Saturday, 30 June 2012

Courgettes a little stuffed.


These round courgettes are fun to cook with.  Just scoop them out with a melon ball scoop or a tiny spoon. Plunge them into salted boiling water (I like to cook them for 3 minutes or so, that way they are firm still), then fill them with anything!!!  I cooked some minced beef with a few diced carrots.  A few tomatoes with a little paste and a touch of butter just heated through.  You alternatively can make them in advance and heat them in the oven.  They make a good starter, I have done them with ratatouille or mozzarella with olives and sautéed red onions and a few pine nuts (grilled). The list is endless....

Friday, 29 June 2012

Figs with cheese - two ways...

As a cheese course, a selection of cheeses with a roasted fig on a puff pastry disc. 
Cut a disc of pasty out and make a few slits at the top of the fig.  Here, I have placed a whole fig on its side - brush with butter and cook for 18 minutes. There is a tiny bit of shallot jam underneath the fig to add to the savouriness. 

Much the same ingredients, but as a dessert.  Here, cut out discs from a sheet of pastry after cooking (lots of fork impressions so it does not rise too much).  The goat cheese here is a very mild one, which is whisked up with honey and a little cardamom .  The fig is just warm and is added just before serving.  A drizzle of honey caramel sauce goes on top (the goat cheese can be replaced with a plain cream cheese).

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Honey and rosemary madeleines

Quite simply, addictive......

(My version, as are all these recipes here I hasten to mention!)

140g very soft butter
40g olive oil
100g honey (chestnut flower in this case, worth finding!!)
50g brown sugar
2 eggs
190g flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary (you just want a kiss of it!)

Preheat the oven to 175°C/ 350°F

In a mixing bowl, put the softened butter in and with a wooden spoon, stir to loosen it up. Next, add the olive oil and honey.  You can then go onto a whisk, adding the eggs one at a time.  Add the sugar and lemon juice.  Finally mix in the flour and baking powder. Whisk for a minute to have a smooth mixture. 

Use two teaspoons to put the mixture into your lightly buttered  Madeleine tins or  silicon moulds.  Fill them  to about three quarters full, as they will rise.  The cake batter melts down, so don't worry if they are not flat, just try to get an even amount in each.

They take about 12 to 15 minutes to cook, they should be just brown.

Once cooked, remove from the oven and let stand a minutes before turning out.  They will still be delicate at this stage, so handle lightly.

Eat while just warm.......

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Bobby James... a rose


This old fashioned rose is just coming into flower now, it will flower just a short time, but it is worth it.  The perfume is heavenly and right next to the terrace, so we can enjoy it every evening.  We have had them in both our houses and even on our balcony in Paris (until it grew too big in only two years).  A much appreciated service station for our bees...

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Sausages... a few potatoes...

You can cook up sausages and potatoes and pile them on a plate.  But, you could try browning the sausages all over, then cover them with a few glasses of red wine, simmer for an hour, so the fat just melts adding a little stock as required.  Select thin, long potato variety, peel, slice and poach it for 12 minutes or until done, drain and add a little butter to glaze.  Remove the sausages and slice them.  Keep warm.  The sauce should be reducing and this is where you remove any grease off the top with a spoon.  Then, add a tablespoon of grainy mustard.   Dress with the sauce and a bit more mustard to the side if you like...

Monday, 25 June 2012

Grated fennel slaw.

Grated fennel slaw is what I make in a dash.  As I love fennel salad, which has to be cut razor thin to be good, but that can take a long time to cut on a mandolin or by hand.  This has still the taste even though something quite different.  I use a hand grater, one of those micro planes with a larger slicer blades.  

2 fennel bulbs
1 small apple (or even a half of one)
6 tablespoons of grape seed oil (neutral so as to not take away from the subtle taste)
juice of half a lemon

(to dress)
1 tablespoon of white wine/champagne vinegar
(optional extra a tablespoon of pastis for fun!
or a little mayonnaise)

So grate the side stalks first, then work your way down by cutting across wards. Even incorporating the root part, as it's all good. The deep green fronds (that grow at the top), cut them by hand.  They look, but don't taste like dill, they add flavour as well as colour. Peel the apple and grate to the core.  Add the lemon first and coat it all to stop it discolouring then the oil and the salt.

 Either eat straight away or put into the fridge turning the slaw a few times.  After about an hour, there is a water residue (from the salt) that you can discard, but add a splash of oil and mix again. You could at this point add mayonnaise and/or the pastis.  Try it without the mayonnaise the first time you make it as it is more refreshing (I like it more without).

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Pizza party...

