A market in France

market_viewWhen we stay in our house in France, we always make sure to make the trip to the local market which takes place in Maurs, every Thursday morning. The ride by itself is worth it — the beautiful hills with the fog still hanging over the valleys…

market_farmers

The market is a ‘farmers market’ in the true sense of the word — there still are farmers who will come to town, display their wares on the grounds in front of the medieval church and sell their beautiful products like eggs, vegetables, flowers and tools made from wicker or carved out of wood.

market_stall2 market_tomatoes

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market_avaProduce are fresh and abundant, and local. We love all the different cheeses and sausages, the artisanal bread, the wonderful fruit and vegetables… There’s even a woman with a giant water bucket full of trouts — she will catch the one of your liking and, uhm, clean it on the spot (the kids find this especially intriguing)!

market_garlicAnd every summer, I stock up on purple garlic that lasts almost a full year!

market_kids

market_fountainThe market is very much a social affair as well — people come to town to buy fresh produce, but also meet up with friends and family in one of the cafés (and drink café au lait of course).

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market_mandelaMarket day is a busy cay, because back home, we have a great lunch, a productive afternoon… and a delicious dinner! ; ) Ah, summer holidays — I can’t wait until next year!

xxx Esther

PS Yummy Puy lentil salad

Blackberry season. Time for pie!

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girls eating blackberries

And just like that… it’s blackberry season! In just the past week the blackberries on the island have ripened… and they are abundant! We’ve been picking blackberries daily and eating them for every meal.  Yummm. Last week the girls and I decided to make a blackberry pie. To be honest, Ivy decided she wanted to make a pie and I decided to be a good mama and help her make it. Pies are not my favourite thing to make — I’m always turned off by the trickiness of pie crust (the making, the rolling, the precision of pie crust pinching!). Cakes and cobblers are so much easier for this reason. But, Ivy wanted pie…

I’ve recently discovered the baking blog Bakers Royale, and the few recipes I’ve tried have been really good so we decided to make her Blackberry Lime Pie, despite my worries that it might be too sour for a little girl’s palette.

blackberry lime pie
blackberry lime pie, last piece

The pie turned out really well (despite the not-so-perfect pie crust design!). The blackberry and lime combination is really interesting, and the crust is a bit sweeter than most crusts so it’s the perfect combination of sweet pastry and slightly sour filling. Really yummy! We will definitely make it again.

x Courtney

A yummy salad from green (Puy) lentils

green lentil salad

We’re currently staying in our family house in France, which is located in one of the most beautiful parts of France (if you ask me): the Cantal. Part of the Auvergne, it has a stunning nature, amazing architecture, and wonderful local food. I’ve been coming here for over 25 years, my husband for over 14 years, and now we bring our children here every year as well. We all love this part of the world so much! (I will share some photos of our vacation here soon.)

lentils lentils_1 lentils_3

The Auvergne is also home to the Puy green lentils — they have been produced on the volcanic grounds of this area for over 2000 years. They are very tasty, and super healthy as well. I make them quite often in summer, and always a royal amount as they easily keep for a few days and are super to have around as a side dish, for lunch or picnics. And usually everybody really likes them, including the children!

Here’s how I prepare them (please adjust all quantities to your taste — I never measure them myself!):

  • 250g green or blond (Puy) lentils
  • half an onion or one shallot, finely chopped
  • a royal cup fresh herbs, finely chopped (parsley, coriander, mint, basil, chives, etc — whatever you have handy)
  • 3 tbs. good olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • fresh ground pepper and sea salt

Pick over and rinse the lentils, and cook them in salty water for about 20 to 25 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain, run cold water over them, drain again and transfer to a large bowl. Mix the lentils with the rest of the ingredients. Stir gently to combine. Taste, and add more olive oil and lemon juice to taste. Eat lukewarm, or chilled from the fridge. They’re arguably even better the next day!

