Classic French Recipe: Tarte aux pommes {day thirty}


{day thirty} Classic French Recipe- Tarte aux Pommes

One should never under-estimate the power of a good picture. To conclude my 31 days series, I was all set to make my favourite dessert, a delicious puff pastry filled with frangipane (almond cream) and black cherries. Then I posted a picture of a French Apple Tart I made at the weekend on my personal Facebook page and got so many comments and likes I decided there and then that I would share the recipe here today. There is something very satisfying about this picture, don’t you agree?

French apple tart

The recipe comes from Michel Roux Sr‘s Pastry book, that I mentioned on Day 5.


  • 300 g shortcrust pastry or sweet shortcrust pastry
  • 6 dessert apples (about 850 g) like Cox’s
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 60g butter
  • 80g caster sugar

cut apple tart


1. The pastry: Roll out the pastry to a round, 3 mm thick, and use to line a lightly buttered 24 cm diameter (3 m deep) loose-bottomed tart tin or flan ring. Pinch up the edges with your index finger and thumb at 1 cm intervals to make a fluted edge a little higher than the rim. Chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

2. Make the apple compote: Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Peel, core and halve the apples. Place cut-side down on a board and cut into 2 mm thick slices. Put a third of the apples (the outer smaller slices) into a saucepan. Keep the other two-thirds packed together (to stop them discolouring). Add 50 mls water, the vanilla pod and butter to the apples in the pan and cook gently until tender. Take off the heat, discard the vanilla pod and work the apples, using a whisk, to a compote consistency (it should be creamy). Leave to cool.

3. Make the glaze: in a small pan, dissolve the sugar in 40 ml water. Bring to the boil and bubble for 4-5 minutes to make a syrup. Leave to cool.

4. Put it together: Take the pastry base out of the fridge and prick the base lightly with a fork. Pour in the cold apple compote and spread gently with a spoon. Arrange a border of overlapping apple slices around the tart, then arrange another circle inside, with the slices facing the other way. Fill the centre with a little rosette of small slices, trimming to fit as necessary. Bake for about 35 minutes until the pastry and apples are evenly cooked to a light golden colour.

5. Leave the tart to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing the flan ring or tart tin. Brush the top with the glaze, place the tart on a wire rack and leave until just cooled. Transfer to a place and serve cut into slices (with vanilla ice cream).

French apple tart


  • I didn’t have a vanilla pod, so I used a teaspoon of pure vanilla paste, which worked very well.
  • I had problems with the glaze, maybe not enough water, but whatever the reason it hardened as it cooled rather than staying syrupy. I had no choice but to reheat it to brush over the tart and of course, it turned rather gloopy. The tart tasted great, but was not as glossy as it could have been.

slice of apple tart


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Classic French Recipe: crepes {day twenty-three}

{day twenty-three} Classic French Recipe- Crepes

I am very excited to share this recipe with you not only because Crèpes are delicious but also because I know, from bitter experience, how difficult it can be to make a lump-free batter. I grew up watching my mother make crèpes; they never failed and so I now use the same technique she did. I fell pretty confident about it, and can guarantee a 90% chance of success at getting the batter right if you use it (I won’t say 100% because there’s always one, isn’t there?). There is definitely a knack to it but it is a simple thing when you know how, and with a bit of practice there is no reason why anyone, even people who consistently produce lumpy batter, can enjoy light and thin crèpes just like the French make them. I have taken a lot of pictures to show you what the batter should look like throughout the process.

I make crèpes every couple of weeks at home, either as a full meal or at breakfast. It’s cheap and festive and everyone loves them. Little Girl has been known to eat as many as 6 crèpes all by herself; she is an addict, just like her mum.


For approximately 20 pancakes
For our family of four, I count 2 savoury crèpe per adult, 1 savoury crèpe per child, and the rest goes towards making sweet crèpes.

  • 250g plain flour
  • 500 mls semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp of vegetable oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • optional flavourings for sweet crèpes (not all at the same time, obviously, just pick one!): 1 tbsp dark rum, 1 tbsp orange flower water (very popular in France), 1/4 spoon vanilla extract

Utensils: a whisk, a very flat frying pan, as wide as possible, a ladle, a palette knife or flat plastic/wooden spatula



A. Mixing the ingredients:

1. Put the flour and the pinch of salt in a large bowl.

2. Make a well in the middle of the flour: literally, with your fingers, dig a hole in the middle.

20151004_the well 1

3. Break the two eggs into the well.

4. Pour the oil into the well.

5. Now is the important part for making lump-free batter: you must pour the milk into the well very gradually, starting with the equivalent of half a small glass, whisking it well before adding the same amount, again and again. First, gently break the egg yolks with your whisk. Instead of mixing all the flour in straight away, start mixing from the well out so that everything in the middle is relatively whisked together. There will be lumps at this point. Then add a little more milk, and whisk in slightly larger concentric circles, incorporating a little more of the flour. You can be quite forceful in your whisking, just keep it to small circles to start with. Eventually, you will have added all the milk and whisked all the flour in, and it should be lump-free!

mixing1-3 Collage

mixing 4-6 Collage

6. If you’re going to flavour the batter, whisk your chosen poison in now. If you are making savoury crèpes first, wait until you’ve cooked those before adding the flavouring. I’m not sure ham and vanilla go that well together.

