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Well now, it has become apparent that I have been neglecting my blog lately. In fairness this time I have an excuse, I swear! I feel almost incomplete when I don’t tap away at my computer or write notes in my food journal after making a new or favourite dish. But I have of late, not really spent much time in the kitchen. I have been working more late shifts and then we have been out or pre-occupied by other little things. But my delay this week was due to a suprise trip to Paris! Birthday present from my beloved D. It was amazing and my oh my do our feet and tummies hurt. We walked ALL over Paris and ate TOO much food. You know when you have eaten a great amount of food and the next day you awake and aren’t at all hungry, well that was us every day and even though we weren’t hungry after day one, we kept eating as we wanted to enjoy every bit of the french cuisine and stop for as many glasses of wine and snacks as we could. Really it was great. Highlight though was la Tour Eiffel. We got there a little early and waited till dark just to see the splendour of its lights and the view by night. And the low point was my total hyper state wandering the city shouting ‘Bonjour, Je suis Julia Child’ attempting her accent and personality and dancing the streets. Seriously, I don’t know how D puts up with me, but the only thing that calmed me down was a good old Café au Lait….

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I don’t think I would like to live in Paris! It’s just not my city, but I do love the way of life and the attitude, and while we were in Paris, my vision of what I want my cafe to be, has become more clear and real to me. I know what I want my place to look like,  I know the style of the menu, the lighting, the plates and even that I want one of those french desert fridges on display, the only thing I don’t know, is how to actually put it all together and to fund it. I have been in the food and beverage industry for a long while now. I know how to manage a place and it’s staff and what works. I just don’t have the business know how or understanding of rates and costs. That is my next little project to work on, well that and money saving. I really do think one of these days I will win the lotto (fingers and toes are crossed), but then again, to win you have to play and I quite often forget.

With my birthday came many wonderful things… Paris of course, but also a whole range of new fantastic kitchen and food related items. I am going to be kept busy for quite some time!

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I have a lot of bread recipes I want to try and lots of square muffins and tarts to make and next week shall be Tagine week with my new Le Creuset dish, care of my wonderful maman. Slowly but surely I will gather the entire collection, even if it takes me a lifetime. These pots and dishes are the best. My mother has had one for a long time (since she got married) and I’m sure I dropped it many a time and played with it as a child and it is still the best piece of equipment in her kitchen… now having said that, lets just hope I don’t go and do anything silly to my pots.

I currently have two breads on the go and a whole variety of different lists being compiled, (yes I am an avid list maker!). I have some big plans over the next few weeks. There is also the small matter of Christmas. I won’t do a whole big blog post about Christmas food, but I am going to post about new dishes I am trying out. For the big dinner we have pretty much the same thing every year. We stick to tradition but I want to see if a few new things will appear on the menu this year in place of some of the old. I also want to try to reduce the ‘on the day’ cooking and the number of things that have to fit into the oven. But this is all ahead of us, and now I am just waffling as usual. Get to the point Vanessa!

Last week I learnt the art of poaching an egg. So I took it further and decided to poach chicken and have a poached salmon dish to play with next week. Poaching is really so simple and good. So this dish is a great french classic and comprises of poached chicken in a mushroom sauce that keeps it moist and is served with quick wilted leeks. I of course couldn’t help throwing a potato or two on the plate. Hey, I’m Irish, the potato is in my DNA. As with the egg poaching, this dish I learnt from Raymond Blanc. He has a show called ‘How to cook well’ and I am trying to pick up a few tips. I think it is working…

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CHICKEN POACHED IN A MUSHROOM SAUCE WITH WILTED LEEK

  • 30 g Dried mushrooms, soaked in 250 ml water for about 5-10 minutes
  • 4 chicken breasts, skinned
  • 1 Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 x 15 g unsalted butter
  • 250 g  firm button mushrooms, washed quickly, patted dry and quartered
  • 120 ml Dry sherry or white wine
  • 400 ml Double cream

THE HOW

To start, drain the mushrooms and reserve the liquid for later.  Squeeze the mushrooms to extract as much of the liquid as possible and pat dry. Cut the larger mushrooms into smaller pieces. Set Aside.

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Now for the chicken, season the breasts with salt and pepper. In a large pan, melt 1 knob of the butter over a medium heat until it is foaming. Add the chicken and colour lightly for 3 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside for a few minutes.

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In the fat remaining in the pan, soften the soaked mushrooms and stir in the button mushrooms for 1-2 minutes. Meanwhile, boil the sherry or wine in a small pan for 30 seconds. Add the sherry or wine to the mushrooms with about 150 ml of reserved mushroom liquid and a pinch of salt. Pour in the cream and bring to the boil.

Place the chicken into the sauce, making sure the cream sauce covers them. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until they are just cooked through.

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Cook the leeks while the chicken is cooking, put the leeks into a saucepan adding 2 tbsp of water and add the salt and butter. Cover and cook at a full heat for 3 minutes until just tender. The idea is that they still have bite and flavour to them. Don’t overcook!

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To finish the dish, lift out the chicken breasts and place in a warm dish. Boil the sauce rapidly to reduce until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Place the chicken breasts back in the sauce to reheat for 1 minute. Serve by lifting the chicken onto plates. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, lift the leeks from their pot and arrange dotted around the chicken and sauce. Your kitchen will be filled with heavenly smells.  Bon appétit.

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