Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pumpkin soup with chickpeas: a bridge between India and the Maghreb

I suggest you today a simple soup recipe. It is a recipe among those I love cooking winter evenings. It is cooked with seasonal products and sometimes I do it after work because it requires little time. To change a little bit from classic soup recipes, I subtly use spices such as the famous Ras El Hanout used in the couscous and the Indian Garam Masala or the West Indies spice called Massalé. The result is amazing and delicious.  

So for a good and comforting winter soup you will need:

Ingredients (serve 4):

  • 1 slice of pumpkin (about 600 gr)
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 large floury potato
  • 2 leeks
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 small can of chickpeas (about 50 gr)
  • 1/2 onion
  • A tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon Ras el Hanout
  • ½ teaspoon Garam Massala or Massalé
  • 1 pinch of cumin
  • 1 liter of chicken stock
  • Salt


Wash, peel and coarsely cut the pumpkin, potato and carrots.

Clean the leeks and celery and cut into rings.

Cut the onion into small dice.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a wide pot.

Sauté the onions and add the pumpkin, carrots and potato.

Add the spices but not the salt yet and stir well.

Add the chicken broth.

Cook the vegetables for about 25 minutes.

Then add the leeks and celery stir and cook for 15 minutes.

Once the vegetables are cooked, remove the pan from the heat.

Pour the vegetables in a blender with the chickpeas and cream cheese and half of the cooking water. Blend well. You must have a creamy soup. Add some cooking water if necessary.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and bring to low heat.

 Add salt to your taste and stir.

Serve with some chickpea seeds on top.

I enjoy this soup with toasted slices of bread or Indian flatbreads such as naan , chapati and paratha or the Magrebhian batbout bread ...


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Smoked Chicken and Okras: a come back to the origins

This is one of the great classics of my family and that could also be a study for those interested in migration flows to the welcoming kitchen's countries.
New York is a perfect example, we can say that all the world's cuisines are represented. There would be more than 150 languages but in reality the number would be 800! That shows the variety of dishes in the world found in New York. And it is the same in Paris.

 Sophie Knapp of Radio France summarizes well this in her documentary on "Culinary migration - Kitchen as identity." She rightly says that "migration is not confined to population movements. Migrating, women and men often carry in their luggage items, kitchen utensils, but also their culinary expertise and food practices, seeking to transplant or to adapt them in their host country" 
This perfectly illustrates the recipe of Smoked Chicken with Gumbo sauce.
This dish has been invented from scratch by Africans in France. I don't really know which recipe in Central Africa, South or West Africa can be matched to Smoked Chicken and Gumbo sauce. So if you know more about it, I’ll be glad to hear you! 

African families in France often eat this dish with «a fine semolina polenta » meant to replace the invigorating “Fufu paste” made with cassava flour. 
The preparation is the same:  You bring water to a boil and then throw in the fine semolina and turn with a spatula until the mixture becomes like a polenta. 
This semolina polenta usually accompanies many stews.

Okra or Gumbo is a very old vegetable. It was cultivated in Egypt two centuries before JC. And have been brought from Africa to Europe by the Moors during major invasions. It is used in most Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Turkey. We find gumbos in Africa, and also in the US (especially in the South), where it was introduced by African slaves.

To talk about our smoked chicken, my family has naturally adopted this recipe for years and we don’t exactly know when we ate it for the first time! 
This is a simple recipe, cheap and tasty, that requires little ingredients and which can be eaten in winter and summer.


In France, smoked chicken and okras are sold in supermarkets. They can also be found in exotic groceries. The gumbo sauce can be adapted to different kind of meat or fish.

So for this simple dish you will need:

Ingredients: (serve 4/5)

  • 1 Smoked chicken
  • 1 small onion
  • 8/10 fresh or frozen okras
  • A fresh tomato
  • 150 grams of tomato pulp
  • 1 Habanero chili pepper, not cut, not drilled or damaged (Hot pepper brings flavor but it is optional)
  • ½ liter of chicken broth
  • Salt to taste


Cut the chicken into pieces.