7. Cover the batter with cling film and let it rest in the fridge for an hour (you can make the crèpes straight away, but they will be so much better after a little rest).

B. Making the crèpes:

8. After an hour, take the batter out of the fridge. It is normal for the mixture to have separated a little bit and for it to be thicker. Just mix it all in together and add a little more milk if needed to loosen it a bit. The batter should not be so thin as to be completely liquid but it should coat the ladle a bit and should not be so thick that it can’t flow around the pan without help.

Batter Collage

9. Add a very small amount of oil in your frying pan (about half a teaspoon), using kitchen roll to evenly coat the pan. You won’t need to add any more oil after each crèpe, just this once to start. Now turn the heating on as high as you can. The pan must be very hot before you start pouring the batter in. You can adjust it later when you have cooked a couple if it is too high but keep it fairly hot anyway.

10. Tip the frying pan and using a ladle, pour the batter at the top of the pan, using your wrist to rotate the pan and distribute the batter thinly and evenly.

C. How to know your crèpe is cooked:

11. Keep a close eye on the crèpe in the pan. When the edges start to visibly brown and/or curl a little (after approximately a minute), the crèpe is ready to be turned. Release the edges slightly all the way around and slide your spatula underneath, then turn (yes most people only do the whole crèpe-flinging thing to show off or entertain the kids) The other side will take about 10-15 seconds to cook max. You can see from the right-hand picture below that a cooked crèpe should actually have some colour to it. I’ve seen a lot of pictures of crèpes on the internet that look suspiciously anaemic to me, but one side of the pancake should look cooked.

cooked crepe Collage

This is how thin a crèpe should be:

20151004_thickness 15

D. How to keep your crèpes warm:

12. You need a pan of boiling water, set on low so it doesn’t actively ‘boil’ anymore, with a plate on top. Gradually add your crèpes as you make them and keep them covered with foil. Sure, you can separate them with baking paper if you want, but that’s a lot of faff for something that’s going to be eaten in the next fifteen minutes. If they have been done well, they are not actually going to stick to each other and turn to mush when you try to separate them. Just put the plate on the table when you’re ready and peel them off as you go.


You can put whatever you want in your crèpes. I am a big fan of filling them with just a spoonful of caster sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice, but I only started doing that in England. It’s not a filling French people use. Instead, we tend to have Nutella (with or without fresh banana slices) or jam in it. There’s always whipped cream, maple syrup, plain fresh fruit, honey, whatever.

Ham and cheese crèpe topped with fried egg:

This is what we do at home when we have crèpes as a main meal. You need: ham slices, grated cheese and eggs. I get all my ingredients ready before I start, because it requires to be a bit quick, seeing as each crèpe only takes a minute to cook and you can’t leave the room/try to do it all at once.

20151004_ham egg cheese crepe

– Before I start cooking the crèpes, I set a separate pan on low/medium heat and start frying the eggs.
– Once one side of the crèpe is cooked, I turn it over and quickly put grated cheese all over it, topped with a slice of ham.
– Then I slide the cooked crèpe onto a plate, top with the fried egg, and fold the four sides over the egg.
– Grind a little black pepper on top, and eat!

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Classic French recipe: Gratin Dauphinois {day sixteen}

{day sixteen} Classic French Recipe- Gratin Dauphinois

I love a good Gratin Dauphinois, I mean, what’s not to like about potatoes and cream with a hint of garlic and a beautiful melted cheese on top? It is one of my favourite comfort foods and works brilliantly as a side to most types of roast meat, especially beef. I usually serve it as a treat as part of a ‘favourites’ dinner so it always ends up being served with steak, a blue cheese sauce and a simple green salad with shallot vinaigrette (see last week’s recipe to make your own vinaigrette).

‘Gratin’ refers to the browned topping, usually made of either breadcrumbs or melted cheese. In this case, we are definitely NOT putting breadcrumbs on top of potatoes, because that would be wrong.



  • 800g floury potatoes like Maris Piper
  • 200 mls milk
  • 200 mls crème fraîche (I like crème fraîche because it is the nearest to the original French taste, but single or double cream both work fine)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 150g grated cheese (ideally gruyère or emmental but I’ve had to make do with cheddar and it’s perfectly suitable if not quite the same – just make sure it is a cheese that melts well)
  • 100 g butter
  • salt, pepper and nutmeg



  1. Pre-heat the oven at 180°C. Peel the potatoes, wash and dry them, and cut them into thin slices. Place the potatoes into a large bowl.
  2. Peel the garlic cloves and crush them over the potatoes; add the milk and season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg. Mix well together.
  3. Butter an oven-proof dish generously and spread the potatoes and milk in it. If you are using crème fraîche, add it in between layers of potatoes; if using single or double cream, you can just pour it over the top.
  4. Scatter the grated cheese on top, add a few knobs of butter and put in the oven for 1 hour.
  5. Serve hot.

