It was with great excitement when I passed by a shop on Old Brompton Road a couple weeks ago – there was a big sign on the front announcing the imminent arrival of Aux Merveilleux de Fred to London. And it has indeed recently opened – the weekend before Valentine’s Day too.

This patisserie from Lille specialises in meringues covered in cream and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything else sold there (I lie, they also sell a sweet bread called a cramique). But their meringues! They’re quite simple – little mounds or big cakes constructed of layers of meringue and cream. I first encountered them in Lille, where a long queue out the door of the shop attracted my attention; I did want one then but we hadn’t the time to stand in the queue that day. Here was our chance to finally try their confections.

Meringues

This past Valentine’s Day, I purchased a small box of their smallest (two bite size) meringues for dessert that evening. There were five in total, one of each of their main flavours, and it cost £8.50 (oof). Their texture is fabulous – light crispy meringue and equally light flavored whipped cream.

As you can see, each little mound was also rolled in sprinkles of some kind. From left to right (in the photo above):

  • Le Merveilleux - this seemed to me one of their most famous flavours with chocolate flakes and chocolate whipped cream too.
  • L’incroyable – the cream in this little treat was supposed to be speculoos flavoured but sadly I could not taste it at all. It tasted mainly of the white chocolate flakes on its surface.
  • L’impensable – this coffee flavoured confection was probably my favourite!
  • L’Excentrique – this cherry flavoured one was Blai’s favourite. I would have like more fruity flavour but Blai loved that the meringue flavour came through best because of this reason.
  • Le Magnifique – coated in delicious praline and this was the second favourite for both of us.

That day, there was also a caramel flavoured variety on offer. Ah, another one to sample next time!

Meringues

I’ve only so far had a chance to try their smallest meringue confections (they come in a larger single serving size as well as big cakes) but what we had was delicious.

Aux Merveilleux de Fred
88 Old Brompton Road
London SW7 3LQ

I felt like I lost my cooking mojo a couple weeks back (caused in part by the summer weather and also my being ridiculously busy at work and I’m tired when I get home) but after forcing myself into the kitchen recently, I do feel like it’s back and now I’ve got a few recipes ready for the blog. Reading other blogs helped too and one recipe that helped get me out of my funk was this creamy carrot pasta that Donny cooked on his blog Eat to Blog. A creamy pasta dish isn’t necessarily what one might make in the summer but the weather lately hasn’t been exactly summery, eh?

This recipe made a feature of carrot, a vegetable that I have no particularly strong feelings for and one I’d never thought of combining into a pasta dish – but the idea of combining it with cream sounded fantastic. I couldn’t help playing around a bit with the recipe and used a leek instead of the onion and crumbled the sausage into the sauce too. The result was very tasty with the sweetness of the leeks and carrots and cream playing nicely with the savoury sausage and the greenness of the parsley. And it’s very quick to put together for a weekday dinner.

Creamy Carrot, Leek and Sausage Pasta

Carrot, Leek and Sausage Pasta
adapted from Donny’s recipe on Eat to Blog.
serves 2.

250g pasta
1 medium-large carrot, thinly sliced
1 large leek, thinly sliced
3 sausages, chopped roughly
50 mL double cream
2 tbsps olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a small handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped

Set a large pot of water to boil.

Set a large saute pan over medium heat and add about 2 tbsps of oil when hot. Throw in the chopped sausage and let the pieces brown well. When cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage and set it aside.

Pour in a little more oil if the pan is looking dry. Add the leeks and saute for about three minutes. Toss in the carrots and continue cooking until they soften. If the vegetables start to stick, add a little water and scrape up the goodness stuck to the pan.

When the water is boiling, salt well and add your pasta (we used fusilli). Cook until al dente.

Return the sausage to the pan and then add the double cream. Stir through and let bubble together for a few minutes. Thin with water if desired and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add in the cooked and drained pasta and the chopped parsley and stir well to combine. Add some of the pasta water if it’s looking too dry and if it’s difficult to stir. Serve.

I’m submitting this post to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Amy of Very Culinary.

It was this photo from Last Night’s Dinner that led me to create this recipe for a Cajun spiced sausage and broccoli pasta – the creamy bowl of carbs was just calling out to me! The original dish (going by the spiffy name of Pasta St. Charles!) from the Palace Cafe in New Orleans contained shrimp as well but as I didn’t have any at hand, it would just have to be sausage. As I was also too lazy to make a vegetable side dish (and the thought of a salad that day didn’t appeal), I opted to add some broccoli directly to the pasta dish.

