Post Type ArchivesRecipes

Sausage Bánh mì

I’m all about skimming the internet in order to find the most authentic, traditional recipes you can -because it’s often traditional for a reason.

But sometimes, your girl just wants to have fun !

I needed to use leftover sausages and mayo from a barbecue with friends. I also happened to have pickled carrot and radishes lying in the fridge, that I made for a Bò bún recipe.

Then it dawned on me. Of course ! Let’s make Bánh mìs ! I always keep some French baguette in the freezer, so there was nothing extra I needed to buy.

Bánh mì is one of my favourite sandwiches : my companion and I are fond of it. We order one on a monthly basis. We once queued for 30 minutes to get, supposedly, one of the best Bánh mìs in town -which turned out quite disappointing, anyway.

These sausages are an easy way to replicate the porky flavour of the traditional dac biet with minimal fuss. The cooking part is just : cook your sausages. That’s it.

Now of course, you might not have mayo and pickled carrot and radishes on hand. This is why I add an extra 40 minutes to this dish, because without, it’d be ready within 15 minutes, cooking included. You’d also have to prep your pickles the day before.

I was very happy with the end result ! You’ll find all the flavour markers of true Bánh mìs, except for the meat – and yes, I don’t like maggi sauce, so I don’t use it. Plus, you’d have some good mayo to use up with any fries you want, and some long-lasting pickles to put in salads, sandwiches or, like I did, in a Bò bún.

If you like banh mis, give it a go !

Sausage banh-mi – Recipe

Ingredients – Advice & key points

  • Mayonnaise : I recommend using a homemade mayonnaise. You can use my recipe for a foolproof mayonnaise.
  • Radishes : I used classic European pink radish here, because it was what I could find and its taste is close to Daikon. Daikon, a big white radish, is what you’d prefer using ; you can find it at the fresh produce section of your Asian grocery store.
  • Daikon and carrot pickles : I will publish a recipe for it if you want. Meanwhile, you can use this recipe ; i’d simply use white vinegar and adjust the vinegar amount to almost match the water amount.
  • I’d advise you to use a mandoline for all your veggies to make it quicker, but you can still do it with your classic knife.
  • I really prefer my baguette not overly crispy in Bánh mìs, which would make it less agreeable while eating.

Let’s sandwich !

Authentic ragù alla bolognese

When I think about pasta alla bolognese, the first picture that comes to my mind is the dish I used to be served at the school cafeteria. I remember how the cafeteria lady poured two big ladles of a very tomato-ey sauce on top of yellow buttered spaghetti. I’m sorry to say that my mother didn’t fare much better with her quick homemade version.

Therefore, I was never a big fan of pasta alla bolognese. Nothing special about them, juste this intense tomato taste that overshadowed the meat, which itself was quite dry and tasteless ; it was comforting, yes, especially when you buried it under copious amounts of cheese, but that was it.

Then I went to Sardegna, and had proper ragu alla bolognese out of luck. I say we got lucky because the dish originates from Bologna, in the Italian Peninsula, and differs from the food you can typically find in Sardegna. I am grateful for eating such a brilliant version of it without having to go to Emilia-Romagna. Please visit Hostaria Via Aemilia if you ever go there.

This experience blew my mind : the original version had nothing to do with whatever you can be served in most countries. Gone was this acidic, plain tomato taste ; instead, you were served pasta in a rich, stew-like meaty sauce that contained barely any liquid. It looked orangey-brown, without a hint of aggressive red. The ragù wasn’t simply plopped over some overcooked pasta but coated each bit of fresh, homemade pappardelle. The meat was not your thinly ground, overly-processed looking beef, but thicker bits of beef and pork coarsely ground, which felt and tasted like actual meat.

I knew I had to recreate this dish at home the Italian way, without messing with tradition. I was only half surprised to discover that they went so far as filing it with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce on October 17, 1982 !

They are right though : this recipe is precious, and should not be forgotten over the years with the shortcuts most people take with it. On top of that, the traditional recipe is really simple to make ; just keep in mind that it ideally needs to simmer for 2,5 to 3 hours, or at least 2.

Authentic ragù alla bolognese – Recipe

Ingredients – Advice & key points

As a reminder, I usually go to Eataly to get the produce I need. If you don’t have one near your location, you can find the fresh produce you need at your local Italian deli, especially fresh pasta and pancetta.

