French Brussels sprouts en gratin- Gratin aux choux de Bruxelles et saucisses

[su_spacer]Brussels sprouts! I hear you! What an awful vegetable. You don’t like it, you don’t know what to do with it and with all the good will in the world and you trying to eat your green, you just can’t get it down your throat.

I have to sell this recipe to you because my Brussels sprouts en gratin goes down really well with grilled meat as a side dish. Besides, it’s my Dad’s recipe. That on its own brings so much to the plate.

You can double the quantity of brussels sprouts (I tend to go the opposite way)

Well I say it’s my Dads’ but he initially got it from the French magazine “Femme Actuelle” sometimes late 80’s early 90’s I reckon. He worked on a few substitutes on the meat addition.

This recipe dates a bit in our family..

So let’s get on with the recipe.

Ingredients

Serves 2-4 people
Prep: 10 min/ Cooking: 5 min (pan) and 30 min oven time

For the base
– 400- 500g of brussels sprouts (if fresh, parboil them for 3 min, if frozen, just use straight away)
– 200 g of sausages of your choice, You could use steak strips or 50 g of bacon (or a mix of all this)
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 1 cube of bouillon (or equivalent)
– 50 g of comte or gruyere cheese
– 1 tbsp of oil

For the Béchamel sauce (you could get away with half the quantity)
– 60 g (2 heaped tablespoons) of flour or cornstarch
– 60 g of butter
– 400 ml of milk, at room temperature
– 1 egg yolk (optional)
– 1 tsp of mustard (optional)
– Salt and pepper to taste
– A generous pinch of nutmeg

The glorious brussels sprouts gratin on an Iftar table

 

Preparation

Cook the brussels sprouts in a bouillon for 10 min max (water + the cube). Having parboiled them should remove some of that strong taste they usually have.
Drain and set aside.
Preheat the oven at 200 C.
Poach the sausage if you are going that path. Do not forget to prick them in the water. Set aside.
If using the steaks, cut into strips and sautee in butter or olive oil over high flame. Season to taste.
If using bacon, cut into strips and fry. Set aside. I use Turkey bacon when I have them around.

Prepare the Béchamel sauce

In a deep pan, melt the butter. Add the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir and let the flour “fry” for a couple of minutes.
Grad and manual whisk and gradually add milk as you whisk along. The trick is to reduce the heat to a bare minimum, add the milk by 1/4 cup (ish) and whisk to homogonize. Do that ask you go along and get to half the quantity of milk. Then you can pour the rest of it into the pan and bring to heat to medium.
Stir from the bottom of the pan to ensure no sticking is happening on your watch.
Cook for about 10 min then add the yolk and the mustard. It should have thickened by now and bubles would have surfaced.
Knock of the heat and set aside. Stir regularely the first 5 min otherwise you get an umpleasant crust.
Assemble the gratin

Fold all ingredients in the sauce and stir. Grate the cheese on top and place in the oven for 15-20 until dark specks of gratinated cheese appear.

Serve warm with a salad or a nice grilled piece of meat.

My Dad’s original recipe cutout 

 


Spinach and mushroom quiche and the ABC of a standard quiche

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There are many savoury tarts and quiches posted here (see below for links and ideas). However, I just figured that I never posted the recipe for a basic quiche.

Quiche is a very common savoury snack found in Moroccan bakeries across main cities. It’s obviously reminiscent of the French presence in Morocco for about 40 years.

We love quiches, they’re sold (or homemade) in small or medium size with a variety of classic fillings which we love back home : onions, mushrooms, spinach and smoked salmon, pink shrimp.

Quiches are usually available starting from 10. 30 am or 4 pm in most of the good bakeries, along with mini pizzas and other savoury and sweet goodies..It makes a nice filling bite before dinner time..

I usually make my mini-quiches at home. I even freeze them unbaked and bake them when needed.

Mini-quiches are a Ramadan favourite too, part of the Iftar/Ftour table especially in the urban area.

