This cider braised pork belly is pure heaven on a plate – the poaching step is all about making the meat as moist and succulent as possible, while frying it up on the day ensures the skin is crisp to perfection! Reducing the cider broth to a delicate jus works wonders to bring all the rich and earthy flavours together. It takes a bit of planning to get started the day before, but each step is super easy and the end result is truly michelin star quality!
1 brown onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
4 sprig fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
500ml good-quality cider
1l fresh chicken stock
1-1.5kg piece unscored boneless pork belly
1. Heat the oven to 160C. Place onion, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves and thyme in an oven proof casserole. Cover with stock, cider and bring to the boil. Slide the pork into the liquid making sure it’s totally submerged, cover with a lid and place in the oven for 3 hours.
2. Once cooked leave the pork to cool for a bit in the stock. Line a flat baking tray with cling film, carefully lift the pork, get rid of any bits of veg & herbs and place it skin down onto the tray. Cover with another flat tray or dish, weigh it down with something heavy place in the fridge overnight. This step is really important to ensure the pork’s skin is perfectly clean, flat – ready to be trimmed and crisped up the next day. Strain the cooking liquid into a jug cover and place in the fridge to chill.
(on the day)
3. Pour the braising juices (now jelly) into a saucepan and reduce down by two-thirds until thicker and syrupy.
4. Place pork on a clean board, skin-side upwards. Get a sharp knife and trim off any uneven edges so that you have a neat sheet of meat and cut into equal pieces. Heat oil in a large frying pan and reduce to medium heat. Sizzle the pork skin side down for 5 mins until the skin is perfectly crispy and flip it over for another couple of minutes until warm and browned all over.
Serve with cauliflower mash, mustard cabbage or any other earthy/wintery sides and drizzle the jus next to the pork on the plate. I also like to sprinkle a few bits of fried chorizo over it for extra texture!
Definitely give this dish a go for your next dinner party, pork belly is a very affordable cut of meat too, so no need to spend a fortune to impress!
A “Poule Au Pot” is a classic French dish originally made popular by Henri IV, whose ambition was for every family in his kingdom to be able to afford to eat this dish every Sunday. It is traditionally served with the carved poached meat and vegetables on a platter and the chicken broth in a bowl on the side, but I prefer to bring all the elements back to the pot and serve it as a hearty soup.
1 whole organic chicken, washed
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery sticks, sliced
2 onions, chopped
2L chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 small bunch of parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped
2 leeks, washed and sliced
Salt & Pepper to taste
1) Place carrots, celery, onions, parsley and bay leaves in a large non-stick pan. Season with Salt & pepper. Place the chicken over the vegetables, pour in stock and add enough water to cover the chicken (I took the below photo before adding the extra water). Simmer on medium heat for 1.5 hour or until the chicken is soft and fully cooked through.
2) Remove the chicken from the pan leave it to cool down on the side. Bring the broth back to high heat and allow to reduce for 15 minutes. In the meantime, tear the cooked chicken into long chunks.
4) Once the broth has reduced by a third, throw the chicken back in the pan, add the leeks and simmer for another 10 minutes.
5) Remove the bay leaves and serve in warm bowls with a sprinkle of chopped parsley.
For something a bit more substantial, add potatoes at the same time as the carrots and green peas as you add the leeks. This soup is delicious, nutritious and super healthy too!
This is a variation of a Quatre-quart, which is a traditional French cake from the region of Brittany. It translates to “four-quarters”, meaning 1/4 of the recipe is flour, 1/4 sugar, 1/4 butter, and 1/4 eggs. My mum’s personal twist was to add apples to it, probably to make it a bit healthier as she used to make it most weekends for us growing up…served with a glass of milk, this cake is pure comfort food and an instant burst of childhood memories!
4 large eggs
250g butter, softened
250g or 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
250g or 1 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
4 apples, peeled, cored & sliced
1 tbsp baking soda
1 pinch of salt
1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Separate the egg whites from the yolks into two bowls.
2) Whisk the egg yolks with sugar in a large bowl until pale and thick. Add the butter, vanilla essence, baking powder beating continuously. Gradually add flour and continue mixing until the mixture is smooth.
3) Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm peaks form. Gently, fold stiffed egg whites into the batter.
4) Arrange some of the apple slices in neat circles on the bottom of a non stick cake pan. Chop the remaining apple slices and mix in the batter.
5) Pour batter over the apple slices and cook for an hour or until pick inserted in center comes out clean. Make sure you check as it can sometimes take a little it longer with the apples added to the mixture.
You can also try a more classic “Quatre quart” recipe, skipping the apples and replacing the vanilla essence with lemon juice.
