Recipe: Verrines with Orange, Chocolate and Speculoos

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A super-easy and irresistible dairy-free dessert combining some of my favorite flavors: orange, chocolate and speculoos (aka, Biscoff).

During a recent visit to the library in our small Swiss city, I came across a children’s cookbook from the well-known French chef, Cyril Lignac. I first learned of him from watching the French baking show, Le Meilleur Pâtissier, where he serves as a judge. The cookbook I found has lots of nice recipes, and one that immediately caught my eye was for Verrines au chocolat, spéculoos et oranges.

With a few substitutions, I’ve made Mr. Lignac’s recipe dairy-free. If you don’t feel like baking and need a quick recipe with few ingredients for warmer weather, it’s incredibly easy to throw this together. I’ve tried making it with soy cream and with full-fat coconut milk. My boys liked both versions, but I had a slight preference for the one with soy cream (a thicker, creamier texture).


Verrines with Orange, Chocolate and Speculoos

Adapted from Cyril Lignac and Lets petits chefs: Nouvelle recettes (2010), p. 76-77.

Makes 4 servings
(dairy-free)

3-4 oranges
150 grams (about 1 cup) dairy-free chocolate, chopped or in pieces
200 ml soy cream or full-fat coconut milk
35 grams (about 2 1/2 tablespoons) dairy-free margarine, softened
4 speculoos cookies (I used the ones from Lotus Bakeries)

1. In a small saucepan, mix the soy cream and chocolate together. Melt the chocolate over medium heat, stirring the mixture constantly until its smooth. Let it simmer for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the softened margarine until completely incorporated. Pour the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate for about an hour until it cools and thickens.

2. When the chocolate mixture is ready, peel the oranges, separate into sections and cut into bite-size pieces (Please note: Mr. Lignac removes all the pith and membrane, which looks better, but I just don’t have the patience!). Place equal amounts of the orange pieces into four glass cups.

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3. Spoon equal portions of the cooled and thickened chocolate mixture over the four glasses of oranges.

4. Crush the four cookies in a plastic bag and sprinkle them evenly over the chocolate mixture in the four glasses. Serve immediately or return them to the fridge and serve the same day.

We’re back from vacation, and I’m ready to hear about your latest recipe recommendations, restaurant experiences and other food allergy updates, etc. I hope you’re all doing well, and thanks for your continued support and advice!

Free From Farmhouse


Swiss Retro Recipe: Riz Casimir

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An easy meal for kids, I’ve created a dairy-free version of a popular Swiss dish from the 1950s: Riz Casimir.

I first discovered Riz Casimir at Zurich’s Hiltl Restaurant in December 2013. When I saw it on the menu, I didn’t realize this curry dish was actually over a half-century old and known throughout Switzerland. Only after trying Hiltl’s vegetarian version did I start noticing this dish in other restaurants and among the prepared meals from Coop and Migros. Finally, after I came across a simple recipe for Riz Casimir in my Swiss cookbook for public schools, Croqu’menus, I decided to try making it myself.

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According to Betty Bossi, Riz Casimir is often mentioned as a favorite dish by people of all ages in Switzerland. The founder of the Mövenpick restaurants, Ueli Prager, developed this recipe in 1952 with ingredients considered exotic for the time: curry, pineapple and banana. Ultimately, it seems Riz Casimir is the Swiss interpretation of Kashmiri Rice, a northern Indian dish.

Instead of using cream, I’ve been making Riz Casimir with coconut milk. I also added a few other ingredients, like fresh garlic and ginger, and some optional toppings, like chopped cashews and cilantro, to give it a little more flavor and texture. My 3-year old isn’t a huge fan of curry, but this is a very mild recipe.

In terms of presentation, I modeled my version after the photo in my Swiss cookbook of a wreath of rice decorated with banana, pineapple and cherries, and the curry nestled in the center. Honestly, it feels a little ridiculous arranging the fruit like this on the platter, but if it helps my finicky kids find it more appealing, I’ll continue to do it!


Riz Casimir

Recipe adapted from Croqu’menus (9th edition, 2005, p. 91).
(dairy-free, egg-free)
Serves 4-5 people

Ingredients:

1-2 teaspoons sunflower or canola oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated or chopped
4 chicken breasts, sliced into thin and bite-size pieces
100 ml white wine or allergy-friendly chicken/vegetable broth
250 ml coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder
1-2 teaspoons cornstarch
salt, to taste

Optional toppings: chopped cilantro and cashews, pineapple rings and apple slices

Serve with hot basmati rice

Instructions:

1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, ginger and garlic for a few minutes until tender and fragrant.