Bon appétit!

xxx Esther

Apple Eve Pudding

Eve Pud

Now I know the French are known for their fancy pastries and cakes, but the English are hard to beat at simple, wholesome, easy-to-make desserts. One of my favourites is Apple Eve Pudding, a variation on Apple Crumble. Instead of crumble you add a sponge batter on top of the apples. I love the way the sponge slightly soaks up some of the juice from the apples. It makes it wonderfully moist.
The funny thing is, Apple Crumble is still being served all around the country, and I think Eve Pudding has almost been forgotten in England (correct me if I am wrong)! Here’s the recipe:

6 apples
200 g of butter
150 g of sugar
4 eggs
200 g of flour
1 teaspoon baking power
1 slug of milk

Peel the apples and cut them into chunks and put them in a oven proof dish. Heat the oven to 180°C.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add eggs one at a time. Fold in the flour with the baking powder to make a batter that can just about be dropped over the apples (it you think it is a bit too stiff and a slug of milk to get the right consistency). Drop over the apples making sure they are all covered and bake in the oven until the top of the pudding is golden. Serve warm – we usually add a good spoonful of vanilla ice cream.

P.S. different recipes call for raisins and cinnamon to be added to the apples, others for vanilla to be added to the batter. We like the simple version of the recipe but I think the variations are endless (blackberries mixed in with the apples? Could be delicious, no?)

- Emilie

P.S. Oh, I forgot to mention: best served with custard, ice cream or a good dose of single cream.

Simple Stone Fruit Tart

stone fruit tart
I stumbled upon this image on Pinterest a couple days ago and knew immediately what I wanted to do with the bowl full of peaches and nectarines on my kitchen counter and the ready-rolled puff pastry in my freezer. So easy! I quickly wrote down the  simple recipe and decided to make it that evening with all my little kitchen helpers. It was really a team effort – Easton helped fold the sides of the pastry and painted on the egg yolk, Quin sprinkled the sugar and helped cut the peaches, Ivy poured the honey and Marlow snuck bites of fruit while we worked. : )

Marlow making fruit tart

peaches, nectarines and apricots

Here’s the recipe:

-1 puff pastry sheet
-3 cups of stone fruit, sliced (we used peaches, nectarines, and apricots)
-3 tablespoons of honey
-1 tablespoon of lemon juice
-1 egg, lightly beaten
-granulated sugar for sprinkling

Heat oven to 190° C (375° F). Place baking sheet in oven to heat up. Place the puff pastry on parchment paper. Fold in edge of puff pastry towards center to create a half inch border; set aside. In a bowl toss fruit, honey and lemon juice. Remove heated baking sheet from oven. Place puff pastry on bake sheet. Pour fruit mixture on top. Brush border with lightly beaten egg and sprinkle sugar over the egg.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown. Enjoy!

fruit tart, eaten

We ended up eating the tart before dinner because none of us had the willpower to wait!

xx Courtney

p.s. Recipe based on this one found on Bakers Royale.

A recipe for pickled cucumber — so good!

pickled cucumbers by Babyccino KidsMy family has been making these pickled cucumber for as long as I remember. I used to LOVE them as a child, and now my kids (and all of our friends) eat them with relish too. They’re great as a side dish for dinner, but also wonderful to serve at cocktail hour. Plus, a homemade jar of pickles makes a nice present too!

pickled cucumberHere’s the recipe:

  • 3 kilo cucumbers
  • 0.75 l white wine, cider or herb vinegar
  • 0.25 l water
  • 1 kilo sugar
  • 2 sticks cinnamon (about 5 cm each), broken in pieces
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 or 2 cm fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
  • grated zest of a lemon
  • 1 t.sp. white peppercorns
  • 2 t.sp. mustard seeds

