Wednesday 31 October 2012


Hoping that everybody in America and Canada are safe and not suffering from the horrible effects that hurricane 'Sandy' has caused...

Happy Halloween to those of you participating in the festivities.

I have done two pumpkins, one to take to the party tonight and one for home because I am still a big kid, who has eaten way too much candy this afternoon - there is still a bucket left for later!!

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Pintade - Guinea fowl

This is a typical small midweek market in France, this one is in the town of Evreux.  The main event being on Saturday (usually).  I am always happy with the produce at this one as markets can vary.  There is a small poultry stand which has real farm birds that taste wonderful and I bought a guinea fowl for roasting.  They are like a leaner chicken with a very slight game taste to them.  If you eat at my home, you will think that I am generous with my time as I more often than not take the meat off the bone, but don't be fooled - I want the bones as they make a wonderful stock, these especially !!!

Before and after!!!
I roast guinea fowl a bit differently to chicken as the leg meat needs more cooking.  So as it is stuffed too, it had 2 hours in a low oven (160°C/325°F) - turning it down a bit for the last half hour. 
The stuffing was - one of a cup (125 g) of home-made dried bread crumbs, half a cup of milk (120 ml), one egg beaten, one apple grated, 4 chopped shallots, the liver from the bird cut in cubes, chopped parsley and chives (tablespoon of each), salt and pepper...
And a side of chips/fries cooked in goose fat and sunflower oil (1:4 ratio) with the skins left on (and a bowl each, so no fighting!!) with a green salad, we like this sort of combination for dinner...

Sunday 28 October 2012

Snow and mushrooms!

We had a light dusting of snow yesterday... most strange for this time of year!

These are the mushrooms I bought from the market this week - chestnut mushrooms, chanterelles and ceps. 

Fried off in butter separately as the chanterelles need less time.  I simply served them with a bowl of  tagliatelles in a cream sauce.  This way, you can choose what you want and enjoy the slightly different tastes.

Friday 26 October 2012

Blackberry and almond crunch ice cream (without a machine)...

 So, continuing from yesterdays' post, I will break down the steps!  The base is a Swiss meringue (cooked over steam which makes it very stable, as in it will not collapse on you !)

The fruit bit
I used two full cups (half a litre's worth) of blackberries to which I added about 2 tablespoons of sugar (to taste).  Cook so it softens and you have a syrup (about six minutes) and press a little to break some of the fruits.  Cool this and put in the fridge.  You can use any berries or soft fruit - just make sure they are cut in small pieces. 

The crunch  bit
 110 g / half cup (fine if you can find it) sugar
50 g/ half cup (but push down a bit) ground almonds 
                                                                                                         2  (below)                     

So photos here to help... into a small pan put in the sugar (1) and heat up on a medium heat, it won't colour for a minute -just wait, then start to move it around with a whisk but just around the edges.  Then it will  start to colour.  Keep a slow turning motion watching the sides until pale (2) (take off the heat if all going to quickly and just mix until you see it is even ).  Bringing it slowly to a mid amber colour (3).  Add in the almonds and stir for 20 seconds on the heat; pour onto the already waiting parchment paper (on an oven tray resting on a HEAT MAT: this stuff burns!). After it has cooled down, break up into pieces.

(Let the pan and whisk soak in water for 15 minutes, this will remove the sugar).

 The meringue bit
6 egg whites
225 g / 1 cup sugar
Whisk in a metal bowl over a pan of boiling water (with heat turned low);  beat for two minutes until the sugar has dissolved; keep whisking off the heat until doubled in size for another three minutes - it should be cool and firm.

The cream bit
360 ml / one and a half cups of  whipping cream
Whip until firm but not stiff, it should just hold.

Now, fold in the fruits in with the cream using a large metal spoon.  Then fold in the meringue softly.  Finally fold in the crunchy bits so evenly mixed.  If you intend to serve in slices put into a loaf tin lined with cling film (Saran wrap) or if you want to scoop it out, a plastic tub will be fine.

Good luck! 

Thursday 25 October 2012

Dinner...but more importantly ice cream...

