Crostini with Garlic and Mushrooms

photoA tasty starter, easy to prepare and suitable for vegetarians.

Serves 1 (or as many as you like, providing you change the quantities):

2 crostini, spread with garlic and parsley sauce (see previous post: Coquilles Saint Jacques )

A few lettuce leaves, rinsed

1 large Portobello mushroom, peeled and sliced

2 cherry tomatoes, rinsed

1/2 red pepper, rinsed, de-seeded and cut into cubes

A  few cooked green beans

vinaigrette (see previous post : Salade Niçoise)

  1. Toss the mushroom slices in a non-stick frying pan with a little garlic and parsley sauce for 5 minutes.

2.  Place on each crostini.

3.  Put lettuce leaves, pepper, beans and tomatoes on a plate, drizzle with vinaigrette and add the crostini on top.

Bon Appétit!

Crostini are slightly bigger croûtons, made by slicing a baguette and placing it in a very hot oven until golden.

Tip: Tinned mushrooms and green beans are perfectly suitable if you haven’t got some fresh ones available.

Sorbet de Pomme au Calvados = Apple Sorbet with Calvados

There are so many apples available at present that I like to try to use them in a different way.
For this sorbet, Bramleys seem ideal. The sorbet can be used as a dessert or in a middle of a meal as a Trou Normand.
A Trou Normand is usually a small portion of sharp sorbet that will help the digestion. It provides a welcome rest during a big meal.
The use of Calvados will complete the Norman connection. This spirit is well atuned to apples since it is made from apples.
If Bramley apples are not available , they can be replaced by any other variety of apple.

A variation of the Trou Normand is made with lemon or lime sorbet with vodka.

Serves 4:

2 large Bramley apples, peeled, cored and quartered
Sugar syrup
2 tablespoons Calvados
Juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Prepare the sugar syrup by disolving 125g sugar in 10ml water. Let it cool.

2. Stew the apples in a saucepan in a sufficient amount of water to cover them then put the purée through a sieve.

3. When both syrup and apple purée are cool, add the lemon juice and the Calvados and pour into the sorbet maker.

Serve immediately.
Alternatively, if not used as a Trou Normand, allow the sorbet to warm up a little before serving.

Bon Appétit!

Tip: Do not be too generous with the Calvados as alcohol does not freeze and the sorbet may not have the desired consistency.

Favouilles au Riz = Small crabs cooked with Rice

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As a child, I remember going with my mother to the fishmonger to buy the local Mediterranean crabs called favouilles and coming home with a huge cornet of strong brown paper which was closed at the top. This was a wise precaution because the crabs were sold alive.
They had a blueish colour which was to change as they cooked and turned a pretty red.
They were to be cooked in a big cooking pot containing boiling water and a Bouquet Garni.*

On one occasion, the inevitable happened and the last crabs to be immersed in the water were near the top of the pot, on their poor friends who were already turning red. A few managed to escape and climb out of the pot, falling on the kitchen floor and running in my direction. It was a scarry experience!
The only consolation was that they were extremely tasty, served with saffron rice.

This is one of my earliest culinary childhood memories and one I treasure, in spite of the fright it gave me.

Now, something strange and unexpected happened.
I went to the beautiful Old Port early this morning and watched the fishermen arrive and unload their small boats. One of them had colourful cages and I knew they would contain the live favouilles.
I looked at them, desperately trying to escape from these cages and suddenly, the prospect of killing them by immersing them in boiling water was no longer providing the anticipated pleasure of the palate.
I took a few photos and left without buying them. Many people around me did not have any qualms and bought them happily.

I shall do this recipe with crab meat instead!

*A Bouquet Garni is a bunch of herbs, tied up and immersed in a cooking liquid, a sauce or a broth to flavour it. It is removed when the dish is cooked.(see photo below)

There are variations on its composition and for this recipe, I add fennel. You need: a sprig of parsley, a sprig of thyme, a bay leaf, a celery branch.

Serves 4:

16 small crabs
1 Bouquet Garni*
1 large ripe tomato, rinsed and quartered
1 large onion, peeled ans sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
5g saffron
2 tablespoons olive oil
200g wild Camargue rice

white wine

1. In a large cast iron casserole pot, gently heat the olive oil. Add the onion and the garlic. When the onion is golden, add the tomato. Let it simmer, stirring regularly.

2. Bring 2 litres of water to the boil in a big cooking pot, add the bouquet garni and the live crabs.
When the crabs turn red, remove the bouquet garni and the crabs. Reserve the broth and add 10ml dry white wine.
Remove the crab claws and crush them with a small kitchen mallet.

3. Put the crabs and their claws in the cast iron casserole pot and gradually pour a small quantity of the crab cooking broth over and stir.
Add the rice and the saffron. Add more broth, a ladleful at a time.
After 15 minutes, when the broth has been absorbed by the rice, serve in a large dish.

4. To eat the crabs, open the shell with the point of a knife and remove the gills. The flesh from the claws has to be sucked.

Bon Appétit!

Tip: if you cannot find small live crabs, try a Cromer crab, already cooked, or tins of crab flesh.

Happy Ending! : I have now been told that there is a humane way of cooking the crabs by putting them in a pot of cold water which is then brought to the boil. The crabs simply go to sleep as the temperature rises.IMG_1031

Bean and Courgette Soup with Basil

A quick and easy soup for tonight, ideal for vegetarians or anyone wanting to eat more vegetables.
The basil and olive oil are typically Mediterranean but this soup can be prepared anywhere, as long as you can obtain the ingredients. Alternatively, you can grow the vegetables and the basil. For the olive oil, it is more difficult, my olive trees refusing to produce olives !!

Serves 6:

300g runner beans, rinsed, string removed and cut into 2cms pieces
2 courgettes, peeled and cut into thick rings
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 onion, peeled and quartered
5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
A handful basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Garlic croûtons

1. In a big cooking pot or pressure cooker, put all the vegetables into 1,5 litre of salted water.

2. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.

3. When it is cooked, add the olive oil and the crushed basil leaves.

Serve immediately with garlic croûtons.

Bon Appétit!