How I come up with my recipes
A common question I get asked is whether I create my own recipes. The answer is yes! I get my inspiration from cookbooks, other food bloggers, restaurant meals, other people's home cooking, and even articles that discuss the latest food trends. It's from a combination of these sources that I often come up with recipe ideas. I think it's an activity that requires a nice blend of creativity and problem solving, and one that I love to do.
The thing is, once you know some cooking basics, it becomes much easier to put together recipes yourself (or, equally, to veer away from recipes so to suit your pantry or tastes). Generally, the steps to take toward making a soup, say, are roughly the same. Ditto with risotto, pasta, curries, cakes, etc. So I find that the initial steps toward recipe development are not very hard. It's later, when you start thinking about the balance of flavours, the contrast of textures, the necessity vs. the frivolousness of every action, when things start to get more difficult. This is why professional and home cooks tend to test their recipes several times.
Of course, there are the recipes in which I categorise as classics - baklava, crème brûlée, financiers, a croque monsieur - whose recipe development happens in a completely different way. In this instance, I refer to several other recipes for the same dish, try out the ones that look interesting to me, and then write a recipe that borrows from the ingredient list and methodology of several. What I aim for, in the end, is something that I hope to be easy to follow, true enough, to my knowledge, to the dish's tradition, and easy and relatively inexpensive to source (ingredient wise).
On occasion, I'll share a recipe that is mostly, or entirely, someone else's. In this case, such as for this parmesan comté cheese souffle, I will accredit the recipe to its creator (so thank Alain Ducasse for this souffle recipe).
And there you have it: that's how the recipes you find on Gourmanderie are put together!
Cauliflower and blue cheese soup recipe
This cauliflower and blue cheese soup was inspired by something I saw in a restaurant, and the fried cannellini beans is a snack that I occasionally eat with buttery toast. The croutons were a latter addition, when I realised that the walnuts in the topping didn't deliver enough texture on their own.
More and more, I'm finding that what I like to cook are dishes that are formed by French ingredients, but put together in a different way. This soup, featuring blue cheese and croutons, is an example. So is my fig and thyme tart, and beetroot, goat cheese and caramelised onion quiche. I have spoken about spending more time exploring Filipino cooking (which is part of my heritage), but, for the time being, it's French cuisine and French ingredients that speak to me, and for as long as they speak, they're what I'm going to work with. I was never a Francophile, growing up, (I was more drawn to Italy, Spain and South America, and all I knew about France were the not-so-nice clichés), but I think, at life's beckoning, that this Francophile status has come to be.
And so, the French-ish recipe.
For the soup:
- 150ml full cream or crème fraîche
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- 150g roquefort or other blue cheese, broken into large chunks.
- salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 med-large onion
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/2 large cauliflower or one little one
For the croutons:
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 bread slices, cut into 1cm cubes (with or without the crust)
- pinch of salt
Topping ingredients (to mix with croutons):
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 cup cannellini beans, from a can or soaked and boiled in advance
- 1 garlic clove, finely diced
- 2 tbsp parsley, roughly chopped
- Handful of walnuts, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 50g roquefort or other blue cheese, roughly broken into small chunks
- In a thick-bottomed pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and cook for 3 minutes or until slightly translucent. Stir in garlic and cauliflower, and cook for 5 minutes before adding stock. Bring to a boil before immediately reducing heat. Let it simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender.
- Meanwhile, start preparing the topping. In a medium-sized fry pan, melt the butter and when you know it's hot, throw in the beans. Stir the beans on occasion - you want them to crisp up a little, which means prolonged contact, but you don't want them to stick to the pan, either. After about five minutes, throw in the garlic, parsley, walnuts, salt and pepper. Cook for one minute before removing from heat. Set aside in a bowl or on a plate; you'll be needing this pan again.
- In the same pan, prepare the croutons. Melt the butter and once you're sure it's hot, throw in the bread cubes. Sprinkle on a pinch of salt. Like with the beans, you want the croutons to crisp up, but not stick to the pan (FYI, the croutons colour and crisp much more easily than the beans). Cook, stirring on occasion, for about five minutes or until you're happy with the texture and colour of your croutons. Remove from heat and add the croutons to the bean mix.
- Returning our attention to the soup. Once the cauliflower is tender, throw in the roquefort and blend until smooth (depending on the tool you're using to blend, you might want to let the soup cool down a bit before you do this). Bit by bit, incorporate cream, vinegar or lemon juice and salt and pepper, and make any adjustments to suit your taste as you go. (More cream? Already salty enough? You decide.)
- Serve the soup hot, topped with the bean and crouton mix and the smaller chunks of roquefort.