2. Cook the chicken for about 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until its nearly done. Remove from the pan and set-aside. Add the wine (or chicken/vegetable broth) and simmer for a few minutes.

3. Add the coconut milk and curry powder to the wine in the pan, and whisk it together until well-incorporated.

4. Whisk in the cornstarch and return the chicken to the pan. Simmer for about 5 minutes more until the sauces thickens slightly.

5. Serve immediately with basmati rice and optional toppings.


Swiss Green Lentils in Coconut Milk

During an afternoon excursion to Château de Vaumarcus, I discovered Swiss green lentils: Lentilles de Sauverny. These lentils are an excellent source of protein, locally-grown and shelf-stable—particularly important for those Sundays when I have nothing to cook and nothing here is open. While I’m sharing a new recipe for an allergy-friendly version of Lentilles à l’ancienne (dairy/egg/nut-free), I must disclose that even though my dear children have tried it twice now, they refuse to eat lentils. If you like lentils, however, this is an easy recipe for a nutritious legume with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen.

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At the castle in Vaumarcus, we found a small store selling produits du terroir, such as local wines, baked goods, and jam, etc. It was a nice surprise, and I found a few Swiss food products I hadn’t encountered before. The lentils immediately caught my eye, so I grabbed a bag to take home. A farm in the Geneva region, Ferme Courtois has been growing green lentils since 1995. Lentils are often paired with la longeole (IGP), a fatty Swiss sausage, also from Geneva, made of gelatinous pork and fennel seeds.

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Vaumarcus Castle

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Swiss green Lentilles de Sauverny

On the package, I discovered an easy recipe for Lentilles à l’ancienne. I first made it with olive oil and soy cream, but greatly preferred the version with dairy-free margarine and coconut milk. Since my finicky boys won’t eat it (for now, at least), I’ll continue to use it as a side dish, while searching for new ways to prepare lentils they may actually enjoy…

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Lentilles à l’ancienne (Lentils of old)

Adapted recipe originally from Ferme Courtois.

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

1 cup green lentils
3 cups water
1-2 shallots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dairy-free margarine (vegetable/olive oil works too)
Scant cup of coconut milk
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
Toppings: chopped parsley, cilantro or green onions

1. Rinse lentils thoroughly and pick out any debris or rocks. Place in a pot with the water and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for 20-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender.

2. Drain the lentils. Whisk together the coconut milk and dijon mustard and set aside. Then, saute the chopped shallots in dairy-free margarine until they soften a bit and turn slightly translucent.

3. Add the drained lentils and the coconut milk and mustard mixture and stir together. Simmer over medium to low heat for another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with freshly chopped parsley, cilantro or green onions to add some color.

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How do you prepare lentils? Any and all suggestions are welcomed. I just received a recipe this week from a kind reader that I’m looking forward to trying. Bon week-end!

Grandma’s Fudge for Christmas

For every Christmas I can remember as a child, my grandmother would make chocolate-walnut fudge. When it came time to pass out presents, we could always find her neatly-wrapped boxes filled with the rich chocolate squares. I had never tried making her fudge recipe before, but I really wanted to share it with my boys this year—even if I can’t use milk and butter and walnuts like she normally would.

With some coconut milk, dairy-free margarine and a small reserve of Enjoy Life chocolate chunks, I whipped together a batch of her Never-Fail Fudge. Since my husband is allergic to walnuts, I used ground hazelnuts and raisins instead. Even though the fudge turned out a little soft, storing it in the freezer seems to solve the problem. With a few more batches, I’ll hopefully have the consistency issues worked out.

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In the meantime, I’m enjoying the chance to eat allergy-friendly fudge with my boys, just like I did when my grandmother made it at Christmas. It’s important for me to share past holiday memories with them, while creating new ones here in Switzerland—many of them connected to food! Even though we can’t be with most of our family and friends at Christmastime (again) this year, as I’ve mentioned before, making recipes like this makes me feel more connected to them. For this recipe in particular, I cherish the memories of my family gathered around the living room to open small packages of delicious homemade fudge.

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The holiday season is such a wonderful time of year, but for people living with food allergies, it can require additional preparation for all the food-centered gatherings. For some practical advice, check out FARE‘s quick list of 6 Tips for Celebrating the Holiday Season. My husband and I certainly use FARE’s recommended “tag-team” method when we’re at holiday parties with our 2-year old! He’s learning about his food allergies and has even begun to ask sometimes, “Can I eat it?” Even so, we still keep a close eye on him, just in case.

