Monthly Archives: February 2012

French Lemon Tart or Tartlets


As much as I dislike pairing sweet and sour flavours in savoury dishes, I have always found it irresistible in desserts and the French Lemon Tart represents for me the apotheosis of this combination. I have written about it a long time ago, but the photo was far from appetising and the recipe passed almost unnoticed. I am very grateful to Arudhi from The Box of Kitchen, who has recently dug out my old post, baked the tart and, most of all, enjoyed the results. Her experience and kind compliments made me decide to change the photo, to add some important explanations and to re-post this extraordinary recipe, sharing it with all those who have a passion for tangy desserts.

Even though lemon tart (or pie) is popular in many countries, the thin crust and the absence of cream, flour or condensed milk in the filling make the French version the most subtle and particularly light (by “light” I mean taste, since the tart is far from being low-fat or low-calorie).  I don’t know if it’s the thin, crumbly, buttery, almond crust, the delicate, falsely light filling, the perfect balance between the sweet and the tangy or simply the combination of all the flavours, but this is the only tart I  can easily finish on my own in two sessions. Served after a nourishing and heavy meal it is a refreshing relief for the palate. For me it is the ideal ending of a spicy meal, such as Beef Rendang, Indian or Thai curry.

The recipe comes from “Le Grand Livre de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse: Bistrots, Brasseries et Restaurants de Tradition”, a highly reliable source of French recipes I recommend to everyone. This one is as foolproof as other Ducasse’s recipes  I have made (madeleinescrème brûlée or my transformation into Matcha Crème Brûlée), but has to be followed attentively without skipping or simplifying any stages.

TIPS: If you wish – and have a blowtorch – you can sprinkle the tart with brown sugar and burn it before serving, like crème brûlée. (Personally I prefer it simple or with some grated lemon zest.)

You can make either one big tart or, as you see on the above photo, individual tartlets (with the amounts below you will obtain about 12 standard tartlets). The tartlets are in my opinion easier to make. If you decide to make individual tartlets, cut down the baking time as advised below.

Special equipment:

beans for blind baking (I have been using the same real dried cheap beans for several years now)

Preparation: 1 hour + 2 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (one 28 cm diameter tart or about 12 standard tartlets):


100 g flour

30 g ground or powdered almonds

90g softened butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons caster sugar


200 ml lemon juice

100 g butter

4 eggs

120 g confectioner’s sugar

(grated lemon zest)

(brown sugar)

Prepare the pastry case.

Mix the butter, the almonds, the salt and the sugar in a food processor. When these ingredients are mixed thoroughly, add the flour and mix again.

Stop when you see a big ball is being formed.

(You may also knead the pastry without the food processor, but then you have to do this very quickly, maximum 5 minutes, pushing with the heel of your hand and minimising the use of your fingers, otherwise the tart will be too crumbly.)

Wrap the dough in a cling film and put into the fridge for at least 30 minutes (you can leave it there up to 48 hours).

Take it out of the fridge and let it soften a bit before  using it.

Roll it thinly with a rolling pin (I would advise 1/2 cm) and line the tart pan or individual tartlets forms. (If you don’t manage to roll it out, you can wait until it softens more and spread it with your fingers).

Pick the surface with a fork and place it into the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 150°C.

Take out the tart dish from the fridge.

Cover the flat surface with a baking sheet and put some dried beans on it. This way the pastry will not rise.

Precook the tart shell (or tartlets shells) until it’s no longer raw, but still white. Take it out, put the beans back into their jar and let the tart shell cool.

Lower the oven temperature to 130°C.

Melt the butter in a pan. Put aside.

Break the eggs in a bowl, add the sugar, the lemon juice and the warm butter. Stir well.

Pour the lemon filling on the warm (not hot) tart shell (or individual shells) and bake it at 130°C for about 30 minutes (or 15-20 minutes if making individual tartlets), depending on the oven (when the tart is moved the surface should be only slightly trembling in the centre).

Let it cool down and put into the fridge for at least two hours.

Take it out of the fridge no more than 30 minutes before serving (it must be cold, but the pastry should soften a bit). At the last moment either sprinkle it with fresh lemon zest or gently pat it dry with paper towels, sprinkle with brown sugar and burn it, or simply serve it as it is.


Warm Lentil Salad (Salade Tiède aux Lentilles)

Last week, while preparing the Friday Far Breton post, my old recipe book reminded me I used to cook French much more often at the time I discovered this pudding. Leafing through the stained pages I stumbled upon the Warm Lentil Salad, my beloved lentil dish I haven’t had for ages. I still remember the first time I tasted this salad, in a traditional French restaurant and was very surprised by the enthusiasm of the friend I lunched with. When her salad finally arrived and I tasted it, I instantly regretted having taken a different starter. It was a simple, typically bistrot style preparation of warm lentils and vinaigrette, but the taste was astonishing.

