I was recently lucky enough to be invited to be part of the blog tour helping to promote Chef Mick Élysée’s new book, Not Guilty. I have to admit, until this tour I hadn’t heard of Mick (sorry), but I am so glad I have now been introduced to his recipes!
Before I tell you about the wonderful new book, let me tell you about Chef Mick Élysée, as his story is inspirational.
Mick grew up in the Republic of Congo, where he loved watching his mother cooking, and sneakily pinching food from the pot when she wasn’t looking. Sadly though, his happy life was soon to be turned upside down. In 1993, at the height of the Congolese Civil War, several of his family were killed. This meant that at the age of 14, Mick arrived in France as a refugee and had to adapt to a new life in an unfamiliar culture. He struggled academically, as he was not used to the French school system, but his passion for food shone through and gave him the strength to get through this traumatic time. He devoted his time to learning all about European cuisine, and in 1997 he was accepted into one of France’s most prestigious culinary schools. There, he began his classical training and worked under Michel Toulousi and Jean-Marc Desclaux. At the age of 22, just 8 years after arriving in France, Mick and his business partner opened a restaurant called La Gascogne, which received critical acclaim.
Today, Mick’s roots in the Congo play a huge part in his life. As well as the influence they have in his Afro-Fusion recipes, he is also passionate about giving back to the communities there. He regularly works with orphanages in Brazzaville and Kinshasa, and with a free school for children with physical and mental disabilities. He also provides cookery workshops for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as educational support to equip them with life skills. What a truly amazing man!
Mick’s long-awaited book Not Guilty was published just a few weeks ago. It features healthy African recipes including starters, snacks, main meals and desserts, as well as stocks to use as bases for other dishes. Every recipe has a beautiful vibrant photograph of the end result as well as step-by-step instructions on how to make them. The photographs are mouth-wateringly tempting, and I’m looking forward to making lots more of them in the near future. The book has encouraged me to look at ingredients I have never used before, and that really excites me. Exotic fruit and vegetables, and meats I have never eaten let alone cooked, this book takes you on a wonderful taste adventure.
I was tempted by lots of the recipes but decided to make the Plantain Pancakes for this review. This is the photograph in the book:
I had never eaten plantain until making these, and the recipe requires 1 very ripe plantain. As I was unfamiliar with cooking with plantain I did a bit of research so I could tell when one was ready to use. I had presumed they would be like bananas as they look so similar, but I was wrong! Plantains are used in both sweet and savoury cooking. Many savoury recipes require them to be very hard and not too ripe. In those cases it would be best to use plantains when the skin is still green. The riper the plantain, the sweeter it becomes. The shop where I bought mine sold them when they looked yellow. These are ripe, but not quite enough. I discovered that they can take weeks to fully ripen, unlike bananas which take a few days. I didn’t have weeks after I had bought mine so I read that you can ripen them quicker by placing them in a paper bag with an apple. The apple produces a gas which aids the process. I did this with one of the ones I bought, and it worked! The one in my main picture is nowhere near ripe enough, even though it is looking a bit blackened. A perfectly ripened plantain has a black skin which looks very slightly wrinkled. Imagine the look of a banana when it is too far gone to even use in recipes… that is how a very ripe plantain looks, and that is how it needs to be for this recipe. I used one like this in the pancake recipe.
To get the fruit out of the skin, simply slice each end off with a sharp knife and cut a slit from one end to the other. You can then easily peel the skin off in one go. Very ripe plantain is soft and a lovely yellowy-peachy colour inside. This means it is really easy to blend in recipes. And speaking of recipes, here is the pancake one for you to try too.
1 very ripe plantain
2 fresh eggs
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 tbsps semi-skimmed, or almond, or coconut milk
1/2 vanilla pod
150g strawberries, cut into chunks
2 tbsps honey
coconut oil, for frying (1 tsp per pancake + 1 tbsp for the topping)
- Split the vanilla pod in half lengthwise, and then use the tip of a knife to scrape the seeds out. Combine the plantain, eggs, cinnamon, milk and vanilla seeds, and blend together until you get a creamy paste. (I did this in a food processor by blending the plantain first until it was lump-free and creamy, then beating in the rest of the ingredients with a spoon).
- Place a frying pan over a low heat, add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil, and fry one pancake until the bottom is golden brown. Flip it over and cook until that side is golden too. Repeat until the mixture is all used up, using 1 teaspoon of coconut oil for each pancake.
- Using the same frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of coconut oil. Add the strawberries, stir quickly to coat them in the oil, then add the honey. Cook for 1 minute until the juice reduces slightly, then remove from the heat.
- Place the pancakes on a serving plate, spoon the strawberries on top, and then finish with the honey sauce.
So what did I think of my very first plantain experience? I loved it! The coconut oil adds a wonderful flavour, and the strawberry honey sauce adds an extra hit of sweetness which is just divine. My honey sauce took on the colour of the strawberries and went a lovely shade of red, so it didn’t look like the photograph in the book but it still tasted amazing! I am looking forward to making more of Chef Mick Élysée’s delicious recipes very soon. His Jollof Quinoa and Roast Chicken, and his Papaya Tart recipes are next on my agenda from this book. Yum!
If you would like to find out more about Chef Mick Élysée and his new book, including where to buy it, you can find his website HERE