  • Pasta :
    • Fresh pasta are favoured by most Italians for a ragù. Fresh pappardelle is the most traditional option, but you can also use any long pasta of your choice. Even short pasta will be well-suited for the recipe, as they will capture the meat from the sauce.
    • I buy fresh pasta from a local deli. It’s a great option if you don’t feel like spending 5 hours in the kitchen.
  • Meat options :
    • Ask your butcher for some coarsely ground beef, ideally not too lean ! He can chop it himself with a knife, or use a different setting from his grinding machine. This is what the authentic recipe calls for, because the flavour will be stronger.
    • In order to get the right richness for the sauce, it is important to add, besides your beef, the fattier pancetta. I used pancetta arrotolata, which the deli man sliced quite thin (around 0,5cm thick), then diced it in small strips, about about 1cm x 5cm.
  • Tomato sauce :
    • Use quality tomato sauce !! It makes a world of difference. The brands I use and recommend and Antonella, Nanù and Afeltra, with Afeltra as my personal favourite, especially their San Marzano kind. But just use any Italian good quality tomato sauce you can get your hands on.
    • I used peeled and diced canned tomatoes, but you can also use tomato purée (passata).
  • Soffritto : Please dice your onion, carrot and celery really thinly, without using a mixer.
  • Broth : I use store-bought here, since the large amount of meat already brings in lots of flavour. Feel free to use homemade if you can !
  • Milk : Yes, this is one of the secret ingredients of the authentic recipe. It counteracts the tomatoes’ acidity and improves the meat’s texture.

Cooking your pasta – Pieces of advice

  • Pasta :
    • Salt your pasta water appropriately, with around 10g of salt/liter.
    • Although we’ll end up adding the pasta to the pan with the sauce, we’ll just leave them here for a minute there, contrary to the Carbonara recipe.   
  • Plating :
    • I recommend heating your plates in the oven for 10 minutes at 80°C before plating. This will keep your pasta warm longer.

Take out that Dutch oven and treat yoself !

Not to mention, this ragù is the foundation for decadent homemade lasagna… A recipe I will be glad to post soon, too.

Leftover chicken, egg and celery wrap

I love sandwiches ! I never understood why it was seen by many as subpar, or something to eat when you’re short on time. A tasty sandwich can lighten up my day. When I was studying in Korea, I bought ready-made egg sandwiches at least once a week from the 7-eleven near my uni. They only contained eggs, mayo, and bread. I do not know their secret, but it was deliciously soft and moist. I wish I could find them in France.

Egg salad is always a good idea, especially in some sort of bread. Hence, this sandwich. The addition of chicken helps build the flavour and texture. The much-needed shallots, green onion and celery brighten up this classic blend while adding some crunch. Just add some creamy and tangy mayo with sriracha, and you’ve got yourself a damn good wrap.

Feel free to replace the wrap with another type of bread of your liking.

Leftover chicken, egg & celery wrap – Recipe

Ingredients – Advice & key points

  • Mayonnaise : I recommend using a homemade mayonnaise. You can use my recipe for a foolproof mayonnaise.
  • Chicken : I usually make this sandwich when I have leftover chicken. Alternatively, you can quickly pan-fry 1 large or 2 small chicken breasts, which will only take around 5 minutes per side.
  • Salt and pepper : Use enough of them ! In simple recipes such as this one, you cannot be lacking in the seasoning department.
  • For my vegetarian friends, I would double the amount of eggs, squish them a little with a fork, and mix them directly with the rest of the ingredients. As it would lack a bit in texture, I’d recommend using classic bread slices instead of a thin wrap.

Let’s wrap !

Foolproof Mayonnaise

The French have a passion for mayonnaise. In decent French bistrots, you will always be served homemade mayonnaise with any dish containing meat and/or fries.

Homemade mayonnaise’s texture is just a dream. Thick but slick, eggy, rich and creamy, really in-between butter and oil.

I’m not one to obssess over making everything from scratch, but here, the grocery store version and the homemade one are simply worlds apart. What’s important is also that it doesn’t take longer than 10 to 15 minutes from start to finish. Try it and see for yourself : I don’t think you will ever go back to store-bought.

I used to be intimated by the thought of making it. But since using this recipe, I have yet to fail and see my mayonnaise fall apart.

A few pieces of advice -to make sure it all goes well !

  • Your ingredients should all be at room temperature ideally.
  • Not only does the addition of vinegar and mustard bring some flavour and tang to this mayo ; they both act as stabilizers, which is why this mayonnaise is failproof.
  • The addition of salt -which acts as a biding agent- before starting to whisk also helps.
  • The most important thing to keep in mind is to pour your oil ever so slowly, especially at the beginning. It should trickle down in one thin drizzle. I also recommend pausing from time to time if you feel you’ve overdone it.
  • You can use a simple whisk -your arm will have to work hard, but it will be ok, especially if you make a few pauses. The trick then is to use a kitchen towel to secure your bowl, because your hands will be busy holding the oil and the whisk. Alternatively, and I tend to do it most of the times, use a hand mixer with the whisk part attached. It will still feel a bit heavy anyway, with the hand mixer in one hand and the oil in the other, but everything will be stable.
  • In case it goes haywire, it’s possible to mix a small amount of botched mayonnaise with a fresh egg yolk in a clean bowl. Then gradually add the mayonnaise.

