French Classic Dish


Well slap my face an call me Mme Tatin.

I’ve been hanging my head in shame for some weeks after christening my new skillet with some charred bits of apple (…-2-tarte-tatin/) torn between trying again and scraping molten sugar off my hob.  But then I was walking passed the fruit stall yesterday and saw apples and had to try again (also I only had a ten pound note and didn’t want to break it just for some garlic)

I think they’re called Pink Kiss or Pink Lady or something.  They were pink.  I was hoping they were nicer than Golden Delicious, which made my Tatin so much nastier last time.

After my last attempt I received loads of advice from friends about how to make a Tarte Tatin, but I ignored it all and tried again with the recipe in the Bake Off book – not through being pig-headed, I just wanted to check if the problem was me or the recipe.

One of the main problems with the last Tatin was that most of the caramel ran over the side of the pan, and the bit that was left turned black instantly.  To combat this, I took a third off the quantities in the recipe; and to ensure the butter covered the bottom of the pan I smeared it around until it was uniform – I didn’t want the sugar being directly against the pan straight away (which I know is pretty silly). It had seven apples, sixty grams of butter and 11o grams of caster sugar.

To stop it burning I kept the gas down as low as it would go (on my flamethrower hob) and kept my eye on it (unlike last time when I drank beer and gossiped with my mate)

Also, less spilled out this time – some still did, but not as much.  I’m not sure whether to further reduce the butter and sugar when I make it again?

I made the pastry exactly as I did last time, but next time I make it I’ll roll it out thicker.  One change I did make from last time is that I turned the oven down by another ten degrees – so it was in at 190c for 26 minutes.

It turned out in one piece and looked like a Tarte Tatin.  I am very happy with it.  Next time I’ll run a knife around the edges to get the crust out whole, but I think its definitely one for the next dinner party!

(Note emergency ice cream bought in case of failure)

I’m assuming you make it with other fruits in the same way?

Week 16: Steak et Frites de Legumes Racines

That is your actual French for ‘Steak and root-vegetable fries’, which is exactly what it was.

Little Paris Kitchen

My lover bought Rachel Khoo’s “The Little Paris Kitchen” about 18 months ago, and this is the first time we’ve made anything from it.  The objective for this week’s new recipe was to christen the griddle pan he bought to match the new skillet (see Periodic Pudding number 2: Tarte Tatin for a tour of my lovely new skillet).  I ended up using the skillet again.  Griddle fail.

I’ve done steak before, watery supermarket clingfilm steak, never good steak from the butchers.  If I’d done a bit of meaty research before I started I could have avoided a heart attack at the butchers.

The recipe calls for a 500g rib-eye steak, which cost me £12.00 and first refusal on my left kidney.  I didn’t realise that I could have used fillet, skirt, rump or sirloin instead – but I don’t like changing ingredients the first time I make a recipe.

The recipe also calls for ground almonds, sunflower oil, salt, pepper, a sweet potato, a parsnip and a carrot to make the root-vegetable fries.

I think it was this that attracted me to this recipe – I don’t like steak with fat chips, and I don’t have space in my tiny freezer for frozen french fries.  Also, I’ve neither owned or cooked a sweet potato before, so it was all good.

Looking back, I think I was a little too eager with my first sweet potato purchase, it took forever to cut up and then made a few too many fries – which didn’t fit onto my too-small tray.  I didn’t think this would be a problem, but it did ultimately affect the way they cooked so some were a bit soggy.

I was all ready to season and sear the steak when my lover viciously thrashed it was the rolling pin.  I was quite shocked, especially as he beat it to be bigger than the skillet… which was silly.  Apparently it was necessary, but I did wince at the thought of him knocking seven bells out of an expensive piece of meat.  But it fit in the pan (after a bit of squashing back)

I gave it about 4 minutes on each side and then put it in the oven with the fries.

steak frites 6

Without wanting to sound too conceited; it was absolutely delicious.  Who knew sweet potato fries would be so nice?  I served it with a healthy blob of my special mustard from the Scandi Kitchen, which is milder than normal Coleman’s or Dijon, so it didn’t overpower the taste of the meat.

