Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cookbook Thursday: 'Little Paris Kitchen' big on Parisienne flavor

            Rachel Khoo studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to learn and experience la vie parisienne. She tested food in her tiny apartment kitchen, later opening a two-person restaurant to cook up test recipes for “The Little Paris Kitchen: 120 Simple but Classic French Recipes,” a cookbook that became a hit in England and resulted in a companion BBC television series that’s now on The Cooking Channel.
            Khoo’s cookbook is now available stateside, offering a modern and realistic approach to fine French cuisine. “The Little Paris Kitchen” brings exquisite French cuisine down to everyday life, for the everyday cook. It’s a gorgeous cookbook highlighted by photographs of food and Paris by David Loftus with illustrations by Khoo.
            I borrowed recipes from both the book (fromage frais) and Khoo’s blog (sweet potato ceviche bites), both lovely French items to enjoy on a summer’s evening.

Fromage frais (fresh cheese)
Author’s Note: Fromage frais has a smooth, creamy taste and a subtle acidic note, making it less smelly socks and more freshly washed white linen. Of course, an additional plus is that it’s low in fat and cholesterol, but that doesn’t mean it’s low in taste. Spread over toasted brioche or bread or add ingredients to sweeten it up. Makes about 14 ounces.
2 quarts of 2 percent or skimmed milk, preferably organic but not UHT or homogenized
1/2 cup plain live or probiotic yogurt, preferably organic
Juice of 1 lemon (6 tablespoons)
A pinch of salt or sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
            Directions: Pour the milk into a large pot. Heat very slowly, stirring gently, until it starts to steam and little bubbles form around the edge (it should not boil at any point). This should take about 20 minutes.
            Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before stirring in the yogurt and lemon juice. Leave to sit undisturbed for a further 10 minutes. Return the pot to the heat and bring the milk to a boil. Once it separates into curds (the solids) and whey (the liquid), remove from the heat.
            Line a fine-meshed sieve with cheesecloth or a clean tea towel. Place the sieve over a bowl and pour in the separated milk. Scrunch the cloth tightly immediately above the cheese, like making a money bag, and twist to squeeze out any excess liquid. Now tie the corners of the cloth together to form a hanging pouch and thread a wooden spoon through the loop. Hang the cheese over a large bowl or jug (don’t let it sit on the bottom), and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight. The longer the cheese hangs, the more the liquid will drip away and the drier the cheese will become.
            To serve, twist the cloth as before to squeeze out any excess liquid, then remove the cheese from the cloth and season with salt or sugar. Serve as it comes for a firm version, or beat in a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream for a smoother, creamier cheese.

Sweet potato ceviche bites
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
2 sweet potatoes
1 pink grapefruit
2 limes, juiced
1 red onion, peeled, halved and very finely sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
250g sea bream
Sea salt, to taste
Salad leaves (optional)
             Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pour the oil into a large, non-stick baking tray and put it in the oven to heat. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut lengthways into 5mm (3/16th of an inch) slices. Cook for one minute in the boiling water. Pat dry and toss into the hot oil. Roast for 20 minutes, turning once, until they are golden brown. When they are cooked, set aside on kitchen paper or a wire rack.
            Peel the grapefruit and cut into segments. Place in a bowl and squeeze the remaining juice from the discarded skin over the top. Add the lime juice, red onion, sugar and paprika. Leave in the fridge until needed.
            Cut the fish into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes. Add to the juice just before serving. Serve the ceviche on top of the potato slices. For a starter, serve three per person, with salad leaves if required. Makes around 16-18.

Cheré Coen is a Lafayette freelance travel and food writer. She is coauthor of “Cooking in Cajun Country” with Karl Breaux, “Exploring Cajun Country: A Tour of Historic Acadiana” and the upcoming “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana.” Write her at