Butternut Lasagne

A nice discovery in the supermarket this morning, the butternut sheets lend themselves to be cooked with mushrooms and a bacon mixture I made for the Simple Moussaka posted yesterday.

My favoured cooking method for vegetables is to steam them in a pressure cooker and this is what I did. To pep the slices a little, I coated them with a garlic and parsley sauce.

The slices are cut evenly at a thickness of 1mm, which makes them easy to handle and cook. A packet of 400g contains 11 or 12 sheets which are easy to fit in an oven-proof dish.

serves 4:

1 packet of Butternut sheets

100g fresh mushrooms, peeled and sliced.

300g bacon mixture

3 tablespoon grated parmesan or parmesan shavings

a little salt to sprinkle on the butternut

  1. Steam the butternut quickly and line an oven-proof dish with them. Salt lightly. Spread a little garlic and parsley sauce on top.
  2. Cook the mushrooms in a little olive oil, scented with basil.
  3. Put a layer of mushrooms on the butternut and add another layer of butternut.
  4. Put the bacon mixture on top, mixed with the parmesan.
  5. Cover with foil and place in a pre-heated oven at 160C for 20 minutes.
  6. Serve immediately with slices of fresh country bread.

Bon Appétit!

Tip:  You can use some homemade tomato sauce to cover the bacon mixture and sprinkle parmesan shavings on top.

If you are not watching your cholesterol levels, you can add some fresh cream to the first layer of butternut.

 

 

 

 

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Simple Moussaka

This is a quick and healthy moussaka that can be made even if you have just come back from a walk in the country, as was the case this week.  Eating blackberries on the way helped, of course!

It is not the recipe for a traditional moussaka and I replaced the lamb with bacon and did not use any cooking fat.

Serves 4:

2 large aubergines

1 big onion, peeled and sliced

3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

2 small carrots, peeled

6 slices of back rashers smoked bacon

2 tablespoons grated parmesan

5 slices emmental cheese

A handful flat leaf parsley

1. Top and tail the aubergines and steam them in a pressure cooker, making sure they remain firm.

2. Meanwhile, whizz the bacon, onion, garlic, carrots and parsley and cook in a non-stick frying pan without any fat.

3. Slice the aubergines and place them in an oven-proof dish. Cover with a layer of the bacon mixture and sprinkle the parmesan on top.

4. Add another layer of aubergine slices and put the emmental slices on top. Put the dish in the oven at 180C for 20 minutes and serve with a green salad and a cool Pinot Grigio.

Bon Appétit!

Tip: I tend to make a larger quantity of the bacon mixture which freezes well and use it for pasta sauces or as filling for provençal vegetables.

Velouté de Courgettes = Creamy Courgette Soup

In a hurry to produce something tasty and healthy?

If you have courgettes in the fridge, that’s it.

Serves 4:

3 medium-sized courgettes, peeled and cut into chunks

1 onion, peeled and quartered

125 ml single cream

2 vegetable stock cubes

a few croûtons

goat cheese

dried wild marjoram

  1. Put the courgettes, the onion and the stock cube in a pressure cooker and cover with cold water.
  2. When it is cooked, whizz and add the cream.
  3. Spread a little goat cheese on the croûtons and sprinkle a little marjoram on top.
  4. Serve immediately with the croûtons.

A cool Chablis – or champagne – if you some left in the fridge, goes well with this soup.

Bon Appétit !

Tip: Do not add salt as the stock cubes will already contain some.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Petite Brochette de Fruits d’Eté = Little Summer Fruit Skewer

So, it is hot and all the georgeous Summer fruit are ripe.

This little skewer will quench your thirst and the remainder of the fruit can be made into a delicious smoothie.

This is to be consumed without moderation as there is only the natural fructose contained in the fruit.

It is a great snack or a dessert, depending on the circumstances.

You will need:

A few cherries

1 apricot

1 nectarine

1 kiwi

1 slice of watermelon

1. Rinse all fruit except the watermelon, which has to have its skin removed, and thread through a skewer.

Bon Appétit!

The bougainvillée flowers were kindly offered by a friend for the purpose of decoration. They are not edible.

Tip: a very small version of this brochette would go well with a café gourmand (see post of 28 May 2017)

Pissaladière = Pizza without Tomatoes

Feeling lazy but in need of a quick starter or main course?

The answer is to make a pissaladière, a speciality from Nice. It is similar to a pizza, but does not have tomatoes on it. Traditionally, pizza dough is used but on this occasion, I am using frozen puff pastry. This is ideal if you are having a finger buffet or if you want a main course. There is little preparation and it is definitely summery, although you can eat it in all seasons.