Now you’re ready to slather the deliciousness all over your sandwiches, fries and into your salads.

Autumn mini-pizzas

Every year, come fall then winter, we all feel let down. The grey and cold weather is the main cause for it ; a close second would be the end of summer produce. Bye-bye, juicy tomatoes, sweet courgettes, crunchy bell pepper. It was nice having you around.

Fear not ! I give you the perfect little cold season treat, cute, sweet and comforting : my autumn mini-pizzas ! Plus, they’re for everyone (almost), as they’re vegetarian, and can easily become vegan if you use vegan dairy (cheese, butter and cream).

I found that there are many vegetables that can make you actually look forward to getting in autumn and winter. Squash is the queen bee, with its unique sweet and nutty taste. Its texture is great for many uses, from roasting to blending into a smooth cream.

Picture this smooth cream onto a soft pizza pillow ; some garlicky mushrooms on top, to get a stronger, earthy taste ; a bit of cheese ; then top it off with pickled onions and crushed nuts. You reach a great balance here, both it terms of taste and texture.

My companion and I love sharing these in front of a good movie, buried under one or two blankets.

I hope you will, too !

Autumn mini-pizzas – Recipe

Ingredients – Advice & key points

  • Mushrooms :
    • I try to use a mushrooms mix to make for a richer taste. Here, I used oyster mushrooms, girolles (be careful, they are not the same as chanterelles, which are cheaper : you can definitely use them instead) and brown mushrooms.
    • If you can use a cast-iron pan, it might yield a better taste. If not, it’s still fine.
  • Squash :
    • I used Butternut squash here, but you can replace it with Red kuri squash. Red kuri squash is tasty and doesn’t need to be peeled ! That’s great when you’re feeling lazy !
    • Please salt your cooking water heavily, then adjust if needed after blending. Salt is your asset here, as there are no seasonings besides it.
  • Cheese : I used mozzarella (for cooking : those are usually tubular) slices here, but you can also use shredded cheese if that’s what you have on hand. I wouldn’t recommend cheddar here, though.
  • Pizza dough : I used a very basic premade dough here, available at your classic grocery store. I wanted this dish to remain quite quick to make. By all means, do it yourself if you feel up for it !

Let’s pizza !

Beef bulgogi

Ever since I came back from Korea, I’ve been missing the classic beef bulgogi.

This dish shows that the Korean cuisine, that I would usually describe as bold (strong fermented tastes, spicy dishes), can also be delicate yet still as flavourful. The dominant flavour would be soy sauce, but here it becomes quite sweet thanks to the fruit juices and the sugar. The garlic and ginger bring a bit of punch. Just add some spring onions by the end and it becomes everything you want ; salty, smoky, sweet, perfumed and fresh.

Beef bulgogi is at its best when barbecued, but you can pan-fry it (use a cast-iron pan if you can) as well.

Bon appétit !

Beef bulgogi – Recipe

Ingredients – Advice & key points

  • Be careful to account for the marinade time ! It’s best to prep this dish the day before you cook it.
  • Beef :
    • You can buy it pre-sliced at the frozen section of your Asian grocery store, if the store is large enough.
    • If you cannot find it, it’s ok ; you can easily slice the meat paper-thin at home ! You will only need to freeze your cut around 1 hour (maybe more, depending on its size) to make it easier to cut. It should be quite solid, but not rock-solid. I often do this even if I can get frozen pre-sliced meat, simply because it is easier for me to check the meat’s quality when I buy it from by butcher.
    • If choosing from a butcher, I recommend using a good cut of beef, like ribeye or tenderloin, but you can also use flank steak ; the marinade will help tenderizing it. It is important to choose a cut that is not too lean so that the meat remains tender.
    • Also, remember to cut against the grain to get a tender texture.
  • Nashi pear : You might find it at your Asian store if they have a fruits and vegetables section. Otherwise, replace it with red apple.
  • The remaining ingredients are either basic Asian pantry items or produce you can easily find at the grocery store.

How to eat bulgogi

  • You can eat it like me, wrapping your bulgogi in lettuce leaves, with some rice, Ssamjang and a bit of kimchi !
  • You can also make simple bulgogi rice bowls, which is what I do most of the time. Simply cook some Korean rice and pour over your bulgogi. This is easy to make and reheat for lunch or later use.

