Wednesday 30 January 2013

Grilled Buckwheat...

Also known as Kasha and eaten in Russia and Eastern Europe, it is, once cooked, a fluffy soft grain with a delicious smoky taste due to it being previously toasted.  I served it here with shredded boiled chicken that I put into a bechamel sauce with some chicken stock and finished with a few tablespoons of tomato purée (known as an aurore sauce).  The Kasha can be bought from most health food stores - it is gluten free and  has good health benefits.

Serving 2   (with some left over to put in a soup!)
200 g / 1 cup of Kasha
2 cups of seasoned stock (I used the cooking liquid from the boiled chicken)

Put the liquid in a pan and bring to the boil. Put in the Kasha and cook for about 12 minutes, letting it stand for about 10 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning if needed. Stir in some butter or olive oil if desired.

Saturday 26 January 2013

Smoked haddock and spinach lasagna.

This different take on lasagna is one of my favourites.  Imagine smoky fish and garden spinach, that is topped with a creamy sauce with a crisp parmesan crust...

Using home-made pasta  (click the link) or pre-made sheets.
700 g (1 1/2 lb ) fresh spinach (or about 450 g or 1 lb  frozen)
1 fillet of large haddock (or 2 smaller fillets)

Bechamel sauce
40 g / 1/3 cup flour
55 g  / 1/4 cup butter
750 ml / 3 cups milk and cream mixed (I like 2/3 milk to 1/3 cream)
salt and some nutmeg, thyme or chives

parmesan or cheese of your choice (enough to cover the top)
few tablespoons of bread crumbs


Make the pasta and roll out into sheets or follow the instructions on your packet if using dried (i.e. if you need to precook them or not).
Cook the fresh spinach for a few minutes and press out excess water (the same for frozen press out the water - no need to cook).
Make the bechamel sauce, melting the butter and adding in the flour.  Whisk in the liquid, a bit at a time, and add in salt and some nutmeg, thyme or chives. 
Skin the fish and remove any bones. Cut the fish in to small pieces.
Layer the lasagna with a bit of everything until you fill your dish (keeping a third of the bechamel for the top!).  Pour on the rest of the sauce over the top and grate on the cheese on adding the bread crumbs. Bake for 55- 60 minutes (It needs to be bubbling!) at 180°c/350°f

Wednesday 23 January 2013

John Dory...

The 'John Dory' fish is known as 'St-Pierre' in French and is my fish of choice. It is fished off from the Normandy coast.  It has a beautiful taste and a firm flesh.

The fillets are lightly pan fried a few minutes each side in butter.  A little cider is added just at the end of the cooking, with a pinch of cayenne pepper.

The base is basmati rice with grated carrots.

Sunday 20 January 2013

Baked Courgettes with garlic and an orange bell pepper purée...

 A quick post for a side dish or a lunch when you have eaten too much the night before!!!

I used three sliced courgettes (zucchini) for two people, with a finely dice clove of garlic and a tiny drizzle of olive oil.  Bake in the oven for 25 minutes at 200°c / 400°f.

The purée adds a bit of extra taste.  While the courgettes are cooking, I blitz up an Orange bell pepper (or colour of your choice!) with the stalk and seeds removed.  Put into a small non-stick pan and cook for about 7-9 minutes to remove the moisture adding a tablespoon of vinegar at the end. It may need half teaspoon of honey to balance the acidity.  Once the courgettes are cooked using two teaspoons, place the purée on the top and serve.

Our snow as of yesterday....

Thursday 17 January 2013

Roses... in January!!!

I took this picture this morning. There are five roses in bloom at the front of our house.  Very unusual for this time of year (-5° c this morning).  The leaves are not too happy, but the buds seem to be thriving.

Monday 14 January 2013

A soup of three celeries...

I enjoy making soups and this one is a real winter treat.  There is not so much to it but it really is filling!

1 kg / 2 lb  celeriac (celery root)
450 g/ 1 lb  celery (stalks) 
3 to 4 tablespoons of cashew nut purée (health food store or whiz up your own)
1 teaspoon of crushed celery seeds (you can use celery salt but add less and make the stock weaker - you don't want to over salt it)
1.5 (just over 6 cups) litres of vegetable stock

Peel and dice the celery root into cubes and put in a large pot to cook with the vegetable stock.  The celery stalks need to be cut across the grain finely or the soup will be stringy. You can also use a peeler to remove the outside. Add the cut celery stalks to the pot and cook this all for half an hour until the root is soft.  Blend the soup in a machine in small batches if it is hot (allow for the steam to push up!) or use a hand blender in the pot directly.  Add in the purée of cashews and blend again until smooth.  Adjust the seasoning (salt and black pepper) and add water if too thick or reduce if too thin! Garnish with a few cashew nuts.

This will warm your soul... and with no cream! (I am still trying to be a bit good!!)

Saturday 12 January 2013

Goat cheese Tart...

This is a CRUSTLESS and quick goat cheese (or any cheese for that matter) tart, that I make for lunch to finish up cheese that just won't get eaten.  The crust is just about there in a form of a few breadcrumbs and butter (so they stay in place!), this is necessary so you can turn out the tart to serve.