Have sterilised jars and lids ready — depending on the size of the jars, I would say you need about 10 of them. (I like to use slightly bigger jars.) Peel and halve the cucumbers lengthwise and scoop out the seeds using a spoon. Cut in chunks of about 2 to 3 cm (1 inch). Pack the raw cucumber tightly into jars (you can really press them in!). Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil an cook for about 3 minutes. Poor the hot liquid over the cucumbers using a funnel — fill jars to about 1 cm (1/2 inch) of the top. Screw lids on tightly.

pickled cucumbers

Now can your jars your preferred way. You can can by placing them in boiling water for 5 minutes, but I use the oven for canning: I put the jars on a roasting tin and place them in an oven of 150ºC. When the liquid in the jars is boiling (keep an eye on them!), I turn the oven off and let the jars cool down in the oven. There’s a lot of controversy on (oven) canning, but this is what I’ve been doing for ages and I’ve never had a problem with it. I use regular jars, but you can use special canning jars too. After canning, make sure the lids are closed well / popped down. If in doubt — eat those pickles first! You can keep the pickles at least for a year, but once opened you have to keep them in the fridge.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do — please let me know if you end up making them and if you find them delicious too!

xxx Esther

 

Simple tomato pasta

tomatoes and basil
chopped tomotoes for pasta
One of my favourite things about summer time is how much easier it is to make dinner! I’m not a very good planner, so in the winter time when you need time to make soups and stews, I often fail to get dinner made on time.  In the summer, with fresh produce on hand, it’s so much easier to make simple, delicious meals.

One of the easiest summer meals we make is a simple pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil. The only actual ‘cooking’ required is to boil the pasta. Other than that, it’s a bit of chopping and that’s it. Here’s what you’ll need:

-fresh, ripe tomatoes (preferably vine ripened)
-fresh basil
-garlic (usually 3-4 cloves, and I like to use fresh garlic this time of year)
-olive oil
-sea salt & pepper
-pasta (spaghetti, linguine or something similar)
-parmesan cheese

tomato pasta

Chop the garlic finely. Sprinkle a bit of salt over the garlic and crush garlic a bit to make it more of a paste (the salt helps to do this). Add garlic to bowl. Chop tomatoes and basil and add to bowl. Add a bit of olive oil and stir tomatoes to create a sauce with the tomatoes, garlic and basil.  Boil pasta and drain. Add fresh tomatoes. Sprinkle with fresh parmesan cheese. Enjoy! (So easy, right?!)

x Courtney

 

Tarte à la tomate et à la moutarde

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I recently got back in touch with a friend who I lost sight of for a few years, and in the meantime she divorced her Dutch husband and married a lovely French man, moved to another part of town, and is pregnant with their first (her second) baby. Things can change! Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this is that when we went over to their lovely house for lunch last week, we were served a ‘Tarte à la Tomato et à la Moutarde’, an utterly delicious quiche made with only 4 ingredients: puff pastry, mustard, tomatoes, and herbs. Apparently every self-respecting French housewife knows how to make this tarte, and takes pride in perfecting it to the sublime. Funny I had never heard of it before!

Tarte à la tomate et à la moutarde

Yesterday I was preparing a picnic with my girls, and we decided to try to make the Tarte à la tomato et à la moutarde — and it was indeed so super simple to make and just as delicious as the week before. Here’s the how-to:

  • Puff pastry
  • Mustard (Maille original works great)
  • About 5 ripe tomatoes
  • Herbs Provençal (a mixture of dried thyme, oregano, basil, sage, rosemary, and savory)

Cover a greased quiche bottom with puff pastry and pre-bake about 10 minutes on 175ºC (450ºF). In the meantime, slice your tomatoes thinly. Take crust out of oven and cover royally with mustard (they say you shouldn’t see the puff pastry anymore but I used a bit less, about 2 to 3 tablespoons). Layer the tomatoes over the mustard and sprinkle the herbs on top, together with a bit of sea salt and a sprinkle of olive oil.  Bake in oven for 45 minutes (cover with aluminium foil halfway).

