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Planteur and Ti’ Punch or the perfect cocktails to go with accras

In my last post of Accras ( small cod bites), I mentioned the rum cocktails that they are served with.
These cocktails are probably the most famous cocktails of Martinique and Guadeloupe and give a real meaning to the expression “sun downers” when you can watch the sun disappear over the horizon from a terrace overlooking the Caribbean. All you need to add is some talented pianist in the background or a band playing zouk music.

Short of being there, the next best thing is to make those cocktails and invite a few friends to share them with.

To start with, try to find some good white rum. In Martinique and Guadeloupe, the best is “Rhum Agricole”, meaning it is still made in a traditional way from freshly-pressed sugar cane juice.
You will also need to use the pure sugar cane syrup but if you cannot find it, make your own by dissolving 125g caster sugar in 100ml water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and remove from heat immediately or you will end up with caramel !

Ti’Punch

60 ml white rum
20ml sugar cane syrup
1/2 lime cut into chunks
A cooled tumbler

1. Crush the lime in the glass and add the sugar cane syrup.
2. Add the rum and stir.
3. Decorate with a slice of lime.

Planteur

200 ml white rum
50ml sugar cane syrup
50ml of guava juice
50ml passion fruit juice
Juice of 1 lime
Grated nutmeg
Crushed ice

1. Pour the rum, fruit juices and sugar syrup and crushed ice in a cocktail shaker.
2. Grate the nutmeg.
3. Shake and pour into a tall cooled glass.
4. Decorate with a slice of lime.

Enjoy with a plate of freshly cooked accras.

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Accras or Small Cod Bites

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To banish the Winter blues and escape to the French West Indies at least during the time of a meal, Virginie and I did a few “accras” for a charity event at my local health club. This took the shape of a cookery class for those members adventurous enough to join us.

The choice of accras was an obvious one as they are one of my favourite dishes from Martinique and Guadeloupe and a classic of French West Indian cuisine.
To be plunged into a proper West Indian ambience, you need a good rum punch and some “zouk” music. More later about how to make a “Planteur” (rum punch) or a “Ti Punch”.
I first learnt to make Accras in Martinique and the recipe I was given by a lovely lady called Marie is for 40 people. At the time, I thought I would always have to reduce the quantities but it proved to be useful when two years ago I made some for a large wedding party.

So what makes those accras so attractive? First of all, they are very tasty and go very well with a rum punch. Secondly, you can choose to eat them as appetizers, as in the West Indies, or as a main course, served with a salad. You may even take them on a picnic or in lunch box or even as a snack. They freeze well and this helps when you want to plan for a party.

Now, here is how to make them:

Serves 4:

2 chunks of salt cod, desalted overnight * if you use unsalted cod, add a little salt
1large onion, peeled and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 small chilli pepper and Cayenne pepper

500ml of oil

Pancake mixture with a few drops of beer to make it fluffier

1. Steam the fish with the sliced onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Drain and separate the flesh with a fork. Remove the bones and the skin.

2. Add the parsley, pepper and chilli.

3. Fold into the pancake mixture.

4. Use a teaspoon to shape the mixture into small balls and deep fry for 3 minutes until golden.

5. Remove from heat and place on kitchen roll to absorb excess fat.

Bon Appétit!

This Christmas we decided to have some as appetizers before our lunch, instead of the anchoïade and tapenades I normally do and it made a nice alternative.

In spite of having to desalt the fish overnight, I still prefer to use salt cod as it is tastier and the bones add to the flavour. They are easy to remove when the fish is cooked because they are very big and very visible.

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Pâté de Sardines

It is January and time to think of simple food after all the Christmas excesses.
Here is a delicious pâté my father used to make as an appetizer with pre-lunch drinks.
It can also be served as a starter with a salad or even a sandwich filler.
If you like sardines on toast, this will be a new take on that classic snack.
The acidity of the red onion combines well with the white wine vinegar to balance the taste of the fish.

For the sake of simplicity I use tinned sardines, but you can use fresh ones and grill them.
If you do like the smell of sardines as they grill. ….

You need:

Slices of country bread or rye bread
2 tins sardines in olive oil, if possible boneless
A little white wine vinegar
50g unsalted butter
A few slices of red onion

1. Put the sardines, butter and vinegar in a blender and whizz.
2. Spread on the bread.
3. Decorate with the red onion slices

Bon Appétit!

Note: If you have children who do not like fish other than in a fish finger, you can shape the pâté to look like a fish. It will certainly amuse them.

The 13 Desserts of Provence

It’s not quite “The Bleak Midwinter” of the carol but the sunshine and the pure blue skies of Provence are calling. Two solutions to this: hop on a plane or recreate a little bit of Provence here. The second alternative is the easiest and the cheapest too and saves the hassle of travelling when everybody is doing so.

By far the most exciting part of the Christmas menus is the making of the Treize Desserts. (The number 13 refers to Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles at the Last Supper).

When people hear of this number of desserts, they think we are very greedy indeed. Not so, but instead of making a Christmas pudding and a Christmas cake, I prefer to keep to the beautiful traditions of Provence. We still eat the pudding and the cake, but I don’t make them.

There is no question of embarking on the preparation of something difficult, although it is a little time-consuming. It is still a pleasure as the whole family can join in the making of these little sweets. Normally they are consumed after the Gros Souper (Big Supper) which is eaten before going to the Midnight Mass. We eat them over the 12 Days of Christmas, and replenish them almost daily, depending on the sweet tooth of the family and guests.

I had started with the Pâte de Coing (Quince fruit Jelly) in November and made a slight variation with Quince and Apple fruit Jelly. Another jelly followed : gooseberry fruit jelly, the fruit being the only ones rescued from the onslaught of the pigeons on our fruit trees last Summer. Recipes follow.

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Then the dates, prunes and walnuts with a marzipan stuffing.  Again, something easy  and pleasant to nibble on with a glass of champagne or liqueur. Recipes to follow.

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The 2 nougats: the white and the black which are the symbols of good and evil,and the nougalettes, not made by me but by the marvellous confiseur in the little village of Saint Didier, in the Lubéron, who has the expertise I do not have. The calissons, also made by the same confiseur. I owe the discovery of the nougalettes to a much loved aunt who used to send us a big parcel of Provençal delicacies so that we could enjoy a traditional celebration of Christmas when we were not able to be in Provence.

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This year there was not enough time to do my own orangettes (candied orange peel coated in dark chocolate), so they were also bought and travelled from Paris.

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Then follow the 3 Mendiants (beggars): walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds. Great as they only require cracking and are very healthy.

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 To counteract the effects of sugar, the truly organic mandarines with their shiny green leaves flew all the way from Corsica via Paris but tphoto 1-11he Corinth raisins did not fly in from Corinth! (at least not especially for us).

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The last addition which requires no preparation on my part are the Fruits Confits (candied fruit), another speciality from Provence where the fruit ripen naturally in the sunshine, which include the “marrons glacés” (candied chestnuts).

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Another attraction of these 13 Desserts is that they are also offered to visitors, together with a glass of liqueur and it is lovely to go back to the dining room from time to time and fill a little plate with various bite-sized delicacies.

I am told that my maths are not great as our 13 Desserts usually exceed this number.To this, I can only only say that one needs to refer to the title of this blog.

So, will we be hitting the gym because of these traditions? The dreaded electronic scales will deliver the answer, but usually, the overindulgence is still kind to the waistline.