* As smoked chicken is often fat, I began by heating a pan without fat, I put chicken pieces first to sweat and I add 5 ml water, just for degrease. Five minutes after boiling, I threw the water and I keep the chicken in a bowl. I do not rinse the pot.

Wash the hot pepper without removing stalks and set aside (out of reach of children).

Wash gumbos cut the stems and topped them. Cut into slices about 3 or 4 inches thick and set aside.
Chop the onion into small cubes.

Wash and coarsely cut the tomato.

Put the pot that contained the chicken over medium heat and sauté onions.

Add the chicken and cook a few minutes.

Then add the fresh tomato and the tomato pulp and its juice. Stir.

Pour in the chicken broth, the liquid should cover the chicken.

Bring to a boil over medium heat for 20 minutes.
Add the sliced ​​gumbos, stir gently and add the hot pepper in a corner of the pot.
Leave to cook for another 15 minutes.

Taste and add salt if necessary.

At the end remove the pepper (Do not keep it, it is extremely hot)

Serve with white steamed rice, polenta, grit, or ABLOS...

Kitchen Tips:

Hot pepper in this dish is optional. It's better not to use it if you are not sure because it is very hot. I put it in the pot with the stem to be sure not to drill it. If you cannot find okra or if you do not like it, you can replace them with sliced leeks or with carrots and peas. It’s also very good.

I hope you will try this dish and enjoy it

See you

Monday, February 24, 2014

Simply Naan Bread

The naan bread was brought from Iran and Afghanistan in India under the aegis of Monghols Princes who ruled there for more than 3 centuries. 

The contribution of  the Monghols people to  the Indian art,  to the architecture ( The Taj Mahal is a contribution of a Monghol  Prince) and kitchen is considerable. There were numerous overlaps between the two cultures that gave a refined and original art.

To return to the naan bread, it is a leavened bread originally baked against the walls of an oven called the Tandoor . 

Has to adapt to modern life, naan can be cooked in an electric oven or stove and gives satisfactory results. 
This bread accompanies savory dishes as curries and more. 

While in the West we love Cheese Naan , it is for its part not cooked in India.

The Naan bread is very popular in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. We find variations in Turkey (Lavash Bread) and Armenia.

The secret of making naan bread lies in the moisture provided to the dough through the yogurt and water. 
It is also in the kneading of the dough in order to have a soft paste.

There is a multitude of naan bread recipes. 
I offer here my version. It gives a soft and light bread.

For 7 or 8 Naan breads:


  • 250 gr all purpose flour or Indian flour Maïda
  • 3 Tbsp of plain yoghurt
  • 1 egg
  • About 1 cup and 1/2 cups water (depending on flour)
  • A tablespoon of oil for the dough
  • A little oil to brush the dough
  • Ghee (clarified butter) or salted butter
  • Nigella seeds (optional)
  • 7g active yeast
  • 2 grams of baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • A teaspoon of sugar


It takes about 1h and 30 min to the total preparation. The best thing is to have a pizza stone when baked naan in oven. But it also works with a baking sheet.


Dissolve the yeast in 2 tablespoons lukewarm water and let stand 5 minutes.

In a small bowl beat the egg, set aside. Whisk the yogurt to make it smooth.

In the food processor, pour the beaten egg, yogurt, tablespoon oil, salt and sugar and mix.

Mix the flour and baking powder.

Add the flour,  the yeast and start adding water step by step. 
Blend well. You must have a sticky but not liquid paste. (You might not need all the water, it’s depend on your flour) Add a little water if necessary and mix at least 8 minutes.

Lightly oil a wide bowl, pour in the batter. 

Place a plastic wrap loosely directly on the dough. This Prevents the dough from drying out

Cover the bowl with a clean towel and place in a warm dry place for at least 1 hour. 

The dough should double in volume.

After this time, knead the dough by hand for 5 minutes. Form 7 or 8 equal lumps (not too small), cover again with the plastic wrap and let stand 15 to 20 minutes in a warm and a dry place.

Preheat the oven to maximum (I used my mini pizza oven it goes up to 360 ° C or 680°F).

Flour a board and your rolling pin.

Take a lump and dust lightly with flour (use flour lying on the board) and gently flatten each lump until it's no more than 1/2 cm thick. 