The name pissaladière comes from the latin piscis (fish) and later the niçois patois, pissalat. Anchovies preserved in brine or in olive oil are used as well as caramelised onions and this gives it its strong mediterranean flavour. Add a few black olives and your dish is ready.

 

Serves 2:

2 puff pastry squares or rectangles

1 red onion, peeled and sliced

1 tin anchovy fillets in olive oil

a few black olives

pinch of sugar

 

  1. Gently fry the onion in the anchovy oil and add the pinch of sugar. Cook until soft and caramelised. Liquidize, if you wish. Reserve.
  2. Score the pastry 1cm inside the edge and prick with a fork. Place in a pre-heated oven at 200C and cook for 15 minutes until golden.
  3. Take out from the oven and garnish with a layer of onions, a lattice of anchovies and olives in between.
  4. Put back in the oven for 5 minutes and serve with a salad and a very cool rosé from Provence.

 

Bon Appétit!

Calamars à l’Armoricaine = Squid in Armoricaine Sauce

A family favourite and probably my signature dish, Squid in Armoricaine sauce are a little fiddly to prepare but worth the effort.

You can use either fresh squid or frozen, the taste is not altered. Moreover, this is a dish that freezes well and it comes in handy if you have a lazy day.

People are sometimes put off the idea of eating squid because they have only eaten rubbery rings, not sufficiently cooked. In this recipe, the squid are well cooked and tender and the sauce and flambé ensure that the taste is definitely present. The other misconception is that they could be as big as the deep sea monsters  featured in films. Not so, be reassured.

It is best to buy smallish squid but larger ones will mean less work for you at the preparation stage. If you like to cook en famille, young children will enjoy removing the transparent back bone (this, they can do by pulling it out, so do not need to use knives, which should be reserved for the adults cooks) and looking at the beautiful tentacles which resemble flowers. It is a good way to introduce children (but not infants) to tastier and varied dishes so they can educate their palate for adulthood.

My fishmonger sources them fresh from the coast or frozen from California, providing, as he says, that El Niño has not created a problem!

Serves 4:

1 kilo squid

1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced

4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

1 handful flat leaves parsley, finely chopped

2 small tins tomato purée

50g butter

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

100ml dry white wine

2 or 3 tablespoons Cognac

salt and pepper to season

  1. Warm up the oil in a big cast iron cocotte, if you have one, or in any cooking pot. Gently fry the onion and the garlic. Add the tomato purée with a volume of water identical to the volume of the tin. Stir and let it simmer gently. Add half the white wine.
  2. Rinse the squid in a colander. On a chopping board, slice them open, one by one. Chop off the head just below the eyes and under the tentacles. Remove a little white hard ball that is at the base of the head. Reserve the tentacles. Open up the body and remove the transparent backbone. Discard it (or keep it for birds). If there are eggs, remove them and discard. Slice the flesh into thin strips, approximately 1 cm wide. Keep the slices and the tentacles in a colander and rinse. There is sometimes a black ink which I do not keep, but some people do to make a sepia sauce.
  3. Pre-heat a metal frying pan which is not a non-stick one. Put half the squid and dry fry it until it turns light pink. Collect the cooking juices and pour them in the simmering tomato sauce. Continue cooking the squid and add 25g of butter, stir well.
  4. Pour 1 tablespoon Cognac on top and flambé. When the flames have died down, put the squid in the cooking pot and déglacé the frying pan with some of the remaining white wine. Add the juices to the sauce.
  5. Repeat the operation for the remainder of the squid.
  6. Simmer gently for 20 minutes and add the chopped parsley 2 minutes before serving.
  7. Finally, serve either on a bed of black spaghetti or on a bed of rice, with a good Chablis or any other dry white wine of your choice.

Bon Appétit!

Tip: Save the transparent back bone and let it dry. Small birds will enjoy eating it. They are the original cuttlefish bones.

The black spaghetti have been tinted with the squid ink and they give a pleasant visual contrast to the red sauce.

Café Gourmand = Gourmet Coffee

The best way to describe a café gourmand is probably to define it as a small cup of coffee with  accompaniments. The term gourmet coffee does not do it justice.

You can vary the accompaniments according to your mood or the season.  On this occasion, I chose home-made verrines de poires, macarons, calissons and a home-made coffee ice-cream (see post of 6 April 2016).

Calissons are a speciality from Provence that we use as part of the 13 Desserts of Christmas and that are essentially made from marzipan, royal icing and candied melon on a very thin base of wafer. They are eaten all year round, though, and Aix-en-Provence has traditionally been associated with the best calissons-making confiseurs, partly because the almonds are grown locally and partly because ” Good King René” (le Bon Roi René) and his wife enjoyed eating them.

A café gourmand is a dessert in its own right.

Bon Appétit!