Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Eve….the big dinner

Ever year we have a big dinner for Christmas, generally on Christmas Day….but this year we had it the night before as it suited best for everyone. Some of my Mums family comes along for this so this year we were with 11 people. So “De Gouden Garnaal” (The Golden Shrimp in Dutch) was opened and serving up the following menu:

Mousse de sole a la truffe
Terrine de Lapin aux Pistaches
Filets Mignons en Croute
Plateau de Fromage
Meringe aux Pignons et aux Myrtilles

We also had irish soda bread with the mousse and pate. For the cheeses we had some Stilton with port, Bleu de Gex, Tomme de Savoie, Camenbert, soft goats cheese and Old Rubens. Then various biscuits and truffles with the tea and coffee to finish. With all this food we drank some lovely wine, with the starters we had the choice of Tavel (a rose from the Provence) or Touraine (a Sauvignon from slightly south of the Loire). Then with the main course and cheese we drank a Morgon (a Beaujolais from the Cote du Py). For dessert we had a Banyuls, a very spicy sweet red wine.

The pate was made a few days in advance which was fairly straightforward...although watching the fat bubbling away in the oven around the pate made my hart already feel tired, but the smells were amazing the taste was great, crumbly, meaty and very subtle with the pistachios. The meringues and the filet mignons were prepared/started one day in advance so we did not have much to prepare on the day itself. The mousse was fairly straightforward and we made a gratin accompany the Filets mignons. The dessert was lovely, the meringues were nice and gooey on the inside and the nuts added a lovely flavour. It was a great evening, catching up with every one and eating all this lovely food.

Mousse aux sole et truffe (serves 11)
300 g sole fillet
1 vegetable stock cube
splash of white wine
125 g sour cream
salt and pepper

Boil the fish in water with the stock cube and white wine, then take it out of the liquid and blend it with some seasoning and the sour cream. Leave in the fridge to harden. Serve with blanched asparagus, sweet peas, a boiled quail egg and a slice of summer truffle

Terrine de lapin aux pistaches (for 8 people)
1 nice boned rabbit
125 g cooked ham
125 g pork shoulder
200 g soft bacon fat (+ more to line the mould)
100 g peeled non-salted pistachios
5 dl white wine
5 cl cognac
1 onion
2 shallots
1 carrot
1 garlic clove
Herbs (parsley, tarragon, thyme and bay leaf)
10 pepper corns
20g salt

For the marinade, peel and cut the onion, shallot, carrot and garlic. In a large pot add all the other ingredients for the marinade and mix well. Clean the rabbit, cut the meat into stripes, cut the pork and 200g fat into pieces and add to the marinade. Leave for 24 hours in the fridge. The next day, fish out some of the onion and drain the rest. Pick out some nice pieces of rabbit and cut into bit sized pieces. Mince the rest roughly. Cut the gammon into cubes and mix this with the pistachios, rabbit and mince. Line a pate tray with fat or with puffy pastry (to make a pate en croute), fill with the mix, making sure the pistachios are covered (otherwise they burn) and bake at 200C covered for 1 hour and 15 minutes and then for another 15 minutes without cover. Take out of the over, leave to cool for 15 minutes and put a weight on the pate. Make this two days in advance and store in the fridge.

Filets mignons en croute (8-10 people)
2 pork fillets
500 g puff pastry
2 glasses of white wine d’Alsace (preferably Riesling)
3 garlic cloves
1 egg yellow
salt and pepper

The day before, put the fillets in a dish and add the wine, peeled and chopped garlic , salt and pepper. Leave to marinate overnight. The next day, drain the meat, divide the pastry in two and roll one half out 8mm thick. Put the fillet lengthwise on the middle of the pastry, roll out the second part of pastry and put this on top. Join the edges of the two parts, decorate the top and cut some holes into it to let the hot air escape. Coat with egg yellow and bake for 45 min at 225C, halfway through the process, pour a few spoonfuls of marinade into the holes. Serve hot or cold.