Home-made flat breads, topped with roquette (arugula), parmesan cheese and smoked dried ham.  The other one, just black olives, minced ham and cheddar cheese...

The main was a baked (2.3 kg) whole Turbot, with roasted parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes with a lime cream sauce...

This was so good I rarely rave about deserts but it's a keeper, in fact a new staple. It doesn't look much but it is very soft and stays that way, even a few days later.  I have an ice cream machine and this came out better without it.  It is so good I have decided to devote a whole post with a step by step processes tomorrow.  It is not easy to do, but I shall hold your hand!!!

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Soup... for friends.

It is a simple soup, with the fun of the raw fish cooking in front of your eyes...
Japanese in style, but with a Normandy kiss as ever with tiny bâtons of apple.

The recipe is flexible in that you can change the fish and the stock.  You can adapt it to your personal taste.  You will need small bowls so the liquid stays hot (and cooks the fish quickly).  For some high drama, you could put the soup in a teapot so your guests help themselves...

My soup had :
1.2 litre/5 cups of fish stock (vegetable stock would be fine)
250 ml/1 cup fresh apple juice
12 lime leaves (2 batons of lemon grass would be nice too)
a 'thumbs' worth of sliced fresh ginger
juice of 1 lime
3 shallots sliced (1 red onion if not)
 2 or 3 table spoons of Ume Su  - (a salty plum vinegar - choose cider vinegar if not and some soya sauce)
pinch of saffron
pepper to taste (there should be enough salt, but just check)
an apple cut into bâtons or grated (do this at the end so it doesn't oxidise)
a piece of fish, sliced thinly (quantity is as you like) - I used cod, with three slices each

Simply put all the ingredients (less the apple bâtons and the fish!) in a pot to cook for a an hour on a simmer and strain - taste and adapt it until you are happy. 
(note the vinegar and apple juice balance each other and add  interest without being sweet or sour) 

Play with the flavours - it can really be what you want, adding spice or herbs as it's all about having fun!  Just remember to serve the soup boiling and let it stand a minute - one of our guest was scared it couldn't cook in time... it does! 

Monday 22 October 2012

Another little look inside!

I will run out of rooms at one point, but as we had guests this weekend I had a big tidy up last week and this is our 'children's guest room' - mainly for our nieces and nephews and friends' children when they come... (or arguing couples, it's always an option ...)
This weekends food is coming shortly...

Sunday 21 October 2012

Fresh sardines barbecued...

As a quick lunch, we often have fresh sardines on the barbecue (in all weathers!).  Apart from their health benefits, I think they just taste fantastic!  They are stuffed simply and served on grilled bread.  To prepare the fish, I pinch off the heads and the insides come out at the same time.  Putting them tummy side down push the back bone down, flip it over and all the bones will come out at once.  To make the stuffing (PER FISH) - mix a tablespoon of breadcrumbs, a teaspoon of olive oil and a half teaspoon of fresh herbs of your liking (dill, parsley, chives...)  and place in the cavity of the fish - salt and pepper the outside.  Grill for 2 minutes on each side.  The toast can be grilled at the same time.  A lightly dressed green salad goes very well with this dish.

Friday 19 October 2012

Roasted pork tenderloin fillet stuffed with shallots...

So, a recipe to use some of those garden shallots.  As you probably know, shallots will  add a delicate sweetness to any meat; they don't need the same cooking time as onions to soften. 
 First, in order to open up the pork for rolling up, I am subjecting you to an Ivan doodle because I think it will be clearer!  Cut down the middle, (1) but not right through; do the same thing on each side of the two sides (2) so it is like quarters.  Flatten out (3) and make more criss crosses (4) with your knife, making sure you don't cut right through.  To roll it up, you will start from the shorter right-hand side.
 Fry in two tablespoons of olive oil and four to six shallots sliced thinly.  Cook for two minutes adding in two tablespoons of bread crumbs and cook for another minute.  Place evenly on top of the opened out pork and roll from right to left tying it up with cooks string (or fixing with cocktail sticks)
 Brown the pork on all sides in the same pan.  Add a glass of red wine and half a glass of water; cook for 2 more minutes and then put into the oven at 200°c/400°f  for 20 to 35 minutes depending on the size of your fillet.  Remove the pork and wrap in foil for 15 minutes and put it in a warm place so it relaxes and finishes off cooking - it will be much more tender this way.  You can reduce the 'jus' meanwhile and finish it by adding a teaspoon of butter just at the end.

