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Tatin d’Aubergines

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Today, I do not want to make a ratatouille to serve with the lamb, so I’ll improvise with the aubergines and use the mushrooms and shallots I have. I tend to view my cooking as an adventure and it usually has a good outcome. Like everybody, I have had some disasters (my first Quiche Lorraine springs to mind) but I am confident about this dish.
Incidentally, it could be served as a main vegetarian course as well.
Above all, it is easy to make and very healthy.

Serves 4:

2 big aubergines, rinsed, top and tailed and cut in half, lengthwise
3 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
5 Portobello mushrooms, peeled and finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
A handful of fresh coriander leaves, rinsed and finely chopped
2 spoonfuls sunflower oil

1. Steam the aubergines for 5 minutes. Then take them out of the pressure cooker – or cooking pot – and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, sweat the shallots in a frying pan containing half a spoonful of oil. When the shallots are golden, add the rest of the oil, the mushrooms and the garlic and coriander. Keep stirring for 5 minutes.
3. Cut the aubergines in slices approximately 1 cm thick and line an oven-proof dish. Put the shallots and mushroom mixture on top and put in the oven at 200C for 10 minutes.
Serve immediately.

photo-29Bon Appétit!

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Tomato Chutney with a French twist

Preserving tomatoes for cold Winter days is the next task. This time it is not to make the green tomato jam of my childhood but a classic chutney.

1 kg ripe tomatoes, rinsed, peeled and diced
300g shallots, peeled and sliced
8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
50g crystallised ginger in small dice
300g demerara sugar
100ml red wine vinegar with shallots
50ml balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

1. Peel the tomatoes by dipping them quickly in a large bowl containing very hot water.
2. Place all the ingredients but only half the wine vinegar in a large cooking pot, preferably stainless steel as there is a lot of acidity in this mixture and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the jars by sterilising them in the oven at 100C for 10 minutes, placing them upside down on a rack, without the lids. Check that the glass is strong enough to withstand the heat.
4. When the fruit mixture looks soft, add the rest of the wine vinegar, bring to a rapid boil and check that it is setting.
5. Pour into the prepared jars, cover with wax paper to prevent the lids from corroding and turn upside down to create a vacuum.
6. Let the jars cool, label and store away from heat and direct sunlight, preferably in a cool place.

This should keep for up to a year, if you can resist eating it! Once opened, keep it in the fridge.
It is delicious served with cold meats, strong cheeses and charcuterie.

Bon Appétit!

Ratatouille

Another classic Provençal dish, this combines my favourite Summer vegetables but can be done at any time of the year because it is easy to source them. It is very versatile and a perfect example of the Mediterranean diet.
Served cold or hot, it complements any meat dish. It can be part of a couscous, served with couscous grain, stewed lamb and chick peas.
It can also be served with eggs which are lightly scrambled on top or folded into an omelette.
It can be the topping of a vegetarian pizza or part of a pasta dish.

Serves 6:

2 medium size courgettes, peeled and cut into rings
1 aubergine, rinsed and sliced
1 red pepper, rinsed, de-seeded and cut into thick pieces
1 green pepper, rinsed, de-seeded and cut into thick pieces
1/2 kilo ripe tomatoes, rinsed and quartered
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
A handful fresh basil leaves
2 soupspoonful olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Pour the olive oil into a large cooking pot, preferably made of cast iron and heat it up gently.
2. Fry the onion until golden, then add the aubergine, the peppers, the tomatoes and the garlic. After 5 minutes, add the courgettes and the basil.
3. Simmer for another 15 minutes.
4. Serve hot or cold.

Bon Appétit!

Note: For a fat- free version, put all the ingredients in a pressure cooker. (Check manufacturer’s instructions for cooking time).

Kouglof or King’s Crown

All the way from Vienna, a new take on a favourite of Queen Marie-Antoinette, although this version uses yoghurt, which may not have been the case in the 18th Century.
Ideal for afternoon tea or a leisurely breakfast, this is my aunt Hilda’s recipe which can be given many variations.
Guaranteed to brighten up your day as Autumn looms and days are getting shorter.
It freezes well so you can bake two and save one.
To make it even easier, use the empty yoghurt pot as a measure.

Serves 8 but beware, it smells so good when it comes out of the oven, you may be tempted to eat at least a half before it is cool!