I’ll try it again with the griddle, a less expensive cut of meat, and a smaller sweet potato.  The Little Paris Kitchen is a very good book – Rachel Khoo writes informatively about the food and cooking techniques, and makes the giant meals of French cuisine look achievable.  I already have my eye on her Clafoutis.  Oo la la la.

The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo (Penguin Books 2012 ISBN: 978-0-718-15811-8)

Periodic Pudding number 2: Tarte Tatin.

I am clearly mad.  What on earth would posses a normal thirty-something to have a whirl at a Tarte Tatin on a Tuesday afternoon?

A new skillet.  That’s what.

Way back before Mince Pie season was up on us, I threatened to make the occasional pudding (see ) to spur me into making deserts, and so break up the savoury-ness of this blog. Anyway, I bought myself a skillet that I could put in the oven the other day, and by chance my Great British Bake-Off ‘How to Bake’ book fell open at the Tarte Tatin page en-route to the recipe for Bakewell Cupcakes.

“Aha!” I thought, “A glamorous pudding I can serve to my friends when they come to visit later in the month”  Word would get back up north that I could cook.  Boom.

For those of you who don’t know – like me – the Tarte Tatin was accidentally invented by one of the Tatin Sisters at their hotel in Lamotte-Beuvron, France in the 1880s.  I’m guessing there are hundreds of recipes out there on the internet, so I shall not give the recipe here for fear of Mary Berry’s ninja’s coming after me.

I was slightly concerned that my new skillet wasn’t non-stick, then I realised I had the coat the bottom of the pan in a massive amount of butter.  There’s no way that this was staying in the pan.  Little did I know how prophetical that statement was…

A massive amount of sugar, just to hide the butter, and then I had to peel and core a load of apples.  The recipe asked for Golden Delicious apples, which I don’t really like, but I trusted in the recipe and gave them a go.

All ready to start caramelising.  Now, I have a confession to make:  I have never made caramel before.  This won’t be a shock to regular readers as prior to the start of the New Recipe Night project I hadn’t done a lot of things in the kitchen.

I think my skillet was too small.  Mary’s idea of 8 inches was bigger than mine.  As a result, pretty soon after I turned the gas on the buttery sugar mix started to bubble over the sides of my pan:

Without wanting to be too dramatic, I ended up welding hot apple-y sugar across half of my hob.  Which I’d just cleaned…  I think this is where I started to go wrong; when the caramel started to turn brown I assumed the burning smell was coming from the bits catching on the burner.

The instructions were a little vague about how brown the caramel should go, and looking back I can safely say I burned it.

I got the pastry on right, tucked it in as tightly as I dared with the boiling caramel and red hot iron pan and put it in my pre-heated oven.

Even though I knocked twenty degrees off to take into account the fan, I still think the oven was too hot, and the instructions a little vague about how long it would need.  I was still quite impressed when it came out… slightly browner than I’d like around the handle obviously.  Unfortunately this is the only pudding in history to look better upside-down.

I chose to turn it out onto my taking-cake-on-the-tube plate, in case I dropped the skillet on it.  I was very excited to see my perfect Tarte Tatin that I could proffer at my impressed lover on his return from work…

To put it bluntly, if the Tatin Sister’s first Tarte Tatin had turned out like mine, they’d have lobbed it in the bin and gone straight to the cheese course.

tarte tatin 7

When I showed my friends this, one of them said he “thought it was a sliced hunk of meat” – I can see his point, and it’s not the best picture, but that’s how my Tatin turned out.  It wasn’t very nice, the apples didn’t have much flavour, the non-blackened bits were just hot and wet.  The caramel was very bitter and I some how burned the pastry.

There was a time last night when I thought I might festively dust it with icing sugar, but I reconsidered – no one likes a nasty surprise under the snow!

I wish I’d had more ice cream.  It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever eaten, but I’m torn between trying again, trying a different recipe, and choosing something else to make.  Two separate friends told me about the Roux Brother’s method of making a Tatin, which I may try.  I also might try reducing the quantities of butter and sugar to save my poor hob.

Stay tuned for more New Recipe Night.