The Warm Lentil Salad  is usually served as a starter (at home I prefer it as a side dish), sometimes alone, sometimes sprinkled with fried bacon and sometimes with foie gras terrine. You might be surprised by the latter version, but actually the humble lentil is an ideal company for foie gras and if you ever go to France, this pairing is quite frequent in Lyon restaurants. Even served alone the salad is certainly hearty and filling, but probably thanks to the vinaigratte it feels much lighter than any lentil dish I know.

TIPS: This salad can be made with freshly cooked lentils,  but it’s also a very good way to use leftovers, warm them in the microwave and then combine with the vinaigrette sauce. The lentils can also be cooked the day before and warmed just before being served with the vinaigrette.

Preparation: 40- 50 minutes depending on the lentils

Ingredients (serves two – three):

250 g firm, dark green or brown lentils (the best here are the French lentilles de Puy) or 500 g cooked lentils (in this case skip the stock, bay leaf and thyme)

1 liter chicken or vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

1 heaped teaspoon thyme


2 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons vinegar (or more)

1 tablespoon French mustard

salt, pepper

Cook the lentils in the stock with bay leaf and thyme. When they are soft, but not mushy, drain them.

Put the warm lentils in a big bowl and combine with the vinaigrette. Taste and adjust the taste.

Serve immediately as a starter or a side dish.




Chicken and Potatoes in Miso Stew

As I have recently mentioned, I start getting bored with Winter vegetables. On the other hand, as much as I enjoy cucumber kimchi or refreshing citrus drinks, they will never feed me or keep me warm as much as a hearty, thick, potato and carrot soup. A couple of days ago I had some leftover chicken stock and decided to make a quick soup with what I had in the fridge at the moment. I tasted it and felt something was missing. I opened the fridge, took a big tablespoon of miso and was thrilled to discover that this simple gesture gave my basic soup a sophisticated, fusion twist. As a big fan of miso, I have always found its complexity amazing, but I would have never suspected a tablespoon of this condiment can transform such a simple dish into something worth writing about.

For those who still haven’t used miso (味噌), this thick paste made by fermenting soybeans and/or barley or rice, is one of the most important ingredients of the Japanese cuisine. Miso has three main colour types: white (shiromiso), red (akamiso), black (kuromiso), and also mixed miso (awasemiso). In general, the lighter the colour, the more delicate the taste. There are myriads of different misos, depending on the brand, the ingredients, the region… Miso is very healthy, packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. Miso soup is usually the first dish in which foreigners discover this Japanese staple, but it’s also used in simmered dishes, as a seasoning for grilled fish and meat, in sauces, pickles…

Here are some other miso use ideas:

Garlic Miso Chicken Breast

Aubergine with Ponzu, Miso and Sesame Sauce

Miso Soup with Tofu

-Miso Soup with Shrimp and Tofu

-Mackerel Simmered in Miso

TIP: Adding the miso just before serving (not boiling it) preserves its precious nutrients.

Preparation: 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves one):

200 ml chicken stock

1/2 chicken breast, sliced

1 small carrot, chopped

1 small potato, peeled and cubed

1 tablespoon miso (or more)

(soy sauce if the soup is not salty enough)

Put the stock, the carrot, the potato and the chicken into a small pan. Cook it for about 20 minutes until the potato cubes are cooked.

Put the pan aside and stir one tablespoon miso, making sure it is well dissolved.






Far breton, or Brittany Prune Pudding

farbretonppFar breton is one of my favourite and most frequently baked sweet dishes. It is light and low-fat, but filling, slightly sweet, but tangy, it is best served cold, but perfect even in cold seasons too. I wouldn’t only call it irresistible, but also undownputable, just like a fascinating book. Far breton is as easy to prepare as it is impossible to translate. It’s not exactly a cake, nor a custard, nor a flan… Since nothing I have ever tasted has a similar consistency, maybe “a baked, dense, slightly elastic pudding” (in the German sense of the word) would be a good definition.

As its name suggests, far breton is a Brittany region specialty and a small Breton village bakery shop is the first place where I discovered it . Apparently, many centuries ago the dish called far was a kind of gruel with dried fruit, and far is a Latin word meaning “wheat” or “spelt” . Afterwards the dish evolved into the today’s dense pudding-like cake. The oldest written trace of the present form of far breton dates back to the XVIIIth century, when both savoury (made from buckwheat and served with meat) and sweet fars (usually without any fruit) were popular. Nowadays only the sweet one is very popular not only in Brittany, but all around France.

