Out of the grey

panna cotta pomegranate-14So far, winter isn´t really happening here in Paris. It seems we are stuck in an everlasting november – most days are cold and grey and cloudy,  just not cold enough for a decent amount of snow.  Sadly there´s not a flake in sight, much to the chagrin of my kids who have been making plans to build a snowman for quite some time. Instead, it´s, well, cold and grey and cloudy.

parc winter-6With snow or without,  I´ve never been a big fan of wintertime. Every year though, I do my best to show some good will and embrace the season. For a few weeks in late autumn I even take sincere pleasure in the idea of snuggling down in woolen sweaters, wearing cozy jackets and duffle coats, thick scarves and warm socks in my shoes. But not long after Christmas, all I want is spring. Already I´m through with dressing up the kids and myself  in multiple layers, through with my pale face and our runny noses, fed up with that endless grey around me. I´d say it´s a mild case of winter blues, but this year, in the absence of winter, let´s rather call it a state of hibernal hypochondria (doesn´t that sound good?).

pastilla&ginger3pomegranates&fountainWhatever it is precisely, it goes along with a growing, but probably and hopefully temporal aversion against good old winter comfort food. The last months were filled with silky soups and succulent stews, creamy gratins and glorious cheese platters, then my appetite, slowly but steadily, began to guide me elsewhere. Bit by bit, out went the heavy sauces and eggy desserts, in creeped the lighter dishes, the vibrant colors, hot spices and exotic flavors. A pinch of saffron for the crème brûlée, a hint of mint for the couscous, a dash of cumin here and a splash of lemon juice there – small doses of culinary mood elevators found their way into my kitchen and lightened up these murky days, at least for the length of a meal.

If all of this was good, nothing cures a winter blues, even an imaginary one, like a beautiful pastilla: In this traditional Maghreb chicken pie (often served during Ramadan and classically prepared with pigeons), coriander and cinnamon, ginger, saffron, almonds and orange blossom water melt together in the most enchanting way. It tastes quite special, unlike anything else I know. To make the flavors linger on a little longer, I gave the panna cotta, one of my kids´favorite treats, a little twist, adding orange blossom water as well and a spoonful or two of sparkling pomegranate molasses. For I may not be in charge of the weather, but I am in charge of the kitchen, and sometimes that helps, too.

chicken pastilla-3

panna cotta with pomegranate & orange blossom water (makes 4-6 servings)
400 ml milk
200 ml cream
4 tbsp orange blossom water
90 g sugar
6 sheets = 7.2 g gelatin, soaked in water and squeezed out

molasses from 1 large pomegranate to serve

Soak gelatin sheets in cold water for 5-10 minutes, then squeeze out any excess water.

In a saucepan, heat milk with cream, sugar and orange blossom water and bring to a soft boil. Take off the heat and stir in the gelatine until completely dissolved.  Pour mixture into ramekins or small glass jars. Allow to sit for several hours or over night, until firm, but a bit jiggly. Serve with pomegranate molasses.

panna cotta pomegranate-16chicken pastilla (serves 4):
This pastilla was relatively mildly flavored because of my kids. You could easily double the amounts of onion, garlic, and ginger if you prefer.
2 legs and 2 breasts from 1 chicken (about 800-900g)
1/2 bunch of each coriander and tarragon/parsley, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 chunk ginger, finely chopped (about 20 g)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 dose saffron (0.1 g)
1 to 1 1/2 tsp Ras-el-Hanout
2 tbsp brown sugar
salt , pepper
4 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp orange blossom water
100 g blanched almonds
50 g melted butter, plus 3 tbsp for frying
8 brik sheets
1 egg yolk
confectioner´s sugar and/or a handful chopped roasted almonds and pistachios to serve

To prepare the filling:
In a large cast iron cocotte, brown chicken breasts and legs from all sides in about 2 tbsp butter for 4-5 minutes. Take out and set aside.

In the same pan, add 1 tbsp more butter, fry onions until lightly browned, add garlic, herbs and all the spices. Return chicken to the cocotte, cover with water just below the chicken level, cover and allow to simmer over low to medium heat until meat is cooked, 25-30 minutes.

Take the chicken out of the cocotte, remove meat from the bones and chop very finely with a large knife (discard the skin and bones).

Meanwhile, allow the sauce to reduce to a little less than half (simmering over low to medium heat, uncovered).

In a small frying pan, brown the almonds (and pistachios, if desired) without extra fat until golden. Chop coarsely.

Beat 4 eggs in a bowl. Take the sauce from the heat. Slowly add beaten eggs, whisking. Return to low heat, continue to whisk until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Add almonds (reserve a few for decoration), chicken, and orange blossom water. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.

