I love French onion soup but more often than not it’s made with beef stock which means that it’s off the menu for me. It’s so rich and warming, it’s one of the few meat based things that I do feel I’m missing out on by not eating meat.
A little dab of Vegemite though and I’m free to indulge again. Mr Colonial Cravings even said that he couldn’t tell the difference between this version and one made with beef stock.
The best part of French onion soup is, of course, the melty, gooey cheesy Gruyère smothered crouton floating on the surface. Don’t skimp on this. Use proper Gruyère and plenty of it. It’s no bad thing if the bread is a little stale too. Day old bread will soak up the delicious flavours of the soup better than fresh bread.
serves 2-4 (depending on how greedy you are)
2 large onions
2 tbsp butter
2 fat garlic cloves
3 tbsp brandy
1 litre vegetable stock
small sprig of thyme
1 tsp Vegemite (optional – you can season it with salt if you prefer but tis helps with the colour too)
1/2 tsp mustard powder (optional)
slices of baguette
50g veggie friendly Gruyère, grated
1 box of tissues (if you’re anything like me cutting onions!)
Peel the onions and cut them in half or quarters (depending on how big they are). Slice them quite thinly.
Melt the butter over a low heat in a large saucepan and then toss in the onion. Let the onions cook very gently and slowly. You really can’t rush this bit. Stir them frequently and they should steadily become wonderfully dark and caramalized.
Crush the garlic and add this to the pan along with the thyme and mustard powder. Cook for a couple more minutes before pouring in the stock. Let the soup simmer for 30 minutes and then check the seasoning. Add black pepper to taste and either salt or Vegemite.
Toast enough rounds of baguette to generously top each serving bowl for the soup and then arrange the slices on a baking tray. Pile the grated Gruyère onto them and grill them until they are bubbling and melty.
Fill your serving bowls with the soup and use a fish slice to transfer the cheesy croutons on top of each one. Yum!
I’m totally converted to this instead of a potato topped fish pie. It tastes so much more indulgent and to be honest if my choice is peeling, boiling and mashing a load of spuds or whipping some egg whites, I’ll take the egg whites thanks.
And that is pretty much the only difference here. The basis of a souffle is more or less just a bechamel sauce and you’d be making one of those for the pie anyway, so why not get a bit fancy for very little extra effort?
If you can, then try not to use frozen fish and seafood in this as it releases loads of water when it cooks which can thin out your sauce and leave it runny.
750g mixed seafood and chunks of firm white fish (I used haddock, king prawns and bay scallops)
1 small onion
375ml whole milk
125g strong cheese, grated (I used a mix of mature cheddar and double Gloucester)
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs + 1 extra white
3 tbsp chopped chives.
Pre-heat your oven to 180°c.
Peel and dice the onion and carrot so that they are quite small and then gently fry them in a little oil over a low heat. You want them to become tender but not colour.
In a separate medium-sized saucepan melt the butter over a low heat. Toss in the flour and stir to give you a roux. Cook for a minute or two. Measure out 250ml of the milk and very gradually add this to the roux, stirring between each addition, to ensure that the liquid is absorbed and you don’t end up with lumps in the sauce. Once you’ve added the full 250ml of milk and have a silky smooth white sauce you can add the cheese and then stir the sauce until it has all melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. It should be very thick.
Remove the pan from the heat and pour half of the sauce into the pan with the carrots and onion then gradually stir in the remaining 125ml of milk over a low heat. Take the pan off the heat and mix through the fish and seafood before transferring the whole lot to an oven proof baking dish.
Put the egg whites into a very clean bowl and whisk them until they hold a stiff peak. Put these to one side.
Beat the egg yolks and chives into the other half of your sauce base. Take a big spoonful of the whipped egg white and mix this into the sauce to lighten it. Then, using a large metal spoon gently fold in 1/3 of the remaining egg white, then another 1/3 and then the last 1/3. Make sure that you don’t knock too much air out of it.
Pour this foamy topping over the fish mixture and then bake it for 40-45 minutes. The top should puff up and become wonderfully golden. Serve the pie as soon as it is cooked.