Most people prepare it, like me, with prunes, some add only raisins, some both, and some purists refuse any kind of fruit. I find the most popular, slightly tangy version the absolute winner. I think it is best served cold, preferably left overnight in the fridge. Having prepared far breton for many years, I no longer remember where I found this recipe, but I appreciate it for the absence of butter or any fats and for its low sugar content. Its colour varies and depends on eggs. My organic Winter egg yolks were particularly small, hence the light colour.

TIP: Many people worry about the fact that prunes fall to the bottom. I don’t mind, but I have heard that coating prunes in flour prevent them from falling. (I have never tested it though).

Preparation: 1 h (+ at least 2 hours in the fridge)

Ingredients (fills a 10 x 30 cm or 20 x 20 cm baking dishes):

250 g flour

70 g sugar

4 eggs

750 ml milk

1 pinch salt

a bit of salted butter to grease the dish

25 big prunes (stoned)

a bowl of hot strong black tea

50-100 ml rum

Soak the prunes in tea until they become soft. Drain them.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Grease the pan with butter (or line with baking paper).

Warm the milk until it is hot (don’t boil it!).

Combine the eggs, the flour, the salt and the sugar.

Slowly add the warm milk and the rum, stirring.

Pour the batter (it will be very liquid) into the baking dish. (If it is not smooth, mix it in a blender or pass it through a sieve).

Place the prunes inside, more or less regularly.

Bake for about 1 hour until golden brown.

Let the far cool down before putting it into the fridge for several hours.

Serve very cold, sliced.

Easy Cucumber Kimchi (Oi Kimchi)

cuckimchipIt’s kimchi time again! After white radish (daikon) kimchi and the simplified version of Chinese/Napa cabbage kimchi, I would like to present you the most extraordinary experiment in this field, namely cucumber kimchi. Even though not in its best season now, cucumber is available all year round and brings a pleasant freshness to my meals when I’m fed up with carrots, potatoes, cabbage and other sad Winter vegetables. Combined with hot seasoning and fermented, it gains in precious nutrients, flavour complexity, colours and becomes even more welcome on cold, dark days.

First of all I must thank Charles from Five Euro Food because without his enthusiastic comments I even wouldn’t know cucumber kimchi existed and certainly wouldn’t prepare it so quickly. Charles has never made it himself, but my recipe quest wasn’t long. I found what I was looking for at Eating and Living blog, my main source of Korean recipes. I was even lucky to stumble upon a simplified cucumber kimchi recipe (Oi Kimchi), which was perfect to start with. Traditionally, in Oi Sobagi Kimchi, cucumbers are cut into big chunks, then, with half-length slits, “pockets” are formed and stuffed with kimchi seasoning. Here cucumber is simply cut up into bite-sized pieces and combined with the seasoning. (For those who want to know more about kimchi, I have written about it here and here.)

I have no idea what the traditional stuffed cucumber kimchi tastes like, but this version proved so excellent I can say without any doubts this is by far my favourite kimchi. I adore it for its freshness, crunchiness, lightness and for the fact that it is perfect at every stage of fermentation. First the cucumber’s freshness is dominating, then it reminds me of the delicate Japanese pickles and then, when it matures, the taste is is very close to the Central and Eastern European cucumbers fermented in brine. I cannot even imagine how terrific this kimchi will be when made with seasonal Summer cucumbers. Thank you, Hyosun, for one more wonderful recipe and thank you, Charles, for this discovery!

Even though I haven’t changed the original recipe, you may want to click here to see very helpful step-by-step photos.

Preparation: 45 minutes + min. 20-30 minutes fermentation


1 long dark green cucumber 
1 tablespoon coarse salt

1 teaspoon garlic (grated or crushed)

1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 tablespoons Korean chili flakes

1 teaspoon white sesame seeds

1 tablespoon fish sauce

3 green onion stalks, cut into 2 cm pieces

Cut the cucumber into 3 cm chunks and then cut them into 8 strips lengthwise.

Sprinkle the cucumber pieces with salt and leave them for 30 minutes.

Drain the cucumber, but do not rinse it.

Add all the seasoning ingredients and place the cucumbers in an airtight container.

Wait for 20-30 minutes and serve or leave for two days to ferment in room temperature and then put into the fridge for several days.

Exceptionally this kimchi is as good freshly made as well as after a couple of days.

I even liked it after one week.