I was feeling apprehensive when I began reading my copy of Lunch in Paris- a delicious love story, with recipes. Having recently read both Julie & Julia (Julie Powell) and My Life in France (Julia Child), I was hungry for more tales of French cooking (and eating).
‘Foodie Fiction’ and ‘Foodie memoirs’ as I call them, have long been favourite genres of mine; really, who can resist the opportunity to salivate over ‘Rice Pudding with drunken raisins’ whilst tucked into bed at 10pm in your PJ’s, with not an ounce of calories to worry about!
The apprehension was due to my memory of another blogger-expat-recounts-her-struggles-in-France memoir – Petite Anglaise, which I’d read a few years ago. The author, Catherine Sanderson, bristled me the wrong way, and I found it very hard to identify with her or enjoy her French journey.Elizabeth Bard, however, is charming and paints a picture of her new life in France as not only exciting but full of struggles that are so easy to relate to. A new cross-cultural romance sees this American finding her feet in Paris, and her daily worries revolve around things such as feeling like a giant on the beach next to the petite French women, unemployment and finding a Parisian flat.
Elizabeth discusses food at great length – the importance of the meal as a cultural ritual for the French, choosing the correct line to wait in at the butcher, and modestly requesting the petite slice of dessert all form part of the larger picture of living in France.
Her book is described as ‘part cookbook, part love story’, and contains 22 chapters and around 60 recipes. Her first chapter describes not only the delicious green tea concoction made by her new lover, but the post-coital dessert and impromptu pasta he made – and then finishes the chapter with recipes for each. As each chapter progresses, the recipes continue – 2-3 at the end of every chapter. The recipes are mostly French dishes with a few ‘family’ recipes thrown in.
It’s not your typical cookbook – there are no glossy photographs, and I feel the recipe instructions are somewhat vague at times, which might prove difficult for novice cooks. The writing is great however, there is a good variety of tantalising recipes, and her memoirs leave you wanting more…luckily she has a blog which you can follow, complete with more recipes, yippee!
When it came time to road test one of Elizabeth’s recipes there was never a question as to what I would make – the Individual Molten Chocolate Cakes were a clear winner. Although I’ve seen these doing the rounds of the cooking shows for years (also known as Chocolate Lava cakes) I’ve never attempted them – until now!
Individual Molten Chocolate Cakes
Moelleux au Chocolat ‘Kitu” (French for Death by Chocolate!)
Adapted from Elizabeth Bard’s ‘Lunch in Paris‘
150 g unsalted butter
150 g good quality dark chocolate – 70% cocoa
good pinch of sea salt
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup castor sugar
1 Tablespoon plain flour
1. Preheat oven to 220º C. Generously grease 6 x ½cup-capacity ramekins with softened butter.
2. Melt butter and chocolate together in a double boiler or carefully in the microwave. Add sea salt.
3. Beat egg yolks, eggs and sugar with your handheld beater/whisk/stand mixer until light and slightly foamy – this will take a few minutes.
4. Add the egg mixture to the warm chocolate and whisk quickly to combine – it should be quite thick.
5. Divide room-temp batter evenly amongst ramekins – approximately 3/4 full, and carefully place into oven.
6. Bake for 7 minutes for a thin outer shell with completely molten interior, or 8 minutes for a slightly thicker crust and gooey heart (I did mine for 7½ minutes!)
7. Remove from oven and allow to sit on bench for 1-2 minutes – restrain yourselves people! Slowly upturn onto serving plate and watch as it effortlessly glides out looking absolutely perfect! Serve with dusted icing sugar, cream, ice-cream, strawberries or whatever else you so desire. Bon appétit!
* These can be prepared ahead of time and placed in the fridge until you’re ready for dessert. Leave on the bench for a good half hour or so before putting into the oven as they need to return to room temperature before baking.
* Even better, the batter can be frozen directly in the ramekins and cooked straight from the freezer! Elizabeth recommends giving them 10 minutes on the bench, then cooking at 200º C for 15-17 minutes. This is perfect if you don’t have 6 people to impress in one sitting – simply freeze the ones you don’t need for another night – perfect!
Mine did sink a little on top – I’m guessing some degree of this is normal judging by how many photos I see of these with a strawberry or dollop of cream sitting on top to hide it! The chocolate is so very rich and decadent, and really does ooze out of the centre like gooey molten….mmmmmm! It’s a very impressive dessert for minimal effort really.
I wish we’d had ice-cream left in the freezer to serve but alas not this time…luckily there are more molten cakes in my freezer for another night, so no guesses for what I’m putting on my shopping list this week!
These were so much easier to make than I’d expected and I’ll be trying a few more ‘French’ recipes with less trepidation now.
Anyone reading any good foodie-fiction or foodie-memoirs at the moment?