French Cuisine at its best: Coquilles St. Jacques

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The first time I came to France to meet my husband’s family, it was Christmas time. I was already quite stressed as I was going to meet my in-laws for the first time, but the fact that they were French and did not speak English at the time and that this was going to be the first time I celebrate Christmas (we don’t celebrate Christmas in Turkey) were raising my stress levels enormously. Luckily I was able to speak a bit of French and my husband’s family was very welcoming and everything turned out to be great in the end.

The reason why I’m talking about my first Christmas is because that was the day I ate Coquille St. Jacques (scallops) for the first time; an (unofficial) French Christmas staple. Now I don’t know if Coquille St. Jacques are eaten throughout France in Christmas time but most families that I got to know do, so I give myself the right to call it a staple :p

From its very decorative presentation in a shell to its rich creamy taste, coquilles St. Jacques was a coup de coeur for me! I didn’t dare to do it on my own before because I thought it was a bit complex. I decided to give it a try because my mum came to visit us last week. (Also we forgot to ask my husband’s granny to prepare for us in advance :p)

It turned out to be much easier than I first thought, and they were super yummy! However, of course, it still cannot beat the ones granny does -even though she gave us the recipe!- I guess perfection takes lots of year of practice :)

To realise this recipe you will need;

  • 3-4 scallops per shell/person (you can use small plates if you don’t have shells), I used around 12 for four people
  • Around 200 grams of mushrooms
  • 1 medium or 2 small shallots
  • As much as parsley as you want (thanks for the precision granny!!)
  • 1 glass of dry white wine
  • 1 spoon flour
  • 40 grams of butter+a bit for cooking vegetables
  • Breadcrumbs

First thing to do, if you bought your scallops with their shells, is to separate them from their shells and clean them in cold water. I got mines already washed and separated so I skipped this step.

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Next, you need to fill a pot with cold water and add the scallops. Start heating the water and watch it carefully while you’re doing the other steps- you should take the scallops out 3 minutes after the water starts boiling. This is really important as they will get really hard and elastic like if you cook them more. Save around 1 wine glass of the cooking water for later.

In a pan, melt the butter and add the diced shallots, sliced mushrooms and minced parsley. Fry them until cooked.

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Meanwhile, you can dice your scallops.

In another pan melt 40 gr of butter then add the flour to make a “roux”. When it’s done, add the wine and cooking water. Boil for 2 minutes. (You may need to adjust this step if it’s too dry, you can add a bit more wine and cooking juice if needed.)

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Making the roux. Add equal parts of extra juice and wine if you find the sauce too dry.

Add the cooked mushrooms and shallots to the sauce, stirring to combine. Then add the scallops and stir again.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Distribute the combination into scallop shells or small oven dishes and sprinkle with some breadcrumbs. Add a tiny bit of butter on top of each before putting into the oven.

Keep your coquilles in the oven approximately 15 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs turn golden. Bon appétit!

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Turkish Lentil Soup

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Who doesn’t like a warm soup on these cold winter nights? A good filling soup is also a lighter option for dinner; just what everyone needs after the Christmas period filled with fattening (but amazing!) food.

There probably isn’t a kind of soup that I don’t like, but lentil soup is my favourite. It reminds me of my childhood and my grandmother’s house. It’s so easy to make yet it’s so recomforting and tasty that I’m sure you will keep on doing it :)

I did a little research on google to find out if there were any recipes for this soup in English and I wasn’t disappointed. However all of the recipes that I went through called for tomato sauce and/or tomatoes which is surprising because we don’t cook it with tomatoes in my family. It’s the same for restaurants and my friends families as well, no mentioning of tomatoes. There is however, a soup called “Ezogelin” (can be translated as “ezo” bride although I don’t have any idea what “ezo” means :) ) made with tomato sauce, red lentils, rice and some other ingredients so maybe those recipes were actually talking about this soup? Who knows. Let’s skip to the ingredients!

Ingredients:

  • 200 gr of red lentils
  • 1 big or 2 small potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 tbsp of flour
  • 1,5-2 litres of water (you can use chicken or beef broth or use cubes)
  • salt and pepper
  • Approx. 1 tbsp of olive oil

Sauce (optional)

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (you can add more or less as you wish)

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes and carrots. Dice the potatoes and slice the carrots. Put aside.
  2. In a large pot heat 1 tbsp of olive oil. Chop the onion and add it to the pot.  Cook them until they are tender.
  3. Add one tbsp of flour to the onions and mix it good for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots and potatoes and cook it for a further 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add water/broth and the cubes if you are using. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Put the heat to medium and cook until lentils, carrots and potatoes are tender. This might take around 30-40 minutes in a normal pot. I prefer cooking in a pressure cooker as it’s much more faster (approximately 10 minutes!).
  7. Take the soup off the heat and let it cool a bit. Mix everything with a mixer. You are finished if you won’t make the sauce! :)

Sauce

  1. In a small saucepan, mix the butter with red pepper flakes until it’s melted. Drizzle the sauce over the soup served in bowls.

If you find the soup to be so thick for your taste you can add boiled water to make it more liquid. You can serve it with some croutons if you like! We also like to squeeze a few drops of lemon juice but this is entirely optional as well :) Bon appétit or “afiyet olsun” as we say in Turkish!! :)

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Around me

I have been living in Bordeaux since October 2014. It’s a very pretty and organised city, and as most of you may know, is famous for its wines.

Local food in Bordeaux is heavily influenced by South Western French cuisine,  because, well it is in the South West of France. You can find good quality patés, confits, terrines, magret and many products linked to poultry. Foie gras, which is fattened duck or goose liver is produced a lot in this region (although I’m not a big fan of this as I hate the taste of liver.) You can also taste some world famous oysters -huitres- in Arcachon, which is like 45 minutes drive from Bordeaux, by the Atlantic Ocean.

Another local delicacy is “canelé” which is a “small French pastry with a soft and tender custard center and a dark, thick caramelized crust” according to Wikipedia. When first heard its name I thought it would have a cinnamony taste (because cinnamon is “canelle” in French) however I was surprised to find out that it has a taste like nothing else. Like seriously if you would ask me to describe how it tastes I could probably just tell you “surprising”. The texture is nothing like I imagined and it has a very distinct taste. I am planning on finding a recipe to try and do it at home, will make a post about it if I do. You can see what they look like on the picture below.

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©phalenebdlv/Flickr

The area that I live is called Talence, imagine it like another town (has its own post code) but it’s like 10 minutes away from Bordeaux city center, just next to it. There isn’t much that goes on in here, besides the fact that University Of Bordeaux has its campus here. There is also a private business school. So there are a lot of students as you can imagine, but it’s usually pretty calm. That’s why I love here, it’s not noisy, there’s a big park next to our building and we are so close to city center!

I guess this is it for my first post! I will try to update this with new pictures of Bordeaux when I can. Ciao for now!