I realise that flicking through the pages of this blog, it might seem that I’m all about the sweet treats. It’s a fair enough assumption, just look at how big the word ‘dessert’ is in that tag cloud on the right. (Mind you, the word booze is pretty big too…) But to be honest I love a savoury treat just as much. Especially if it’s cheesy.
When I’m at home for Christmas we’ll always go for a walk on Christmas day, even if the weather isn’t great, it helps to burn off some of the festive calories. We’ll usually come back from our walk and replenish some of those calories (it’s Christmas, okay!) with a yummy festive snack and I think these would be a really good contender. I don’t know why Stilton seems like a Christmas cheese but it really is. When else would you even consider buying your cheese in a fancy earthenware pot…?
My mum makes amazing cheese scones. They are so good toasted and buttered as an afternoon treat. This is my festive homage to those wonderous baked goodies.
makes about 12 but more or less depending on the size of your cutter.
225g self-raising flour
a pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 tsp mustard powder (optional)
85g blue Stilton
100g (ish) dried cranberries
splash of milk
Pre-heat your oven to 220°c and pop a large baking tray in the oven to heat up.
Sift the flour, mustard powder, salt and pepper into a large mixing bowl so that they are well combined and aerated.
Dice the butter and then lightly rub it into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Crumble the Stilton and add most of it the mixing bowl, keep a little back to sprinkle on top of the scones before baking. Toss in the cranberries and mix it all together.
Lightly beat the egg and use it to bring everything together to form a soft dough. If you need to use a little milk as well then that’s fine.
Pat the dough out on a lightly floured surface, so that it’s about 1″ thick. Use a round cutter to stamp out the scones but be sure not to twist it. Place them on the hot tray (be careful) and brush the tops with a little milk before sprinkling on any Stilton that you kept back. Bake them for 10-15 mins until they have risen and are golden, and then let them cool a little on a wire rack. Serve warm or toasted and spread thickly with butter.
The time has come for Mr Colonial Cravings annual office festive hoopla. I’m not sure they refer to it like this but I think that maybe they should start.
To say thank you for the hours of photographing food that he puts in (my hands are just too shaky to take a decent picture) I’ve made him something extra special.
I’ve combined his favourite Italian treat with something festive from their Austrian neighbours. Gingerbread! And it is so good! If you like gingerbread lattes then you’re going to love this. Seriously, this tastes amazing. Layers of richly spiced sponge soaked in boozy coffee, sandwiched together with thick zabaglione cream. Christmas dessert heaven…
You can bake the sponge ahead of time because it keeps really well, and also if it is a tiny bit stale then it tends to soak up the coffee better. Winning all round!
If you don’t have a spring-form cake tin, of just don’t want to serve the tiramisu like this, then you can of course just build up the layers in a serving dish, trifle-style. Either works well for this.
Half the quantity of gingerbread from my gingerbread latte cupcakes, baked in a spring-form pan for about 35 minutes at 180°c.
300ml strong brewed coffee
3 tbsp sugar
50ml brandy/dark rum (feel free to use more if you like it really boozy)
1 tbsp coffee liqueur (optional)
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla paste
225g mascarpone (room temperature)
200ml double cream
dark chocolate to serve
Trim away the very top of the cake, to expose the crumb and slice the sponge in half horizontally. Set aside.
Mix one tablespoon of the sugar with the coffee, brandy/rum and coffee liqueur (if using) and let the coffee cool a bit.
Place the remaining sugar in a mixing bowl with the egg yolks and vanilla and place it over a pan of simmering water. Whip the yolks until they are pale and fluffy and have at least doubled in volume. Remove them from the heat and let it cool for a minute or two before beating the mascarpone into it.
Put the cream in another bowl and whip it until it becomes thick and fluffy. Use a large metal spoon to fold the cream into the egg yolk/mascarpone mixture.
To assemble the tiramisu place a layer of the sponge back into the springform pan that you baked it in. Brush the surface of it with the coffee mixture. You need it to be saturated but not so soggy that it loses all integrity.