I like to cook pizza on the barbecue in summer using a pizza stone.  If I am making a deep pan pizza, I let it rise in a pizza tin and put it onto the stone for about 5-7 minutes, then flip it directly onto the stone once the shape has formed to finish off cooking.  If it is thin crust, then I go directly on the stone.  Here, as shown above, it is fairly loaded (yellow peppers, chopped ham, two cheeses and anchovies), it is best to start with the tin.  I like to cook it at around 160°c /325°f on the barbecue dial as the stone will be hotter (always preheat the stone).  It will take 20minutes in all, but keep checking and turning at the end.  If any left over dough, you can make small rolls as I did.

Basic dough

500g organic bread flour (type 80 or 110)
25g fresh yeast
1 loaded teaspoon of honey
350ml warm water (you can use half milk but melt the honey in the water first)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon (or less) salt

Rub the yeast into the flour. Add the liquids including the honey and olive oil and once mixed, add the salt. You must knead for a solid 10 or more minutes. Let rise for an hour, then shape into pizzas or loafs and let rise for another hour. 

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Animal life...

Our chickens' enclosure.

A wild pheasant visits our garden!                    

     One egg today!

                                     Our three chickens and Aston having a lazy morning lay in!

And not forgetting wild rabbit number 27 of 29.....

Friday, 22 June 2012

Fields of blue...

The famous Normandy Flax fields are just coming in to flower...


This is a good way to make leftovers more exciting.  I like to use lamb up this way.  As it was already grilled and spiced, the tastes are already to go.  If not, cook meat and spice with curry or a selection of spices of your choice.  Simply mince up the meat or hand chop if you want a chunky texture.  I've added some finely diced carrot but leftover veg is good too or spinach and peas also work very well.  I've also added some chopped flat leaf parsley

 As these were made for lunch, I made them larger than I would for a drinks party.  I also used some 'brick' pastry from North Africa and you could use filo pastry (but you would have to butter the sheets).  I egg washed the sheet, fold them in half and then not quite in half again, egg washing again.  If you want them smaller, use a sheet cut into four.  Shape the meat into a triangle if you can, then the folding will be easier to follow. Fold up on itself from left to right, keeping it tight and place on an oiled baking sheet.  I finally sprinkle some cumin seed on the top and a drizzle of oil.  Bake in a 200°c/400°f oven turning a few times if it is browning to quickly reduce the heat.  Depending on the size you make, it should take about 15-20 minutes to cook.


Thursday, 21 June 2012

Summer evenings....

       Summertime and we get to eat outside with friends. I marinated artichokes in lemon and oil, olives, tomatoes with salt, I grilled some chicken breasts, that I marinated in smoked salt oil and fresh dill with a hint of lime juice.  I also grilled some bread on the barbecue and made a mix of smoked salmon and fresh cream cheese with pink peppercorns. I also used some duck rillette from the butcher. Some Champagne.... it doesn't get much better and our dog had the lamb bone from the main course.

 Butterflied Leg of lamb.

 I just cut out the bone and rubbed in a blend of Indian spice, a Korma blend (including ground coriander, turmeric, cumin, caraway seeds, celery seeds, onion powder...) is good but a mix of your favourite spices will work just as well. I kept it dry as I wanted the natural fats to be drawn out and make a slight crust. you can make it thinner but I like the different variations on cooking, so you had crispy edges and still pink in the middle. I put this on the grill for no more than 20 minutes because it was heated to its maximum ( it was reading 500c... yes C could have done horse shoes on it). I seared both sides quickly and reduced the temperature to an mid heat. Then I wrapped it for 15 minutes to carry on cooking and relax. You could cook it longer for lower if your Barbecue has no lid. I sliced the joint across ways.

Cheese and salad followed and we finished up with a Strawberry tart with and almond pastry cream.

Then stars and a fire and some coffee........ or Calvados!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Tomato Crumble and Roasted Goat cheese

This is nice for the summer when the tomatoes are tasty.  I make this when I have an excess of 'edging to ripe' tomatoes.  Today I used smaller tomatoes that we bought (over zealously!!) from the market last week - not enough to make a batch of chutney, but perfect for this.  I served it with a dressed green salad and roasted goat cheese rolled in black pepper.

For  4

About 600g -800g ripe and good quality tomatoes,
2 spring onions (scallions) or 2 shallots sliced very thinly,
12 basil leaves (more if you want).

Crumble top
 (I have chosen to not add any Parmesan cheese as we had enough cheese with the goat cheese. But by adding 50g -100g (depending on your taste), you can add a different element.

50g butter
25g olive oil
100g flour
30g ground hazel nuts or ground almonds (toast them in a non stick pan until lightly brown)
salt and pepper

Boil some water and pour into a bowl with the tomatoes in it, so it covers them all.  Wait 10 - 15 seconds and pour away and fill with cold water.  The skin should just peel off - you may want to cut across the base to help.  Half them and remove the seeds and juice.  If you have smaller ones, just pinch them softly to remove the pips.

