Le Cordon Bleu: Sea Bass Coulibiac + Stuffed Tomatoes


Fish Pie (1 of 1) (1 of 1)My next lesson at the Cordon Bleu school in Paris was given by Chef Patrick Terrien, who will be retiring next week after 15 years at the school. Yes, we will miss him!

The recipe here is Sea Bass Coulibiac and tomatoes stuffed with Broccio Cheese (Bar en croute facon coulibiac, avec tomates farcies au broccio). Coulibiac (or ‘fish pie’) is a Russian-inspired dish included in Escoffier’s famous cookbook, “The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery.” Reportedly, Russians used to put various ingredients in their pie, like cabbage and sturgeon, but we used Sea Bass and even hard-boiled quail eggs.

It’s a truly delicious dish, especially when served with a creamy beurre blanc sauce.

First, we gutted and filleted a 1 kg (2.2 pound) Sea Bass, a fish with a nice flaky texture and thankfully, not too much ‘pin boning’ required.(It still takes me about 10 minutes to fillet a fish, while professionals do it in less than 2 minutes)!

 Fish Pie (2 of 2) (1 of 1)

We then made a yeast dough, letting it double in size, before rolling it out in a rectangular shape.Fish Pie (3 of 3) (1 of 1)Next, we made a delicious filling made of rice, fresh tarragon, diced salmon, diced mushrooms and fresh quail eggs. The filling was then layered with alternating rows of the sea bass fillets. The quail eggs are optional, but they do look ‘cute’ when you slice into the pie and see them hiding there! The layered filling is then wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, cooled in the fridge and then unwrapped on top of the dough.

 The dough is then folded inwards, starting with one long edge and followed by the two sides. We then added some dough decorations, brushed the dough with water or egg wash, then baked in the oven for 35 minutes.

 Fish Pie ( 9 of 9) (1 of 1) This dish is then topped off with a delicious beurre blanc sauce and served with  tomatoes stuffed with Broccio cheese. Broccio cheese is a soft cheese from Corsica, but you could also use Ricotta cheese instead.

Fish Pie (1 of 1) (1 of 1)And what was the result from my class practical? The chef said my dish was ‘delicious’ but scolded me for not keeping my work station clean. No matter how hard I try, it seems that liquids keep on bubbling out of my pans onto the stove surface- impossible to keep immaculate!

Please join me later for my next blog, Boned Quail stuffed with Shitake Mushrooms!

Note: this recipe is quite long, adapted from Le Cordon Bleu recipe. You can shorten the recipe by leaving out the beurre blanc sauce and the stuffed tomatoes.

