In her new book À Table: Recipes for Cooking and Eating the French Way, Rebekah Peppler shares no-nonsense, easy-to-follow recipes which are guaranteed to bring an authentic taste of France to your own dinner table.
COMTÉ SESAME TWISTS
Makes 32 twists
One 14oz [400g] package all-butter puff pastry
120g grated Comté cheese
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Flaky sea salt
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Transfer the puff pastry to a lightly floured surface, and roll into a 20in x10in [50cm x 25cm] rectangle (about 1/6in [4 mm] thick).
3. Sprinkle the Comté and sesame seeds on one long half of the dough rectangle, leaving a 1/4in [6mm] border around the edges. Fold the other half over the cheese-and-sesame filling. Cut the dough crosswise into 32 strips (each about 2/3in x 5in [17mm by 12cm]).
4. Transfer the strips to the prepared baking sheets and, working with one strip at a time, brush lightly with the beaten egg. Twist each strip and sprinkle with salt. Bake until deeply golden brown, for 18 to 25 minutes.
5. Serve warm or transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely, which should take about 15 minutes.
Serves 4 – 6
It’s nothing new, but baked cheese is damn delicious. Instead of throwing a whole wheel in the oven and calling it a life, I cut the wheel into pieces in order to ensure that there are plenty of dates throughout (unlike in my life, heyo!). The flavours here veer outside the ordinary wheelhouse of hot fromage: funky Camembert, sweet dried fruit, earthy thyme, and to finish, a spiced oil that feels a little reckless over a soft, French cheese, but in a good way, obviously.
One 4in to 5in [10cm to 12cm] wheel of
Camembert, cut into 1in [2.5cm] pieces
8 pitted dates, torn into pieces
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Piment d’Espelette Oil or chilli oil, for drizzling
Crackers or crusty bread, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Tuck the Camembert pieces into a 4in to 5in [10cm to 12cm] oven-proof baking dish and add the dates in the spaces between the cheese.
3. Sprinkle with thyme and bake until the cheese is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes.
4. Drizzle with the piment d’Espelette oil and serve with crackers or crusty bread.
ROAST CHICKEN WITH PRUNES
One of my favourite holidays to spend in France is Thanksgiving. One, because Thanksgiving in America needs a big decolonisation, and two, because introducing the French people in my life to the glory that is pecan pie is the gift that keeps on giving. This recipe comes straight from one of those late November dinners. Since turkey isn’t common in France, we did what folks should maybe do for Thanksgiving anyway and roasted a chicken instead. The real star of the dish, however, are the prunes: They become plump and rich and soften to an almost cranberry sauce–like texture.
One 3lb to 4lb [1.4kg to 1.8kg] chicken
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
1 lemon, halved crosswise
680g very small waxy potatoes
180g prunes (15 to 18), pitted
30g salted capers, soaked, rinsed, and drained
60 ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season inside and out with salt and pepper. Place one of the garlic head halves and one lemon half in the cavity of the chicken. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
2. Arrange the potatoes, prunes, and capers in a Dutch oven or large cast-iron skillet; drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil and the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat, then make a space in the centre big enough for the chicken.
3. Add the remaining garlic half (placed cut-side down) and the bay leaf in the centre of the skillet, then place the chicken, breast-side up, on top. Drizzle the chicken with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.
4. Roast until the potatoes are very tender and the chicken is deep golden brown, 2½ to 3 hours. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and set aside to rest for 15 minutes. Squeeze the juice from the second lemon half over the potato-prune mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.
Makes one 12in [30.5cm] galette
210g all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ lemon, zested
110g unsalted European butter, chilled and cubed
570g fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ lemon, zested
½ teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved for another use
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt
Heavy cream, chilled, for serving
1. To make the crust: In a food processor or large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and fine sea salt. Add the lemon zest and cubed butter and pulse, or use your hands to press together until pea-size pieces form. Add 3 to 5 tablespoons [45 to 80 ml] of ice water and mix just until a dough forms. Gather into a ball and wrap in plastic or reusable beeswax wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
2. To make the filling: In a large bowl, combine the cherries,2 tablespoons of the sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, vanilla, and fine sea salt. Toss to combine.
3. Preheat the oven to 200°C
4. On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll out the dough into a 15-inch [38 cm] circle. Slide the parchment onto a large rimmed baking sheet and use a pastry brush to brush the dough with the beaten egg (reserving some egg to finish). Mound the prepared cherry filling in the centre of the dough, leaving a 2in to 3in [5cm to 7.5cm] border. Gently fold the edges of the dough up and over most of the fruit, pressing the folds gently to seal.
5. Brush the folded edges of the galette with the remaining beaten egg. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar and flaky sea salt. Bake for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 180°C and continue baking until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly and nearly set, 40 to 50 minutes. Let the galette cool on the baking sheet on a cooling rack (the liquid will continue to set as it cools). Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzled with cold cream.
Extracted with permission from À Table: Recipes for Cooking and Eating the French Way by Rebekah Peppler. Chronicle Books, RRP £21.99). With photography by Joann Pai
From France Today Magazine