Bon appétit!

xxx Esther

Fantastic food from Mikodesign

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 10.52.44 Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 10.52.23I’ve raved about the boundless creativity of my friend Erika from Mikodesign before. Her dolls are simply beautiful (and so fun to put together yourself if you like sewing). But the surprise food plates she creates for her two teenage daughters are something else!

Check out the ‘fast food’ lunch above: with mango french fries, a peanut butter sandwich ‘cheese burger’, strawberry ketchup, and a strawberry banana smoothie milkshake. Or don’t you love the fun summery afternoon vegetable snack with googly eyes?

Mikodesign_flowersHere’s a flower themed surprise breakfast with mango flowers, a boiled egg with a flower garland, a pink smoothie, and a peanut butter sandwich flowerpot with a real mint plant… A day started with a breakfast like this can only bring smiles!

Mikodesign_cats mikodesign_kahlo Above a ‘cats’ surprise breakfast made with a peanut butter sandwich, fresh mango, pink smoothie, egg and edible paper. And a ‘Viva Frida’ surprise breakfast with a Frida Kahlo pancake, strawberry margarita smoothie and an apple/peanut butter sandwich cactus. (I think this one is my all-time Mikodesign Breakfast favourite!!)

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 17.23.53 Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 17.24.04How cool is this Instagram snack? Or the surprise breakfast with a hardboiled egg-face on a stick (the eyes are made with simple black sesame seeds), apple, peanut butter sandwich, green smoothie and a chocolate cookie for dessert…. Amazing, right?

I find Erika to be one of the most inspirational people I follow on Instagram. I can definitely recommend her feed – all she does is simply amazing!

xxx Esther

 

Frozen watermelon lollies

I saw an image of iced watermelon lollies on Pinterest last week and thought that was about the best idea ever! How simple and perfect for summer. Since we’re having a ‘mini’ heat wave here in London this week, I decided to make them for the kids as an after-school snack.  The kids agree — best idea ever!

x Courtney

p.s. I love how 22° qualifies as a heat wave in England : )
p.p.s. Come join us on Pinterest! We’re addicted — so much inspiration all in one place!

A simple recipe for Madeleines

I don’t know if you are like me, but I sometimes have a favourite recipe that I make almost every day and then totally forget about it. I was recently tidying up a kitchen shelf and on it I found a long forgotten Madeleine pan ! Violette and I got straight to work and the results were delicious.

My Madeleine recipe is possibly one of the simplest I know:

-125 g of sugar
-125 g of butter
-150 g of flour
-2 eggs

Pre-heat the oven to 180° C. Butter the Madeleine tray. Cream the butter with the sugar until it becomes light, then mix in the eggs and the flour alternating. Fill up your Madeleine tray and cook until light brown.

Voila, there is nothing better with a cup of tea!

-Emilie

World’s easiest peanut butter cookies!

My mother-in-law made these peanut butter cookies for us when we were visiting over Easter, and I think I ate five in one go. They are delicious! So moist and chewy and crazily addictive. And the best bit? They consist of only THREE INGREDIENTS! How simple is that?!

Just:

-1 cup of peanut butter
-1 cup of brown sugar
-1 egg

In a large bowl, mix the three ingredients together until you have a smooth, consistent dough. Using your hands, roll dough into small balls and place on a baking tray, evenly spaced. Press a fork into the dough balls in opposite directions making a criss-cross pattern. Then bake at 350° F (175° C) for 8-10 minutes. And that’s it. So easy!! I’m planning on making them for my mom when she comes to visit — she can’t eat gluten, but loves cookies. She is going to be so excited about this recipe!