Let’s dig into it !

Spicy Szechuan beef soup (Mala Xiao Mian)

This is one of my all-time favourite dishes. I am excited just writing those lines.

Around 10 years ago, I did not know much about Asian cuisine. I was finishing a finance internship in Paris, and we were looking for a cheap, student-friendly place to eat. A foodie friend took us to this new little restaurant called Trois fois plus de piment, specialized in Szechuan cuisine. I ordered a ravioli soup, thought, meh, this is spicy and pungent, not sure I like it.

Fast-forward 2 years, I went to South Korea as an exchange student and discovered the beauty of their spicy, fiery cuisine. It was an eye-opener for me, and the starting point of my journey towards Asian cooking, which, itself, is how I begun to cook so much and develop a passion for it.

I returned to France with a trained new palate, educated in all things spicy. I went back to Trois fois plus because I was craving some real heat, ordered the right dish this time : their best-seller Spicy Szechuan beef soup. Dang. It was love at first bite.

My boyfriend and I kept coming back for it. Soon I started trying to find a recipe for it, but they all seemed off to me.

I kept on researching, hoping that one day, I’d be able to make a Trois fois plus copycat. I am so grateful for authentic cooking blogs that developed over the past few years, coming from as far as China, allowing some random French people to discover wonderful foreign cooking secrets.

A few months ago, after some long-term research and trial-and-error, my boyfriend tried my latest recipe. I asked, “is it almost as good as Trois fois plus de piment ?”. He answered : “No. It is better.”

I couldn’t believe it. Then I tasted myself. And I had rarely been this happy and proud.

Mission accomplished.

Spicy Szechuan beef soup – Recipe

I know, this is a long list of ingredients. But you mostly stir everything together, wait for it to cook, and assemble !

Ingredients – Advice & where to find them

Although I thing this dish is worth every effort, I recommend trying it if you are interested in Chinese cooking enough to make a few different national dishes. Indeed, it requires you to a buy a small list of specific pantry items.

  • If you’re in Paris :
    • you can go to Tang Frères in the 13th (they have other stores in Paris but be careful, some are small, this one is large) or Paris Store in the 10th ;
    • ever since I moved to the 18th, I’ve been going to XP 16 or Chen Market, but those shops are slightly smaller, especially XP16, and you might not find everything you need. 
  • If you’re in France :
  • For my foreign friends : I bet you can easily find some Asian shops around you or online, but if you can’t, message me with your location and I will try to find it for you !

Ingredients – What the hell are those

  • Suì mǐ yá cài, or yá cài : pickled mustard greens with a salty and pungent flavour. It uses the upper, thinner part of mustard leaf stems.”Suì mǐ” (“crushed rice”) refers to the appearence of the pickle, with a vegetable that is thinly minced. “Yá cài” refers to the vegetable name.

I couldn’t find it in the store, so I used Zha Cai, which is the lower part of the mustard stem. You can use it as a replacement. You’ll have to mince this one. But don’t skip it ! It is essential to reach the soup’s umami-deep flavour.

  • Doubanjiang, or Toban Jan : spicy, salty paste made from fermented beans and soybeans, salt, rice and various spices.
  • Shaoxing rice wine : one of the essentials of your Chinese pantry ! This one is darker than your classic rice cooking wine, and has a more complex taste
  • Chankiang vinegar (Chinese black vinegar) : another essential if you’re cooking Chinese food, or even if you only want to dump your chinese dumplings into the classic soy sauce and chinese vinegar mix. It is made out of glutinous rice, and has a malty, slightly sweet flavour.

Now let’s turn your kitchen upside down !

Basic Pickled Onions

Last winter, I had friends coming over to my place for brunch. I served them some avocado toasts with soft-boiled eggs and cilantro. When I grabbed my pickled onions jar to put some over, they were funnily impressed ! They though it was fancy and gourmet.

This is funny to me, because pickled onions are the simplest condiment to make. And you only need 3 ingredients besides water and salt ! You can customize their basic version if you want and add things like mustard seeds or bay leaves, but the plain ones are great too.

You don’t want to throw em everywhere just because they’re pretty ! I add some to a dish when it seems relevant, to offset a sweet flavour or a quite high fat content. They also give a nice kick to raw vegetables, say in salads or sandwiches.

Get ready to have your guests impressed though. It never hurts !

Butternut and guanciale pasta

If you could have a dish reminiscent of carbonara AND eat your veg, that’d be a no-brainer, right ?

Well, there you have it. And there is absolutely no sacrifice flavour-wise.