Gratin Dauphinois Collage

Note 1: if you like the smell and taste of garlic but don’t actually want to eat any, here’s a neat trick. Don’t rub your dish with butter, instead, cut a clove of garlic in half and rub each half over the dish instead. It works just as well to stop the food sticking and infuses the dish with garlic without leaving the taste in your mouth.

Note 2: If you’re wondering why the knife on the ingredients’ photo is white, that is because it is a ceramic knife. I’ve only seen ceramic knives in France, where they are popular and readily available in cookery shops and supermarkets. The best thing about them is that they never become dull, as I discovered a couple of years ago when I gained another scar.

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Classic French Starters: Vinaigrette & Oeufs Mimosa {day nine}

{day nine} Classic French Starters- oeufs mimosa and vinaigrette
For our first classic French recipes of the month, I wanted to feature traditional French starters that you would be unlikely to eat in a restaurant but would be quite standard fare at home. Today’s recipes are easy and quick to make.
 20151005_oeuf mimosa carottes rapees

Oeufs Mimosa

  • one egg per person
  • mayonnaise
  • lettuce leaves
  • black pepper
  • Fresh parsley
1. Boil the eggs for 10 minutes. Remove the hard-boiled eggs from the water, cool them down in cold water straight away and peel them.
2. Cut eat egg in half length-wise. Remove the yolks carefully from each half and place them in a bowl. Squash the yolks with a fork before mixing them with a generous amount of mayonnaise. the mixture should hold together well, with just enough mayonnaise for the two tastes to blend without overpowering each other.
3. Put a teaspoon of the yolk mixture back in the middle of the egg whites and place each half on a bed of lettuce leaves. Grind a bit of black pepper over each and decorate with parsley.
4. Eat!
 Oeufs Mimosa Collage

Vinaigrette Classique

This is a recipe for the simplest of vinaigrette. You can make it more interesting by adding some or all of the following: 1 tsp of lemon juice, a clove of crushed garlic, some finely chopped shallots. A shallots’ vinaigrette is particularly great with plain green salad.
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp Vinegar (white wine, red wine or cider vinegar) – whichever one you choose, do not use malt vinegar!
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • a pinch of salt and pepper
1. Whisk all the ingredients together well.
2. If the vinaigrette is too thick for your liking, add a tbsp of water. If it is too sour, just add a little olive oil.
3. Serve mixed in grated raw carrots for the ultimate French classic!
Vinaigrette Collage
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Ginger Banoffee Pie Recipe


ginger banoffee pie recipe

It seems that September has turned my mood to food more than usual. I’ve been rather bored by my regular recipes and I’ve been poring over cookbooks to find new autumnal inspiration. In the process, I made a Banoffee Pie yesterday. I’m more of a pastry girl myself, but Badgerman loves his creamy desserts and I couldn’t remember the last time I made it. Also it would get some fruit into the girls, win! (every little helps, ok?)

It doesn’t get much simpler than Banoffee Pie, but there is also no end to the ways you can twist the basic recipe to your personal taste. The original Hungry Monk Banoffi Pie recipe, which was created just round the corner from where I live, calls for shortcrust pastry after all. I’ve combined their recipe with one from the GoodFood website to make my very own version. Instead of Hobnobs or shortcrust pastry, I use Ginger Nut biscuits to make the base and it adds a little warmth without overpowering the bananas or the cream. I like it!

20150920_banoffee closeup


  • 300g Ginger Nut biscuits
  • 60g butter, melted
  • 397g tin of Caramel (or Dulce de Latte, or, as the French call it, ‘confiture de lait’. Whatever you fancy calling it, I used Nestle Carnation because there’s nothing else available that I’m aware of)
  • 3 bananas, sliced
  • 350mls double cream (best use whipping cream if you’re in US)
  • 1 tbsp golden caster sugar (or you can use icing sugar but it doesn’t taste as nice)
  • half a teaspoon ground coffee
  • a little unsweetened chocolate powder


  1. For the base: heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Crush the biscuits in a food processor then add the melted butter and combine well. Press the mixture flat into a tart tin (preferably one of those with a removable base). Move the tin to a baking sheet and cook for 10-12 minutes until lightly toasted and set. Leave to cool.
  2. Caramel layer: once the base is cool, spread the caramel over the biscuit and put in the fridge for one hour.
  3. Banana layer: arrange the banana slices over the toffee.
  4. Whipped cream layer: whip the cream with the instant coffee and sugar until thick and smooth (which will happen, even with caster sugar). It should form soft peaks. Spread over the bananas and chill until ready to serve.
  5. Just before serving, sprinkle the chocolate powder over the top.

ginger banoffee pie slice

Confession time: I was ‘a little’ heavy-handed with the instant coffee in the whipped cream; it was more of a whole teaspoon than half, but it doesn’t ruin the cream, if you like coffee that is…