Not a classic Sunday lunch maybe, this little salad is healthy, low in calories, easy to prepare and provides some much needed lighter food in January.
It does not require much preparation and the Cromer crab has already been dressed by the fishmonger.
The large crab serves 2 people easily, but depending on your appetite, you may wish to serve one per person.
1 large Cromer crab, dressed and drizzled with lemon juice
A few cherry tomatoes, halved
2 small beetroots, cooked and peeled
1 avocado, peeled
1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced
A few olives
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tablespoon Vinaigrette dressing
1. Slice the avocado and drizzle with some lemon juice immediately to avoid oxidation.
2. Slice the beetroot.
3. Prepare the vinaigrette in a small mixing bowl by using 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, adding 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Stir well and reserve.
4. Dress a serving plate with all the vegetables, pour the vinaigrette on top, place the crab in the centre.
Tip: I tend to keep a jar of mustard when it is almost empty and add the vinegar and oil directly in it. This provides instant vinaigrette and keeps very well in a cupboard.
Provence is a land of many traditions and this one refers to what happens on the 12th Day after Christmas, which is the Epiphany.
We celebrate the Epiphany with a special gâteau, in fact a brioche infused with orange flower water, covered with sugar grains and glacé fruit. There is also a golden cardboard crown (couronne) which is worn by the King.
The origin of this gâteau, or couronne (because of its shape) precedes the origin of the galette I mentioned in my previous post of 7 January.
The three Kings have a prominent place in the Christmas tradition in Provence. Their santons (clay figurines) are an important part of the crèche (crib) and they are on full display on the 6th January. Before that date, they are placed as far away as possible from the crib and they are not visible. They travel discreetly each day to finally arrive and offer their presents to the baby Jesus.
To symbolise the offerings, one small porcelain santon and one dried broad bean are hidden in the gâteau. If there are children present, which is often the case as the celebration starts with a family one, the youngest hides under the table and says which portion of the cake is for whom. This prevents people from choosing which glacé fruit they will have and whether or not they will get the sujet (figurine) or the fève (broad bean). This is important because the recipient of the sujet becomes the Reine (the Queen) and has to buy the next bottle of champagne and the recipient of the fève becomes the Roi (King) and has to buy the next cake. This way, we ensure a whole month of celebrations, not only in the family, but with friends and colleagues as well. Normally, the Gâteaux des Rois are eaten on Sundays, at tea time, but people please themselves as to when and where they eat them.
Most pâtisseries also sell smaller gâteaux des Rois which do not contain sujets or fèves but which can be consumed for breakfast with coffee. As they are very tasty brioches, they go well with coffee.
Of course, as soon as January is over, it is time to think of pancakes for the Chandeleur (Candlemas) and Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday) in February …
With very little time to prepare something warm, this little improvisation worked a treat.
As usual, a quick look in the fridge to check which vegetables were available set up this little soup. I also used some carrots and celery I had cooked previously and topped the soup with a Boursin.
The contrast of the liquidised vegetables and the sliced carrots and celery was pleasant.
2 leeks, rinsed and chopped
1 courgette, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 vegetable stock cube
a little salt and pepper
1/2 garlic and herbs Boursin (you can also use a garlic and herbs Philadelphia)
- Put all the fresh vegetables and the stock cube in a pressure cooker with sufficient water to cover them and cook for a short time. Season with salt* and pepper.
- Whizz and reserve.
- Add the carrots and celery. Stir in the Boursin and serve immediately.
Tip: * only use a little salt as the stock cube is already salted.
Celebrating the Rois ( Kings), or Wise Men, is an important event in the French calendar. It marks the feast of Epiphany and the end of Christmas celebrations, in theory.
In reality, being governed by our stomachs, here is another occasion to eat and meet friends and relatives. The Galette des Rois is either a frangipane one with flaky pastry, or a Gâteau des Rois, a brioche with glacé fruits. In Provence, because of the abundance of fruits, the gâteau with fruits confits (glacé fruits) is favoured, although this depends on personal taste. The almonds are also a speciality of Provence and the tradition of the galette also originates from there.
We were lucky enough to have a succulent home-made galette offered to us and did not have to go and look for a pâtisserie to source it.
There were still some Bramleys in the fruit bowl and they got a slightly different treatment from the usual baked apples. I used some mincemeat and frangipane as a filling. They made a good accompaniment to the galette, as did the champagne!
