Gougères, little domes of cheese-flavoured choux pastry, are a classic accompaniment for a glass or two of wine. Offering them to guests makes it seem that you’ve gone to a lot of trouble — and you have. But the actual processes involved are quite straightforward. I got this recipe from a professional chef on the choux pastry course I went on recently. Unusually, it includes crumbled roquefort as well as gruyère. It’s a good addition — it gives them an extra sharp tang, while the “blueness” is undetectable.

This recipe makes a lot of gougères — about 40. You could always halve it but a) they are very moreish, and b) they freeze pretty well. Just pop the frozen gougères in a pre-heated oven for 5-10 minutes and they will be as good as new. They are best still just warm, but if you’ve prepared them in advance (without freezing) you can again crisp them up briefly in the oven before serving. Or, if you don’t want that many gougères, split the dough in half before adding the cheese and use half to make profiteroles, choux à la crème, or chouquettes.
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Crème mousseline

Choux buns filled with crème mousseline

Yesterday I attended a half-day patisserie workshop based around choux pastry. In the course of it, we made some crème mousseline to fill our choux buns. This was a new one for me: it’s basically crème pâtissière with an unfeasibly large amount of butter beaten into it, resulting in a cream that is both airy and rich, and will not collapse under load. It’s apparently the basis for such treats as fraisiers and tropéziennes. Useful as a filling because its firmness means it won’t squelch out or drip when cut or bitten into. But it is very, very calorific, so special occasions only!

Best used on the day it’s made; it will go solid if refrigerated for more than a couple of hours because of all the butter. Apparently that can make it go grainy, but this can be fixed by putting it in the bowl of a stand mixer, starting the whisk at high speed, and then gently and briefly warming the outside of the bowl with a blowtorch (this is clearly a standard technique as our chef/instructor did this when the butter was too hard!). You could make this without a stand mixer (people obviously did in the past) but it’s a lot of work: much vigorous beating required.

The recipe below makes a massive amount, enough to fill at least 15 choux buns.
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Salted caramel sauce (caramel au fleur de sel)

Salted caramel sauce

Many competent cooks seem to be terrified of making caramel. Why? It’s a doddle. There are only two things that can go wrong: burning it (due to inattention) and crystallising the sugar. The first problem is easily solved: don’t take your eyes off the caramel while it is cooking, and remove from the heat as soon as it is the right colour. As for the second problem, I discovered long ago that using sugar cubes instead of granulated sugar ensures that the sugar will melt smoothly and evenly without crystals forming. So give it a go! This sauce is excellent with ice cream, but useful for all sorts of other things as well — try it with apple slices fried in butter for example.
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Chilli jelly


I managed to buy a jar of chilli jelly on a recent trip to the UK, but I’ve long fancied trying Fiona’s recipe and making my own; this stuff is too tasty and versatile to be reserved for special occasions. So I bought a couple of kilos of apples and eventually tracked down a selection of chillis in Carrefour (they can be difficult to find, since the French don’t do hot as in chilli).

The first lot didn’t look much like chillis I’ve seen before; they were relatively large and bell-shaped. “Do you think I should use one or two?” I asked Steve. He looked at them and scoffed. “Pah! They’re so big they can’t be hot, and they are French after all. Those small pointy ones will be hotter.” Boldly, he cut a bit off one of the bell-shaped ones and chewed it. A moment’s silence, then: “AAAAARGH!” Quickly, I handed him the antidote, a spoonful of yoghurt, and he swallowed it gratefully. “OK,” he croaked after a minute, “I’ll try the small ones.” Bravely he nibbled one: “Humph! Not hot at all!” Armed with this information I added one cut-up bell-shaped pepper, seeds and all, to my simmering apples.

The next day, I tried the disappointingly scanty juice that had dripped through the cloth. ‘Phwoarhhhh!” Luckily there was some yoghurt left. Well, maybe the sugar will tone it down. Hmm, only 400 ml of juice from 1.5 kg of apples? I did the maths in my head with difficulty, added the requisite sugar, and boiled it up — result, half a jar of jelly, admittedly a beautiful colour. This didn’t seem like good value, so I tipped the pulp back into the pan with more water and managed to get two more jars of pale, translucent jelly from it. Their innocent looks belie their ferocity though; I think I’ll have to put health warnings on them.


Later, a bit of googling suggests that Steve might have inadvertently scored a further point in the Omnivore’s Hundred: raw Scotch Bonnet pepper … if you try this recipe, I recommend you use less virulent chillis than I did, or at least remove the seeds!