Once upon a time there was a little girl who didn't like creamy Milk however she absolutly love Cheese which is a contradiction in itself because Cheese is made of Milk which is rendered sometimes creamier but also sometimes dense and sometimes crumbly. Of course this little girl was myself.
The fact is I don't know why I like my Tea black and without Milk or I partly can explain it in a historical way: back in the days we had to consume Tea with Milk which was thick to make sure the Tea Leaves remained in the bottom of the cup. But since the invention of Tea strainers and then Tea bags, it is absolutly not necessary to have Milk in a cup of Tea. But as we say old habits die hard.
The Tea cup question... How do you like your Tea?
To go back to our subject of Cheese it is actually the thickness of the Milk which render Cheese a possible outcome of it by different processes. Those different methods do create the variety of Cheeses we can find, from Brie to Stilton passing by Goat Cheese.
Laughing Cow Cheese. One which I liked as a kid very much so.
As we all need Calcium, it is important to provide our bodies with it in one way or another (Vegetables are a good source of Calcium as well). For me it was Cheese. First of all coming from Normandy, I was within an area full of notorious Cheeses to be consumed. My favourite is the Brie, the Brie de Meaux in particular and the Pied d'Anglois. The texture is partly soft and I can just eat it like that or upon a slice of Bread.
A Brie is best eaten out of the fridge for a few hours to be at room temperature. Then it is onctuous.
Another Cheese I do like is a good creamy Camembert but, good Lord, does that Cheese stink... I remember one day in a rather full London double decker bus coming back home after having done my shopping, having a Camembert in my shopping bag... It was a hot Summer day, so you can imagine the reaction of others, lets just say it was interesting to see some people leaving the area I was seating to take their seats further away... However a good Camembert is very enjoyable to eat.
Grilled Camambert served with a Lamb Lettuce Salad, Grapes and toasted slices of Bread.
The beauty of Camembert is that it is wonderful just like that, but like Brie it is wonderful cooked as well because you then have a melting treasure on a plate full of goodness. Dare I say that grilled it makes an indulgent Starter or a nice Supper in Winter. You can for a Camembert even bake it within the wooden box in the oven (remove the lid of course), pierce it with a knife to make some little pockets on the top of the Camembert, place a little fresh Rosemary in each pockets to infuse the Cheese of the aroma of the Herb. Meanwhile you can bake alongside the Cheese a Garlic Bread, slices of a buttered Garlic Baguette. Within ten to fifteen minutes, you will have a mini Fondue to enjoy...: Crusty flavoured Bread slices to dip into the warm centre of a melted Camembert. This is totally decadent and indulgent but also very yummy. I would say this is a Wintery Treat par excellence.
Baked Camembert is so simple to do. It is just pure comfort Food.
Of course thinking in terms of Fondue, a Cheese Fondue is so well known everywhere, after all it is the National Dish of Switzerland. I will add that it so enjoyable but also that around a Foundue either Cheese or else, it is a time to communicate but as well to have an agreable and nice time with others. The Cheeses used there are different and mainly have a delicious nutty flavour: Emmental, Gruyére for example. It is served with crusty Bread to dip into the melted Cheese. White Wine is often used to loosen the Cheese but also to impart that merry flavour.
Swiss Fondue. Melted Cheese is a great delight to have.
We can't mention Cheese without speaking of hard Cheese like Cheddar Cheese. Cheddar is a staple in England like if we were saying that the moon is made of Cheese. Solid or grated, it is always in my fridge anyway. Not just because my Man loves it, because I love it too.
Loving good Cheese has always been with me. I must confess to like Blue Cheeses a hell of a lot. I will mention Roquefort here but also Saint Agur and Stilton (But I am missing a lot I enjoy as well like Dolcellate and Gorgonzolla and many more). Some may have a moist and almost creamy texture like the Roquefort while others have a crumbly texture which can still be fairly firm nonetheless.
The Stilton. Quintescentially British, coming from Stilton the town, Stilton has a long tradition behind its conception. This viney Blue Cheese finds its place on many Chrismas Cheese Platter.
From the tangy blue veins of Blue Cheeses which danses in your mouths we go to mention the very moist, soft and creamy, as white as snow bowls, Mozzarella and Burrata. Not only there are plenty of uses for them but also one can eat them fresh or cooked. To take three examples of some of my favourite Dishes using Mozzarella, I would say Mellanzane a la Parmigiana. Then it would be of course the Pizza. Those would be my two hot Courses of choice. When it go for a cold plate I love the unctuousness of Mozzarella with Tomatoes and whole Basil Leaves. The simplicity of that Salad speaks volume about good ingredients just drizzled with a dressing of Olive Oil and Balsamic Video. It is simply delicious especially on a hot Summer day.