  First, generously butter a cake tin and sprinkle with a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs (leaving the excess in the base), then place this in the fridge to chill down while the oven heats up to 200°c/ 400°f.

6 eggs
480 ml / 2 cups of milk and cream 
(you decide how much of each, but I quite like one of each)

85 g/ 3 oz of goat cheese (more or less as you want)
2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese
salt and pepper (I used pink peppercorns as they go well with goat cheese)

Mix in a bowl the eggs, milk and cream (salt and pepper).  Gently pour the liquid into the tin (which has chilled for at least 10 minutes).  I like to dot around the cut up goat cheese evenly and then sprinkle the parmesan on the top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes so the middle is set firm.  Let stand for 30 minutes before turning out onto a board and then flip back over onto a plate.  Eat warm or cold.  I sometimes make in a square tin and cut into cubes to serve as aperitif ...  

Thursday 10 January 2013

Bernay...a page of history!

Today, I would like to share a bit of history of our town, Bernay (Bernaicum in latin) founded by Judith of Brittany, daughter of Richard II, in 1010.  The records of the first Abbott in 1050 refer to a man named Vital who was later on appointed in 1076 by William the Conqueror
 head of Westminster Abbey in England.
 Here is a view of the north side of the church made of wood panelling, something you don't see often. 

Here, you have the same view by night! 

The front of the church was rebuilt in the 17th century in a classical renaissance style.
Unfortunately, at the Revolution, the Abbey was abandoned
 and after being used by the municipality for storage for a long period of time,
it was refurbished in 1968 and used since for exhibitions and concerts. It is quite beautiful inside, I shall take some photos the next time we go to a concert.

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Meat balls in red wine sauce...

This is beautiful comfort food, but not as rich as it may appear.  The very lean beef is accompanied with a white bean purée that has no butter or dairy and the spinach is flash cooked in seconds with only a drizzle of olive oil.
It has all the filling taste needed for a cold winter, but is nicely balanced.

The meat balls (for 4) :

500 g / 1 lb lean minced/ground beef
70 g/ 3/4 cup bread crumbs
 (I use large chopped home-made crumbs from old bread dried in the oven, use up to a cup if bigger)
120 ml / 1/2 cup of milk
1 onion finely chopped
1 egg
2 tablespoons of dried chives
2 teaspoons of thyme
flour to roll your meat balls in

240 ml to 480 ml (1 to 2 cups) of red wine - depending on how rich you want your sauce and what you have to hand!
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
(possibly, half a teaspoon of honey if the tomato paste is acidic)

In a bowl, soak the breadcrumbs with the milk for ten minutes - this makes the meat balls tender. Mix together thoroughly the beef, the chopped onion, the herbs and the egg.  Spread some flour on a board, shape the balls by using all your finger tips pressing together, but not too hard as you don't want to over work them; put them on to the board and lightly roll them across (the flour will thicken the sauce).  I made thirty with this mixture, but you can make them to the size you want.  Fry them until they are browned, add the wine and cook for 8 - 10 minutes to reduce the wine.  Add 480 ml (2 cups) of water and cook on a low heat after you have brought it to the boil.  Add in the tomato paste and season to taste.  Cook through for about 25 - 35 minutes or more if the meat is less lean (add more water if needed).

The bean purée is just made of white beans (that are precooked) from a jar, blended with a few tablespoons of water, heated in a non-stick pan to the desired thickness and well seasoned.  You don't need any butter for the bean purée, just a splash of olive oil. 

The fresh spinach goes into a cold pan with just a tablespoon or two of olive oil  - do this just before serving when everything is cooked.  Keep turning the spinach as it warms.  Once the pan is hot, cut the heat and keep turning.  Total cooking time is 90 seconds,  it should still have a crunch to it - season well. 

Sunday 6 January 2013

Galette des Rois..

This traditional French dish is made for Epiphany 
(when the three kings brought their gifts to the newborn infant Jesus).
One has to hide a dry bean (today they put a figurine in porcelain) and the one who finds it becomes the king for the day and get to wear a crown. (Lucky them!)
Most people buy it in pastry shops, but click "read more" for the recipe :

Friday 4 January 2013

Back on track!

Hello, I must apologise for being silent, but I have been stuck in bed with a gastroenteritis, which is prevalent all over France at the moment except for my "made in Canada" partner who is resilient to any germs!!  The upside being my January diet is done and dusted !!

These pictures where taken in Paris on the Pont des Arts : the pedestrian bridge over the Seine loved by tourists.  The new fashion of binding your love with a lock engraved with your initials and throwing the key into the Seine has really taken off as you can see.  Not so many years back, we would cross this bridge a few times a week with our two pugs and we have so many wonderful memories there.  The romantic side of me would say that the gesture is lovely but having not walked by there in a few years, I was a bit taken back. It is so beautiful there and I just found it a bit out of place...
Tomorrow, service as normal as I shall be making a raspberry "galette des rois" for Epiphany on Sunday... 
Thank you to the new followers who have joined, I am really happy you joined us all!

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