I am happiest when I have a table full of people to feed. So yesterday, when a friend texted me and asked if I wanted to eat... (silly question, of course I want to eat) I invited a couple of friends over for a meal. And I rustled up pasta with pancetta, parsley and peppers from Nigella's book. Like many pasta recipes, it's quick and easy to cook and simply delicious. The saltiness of the pancetta is balanced nicely with sweet charred peppers. You can certainly buy jarred chargrilled or flame-roasted peppers from the store and I often do, but I had some peppers need using so, I made my own which is pretty straightforward. Also in the pasta, there's heat from dried chilli flakes and bright fresh flavours contributed from the zest and juice of a lemon. What I also like is the parsley here is more than just for sprinkling on top of the pasta. The parsley is like another vegetable going into the dish because you need a good bunch here.
From Italy, we travelled to France for pudding... French Epiphany Pastry. This is a recipe by Stéphane Reynaud from his book, 365 good reasons to sit down to eat. This pastry is certainly one good reason to sit down and eat. You only need minutes to assemble this pastry because the puff-pastry is store bought (lazily, I bought mine already rolled as well) and you only require a light stirring to make the almond-flavoured filling. Happy days!
This pastry is known as Galette de Rois in France. Eating the galette at the beginning of January is still a popular French tradition and an opportunity for friends and family to gather round the table. The galette normally contains a lucky charm (une fève), and whoever found the charm in their slice of cake becomes the king or queen and is given a golden paper clown.
French Epiphany Pastry
Recipe by Stéphane Reynaud
100 g grounds almonds
100 g sugar
100 g butter, melted
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
bitter almond extract
2 sheets store-bought butter puff pastry, each cut into a round (mine's about 30 cm in diameter)
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1 lucky charm to hide in the cake (well, it's optional... just make sure it's nothing that'll melt in the oven)
Combine the ground almonds with the sugar, butter and 2 eggs. Add a few drops of bitter almond extract. Place the almond cream in the centre of one pastry round. Moisten the edges with the beaten egg yolk using a pastry brush. Cover with the second pastry round. Press the edge so that the two pieces of pastry are sealed together well. Make a rosette pattern using a knife, starting from the centre, and brush with the egg yolk. Chill for 30 minutes*. Preheat the oven to 180 C, bake for 20 minutes, take it out of the oven and sprinkle with icing sugar. Bake for a further 5 minutes.
*Why chill it before putting it into the oven? So that the pastry solidifies a little and the flaky layers rise well.