Fancy cooking something French and really special? Try this iconic French dish of beef, stewed with lovely vegetables and herbs in wine which are then strained off, reduced and thickened to create a densely flavoured, smooth and silky sauce. Yes, if you’re feeling lazy, you could technically skip the sauce straining steps, but then it would just end up being a lovely stew, not a true boeuf Bourguignon! I personally think the extra step makes all the difference!
Ingredients (4 people)
200g bacon, solid chunk cut into lardons
800g braising steak, cut into cubes
2 tbsp flour
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
12 shallots, peeled and sliced
3 cups red wine (ideally Bordeaux)
2-3 cups beef stock (enough to cover)
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, mashed
2 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
200g mushroom, quartered
50g unsalted butter
salt & fresh ground pepper
Potatoes, roasted or mashed (to serve)
Crusty bread (to serve)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan, sauté the lardons for 2 to 3 minutes until lightly browned and set aside on a plate.
2. Coat the pieces of beef in flour, season with salt and pepper, and brown on all sides in the bacon fat and olive oil. Set aside with the bacon. Again, in the same oil/fat, sauté the shallots, garlic and the carrot until softened. Set aside with the meat.
3. Deglaze the frying pan with the wine, pour it into an oven-proof casserole along with the meat, lardons, shallots, garlic, carrots and add enough stock to almost cover the mix. Stir in the tomato paste and add the parsley, sage and half the thyme. Bring to a simmer on the top of the stove, cover and place in the oven. Reduce heat to 120 degrees and simmer slowly for 3 hours to 4 hours, or until a fork pierces the meat easily.
4. In the meantime, start preparing the mushrooms. Heat a spoonful of butter and a spoonful of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. As soon as the foam begins, add the mushrooms and a sprig of thyme, season with salt and pepper, toss and sauté for about five minutes until brown and set aside until ready to use. You may also want to start preparing the side of potato at this stage.
5. When the stew meat is tender, remove all solids from the sauce by draining through a sieve set over a saucepan. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole, discarding the bits of carrot, shallots and herbs which remain in the sieve.
6. Skim the fat off the sauce and simmer it for a minute or two. You should be left with about 2-3 cups of rich, dark sauce, thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If the sauce is too thin, stir in a spoonful of flour and boil it down to reduce to the right thickness. If it’s too thick, add a bit of stock.Taste for seasoning before serving.
7. Pour the sauce over the side and garnish with fresh parsley to serve.
If serving later, simply allow the casserole to cool before placing it in the refrigerator. Place over medium heat and simmer very slowly for ten minutes, occasionally stirring the meat with the sauce.
Ice-cream hidden in a crispy choux pastry ball, covered in chocolate sauce. Can you think of anything better, seriously?
25g unsalted butter
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup flour
1 pinch of salt
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt
1.Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Bring butter, water and 1 pinch of salt to boil, stirring well until the butter is melted.
2. Pour the flour all at once in the butter mixture and use a wooden spoon to beat until well combined and until it forms a ball. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
3. Whisk in the eggs, but one at a time until well combined.
4. Cover a large tray with baking paper. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag and pipe the profiteroles onto the baking tray. If you don’t have a pastry bag, use a ziplock bag and cut off the corner.
5. Bake for 25 minutes or until the profiteroles are puffed and golden. Try not to open the oven until it’s cooked or your pastry may run rise as desired.
6. Remove from oven and turn the oven off. Using a skewer or a small knife, prick each profiterole once and return the to the oven for 15 minutes to dry out.
7. To prepare the sauce, break the chocolate into rough pieces and melt it in a pan. Pour the cream in and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth and fully combined. Remove from the heat, add a pinch of salt, a splash of cognac if you wish and mix well.
8. To assemble the profiteroles, halve each choux horizontally, fill with a ball of ice-cream. Place 3 on each plate, over some whipped cream and drizzle generously with chocolate sauce.
The same choux pastry recipe can be used for eclairs.
Croque Madame, or “crispy miss” is a tweaked version of the classic French “Croque Monsieur” more commonly referred to as “croque” in most French bistros. The addition of the fried egg and bechamel sauce on top turns it from a Monsieur to a Madam… it’s a sensational Sunday brunch option!
Ingredients: (serves 4)
8 slices sandwich bread
4 tbsp hot mustard
200g, freshly sliced ham
60g Gruyere cheese, finely sliced
4 tbsp butter, softened
40g Gruyere cheese, grated
2 tablespoons oil
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1 pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1. Preheat the grill to 150 degrees and divide the sliced ham and cheese evenly into 4 portions. Spread the mustard on 4 slices of bread, cover with ham and with cheese. Place the remaining slices of bread on top of the cheese and spread the butter over the outside surfaces of the sandwiches.