Place into a dish the sliced onions and  tomatoes (cut side down), overlapping them so as they all fit tightly in.  Sprinkle the basil evenly and a little drizzle of olive oil over the top and season well.

For the crumble, add all the ingredients in a bowl and mix lightly with your finger tips.  There should be a basic 'sand texture' with an assortment of different sized pieces.  Pour the mix lightly over the tomatoes, making sure it is not pressed down.

Bake for about 20 minutes at 200°c /400°f 

It is best leave it to cool down a little and this is when I put the cheese into the turned off oven to warm through for 5 to 7 minutes.

Bon appétit !

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Some dinner...


To start the festivities, we had one artichoke heart each. Peeled and cooked off in lemon water. Slice and reheated in a little butter, thyme and lemon juice. I inserted slices of smoked filet mignon of pork (smoked by our butcher) in the artichoke.

To follow, grilled sea bream with a drizzle of olive oil just as it finishes cooking. Puff pastry with asparagus and a little spiced paprika oil underneath.

After the cheese and salad, we managed a little chocolate and strawberry cake with chocolate drizzle served with fresh strawberries and for a daring few, some cream with that too!!

Scones for Nathalie...

These are as light as you dare! See the recipe......

This will make 6 to 8 scones using a 7 cm cookie cutter.

250g flour  + some for dusting
30g sugar  (more if you like but think of all the jam going on!)
1 level table spoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
150g butter
2 eggs
60 to 100 ml of buttermilk
(Yes, if you are brave, you put more in, it's hard to work with if it's wetter, but they will rise more.
 Try adding more the second time you make them, they will still be good!)

Strawberry jam and very thick cream to serve

In a large bowl, mix  together sieved flour, sugar and baking powder.  Rub in the butter, but not overly as you want it to be a little flaky.  There still should be little clumps of elongated pieces of butter visible (if you can).  If you are not sure, just mix all the way until it resembles sand -  it will still taste good!

Make a well in the middle of the mixture.  Add the eggs (breaking them into a little bowl to check if they are fresh), then add the buttermilk mixing the two and incorporating the flour mix as you turn.  As, it will be moist, add a little flour to the outside so as to form a ball of dough.  If it is too wet, add some flour and mix again (but lightly).  Place the ball on a well floured surface.  Press down into a disc 4 cm high with your hand (roll if unsure), cut the scones out with your cookie cutter and dust with flour then remove the excess. Place them straight onto a baking sheet.

Bake in a 200°c/400°f for around 18 to 25 minutes.  They will be brown underneath because of the butter (but not burnt).   Check after 15 minutes. You could glaze them with egg or milk, but I like to just flip them to colour them for the last 2 or 3 minutes.

Tea is good but Pimm's or Champagne is a  real treat!!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Table's set....

As it is so grey today I have gone with more colour. The petals are from one of our peony bushes. Dinner is on its way.......

Salad days

This is not so much a recipe, just a concept of using a wider salad bowl to serve a main dish salad in. Being wide and shallow its just easier to help yourself. Here, I have loaded up the base with dressed green and red oak leaf salad leaves. I have added small mounds of potato salad. Wedge cut pieces of beetroot. Sliced butcher sausages deglazed with balsamic vinegar (in pan with a lid, brown the sausages in a little olive oil then reduce the  heat and cook for 50 minutes. Remove all the fat and put in 3 or 4 table spoons of balsamic vinegar and reduce that until sticky but not burnt).Let sausages stand so just warm or even leave to get cold. Finishing with sliced spring onions on top. Season and a little dressing over the top. For me, this would have been previously in three or more serving plates.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Jam season...

So jam season has started and we are on our second batch. We do about 2 or 3kgs at a time (except the cherries that topped over 100kgs last year. Not that we make that all into jam! We love making chutney and BBQ glazes from the cherries. Sadly not many cherries this year due to late frosts on the flowers.

 The recipes vary a little and with strawberry we have even three - soft set (which vanilla is added for an added note), old fashioned (solid!!) and one that is for cheese cake, which is bright and juicy as it is 'just' cooked. That stays in the fridge and has a short shelf life (not that it stays around that long)

So, the basic recipe is 2kg strawberries to 2kg 'jam' sugar (with added pectin) with the juice of 1 lemon. Softer set jams have less sugar and must be kept in a fridge. I add the sugar and press the fruit with a potato masher just enough to break them a little. Let stand half an hour. Bring to the boil removing the impurities that rise to the surface. Boil for  12 -18 minutes until thick enough (you can test it by putting a little on a plate in the freezer and seeing if it runs. Once you are pleased with the thickness, put into warm sterilised jars.


Thursday, 14 June 2012

Cutting and roasting chicken

This is how I like to section chicken to roast or to BBQ. Removing thigh bones but keeping breast meat on the bone so that cooking is even and finishes at the same time. Score the drum sticks to the bone to cook quicker. I would cook this for 1hour 10/15 minutes (a little more if a very big chicken). At about 175°C or 340°F. Once cooked, rest it up for ten minutes (please, if you can, it will relax a bit and be more juicy and tender for it).