1 natural yoghurt pot (150g)
3 yoghurt potful self-raising flour, sifted
2 yoghurt potful caster sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 yoghurt potful sunflower oil
1/2 yoghurt potful raisins
100g flaked almonds
1 small pinch salt
Butter and plain flour to line the cake
A Kouglof tin (Round cake tin with a hole in the middle)

1. Pre-heat the oven at 180C and line the cake tin.
2. Pour the natural yoghurt into a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and stir well.
3. Add the flour, mixing vigorously then add the eggs, one by one, stirring well. Put in the pinch of salt.
4. Pour the oil and mix well and finally add the raisins.
5. Line the bottom of the cake tin with the almonds.
6. Pour the cake mixture evenly on top.
7. Bake for 50 minutes at 180C or until the top of the cake is golden.
8. Take out the cake and prick it with a fork . If it comes out clean, the cake is perfectly cooked.
9. Leave it in the tin on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before taking it out.
10.Serve upside down so that it is crowned with the almonds.

This cake is best served with black coffee, hot chocolate or a fragrant tea.

You can use glacé cherries, desiccated coconut or orange peel to mix in the cake mixture.

For another variation, separate the cake mixture into 2 equal parts and add 1 soupspoonful of pure cocoa to one half of the mixture. Then alternate the two mixtures to obtain a marble effect. Be careful with the pure cocoa as too much will dry out the cake mixture.

Bon Appétit!

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Soupe au Pistou, a traditional Summer Soup from Provence

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This is a very substantial soup so it is better to serve it as a main dish rather than a starter. It is infused with the strong flavours of vegetables ripened in the sun. For this reason, its flavours come through best when served just a little hotter than lukewarm.

Although it is a Summer soup, it will be very warming in the middle of Winter too.

Serves 6 – or 4 with a big appetite!

300g runner beans, rinsed, top and tailed and cut into 2cm pieces
300g kidney beans, shelled
300g borlotti beans, shelled
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into smallish cubes
2 courgettes, peeled and cut into smallish cubes
2 large, ripe tomatoes, rinsed and quartered
2 onions, peeled and quartered
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves, rinsed
100g tagliatelle, broken into 2cm pieces
200g grated Emmental cheese
3 soupspoonful olive oil
2 litres water
Salt and pepper

1. Put the beans into a big cooking pot containing the 2 litres of water and some salt. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 1 hour.
2. Add the potatoes, onions, courgettes, tomatoes, a little pepper and the tagliatelle and cook for another 30 minutes without the lid on, checking that there is still sufficient water to cover the vegetables.
3. Meanwhile, put the garlic cloves and the basil leaves in a mortar and add the olive oil gradually, crushing with a pestle.
4. When the soup looks very thick, turn off the heat and add the mixture of garlic and basil, (the “pistou”).
5. Pour into a big tureen and serve with the grated Emmental.

Bon Appétit!

Note: If fresh kidney beans and borlotti beans are not available, tinned beans can be used but their cooking time must be reduced since they are already cooked.

The “pistou”, very similar to pesto, makes a delicious sauce for pasta.

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Pâtissons Farcis

 

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I discovered these lovely pâtissons at the stall of my favourite greengrocer on the market and decided they would make a slightly different dish from the stuffed courgettes I had made the previous week.

They looked almost too good to cut and some visitors thought they were little cakes, resembling yellow muffins.
Having made a cream of mushrooms the day before, I still had quite a few button mushrooms left and chose to use them for the filling.

Serves 2:

2 pâtissons or small round yellow courgettes
5 big button mushrooms, peeled and sliced very thinly.
100g pancetta

1. Rinse the pâtissons and cut them in half, horizontally.

2. Steam them for 10 minutes in a pressure cooker as the skin is fairly tough.

3. Meanwhile, put the pancetta in a non-stick frying pan and stir regularly.You do not need any fat as the pancetta is fat enough. After 5 minutes, add the mushrooms. Stir for a further 5 minutes. Reserve.

4. Take out the pâtissons halves and scoop out the seeds, keeping some of the flesh.
5. Add the mushroom and pancetta filling and place in an oven-proof dish in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 10 minutes.

Bon Appétit!

Note: 1. The skin is not edible but looks pretty.

2. For a vegetarian option, omit the pancetta.

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Gratin de Courgettes

Courgettes are one of my favourite vegetables and I always find a way to prepare them either as a main course with stuffing or as an accompaniment like this gratin.
I chose to steam the vegetables as it is a healthier option. The fat and proteins were provided by the Crème de Brie which I found in my local supermarket.
I will probably use this creamed cheese for gratins from now on.

Serves 4:

2 big courgettes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 big leek, rinsed and cut into rings
A teaspoon of celery salt
100g of crème de Brie
A handful of flat leaf parsley

1. Steam the vegetables.
2. Put them in an oven-proof dish and mix in the celery salt, the parsley and the crème de Brie.
3. Place in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 15 minutes.

Serve as an accompaniment to meat or fish or on its own.

Bon Appétit!