To assemble the pastilla:
Preheat the oven 180°C/350 °F.

Butter a tarte pan with a removable bottom. I used a pan 22.5 cm/9inch in diameter, slightly smaller than the brik sheets.

Melt 50 g butter to brush each brik sheet. Line the pan with three of them, as a base and rim for the pastilla. Place one quarter of filling, then one buttered brik sheet, and so on. Finally, use 2 sheets as a cover. You will have to adjust the size of the inner and covering brik sheets to make them fit your pan better. Brush cover with egg yolk and seal the edges very firmly.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden.

For a traditional pastilla finish, dust generously with confectioner´s sugar to serve – not very popular within my family. That´s why I skipped that in favor of the following: Sprinkle pastilla with remaining almonds and pistachios 5 minutes before the end of the baking time. Serve hot with pan fried zucchini slices.

Pastilla & Panna cotta für Farbe im Grau

pomegranates&birdBis jetzt kann hier wirklich nicht von Winter die Rede sein. Paris ist kalt und grau und wolkig, ein endloses Novemberwetter, doch Schnee ist nicht in Sicht, keine einzige Flocke. So wird das nichts werden mit dem Bonhomme de neige, dem Schneemann, den die Kinder schon seit Wochen bauen wollen. Statt dessen bleibt es eben kalt und grau und wolkig.

Ob mit Schnee oder ohne, ich bin ohnehin nicht gerade ein Winterfan und habe kurz nach Weihnachten eigentlich schon genug von Kälte, Trübnis und Zwiebelschalenlook. Genauso ging es mir zuletzt mit den winterlichen Rezepten, auf die ich mich in den letzten Monaten gestürzt hatte. Suppen, Eintöpfe, Gratins und eischwere Nachspeisen sind – erst einmal – verbannt. Statt dessen kommen Dinge auf den Tisch, die ein bißchen mehr Farbe, Schärfe und im besten Fall auch einen Hauch exotischer Düfte in das Grau dieser Tage zu mischen vermögen.

chicken pastilla-4Das gelingt zum Beispiel hervorragend mit einer Pastilla. Diese maghrebinische Hühnerpastete, ein traditionelles, variantenreiches Gericht während des Ramadan, für das oft auch Taubenfleisch verwendet wird, verbindet die Aromen von Ingwer und Koriander, Zimt, Muskatnuss, Safran, Mandeln und Orangenblütenwasser auf eine ganz besondere, unvergleichliche Weise. Einzig der dicke Puderzuckerüberzug (ja), der die Pastilla bedecken sollte, stieß in meiner Familie nicht unbedingt auf Freunde – die Version mit Mandeln und Pistazien schon sehr viel eher, also na gut. Dafür gibt es einen unverfänglichen Nachtisch, eine Panna cotta nämlich, die immer allen schmeckt. Diesmal mit Orangenblütenwasser und Granatapfelkernen, damit der Zauber der Pastilla nicht so schnell verfliegt.

panna cotta orange blossom water

Pastilla mit Hühnchen (für 4 Personen):
Diese Pastilla ist relativ mild gewürzt, meine Kinder essen sie sonst (leider) nicht. Man könnte also ohne weiteres die Menge an Zwiebeln, Knoblauch und Ingwer verdoppeln.
2 Hähnchenschenkel + 2 Brüste (ca. 800-900g)
je 1/2 Bund Koriander und glatte Petersilie od. Estragon, gehackt
2 Zwiebeln, gehackt
2 fein gehackte Knoblauchzehen
1 Stück Ingwer, fein gehack(ca. 20 g)
1 TL gemahlener Zimt
1/2 TL gemahlene Muskatnuss
0,1 g Safran
1 bis 1 1/2 TL Ras-el-Hanout
2 EL brauner Zucker
Salz und Pfeffer
4 Eier
2 EL Orangenblütenwasser
100 g blanchierte Mandeln
50 g zerlassene Butter, + ca. 3 EL zum Anbraten
8 Blätter Brikteig
1 Eigelb
Puderzucker und/oder ein paar Mandeln und Pistazien zum Dekorieren

Für die Füllung:
In einem großen, am besten gußeisernen Topf Hühnerbrüste und-keulen von allen Seiten in ca. 2 EL Butter anbraten (4-5 min). Herausnehmen und in demselben Topf mit nochmals 1 El Butter die gehackten Zwiebeln glasig anschwitzen, dann den Knoblauch, die Kräuter und Gewürze zugeben. Hähnchenteile zurück in den Topf geben und soviel Wasser zugießen, daß das Fleisch nicht ganz bedeckt ist. Zugedeckt 25-30 Minuten bei kleiner bis mittlerer Hitze garen.

