Sunday, 14 July 2013

Jersey - How I made Pais au Fou and Jersey Wonders

Jersey is quite well known for its food - especially Jersey Royal potatoes - but also its cream, butter and other produce that appear in English markets quite early in the season.  A quick bit of research led me to the conclusion that the most traditional Jersey dish I could make would be Bean Crock, known as Pais au Fou in Jèrriais (literally peas in the oven), a dish that reminded me a lot of a French cassoulet or bean stew.

To be honest, it was quite an easy dish to make - the only unusual thing about it being the fact that I had to keep it in the oven for 5 hours - a terribly long time to cook anything in our fast-paced 21st century world!  I looked at several different recipes for this dish, but was mostly influenced by this one - I added carrot to the recipe, otherwise it might have been a bit too bland. 

Ingredients for Pais au Fou - Jersey Bean Crock
The ingredients

250g White haricot beans
250g mixed beans
2 onions
2 carrots
5 bay leaves
Black pepper
500g pork belly

How I made Pais au Fou

First, I chopped up the onions and carrots and put them in a large, over-proof casserole dish, topping the chopped vegetables with the bay leaves and pepper.  In Jersey, it's traditional to use a stone crock pot, hence the English name of this dish.

Chop the carrot and onion, add bay leaves and pepper

Add the pork belly pieces, including fat

Next, I chopped up the pork belly and added this to the casserole dish.  I must admit, I'm not a great fan of fat and pork belly is very fatty but, after 5 hours in the oven, the meat and fat were equally succulent and I think I actually enjoyed eating fat, for the first time in my life!

Finally, I added the beans and enough water to cover all of the ingredients.  I guess a purist would use dry beans and boil them before adding them to the casserole dish, but I opted for the easier option of tinned beans and the end result was tasty.

Add the white Haricot beans and mixed beans

Cover all ingredients with water, then put in the oven for five hours

It's a slow-cooking dish, so I left it for five hours in the oven at 150 degrees (Gas mark 2), which is quite a low heat.  I stirred the dish once an hour, to make sure nothing was sticking to the pot and that there was enough water. 

Check the pot about once an hour, to make sure it doesn't dry out

The end result was a yummy Pais au Fou served with Royal Jersey potatoes.  With all the fat and beans, it's also a good idea to serve something green on the side - I quite randomly choose rocket!

Royal Jersey potatoes
Jersey Bean crock - Pais au Fou

La Mèrvelle de Jèrri

Not content with the challenge of Jersey Bean Crock, I also decided to try my hand at making Jersey Wonders or Mèrvelles, a traditional pastry, which is quite similar to English doughnuts or French beignets

Learning how to cook something new is one thing, any idiot can do it, even me!  Learning how to bake something new is a totally different story and I found it quite challenging, although I was really happy with the end result. 

Ingredients for Jersery Wonders or Mèrvelles
I relied a lot on a recipe on the BBC's website and I also watched a video on YouTube, which helped me visualise the process for making wonders, especially how to twist the dough and give my wonders a traditional shape. 

The ingredients

500g self-raising flour
115g (4 ounces) of butter
230g (8 ounces) of caster sugar
6 eggs

How I made Jersey Wonders

I sieved the flour and caster sugar into a mixing bowl, then rubbed in the butter, which I'd cut up into small blocks.

Cut the butter into small 'blocks'

Next, I whisked the eggs in a separate bowl and slowly added the egg mixture to the bowl, mixing the whole lot together until I had a sticky, eggy paste. 

Mix the flour and sugar and work into the blocks of butter until you have a crumbly mix

Whisk the six eggs
Add the eggs to the flour/sugar/butter mix

According the recipe, you should use your hands to make small 'golf balls' from the mixture, which you put on an oven tray and cover with a damp tea-towel for two hour.

Use your hands to make several dozen 'golf balls'
Cover the balls with a damp cloth and leave for two hours

My 'balls' were slightly larger than golf balls, but it didn't really matter, as I was able to divide them in two later, to get smaller pastry shapes, more suitable to making wonders.

The next bit was probably the hardest and I used a lot of extra flour, on my hands and on the rolling pin, to roll out the balls and create an oblong shape.  On the video, I noticed that she cut three slits into the flat oblong and twisted the pastry through the middle one, so I did the same.

Use extra flower to flatten out the balls
Make an oblong shape and cut three slits in the pastry

Twist one end of the pastry through the middle slit and create a doughy shape like this
The result is a strange looking pastry mixture, that reminded me of a fleur-de-lys or a dainty woman's shoe!  I was really beginning to doubt whether or not this delicate mess would become anything edible but, luckily, in the final stage it all came together quite nicely.

The final stage involved heating up some vegetable oil in a pan and dropping the Mèrvelles into the hot oil, 5 or 6 at a time, until they became bloated and rose to the surface.  I was a bit confused by the recipe, when it said to cook the Mèrvelles on each side, when they turned golden brown. 

In my mind, I had an image of a flipping them over, on a frying pan, but I soon understood that I would have to turn the Mèrvelles over in the oil, so they would cook on each side.

Add Mèrvelles to the hot oil

When the go brown on one side, turn them over

I'm quite proud of my Jersey Wonders and enjoyed having them for breakfast with a nice cup of coffee!

Jersey Wonders or Mèrvelles

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