Spread half of the creamy filling mixture evenly over the sponge and then carefully place the second layer on top. Brush this with coffee too, again making sure that it is well moistened but not drenched. Don’t worry, you won’t need all of the coffee mixture. Cover this with the remaining cream mixture and smooth off the surface. Put the tiramisu in the fridge to firm up for a couple of hours.
Dust the top of the tiramisu with some grated dark chocolate (I like to be fairly liberal with it) and run a palate knife around the edge of the tin before releasing the catch and removing the sides of the tin. Carefully transfer the tiramisu to a serving plate. Enjoy!
This is something that I first tried on a trip to Budapest (I love Budapest!) and at the time I had no idea that they were a traditional treat. We were served them during a really fun wine tasting and, whilst the wine was good, I would have been happy just to have been given a plate of these.
I got this recipe from the Hungarian embassy during this years EU open house event in D.C. If you live in the area you should totally go to this by the way, it’s great fun. Their recipe used quite big quantities though so I’ve scaled it back quite bit and it still works fine.
I’ve baked these in the U.K (with my mum) and here in the U.S, where quark is a bit harder to find (Wholefoods stock it) and also a bit more runny in texture. This made the dough a bit more sticky to work with but both versions tasted as good as the ones I originally tried in Budapest. They’re very buttery and flaky and have a faintly tangy cheesy flavour from the quark.
These need quite a bit of resting time so they take a while I’m afraid, but the results are totally worth it.
makes 18 small scones
170g plain flour
170g butter (not too cold, cut into small cubes)
pinch of salt and black pepper
Combine the flour, yeast, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and quark. Lightly beat the egg and add most of that to the bowl, you want to keep back a little for glazing the scones before they bake.
Now get stuck in with your hands and knead everything together so that you have a nice smooth dough. Depending on your quark, this might be a bit sticky, but you don’t need to worry about it too much. Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for an hour.
After the dough has rested, roll it out onto a well floured surface, it needs to be about 1cm thick. Fold the dough in half and then in half again, so that it is four layers thick. Pat it down a little and then put it back in the mixing bowl and return it to the fridge for another 45 mins-1 hour. Repeat this rolling, folding and resting process again.
Pre-heat the oven to 210°c.
After the final resting period roll and fold the dough a final time and then roll it out so that it’s about 1cm thick. Score the surface of the dough with a hatched pattern, so that it looks like diamonds. Stamp out rounds with a 5cm cutter (don’t twist the cutter) and place them on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush the tops of them with the reserved beaten egg and sprinkle them with a little pinch of paprika.
Bake the pogacsa for 25 minutes, by which time they should have puffed up into lots of flaky layers and be wonderfully golden brown.
You can let them cool on a rack for a bit but these are at their most delicious when they’re eaten warm.
Savoury cheesecakes might seem like a peculiar idea at first but really, is it any more strange than choosing to make a pudding out of cheese in the first place?
As a non-meat eater I think that they make such a nice change for a special lunch or a first course. Once you’ve mastered the basic mixture they’re very versatile too, there are so many flavour possibilities that you could use in them.
I’ve used pretty classic autumn flavours in this version. These also look really pretty when you cut into them and the colours are amazing.
Be careful not to over-bake the cheesecakes or they’ll dry out a bit and lose their nice creamy consistency. It’s also important to make sure that the cheeses and eggs for the filling are at room temperature before you start.
3 tbsp digestive biscuit crumbs
3 tbsp oats
3 tbsp melted butter
200g butternut squash
1 fat clove of garlic
small handful of sage (with some smallish leaves if possible)
225g cream cheese
2 tbsp grated parmesan
salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 190°c. Slice the butternut squash into thin slices, only a couple of millimeters thick, so that you have 12 slices. Lay these on a lightly greased baking sheet and scatter over the sage and pop on the garlic clove, unpeeled. Roast the squash for 15-20 minutes, until it is tender and then leave it to cool a bit on the tray.
Reduce the oven to 170°c and line a six hole tin with muffin wrappers, silicone ones work a treat. Fill a roasting tin with water and pop that in the oven to use as a bain-marie later.