Thanks so much for reading Dairy-Free Switzerland. I really appreciate your advice and support. Bon week-end, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

P.S. – January 2, 2014: After a second batch, I’m ready to share an updated version of my grandmother’s recipe. I hope you like it!

 

Coconut Milk Fudge

(dairy/nut-free)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 cup allergy-friendly chocolate chips (this time I used some from Divvies)
1/4 cup corn syrup, light or dark
1 tablespoon dairy-free margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (or vanilla)
1/2 cup grated coconut or finely chopped dried fruit, pumpkin seeds, etc.

1. In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, and then stir constantly over low heat for about 10 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and mix in the remaining ingredients until smooth and creamy. Then, stir in the grated coconut (and/or other dried fruit, etc.).

3. Pour mixture into a pie plate or 8-9 inch round or square pan greased with dairy-free margarine. Optional: sprinkle some extra coconut on top while the fudge is still soft. Let cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Then, refrigerate the fudge until completely cooled and firm.

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Storage: Keep this fudge in the refrigerator so it stays firm. Our latest batch of fudge is in the freezer, for when we need a quick and allergy-friendly treat for my son. I’m trying to be good and not eat it all myself!

 

Lake Fish: Filets de Perches

Here in Suisse-Romande, we live near Lake Neuchâtel—the largest lake contained entirely within Switzerland (Lac Leman/Lake Geneva is bigger, but Switzerland has to share it with France.) We can easily find fresh lake fish at our local farmer’s market, fishmonger and grocery stores. One type of fish we commonly cook at home is “perche” (sounds like “pear-sh”), or what I know as “perch.”

Growing up in Minnesota (a.k.a., the land of 10,000 lakes), I remember going on early morning fishing trips. We caught perch from the shore that were too small to keep. Many years later in New Hampshire with my husband’s grandfather, I went fishing from a row boat on the duck pond. Back at the family cabin, the perch filets would be dredged in flour, fried in butter and served for breakfast alongside blueberry pancakes.

Now in Switzerland, after picking up some “filets de perches” on Saturday, I adapted a recipe from Migros—Perches aux herbes sur lit de salade—to make a relatively quick lunch.

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Cornmeal and Herb-Crusted Perch

300 grams perch filets
2-3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

Coating #1
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup flour

Coating #2
1/4 to 1/2 cup coconut milk

Coating #3
4 tablespoons fresh herbs (e.g., parsley, basil, cilantro), finely chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup finely ground cornmeal or polenta

Prepare the three coatings and place them in separate containers (shallow bowls or pie plates work well).

First, dredge the fish filets in the flour mixture. Then, coat them with coconut milk. Finally, place them in the cornmeal mixture and turn them over a few times to make them evenly coated.

Add about 2-3 tablespoons oil to a large frying pan and cook the first over medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes per side, until it flakes easily.

Serve the fish over salad greens with oil and vinegar or with your favorite tartar sauce.

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How do you cook perch filets? We have yet to try the many local ways to prepare them!

First Dairy-Free Ice Cream: Chocolate Coconut

When we were back in the United States over the summer, my food-allergic son ate ice cream for the first time. At local grocery stores in New England, freezer cases typically had at least one kind of dairy-free ice cream, made with ingredients like rice or coconut milk. I loved being able to serve my son ice cream. After getting over the shock of eating something so cold, he learned to love it.

Here in Suisse-Romande, there are so many wonderful ice cream treats and gelato shops. Unlike in the United States, however, we haven’t seen dairy-free ice cream options yet in our small Swiss city. So, we rarely have ice cream in our home—partially because of food allergies, but also because our freezer is not much bigger than a shoebox. As a result, my oldest son and I sneak out to our local gelateria during afternoon naptime on Saturdays, so our little guy doesn’t feel left out.

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I’ve been planning to make a dairy-free ice cream all summer, but finally found the time to do it this morning. I discovered an extremely easy recipe online for Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream, and we pulled out our old ice cream maker. I think it’s been a decade since we last used it, but somehow it still ended up in the shipping container bound for Switzerland.

After we got home from school and had lunch, the boys and I dug into the chocolate ice cream to make sundaes. Even though it hadn’t quite set enough to be completely solid, we didn’t care. I chopped up some Enjoy Life chocolate bars and made a quick chocolate sauce from cocoa powder, powdered sugar and soy milk. We topped off our rich and runny sundaes with fresh raspberries. It was a huge mess, but a wonderful start to our weekend.

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I checked the ice cream again this afternoon. While the texture was getting better, it still needs a few more hours in the freezer to be just right.

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Now that I’ve started, I want to experiment more with dairy-free ice cream recipes. If you have any favorite recipes, please leave a comment below or send me an email. Bon week-end!