Have a good weekend!  At the moment, it is pouring with rain, but enjoy one of our sunsets taken at the beginning of the week from our back garden!

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Autumn drying...

We have had such a bad year in the vegetable garden, there is not a lot to dry our onions rotted but we managed to crop some shallots...
My adored fennel seeds are drying off inside and they smell amazing ...
 Aston is never dry, nor are my arms if I am stupid enough to wear a T-shirt!!
Lot of tongue for a little pup!

Monday 15 October 2012

Pommes de terre à la boulangère...

Or simply, sliced potatoes baked in the baker's oven (as not everyone owned a oven... a long time ago!), but a normal oven will do!

These are over looked for the creamy and sometimes cheesy "gratin dauphinois", which is fabulous but sometimes you need something plainer... but still very tasty! 

1 kg / 2 lbs waxy potatoes
3 shallots sliced
60 g / a quarter cup of butter or olive oil
1 litre/ 2 pints/ 4 cups of vegetable stock 
freshly chopped thyme (about heaped tablespoon)
Salt , pepper and nutmeg to taste (take into account the salt content of your stock!)

Quite simply slice the potatoes, skins on or off.  Slice thinly but don't wash as we want the starch to stick the slices together.   Oil or butter your dish and start layering them neatly and tightly.  For every layer, put in a little butter or olive oil, a few slices of shallots, thyme, a little nutmeg, pepper and a bit of stock.  Repeat the layers to the top.  Bake in a hot oven of 200°c / 400°f  for an hour or until you knife goes in the middle and there is no resistance.  All the stock should have boil away.

Friday 12 October 2012

A few images...

 Some of the dried flowers, now in place...

and some more in our hall way.
 A peep into the living room (sun set and midday)

Pug patrol... and one of the metal grilles on the entrance doors.

Brickwork, circa 1903.

Trees at the back... beautiful except for the conkers we have to pick up at the moment!

 Apple crop, some this year but about a tenth of last year's crop!!!

Garage, stables and guest apartment..

Thursday 11 October 2012

Simple soup...

Chickpea and lime soup.

So don't be alarmed by the lack of ingredients or by the lack of any Moroccan spices (which I like, but just try this without - it may surprise you!).  This is a good example of 'less is more' and also shows you how you can thicken sauces, soups and jus without using flour.  Some soups are almost sauces as their consistency can be heavy, but here you will see the difference!  Apart from being good for you, there is something safe and sure about this soup, that is just... simple - in a nice way.

400g /14oz chickpeas (cooked weight)
2 shallots chopped
500ml/ 2 cups of water or stock
1 lime
salt and black pepper to taste (less if using stock)

Try to find precooked chickpeas that are in a glass jar, failing that in a tin/can or pre-soak and cook some yourself.
In a pan put the water, chickpeas and shallots and cook for 5 minutes, then using a hand blender (or processor) blitz it up until very smooth and reduce over a medium-low heat for 15 minutes or until you like the thickness - not too much, as it becomes hummus!
Adjust the seasoning and squeeze the juice of  half a lime in, mix and taste adding more lime if needed.
Serve with warm and crusty bread!

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Cockles in a box...

Cockles are something I like to buy when I see them at my fishmonger - not always available but fairly common place (they are small salt-water clams).  They do need a lot of rinsing as they live in the sand and the best way to do this is in the sink pushing them around like the tide would;  they say that they should change their water 4 times before cooking them, you can see the water change from clear to sandy.