And here’s a photo of sneaky Ivy stealing a warm cookie straight off the tray! Yummmm….

x Courtney

Hokolo

Hokolo is a London-based design label started by Jen Taylor, who has set out to create a brand that represents the style of her two favourite cities: Hong Kong and London (hence the brand name). Her collection features a blend of iconic British objects with a bright & modern design aesthetic.
I love the English Breakfast collection which plays on strong graphic qualities of fried eggs, tomatoes, blueberries and orange slices set against colourful backdrops and gingham-inspired patterns. The designs are bright, modern and playful and can be found on soft, lambswool blankets, placemats and coasters, cotton tea towels and other homewares.

Jen is offering Babyccino readers 15% off the entire Hokolo collection. Click here for details.

x Courtney

Weekend brownie baking and cute aprons from Odette Williams


The lovely Odette Williams sent over a couple of her cute apron sets for my kids and they arrived just in time for some brownie baking over the weekend. I managed to snap a couple photos of my little helpers and thought I would share.

If you haven’t yet discovered the Smitten Kitchen brownie recipe, you should do so immediately. It’s my go-to recipe! And if your kids need some aprons to encourage them to help you in the kitchen, you should check out these great sets. (They also make good gifts I think!)

x Courtney

Birthday party: Decorating cupcakes

One of my childhood friends always had the best cake at her birthday parties. Her mum would make (or buy?) the most ordinary cupcakes, and set the table with different sort of custards, frostings and toppings. I loved to pile up my plate with candy, and create the most enormous cupcake possible.

For Sara’s birthday party last year, I did a similar thing. I made cupcakes, and cream cheese frosting (simply mix cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar), and used my vintage fondue plates for the table setting. Chocolate sprinkles, heart sprinkles, mini m&m’s, candy… It was all there. And it was funny to see how the children enjoyed themselves (and how in the end, lots of the candy was left un-eaten on the plates, but all of the raspberries, blueberries and strawberries were gone)!

xxx Esther

An 8th birthday party with a cooking theme

It was Pim’s 7th birthday last Monday so I’m planning a little birthday party for him, and I realised that I never posted about the cooking party we had for Sara’s birthday last year!

Sara has enjoyed food since she was a baby, and she loves helping me in the kitchen. So it was no surprise when she asked for a cooking party for her 8th birthday! She invited 8 of her girl friends, and like always, party preparations took place the day before the party (let’s just say, I’m at my best the very last minute).

I bought a huge pile of cheap, unbleached cotton at the market, and together with my mother-in-law sewed 11 aprons out of it (of course Pim and Ava were invited too). I also bought cutting boards, knives, notebooks and pencils. I made a triangular stamp out of a simple eraser, and decorated everything with triangles. I also stamped the children’s names on all of the items.

We set the table with the different veggies and toppings needed for the healthy Vietnamese Style Rice Paper Rolls I blogged about earlier. The children loved cutting everything on their own cutting boards, and writing down the ingredients and recipe in their little notebook. And even very picky eaters found ingredients on the table that they loved!

Afterwards, the notebooks and pencils came in handy for the treasure hunt we had organised in the neighbourhood. And of course, they could all take home a little party bag with the items we had made for them. It was a really fun party!

xxx Esther

Ginger Biscuits

Ginger Biscuits (otherwise known as Ginger Nuts) must be the Irish equivalent to Esther’s Pepernoten – spicey, really crunchy and perfect to dunk into a cup of tea. This is my grandmother’s recipe and I have been eating these ever since I can remember! It makes up to 80 biscuits, but don’t worry, they will disappear fast.

  • 225 grams of butter
  • 340 grams of demerara sugar or other brown (you can use white if stuck, or in France I use cassonade)
  • 1 generous tablespoon of golden syrup — honey does not work as well
  • 1 egg
  • 450 grams of self raising flour (or use plain and add baking powder)
  • 2 tsp ginger (depending on taste)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (depending on taste)

Cream the sugar and the butter and add the egg and the golden syrup. Sift in the flour and the spices. Make little balls with you hands (I always have volunteers for this part), place them on a buttered tray and press them down. Bake for about 15 minutes at around 170°C degrees.