For the frangipane:
50g unsalted butter, softened and cut into small cubes
50g icing sugar
50g ground almond
1 large egg
- Pour the sugar in a mixing bowl, add the butter and mix until you obtain a cream.
- Break the egg and whisk, then add the ground almond.
- Mix vigorously and whisk the cream until it is smooth.
- Pour in a non-stick saucepan and cook for 10minutes, stirring all the time.
- Fill the cored apple with that cream.
So, it is really cold and again, soups bring comfort and warmth. Anyway, there is never a need for a pretext to eat soups.
Combining a fairly sweet vegetable such as the parsnip with the acidity of the apple and the spicy oil brings a change. I like this soup to be fairly thick, so it can be a snack, a starter or a main course, served with thick slices of warm country bread. For its consistency and acidity, I have used a whole Bramley apple, but any variety of apple will do. Being post Christmas, I have replaced the cream with evaporated milk. Will it really make a change to the waistline, I wonder.
4 big parsnips, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
1 whole Bramley, peeled , cored and quartered
150ml evaporated milk
2 soup spoonful chilli infused olive oil
2 reduced fat vegetable stock cubes
- Put the parsnips, onion and apple and the 2 stock cubes in a pressure cooker/ cooking pot with enough water to cover.
- When it is cooked, whizz, add the spicy oil and the milk and serve immediately.
- A cool Chablis goes well with this soup.
Tip: Do not use any salt because the stock cubes are already salty and although you can always add salt, it is near impossible to remove.
Some fish today to make a quick meal that will not tax the digestion as the main cooking method will be “en papillote” (in a foil parcel).
For contrasting colours and textures, I have chosen cod and salmon. To add taste, the sun-dried tomatoes and chives with be added to the sauce.
2 cod fillets
2 salmon steaks
4 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
fronds of a fennel bulb
1 bunch of chives , finely chopped
1 glass of dry white wine
125ml single cream
2 tablespoon cornflour
- Place the fillets on foil in a baking tray, sprinkle with coarse sea salt, add the fennel fronds, tomatoes and drizzle with the tomato flavoured olive oil. Close the parcel and put in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 15minutes.
- Meanwhile, pour the wine in a saucepan, heat up and add the cornflour gradually. Whisk to avoid the formation of lumps. When the sauce has thickened, add the cream and the chives. Turn off the heat.
- Take the fish out of the oven and place in an oven-proof dish, without the foil. Pour the sauce on top and cook in the oven for a further 10 minutes.
- Serve immediately with steamed baby potatoes, creamed fennel bulbs or diced courgettes.
If you are on a pre-Christmas diet, omit the sauce and drizzle the fish with olive oil and lemon juice just before serving.
To answer the question of what to serve with lamb shanks cooked in red wine, a polenta came to mind.
It provided a quick and delicious accompaniment and I added some crème de courgettes. To complement the polenta, a generous topping of the cooking jus rounded the taste.
The polenta I use is a pre-cooked maize one and it is ready in a few minutes. You have to stir it constantly as it has a tendency to plop out of the saucepan if left unattended and it thickens very quickly. It sometimes looks like the lava of a volcano and it is certainly very hot!
The addition of the crème de courgettes gave a different flavour to it and incorporated the vegetables. The meat jus, essentially meat gravy with a strong red wine, was pleasing to the palate.
Serves 4 :
500ml salted water
3 tablespoons maize polenta
For the Cream of Courgettes:
2 medium-size courgettes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 frozen cubes of garlic and parsley sauce
125ml single cream
- Cook the courgettes and onion in a pressure cooker and whizz.
- Add the cream and the garlic and parsley sauce.
- Bring the salted water to the boil and add the polenta, stirring all the time.
- When it is cooked (refer to the instructions on the packet for the cooking time), add the cream of courgettes and stir.
- Transfer into an oven-proof dish for 10 minutes at 180C.
- Just before serving, ladle some of the meat jus on top.
Note: I have mentioned before how to make garlic and parsley sauce, garlic and basil sauce and garlic and coriander sauce in convenient ice cube containers for some of the previous recipes. I will do a separate post to recap all that.
Or… see the post of Coquilles Saint Jacques à ma Façon (14 September 2015)