Starter for 4
1 kg (2 lbs)  cockles - resulting in 160g/ 5.5oz of seafood 
(or clams, seafood...)
1 cup/ 240ml cream
bunch of coriander/cilantro (or herb of your choice - dill, parsley...)
puff pastry (around 350g/12oz block )

1.Clean the cockles in plenty of water; I move them about in the water and leave them 5 minutes - repeat this 4 times.  Discard any that are opened.
2. Roll out your puff pastry to 24cm long x 12cm wide x 1 deep (12 x 6 inches x half inch deep); cut this into four and lightly score the tops as in the photo below.  Bake off for 20 minutes at 200°c/390°f.  Cool completely, then slice off the lid and cut out the middle like the photo below, using a sharp knife.

3. Cook the cockles in a few tablespoons of water until they open (use a pan with a lid).  Take out the cockles from their shells - keep the cooking liquid to one side.
4. Reduce the cream for 5 minutes, add in the chopped herbs and some of the cooking liquid - leave off the last bit as there may be sand in it.  Reduce this further until you are pleased with the consistency. 
5. When ready to serve, put the cockles in the sauce and reheat the pastry in the oven.
6. Fill the cases and dress plate as desired.

Sunday 7 October 2012

Stuffed aubergines(eggplant) with red onion and cashew nuts...

This starter looks small because it was!  I had factored in the other element of the dinner, such as the tray of oysters, crudités and what was to follow.  So I decided to go with one each (I had made two each in case, but they were really good for lunch today cold!)  The sauce (dressing really) was coriander (cilantro) in olive oil.

For 8-12 rolls (depending on size and how sharp your knife is!)

3 big aubergines/eggplants
1 cup/140g of cashew nuts
 (roast in the oven for five minutes- if they are not already roasted ones)
4 red onions
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
olive oil
one bunch of  coriander/cilantro
2 tablespoons of wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Take two of the aubergines and slice them lengthways discard the sides as they are just skin and too short to roll.  Depending how many slices you make will determine how many rolls you have - so section it off in your head first as they should be about 1.5 cm (just over half an inch) wide.  Put into a bowl and salt each side lightly and let them de-gorge their water for at least half an hour.  Put them on a baking tray (with a lip to the sides as the oil releases itself once they are cooked) and paint on some olive oil with a pastry brush, so the oil is spread evenly - on both sides.   In an oven of  180°c/350°f, bake them for about 30 minutes or until browned and soft turning half way (roast the nuts at the same time as the aubergines).

The other aubergine is for the stuffing;  peel this one and cube into small dices (the size of your little finger tip) and salt this as indicated above.  Slice the onions and slowly cook them off in olive oil, until they are dark and soft;  this can take 20 minutes.  Remove them and cook the aubergines in the same way adding a little olive oil when needed.  Once soft, put back in the onions, the chopped parsley and half the nuts (also chopped), stir everything and add the vinegar -stir once again, turn off the heat and add some pepper but not salt as the aubergines have already been salted and let cool.

Assemble the slices putting in the stuffing and rolling them up, leaving the seam underneath. They are good hot or cold.  If you are serving them warm, just leave on a low heat for 15 minutes so they are not burning hot.  I added the sauce and some extra chopped nuts to serve.

The sauce was made using the whole bunch of coriander/cilantro (including the stalks or should I say especially the stalks, as they have the most flavour).  Simple chop finely with a few tablespoons of olive oil and some salt to taste.

NOTE : you may very well want to put cheese with this, but as we had a (big!) cheese course, I did not want to use any beforehand - so go ahead as it would also work well in or on top, melted.

Friday 5 October 2012

Pain d'épices...

This is a spiced honey cake/bread, the dominant spice being ginger, but there are back notes of  cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pepper and not forgetting aniseed, which is very important for the balance of spices.  In France it is eaten all year long, but we tend to see it used more around this time of year and at Christmas.  Often used with foie gras, it makes for a good marriage with the mixing of liver and the sweet, spicy taste of the "cake".  For this use, I like to slice it thinly and grill it, putting on the foie gras just after it has cooled a little, but warm enough to gently start melting the foie gras... I am digressing as I have made this for dessert, for dinner tomorrow.  I am not super organised -  it is just the draw back with this recipe is that it has to rest for TWO days!  I know you are going to slice a piece off (as I do every time) to taste, just out of the oven, but in two days' time, you wonder why you wasted that slice... control!  The honey needs to do its thing and soak itself into the loaf.  It changes from loaf to cake - day five is even better!  The plus point is there is no added fat and I have tried it with butter but liked it without, the waiting part helps it to moisten and infuse the aromas and develop the tastes, so why not!