The ABC of a standard quiche (must read)

 

  • I personally prefer using a shortcrust dough as a base for my quiches. Totally not fan of the puff pastry in this case. The French quiche comes with either or anyway.
  • The next thing you need to make sure of, whichever vegetable filling you will be using, make sure it’s been pre-sauteed, whithered (sweating for onions and leeks is the right word) then drained from excess liquid.
  • The third thing you want to make sure of is not to over-fill the quiche. It shouldn’t overflow.
  • The last thing I want to tell you about is what the French call “appareil à quiche” which is the white liquid poured to fill the dough cases. You can have 50%-50% single cream/milk or 100% single cream. I sometimes use milk and fromage blanc or cream cheese (see recipes below). It really works and gives wonderful results. But like I said, let’s concentrate on the basic appareil à quiche that you have to learn by heart to make any quiche.
  • Ideally, after you fill the tin casings with a thin layer or dough and prick it, you will need to place the filling (spinach, mushroom, shrimp, bacon…) then pour the “appareil à quiche“. 
  • It’s conventional that quiche does not have grated cheese on top but since many people add that for a “gratiné” effect, no one will blame you. The more cheese the merrier.
  • No soggy bottom.
  • I freeze the mini-quiches before baking so I don’t have to start from the beginning anytime I need them.
  • When you make mini-quiches, it’s likely that the appareil à quiche needed will be less than what’s required for a standard quiche (less than 25 mm diameter) while you might need more or just about the same amount of dough. Then again it depends on the tins used (some are deeper than other). When I have shallow deep cases/tins, I just half the amount of ingredients needed to make the appareil à quiche. The other thing is to use it to make crustless quiches for those in diet.
  • Quiches in all sizes are ideally eaten at room temperature, which make them perfect for buffets, picnics and food to go.
  •  You can make the dough ahead of time, the filling as well but you can leave the appareil a quiche when you are about to build the quiche (s) and bake them.
  • It’s also possible to pre-bake the dough casing before filling it, then you will need less time to bake at a lower temperature (160 degrees C).

Now that we cleared all that, let’s get on with the recipe. I suggest a spinach, jben (or ricotta) and mushroom for the filling but again, the dough and appareil à quiche are the standards ones you need to use for any other quiche recipe.

Ingredients
Serves 6 -8 (20- 25 mm diameter or 8 medium or 16+ mini) 
Prep: 15 min (does not involve dough making) – Cooking: 1 hour

Savoury shortcrust pastry

  • 250g of all purpose flour
  • 125g of cold butter, in cubes
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • A good pinch of black pepper (optional)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 -3 tbsps of cold milk

Filling

  • 4 handfuls of spinach leaves (or a bunch), approximately
  • 200 g of button mushrooms, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsps of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 50 -80 g of ricotta, fetta or jben (Moroccan white cheese)
  • 40 g of grated cheese (emmental, edam, comté, gruyère..)

Appareil à quiche 

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 25 ml of single cream or creme fraiche
  • 25 ml of milk
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 tsp of black pepper
  • A pinch of grated nutmeg

 

Preparation

Shortcrust dough

Mix the flour with salt, pepper and butter and mix to a crumbly/sandy texture. You may use a food processor with a blade for this step.

Add the egg yolk mixed with the milk to the first mix. Gently bring the mix together without overworking the dough. Flatten to an “abaisse” in a cling film. Cover and freeze for 25 min or place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Spinach and mushrooms filling

Over medium heat, saute the mushrooms in olive oil for about a minute. Season and stir.
Cover for another 2 minutes (it helps them cooking through). Lift the lid and cook for another 30 seconds.

Set aside. Use the same pan to saute the spinach in butter for about 2 minutes.

Leave both ingredients to cool.

Appareil à quiche 

With a hand mixer, beat the eggs with salt, pepper and nutmeg. You don’t need to bring air to the mix.

Add the liquid and mix to combine.

Assemble the quiche (s)

Roll the dough maximum 2 mm thin, place in tart or muffin tin(s). Prick all around.

