Trish Deseine meets French women with serious style …
As Parisians ease in to their new flexible working lifestyles between the city and the Perche countryside, there is a renewed creative energy in the air – and on Instagram! Everyone is going the extra mile this year, it seems, to make their homes and tables beautiful, to bring the outside in, and create a little extra magic during les fêtes. I asked three of my most stylish girlfriends how they spend those special days between Christmas and New Year, when time stands still.
One of France’s most exciting Eat Girls, fashion stylist Alice Roca has just published her first cookbook, A Ma Table. After many years living and working in Paris, she and her wife Lital moved to Lital’s childhood country home, near Verneuil-sur-Avre in Normandy, with their three children, 13-year-old Ange-Linaud, seven-year-old Aliocha and toddler Simona.
For Alice, the time between Christmas and New Year will be spent, as usual, a great deal in the kitchen, shelling walnuts from the garden with her children, to make Lebanese Maamoul biscuits in their family tradition. “The kitchen and the table are the heart of the house, and our lives. Maamouls take a quite a while, and are perfect to make with the children during this week, something I wouldn’t usually attempt in the middle of term, during school days.”
Towards the end of the week, friends will come to stay and Alice will do all the cooking. Although this is literally her work, she doesn’t see it that way. “I love to do it, I’m not great about having anyone help as I’m thinking about the meal as a whole, the decor, the presentation, the mood and colours. I do allow them to bring wine and cheese however, that’s a help!”
This year, Alice is making her Vacherin, a festive, easy to serve, and quite spectacular, ice cream and meringue cake.
Blood orange vacherin with chocolate and violets
This is a lovely dessert to be prepared quietly between Christmas and New Years, it freezes completely, ready to be taken out of the freezer a little before tasting. You can even use store bought ice cream to make it easier, there are such good ones.
Pairing ideas that work: vanilla / raspberry or iced chestnut-vanilla or coffee.
For decoration: red fruits, sprigs of rosemary, candied fruits, crystallised flowers.
Preparation: 50 minutes
Cooking meringues: 2 hours 30 minutes
Meringue: 4 egg whites (about 150g) / 300g caster sugar
Blood orange sorbet: 65cl blood orange juice / Juice & zest of a lemon / 80g sugar
Chocolate ice cream: 30 cl double or whipping cream / 15 cl fresh whole fat milk / 90 g dark chocolate with 70% cocoa / 4 egg yolks / 50 g sugar / 1 pinch of salt
Chantilly: 50 cl whipping cream / a little icing sugar
Decoration: candied citrus, crystallised violets.
Prepare the meringues, even several days in advance. Preheat the oven to 90-100°C (Place baking paper on a baking sheet. Pour the egg whites at room temperature into a very clean bowl or bowl (without traces of fat). Whisk first on low and then medium speed. When the mixture becomes frothy, start adding 1/4 of the sugar while continuing to whisk on medium speed until you get a shiny mixture that holds on the whisk.
Form 2 discs of 25cm in diameter. With the rest, form individual meringues on another baking sheet. Bake for at least 1 hour 30 minutes: the meringue must be very dry. Then lower the temperature to 90° let it dry for several hours in the oven.
Remove the meringues and store them in a dry place at room temperature.
Prepare the blood orange sorbet. Melt the sugar with the juice over low heat, add the zest and set aside in the fridge.
Prepare the chocolate ice cream: whisk the egg yolks with the sugar. Bring the milk to a simmer with the cream, then pour half of it over the eggs, stirring. Pour everything into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and cream, and heat again while stirring until the cream coats the spoon. It cooks quite quickly, be careful not to boil!
The day before, proceed with the assembly: use a fairly high circle, place your meringue base, then add the two successive layers of ice cream and finally the other circle of meringue.
Shortly before serving, prepare the whipped cream. In the bowl of a food processor, whip the cream and icing sugar, first on low speed and then on medium, until it becomes foamy and almost firm. Put in a pastry bag and keep cool.
Take out the vacherin made of meringue and ice cream then decorate with whipped cream ribbon and add the small meringues for decoration.
The meringue base topped with ice cream will keep for several days in the freezer. It will suffice to garnish it with whipped cream shortly before serving. The whipped cream on its own can be kept in a cool place, covered with cling film for several hours. The ice cream will keep for a good week in the freezer.
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