Posh-up your dinner party for Christmas

On Saturday 23rd November, I will be showing you how to bake a perfect Charlotte.Come along for what promises to be a very friendly afternoon at the Alliance Francaise with a selection of Gourmandises pastries of course!

Spaces are limited, so book early to avoid disappointment.

SUNSHINE IN MIDWINTER

In Réunion, food is a real feast, any occasions quickly becomes a pretext for a big party. I remember as a child going to my cousins birthday and being surrounded by 50 sometimes more people, with tones of delicious food of course.

So, when I was approached by Ophelia Redpath to run a “creole soirée”, I couldn’t resist. Close to Christmas, I’d like to put you all in a very festive mood.

As mentioned before, Réunion creole cuisine is fusion food. So on 30th November, I will do exactly that and  bring you a 4 course fusion feast. But I shan’t say no more…

 

The food that made me

A lot of you have asked me, where did it all start? Where do I get my inspiration? How did I get the cooking bug? Plus with my frizzy hairdo, I don’t come across as the typical French woman! So you’ll have to travel very, very, far…..

The story starts in the middle of the Indian Ocean, 200 km away south west of Mauritius, on the lovely island of Réunion where I was born. Although first discovered by the Portuguese, Réunion  is now part of France like Martinique and Guadeloupe. Historically, the island was on the East Indies and slave trade route, and its population today is in fact a melting pot of nationalities, Chinese, Indian, African, Creole, French, that happily live together. The food has been enriched and influenced by all these different cultures, Réunion creole cuisine is a fusion of all these different food, it’s like travelling around the world in one plate, yet managing to create a style of its own!

 

The Island traditional and most popular dish is the “cari de poulet”, you can already predict the origins of the dish. Although extremely similar to an Indian curry, the cari, that can be made with chicken, pork, beef or fish, uses three key and simple ingredients, turmeric, black pepper, thyme, onion and garlic. It is served with plain rice, beans and a spicy side salsa called “rougail”.

 

The rougail always contains chillies, but can be made with tomatoes, lemons, green mangoes and other local vegetables. 

 

 

 

Fusion food is the best way to describe Réunion cuisine. For example, like the French, we like a good apéritif, but ours will be served with spicy nibbles, the most popular one is “bouchons” it is basically our version of the Chinese dumpling, but ours is traditionally spiced with “combava” kaffir lime and filled with either pork, chicken or prawns. We also serve samosas and “bonbons piments (spicy fritters)”, following the Indian influence.

 

A good apéritif will always come with a good “rum arangé”. As many tropical islands, Réunion grows sugar cane, and produces its own rum, the most popular brand is “le Rhum Charette”. The “réunionnais” people flavour their rum, depending on the season, the Rhum Charette will contain mango, lychee, pineapple, vanilla or even local herbs, it is this flavoured rum that we call “arangé”.

 

 

Dessert is not as formal as in France, there are so many varieties of tropical fruits on the island, they are very fragrant and this is what people will have at the end of their meal. Mango, lychee, pineapple, goyaviers, bananas and many more…

 

 

Saying that, we do like a bit of cake, again, nothing as involved as French Patisserie, more baked cakes, we use coconut “bonbons coco”, manioc and other root vegetables “gateau patate”, we flavour the cakes of course with our vanilla and rum.

 

 

So, now you know, this is where my cooking bug comes from, this is why I like using fresh ingredients in my baking, why I love working with the seasons, why I love my vanilla and my rum!

 

 

Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin

This is surely one of my winters favourite. The dish gets its name from the sisters Tatin (les soeurs Tatin) who were the first to make it. The story goes that on a very busy day in their restaurant, they had in mind to make an apple pie, but things went a bit wrong and they forgot the pastry, so they just decided to add it anyway and place it on the top of the apples, their customers just loved it and this is apparently how this famous Tarte was born. I love it, but I’m naughty because I use puff pastry instead of short crust pastry and a slight bit of cinnamon towards the end of the cooking.

Ingredients

One block of  puff pastry or short crust pastry

6 to 8 golden delicious (depending on how big they are)

150g unsalted butter

300g golden caster sugar

A vanilla pod or vanilla paste

The juice of half a lemon

A touch of cinnamon (only if you like it, I love it)

For this recipe, you will need a 10″ dish that can go onto the hob.

Melt the butter in a pan on a very low heat and then add  the sugar and place the apples on the top, add the lemon juice and the vanilla, live this to cook for at least 20 to 25 mns on a low heat, as you don’t want your sugar to burn or cristalise, this is an important process, if you get this right, your tatin will get nicely caramelised and not burnt, from time to time you can shake your pan so the apples don’t stick.

Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 220°C. After 25 minutes the sugar should reach a rich amber colour and, by that time, the apples should be soft but still retain their shape. When that has happened, remove the pan from the heat, sprinckle your apples with cinnamon at this point. Then, remove the pastry from the fridge, transfer it to a flat, lightly floured surface and roll it out to a circle slightly larger than your pan. Fit it over the top of the pan, allowing some to tuck down at the edge, it doesn’t have to be neat. Prick the pastry base all over with a fork so the steam is released when it’s cooking and the pastry doesn’t go soggy. Because I use puff pastry, I don’t bother with pricking, as the pie will be turned up side down once cooked.

Next, place the pan on the centre shelf of the oven and bake the tart for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden brown. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes. This is the technical bit!!! Take a plate larger than the pan and place it over the top. Then, using an oven glove, invert the pan on to the plate, giving it a little shake before you do. Serve the tart warm, with double cream or a lovely vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy with a glass of crisp cider or a mulled wine at this time of year!!!

Lemon Tart with Passion fruit

Tarte aux Citrons Galets de Cilaos et aux fruits de la passion

I just had to cook with passion fruit, they are in season right now in Reunion. I also had to experiment with the lovely “citrons galets de Cilaos” (it literally means rock lemon). This type of lemon grows in the mountains of the island on a rich volcanic soil. It is much more fragrant than the lemons that we find in our supermarkets. So, if you want this lovely fragrance to come out in your tart, I suggest that you use lime instead.

Ingredients: 

1 sweet shortcrust pastry (to cover a 24 to 25cm tin)

4 eggs/3 lemons/ zest of 2 lemons/ 3 passion fruits/175g caster sugar/250ml double cream

Set your oven to 200°C. Butter and flour a 24/25cm tin and roll out your pastry. Cover the top of your pastry with baking paper and pour some rice or cooking beans over it and pre-cook your pastry for 10 mns, take out the baking paper and cook for another 10mns until slightly brown. Or, you can do it my way, once your pastry is in your tin, stick it in the freezer for an hour or more, until completely frozen, then put it in the oven straight away for 20/25mns.

Lower your oven temperature to 100°C. For the filling, mix the eggs with the sugar without whisking. Take the lemon zest and keep aside. Juice the lemons and pour it into your egg mixture. Slice the passion fruit in half and take out the pulp (please don’t even try to take out the pip, they make the taste and the lovely looking tart), mix it with your egg mixture then pour the double cream and add the zest. Finally pour the entire mixture into your tart tin and cook for 40mns to an hour depending on your oven. You need a slight wobble at the top.

Leave your tart to cool completely before putting it into your fridge for a good hour or two.

Enjoy with a lovely glass of Pink Champagne!