Meringues aux pignons et aux myrtilles (Serves 4-6 people)
3 egg whites
200 g caster sugar
100 g pine nuts
oil, for greasing
300 ml whipping cream
2 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
200 g blueberries

Preheat the over to 145C and lightly grease two baking trays. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peakse, then gradually whisk in the sugar, a third at a time, until the meringue is glossy and fairly stiff, holding soft peaks. Using a large spoon, carefully fold in the pine nuts and spoon heaped teaspoons onto the baking trays (±12). Bake 1 hour, then turn off the oven, leaving the meringues to cool inside. Lightly whip the cream and mix in the icing sugar, serve the meringues with the whipped cream and blueberries

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas cookies part 2

Here’s some I made earlier! I made this biscuits about 10 days ago as Christmas present for my friend. The recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s “How to be a domestic goddess” which is a wonderful cookbook. I spotted this recipe for Christmas cookies months ago and planned to make it. It was quite interesting using a lot of freshly ground pepper next to mixed spice so I used black and pink peppercorns. The dough tasted great (I’m afraid I’m an avid dough eater, somehow it always tastes great before cooking) but when the cookies came out I thought the taste was quite bland. This might have had something to do with the extra flour I had to add as the dough was so sticky, you couldn’t roll it out so I will give this recipe another shot next year.

We decorated the biscuits with a plain sugar icing (icing sugar and water) and some silver, pink and purple sparkles (although he refused to use these last two as they weren’t “manly” enough) and they looked great!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Chocolate and cheese

Two more additions to the food we’ve made in the last few days: Chocolate Truffles and Gougere (cheesy profiteroles). There were two reasons for this, we had a lot of old bits of gouda cheese left that needed finishing and two old chocolate letters from Sinterklaas that needed using. Sinterklaas is a Dutch celebration we have on the 5th December where we celebrate the day of St Nicholas (Santa before he went to the USA and Coca Cola). There are many traditions with these celebrations but one of them is that you get a chocolate letter of the first character of your name (E for Eva…I was always very jealous of people with a name starting with a W as they got more chocolate!!). Both are very easy to make and very tasty although the Gougere were a bit disappointing. I think this was because the cheese was grated instead of cubed and it makes the taste less pronounced. The truffles were delish although rolling them was a bit tricky and very, very sticky. In the end, we made the balls using spoons as it was far easier and our shapes had more “character” this way.

250 ml milk
100 g plain flour
50 g butter
4 eggs
75 g cheese (cubed)
pepper and salt
Bring milk to a boil with butter, pepper and salt. Take off the heat and add the flour at once. Stir well until it forms a big ball then add the eggs and cheese. Put dollops onto a greased plate but space them well as they rise quite a bit. Add some more cheese on top, glaze with milk and bake for 45 min at 180C till brown and risen.

Chocolate truffles
250 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more)
50 ml crème
75g butter
2 tbsp sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp Cointreau
50g cocoa
Melt the chocolate in a bowl placed on a pan of boiling water with 1 tbsp of water. Add crème, butter and sugar gradually, then remove the bowl from the pan. Once the mixture has cooled at bit, add the egg yolks and Cointreau and cool for at least two hours. Put the cocoa powder in a bowl, form balls of the cooled mixture, roll these in the cocoa and cool for at least another hour before serving (keep 2-3 days).

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


My parents recently traveled to Geneva and brought back a piece of Raclette cheese. "Raclette" is derived from the French word "racler" which means "to scrape off". This is true winter/mountain food from the Alps and the cheese is traditionally cut in half, melted in front of the fire and layers are scaped off as they start to bubble. The cheese is eaten with boiled potatoes and pickles. We also had some dried meats with it. As we don't possess a traditional raclette setup, we used this. hmmmmmm cheesyness is wonderful but very very filling.....I'm so stuffed!!!

Old favourites....

Last night, we made our old favourite recipes that we have made for Christmas as long as I can remember. Every year, Christmas is a great excuse to try new recipes but at the same time, without these, it would not really be Christmas.

