Archive for the 'French traditional' Category

Let’s get ready to rum baba!

Rum baba, aka baba au rhum, is a sticky-sweet dessert made from a yeast-based cake soaked in, you guessed it, rum – after first being soused in a simple sugar syrup.

* Jump to the Rum baba recipe

We first tried rum baba in Montreal at a restaurant called L’Express when we were Crash Testing our way across Canada. After that we tracked it down in a few other restaurants in different parts of the world, but none of them were quite the same as that first baba, so we decided that one day we’d have to try making it ourselves. Continue reading ‘Let’s get ready to rum baba!’

Baked salmon recipe, with a bed of puy lentils

Windows video (small)
mp4 video (small)

Go to the recipe for salmon with puy lentils

If you’re good at chopping vegetables, this dish is a doddle. Even if you’re a little bit slower with the knife it’s still worth the effort. We find it an easy way to boost our fish intake, and it’s sophisticated enough to put on a dinner party menu.

Because salmon has quite a strong flavour, it’s good to have something a little bit hearty with it. The bed of puy lentils, diced vegetables and herbs does the job. Continue reading ‘Baked salmon recipe, with a bed of puy lentils’

Crème caramel: from one flan to another

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mp4 video (small)

Go to the recipe for crème caramel

If you want a dessert that combines simplicity and wow factor, this has got to be it – crème caramel or flan, either vanilla or au café (the latter, “with coffee”, tends to be preferred in France).

Sure you’ve got to make caramel and custard. But neither could be easier. While a careful eye is needed to get the caramel just right, if you cut and run a bit early it will probably just mean that it’s a lighter colour.

And the custard is not your fraught stove-hovering kind, where you’ve got to heat and whisk over the burner for ages while engaging in some minor bacteriological warfare until the consistency and temperature hit their alchemy point. Nope, as far as custard goes this is really a straightforward heat-and-mix job. Continue reading ‘Crème caramel: from one flan to another’

Duck a l’orange

Windows video (small)
mp4 video (small)

Go to the recipe (duck breasts)
Go to the recipe (whole duck)

When I found whole duck on sale at our local supermarket, I got very excited. And I remembered that we had an episode up our sleeve not yet launched on the wider Crash Test Kitchen viewing public.

Friends and family were coming over for dinner this week and I had planned to do a simple roast chicken – but I had never cooked a whole duck before, and I want to have one next Christmas. So this would be the trial run.

It might be a tad retro, but duck a l’orange remains synonymous with birds that swim. A while back we did a show for the Word of Mouth blog that involved duck breasts and a recipe by Stefan Reynaud. Recipe-wise, what I’ll detail here is how we did the breasts-only version shown in the video, and how I handled the whole bird – a Gressingham duck in our case. Continue reading ‘Duck a l’orange’

About the soufflé

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QuickTime video

There’s an old Buddhist saying that goes something like: “When two paths open up before you, make soufflé.”

There are two main paths to soufflé, and in accordance with the true version of that Buddhist proverb, we chose the difficult one. Continue reading ‘About the soufflé’

Project Benedict

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QuickTime video

You’ve had eggs benedict – but what about eggs benedict on a fresh, home-made muffin with handcrafted hollandaise sauce? And what if your hollandaise “splits” in the middle of the cooking process? Can it be retrieved, or should you bin it and start again?

These and other questions answered in this marathon episode.

Strictly speaking, eggs benny is made with ham, but in our experience smoked salmon has become synonymous with the dish. Continue reading ‘Project Benedict’

Joy of tarte tatin

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QuickTime video

Go to the recipe for tarte tatin

A while back we had a giveaway for the Joy of Cooking cookbook’s latest edition. We were impressed by this American culinary tome – it really is quite an almanac, and we use it regularly. No surprise that when we decided to bake a tarte tatin it was right there in the index.

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Tarte tatin is traditionally made with apple but we have used pear once before, and Lenny reckons you could even do it with plums. Loads of butter and sugar are simmered into a buttery, sticky toffee-caramel sauce that fuses the slices of apple to a layer of puff pastry. It’s cooked upside down, first on a hob, then in the oven, and you invert it to serve. Continue reading ‘Joy of tarte tatin’

Real Belgian fries, with mussels and mayo

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QuickTime video

This episode our London-based mate Phil shows us how to make real French fries – so real, in fact, they’re actually Belgian. And his wife Michelle, a genuine chef, chips in (pun for Anglo-Anzac readers) with a tasty and simple egg mayonnaise, plus the mussels that go into a traditional Belgian “moules and frites” feast.

Phil and Michelle know their way around Belgium and its cuisine. Phil is a particular specialist at locating obscure monasteries that run breweries on the side, where the monks only sell their beer to people who show up at the door, and only in bulk.


The secret to the Belgian “frite”, Phil insists, is the twice-cooked sweating method. You give them a blast in the hot oil, let them sit for half an hour, then fry them again. Continue reading ‘Real Belgian fries, with mussels and mayo’

What’s French for onion soup?

QuickTime video

In France, this ubiquitous soup is known simply as “gratinée” by virtue of the de rigueur melted Gruyère cheese on top.

Our travels through Quebec brought me into contact with the real thing (not a packet mix) for the first time, so of course we had to try and make it ourselves. Last episode we made beef stock as the base, and in this instalment we finish the process of creating French onion soup from scratch.


It was a bit of a tearjerker for Lenny, who had to slice all the oignons because I was busy with bookkeeping. Continue reading ‘What’s French for onion soup?’

Bones about it: Beef stock from scratch

We’ve set out to make authentic French onion soup, complete with crusty toasted bread and gruyere on top. And when you embark on such a mission, you simply must make the soup base – beef stock – from scratch.

This is one of those really rewarding kitchen marathons. The stock may take hours and hours to make, but most of that is simply the simmering process that seethes out the delicious juices from the beef bones and vegetables.

And the preparation is enjoyably crude: vegetables roughly chopped, roasted with the bones, then tossed into a pot with water and a few simple spices. Continue reading ‘Bones about it: Beef stock from scratch’