2. To prepare the bechamel sauce, melt the butter into a small sauce pan and whisk in the flour until it forms a smooth paste. Gradually add the milk and continue whisking and cook until the sauce is smooth, and thickened. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
3. Place the sandwiches on an ungreased baking sheet and grill for about 3 minutes on each side, turn them over, cover with a layer of bechamel sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and continue cooking until they are crispy and golden brown.
4. In the meantime, pre-heat oil in a large frying pan and fry the eggs. Place a fried egg on each sandwich and serve hot.
For a classic croque-monsieur, simply omit the bechamel sauce and fried egg!
This deliciously rich and creamy chocolate mousse will please everyone, from chocolate fanatic friends to kids! While really easy to prepare, the layers and chocolate shavings will make it look more special than the more classic uniform version.
Ingredients: (4 serves)
1 cup thickened cream
100g dark chocolate
100g white chocolate
4 large eggs (or 5 small), separated
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 pinch salt
small handful dark chocolate shavings
1. Whisk cream in a medium bowl until firm peaks form.
2. Melt the dark chocolate in a saucepan over medium heat, season with a pinch of salt, whisk in 2 egg yolks and fold in half of the whipped cream.
3. Repeat with white chocolate, but melting it in a splash of warm cream on very low heat to avoid caramelising it. Whisk in the egg yolks and fold in the remaining whipped cream.
4. Whisk the egg whites in a mxing bowl until soft peaks form and gradually add the sugar the mixture is thick and glossy. Fold half the egg white mixture into dark chocolate mixture until just combined. Fold the remaining egg white mixture into the white chocolate mixture until just combined.
5. Once fully cooled down, spoon the dark chocolate mixture among four glasses, top with the white chocolate mixture and sprinkle dark chocolate shavings on top. Place in fridge for 3 hours or until set.
Poire belle Hélène is a French dessert made from pears poached in sugar syrup and served with vanilla ice and chocolate sauce. It was created around 1850 by Auguste Escoffier and named after the operetta La belle Hélène by Jacques Offenbach.
Ingredients (serves 2)
2 cups water
1 pinch salt
1 splash cognac (optional)
1. Bring some water to the simmer in a large saucepan, enough to cover the pears. Stir in the honey and cinnamon. In the meantime, peel off the pears but leave the stalks intact for decorative purposes. Place them upright in a deep pan and cook for 20-30 min or until tender. Let them cool down in the syrup.
2. To make the chocolate sauce, heat the chocolate pieces gently until the chocolate has melted. Mix in a pinch of salt and a splash of cognac if you wish!
3. Place 2 or 3 scoops of ice cream in each bowl.
4. Place the poached pear quarters on top or beside the ice cream and drizzle with warm chocolate sauce.
5. Garnish with Crème Chantilly.
A Chocolate Liegeois is the ultimate indulgence for any chocolate addict. Its the perfect combination of chocolate ice-cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream! It’s usually served in a tall glass and is a real classic in most French restaurants.
50ml Whipped cream
100g dark chocolate
1 pinch of salt
1 splash cognac (optional)
1. To prepare the sauce, break the chocolate into rough pieces and melt it in a pan. Pour the cream in and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth and fully combined. Remove from the heat, add a pinch of salt, a splash of cognac and mix well.
2. Scoop 2 scoops of chocolate ice-cream and 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream in each glass.
3. Cover with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and drizzle a little more chocolate sauce on top!
You can also change the chocolate flavour for coffee, simply using coffee ice-cream and covering it with a shot of sweetened coffee!
Warm flambee bananas on a crepe with vanilla ice cream, chocolate and caramel sauces make one very decadent treat!
Ingredients: (serves 2)
1 large egg
1/4 cup plain flour
2/3 cup milk
Oil or butter, for greasing pan
1 splash of cognac
1 pinch of salt
1. Lightly whisk eggs in a medium bowl. Add the flour gradually and then the milk and whisk until the mixture is smooth.
2. Heat oil or butter into a large non stick pan. Pour some batter into the pan and quickly swirl the pan to produce a crepe and cook until the underside is lightly browned. Flip crepe and cook the other side until it has begun to colour. Remove cooked crepe from pan and place crepe on a plate. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
3. Heat a bit more oil or butter in the pan. Peel and halve the bananas horizontally and saute for a couple of minutes. Add cognac and allow to heat and ignite until the alcohol has burnt off.
4. To prepare the chocolate sauce, break the chocolate into rough pieces and melt it in a pan. Pour half of the cream in and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth and fully combined. Remove from the heat, add a pinch of salt, a splash of cognac if you wish and mix well.
5. For the caramel sauce, stir in the sugar in a separate pot and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves and mixture just begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the rest of the cream until nice and smooth.
6. To serve, place a crepe on a plate and top with whipped cream, ice-cream and banana flambe. Drizzle with chocolate and caramel sauce. Et Voila!