- Emilie

PS. Whilst I was putting together the post, I had a little search on the internet for Ginger Nut recipes and found this little video. I always forget that baking is actually just science. Who knew that more butter makes a chewy biscuit and more sugar a snappy one?!

Æbleskiver recipe


Æbleskivers are a type of (delicious!) Danish pancake… and while I don’t have any Danish roots, my family has been making Æbleskivers for as long as I can remember. My mom even remembers her grandmother making them for her. I believe they are traditionally eaten around Christmas time, but in my family we eat them whenever we are all together. Usually in the summertime!

Santa gave me an Æbleskiver pan for Christmas this year and we made them twice over the Christmas holiday. They’re so yummy — like a cross between a donut and a pancake. What’s not to love?! Here’s my family’s age-old recipe:

Æbleskivers (approximately 40):

- 3 eggs
- 1 pint of cream
- 2 cups flour
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 Tablespoon of sugar

Beat the eggs until they’re light in colour. Add the flour and the cream alternatively and mix well. Add the salt, baking powder and sugar and mix until smooth and creamy. Batter should pour easily into pan.

Heat your Æbleskiver pan over high heat. Add a bit of vegetable oil (or butter) to individual holes and fill the holes ¾ full with batter. Turn the æbleskivers (we do this with a fork in each hand) when they are getting dry and golden on the bottom (you might need to turn them in three rotations to get them to be round in shape). When they are round and golden on all sides, dump from the pan onto a plate of powdered sugar.

Enjoy with powdered sugar and/or jam. (If you’ve made too many, save for later! My kids love them even when they’re cold.)

xx Courtney

Kristina Kringle

My sister has just arrived to spend the holidays with us and we are all so excited!! Her arrival really marked the start of the holiday season for us, and also the start of the Christmas cookie baking frenzy! We decided to start with a dessert our mum used to make every Christmas called Kristina Kringle. Just the almondy smell of them makes my mouth water and reminds me of being a child, counting down the days ’til Christmas!

This is another great recipe from one of my very favourite cookbooks, the Alice Bay Cookbook, referenced before here and here and here. I hope you like them as much as we do! Here’s the recipe:

Kristina Kringle:

-1 cup flour
-1/2 cup butter (112 grams)
-2 tablespoons water

-1 cup water
-1/2 cup butter
-1 cup flour
-3 eggs
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cut together 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of butter until mixture resembles fine meal. Add the water and blend well. Form dough into a ball and divide in half. Using the heel of your hand, press dough into two long strips about 3 inches wide, down the length of a cookie sheet.

In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup of butter to a boil. Remove from heat. Add flour, and stir until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add salt and extract. Stir into a smooth consistency. Spread on top of the dough strips. And bake for 45 minutes. Cool and frost with Almond Icing.

Almond Icing:

-1/4 cup butter, softened
-1 cup confectioner’s sugar
-1 tablespoon milk
-1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Combine the butter, sugar, milk and extract. Blend until smooth and spread over pastry.

Enjoy! And happy Christmas cookie baking.

xx Courtney

Gratin

Gratins have been around since the invention of the stove I reckon. If you think about it, a lasagne, cauliflower and cheese and a haché parmentier are roughly the same thing: some carbohydrates or vegetables mixed in with a béchamel and potentially some cheese, stuck into an oven until it all turns into a beautiful melting pot of a dish, covered with a bubbling crust.

A good gratin is a staple dish in our house, as it gives new life to leftover pasta, potatoes or vegetables. I mostly use either single cream for my bakes or a tomato sauce to bind the main body of the dish together and then top it with grated cheese. I then stick it in the oven, which has been preheated to 180° and bake it for 30-40 minutes until it is golden brown on top and bubbling.

I don’t think I have ever eaten a bad gratin and, eaten with a crispy green salad, it is a really lovely meal.

- Emilie

Above is a gratin I made the other day with broccoli, potato and some lardons!

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