Simple Mozzarella, Tomatoes and Basil Salad. Summer on a plate.
Of course there are many soft Cheese all over the World with one famous one being Cream Cheese which most knows as the brand Philadelphia to the most unusual speciality from the Jura Mountains of France called the Cancaillotte. As Cream Cheese is more readily available, it is used by many for whisking up a Cheese Cake or making up a Phili-Chipolatta Dog for a Saturday Movie night...
The Phili Chipolatta Dog/ Sandwich: Not for the faint hearted. You may fall asleep eating eat before the end of a Movie, so choose a thriller or an action Movie to enjoy that big baby of a Dog till the end of it.
There I will say, let us not forget Cheeses made with Goat Milk, Eew Milk etc and even Fruits like Quinces. Myself I am very partial to Goat Cheese. It is so enjoyable in a Salad de Chévre chaud. The round Croutons giving the dry texture to a part moist, part melted, part crumbly slice of Goat Cheese. My favourite Goat Cheese is called the Crottin de Chavignol, but it is easier to find a very decent brand with the appelation of Chavroux which makes different types of products with Goat Milk from spreadable ones to the Buche which is highly practical to slice.
A Chavroux Buche Goat Cheese.
I will let you discover the many Cheeses out there for you to try and to enjoy in the different sections down below. It may give you ideas for Cheese Platters but also a know how of pairing which Cheese with which Ingredient.
Home Made Cheese and White Wine Fondue for Two, served with Croutons, White Chicory Leaves and Baby Boiled Potatoes. Comfort Food at its best.
Dare I say that one of the first things I did learn to cook was a Fried Egg. My ones are always sunny side up. I also like them a little crispy around the edges to know that the white has been rendered properly. But the Eggs still need to have that exquisite runny yellow yolk at the centre to run free upon the plate. It is a little magical moment of bliss: A little like singing along to the song "My favourite things" from the Sound of Music Film with Julie Andrews.
The Breakfast Fry Up with fried Bread, Bacon and Eggs. It is simple yet fulfilling. It is the fuel to start the day or at least one's day. An Egg takes roughly four to five minutes to fry depending on its size, sometimes more, sometimes less.
There is one thing I will confess, which is, to like a Fried Egg with rough edges. When they are done within a ring or device so they do look neat, I think it kills the charm of the good old Egg coming from a proper Farm, from a Farm where the Chicken are roaming outdoors. My Grand Parents (RIP) lived most of their lives in Bourg en Bresse and there in the Bresse area of France the Chicken graze the grass, the green green grass, and you can taste the difference with the Chicken from a battery Chicken and from a Farm Egg from a battery Egg.
A Poulet de Bresse, de Bourg en Bresse, happy roaming in a field of clovers.
There are a variety of Eggs to be pan fried but being rather conventional I tend to stay in the realm of Chicken Eggs. However I venture very often in the kingdom of the rich Duck Egg with that bountiful dark yellow Yolk. If I do poach a Duck Egg more than I do fry it, I am still doing it often for the ratio between the white and the yolk. There is less white in a Duck Egg. The star there is truly and simply the luscious Yolk. A Duck Egg is full of proteins and different vitamins which is a plus.
Duck Eggs are of course larger than Hen's Eggs.
If Duck Eggs may be harder to get because they are not the normal standard Egg, they are still worth the while to have and eat. The Fried Duck Egg add a touch of luxury upon an Easter Breakfast of Grilled Asparagus, and Shaved Truffles. Garnish with a little Chives, Black Pepper and Sea Salt as a finish then now we are talking simply of very simple lush Brunch.
Pan Fried Duck Egg upon Chips served with a good dollop of Lemon Mayonnaise, seasonned and garnished with chopped Parsley. This is a satisfying simple Lunch.
However I tried my hand to cook Quail Eggs as well. Sometimes it was successful and sometimes it was not. Is it that they are too small for my clumsy fingers...? Or is it that the matter of time is seriously reduced when cooking them? Hence you do need to keep an eye upon the clock and upon the Egg. This is a balancing act which one might crack: May it be the Quail Egg or you with a smile upon your face? But Fried Quail Eggs are quaint and definitely suitable to create Canapés and Appetizers.
Home Made Crostinis with Fried Quail Eggs topped with red Herrring Roe. It is simple and a rustic Canapé to be enjoyed.
