Sardine Harissa Polar Bread Sandwich

Or : The Return of the Polar Bread Sandwich

I made myself another yummy sandwich on polar bread for lunch today. This time, the filling was this : a can of quality sardines packed in olive oil (drained and patted with paper towels), a shallot – chopped with my friend the chef knife, a handful of flat parsley – chopped with my other friend the mezza-luna, 100 g of cottage cheese, a small spoonful of harissa (this is a red chili garlic paste from Tunisia), salt and pepper. Mash all this together with a fork, spread on one slice of polar bread, top with the other, and cut in halves.

This filling is a variation of the “Mousse de sardine à la harissa” recipe from my cookbook “Moi, je cuisine solo ou duo”. I have made it a few times in the past and people have raved about it. It involves the same ingredients (except a “petit suisse” – a small carton of plain thick yogurt – is used instead of the cottage cheese), but it is mixed in the food processor. I would call it a spread rather than a mousse, really, and it is delicious scooped with crackers or veggie sticks, or as a filling for flaky dough dumplings.

Sun-dried Tomato Polenta Squares

Polenta Squares

This recipe is from the apéro section of the cookbook Mes petits plats 100% naturels, by Catherine Mandigon and Patricia Riveccio. In France, apéritif (also called l’apéro) is the general term for the drinks and savory nibbles you offer your guests before dinner. It is also a widespread custom to invite people over just for l’apéro, which is a more casual way to entertain than a full-blown dinner invitation. French cookbooks often include a whole section devoted to that mini-meal. I particularly enjoy making amuse-bouches (or amuse-gueules), something about making a platterful of identical miniature cute bites really appeals to me (my Hello Kitty side, I guess).

Here’s how to make these polenta squares.

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Homemade Yogurts

Homemade yogurts

The yogurt maker (yaourtière in French) is often used to illustrate the concept of an appliance that seemed like a good idea at the time of purchase (back in the seventies), but ends up collecting dust in the dark depths of a kitchen cabinet. It strikes me as terribly unfair a way to disparage a perfectly respectable peace of household equipment.

I grew up on the homemade yogurts my mother made using her yaourtière, so much so that she is probably the only individual on the planet who actually had to buy a second one when the first one got so much use it broke down. Homemade yogurts have a taste and texture that make them absolutely perfect for breakfast in my opinion, eaten as is or poured on cereal. I had one every morning for as long as I lived with my parents but had to go without for the two years in the Silicon Valley (where I drank Kefir -fermented milk-, an acceptable substitute).

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Fennel & Tuna Polar Bread Sandwich

Pain Polaire

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed an increasing number of bakeries and sandwich places in France selling sandwiches made with Pain Polaire. Polar bread, sometimes also called swedish bread, is a round, soft flatbread with dimples. Polar bread sandwiches are made between two of these pancake-like slices, and the whole sandwich is then cut into halves. A popular version of these sandwiches involves smoked salmon, but any filling will work, really.

I love these sandwiches. The bread tastes slightly sweet and its texture is very enjoyable : soft enough so it doesn’t hurt your palate and make your jaw ache like baguette sandwiches do, but not mushy either, and there is no I-don’t-like-the-crust-so-much syndrome like there is with sandwich bread, because well, there is no crust.

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Honey Hazelnut Cake

My parents came over for tea yesterday. This is always a perfect occasion for me to bake (like I need one), and since it was my father’s birthday, I decided to bake a cake. After perusing my cookbooks and recipe files, I set my heart on a Honey Hazelnut Cake from a French baking book called Les Gâteaux de Mamie.

The original recipe is titled Gâteau aux noisettes et au miel and is actually for muffins, but I wanted a single cake to put birthday candles on, so I baked the batter in a cake pan, doubling the ingredient amounts.

We enjoyed it very much. The flavors of honey and hazelnut come through very distinctly, and the crumb is super moist and fluffy. It goes wonderfully with a cup of tea. And with such a simple preparation process, this hazelnut honey cake is definitely a keeper.

[This recipe was originally published on October 6, 2003 and updated on December 22, 2015.]

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