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Pumpkin Gratin

Making use of seasonal vegetables and finding just the ones you are looking for at the market is always a pleasure.
Halloween is over now but pumpkins are still available. The sliced ones are better but if you do not wish to cut the hard skin and chop the flesh, you can find pre-packed, sliced pumpkin or butternut squash easily in supermarkets.

As an accompaniment to a roast, this gratin works well.
If you prefer a fat-free dish, replace the cream with skimmed milk and use toasted breadcrumbs instead of Parmesan.
It should please anyone who is a vegetarian.

Alternatively, by adding a little more milk/cream, this can become a delicious pumpkin soup to warm you up on any cold day.
Adding some unsweetened chestnut purée will give it a very distinctive flavour.

Serves 4:

1 big slice of pumpkin, de-seeded and with the skin removed
1 big carrot, peeled and sliced
1 big onion, peeled and sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
100ml of single cream
A handful of coriander leaves, rinsed
2 tablespoons of grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to season

1. Place all the vegetables and the coriander in a pressure cooker and cook for 5 minutes.

2. Whizz in a liquidizer and add the cream and the Parmesan.

3. Pour the mixture in an oven proof dish and cook for 10 minutes at 200C.

4. Serve immediately.

Bon Appétit!

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Pâte de Coing or Quince Fruit Jelly

November has brought another fruit which can not be eaten raw but which signals the preparations for Christmas. It looks like a big pear and when cooked turns a beautiful colour, semi pink or light brown. I am making Quince Jelly. This is one of the 13 traditional desserts in Provence and its origin is probably found in the fact that the fruit was ripe in November and it was cheap to make another simple dessert for the Big Supper of Christmas Eve. It remains a delicacy and the aroma of the cooking quince fills the kitchen with childhood memories. Rather than preserving the fruit by making jam, this is another way of enjoying it. In spite of the sugar needed, it is very healthy as it does not contain any colouring or preservative. In Spain it is served with strong cheeses to create a balance of savours. You need: 1 quince Juice of 1 lemon Preserving sugar A pressure cooker ( if you don’t have one, use a saucepan but it will take much longer to cook the fruit as it has a dense flesh). 1. Rinse and peel the quince. Core and quarter it and put it in a pressure cooker with just enough water to cover it. Quince vary in size and it is difficult to say exactly how much water will be needed. 2. After 5 minutes under pressure, the fruit should be soft enough. Open the pressure cooker and check. If you cook it in a saucepan, it may take up to 40 minutes. 3. Whizz with a liquidizer and measure the mixture in a measuring jug. For 500 ml of mixture add 500g of sugar. The quantity of sugar has to be equal to the quantity of fruit mixture. 4. Put the mixture in the pressure cooker without the lid or in a jam making pan and add the lemon juice. 5. Bring to a fast boil for 6 or 7 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. 6. Check that setting point is reached and pour in a large Pyrex dish, making sure that the thickness of the jelly does not exceed 2 cms. Let it cool and leave in the fridge for 2 days. Then, remove it delicately and place it on greaseproof paper to dry in a cool, dark place. The longer you leave it to dry, the firmer the “pâte” will be. Turn the quince fruit jelly every 2 days to allow even drying. 7. Cut it into thick fingers or lozenges and cover with caster sugar. 8. Keep it in a biscuit tin until Christmas Eve or before if you can not resist eating it. Enjoy!