Wenn das Geflügel gar ist, herausnehmen und das Fleisch herauslösen (Knochen und Haut verwerfen). Mit einem scharfen Messer sehr fein hacken.

Inzwischen die Sauce bei offenem Deckel auf etwas weniger als die Hälfte einkochen lassen.

In einer kleinen Pfanne ohne Fett die Mandeln und ein paar Pistazien rösten und anschließend grob hacken.

4 Eier in einer Schüssel verschlagen. Die eingekochte Sauce vom Herd nehmen und die Eier unter Rühren mit dem Schneebesen hinzufügen. Alles wieder auf kleiner Flamme erhitzen und weiterrühren, bis die Sauce merklich eindickt. Das dauert ca. 5 Minuten.

Jetzt Mandeln (ein paar davon zusammen mit den Pistazien ggf. für die Dekoration aufheben), Orangenblütenwasser und gehacktes Hähnchenfleisch zugeben, nochmals abschmecken.

Pastilla schichten und backen:
Ofen auf 180°C vorheizen.

Eine Tarteform mit heraushebbarem Boden buttern. Ich habe eine mit 22.5 cm Durchmesser benutzt – etwas kleiner als die Brikteigblätter, dadurch ergibt sich beim Auslegen des Bodens automatisch ein Rand, und die Pastilla hält gut zusammen.

50 g Butter zerlassen. Alle Teigblätter vorm Einschichten mit Butter bestreichen.

Form mit drei gebutterten Teigblättern als Boden und Rand auslegen. Ein Viertel Füllung darauf verteilen, mit einem gebutterten Teigblatt abdecken. So weitermachen, bis die Füllung verbraucht ist. Dann zwei Teigblätter als Deckel verwenden. Die inneren und oberen Teigblätter etwas zurechtschneiden, damit sie besser in die Form passen.

Oberfläche großzügig mit Eigelb einstreichen und die Ränder fest aneinanderdrücken.

25-30 Minuten backen. Zum Servieren mit Puderzucker bestreuen. Alternativ 5 Minuten vorm Ende der Backzeit die zurückbehaltenen Mandeln und Pistazien grob hacken und auf der Pastilla verteilen.

chicken pastilla-6Panna cotta mit Granatapfel & Orangenblütenwasser (4-6 Portionen):
400 ml Milch
200 ml Sahne
4 EL Orangenblütenwasser
90 g Zucker
6 Blätter = 7.2 g Gelatine, ein kaltem Wasser eingeweicht und ausgedrückt
Kerne von 1 Granatapfel

Gelatine in kaltem Wasser einweichen und nach 5-10 Minuten herausholen und gut ausdrücken.

Milch mit Sahne und Zucker bei mittlerer Hitze aufkochen, vom Herd nehmen und die Gelatine darin unter Rühren auflösen. Orangenblütenwasser zufügen. Auf 4-6 kleine Gefäße oder Schälchen verteilen und mehere Stunden oder über Nacht fest werden lassen. Mit Granatapfelkernen servieren.

pastilla&tulips

52 thoughts on “Out of the grey

  1. Panna cotta – my favourite dessert😀 Great idea with the orange blossom water and the pomegranate kernels. I think I’ll have to make a panna cotta soon, too!

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      1. PS: I´ll make chicken, too, today! I have a HUGE poulet de bresse sitting in the fridge (must have been hungry when I bought it – 2.5 kg for the 4 of us?!? We´ll see ….;-))

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      2. Oh la la, that is a quite the bird and what a gorgeous one. Chicken fricasse with the leftovers (recipe on my blog in case you need it), always my go to comfort food for a grey week and a touch of home sickness. Mine is a humble poulet fermier but French as well. N

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      3. Merci for the fricassee hint! And yes, oh là là was what I said when I heard the price -even if it was on special offer that day, but heavy as it was quite expensive in the end….well. It will make 2 meals at least!

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  2. Oh, I do love those little yoghurt jars you’ve used for your panna cotta. I managed to bring 4 home with me in my overcrowded suitcase after my trip last year – love using them!

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    1. I love these, too. I have collected some over the last months. My kids are huge fans of a panna cotta served in these little jars, don´t ask me why…😉

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      1. That´s wonderful – I have to say I always “down-spice” because I´m the only lover of spicy in our house. So in case you try this, please spice up, I´m quite sure you´ll like it!

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  3. Such stunning photos!! We are having a very mild winter here in NYC too. Usually we would have had 3-4 major snowfalls by now! Hopefully you will get a few snowflakes soon : )

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  4. Your photographs are as always a treat but you write so well that I don’t know if you are an excellent photographer/cook who writes or a writer/photographer who cooks. In any case I feel fortunate to see your work (alas not taste) on your blog posts. You are very generous.

