Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Le quatorze juillet - Happy Bastille Day

Bastille Day is the French national holiday which is celebrated on 14 July each year. In France, it is formally called La Fête Nationale (The National Celebration) and commonly le quatorze juillet (the fourteenth of July.

When I was a chef in the hospitality industry there was always a set menu for Bastille day and everyone was always excited about it . French treats, dishes and bread were prepared for the long weekly feast. Some of the food we would prepare would be apricot filled brioche, orange crepes, croissants and a menu fit with matching wines from the Bordeaux region.( Bakery in Paris below)

I would like to share some tasty french treats with you that will take you half the time to do and will taste just as good. So get your aprons on.

The first French treat is called “Pain au chocolat “ or “Chocolate croissants”. Now don’t get worried these are simple to make and as soon as you pop these into your oven,your kitchen will transform into a gastronomic French day dream and your visitors will be so impressed.
Ok so normally you would make your own puff pastry which isn’t hard to do it is just extremely time consuming as you roll out dough and add squares of room temperature butter, fold the dough roll and repeat the process (see below). The rolling and process creates the multiple layers of puff but if you are keen on making your own Puff Pastry , that’s great !!!

However for those that are under time restrictions then by all means buy a packet of ready made Puff Pastry. Ok yes I know you are probably thinking “is that ok”… and the reason it is ok is because the Puff Pastry I am referring you all to purchase is called “Carême Pastry ” . This is the best pastry by far and is amazing to bake with .Carême Pastry is owned and operated by William and Claire Wood. Carême Pastry is located in Tanunda in the Barossa Valley South Australia.

Careme Pastry established in 2005 with a clear vision - to provide a range of the finest, hand- crafted pastry products made using traditional methods from natural ingredients, free from additives, preservatives and colourings. Unlike commercial manufacturers they do not use stabilizers, relaxants or any other additives commonly used in mass production. Their products are genuinely hand-made in order to maintain the highest quality.

Carême is named in recognition of the great Master Chef and Pâtissier, Antonin Carême (1783-1833), an orphan of the French revolution and self-educated he became the most celebrated chef of his time. Revered for his skill and ingenuity he likened the art of pastry to that of architecture and the Pâtissier to a master builder. His legacy can be found in the finest European pâtisseries and in the Carême range of traditional pastry.

I strongly urge you all to go out and buy a packet the Puff pastry is divine as well as the vanilla bean sweet shortcrust pastry in a 435gram packet please see website below.

Pain Au Chocolat – Chocolate Croissants

1 packet ready rolled butter puff pastry( I use Careme puff pastry )
100-gram dark chocolate - (use good quality chocolate eg: Plasitowe Nestle, Callebaut)
1 egg beaten


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Unfurl the sheet of pastry and then cut it into 6 squares.
Cut each square diagonally to give 2 triangles (they will appear quite small). Put the triangle with the wider part facing you and the point away from you.
Break off small pieces of chocolate (approx.1cm/half inch) to place about 2cm/3/4-inch up from the wide end nearest you.(see pic below).

Then carefully roll from that chocolate loaded end towards the point of the triangle.
You should now have something resembling a straight croissant, seal it slightly with your fingertips and curl it around into a crescent.
Place the chocolate croissants on a lined baking tray and paint with the beaten egg. Bake for 15 minutes until golden and puffy and exuberantly, if miniature, croissant-like. (See pic below)

A really quick French treat which will have people begging you to make more is called "French Chocolate Bark", smooth dark chcolate with apricots, nuts and cranberries. The reason it is called French Bark is because in Paris the French scatter the fruit and nuts over the choclate rather than mixing it in.

Renee's Really Easy French Chocolate Bark

250 gram good quality dark chocolate -
Apricots - chopped
Cashews - salted for that amazing contrast with sweet and salty
Dried Cranberries- can use currants also or sultanas

Melt Chocolate in a glass bowl over simmering water, stir till it melts.
Lay greaseproof paper on a tray and spread chocolate in a rectangle shape with a spatula  and then scatter fruits and nuts all over chocolate.
Set it aside and let it harden and once you are able to touch it (about 2 hours) cut it up and pass this treat around. Perfect for having with coffee after dessert.

Another really easy French treat to make is a Puff Pastry Fruit Galette. This is very french and usually eaten in the morning with a coffee in Paris.