Combine all of the ingredients for the base mixture and press a spoonful of it into the base of each of the muffin wrappers. Put this in the fridge to chill and become a bit more firm.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until it is nice and soft. Add the egg and beat again until it is well combined. Crush or finely chop the roasted sage, keeping back any leaves that you want for decorating, the small one are best for this. Mince the roasted garlic. Add the parmesan, crushed sage, garlic and the seasoning to the cheesecake filling mixture and stir well. Set this aside for a moment.
Using a pastry cutter that is roughly the same size as the muffin wrappers, cut out circles from the cooled roasted squash.
Put a spoonful of the cheesecake mix on top the biscuit base for each cheesecake and spread it a little. Top this with a circle of squash. Repeat this, finishing with a layer of cheesecake mix. Top with a sage leaf to decorate.
Put the tray into the bain-marie and bake the cheesecakes for 20-25 minutes. They should still have a little wobble to them once they are cooked. Turn the oven off and open the door a bit. Leave the cheesecakes to cool to room temperature in the oven and then pop them in the fridge to chill. Let them sit a room temperature for a few minutes before serving.
I’m still, even after nearly three years, a little bemused by what a big thing Halloween is over here. It’s just not something we really get into in the UK. Brits certainly don’t tend to go trick or treating (I should imagine that it’s because it’s usually too cold and drizzly for those sort of antics).
I once spent dia de los muertos in Nicaragua – that certainly had a festive atmosphere (or maybe that was just the effect of the Flor de Cana). But other than stationing Mr Colonial Cravings by the front door with a bowl full of fun-sized sweets we’ve never really celebrated Halloween.
This will be my only real concession to it this year and that’s only because I really wanted to try making fougasse again, and I’ve always quite liked Edvard Munchs ‘Scream’. Obviously you can make it into the traditional fougasse shape too, check out this post for how to do it that way, https://colonialcravings.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/fougasse-with-garlic-lemon-and-rosemary/.
makes 1 but you can easily double it
250g bread flour
2g yeast (about 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp sugar
180g luke warm water
1/2 small red onion
50g Gruyère cheese
olive oil for frying
Mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Add 3/4 of the water and start to mix it together to form a ball of dough. Add the remaining water (you might not need quite all of it) and mix it in until you have a soft, slack dough.
Tip the dough onto a clean work surface and knead it until becomes soft and smooth and isn’t sticky any more. The more you work it the less sticky it will become so try to resist the urge to add any extra flour. When you have worked the gluten in the flour enough the dough should spring back if you poke it with your finger.
Wash and dry your mixing bowl, so that it is nice and warm and then lightly oil it. Pop the dough in the bowl and cover it loosely with some oiled cling film or a plastic bag. Leave the dough in a draught-free place until it has doubled in size. Mine took just over and hour.
Whilst the dough is doing its thing you can prep the onion and cheese.
Slice the onion, not too finely, and fry it in a little olive oil. I do this slowly over a low heat so that it has plenty of time to become nicely caramelised. Once it has cooked you can leave it to cool. Cut the cheese into small cubes.
When the dough in ready you can carefully take it out of the bowl and put it back on your work surface. Flatten it out a bit and then scatter over the onion and cheese, keeping a little cheese back for the top. Roll up the dough into a ball and then gently knead it so that the onion and cheese become nicely distributed.
Sprinkle a bit of flour onto a chopping board. Stretch the dough out, with your hands, into a teardrop shape (or a skull shape if your making this for Halloween) and then place it on the chopping board. Either cut slits where the eyes, nose and mouth should be and stretch them out into circles or cut slits for a more traditional fougasse shape. Press any remaining cheese into top of the dough, re-cover it and let it prove for about 20 minutes somewhere warm. Normally I wouldn’t bother with a second rise for a fougasse but it’s worth doing it for this because working in the cheese and onion knocks out a bit of the air.
Pre-heat your oven to 250°c and put a large baking tray upside-down in there. Once the fougasse has risen for a second time take the tray out of the hot oven and carefully slide the fougasse onto it. Bake it for 15 minutes, by which time it should have formed a nice crust and the cheese on the top should have become temptingly golden brown. Enjoy whilst it’s still warm.