You can add nigella seeds and lightly press the dough with the rolling pin.

Place the bread on the pizza stone or baking sheet. 

The oven must be very hot.
Breads cook quickly, less than 4 minutes. So you should watch them carefully.

You can bake 4 breads at the same time.

Place the breads on a plate and lightly brush with salted better or ghee.

Kitchen Tips: 

In the winter I let the dough rise in my  5 min preheated vacuum microwave .

Try this recipe you will be delighted to make your naans yourself!

I'll be glad to get your comments about this recipe.

See you soon

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Palets Bretons:French cookies with the Bordier Butter

In France we are lucky to get very good culinary products and those who make them put them in spotlight.

French artisans encouraged by the trend back to culinary traditions compete for perfection in the manufacture of local products or deli.

There is a real escalation , there is the best Chocolatier , the best Baker , the best  Butcher, the best of the best ... 

I admit that sometimes we get lost a bit, so that was tasted here is as good as there. It is difficult to say which is better than the other. Sometimes I go to a good Chocolatier and say «this is the best of France " and go to another and say, "This is the best of France!" 

Finally everything is a matter of taste and sensitivity.

I heard of Bordier butter in a TV show. 
The talented and too discreet Chief Rougi Dia who currently heads the Buddha Bar restaurant in Paris, was invited to do a blind test of three different types of butter.
She had found the first acceptable, then the second butter was better than the first without being exceptional. 
And for the third, she immediately said something like "Oh the Butter Bordier, we immediately recognize its taste" I’ve been interested to know more about this butter and its history. 
So I did some research on the internet and then I bought a slab of salted Bordier butter. Honestly this butter has nothing to do with what I've eaten so far. 

The Bordier butter is a churned butter manufactured in the purest tradition of French creamery. 
What surprised me is that in addition to conventional soft butter and salted butter, the house also makes Yuzu butter (Japanese citrus), seaweed butter, Espelette pepper butter etc.
I'm not advertising here, but the product is exceptional enough to be underlined. I chose to make the famous French cookies, Palets Bretons in French.

So it’s a come back to the origin for this butter manufactured in Saint Malo. I found the recipe in the French magazine Country House, Cuisine du Terroir. This is a Christelle Captain recipe.

For some good Palets Bretons you will need:
  • 250 gr of all pupose flour
  • 150 gr soft salted butter (butter of your choice)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
  • 1 drop of vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk for gilding
  • A little water


An hour before the preparation put the butter at room temperature.
In a bowl, mix the flour and sugar.

Cut the butter into pieces and add to flour and sugar mixture.

Add the vanilla extract and sand the preparation (kneading with the fingertips).

Add the egg and the orange blossom water, a tablespoon of water, continue to knead and form a ball.

Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge no more than 20 minutes. Beyond the dough will be too difficult to work.

Preheat oven to gas mark 6 or 180 ° C.

Lightly floured sheet of baking paper and your rolling pin, roll out the dough on the paper 5 mm thick.

Cut circles with a fluted pastry cutter. Remove the excess dough gently. Make streaks with a fork on the round cut dough.

Beat the egg yolk with a little milk and brush the round cut evenly. Bake 10 minutes.

Those French cookies cook quickly and should be golden.

Reform a ball with the remaining dough, spread and cut circles of dough, brush with egg yolk and bake, this until the end.

Those cookies are really delicious with a cup of tea or coffee.
Thank you to share your comments
I’ll be glad to see you there again

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Mango lassi and maple syrup

Good smoothie good energy...

I love early mornings , the city is still asleep and you have the feeling to own it. I like to arrive early in the morning  when I first discover a country and to see the city comes alive hour after hour. The people gradually take ownership to the city and the empty streets you've seen a few hours ago become totally differents. 

Above all I love breakfast, I think this is my favorite meal. If I often have a fast breakfast before going to my office, I spend more time on weekends.
It weekly consists of a smoothie, biscuits, and of the so important coffee and milk. 
I usually keep french crêpes, pancakes and other pastries and homemade bread for the weekend so I can really enjoy.

The mango smoothie is one of my favorite. It requires very little ingredients and give you energy afterwards.

