Alouettes sans Tête or Little Beef Parcels

The title of the dish really translates as “larks without heads”, which would seem very off-putting were it not for what it actually covers.
In a country where people are very happy to go hunting and eat small birds,
it would be natural to evolve a dish with that name.
However, I am happy to say that you will not need small birds but very tender and thinly cut minute beef steaks.
So, you can continue feeding the small birds in your garden without any pangs of conscience.

In Corsica, the beef is replaced with veal escalopes.
Most butchers sell rosé veal and you may prefer to try that.

This dish is cooked without any added fat and freezes well.

Serves 4:
8 very thin minute beef steaks ( approximately 80 or 90g each)
3 smoked back bacon rashers, fat removed
2 small carrots
1 branch celery
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 small onion
A handful of flat leaf parsley
10 pitted black olives
Tomato sauce, home made if possible, or a tin of chopped tomatoes
300 ml red wine
100ml water
Salt and pepper to season ( Remember that the bacon and the olives will provide salt)

1. Put the bacon, onion, garlic, celery, parsley and carrots in a food processor and whiz. Cook quickly in a non-stick frying pan without any fat. ( The bacon will provide enough fat).

2. When this filling is cooked, put a tablespoon in the middle of each steak and fold the meat carefully to seal the filling in. To ensure that the parcel remains closed,you have 2 options: using a wooden toothpick, pierce the layers of meat firmly, or using strong white cotton thread and tie the meat.
(One disadvantage of using cotton thread is that you need either scissors or a very sharp steak knife to undo the parcel and the sauce may splash a little).

3. Put the tomato sauce in a pressure cooker and place the meat parcels delicately on top. Pour the wine and add the olives. Cover with the water.
Cook for 15 minutes.
Serve with tagliatelle or any other pasta of your choice.

Bon Appétit!

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Gallery

Pumpkin Gratin

Making use of seasonal vegetables and finding just the ones you are looking for at the market is always a pleasure.
Halloween is over now but pumpkins are still available. The sliced ones are better but if you do not wish to cut the hard skin and chop the flesh, you can find pre-packed, sliced pumpkin or butternut squash easily in supermarkets.

As an accompaniment to a roast, this gratin works well.
If you prefer a fat-free dish, replace the cream with skimmed milk and use toasted breadcrumbs instead of Parmesan.
It should please anyone who is a vegetarian.

Alternatively, by adding a little more milk/cream, this can become a delicious pumpkin soup to warm you up on any cold day.
Adding some unsweetened chestnut purée will give it a very distinctive flavour.

Serves 4:

1 big slice of pumpkin, de-seeded and with the skin removed
1 big carrot, peeled and sliced
1 big onion, peeled and sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
100ml of single cream
A handful of coriander leaves, rinsed
2 tablespoons of grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to season

1. Place all the vegetables and the coriander in a pressure cooker and cook for 5 minutes.

2. Whizz in a liquidizer and add the cream and the Parmesan.

3. Pour the mixture in an oven proof dish and cook for 10 minutes at 200C.

4. Serve immediately.

Bon Appétit!

Ratatouille

Another classic Provençal dish, this combines my favourite Summer vegetables but can be done at any time of the year because it is easy to source them. It is very versatile and a perfect example of the Mediterranean diet.
Served cold or hot, it complements any meat dish. It can be part of a couscous, served with couscous grain, stewed lamb and chick peas.
It can also be served with eggs which are lightly scrambled on top or folded into an omelette.
It can be the topping of a vegetarian pizza or part of a pasta dish.

Serves 6:

2 medium size courgettes, peeled and cut into rings
1 aubergine, rinsed and sliced
1 red pepper, rinsed, de-seeded and cut into thick pieces
1 green pepper, rinsed, de-seeded and cut into thick pieces
1/2 kilo ripe tomatoes, rinsed and quartered
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
A handful fresh basil leaves
2 soupspoonful olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Pour the olive oil into a large cooking pot, preferably made of cast iron and heat it up gently.
2. Fry the onion until golden, then add the aubergine, the peppers, the tomatoes and the garlic. After 5 minutes, add the courgettes and the basil.
3. Simmer for another 15 minutes.
4. Serve hot or cold.

Bon Appétit!

Note: For a fat- free version, put all the ingredients in a pressure cooker. (Check manufacturer’s instructions for cooking time).

Gallery

Velouté de Tomate

For Summer evenings this velouté will make a tasty starter, hot or cold.
It is very healthy and fat-free and evokes the Mediterranean but If you feel a little less healthy, add some single cream.

Serves 4:

1kilo ripe tomatoes, rinsed and quartered
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled
A handful of flat parsley leaves
Salt and pepper

1. Put all the ingredients in a big cooking pot and cook until the tomatoes are tender.
2. Liquidize with a food blender and sieve.
3. Serve either hot or cold and decorate with parsley.

Bon Appétit!