favourite, the great roast chicken. I am picky however and for the best taste, I prefer a nice free-range bird the skin crisp, the meat moist and succulent. In the depths of wet, windy Channel Island winters I love all the wonderful, traditional garnishes to go with the said roast. Bread sauce, sage and onion stuffing, bacon and chipolata rolls with mounds of fluffy potatoes roasted in duck fat and lashings of gravy.
But this glorious very hot summer and we are looking to our nearest neighbour, remember France is only a few miles away and serve up the roast chicken with some herbs and garlic, sauté potatoes and crisp green salad. Simpler, quicker and next time I must remember the chilled French wine or Normandy cider to serve with it! I stuff the cavity with a big handful of fresh herbs tarragon, parsley,thyme and lots of oregano, add a lemon, then sprinkle with Jersey sea salt and a good twist of fresh black pepper from the mill and add lots of sliced garlic.
Garlic Roast Chicken serves 4
The big secret is cooking the whole chicken in a baking paper parchment to keep it incredibly moist and flavourful. This method of cooking is called ‘en papillote’ and the poultry or fish is sealed in parchment or foil with herbs and other aromatics and cooks in its own steam.
4 lb ( 2 kg ) free-range Chicken from a reputable supplier
Preheat your oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas Mark 5. Place a large sheet of baking paper into the middle of a roasting tray. The parchment must be large enough to fold around the chicken and seal. Place your chicken on the paper, fill the cavity with herbs and lemon halves, rub the butter over the skin, cover with the sliced garlic and season generously. Fold the parchment over the chicken and fold to form a loose parcel.
Place in oven and roast for one hour and a half to two hours depending on the size of your chicken or until the leg juices run clear when pricked with a small sharp knife. ( A meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh should reach 180 F ). Remove from the oven and cover in a T towel and rest for twenty minutes before carving. Simple.
What to Drink? Continental style Pilsner larger or bitter, hoppy I.P.A ale is a great match with the garlic chicken if you prefer wine try a classic White Burgundy or sparkling Rose wine.