For one loaf... 
 (tin size 28x10cms / 11x4 inches)

2 cups/250g  wholemeal (whole-wheat flour) (or a mix of half white and half wholemeal - it will come out lighter in colour, down to preferance).
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 cup + 2 tablespoons/ 375g  honey (of your choice - darker ones giving a darker bake)
half cup/120ml of milk
1 egg
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 teaspoon of aniseed (crushed)
A  half teaspoon of black pepper or chilli for fun!
1 teaspoon of lemon juice 

1) Mix the flour with the spices evenly first, so you don't over mix the cake batter when the milk goes in.
2) If you have hard honey, melt it gently over a very low heat;  add in the milk off the heat and mix into the flour, adding the egg to the cake batter after the first turn (heat and  the egg white are not a good mix!). Just mix until it all looks the same consistency, but not too much.
3) Butter and flour your tin (use parchment paper if your tin is older!)
4) Pour in the cake batter, smoothing it over and place on the middle shelf of a heated oven at 170°F/340°C
5) Bake for 40 minutes. 
6) Cool on a baking rack and  once cold, double wrap in cling film/Saran wrap and keep in a cool place, but not the fridge.

I will be using this with sliced-spiced-marinated oranges tomorrow, see update below...


Slices of oranges, marinated in a syrup of honey, orange flower water and cardamom seeds...

The syrup
Bring to a simmer a quarter cup of water, half a cup of orange flower water and a teaspoon of crushed cardamom pods.  Cook for 5 minutes strain, then while warm but not hot, add in half a cup of honey.  Let this cool and pour over the oranges for at least 2 hours remembering to rotate the slices a few times.

Wednesday 3 October 2012


My dear friend Laura Calder kindly mentioned my blog on Twitter and Facebook earlier today, so I would like to thank her and welcome all the new people coming to my site.  She is back in Paris working on another wonderful book that I was allowed to have a sneaky peek at and I can guarantee it's her best yet!  If you find her an inspiration on her TV programs, she is all that and a lot more in real life, with a beautiful soul!

Hard at work in the Normandy kitchen...

One of her delicious creations that may make the book...

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Poached rabbit and barley...

The rabbit is poached in wine, as opposed to being poached on a great estate!  I think the barley goes very well  to complement the earthiness of the rabbit. If you have never cooked barley or for that matter eaten it, then you should give it a go as variety in our diets is a good thing.  It does take a good hour of cooking but don't let that put you off.  Alternatively if rabbit is a no-no, then chicken could be used too!  There is no fat or dairy, yet it tastes good!!

Dinner for four
5 legs of rabbit (or a whole one)
350 ml / 0.75 pint white wine
2 litres/ 4 pints water
250g / 1 cup whole grain barley
1 organic vegetable stock cube (or dices vegetables)
to finish two tablespoons of grainy mustard

Put the wine in a large pan (with a lid) and put in the rabbit (or skinned chicken legs).  Bring to the boil and let simmer turning the legs after about 5 minutes, cook for a further 5 minutes so as to reduce the wine by half.  Add in the water and bring to the boil and put in your barley. Cook this for an hour on a low heat.  Always check the water has not boiled away and stir occasionally.  Remove the legs and strip off the meat.  The barley can take up to another 20 minutes (alternatively you can pre-soak the grains to speed this all up).  Once you are happy with the texture, add the meat back in and warm through.  I aim for it to be like a risotto with a little juice, but you can add in as much liquid as you wish just season to taste. Off the heat, I add in the mustard which just dresses the dish beautifully.  I served it with a side of steamed broccoli.  I hope you try it!
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