Herby & Creamy

In mathematics, two negatives make a positive. I’d like to think that this rule applies to equations in the kitchen as well. Blunders (negatives) do happen on the road to success (positives).

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So here is my story: the first negative was my initial attempts at making herb fritters (Corsican fritelles). They were okay – no wow factor that the aromatic herbs were supposed to impart (although everyone ate them up). I knew they could be better. The second negative was the result of my fledgling venture into cheese making with rennet, attempting to make homemade feta. Now there was a big negative, but I won’t go into details here about that as I’ll be posting about those experiments soon – warts and all!

Then I read a recipe by Laila @ Table of Colors for her grandpa’s popovers stuffed with a little whipped cream. Indeed, what are popovers except puffed, baked versions of fritters? They’re both a simple batter of eggs, milk and flour. Come to think of it, they’re actually like mini individual Yorkshire puddings. And, that goaty, definitely non-feta cheese was really more like a soft, piquant creamy cheese…perfect for filling.

Put these two negatives together and you get Corsican-inspired herb popovers stuffed with creamy soft cheese. Perfect for lunch or as a side for dinner (with or without the filling). Success at last.

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Herb Popovers with Soft Cheese Filling
The basic popover recipe is based on the one posted by Laila @ Table of Colors, but I’ve added fresh herbs to the batter and modified the instructions. And, since not everyone has a goaty, creamy fresh cheese from failed experiments, I’ve recreated it using actual feta and crème fraîche or sour cream to get the right flavor and texture.

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Popovers

  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 leaves of wild garlic (ramsons), optional
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • olive oil

Clean and finely chop the fresh herbs. Set these aside.

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Warm the milk – body temperature, not too hot (Laila recommends 1-1/2 minutes in the microwave). Meanwhile, put the eggs into a mixer with the whisk attachment and whisk until light yellow and frothy.

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On low speed, slowly add the warmed milk until fully mixed. Add the flour, salt, cayenne pepper and finely chopped herbs. Whisk well for a few minutes. The batter will be thin and a little runny.

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Like all good Yorkshire pudding recipes, let the batter sit for at least 30 minutes (covered at room temperature).

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a 12 cup muffin tin by measuring 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil into each cup, coating the sides and bottom.

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Place this in the oven for about 5 minutes before you fill it with batter – watch to make sure the oil does not overheat and begin to smoke. Gently whisk the batter again. Carefully remove the hot muffin tin from the oven and pour batter into each cup, filling nearly to the top. Put the tin back into the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Thirty minutes was too long in my oven as it tends to be hot.

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The popovers should be light and fluffy with the herbs distributed throughout. Pull open and fill with the creamy filling below. Serve while still warm.

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Filling (optional)
You can make this ahead of time, or simply mix it together while the popovers are baking.

  • 1/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Crème fraîche or sour cream
  • Small bunch of chives, approximately 1 Tablespoon when snipped

herb_popover_filling

Mash the feta with a fork and mix with the sour cream. Snip chives into small segments using clean kitchen scissors and fold into the cheese mixture.

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19 comments

  1. Maths was never my strong suit but it’s obviously yours! I love it when you are able to salvage something. These look tasty and very similar to Yorkshire puddings. 🙂

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    • The similarity between popovers (more a North American thing) and Yorkshire puddings struck me as well. Whatever the case, they were delicious. I suspect they would also be good with the traditional roast beef – and gravy, of course.

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  2. Great acrobatics!! No progress is made without setbacks, in my kitchen anyway. Your popovers remind me of savoury cream puffs. Can’t wait to read about your adventures with rennet. I think you have to have grown up with Yorkshire pud, I think I should like it, but I’m always disappointed. Now, maybe if it had a big hit of fresh herbs I might feel differently!

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    • Well, in Yorkshire where I am, it is a must! My son tells me that one of the local university pubs even sell YP filled with curries. Yes, the herbs really added to the flavour and by adapting a popover recipe, somehow they didn’t cave in as YP can sometimes do. I really have Laila to thank for the idea and the basic batter recipe.

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    • One of life’s little pleasures is being able to nip outside and snip off a sprig or two (or three …) of herbs from the garden. I miss that, too, when travelling. But, now you’re back, those herbs are beckoning.

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      • I have to tell you something. Whilst travelling in New Zealand last week, I managed to get a few minutes on a computer to read my favourite bloggers, but had little time to comment, let alone post. I opened yours last week and noticed that you did a post on Honey From a Weed, by Patience Gray. This book is sitting on my bedside table, as I was dipping into it before I left for NZ. The week before, you made reference to Nicky Pellegrino, and I mentioned that I had one of her novels set in Italy to take for light reading on the flight. This is really uncanny. I might even write a post on these coincidences one day. In the meantime, perhaps I should put another of my collected books on my bedside table and see what happens. Maybe people with similar tastes find each other through a process of sifting and sorting in the land of food, travel and garden blogging?

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      • They say great minds think alike, but I would be astonished if – by some cosmic quirk – our reading overlapped a third time. It is odd, though, both of us reading Nicky Pellegrino and Honey From A Weed at the same time. You aren’t by any chance reading The Invention of Tradition? That is what is on my bedside table (other than my iPad with the Mrs. Beeton editions). I realized that I use “tradition” and “traditional” quite a lot in my posts and wanted a good book that would give me some idea of how traditions are formed.

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      • No, phew, I am not reading that! Sounds like my cup of tea though. One book you may like is ‘Delizia! The epic History of the Italians and Their Food’ by John Dickie. I am reading it again, as it is such a detailed history making the second reading even more enjoyable. Now if you have read that, cosmic quirks may apply!

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  3. What a lovely idea to add herbs to the batter. I will definitely be trying it out for brunch or for an evening snack in the near future! And the feta cheese filling looks perfect. Thanks for the shout-out, I appreciate it.

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    • Hope you like the addition of herbs. I modified your cooking instructions to something more like those for Traditional Yorkshire Pudding and it worked like a charm. Believe me, I was very glad to have your recipe to come to the rescue!

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