Wells of Love: Gâteau du Vully

For this week’s allergy-friendly baking experiment, I discovered Gâteau du Vully—a delicious yeast cake featuring puits d’amour or “wells of love.” These wells serve to trap a sweet mixture of sugar, butter and cream. The photo I snapped below, while not taken in Vully, shows our neighborhood bakery’s version of this traditional Swiss cake.

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If you want to try the real Gâteau du Vully, you should travel to the village of Sugiez next to Mount Vully. We’ll hopefully get there someday soon.

For now, I’ve modified a Betty Bossi recipe to create a dairy and egg-free version using rice and coconut milks. After making four cakes this week, I finally got it right this afternoon. Hope you like it too!

 

Gâteau du Vully

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

2 teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon rice milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup rice milk

A few slivers of dairy-free margarine
Scant 1/2 cup of coconut milk
1 tablespoon corn or wheat starch
2 tablespoons sugar

1. Mix first set of ingredients together in a large bowl: yeast, sugar and rice milk. Let set for a few minutes until the yeast has dissolved.

2. Add in the next four ingredients: margarine, flour, salt and milk. Form into dough. Knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

3. Line a baking tin or sheet with parchment paper. Place dough in the prepared pan and press flat, about 9-10 inches across (22-25 centimeters). Cover and let rise for about 1 hour.

4. When the dough has risen, make deep dents with your fingertips in the dough. Place slivers of butter into the dents.

5. Whisk together coconut milk and starch. Pour half the mixture into the center of the cake, spreading it evenly over the top. Try to avoid spilling  the mixture over the cake’s sides. Then, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the cake.

6. Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes at 220°C/425°F.

7. Remove from oven and pour the remaining coconut mixture over the cake. Then sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Bake for another 10 minutes until the cake is golden brown.

Note: It’s best to eat this cake the same day it’s prepared.

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Next week will be busy for us. I’m hoping to have some good news to share. In the meantime, I’m working on a new bundt cake for an upcoming birthday party. Bon week-end!

Salée à la Crème – Reinvented

One of my very thoughtful readers here in Switzerland shared her recipe for Salée à la Crème, which she reinvented with coconut milk because of her dairy allergy. A traditional tart from the canton de Vaud, I first tried the original version at a child’s birthday party last year. Its sweet, yellow custard fills a shell of semi-savory bread dough. With the look and feel of pizza, it’s not uncommon to eat this delicious treat with your hands.

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Recipes for Salée à la Crème (salty creme) or Salée Sucre (salty sweet) call for dairy products and eggs, which we’re avoiding because of my son’s allergies. While the tart ingredients can vary—including vanilla, cinnamon, fruit or apparently even bacon—the recipes I’ve seen always call for dairy and eggs. That’s why I was so excited to receive a new version of Salée à la Crème that’s safe for our son.

I made the recipe at least three times now (my husband says four), and with just a few minor tweaks, I’m ready to share it. I absolutely love trying out new Swiss recipes, and I’m so thankful for the kind reader who sent this to me. While it doesn’t look exactly like a traditional Salée à la Crème, it’s allergy-friendly and tastes delicious. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

 

Salée à la Crème

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

For the dough:
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup rice milk
1 tablespoon flax meal plus 3 tablespoons water

For the crème:
1 1/4 cups coconut milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon wheat or corn starch
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar

1. Whisk together dry ingredients for the dough: flour, sugar, yeast and salt.

2. Mix the flax meal with water and let set for a few minutes. Gently heat oil and rice milk in a saucepan over low heat, mixing occasionally until oil is melted.

3. Mix dry and wet ingredients and form a soft dough. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, adding extra flour as necessary. Place in bowl and let rise until nearly doubled in size (about 1 hour.)

4. Once the dough is ready, whisk together all the crème ingredients until well-blended.

5. Line an 11 1/2-inch cake or tart pan with parchment paper. Then, gently roll out the dough into a large circle. Press dough into the pan. Make sure the sides of the dough are about 1/2 to 3/4 inch high.

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6. Carefully pour the crème mixture into the center. Place with care, so not to spill the crème, in an oven preheated to 180°C/350°F. Bake for 30-35 minutes, when the crust is nicely golden and the crème has set. Serve at room temperature, preferably the same day it’s prepared.

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Please note: In the last 5 minutes of baking, you may sprinkle the crème with sugar to lightly brown the top.

 

As always, if you have Swiss recipes to share, please leave a comment below or send an email to dairyfreeswitzerland@gmail.com. Tomorrow is Labour Day, so we’ll be enjoying a day off of work and school. Hope you’re having a great week!