Like in Australia, when it comes to Christmas in France, all stops are pulled. We started collecting food for Christmas almost a week before, and continued right up to the last minute. It began with chocolates from the best chocolatier in Lyon, Voisin. Next came cheeses and seafood from the huge, Lyonnais, indoor market, Les Halles, a must-see for anyone in Lyon. In an oh-so-stereotypically French manner, more cheese and seafood came from the local market. On Christmas Eve morning we made a trip to the local boulangeriespecially to buy bread and Bûches de Noël (Yule Logs).
The best of all though, was the food we made at home. I cooked a lot in France, most often with my awesome host Mum, Nicole. The “magnum opus” of our cooking was the desserts we made for Christmas: a chocolate Bûche de Noël, chocolate mediants, exquisite chocolate truffles, and absolutely delectable pieces of candied orange, dipped in dark chocolate. Chocolate galore! The only thing better than eating our masterpieces, was making them. It was several afternoons\evenings worth of laughter and joy that I hope I never forget (and if I do I always have photos and a journal to remind me).
I wrote a list of the best foods I ate in France, and there were a lot of them. But the two that topped it were the candied orange slices dipped in chocolate, and the chocolate truffles. Today, Georgie and I bring you the orange slices. They are truly scrumptious.
Whilst I was gorging myself on truffles and choc-orange slices, Georgie was making mini smoked salmon croissants with her host family, 600km away, in Brittany. I’d never even heard of salmon croissants until then. And now, almost a whole 12 months later, I have finally tasted them. I’m almost certain Georgie, and Mum (who taste-tested them as well) will agree with me when I say they are deeeeeeeelicious!
So here you all are, a sweet, and a savoury, inspired by Christmas in France.
Our version of candied orange is slightly less stiff than the original, so that there’s more of the orange flavour packed in there.
Darwin is very hot and humid this time of year, so the chocolate wouldn’t harden very fast out of the fridge, however, you may not need to put the finished slices in the fridge if you live somewhere cooler.
CHOC-DIPPED CANDIED ORANGE SLICES
CANDIED ORANGE RECIPE SLIGHTLY ADAPTED FROM DAVID LEBOVITZ
PREPARATION TIME: 45 MIN
COOLING TIME: 30 MIN BEFORE AND AFTER CHOCOLATE DIPPING
2 navel oranges
1 1/3 cups (260g) sugar
1 1/3 cups (420ml) water + enough to cover orange slices
200g dark chocolate
Wash the oranges, cut off the ends, then cut them into slices about 0.5cm (0.2in) wide. Place the slices in a saucepan, cover with water, and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain, then place back in the saucepan with the sugar and 1 1/3 cups water. Simmer the slices for 10 – 15 minutes, or until tender. Place in the fridge to stiffen a little.
When the orange slices are stiff enough to hold up without them falling apart, melt the chocolate using your favourite method (bain marie, microwave, solar radiation), and prepare a baking tray cover in baking paper to place the slices on once dipped in the chocolate. After dipping half of the slice in the chocolate, place onto the tray. Once all slices have been dipped, place the tray in the fridge.
When the chocolate has hardened, tuck in!
French puff pastry is generally sold in circles, so when cut into triangles you end up with pizza-slice shape pieces, which is perfect for rolling croissants. However, Australian puff pastry is sold in squares. If you also got squares, you could make your own and roll it into circles, or cut your square into a circle, or cut the square into triangles and make some funky shapes. Georgie and I opted for the last option.
SMOKED SALMON CROISSANTS
PREPARATION TIME: 15 MIN
COOK TIME: 1 HOUR
2 sheets of puff pastry
250g smoked salmon, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 180oC (170oC Fan forced, 350F). Prepare a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Cut the pastry sheets into small triangles. Cover each with small pieces of the salmon. Roll up into whatever funky shapes you like. To get a croissant shape, roll from the wide edge, to the narrow point. Transfer to the baking tray. To make sure they don’t unroll in the over, place the point on the underside of the croissant on the tray. Bake until golden and crispy (about 1 hour).
Best eaten fresh out of the oven.
What are your Christmas meal staples?