    I am intrigued by the b&w ones. What’s their story? I love love love that first pic.🙂 You have some of the best food photos I’ve ever seen and I have hundreds of cookbooks.

    I have made a similar chicken dish a lifetime ago, complete with sugar and it was memorable but the sweetness is strange to my palate and I never made it again. Dopey me never thought of leaving it out🙂

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    1. Dear Mary, you make me go all red in the face with these flattering words; but no, I´m neither of these. I have no training in cooking, writing or photography. Not at all. These are just things I like to do, have always liked, and they come together in this blog. But since you´ve asked, what I really am is a doctor, that´s my profession, though at the moment, I am taking a break from it because of my kids. If I worked as I did before they were born, this blog would never have happened. It was one of the toughest decisions in my life to step back from my job, but I´m rewarded with seeing my kids grow , and it also gives me the opportunity to do this as my hobby and personal pleasure.
      The b/w photos btw come from a nearby park where I love to go with my kids, or in this case, just with m daughter one morning.
      And as of the pastilla: I´m well aware this is not a dish you throw together just as you go. But I truly love the recipe and perhaps you´ll find the moment to prepare one again some day, with or without the sugar on top which is definitely a challenge to the palate!
      Wishing you a wonderful day and evening, une très belle journée à toi! Sabine

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      1. Merci, Sabine. Of course; your intellect shines through but your sense of aesthetic is obviously cultivated so I guess you also dabble in one art form or another. I’m so glad of your decision. Your children’s gain but ours also. Enjoy this special interlude. Mx

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  5. Ici à Bordeaux, l’hiver cet année est comme à Paris, on n’a pas vu aucun signe de neige ! La dernière fois qu’il a neigé en ville, c’était il y a 5 ans et depuis rien ! Ta recette de panna cotta est délicieuse et quoi dire de la pastille, il fait une éternité que je ne mange pas et la tienne me pareil bien appétissante ! Les photos sont toujours sublimes ! Je te souhaite une belle semaine Sabine.

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  6. I really, really dislike winter and am so glad that, so far, we’re mostly just having grey and not much snow or ice. (In fact, it’s horribly unseasonably warm here now and we’re having torrential rains and tornado watches. But that’s another and altogether too depressing subject for a food blog…) Still, there are pomegranates and that panna cotta looks so delicious. So who can complain about winter?

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    1. Oh no, that (the tornado watches and rains) really doesn´t sound good, Michelle. I´d wish spring might come to you like today (ok, tomorrow), but perhaps it´s more realistic to wish you some snow, but just a little. Because “real” spring won´t really happen yet, I guess…

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  7. My Aunt in Paris told me on Monday about this grey and sad “Novemberish” winter… Here in Ireland, it is pretty colourful! You just don’t know what is going to come next at the moment! ( But not a lot of snow). We do a “Special Offer” on storms if you are interested?😀

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  8. I feel the exact same way about winter, I try my best to be jolly about it, but by about a month in I have had enough lol but what a splendid dessert!!! One if my favorite things about winter is pomegranate which is usually in season this time, and I wish we could share some of our snow with your kids😉

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    1. thank you! So glad you stopped by and left such a lovely note! Thank you for visiting, and have a wonderful weekend. MAny greetings from PAris (so much lovelier weather today!) Sabine

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  9. The panna cotta looks wonderfully delicious! Our winter was slow in coming but when it did, it came in with real icy cold. I’m wishing for a bit more of the fluffy snow for the kids so they could ski as we’ve had some rainy days making everything slick and icy!

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    1. I remember rain after the snow from Bavaria/Germany, it always made a mess of everything. Here we had a surprisingly mild and even sunny day, making me wish it would stay this way. I hope you´ll have a wonderful remaining weekend, and thank you a lot for stopping by!

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  10. I always love my visits hear, your writings seem so magical…they can take me to another place. I love your “culinary mood elevators” and yes, I can see how this meal would certainly elevate all the senses.

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  11. The way you handle winter and adding color to the day and life is so impressive (fantastic photographs), and I also have to love the words “For I may not be in charge of the weather, but I am in charge of the kitchen, and sometimes that helps, too.” Yes indeed ~

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    1. I hope so! These days have been some of the coldest I´ve experienced so far ( in France) – relatively mild compared with Germany/Bavaria, but I´m so done with winter. But today I spotted the first crocuses and dandelions: Spring isn´t far! Have a wonderful week! Don´t work too hard😉 Sabine

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