Crab gougères, smoked salmon and scrambled egg gougères.
It’s true to say that food has the power to evoke memories. I was thinking about a lovely canapé to do at this time of year, and I keep coming back to something often served with an aperitif in France, something we had for the first time many years ago in a Chateau in Bourgogne. I won’t name check the Chateau as everything about it was bizarre and not that good with the exception of the delicious glass of local Crémant (sparkling wine) served with Gougère. A delicious light and cheesy choux pastry, served warm and with something chilled they are a simple delight.
These little pastries also remind me of a time back in the day when my brother Karl-Heinz (a maker of epic choux) made a sort of choux cheese ring – that formed a delicious lunch alongside a crisp green salad.
We’ve been regulars at our place in France these 13 years now, and every region does things differently, from how many kisses to the correct deportment when invited to aperitifs. In our region we have regularly been informed, it is courteous to stay for one hour and fifteen minutes before departing with a fond farewell. This has, it must be said failed catastrophically at our abode on occasion as I am not hard wired to leave a guest’s glass empty – I am, after all, my father’s daughter – my friends are also incompetent in this regard. It seems that our French friends and neighbours aren’t able to say their farewells whilst their glasses are still full and whilst they are being enthusiastically refilled (in case they think we are rude). This situation has resulted in some that involved ‘aggressive Trivial Pursuit’. Back to the tale.
In any case I like a snack, call it what you will, whatever it’s guise there is nothing nicer than a few interesting morsels, with a glass of something good to start an evening well. Maybe it’s an homage to all those fabulous nights in France, or to my brother, or to all the friends that have slaved in our kitchen in the service of us all. A few years back, my friends were down in France with us for New Year and we spent the best part of a day making our evening bites, and then did a blind tasting of some local bubbly…I think it ended badly. You may be building a bit of a picture?
Something I also like about these lovely bites is that they made with cheese and have a lovely savoury flavour all of their own, so there is no need to pimp them. Conversely, there is every chance to pimp them…they stand up well. They also freeze well and defrost in matter of minutes so this recipe makes around 40 little bites, meaning we can eat some and freeze some. Rocket and I chose a chilli crab filling and a classic with some smoked salmon topped with a little scrambled egg…
Here is how:
80g unsalted butter – cubed
¾ tsp salt
100g plain flour
150g grated gruyere cheese
¾ tsp paprika
A few grates of a nutmeg
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celcius
1) Add the salt and water to a pan then add the butter cubes, bring to the boil to melt the butter.
2) Take off the heat, add the flour and whisk it well in so it is all combined.
3) Leave the mixture to cool for 2 minutes before adding the first egg, beat the egg in vigorously.
4) Add the remaining eggs and whisk them fully in before adding the cheese ( keep 1 table spoon of the cheese back).
5) Stir everything well then add half the mix to a piping bag.
6) Place a silicon sheet or some baking paper on to your baking sheet and pipe even piles of the mix – leaving about a 10cm space between each. Each one should be about as big as a 50p piece and will be about 2.5 cm high – roughly! If they have little points on the top, wet your fingers and press this down.
7) Sprinkle with a few more strands of the reserved cheese a place in the oven for about 15 minute until golden brown.
8) Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool for a minute or two – serve warm, or re-heat to serve.
We allowed ours to cool and then added the crab and smoked salmon – the crab had been combined with a little crème fraiche, some finely chopped chilli and spring onion and a little white pepper. We slice the very top off for the smoked salmon ones nd served them open.
These Gougères make a great prelude to Christmas day lunch….Cheers! Santé!