Place the cold filling of mushroom and spinach. Scatter some nuggets/dots of white cheese on top,

Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly.

Pour the appareil à quiche delicately and evenly all the way to the top but do not allow it to overflow. If you are worried it happens, pour 2/3 of it and once you place the quiche(s) is in the oven, finish off up to the edges.

Bake and serve

Bake at 170 -180 degrees for 45 -50 minutes for a large or medium quiches, about 35 min for mini quiches. Serve at room temperature.

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A take on the savoury tarts

Who doesn’t like the savoury tarts? They came make an awesome meal along with salad or can be part of an appetizer menu or buffet. They can be made ahead and warmed or eaten cold. They’re easy and do not require too much fuss.

The few things you need are basically:
– A dough (store-bought or best homemade), it can be shortcrust, puff pastry, brioche, brik or phyllo sheets or even sandwich bread (like here).
– A sort of “appareil”, usually made of cream cheese, eggs, starch. After that you add your favourite seasoning, vegetables/seafood/meat/chicken.. (preferably sautéed).

Cheese and leek tart

 

Shrinp and spinach and comte cheese tart

 

Salmon, shrimp and chives tart/quiche

The thing with this sort of food, once you know the basics, you just adjust to your liking, which is what I do. I go to the kitchen with no pre-defined recipe and I start working my way through.

Cheesy Mediterranean Tart (with black olive tapenade, thyme, feta, sundried tomatoes, Emmental, soft cheese…)

I have previously posted some savoury tarts and quiches (here and here). Today’s 1st post is about the generalities of what is needed for a plain cheese tart or a quiche for that matter (the cheese tart requires more cheese than a quiche).

In order not to make this post longer than it is..I’ll post the recipe of each tart in a separate post. Stay tuned 🙂.

 

Cheese tart with mushrooms and caramelized onions

So I decided to write down the main recipe ingredients for most of the cheese tarts I make, then I’ll write down the ones i’m posting today.

Main ingredients for the tarte au fromage

For a 25 cm diameter tart or 14 minis
Prep: 15 min – Baking: 30 to 40 min (depending on the size)

For the shortcrust dough (get creative with the flavour)

  • 250 g all purpose flour
  • 125 g butter in cubes
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 to 3 tbsp of cold water or milk
  • 1/2 tsp of salt 
  • Optional but nice: 1 tsp of crushed dried herbs (your favourite), 1/2 tsp of mustard powder, chili powder…

For the cheese “appareil”

  • 250g fresh cheese (with a thick yogurt consistency)
  • 2 tbps of salted cream cheese (philadelphia, kirri)
  • 1 heaped tbsp of starch (Maizena)
  • 2 eggs and 1 yolk
  • 3 tbsp of grated cheese (your favourite)
  • 1/2 tsp of black pepper
  • Optional but nice: A good pinch of nutmeg, chili powder, fresh herbs siuch as chives, parsley..

Preparation

The dough (if you choose to go “homemade”)

Work the dough just like any shortcrust pastry : work dry ingredients with butter, with your fingers or a food processor. Add the lightly beaten egg yolk and mix. Add the milk and bring the dough together and make sure you do not overwork it. 

Form a ball then flatten it, cover with a cling film and keep in the fridge for 30 min (or 10 min in the freezer).

Like I say all the time, this type of dough is freezer-friendly. So you can make it ahead and take it out 30 to 45 min before use.

The liquid “appareil”

 Well this one is basically like making a cheesecake except that you don’t have to separate egg yolks from white (unless you feel like).

It’s good to bring to your attention that fresh cheeses changes from one country to another either in term of texture or in term of taste (saltiness).

I have used “fromage blanc” before or recently the German “Quark” for baking, they’re relatively “wet”, unlike a philadelphia cheese to which you have to add some liquid cream to help beating it..
 
I usually  deal with that by adding more grated cheese and a few pinches or starch, filtering excess water and correcting the seasoning.