French Fruit Galette

These galettes work with a variety of fruit, you could also use peaches, apples, pears or nectarines.

375g carême butter puff pastry
½ kilo apricots or ½ kilo cherries (fresh cherries can be substituted for good quality pitted morello cherries)
400g quark style cheese (if you cannot find quark then use cottage cheese)
pulp from half a vanilla bean
50g (or to taste) castor sugar
zest half lemon
1egg beaten
3 tbsp apricot jam for glazing

1. Pre heat oven to 200ºC.
2. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Unroll pastry (do not attempt whilst still frozen this will cause the pastry to crack). Lightly flour the pastry and work surface. Gently roll out the pastry to give you approx an extra 4cm all round or to around 2mm thick.
3. Using a 10cm pastry cutter, cut out 8 discs and place on the baking tray, place this in the refrigerator while you prepare the topping.
4. Mix the cheese, vanilla bean pulp, castor sugar, lemon zest and egg together.
5. Prepare the fruit: halve and remove the stone from apricots, if large cut into quarters. Remove pip from cherries if using fresh.
6. Remove pastry from fridge and top each disc with 2 teaspoons of the gruth mixture leaving a 1cm border. Top each disc with either 5 pieces of apricot or approx. 5 – 8 cherries depending on size.
7. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 200ºC, reduce temperature to 170ºC and continue to bake for 15 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.
8. While the pastries are baking warm through the apricot jam either on the stove or in the microwave. If the jam is chunky pass through a sieve.
9. Remove pastries from the oven and glaze the fruit and pastry with apricot jam whilst still warm.(Galette pic below).

Fruit galettes can be served warm or cold, to re heat place in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes at 160ºC.

Now as this blog is all about all things French, I wanted to include some of my favorite places as well. When you want to swept away by the Eiffel Tower or feel as though you are walking down the “Champs-Elysées “ then have a browse through some of my favorite Frenchy places below.

1. La Parisienne Pates

290 Lygon Street
Carlton VIC 3053

The first Frenchy place you have to visit is called “La Parisienne Pates” it is located in Carlton and as soon as you walk in the door you are jetted off to France. From their amazing meat / deli selections to their French mustards, jams and chocolate you just cannot walk out this store without buying something. For 10 years it was a small shop hidden down a laneway. With a new home, this French delicatessen is turning heads, Parisienne style. In Carlton's La Parisienne Pates restaurant, Australia’s only charcuterie, the smallgoods made by Stephane Langlois are sheer delight. There are game pies made from duck with rosemary jus, rabbit and prune, and venison with mushrooms.

My favourite items was Dijon mustard (below right )  in a gorgeous tin  and fruity French lollipops for $1

2. Le Petit Gateau
458 Little Collins St
Tel: 03 9944 8893

Le Petit Gâteau’s irresistible cakes and tarts are very indulgent and especially designed to impress the most discerning cake lover.. Conveniently located in the heart of the Melbourne CBD at 458 Little Collins Street at the rear of the stylish RACV Club, ideal for catering for inner-city businesses.

This is the place to go to impress or just to sit and have a coffee and indulgle in one of Pierrick Boyer’s many French inspired pastry creations.

Le Petit Gateau’s Head Pastry Chef, Pierrick Boyer (below), has a wealth of international experience, gained in many of the world’s most prestigious venues, and has worked alongside some of the most internationally renowned chefs including Alain Ducasse, Christophe Michalak, Pierre Marcolini and Stephane Leroux.(Amazing Pastry chefs).

Pierrick has received many awards for his outstanding creations and now you can waltz in down to Le Petiti Gateau and see just all of these mouth watering desserts.

The most popular cake sold at Le Petit Gateau is called the Brownie cake pictured below left and with the arrival of Bastille Day Pierrick and his Pastry team worked wonders and produced these babies on the right , "Blue, White & Red macaron Parisien, filled with vanilla butter cream and home made soft raspberry jam"...yum!
Check out

Ok so now I am heading towards the French restaurant scene where you and your loved one (mon ami) or your friends and family can go and indulge in a fancy French restaurant and you don’t even need to leave Melbourne.