Sea Bass Coulibiac + Tomatoes Stuffed with Broccio Cheese
Serves 4
Fish pie with a Russian influence, served with cocktail style tomatoes stuffed with broccio cheese
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  1. 1 raw sea bass, filleted (or other white fish such as snapper, cod or John Dory)
Pastry Crust
  1. 400 g (3 cups) white flour
  2. 20 g (3 tbsp) fresh compressed yeast
  3. 125 ml (1/2 cup) warm water
  4. 1 tbsp sugar
  5. Pinch salt
  6. 4 tbsp oil
  7. 2 eggs
Filling (stuffing)
  1. 100 g (1/2 cup) short-grain rice, cooked
  2. 1 medium onion, diced
  3. 1 cup fresh uncooked salmon
  4. ½ bunch tarragon
  5. 2 tbsp parsley, chopped
  6. 120 g diced mushrooms (about 2 cups)
  7. 8 quail eggs (optional)
  8. 20 g (3 tbsp) fresh breadcrumbs
  9. Salt/pepper to taste
Beurre blanc sauce
  1. 3 shallots, finely chopped
  2. 60 ml (1/4 cup) white vinegar
  3. 60 ml (1/4 cup) white wine vinegar
  4. 85 ml (1/3 cup) heavy cream
  5. 140 g (5 oz) cold butter, cubed
  6. Salt/white pepper
Tomatoes stuffed with broccio (or ricotta) cheese
  1. 8 vine-ripened cocktail (small) tomatoes
  2. 150 g broocio (or ricotta) cheese
  3. 2 tbsp olive oil infused with chopped thyme
  4. Salt/pepper
  5. 1 basil sprig
  1. Prep Work: Cook 1 cup short-grain rice: bring 2 cups water to the boil, add the rice and cover with lid, reduce heat to low simmer, cook for 20 minutes or so until the rice is cooked and all moisture has been absorbed. Cook the quail eggs in low boiling water for several minutes and remove from heat.
  2. Preheat oven to 180 C (360 F)
  3. Prepare Dough: Add 20 g compressed yeast to 125 ml warm water. Add the sugar and salt to the yeast mixture. Add the flour, eggs and 4 tbsp oil. First, beat the eggs individually in a separate bowl, then add to the dough mixture. Knead on flowered surface, put in metal bowl, cover with cloth or paper towel. Let rise until double in size.
  4. Prepare the Sea Bass or other white fish- make sure the skin has been removed from the fish and all bones removed. Season with salt and pepper and place in fridge while preparing the filling.
  5. Prepare the Filling: Slice the salmon into small cubes (skin removed) and set aside. Finely chop the onion, add to fry pan with butter and little salt; cover with cartouche (parchment paper) and let onion soften for several minutes.
  6. Slice the mushrooms finely; Sweat the mushrooms in a little butter with some salt until soft. In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice, cooked onions, cooked mushrooms, breadcrumbs, finely chopped tarragon (1/2 bunch), chopped parsley and uncooked salmon cubes, salt & pepper.
  7. Assemble the Coulibiac Filling (refer to the photos with instructions): Spread some filling on top of a sheet of plastic wrap (equal to the length of your fish), then add one slice of Sea Bass or other fish on top followed by ½ of the salmon cubes. Add another layer of filling, then a line of 8 quail eggs touching each other (optional). Repeat the layering as follows: add another layer of filling, a second piece of sea bass, then more filling. Next, roll the cling wrap tightly into a sausage shape, twist ends together and tuck ends under, put into fridge to cool.
  8. Prepare Beurre Blanc sauce: Prepare the reduction: add 3 finely diced shallots to sauce pan with the white wine vinegar and white wine. Reduce until a glaze forms. Whisk in cold butter cubes a little at a time until thickened. Stir in the cream and strain the sauce. Season with salt and white pepper.
  9. Prepare Dough: After dough has risen, punch it down and rollout into a rectangular shape on a lightly floured surface. Unwrap the filling from the plastic wrapping and place over dough leaving a margin around sides. Brush outer edges with water. Close one long edge into middle (one farthest away from you), then close the two sides inward (trim a little dough from corners before folding them inward) then fold the other long edge last. Flip dough over so seams are tucked under.
  10. Brush outside of dough with water with egg wash. Add decorations if desired (the chef placed 3-4 thin ropes of dough and several pom poms around the pastry). Brush with egg wash again.
  11. Prepare Tomatoes: Cut off very tops and bottoms of the small ‘cocktail’ tomatoes. Scoop out insides with mellon baller. Add some olive oil and salt into a small casserole dish- add the tomatoes into the casserole with the top side facing up (fill pan with sides of tomatoes touching).
  12. Place the broccio or ricotta cheese into a bowl. Add some chopped basil, thyme-infused oil, and salt/pepper. Place into piping bag and pipe into the tomato shells. Place tops back onto the tomatoes and heat in oven for 5 minutes (not too hot).
  13. To plate: Slice one piece of the coulibiac pastry onto the plate, add several stuffed tomatoes, basil leaves and a smear of the beurre blanc sauce.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/




Le Cordon Bleu: John Dory Fillets with red spices, wild rice and tropical fruit



John Dory( 4 of 4) (1 of 1)

This was our first Practical class in Superior Cuisine at the Paris Le Cordon Bleu school. First, we watched a 2.5 hour demonstration (“demo”) followed by a 2.5 hour practical session held in a smaller room with 10 stoves. I was rather nervous beforehand; I wanted to make sure I got a good position at the communal work station, which would be close to the dish washing station. Otherwise, you have to traipse across the room to frequently get your pots and pans washed by the plongeurs. Yay, I was able to get a good spot!

The dish that we prepared today was John Dory fillets with red spices, wild rice with tropical fruit and red kidney bean “French fries” (Effeuillée de Saint-Pierre aux Épices Rouges, Riz Sauvage aux Fruits Exotiques, Frites de Haricots Rouges). This dish doesn’t sound ‘French’ I hear you say? Well, we’re now getting into fusion cooking in the Superior class, working with influences from other types of cuisines. (I have a feeling I may have seen the last of heavy French creams and buttery recipes? Maybe not)!

For this recipe, we had to first cook Wild Rice, which we were told was not a member of the rice family, but is actually a grain. This was then blended with some diced papaya and mango fruit. Then we were each given a John Dory fish to fillet (called Saint-Pierre in French). Thank goodness the fish had already been gutted, but we had to each completely fillet the fish ourselves. This was not an easy task since this fish is rather big (1.5 kilos or 3.3 pounds) and has a very tough exterior and big back bone. No dramas here- I got this task done alright.

