Salade Niçoise

Friends from Nice are about to arrive and with a week-end forecast promising sunshine, the obvious dish to prepare is a Salade Niçoise.
With a bit of luck, we may even eat outside!

It is a classic speciality from Provence and very easy to assemble.
Little cooking is required and it provides the essence of a Mediterranean diet all at once.
There are many versions of this salad but, in the end you can adapt the ingredients to your taste. Vegetarians who do not eat fish can simply omit the tuna and anchovies and replace them with avocado for instance.
Although it can be used as a starter, it is usually eaten as a main course as it contains proteins and plenty of vegetables and it is very substantial.

Part of this salad can be put inside a large bap to make a Pan Bagnat (Soaked Bread). This is then consumed on a picnic.
You simply use the tomatoes, tuna, anchovies and eggs drenched in the vinaigrette, hence the term Bagnat. It is best to prepare the sandwich in advance to allow the vinaigrette to soak the bread, wrap it in foil and place it in the fridge.

Serves 4 or 6:

50g red Camargue rice
4 small potatoes, peeled
200g very fine French green beans
2 large tomatoes, rinsed and quartered
1 green pepper, rinsed and cut into cubes
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
2 large tins tuna steak in brine, drained
1 tin anchovy fillets in olive oil
20 black olives
4 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and quartered
A handful of basil leaves
For the vinaigrette:
100ml olive oil
20ml red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard
Salt and pepper

1. Steam the beans and potatoes until tender. Put aside to let them cool.
Then slice the potatoes.

2. Cook the rice in salted water for 20 minutes (This type of rice takes longer to cook but it has a delicious nutty flavour), drain and rinse in cold water.

3. In a large salad bowl put the rice, potatoes, anchovies and their oil, add all the other ingredients, sprinkle with the vinaigrette and toss.

A very cool rosé wine will add the final touch.

Bon Appétit!

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Vegetable Medley Soup

Temperatures are dropping and this calls for a warming soup.
Usually, I make soups from scratch but having cooked a 5 course lunch, I am not inclined to spend too much time in the kitchen tonight.

There is some carrot and coriander soup and some Tatin d’Aubergine ( see previous post of September 2014) left in the fridge, both in single portions.

A quick decision to combine them with some crème de Brie results in a delicious soup served with garlic croûtons.
A slice of cold meat, some cheese and a fruit complete tonight’s menu.
Et voilà!

Bon Appétit!

Coquilles Saint Jacques à ma Façon = Scallops Cooked in my Manner

No inspiration for lunch prompted me to go and see what the fishmonger could offer.
Fresh scallops had arrived this morning and I thought immediately that they would be on the menu today.
This is one of the best fast foods you can have, in my opinion. It is nutritious and can be cooked in minutes.
To make life easy, I tend to prepare parsley and garlic sauce in advance and freeze it in ice-cube trays. This way, it is always handy and in quantities that can be adapted.
All you need to do is rinse a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, cut off most of the stalks, peel a whole garlic head, put in a liquidizer with a sufficient amount of olive oil to fill a third of the container and whizz. Then, fill the ice-cube tray with the mixture and pop in the freezer.
I do the same to prepare garlic and basil and garlic and coriander sauces.

Serves 2:

6 queen scallops
2 ice-cubes worth of parsley and garlic sauce

1. Cook some long grain rice. 5 minutes before it is cooked,

2. Put the garlic sauce in a non-stick frying pan and heat on a gentle heat.

3. Add the scallops and cook them delicately for 5 minutes, turning them once. They are cooked when the semi-transparent flesh is opaque.

4. Add the rice to the frying pan to recuperate the delicious cooking juices and serve.

Bon Appétit!

Tips: A cool Chablis goes well with this dish but any dry white wine of your choice will do.

If you use frozen scallops they tend to shrink considerably when the ice glaze melts. You need to take that into account as you end up with a diminished quantity from that planned.

Féroce d’Avocat = Bedevilled Avocado

Looking for an easy starter which will awaken your tastebuds?
Then, think of Féroce d’Avocat, a classic dish from Martinique and Guadeloupe.
It is called féroce (fierce in French) because of the chillies.
The greater amount of chillies used, the fiercer it is.
If you are not used to cooking with chillies, try a small quantity first.

Although this is a starter, it will be an excellent accompaniment to any fish dish and transport you to the French Caribbean.

The use of the cassava flour goes back to the African origins of the populations taken as slaves to the West Indies.
It binds the mixture together and is available in many supermarkets but if you cannot find any, add a little more salt cod.
It is also gluten-free and is therefore good for coeliacs (people who have an intolerance to gluten)
In Martinique and Guadeloupe, flat breads are also made with cassava flour and they are called cassaves.

Serves 2:

1 ripe avocado
100 g cooked salt cod (See previous post on Buljol)
2 small chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
Juice of 2 limes
50g cassava flour
2 small cherry tomatoes to decorate

1. Peel the avocado, remove the stone, sprinkle with the lime juice and mash it with a fork.

2. Add the flaked salt cod, the cassava flour, the chillies and garlic and mix well.

3. Serve immediately with a very cool white wine.

Bon Appétit!

Tip: You can serve it in an avocado dish or rolled up in the palm of your hand and simply put on a plate.

Do not use any salt in this dish as the salt cod will provide enough.

Cocktail for Lonestar Lauren

To celebrate Lauren’s engagement to Chris, here is one of my favourite cocktails:

In a Martini glass or in a champagne flûte previously refrigerated, pour 2/3 champagne brut and 1/3 peach liqueur.

Stir and enjoy!

If you can find some, small boudoir biscuits from Reims will accompany this cocktail perfectly.

Note: For this cocktail I do not use champagne rosé.

Buljol

All the way from Trinidad, thanks to our friend Murtiah, here is her recipe for Buljol.

Buljol is a derivative of old French “Brûle gueule” (Burn mouth), due to the amount of chillies you use.
Not very different from a “Chiquetaille de Morue “prepared in Martinique and Guadeloupe, the Buljol is an easy first course or main dish but it is also eaten at breakfast on Good Friday in Trinidad and Tobago.

I desalt salt cod by soaking it in running cold water and repeating this operation every 4 hours or so for 24 hours. However, I leave it alone during the night!
Murtiah uses a different method which is quicker and just as effective:
boil the fish in plenty of water and then squeeze all the water out.

If you are not using the second method for desalting, steam the cod in a pressure cooker.

Serves 4:

500g salt cod, cooked and cooled, bones removed and skin peeled
1onion, peeled and finely chopped
6 spring onions rinsed and chopped
3 ripe tomatoes
2 small chillies, chopped and de-seeded ( or see tip below)
1 avocado, peeled and diced
Juice of 2 limes
Olive oil
A handful of coriander leaves

1. Shred the cod, add the tomatoes, onions, avocado, coriander and chillies.

2. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and the lime juice.

3. Mix well and serve.

Bon Appétit!

Tip: I use olive oil in which chillies have been marinating for a week or so.