Aux Batifolles - French Brasserie
400 Nicholson St
Fitzroy North 3068 VIC

Batifoler means 'to romp or to lark about; to flirt'- appropriate descriptors of this cheerful suburban bistro. Quality, well-priced Gallic classics are prepared and served by an all-French staff, encouraging diners to pull out their dodgy high school French in order to completely capture the French experience. The dishes have a predominantly hearty provincial flavour, with occasional Mediterranean notes from France's southern neighbours , Head Chef is Chef: Stephane Pettier among the other amazing Kitchen staff.

So when you are next in North Fitzroy check out this delightful  French foodie delight.


Libertine Dining
500 Victoria St, North Melbourne, VIC 3051

Libertine is owned and run by Nick Creswick and Zoë Ladyman, a young couple dedicated to their craft of providing not only a superb meal, but an indulgent service experience. They love classic and traditional French cuisine (pic of dessert below left)  and remain steadfast in their intentions to bring back an old-fashioned style of respectful and responsive service. Libertine proudly supports produce suppliers that are quality driven and strive to use the best game, seafood and vegetables available each season. The wines on offer in the restaurant form a small eclectic collection from around the world, always of exceptional quality at every price point, catering for those just starting their exploration of wine, as well as those wanting a very special or rare bottle.

Libertine opened September 2005 with immediate success and acclaim from both local diners and the press. The restaurant was renovated to open the first floor dining room October 2006.

Check out Libertine Dining experience at  and have a listen to the “oh so Frenchy” music .

Now before we end out French journey I wanted to let you all in on a love that I have had since I was a 2nd year apprentice. The love is my love for the “Roux Brothers” and their amazing, brillant pastry work.

The Roux Brothers are legends in the Patissere world and The name is a culinary legend. Michel with his older brother Albert arrived in England in 1971 to open the original Le Gavroche Restaurant in Lower Sloane Street. The address was imprinted immediately onto the gourmets and gourmands across the country. By 1972 when they opened The Waterside Inn, they had another 3 restaurants in London, each a landmark in a city not then known for fine dining. Between them they have trained over 800 young chefs many of whom are now also legendary. Since 1984 the Roux Scholarship is undoubtedly considered the ultimate British competition for chefs.

If you are like me and are remotely passionate about cooking/ pastry and bread making etc then you must get a copy of “The Roux Brothers on Patissere” ..outstanding book and every recipe is spot on and will lead you to a perfect dish.

For more information on “The Roux Fmaily” check out

As promised here is my local business for the week ,one local business that I am loving and hope that you all try and venture out is called “Pope Joan café” in East Brunswick.  I am loving the fact that around the corner from my sisters house  there is a groovy café that serves amazing meals ..simple but delicious.

Pope Joan cafe is a new venture between Ben Foster (long-serving general manager of North Carlton's Kent Hotel and husband of The Age restaurant critic Larissa Dubecki) and Matthew Wilkinson (executive chef of Circa, the Prince).
Located at 77 – 79 Nicholson street East Brunswick , Pope Joan finally opened it’s doors on the 2nd of July 2010 by owners Ben Foster and Matt Wilkinson. Pope Joan is  open for breakfast and lunch 7 days a week and hope to be opening for dinner mid week soon. A small selection of local beverages of the alcoholic variety are now also available.

'We are hoping to achieve a fresh and eclectic take on a modern cafe. The premises will (hopefully) be licensed and seat around 60 people. Matt's approach to the food will be about making the most of whats on offer, produce driven and certainly drawing on his British heritage and Circa experience. The aim is to create a cafe which is relaxed yet service oriented with a unique take on your standard cafe fare. We'll try to use sustainable, seasonal food sourced locally, with a small Victorian wine and beer list.” Ben Foster”.

So go for a Sunday stroll and get a bite and support your local business, check out

Next blog I will be devising a 3 course restaurant quality menu for you all to try and it will be so simple you will be rushing to put your aprons on.

Until next time…………Happy Cooking or  "Bon Apetit"  !!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Supporting Local Business Owners !!!

Since starting Laughing Chef ..(technically it was started last December with the launch of the Laughing Chef Christmas treats), I have been on the look out for  business owners. I have found myself walking  into local Organic stores and chatting  to the owners about where and how they started, I always leave feeling like I am part of a club now the “small business owners club” and it is a great feeling.

So in saying that I have listed some amazing business'  and each blog I will include some more local business’ to look out for.