They are plenty of ways to taste Fried Quail Eggs. I would say they are dainty but nice; that it is a taste the difference matter. Fried Quail Eggs can make a Bruschetta sing a little bit more for a nice Brunch or even Starter for Dinner time. With very little imagination, you can cover your Olive Oil oven toasted slice of Bread (Sourdough, Ciabatta or Baguette), with a Cream Cheese which is seasoned with added Ingredients of your choice (Chilli Flakes or a little pinch of Cayenne Pepper or a little Chive, or a little Dill, or a little shredded Basil, or a little chopped and roasted Garlic). On top of the whisked Cream Cheese, you can build a layer with a cured or smoked Ham (Prosciutto, Serrano, Parma Ham...even Bacon rashers). But you can also use Fish freshly cooked, smoked or cured. Then add your fried Quail Egg on top. This is an all so simple treat.
Mini Pesto Pizza with mini Mozzarella Balls, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Fried Quail Eggs. It can make a nice Starter to an Italian theme Dinner.
Now there is something with most of Eggs you can do to fry them: It is the Scotch Egg. The recipe dates from a long time ago the 1800 plus so has evolved to be ever so different. The principle of it reside, in covering an Egg with Minced Meat then to bread the result in order to Fry it. Initially it was called the scortch Egg because it was fried but enclosed. However it became the Scotch Egg in the end. The history says that it was because Scotland was a big producer of Eggs.
Scotch Eggs can be very dry but to have a runny yolk centre is part of the pleasure with them.
They can make a good Brunch or Lunch. Scotch Eggs are not as per say fanciful however you have a room to play there in term of cookery. Which Egg you are going to use? A Hen Egg, a large Duck Egg or a small Quail Egg...?
Quail Scotch Eggs Salad. You can do it with Lambs Lettuce or Pea Shoots. Serve it with or without Pancetta or Lardons. Decorate the plate with edible Flowers like Viola. A simple French dressing can accompany everything even some chopped woodland Mushrooms to give the feel of Autumn to the plate.
Then with which minced Meat you are going to wrap your Egg? A spiced Mince most certainly, it could be Sausage Meat, Lamb Mince, Beef Mince, Turkey Mince but it can also be from a Fish as well like a Smoked Salmon or Trout.
Salmon Mousse Scotch Quail Eggs served with pickled Radishes, Lamb Lettuce and Tartare Sauce.
It can be with Black Pudding, or the stuffing for Haggis... There you have the tools to make your Scotch Egg special. Seasoning the Breadcrumbs also does play a part in the entire making of a Scotch Egg. The result of your combinations usually makes a satisfying Lunch or Starter.
Black Pudding Scotch Eggs on a bed of peppery Rocket Salad dressed with a grain Mustard Vinaigrette: A Lunch that is packing a punch on a plate.
Speaking of Eggs there is of course the Eggy Bread. It is also called French Toast, French Fried Bread, Pain Perdu, Gypsy Bread. The concept comes from an old tradition to not loose Bread at any cost. Even if the Bread becomes old and stale, you can revive it with a source of life which is the Egg and another Ingredient which nurtures life which is Milk. Hence the Eggy Bread was born. Then it can become a Dish in itself or a base for either Savoury Dishes or Sweet Ones.
Eggy Bread Toasts. The principle relies on mixing Eggs and Milk together in order to revive the Bread. Soaking the Bread, usually overnight (in the old days) then Frying it made it all better.
You can turn the Eggy Bread savoury for a full Brunch experience, like with a Croque Monsieur with Ham and Cheese or a Croque Madame with the addition of the Fried Egg. The Croque Monsieur is in effect a Sandwich but a Fried one. It is a bang bang two slices of fried Bread, enclosing a decent slice of Ham and a Cheese with quality of the like of Gruyére or Emmental or Comté Cheese. A Mustard Sauce is usually applied to perk up everything. It could be Dijon Mustard whisked up with a little Mayo. But the result is licking fingers delish... The history of the Croque Monsieur dates from the 1800's.
The Croque Monsieur in all its glorious lushness. Before becoming a Bistro or Gastro Pub Treat, it was seen, regarded as a Gentleman's Club Treat.
From the Croque Monsieur to the Croque Madame there are only a few differences. The main one is the addition of the fried Egg on the Croque Madame. The Egg is meant to represent a Lady's wide brimmed hat. Another difference is that the Sauce Béchamel which can be used for the Croque Monsieur can be élévated to the Sauce Mornay for the Croque Madame. The little stamp is the inclusion of Cheese within the Sauce. The Sauce was créated by Philippe de Mornay who also créated the Sauce Béchamel back in the 1500's.