So for a good smoothie breakfast you will need:

Ingredients : (serves 2)

  • The star, a ripe mango
  • 25.5 cl of milk
  • 4/5 tablespoons plain yogurt or buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 drop of vanilla or bitter almond (or any other flavor)

Wash and peel the mango. 

Then cut it coarsely.

In your food processor, add the mango pieces , first pour in 25 cl of milk, the  yogurt or the buttermilk and blend well.

Add maple syrup, vanilla extract , blend again.

If your lassi is too thick add the remaining milk.

Taste and adjust to your liking.

Enjoy it quickly.

See you for another smoothie recipe

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chinese style rice and ground meat

A Chinese frustration and a total improvisation of a Chinese-inspired dish...

Last weekend, my friend and I went to the Chinatown of Paris for shopping. I have some favorite places for Asian kitchen ingredients.
There is also my favorite Chinese bakery to the number 62 of Choisy Street. It is one of the most ancients Asian Bakery in Paris, held by the same family for a long long time. Specifically opened since 1976. 

This Pocket Bakery is a real torture for the taste buds. You just want to taste all specialities!  There you find some delicious fried or steamed stuffed buns as Banh Bao or Chinese patties stuffed with meat and Curry, Chinese eggs custard tarts, some cakes filled with sweet soybean paste and full of other pastries that I can't quote.

I’ve been first introduce to the Chinese steamed cake Ma Lai Go in this bakery and since that day this cake became a part of my culinary repertoire as  the carrot cake or "the Cake of Sunday". 

A few meters from the Chinese Bakery there is an Asian supermarket, The Paris Store offers a wide range of Asian and Oriental products and ustensils.I go there at least once a year.

After our shopping we had a lunch in the Vietnamese-Thai-Chinese restaurant in front of the Bakery. I ordered a Pad Thaï. I was so disappointed when after a so long wait, I’ve been served a plate of wet and slimy noodles! No color, no fragrance, no taste, no no no! I could not really tell what I had in my plate; fried eggs? Soybean? Shrimps?
After an attempt to eat with chopsticks I finally gave up and asked for a fork. The dish of my friend was not good either; some chunks of chicken and a few bamboo shoots was swimming in a red curry sauce and coconut milk cut with water. 

It was a so disappointing lunch and a so bad idea to stop by there. For sure we’ll never go back in this restaurant.

Later in the evening, I improvised a Chinese style dish because I was so frustrated. I still had ground meat and some cooked rice in the fridge… The Eggs and the Chinese condiments I bought the same day helped to do the job!    

Here is the result of a frustration and my version of Chinese style rice and ground meat:


  •  500 gr cooked rice (preferably Thaï rice)
  • 350 gr ground meat (half ground beef and falf ground porc)
  • 2 eggs
  • 150 gr peas
  • 2 Chinese garlic stems (or a green oignon)
  • 2 Tbsp clear soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil


Finely chop the Chinese garlic or green onions (easier to find) if you don't have Chinese garlic.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok preferably or a large saucepan.

Add the chopped garlic and ground meat. Remove the meat with a fork so it does not stick. Stir well. Make sure that the meat does not stick in the bottom of the pan.
Add the peas to the meat and stir gently.

Add the cooked rice and pour the clear soy sauce and sweet soy sauce in the preparation. Mix it gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You can add a little bit more sweet soy sauce if needed.

In a frying pan, heat a tablespoon of oil. Pour the eggs beaten and cook for a few second stirring.

Remove the Pan from the fire and scramble the eggs.

Gently mix the eggs with the rice and the meat.

Serve hot.

For a full meal you can serve with vegetables.

From our last step of this culinary morning we brought small angels cakes. We bought them at the new parisian Tea Room CIEL, n°2 Monge Street. We chose Yuzu and Vanilla flavors. They were delicious. (I'll give soon a first opinion on the new tea room CIEL). Here are some pics of those yummy cakes.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ablos steamed Beninese semolina bread

Ablos /Abolo/ steamed Beninese semolina bread: Failures and success finally !