I’d say you could eat it without guanciale for my fellow vegetarian friends, because the magic happens with this creamy butternut sauce paired with lemon zest. Squash and lemon is a classic association that does not disappoint.

Of course though, the guanciale adds some decadent flavour to these nutty, fruity pasta.

Have at it. And send me love messages when you’re done.

Butternut and guanciale pasta – Recipe

Most of my recommendations here are similar to those on the Authentic Carbonara recipe.

Ingredients – Advice & key points

I usually go to Eataly to get the produce I need. If you don’t have one near your location, you can find fresh produce like guanciale and pecorino at your local Italian deli, maybe even your pasta. For pasta, if not available there, you should be able to order it online quite easily.

  • Pasta :
    • I believe calamarata is a grat choice here, as the sauce will nestle in the pasta’s holes, but you could also use another type you have on hand, preferably short (because the sauce is heavy).
    • If you chose to sieve your sauce though, it will get much thinner, so you can opt for long pasta.

What you must not compromise on is using Bronze Drawn pasta. Why so ? Because when processed this way, the pasta will present small irregularities that will enable the sauce to cling to it.

  • Guanciale : You can buy it in blocks at your deli or have it pre-sliced. We want quite thin slices -not paper-thin, but almost- so that they crisp up in the pan, about 1,5cm x 4cm.

Cooking your pasta – Pieces of advice

  • Pasta :
    • While 10g of salt/liter is usually recommended, here I’d recommend only 7g/liter because of the guanciale.
    • As for most pasta recipe, we’ll finish cooking the pasta in the pan with the sauce. Contrary to classic carbonara, we’ll just put them in for the last 4 minutes (there is not as much water here and we don’t want risking the sauce to be too watery).   
    • It is important that you taste several times starting 2 minutes before the packet theoretical time, so that you get perfect al dente pasta
  • Guanciale :
    • You want to crisp it up, but still let the fat melt. Therefore, cook on medium heat. The process should last around 6 to 7 minutes.
  • Plating :
    • I recommend heating your plates in the oven for 10 minutes at 80°C before plating. This will keep your pasta warm longer and will prevent the sauce from getting cold too quickly and become unappealingly “set”.

Now come and cook !

Moules marinières

Almost every year since I met my companion, I’ve been going to the Braderie de Lille, which is dear to his heart. This is the largest flea market in Europe. It occurs yearly all over Lille, usually during the first week-end of September.

It is a flea market all right, but I’d say people don’t care much about buying stuff ; most of them just walk around, a beer in hand, laughing at highly inebriated people all around who sing and shout and dance, sometimes wearing disguises. Aside from inhabitants selling their old tables, kitchenware and whatnot, shopkeepers will often have an outside booth where they’ll showcase their produce, with massive discounts. There’s also food and drinks everywhere.

Besides beer (Northerners love their ale), there is one thing you’ll find on every street  : les moules-frites !! Each year, 500 tons of mussels and 30 tons of French fries are sold at the Braderie. Yes, tons ! Many different recipes are offered, from Moules Poulettes (mussels with a rich cream sauce) to mussels with chorizo.

But the classic one is Moules Marinières. This dish is so simple to make ! Yet, if you prepare your mussels correctly and buy them in season, they only need a few condiments to shine.

In France, for example, the Moules du Bouchot, the tastiest ones, should be consumed between July and February ; please find out the best season for your local mussels ! If you cannot, ask me and I’ll check for you.

I must say I am too lazy to make proper French fries to go with it though. If you want the dish on the table quickly, and with less calories, just make fries using your Air Fryer or your oven, like I do. It will make for a simple, tasty and healthy dish.

Moules marinières – Recipe

Picking and storing your mussels – Pieces of advice

  • It is important to buy your mussels in season, and to prepare them quickly after buying (within 48 hours at most ; 24 hours ideally).
  • Once home, remove the mussels from the plastic bag. Place in an unsealed bowl or container.
    Cover with a clean, damp cloth or paper towel. Remember: never store in water!
  • Store in the refrigerator’s vegetable crisper.

Mussels are fragile, because they are still alive when you buy them, and must remain so until cooked. You cannot freeze them, for example, else they’d die.

Prepping your mussels – Key points

  • When washing your mussels, be sure to not leave them in the water for too long, and always keep them moving. This way they won’t lose their flavour.
  • The best way to go is to fill a clean sink with water, drop the mussels, make circular motions for about 1 minute, then remove.
  • While checking each mussel for beards and barnacles (see instructions), it is very important thay you discard any opened or broken mussel.
  • When you have your mussels ready in your plate, do not eat any of those that did not open ; throw them away.

Now you’re all set !