The French Cafe is regarded as the pinnacle of culinary excellence in Auckland. You usually have to book about a month in advance to get a table. It's New Zealand's French Laundry, our down-under fair-dinkum version of El Bulli. If the French Cafe was a celeb it would be Johnny Depp: sexy, creative and elusive.
I've eaten there twice, once for the degustation (incredible, divine, earth shatteringly good) and once off the menu. Both times we had the French Cafe signature dish, the Goat's Cheese and Beetroot tart. My darling fellow foodie girlfriends bought me the French Cafe Cookbook a couple of birthdays ago. I love it. It has stunning photos and they actually put the recipes of dishes they cook at the restaurant there.
We're going on a trip to Sri Lanka at the end of the year with two of my very best, very foodie, friends so at a trip organising pot luck dinner last week, I wanted to bring something worthy of my girls who are total domestic goddesses.
While I wasn't game enough to go the whole hog and make the FC beetroot tart, when I stumbled upon a simple recipe for potato and goat's cheese frittata by Donna Hay, I knew with a bit of experimentation I could create a French Cafe inspired version: Goat's Cheese Frittata with Port & Black Pepper Caramelised Figs.
The brilliant thing about this recipe, is that you don't really need too many ingredients and you just bung it all together in a baking dish but it looks and tastes and sounds like something super flash.
Chevre or goat's cheese is a stinky pungent creamy and utterly delicious cheese. You either love it or hate it and it is pretty expensive, but a little bit goes a long way. I reckon this frittata would be equally as fabulous with gooey blue cheese.
The other cheat ingredient is this caramelised onion chutney or onion jam. You could make your own but it's so easy just to get the store bought stuff and dollop it in.
The French Cafe tart had red wine caramelised figs with caramelised onions. I didn't have any red wine open so I just used port and lowered the amount of sugar. I don't know what it is about figs and cheese that makes them so good together. It's almost counter-intuitive to be serving sweet condiments with savoury cheese but trust me it is a heavenly combination.
The frittata is great hot or cold, for dinner or lunch or even for a picnic. Just serve with a crisp green salad and you can have your own little taste of the French Cafe at home!
Goat's cheese frittata with port & black pepper caramelised figs
adapted from recipes by Donna Hay and the French Cafe.
1 cup port
1/4 cup water
100g dried figs, sliced 0.5 cm thick
150g caster sugar
~1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar to taste
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch sea salt
700g waxy potatoes, washed and diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup cream
150g chevre (goats curd or soft goats cheese)
~ 1/2 cup caramelised onion chutney or onion jam (I used store bought)
handful of thyme, chopped (+ some extra for sprinkling)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
1. Place figs, port, water, sugar, pepper and caster sugar in a pot and simmer for 20 minutes until thick and syrupy. Take off the heat and add balsamic vinegar and season with sea salt to taste. Let this mixture marinate overnight if you have time.
2. Preheat oven to 200oC. Toss diced potatoes and oil in a baking dish (roughly 8 cup capacity) and bake for 30 minutes till golden.
3. Take the potatoes out of the oven, season lightly with salt and pepper and toss in most of the thyme (leaving some to sprinkle on top). Scoop the figs out and dot amongst the potatoes, reserve the syrup.
4. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and cream until well combined. Pour over the potatoes and figs.
5. Break the goat's cheese into chunks around 2cm by 2cm and dot these chunks evenly over the egg mixture. Dot spoonfuls of onion chutney/onion jam over the egg mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle extra thyme over the top.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until egg is set (not super wobbly any more and golden brown).
7. Serve hot, warm or cold with a drizzle of port & fig syrup. (If the syrup has hardened just warm up gently and it will loosen up).