So we made vanille kipferl, a traditional German biscuit, which recipe we got from the mother of one of my German friends when we were still living in France. There, all the German families seemed to make them and I have already seen other people blog about them. These lovely golden almond biscuits are so crumbly, they fall apart in your mouth, are not too sweet and the vanilla sugar on top gives them that extra crunch. For me this means Christmas has properly started and, as every year, they tasted delicious, we'll have to try and leave some till the 25th!

The second is a creamy pate from a french magazine called Femme Pratique. My mum used to buy this when we were living in France and we have a whole pile of them. This mousse aux foies de volaille (bird livers) is a lovely velvety pate and to make it so fine we use our cast-iron mincer (only comes out once a year for this). Of course you could use a blender but this is just so much more fun and I love all these old traditions. Finally, it gets put into the pate dish which unfortunatly has a boar on it instead of a chicken but this is a minor detail :-) The pate tastes great on French bread, oatcakes or anything really.

Vanille Kipferl (makes 60)
200 g Butter
100 g Sugar
1/2 Vanilla pod
100 g Ground almonds
260 g Plain flour
50 g Sugar
1 Packet of vanilla sugar
Melt butter and mix it with the sugar till its smooth, then add vanilla and ground almonds (peel these first as it makes the biscuits look sooooo much better). Finally sieve flour into the mixture. Roll the dough into a sausage of 2cm thick, then cut pieces 2 cm wide and roll these into half moons. Bake 20 min at 175C then roll into mixed sugar and vanilla sugar while they are still hot.

Mousse aux foixes de volaille (makes lots, we usually prepare half)
800 g Chicken livers
300 g Smoked bacon
3 Medium onions
250 ml Creme
25 ml Cognac

Cut the bacon, bake it till it releases the fat, then add the onion and cook till soft. Finally add the livers and cook on low heat for 5-10 min. Add salt if necessary. Mince this till it is very smooth, add cognac then whip the creme and fold this in. Cool overnight.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas cookies part 1

The Christmas cook-a-thon has started! I'm currently at home in The Netherlands and we have just started with the preparations for Christmas. This morning, we put up the tree and nativity. Then this evening, my dad wanted to bake some biscuits so I gave him a hand. The recipes came from a Swiss colleague of his they visited last week. She had a huge tin of cookies that her family baked each year for all the family members. We picked two recipes from the list of Hedwigs Weinachtsbackerei, Ochsenaugen (oxes eyes!?) and Monikas Schokoherzen (chocolate hearts).

Both were very easy doughs to mix up, the balls were left in the fridge to harden slightly and then it was just a matter of rolling it out and cutting shapes. For the Ochsenaugen we used a homegrown/made jar of redcurrant jelly my mum still had in the fridge and as we didn't have a heart shaped cutter, the chocolate hearts became stars instead. We baked both types of cookies for 20 min at 180 degrees Celsius and they came out looking shiny from the egg yellow put on top. Although I have to admit, on the chocolate biscuits this wasn't the best of looks (I improvised...oeps). Both tasted good though, in the jam ones as the tangy jelly nicely complemented the sweet biscuit and the chocolate stars had a lovely rich flavor. Perhaps we can just hide the icky yellow on top under some sugar icing :-) That's it for today, but no doubt there will be more to follow soon.

Oshenaugen (makes 60)
375g Plain flour
250g Butter
125g Sugar
2 eggs (+1 for brushing)
Mix all the ingredients, let the dought rest then roll out and cut shapes of about 5cm diameter. Brush half with egg white and put a bit of red currant jelly in the centre. In the other half, make a small hole and put these on top of the ones with jelly. Brush with egg yolk and bake 20 min at 180C.