I already told about all my attempts to cook steamed Beninese breads called Ablos. 
They are originally cooked to the term of a long process in Africa (Togo/Benin/Cameroon…). 
Corn grains are soaked for a few day then they are drained and finely ground. Water and sugar are then added to the paste to form a smooth batter. 
This batter is fermented for hours until it doubles in volume. 
Some Banana leaves or small molds are filled with the batter and the bread is steamed 15 minutes. 
They are enjoyed with grilled meat, chicken or fish and tomato sauce for example. 
Since this process is too long, The Beninese people living in Europe or in the US have simplified the recipe. 
The result is just as good and quite similar to the Chinese steamed honeycombs cakes (Bánh Bò) or Indian ground rice dumplings (Idli)

I definitely adopted these breads since some friends have made me discover them. 
I usually buy them to Beninese women who perfectly cook them
I have really struggled in my attempts to succeed in having fluffies and yummies ablos. I was desperate.

A couple of week ago I decided to try again. I didn’t get the result I was expected to but I was close to it. 
I tried again but I added more water. And… I got light and delicious steamed bread. 
I took them to my sister’s home for lunch. I told her: “I bought some ablos” do you want to try?” 
She tasted them and said “they are good, let’s eat them with the oxtail stew and okras that I cooked”. They were really good with the stew, so yummy.
I finally and proudly confess to my sister that I made the ablos by myself.

These Beninese steamed buns can be made with rice flour or fine semolina or both. 
They can also be made with a mix of corn flour and tapioca. 
The possibilities are endless if the rules are respected. 

Here are all the details to succeed these delicious muffins steamed...

For Fine Semolina and rice flour Ablos:

Ingredients you’ll need (make about 15 ablos):

  •  1 cup fine semolina
  •  1 cup rice flour (not glutinous rice)
  •  1 cup potato starch
  •   2 ½  cup lukewarm water
  •   ¼ cup lukewarm water to dissolve the yeast
  •   2 Tbsp white sugar
  •  1 tsp and ½ tsp yeast
  •   ½ tsp baking powder
  •   A pinch of salt
  •   Oil for the molds
You will also need:
  • A food processor (if you choose to but not necessary)
  • A large bowl and a spatula
  • A steamer
  • A cup and spoons to measure
  • Small molds or ramekins (about 4/5 cm diameter)

The preparation takes about 15 to 20 minutes. The batter should rest about 1h20 min in a warm place (winter time), about 40 minutes summer time. You will need about 45 to 50 min to cook all the ablos (15 mins for five molds in the steamer).
Let's go!


Dissolve the yeast and ½ Tbsp sugar in ¼ cup lukewarm water and set aside for 10 minutes. 
If you don’t use a food processor, in a large bowl pour fine semolina, the rice flour and the potato starch, 1 ½ Tbsp sugar and baking powder. 

Stir dry ingredients well (You can also sift them together).

Make a well and add the yeast mixture. Slowly add water by handfuls, mix and knead after each addition. 
Stir with a spatula. The batter should have a French crêpes consistency (it should cover the spatula). Stir for about 7 to 10 minutes. 

Add a pinch of salt and stir again for 2 minutes.

If using a food processor add the flours, sugar, baking powder, a pinch of salt and start mixing. 

When the dry ingredients are well mixed, add the yeast dissolved in lukewarm water and slowly add water until you have a French crêpe consistency. 

Mix for 5 to 7 minutes. 

Pour the batter in a large bowl and cover with a clean cloth.

Let the batter to double in size in a warm place for about 1h20 min. 

Prepare your steamer with enough water. 
Wait until the water boils.

Lightly grease the molds. The batter has risen and bubbles appear on the surface. Stir the batter for 5 minutes, this step is important. 

Then pour the batter in slightly oiled molds (about 3 ½ Tbsp each).

Before putting the lid, put a clean cloth over the pot to prevent water from falling on the dough.

It should take 15 minutes to cook about 5 breads in the same time. Don't overcook.

Let the breads cool a little bit and remove from the mould. 

Enjoy them lukewarm with grilled chicken, fish, lamb/ some skewers and a good tomato sauce or a stew.

Just give it a try it’s so good and a real alternative to rice and pasta!

I’ll be so glad to get your comments about it.