RECIPES FROM THE CORDON BLEU by Ania Janaszak of Anias Catering 741- 0168 I am still thinking of Paris but with the blue skies and promise of spring appearing over these last few weeks I am increasingly aware of just how wonderful Vancouver Island really is and how fortunate I am to live here. I guess it takes a trip away to bring that into sharper focus. In my last article I told you I would provide some recipes from the Cordon Bleu. My husband has suggested that I provide one of the ones taken in my “chef secrets “ course but one of those would make an article all by itself and really tax the patience of those of you who have limited time yet a desire to create in the kitchen. I have to admit that one of the “secrets” is a willingness to use and wash a great number of pots and “special” equipment not to mention the use of expensive ingredients like truffles and venison filets. And if calories are an issue there may be a problem with the pounds of butter, cream and eggs!! However, that said, there is a particular magic to the presentation and sophistication of French cuisine. Many of the more modern French chefs are finding ways to preserve the look and taste of tradition yet trimming off the calories. I hope to provide recipes as provided by Cordon Bleu with a few suggestions on how to lean them up a little. I had a lot of fun trying basics like Quiche Lorraine at different restaurants in Paris and was amazed at the differences and the excuses of the “garcons” who all claimed theirs was “the traditional” and the others mere imitations. In general, I found French Chefs were uncomfortable straying from a set approach to classics. It was if that recipe had served well for hundreds of years and that it was almost immoral to speak of change. Well, I like to dress things up with vibrancy and if that means putting some finely-diced red pepper and parsley as a finish to my quiches to complement their golden brown beauty - well so be it! - even if that did raise an eyebrow or two. Quiches of all descriptions are magical and a very popular lunch selection in France with a salade drizzled with a plain vinegrette. The name Quiche comes from the German word “kuchen” meaning cake and they all depend on a pre-cooked pastry filled with cream and eggs with the inclusion of various hams, bacon, and selected ingredients giving rise to the regional differences. I think I will offer some lesser-known quiches that are sure to please. I will start with the basic shortcrust pastry used for most quiches: 200 g plain flour large pinch of salt 100g unsalted butter, chilled 2-3 tsp water In a large bowl sift together the flour and salt, Cut the butter into small cubes and place in the flour. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and pour in the combined egg and water. Slowly work the mixture together with palette knife or pastry scraper until it forms a rough ball. If it is slightly sticky, add a little more flour. Turn out onto a lightly-floured cool surface and kneed very gently until just smooth - no more than 20 seconds. Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes before using. SPINACH AND RICOTTA CHEESE QUICHE 500g fresh spinach 20 g unsalted butter 3 eggs 200g Ricotta cheese 100ml thick cream nutmeg to taste ½ recipe shortcrust pastry 1 egg beaten to make the filling, wash the spinach well, remove the stems and pat dry with paper towels. Melt the butter in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Add the spinach and cook for about 8 minutes, or until wilted and the water has evaporated. Place in a strainer to cool, squeeze out any excess liquid and then finely chop the spinach. Preheat the oven to moderate heat - 350f, lightly grease a 81/4 by 1“ loose bottom flan tin. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to thickness of 1/8 inch and line the prepared tin. Bake blind for 25 minutes or until firm. (Put waxed paper inside flan tin over the pastry and fill with dry beans during the baking). Remove beans and paper, and brush the bottom of the pastry with the beaten egg. Bake for another 7 minutes. Whisk the eggs, cheese and cream in a bowl, and add the spinach. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour into the pastry and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until set and knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Set on a wire rack to cool slightly before removing from the tin. Leave for 5 minutes before cutting. SPINACH AND BRIE FLAN ½ quantity puff pastry (all supermarkets have it in frozen section) 1 egg beaten 30 g unsalted butter 1 onion chopped 3 large green onions cut into 3/4 inch pieces 190g spinach 1 egg 180 ml thick cream 250g Brie thinly frozen 2 ripe tomatoes thinly sliced and dried on paper towels 2 tbsp grated Parmesan Use the above directions on the pastry except roll to as thin as possible - about 1/16 inch. To make the mixture, melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes, or until soft. Add the green onion, cook for one minute, and then add the spinach. Season generously with salt and pepper, and stir until well mixed. Cook over high for about 7 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Whisk the egg and cream together in a bowl, season with salt and pepper. Place the spinach mixture on the bottom of the pastry, cover with a layer of Brie and lay the tomato slices evenly on top. Pour the egg and cream mixture over the tomato and sprinkle with Parmesan over the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until set and golden. Set on wire to cool slightly before removing from the tin. Serve the flan warm. TOMATO, BASIL AND MOZZARELLA QUICHE This one has an Italian twist! ½ quantity shortcrust pastry 2 eggs 50 ml milk 50 ml thick cream pinch of nutmeg pinch of Cayenne 2 small tomatoes, halved , seeded and cut into half inch pieces 150 g Mozzarella Cheese grated I tbsp finely chopped fresh Basil Prepare the crust as in the Spinach and Ricotta version above but with a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. To make the filling, beat together eggs, milk and cream in a bowl. Season with salt, pepper, adding nutmeg and Cayenne to taste. Sprinkle the tomato, cheese and basil over the base of the flan. Pout in the egg mixture and bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Check from time to time to make sure that the filling is not bubbling. If it is bubbling, the oven is too hot and the temperature should be lowered . When cooked, the filling should be just fir to the touch and the surface golden brown. Set on the wire rack to cool slightly before removing from the tin. Serve warm or cold accompanied by crisp green salad. For lighter quiches I use Filo pastry which is low in fat and very delicate. This will reduce the calories of the basic quiche considerably. Filo pastry comes in a roll of frozen thin sheets. Thaw in the fridge for few hours or overnight. Take the dough from the package and lay out on the rolling board. I like to cut the sheets in half and then stack the two together. Cover them with a damp (not wet!!) Cloth. Take one sheet at a time and spray with Pam or other such product. I take four or five of these and lay into flan or quiche dish. Mold into pan and then cut off excess. Fill with mixtures. Eggs are a little less fattening than heavy cream so I sometimes change the cream to milk and add one egg. Most recipes will be fine with that.