John Dory Fish (Saint-Pierre)

John Dory( 3 of 3) (1 of 1)

We then had to make a sauce for the fish, flavoured from the fish bones, onion, garlic, diced papaya and mango, white wine, lime juice and Tandoori spices. I like tropical fruit, so this sauce was a nice variation from the usual buttery French sauces often used in fish recipes. The sauce was reduced, then finished off with some diced cilantro and a little butter to thicken.

For an added touch, we made some red kidney bean ‘French fries.’ This consisted of puréed kidney beans rolled into a ball shape, then breaded and deep-fried. These were then placed on the plate as a sort of decoration. Frankly, I thought these ‘French fries’ were a bit strange. Instead, it would be better to use puréed potatoes in place of the kidney beans- why mess with ‘French fries’ by changing the consistency to red kidney beans?

All in all, the dish had a interesting fruity taste, which contrasted nicely with the wild rice (riz sauvage). And thanks to one of my classmates who helped me at the last minute to get my food plated up in time!

During the class demonstration, the chef also made a dish called Smoked Surf and Turf Duo, which consisted of smoked eel, salmon, vainaigrette dressing, a sauce and Beetroot Mousse which was sprayed from a siphon ‘whipped cream’ dispenser. The topping almost looks like cherries (which I love) but is actually sliced beets.

John Dory (2 of 2) (1 of 1)

Please join me for the next blog of my Cordon Bleu experience: Sea Bass Coulibiac with Tomatoes Stuffed with Broccio Cheese.


John Dory fillets with red spices, tropical fruit and kidney bean "French fries"
Serves 4
A French fish dish with an Indian twist
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  1. 1 John Dory fish
  2. 2 tbsp Tandoori spice
  3. 1 tsp satay sauce
  4. 2 tbsp olive oil
For the Wild Rice with Tropical Fruit
  1. 1 cup wild rice
  2. 2 cups water
  3. ½ mango, finely diced (keep trimmings)
  4. ½ papaya, finely diced (keep trimmings)
  5. 500 g spinach leaves
  6. 2 tbsp butter
For the Sauce
  1. Olive Oil
  2. ½ onion, chopped
  3. 2 garlic cloves
  4. 1 tbsp Tandoori spice blend *
  5. 1 tsp turmeric
  6. ¼ cup white wine
  7. Coriander (cilantro) stems
  8. 1 strip lime peel
  9. Papaya and mango trimmings
  10. Juice of 1 lime
  11. Finish
  12. Coriander, finely chopped
  13. 1 tbsp butter
For the Red Kidney Bean ‘French Fries’
  1. 250 g red kidney beans, canned or dried
For the Bread Crumbs
  1. 1 egg
  2. Flour
  3. Fresh breadcrumbs
  1. If you purchase the John Dory whole, clean and fillet the fish and soak the bones in water to remove any impurities. Alternatively, you can buy the fish already cleaned and filleted. Slice the John Dory fillets into pieces about 3-4 inches long. In a small bowl, combine the tandoori spice mixture, satay sauce and olive oil. Roll the fish pieces in the mixture and let marinate while you prepare the remaining recipe.
  2. To prepare the wild rice, bring 2 cups water to a boil, add the 1 cup rice, cover and let simmer on low until the rice is cooked (check directions on package for cooking times).
  3. To prepare the sauce, sweat the onion and garlic in the olive oil until softened. Strain the fish bones and add to the pan, along with the lime peel and trimmings from the papaya and mango. Add the remaining ingredients: tandoori spice, turmeric, white wine and coriander stems; add enough water to cover the ingredients and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain the ingredients and let simmer for another 10 minutes until the mixture reduces in volume. Add the butter and whisk until the sauce thickens a little and season with the lime juice and salt, if required. Add the finely chopped coriander.
  4. To finish off the wild rice, add a small amount of butter to the rice along with the diced papaya and mango. Add salt and pepper to taste and combine all ingredients. If the rice is dry, moisten with a little bit of the sauce.
To prepare the kidney bean “French Fries”
  1. Drain the liquid from the canned kidney beans, add 1 egg yolk and a splash of cream and ‘mash’ the beans to a pulp using a food processor. Spread the mixture into a shallow bowl or pan and place in freezer for one hour to chill the mixture. (Note: if using dried beans, cook for then for several hours in a pan of water until softened).
  2. When the mixture has been chilled but not frozen, form into small balls. Dust each ball first with white flour, then dip into a pan containing egg wash, then roll evenly with fresh breadcrumbs. Deep fry the balls in vegetable oil or in a deep fryer at 180 C until golden brown.
To finish
  1. Place the 500 g spinach in a large saucepan containing 1 tbsp melted butter. Over medium heat, stir the spinach until the leaves soften and release moisture.
  2. To plate, make sure all ingredients have been re-warmed. Place a circular ring mold on a plate, press some spinach onto the bottom of the mold, followed by some wild rice. Release the mold, then place one fish fillet on top of the rice with several of the round kidney bean balls. Add several pieces of diced mango fruit and spoon some of the sauce along the sides of the rice/fish mixture.
  1. * Tandoori spice mix includes ginger, cumin, paprika, cinnamon and other spices. You can buy this mixture in specialty stores or make your own- find the recipe at the following link http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/tandoori-rub-240755
Adapted from Le Cordon Bleu
Adapted from Le Cordon Bleu
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/