SO. first, lightly beat the eggs with the cheese, add in the other ingredients while beating. This step should be done when the tart cases are ready, the oven has been heated. You will just have to fill in the shells and bake. I tried to keep  it on the side many times and I ended up having cracks when the tarts was baked..

Assemblage and baking
  
Preheat the over at 180 degrees C.
 
Roll the dough between 2 baking parchments to 2 mm thick. Cut circles to fit in the baking molds.

Lightly prick with a fork. Place in the freezer while you make the liquid “appareil”.

When the oven is hot enough, place the tarts at the third level from the bottom of the oven, to help the shell baking without damaging the cheese “appareil“.

Bake for 30 min or until it’s set and the shell looks golden.

Note: If you are baking 1 large tart/quiche, I advice you pre-bake the shell at least 10 to 15 min. Let cook and fill it in with the cheese “appareil” and bake again for 30 or until the liquid is set.

 
These tarts are best served at room temperature or slightly cold. They’re better eaten the same day.

 


Spinach and salmon mini-quiches

Over the weekend, one of my husband’s colleagues invited us and  I understood she likes quiches. So I made some, just about enough for the number of people who are going to attend..
Spinach and salmon mini-quiches with spicy bites on the side
She lives in such a picturesque place. We took the bus  to get there. For 15 min, we could only see vinyards Then at a certain point, it started getting even more beautiful and colourful where I could sport cherry trees, peach trees, plum trees..There is also an array of flowers and I couldn’t even find names for most of them..

I felt silly because I should have brought my camera so I can share with you the beauty of inner Germany.

 

But hey, I can still show you picture of Neustadt an der weinstrass, which is where we live..
About 5 min walk from our flat..

 

Some cute things on my way
I hope you like them..
Now back to our mini-quiches..I didn’t take many picture while making them because it’s dead easy to make, besides, I only had 1 hour to make, bake and let cool the whole batch…So I hope these picture will do..
Quiches, packed and ready to go
Ingredients
For 10 to 12 mini quiches

Prep: 10 min – baking : 20-25 min

 

  • 1 roll of puff pastry
Spinach and salmon filling
  • 100g  of grated cheese (Edam, gruyere, comte, cheddar..)
  • 50g of fresh salmon (or smoked), cut into small cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 
  • A hint of garlic (optional)
  • 2 eggs at room temperature, separated
  • 3 heaped tbsp of crème fraiche or equivalent
  • 1 heaped tsp of corn starch
  • 2 cups of frozen spinach
  • Freshly crushed peper

Preparation


Preheat the oven to 180C.

Cut circles of puff pastry and place them in the molds.. Prick them slighlty

For the filling

Sautée the spinach in olive oil, you need them to lose their liquid. Add the hint of garlic. Set aside and add small cubes of salmon. Season to taste. The salmon will cook slightly from the heat still in the pan, but not totally.


Whisk the egg yolk with cornstarch, the cream. Add the spinach and salmon. Add the grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Beat the egg white until it becomes firm. Fold it in 2 times in the egg yolk mixture. 
Start filling the pastry cases with the filling. Top it properly,  you don’t need to leave space because it wont overflow.
Bake for 25 min approximately or until the centre has set. If the quiches get colored before the pastry cases, place them at the very bottom of the oven so the cases bake faster.
 
A medium-size quiche on the side for the chef (me)

I like to serve my quiches at room temperature with a salad. But these make a good impression in a buffet for a gathering..
Note about the little spicy bites you see on the side 

I made these bites with puff pastry leftover. I use black olive tapenade, mixed with sundried tomato pesto and harissa, I layered a spoon of Dijon mustard before adding the spread mixture and I rolled the puff pastry. They I egg-washed the roll and sprinkled dried sage. I’ve marked the cuts and baked at 220 C for about 15 min. And there you have it, spicy little bites..

Tapenade and sundried tomato pesto

 

Spicy bites
See you next time with a new recipe and more pictures from the region..