Monikas Schokoherzen (makes about 50)
125g Plain Flour
75g Cornflour
100g Sugar
1 Packet of Vanilla sugar
1 Tsp Cocoa
65g Ground almonds
100 Ground chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa)
125g Butter
1 Egg

Mix everything to make the dough, roll it to about 5mm thick, cut out shapes and put these on a buttered baking tray. Bake 10 min at 180C (I backed mine for 15min as they were still quite soft)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My kitchen

As Banana Yoshimoto in her book Kitchen wrote: “The place I like best in this world is the kitchen. No matter where it is, no matter what kind, if it’s a kitchen, if it’s a place where they make food, its fine with me.”. These are my sentiments exactly and whenever visiting someone’s house, I find myself drawn to this room. I love to nose around, looking at their food stuffs, gadgets, cookbooks and organisation. Several other blogs have talked about their kitchen, and I loved reading these posts. So here is my kitchen: small but with a great amount of character, which means tasteless units. net curtains and funky wallpaper. However strange the display of utensils and fruit on the walls may seem, I have grown very attached to it.

There is a good amount of storage space and we have a cooled cupboard just under the window as its built into the wall. This is full of baking utensils and preserves I made in the last few months and will hopefully keep us going far into the new year. Apart from that, there is a wonderful pasta maker, which moved in with the boyfriend, and lots of pottery I picked up along my travels. I really had to stop myself buying pottery, specially in Japan where they are big on presentation, have different dishes for seasons and more.

These mugs I treasure as well and are good for cups of tea to keep you warm…I never used to drink much tea until I moved to Scotland, where you just have tea all the time. Although I do diverge from the standard tea as we have a lovely speciality tea and coffee shop in Dundee where they roast their own beans, weigh out everything on old fashioned weighing scales.

Apart from the standard herbs and spices I have a variety of foodstuffs I brought back from Japan including konbu, iruko, katsuo-boshi, ochazuke and more. I guess the advantage of a tiny kitchen is that you have to be quite organised and can only cook one thing at a time. Normally I am quite bad at trying three projects at once, which then all coincide and generally turn out not quite as expected.

So now the next post will hopefully be about the concoctions and creations made in this limited space.

Monday, December 05, 2005


My name is Eva, I’m a 27 year old biologist working in academia. I have always had a love for cooking but over the last few years I’ve become more and more interested and after reading many blogs decided to start my own. Dutch by origin, I grew up in France for the first eight years of my life before moving back to Holland. Then during my studies, came to Dundee in Scotland for a project and have stayed here ever since.

Cooking started very early in my family and it was often done together. We used to help my mother out in the kitchen and I guess with growing up in France you get an appreciation for all that tasted wonderful. The name “The Golden Shrimp” comes from our “family restaurant”. On special occasions this would open, after much deliberation, the menu would be decided and written out to then be prepared “en famille”. It reminds me of the many hours my Mum and I spent cooking with the help of my brother and father, where she passed on lots of her information and started my love for food.

During the last year I’ve gotten more and more interested in food, one of the big reasons was that after finishing my PhD in November 2004 I went traveling for five months through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and India. Apart from seeing wonderful cultures and places, meeting lots of inspirational people, we also tasted so much beautiful food. We tried to take a cooking class in every country we went to just to learn more about the culture and spent hours exploring local markets. I also spent many hours on busses dreaming about swapping life in academia for my own little café/art gallery, but these remain dreams so far.

After coming back to the UK for a month, I then went and worked in Tokyo for 4 months. The food in Japan was totally amazing; I loved the freshness, seasonality and presentation of it all. I was very fortunate to meet two lovely Japanese girls who really included me in their daily life and taught me lots about the customs. After looking around, I also found a place where you could learn Japanese cooking, so I took some classes with Elizabeth Andoh who was truly inspirational. Having lived in Japan for the last forty years she is an authority on Japanese customs and food (and has just published it all in her new book, Washoku).

All of this made me realise that I want food to play a greater role in my life, I love cooking for people and see this blog as an opportunity to share this with more people. So here I hope to share some of my culinary concoctions with you, but also share some of the other interests in my life like the beautiful Scottish scenery, which has inspired my other hobby, photography. I am also making lots of felt at the moment after following a course. Enjoy the reading!

Ps…I would like to thank Sharon and Tobias for sharing some of their pictures and allowing me to post them