Croque Madame. Croque in French means to actually bite into something that has a crunch: Hence Fried Eggy Bread with a difference.
Then you do have the Croque Mademoiselle: it is an evolution or a variation as per say of the original Croque Monsieur juste like the Croque Madame is a variation as well. This time the main difference is the inclusion of Vegetables within the 'Croque'. It can be totally vegetarian or a bit of a mix. It could be made with the essential Eggy Bread slices but also with sandwiched in between Asparagus, Parma Ham and Parmesan. It could be made with fried Courgettes, melted Mozzarella, Oregano and Espelette Chilli. It is up to the inspiration of the moment. The Croque Mademoiselle is a volatile fried Sandwich. To be blunt it is up to anyone's interpretation apart that it does need to contain a green Veg: Cucumber, Zucchini, Asparagus... For it is the Veg option out of all the Croques.
Croque Mademoiselle with layers of fried Aubergines, Courgettes, roasted Red Sweet Bell Pepped, Cottage Cheese served with a fried Egg on top just like a Croque Madame. It had a Med Feel to it.
French Toast are not all savoury for some are sweet as well. Different combinations are there to be appreciated. A favourite one is served with fresh Berries: Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries... but also with a Jam or Preserve or Compote which could be made with Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Blueberries and the Eggy Bread will be accompanied with Custard. It is a yummy number.
Eggy Bread with Berries. It can be a small tea time treat but it is still special. Another version is made with dried Apricot and fresh ones, (It could be done with Nectarines and Peaches too). The addition of Apricot Jam traditionally done with Almond kernels renders everything lush. Toasted Almonds can add to the decoration in that case.
Similarly Bruschetta is a toasted slice of Bread usually it will be made with Pain de Campagne, Sourdough Bread, Ciabatta or Baguette as a base. The slice will be rubed with Garlic but also dipped in Olive Oil. Then it can be fried within a frying Pan or grilled. The toppings of the Bruschetta are up to you. The traditional ones are with chopped Tomatoes. But additional Ingredients can be added like Basil and, or Organo for Herbs, Capers and, or Olives for a little saltiness, even Anchovies could be considered. Chopped Preseved Lemon could be considered as well. Another combination is the chopped Tomatoes, chopped roasted Sweet Bell Peppers, crispy Shallots with the addition of Mozzarella Pearls or even a little slice or cubed Goat Cheese.
Tomato and Sweet Red Bell Pepper Bruschetta with Basil and a little grated Parmesan. It can be a simple Brunch, an Appetizer or a Starter/Entrée. The addition of Kalamata Olives, or Olives stuffed with Anchovies can bring this Bruschetta to another level.
Concerning Dough you do have plenty which we do Fry which are sweet. During my childhood one of my favourites treats were the Croustillons. They came by 6, the dozen or 24. It was just little balls of Dough fried then sugared. They were ever so nice. We could have them and share between us three kids only on the Thursday and Saturday at the Market in Cherbourg. I can tell you that we were looking out for that Van and the Croustillons. They are from Northern Europe especially the coastal areas, from Holland, Belgium and France.
Croustillons are like mini Donuts.
Then there is of course the Doughnut also spelled Donut. It feels like Homer Simpson dreaming of Donuts. I must confess to be partial to Sugared Ring Doughnuts. Although I am not a sweet tooth Fried Dough does it for me. For Tyn he loves his Jam Doughnuts. The matter of fact is that Doughnuts are versatile as per say as you can top them up the way you want to but also fill them up the way you like.
Sugared Ring Doughnuts. One Treat I can't escape from.
In France, a similar Fried Dough is called Beignet. They come in different shapes filled up or not. A Popular one is the Apple Beignet: Le Beignet aux Pommes. My Mum used to do them usually on the Saturday afternoon. It was a treat especially since Oil was expensive, it was important to do the most of it. Hence Fritters (Beignets) were the way to go. Beignets (Fritters) are dipped in French culture and the Italian one but also in the USA, from Louisiana (which was colonised by the French back in the days). It goes with the flow.
The fillings for Beignets or Fritters are rather varied. Apple is a very popular one coming from areas in France who produces a lot of Apples like Normandy. Pineapple Fritters have their origins from Asian countries like Indonesia (Indochina). French colonists can be blamed for it as well. Then in the Créole Cuisine there are the Banana or, and Plantain Beignets/Fritters.