The first business I came across mainly because it is where I received my Remedial massages from and was referred by a friend is called Synergy massage located in Reservoir Victoria. Owned and Operated by Melanie Creek , this is one business lady that deserves to be known.

Melanie is a master at her craft and knows exactly what she is doing and offers all clients a professional and warm yet friendly manner.

I remember the first time I went to get a Remedial Massage and met Melanie and wasn’t sure how good the massage was going to be ( I was a sceptic and still hadn’t had a great remedial massage that made me ohh with “you got the spot”) . However one hour of Melanie working her magic on my back and I can seriously say I have never looked back !!. You can really tell Melanie absolutely loves what she does and this shows as sometimes she can be booked out for weeks so get in quick.

Synergy massage offer therapies, treatments and classes for the mind, body, soul and skin, clients have all of their health and beauty needs met under one roof in a quiet and tranquil setting. Synergy Massage is dedicated to providing all clients with a high standard of professional service, ethics and quality treatment.

Open 4 Days. Closed Sunday, Monday & Tuesday .

Do yourself a favour and get pampered or better yet get a voucher for a friend they will seriously love you for it.

Click on the link to read more about the product and services offered -

The next local business I came across is called Elgaar Farm Dairy. I actually came across this last November as I was desperately looking for Milk in a glass bottle. (Remember the days when the horse and carriage would clop around delivering milk …ooops showing my age ).

Established in 1986, Elgaar Farm  are now recognised as one of Australia’s foremost organic dairy companies.

Situated in the valleys of Tasmania's fertile north, their care for the earth is all part of our philosophy of supplying the freshest, tastiest and healthiest food available. Elgaar Farm’s range includes fresh organic milk (packaged in returnable glass bottles), natural yoghurt, cream, cheese and butter.

Elgaar Farm firmly believe that organic farming principles not only take care of the environment, but also produce healthier and tastier food. Skills of true natural farming, with no need for artificial inputs of pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals are highly valued on Elgaar Farm. Elgaar Farm products are manufactured using only time honoured methods using only the absolute freshest and best ingredients.

The difference with Elgaar Dairies products is that the they include the packaging in the price in the form of a deposit. This means that once you have finished the product, you can simply return the bottle or jar to the place of purchase, and get 20c or 40c cash back! We then wash, sterilise and refill the bottles and jars our customers return. Each bottle and jar averages nine "cycles". Amazing!

Not only do you not pay for something that you would only dispose of, but you end up with a better tasting product, and also help reduce packaging waste.

The deposit for Elgaar Dairies glass containers is 20c for jars and 40c for bottles (milk).

Among the various products one of my favourites is the Elgaar Milk(pic right) which is as fresh and pure as milk can be. Freshly milked every morning, pasteurized, chilled and packaged in glass bottles and hastily sent on its way to you. Elgaar Farm milk is not homogenised, which means that our with full cream milk the cream will rise naturally to the top.

So next time you go to your local supermarket or Organic Store keep an eye out for Elgaar Farm.

Ok the last business I will talk about before including a delicious recipe for you is called DTU Management . DTU Management and Victoria University have combined to create the International Sport Education Program providing students and athletes from around the world the opportunity to study and experience culture in Australia whilst training under the guidance of internationally acclaimed sports coaches which is called ISEP - International Student Education Program.

I caught up with the man behind it all Daniel Trenton (3rd from left) who won the Silver medal at the Sydney Olympics in Taekwondo, was appointed Taekwondo Head Coach for the 2004 Athens Olympics and is now currently running DTU Management - ISEP with the involvement of Victoria University.

Now being a Red Belt in Taekwondo myself I was intrigued at the business concept and chatted  with Daniel Trenton before he jetted off to China for DTU -ISEP business to find out exactly what ISEP was all about.

Daniel advised me that ISEP was about Providing supreme quality, guidance, and support as we offer students and athletes from around the world the best in sport specific education and athletic direction. Students will have a unique opportunity to realise their academic, career and sporting dreams.

ISEP sports specific pathway program caters for Taekwondo students worldwide, including applicants from Korea, Australia, Taiwan, China and many more.

Daniel added that “ Victoria University has expert lecturers and coaches providing the cutting edge of sports education and training for Taekwondo students-athletes. Students will gain access to high performance preparation and coaching in an intensive daily training environment in the lead up to events run by the NSO, University Games and ISEP.”