Hello from Paris!

Paris Sights 6 of 6) (1 of 1)

 I finally arrived in Paris to start my 10-week course in Advanced Cuisine (Superior Cuisine’) at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. God, it’s a long ways from South Australia, with 20 hours of flying and a 6-hour layover in Singapore. Needless to say, I’m a little nervous since it’s been two years since I completed the Intermediate Cuisine course here. Most of the other students in my class have already been cooking together for the past 6 months, so I hope I fit in alright!  

My Paris apartment is located in the Latin Quarter in the 5th arrondisement, an area which also includes the Pantheon and the Luxembourg Gardens. Every morning I take an early morning walk up the Rue Mouffetard, an ancient Roman street with an open air market and lots of food shops. During my walk, I descend the hill towards the Seine River and behold the wonderful site of the Notre Dame Cathedral, a 20-minute walk from where I live.  

The view from my Latin Quarter Paris apartment Paris apartment vue Rue Mouffetard in the early morning Rue Mouffe Morning Notre Dama Cathedral- almost 1,000 years old! Paris Sights 8 of 8) (1 of 1) But I’m here in Paris to cook and eat, right? One of my favourite Paris markets is the one located at Boulevard Raspail, open three times a week. There are lots of fresh fruits and vegetables with an organic market on Sundays. This market is well-known for the vendor with potato pancakes, which is still on my ‘must taste’ list!

An added bonus is you can easily walk from this market to Gertrude Stein’s former apartment at 27 rue de Fleurus, where she lived with Alice B. Toklas for almost 40 years. As I walked past her apartment recently, the door to the lobby was open due to renovations. I slipped inside the lobby ‘sight unseen’ and was honored to be able to walk in the same hallowed halls as Picasso and Ernest Hemingway, who regularly visited Gertrude to discuss art and writing.

Gertrude Stein’s former apartment at 27 rue des Fleurus

Gertrude Stein

Nearby Gertrude Stein’s apartment is the well-known bread bakery, Poilâne, located at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi. Their signature sour dough bread is baked in a wood-burning oven and  is made of 4 ingredients: sourdough, stoneground wheat flour, water and sea salt from Guérande. It carries the signature mark P for Poilâne and each loaf weighs about 4lbs or 1.9kg. That’s a lot of bread and should last at least one week!

Poilâne Bread Bakery at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi

Poilâne Bakery at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi

Poilâne Bakery at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi

Signature Poilâne bread baked with letter ‘P’

Signature Sourdough bread with signature 'P'

Signature Sourdough bread with signature ‘P’

Walking back from the Poilâne bakery to my apartment, I passed by the Sadahuru Aoki patisserie on the Boulevard de Port Royal, founded 15 years ago by the Japanese pâtissier of the same name. Aoki’s philosophy to baking is simply stated:

“Creating something delicious. To achieve this goal, it is essential to maintain simplicity.” – Aoki

And I certainly knew where he was coming from. I entered his store and bought one of his delights called Sensuelle. consisting of layers of ganache and flavoured mousse set on a base of textured biscuit and topped with a miniature macaron.

Sadahuru Aoki Patisserie- Paris

Paris Sifghts (2 of 2) (1 of 1)

 Layered Pastries topped with a mini Macaron

Layered pastry topped with a mini Macaron

Layered pastry topped with a mini Macaron

With my belly full after visiting several of Paris’ culinary delights, it was back to my Paris apartment to rest before starting my course in Superior Cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Please follow my blog as I present photos and recipes from my 10-week course at LCB!