Cajun Spiced Sausage and Broccoli Pasta

The final result was a total winner in our household and will definitely be repeated! Of course, I have no idea how it compares to the original dish but it tastes how I expect the pasta in the photo to taste so I’m happy! I’m so used to defaulting to a tomato based sauce that this makes a nice change and I’ll continue play around with no tomatoes in my pasta. Again, this is a pasta dish that keeps well – we had the leftovers for lunch the next day.

A note: The Cajun spice blend I used had no added salt. If yours does (I checked my supermarket and the usual brand that’s around has salt as its first ingredient), you might want to reduce this amount and/or play around with the ratio of spice to salt added at the end.

Cajun Spiced Sausage and Broccoli Pasta
serves 2 with leftovers

250g shell pasta
a small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
small knob of butter and a splash of sunflower oil
3 large fresh pork sausages, peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
a large pinch of dried chili flakes
2 tsps Cajun spice
75 mL double cream
2 tsps Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Set a pot of water on to boil.

In the meantime, heat a large saute pan over medium heat and heat the sunflower oil and melt down the butter. Brown the sausage meat, breaking it up as it fries. When brown, toss in the garlic, stirring thoroughly and letting it cook. Add the dried chili flakes and Cajun spice and stir and again, let it fry for a minute or two. If there are lots of lovely brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, deglaze it with a bit of water.

That water should be boiling now. Toss in your broccoli florets and boil until tender but still with a bite. Drain and set aside. Reboil that water, adding more if needed. Salt the water and then throw in the pasta to boil.

Back to the sauce. Add the heavy cream and mustard and stir through. You’ll most likely need to thin it all a bit with some water. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper. Stir through the broccoli and the pasta when it’s al dente and drained.

Serve with some sliced spring onions and a wedge of lemon to squeeze over. Some grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano or Grana Padano would also go well on top.

I’m submitting this post to Presto Pasta Nights, this week hosted by Once Upon a Feast.

Did anyone else watch that episode of A Taste of My Life with Nigella Lawson, hosted by Nigel Slater? Did anyone crave profiteroles after watching the both of them gobble up a bowlful of them? Am I a greedy guts? (Don’t answer that last one.)

Choux Puffs

This was my first attempt at making choux pastry and a successful attempt it was too. It’s very satisfying making the pastry, especially when it gets all glossy and starts pulling away from the sides of the pot. They make for a fantastic dessert – and I bet they’d be go filled with a savoury mousse too.

Profiteroles

Profiteroles
adapted from both a Nigella Lawson recipe and a Delia Smith recipe
serves 4 (or 2 very greedy people who will regret it)

Choux Pastry
50g butter
150mL water
65g plain flour, sifted
2 free range eggs

Cream Filling
150mL double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla essense or paste
2-3 tbsp icing sugar

Chocolate Sauce
60g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa)
2 tbsps double cream

For the choux puffs
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Put the water and butter in a pan and heat until the butter has melted. Turn off the heat just when the mixture boils, add all the flour at once and beat it in with a wooden spoon until it’s smooth and pulling away from the sides of the pot. Crack in the eggs one at a time, beating it in with the spoon after each addition. When both eggs have been beaten in, the mixture will be smooth and shiny.
Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and lightly dampen it. Drop heaping teaspoons of paste one inch apart on the tray. I got exactly 20 puffs out of the mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the puffs are golden brown. Do not open the oven while it’s baking or else your puffs could collapse! When they’ve come out, pierce the sides of each puff to let the steam out and return the tray to the oven for another minute or two to dry out. Take them out again and cool the puffs on on a rack.

For the filling
Place the cream and vanilla together in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks are formed. Add the sugar and continue to whisk until it’s a little stiffer. Make sure the choux puffs have cooled completely before filling. You can either split the pastries in half and then sandwich them back together with lots of cream or pipe the cream into the puff through the hole you created to let out steam (I did the latter). The best part about the second method is that if your puffs collapse, you essentially reinflate them with the cream!

Filled with Cream

For the sauce
Place all the ingredients into a double boiler to melt. Stir in water a bit at a time to get it to the thickness/thinness that you desire. After the addition of the water, the chocolate will seize and almost seem to set but keep with the stirring and it will all be incorporated.

Serving
I piled all my filled choux puffs into a shallow bowl and then drizzled chocolate sauce very generously over the lot- I like that look of excess! If you’d rather plate them for individual desserts, I’d suggest placing 3-4 filled choux puffs on each plate and drizzle them with some chocolate sauce.

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