Friday 8 March 2013

French Foodies in Ireland: Nora Cleere, Cookery demonstrator and Food blogger in Dublin

Nora Cleere is originally from Seine St Denis in the Paris region. She is a cookery demonstrator and writes a food blog named ‘Journal of a French foodie’. She has also agreed to share one of her recipes: her mum's eggs florentine.

What brought you to Ireland?

In 1998 I met an Irish man (now my husband) during training in Chicago: we were working for the same company. Two years later, in 2000 I moved to Ireland. We were supposed to stay here 2 years and then go to Paris for 2 years but we bought a house during the Celtic Tiger and never left.

How did you become a thermomix demonstrator?

In my former workplace there was an ad for attending a thermomix demonstration. At the beginning I didn’t know what it was all about, I found out that the price was €995 and I asked myself “what is this?” But then I did some research and only found positive comments on the net so I attended the demonstration, got totally convinced and bought it! After I got it, I was always talking about my thermomix to my friends and everyone. As I was kind of promoting it already I thought I might as well become a demonstrator. I’ve been a thermomix demonstrator for a year now. I usually go to people’s place to do demonstrations or sometimes I do them in my place or in Kitchen showrooms (which is called TM on tour). It’s always a good atmosphere, people invite their friends, and it’s about showing what the machine can do and not about forcing people to buy. 

Tell me about your food blog.

I started Journal of a French Foodie in June 2011. My blog is about French cuisine made using a thermomix. It’s like a second pair of hands in the kitchen. I use it a lot in my recipes because it does everything: it cooks, it blends, everything. I wanted to make people discover what you can do with it. In my blog, there are recipes from cookbooks, French blogs that I would sometimes tweak and some recipes are my own ideas. It’s a bit of everything really. 

What are your food qualifications?
I did a 1 month certificate in cooking at Cooks academy. I attended many of their courses: between 10 to 20 different courses in the last 6 years. Next July, I’m going to do a pastry course in Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris.

What do you prefer cooking?

I love pastry making.  I like baking some cakes or recreating recipes from my childhood in France. I have a 6 year old little girl and I want to show her French culinary traditions as food is part of our culture. She now gets to eat things I ate as a child myself.  I also make macarons, financiers, and my own salted butter caramel. I love making ice creams, savoury ice cream like guacamole flavour for example. I love challenging myself if I see something in a cookbook I’m asking myself “Will I be able to do it?”. Sometimes it doesn’t work the first time but I try again and finally succeed. There is an expression that says: “failure is the spice that gives flavour to success”. I like it a lot. For me, cooking isn’t difficult but you need to have the right utensils and material. I’m not talking only about the thermomix because I’m aware not everyone can afford it. For example when I started using silicon moulds, I realised how easy it was to do beautiful presentations. All you need is to learn and practice and then you can achieve beautiful things.

Tell me about your foodie project.

I’m starting my business called ‘French Gourmet’ in April, which is about teaching French cooking. I will also do some masterclasses in ‘Kitchen Complements’ in Dublin city centre. I want to teach what isn’t generally taught here. I want people to get out of their comfort zone and push them to make new things. There are so many regional French dishes that I can work with. I want to teach people t elegant dishes that have a wow factor: pretty breads or French petits fours (financiers, chocolate ├ęclairs, madeleines, etc...), layered cakes, anything you might find in a French patisserie! (see schedule at the end of this article).

Nora's recipe

My mum's eggs florentine
For 2 servings as a main or 4 as a starter

200g frozen spinach
40g butter
60g plain flour
400g milk, warmed
Salt and pepper
Ground nutmeg
1 slice of bread (at least a day old) cut into 1 cm squares
2 eggs

Boil the eggs by placing them in cold water, bring to the boil and count 7 minutes before taking them out off the heat and immerse in cold water to stop cooking. Shell the eggs and keep them in a warm place.
Place the frozen spinach in a glass bowl and warm in the microwave for 3 to 5 minutes at full power or until thawed. Drain in a sieve and press to remove as much water as possible.
To make the bechamel, heat the butter and flour in a saucepan. Mix as it melts and leave to cook for a couple of minutes to cook the flour.
Add the warm milk a little at a time while stirring with a wooden spoon on a medium/high heat (if the milk is warm, it will reduce the chances of getting lumps).
Keep on cooking and stirring until the desired thickness is achieved (it should be thick but still a little runny)
Season very well (even more than you think is enough as the spinach will need the extra salt). Add the ground nutmeg to taste.
Mix in the spinach while still on the heat. At this stage, you can blitz it in a food processor to break the spinach stems if you want. Taste and season again if needed (this is important!).
Keep warm while making the croutons. Heat a fry pan with a big knob of butter and a tablespoon of oil in it.
When, melted, add the bread and leave on one side to brown at high heat. Watch carefully as it can be burned quite fast, if it browns too fast, turn the heat down and remove the pan to cool.
Flip the croutons to the other side and continue browning for a minute or 2. Add more oil if the pan gets too dry,
When the croutons are done, assemble the dish: place a dollop of spinach on a plate, arrange 1 boiled egg per person for a main or half a boiled egg for a starter. Place the croutons around and serve immediately.

Thermomix version: you can do the bechamel in the Thermomix by weighing the butter, flour and milk + seasoning in the bowl, then cook 6min/90C/speed 4.
Add the thawed spinach and mix 30 sec/speed 8. Leave in the bowl until serving (you can  reheat at 70C if it's gone too cold).


All pictures courtesy of Nora

Nora's food blog Journal of a French Foodie
Nora on Facebook here