The comprehensive athletic and education program caters for students from all parts of globe. There have been over 50 Taekwondo students enter the program originating from Korea and Australia with increasing applications from Taiwan, Thailand, Mexico, Brazil and Oceania Countries.

Ending our meeting Daniel mentioned that, “The objective of ISEP is to provide access to the high quality courses that specializes in sports education, training and competition. The course develops students to become effective elite international coaches, efficient and organized sports administrators, successful entrepreneurs and elite sports athletes”

So ISEP delivers a balanced program of education within one of Australia’s leading University’s, training in an intensive daily training environment, and competitions amongst world leading athletes in Olympic style Taekwondo, Poomsae(patterns) and Demonstration.

I mean it cannot get any better than dealing with an Olympic athlete’s and the way Daniel Trenton (pic below) speaks highly of the sport, the people it is a given this business is going only up and beyond. Daniel's  Taekwondo training methods are proven for success. You can instantly see the passion when Trenton speaks and this is evident as his business is only getting stronger.

For information on DTU- ISEP click on the link below.

So you all know that Bastille Day is coming up this Wednesday …I love Bastille day. Actually it reminds me of cooking all day start shift at 8am till 12am and cooking a French feast including pain au chocolat, Brioche, Beef bourguignon and of course the amazing Soufflé.

Next blog I will not only be adding local business’ to check out but it will all about Bastille day and everything French. There will be recipes, French restaurants to check out as well some yummy things I have whipped up!!

So until next time Happy Baking from Laughing Chef !

I will leave you with this recipe it is called a “Tarte au Tantin” I learnt this recipe when I was a 3rd apprentice and loved it then and still do. So easy to make I promise so make it for a pre Bastille day dessert 


Tarte tatin is an absolute classic, created in 1889 at a French hotel run by the sisters Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin. This spectacular upside-down tart is rumoured to have been created accidentally by Caroline when she was making an apple pie. Finding that the pan of apples cooking in butter and sugar were beginning to burn, she quickly covered them with pastry and placed the whole thing in the oven. Turning it out once the pasty was cooked, she found to her surprise that the tart was a huge success with the guests. It then became the signature dish of the hotel. Tarte tatin can be made with other fruits such as pears but I love Apple served with Double Crème.


 1 x quantity puff pastry

 4 eating apples (Granny Smith is very good or Golden Delicious you will need about 6 apples)

 125g caster sugar

 100ml water

 25g butter

 1 egg, beaten

 Whipped cream, ice cream or whipped cream with a little icing sugar and cinnamon or Calvados, to serve

1. Make the pastry and allow to chill.

2. Preheat the oven to 200ºC

3. To prepare the apples, peel them with a peeler to keep them in a nice rounded shape, then cut into quarters. Remove the core from each quarter and set aside. Don’t worry if they go brown, and don’t cover in water or they will be too wet.

4. Place the sugar and water in an ovenproof saucepan (20–22cm/8–81/2in diameter ovenproof saucepan) set over a low-medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and boil the syrup until it starts to caramelise around the edges - about 5 minutes. Do not stir once it has come to the boil otherwise the syrup will crystallise. Once the syrup starts to turn golden, you may need to swirl the pan slightly to even out the caramelisation.

5. Once the syrup is a golden caramel in colour, add the butter and swirl the pan again to distribute it through the caramel.

6. Remove the pan from the heat, and place the apple quarters in a concentric circle around the outside and any remaining pieces in the centre, keeping in mind that the tart will be flipped over when serving. The apples must completely cover the base of the pan; you may need an extra apple!

7. Place the pan back over a medium heat and cook for 10 minutes to slightly caramelise the apples, while you roll out the pastry.

8. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface to a round about 2cm (3/4 in) wider in diameter than the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and place the pastry on top of the almost cooked apples. Using the base of a spoon or a fork, tuck the pastry in around the edges of the apples. Brush the pastry with beaten egg then, using a skewer or fork, prick a few holes in the pastry.

9. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the apples feel cooked when you insert a skewer through the centre.

10. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for just a few minutes before placing a plate on top of the pan and carefully (it is hot!) but quickly flipping it out. Use a plate with a slight lip to catch the delicious juices. Cut into slices to serve. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream or whipped cream with a little icing sugar and cinnamon or Calvados mixed in.