Today I had let it marinate in olive oil, handful of fresh marjoram, salt, white and black pepper. A good few hours in the fridge if you can. To the left, you can see I have sliced one of the breast on the bone removing the skin first. We served this with a big green salad. Dressing recipe to follow!

To follow, strawberries from the garden. We have a few kilos ready and waiting to be picked, so jam making tomorrow....

Bee Hives

We only have 4 hives at the moment. Due to harsh winters we have lost some smaller hives over the past few years. 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Veal in a tapenade crust

Veal in a tapenade crust on a puree of aubergine and red peppers, roasted almonds and spaghetti of courgette...

for two

450g fillet of veal, sliced into 3cm steaks

coated in

2 tab Sp Tapenade (black or green)
2 tab Sp breadcrumbs
3 tab Sp olive oil

Use a small spoon to press on the mixture over the meat (all over or just on top if you prefer)
Place on an oiled nonstick tray (put into the fridge for an hour to marinate and set if you can)

Roast in 190/200 oven with a handful of organic almonds in their skins (little oil on these) put them in the middle so they don't burn (remove nuts if getting too dark) they both should cook both for 9 to 12 minutes turn half way or more if you have thicker meat or don't want it pink.

While meat is baking, blend up the precooked aubergine and reheat (peeled aubergine cubed and diced pepper, salt and olive oil in a pan with a lid. Takes half an hour or so)

Heat through for few minutes courgette (cut with a julienne cutter)

A few pictures

Time to meet our pug.... Mr. Aston Martin

A wet view to the back of our kitchen, the window herb box and our outside fire place.....

A view to the front.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

To begin.....

For the conversion table see below...

Potage Minestrone
Welcome and thank you for stopping by. I think this blog needs a beginning, so I have chosen a minestrone soup, which was the first thing I cooked 22 years ago, aged 22 on my first day of cooking school. It was in the end a humbling experience as I was expecting to cook some elaborate lobster dish. So, a little crossly I calmly watched, easy I thought. Then we went to make it and everything had to be cut exactly to a precise size. Which was fun but then we tasted it and I was so excited. Amazing, so much from so little and not a stock cube in sight. I 'got it' that first day so simple yet everything in a bowl. Ever since, it has become my re-boot button for my life. I use it to comfort, reassure or just resource and remember. We have all much to learn whatever age we are......

400g white beans (soak overnight and cook an hour or good quality ones from a jar)
100g streaky bacon /lardons
200g carrots
100g green cabbage
6 shallots
1 leek
200g potatoes
300g skinned and seeded tomatoes
2 litres of water
100g linguine or spaghetti (broken up)
1 courgette
salt and pepper

Cut all vegetables into small dice. Cook diced bacon until brown. Add shallots and colour a little add  beans and vegetables except courgettes (you can really add any vegetables you like,  peas, board beans, turnips ....) add the water and cook for 15 minutes then add the pasta and courgettes for the further 10 minutes. Season well and put basil in just before serving,  keeping  some to garnish.



One stick of butter is 1/4 pound or about 110 grams. 
Butter in the US is sold in one pound boxes, each box containing 4 sticks.

All-purpose Flour                                   Liquids

Cups / Grams
1/8 cup / 15 grams
1/4 cup / 30 grams                                                      1 ml = fifth of a teaspoon
1/3 cup / 40 grams                                                       5 ml = 1 teaspoon
3/8 cup / 45 grams                                                      15 ml = 1 tablespoon
1/2 cup / 60 grams                                                     100 ml = 3.4 fluid oz
5/8 cup / 70 grams                                                      240 ml = 1 cup 
2/3 cup / 75 grams                                                  1 Litre = 34 fluid oz = 2.1 pints = 4.2 cups
3/4 cup / 85 grams
7/8 cup / 100 grams
1 cup / 110 grams

Butter / Margarine

Cups / Grams
1/8 cup / 30 grams
1/4 cup / 55 grams
1/3 cup / 75 grams
3/8 cup / 85 grams
1/2 cup / 115 grams
5/8 cup / 140 grams
2/3 cup / 150 grams
3/4 cup / 170 grams
7/8 cup / 200 grams
1 cup / 225 grams

1 ounce             30 grams            
2  "                55  "               
3  "                85  "               
4  "                115 "               
8  "                225 "              
16 "                455 " 
Fahrenheit          Celsius
32 degrees          0 degrees
212 "               100 "
250 "               120 "
275 "               140 "
300 "               150 "
325 "               160 "
350 "               180 "
375 "               190 "
400 "               200 "
425 "               220 "
450 "               230 "
475 "               240 "
500 "               260 "

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