Soupe Improvisée au Boursin = Improvised Soup with Boursin

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.

 

Serves 4:

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)

  1. 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.
  2. Whizz and reserve.
  3. Add the carrots and celery. Stir in the Boursin and serve immediately.

 

Bon Appétit!

Tip: * only use a little salt as the stock cube is already salted.

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Apple and Parsnip Spicy Soup = Soupe Epicée de Pomme et Panais

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.

Serves 4:

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

  1. Put the parsnips, onion and apple and the 2 stock cubes in a pressure cooker/ cooking pot with enough water to cover.
  2. When it is cooked, whizz, add the spicy oil and the milk and serve immediately.
  3. A cool Chablis goes well with this soup.

Bon Appétit!

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.

 

 

Polenta and Cream of Courgettes

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

  1. Cook the courgettes and onion in a pressure cooker and whizz.
  2. Add the cream and the garlic and parsley sauce.
  3. Bring the salted water to the boil and add the polenta, stirring all the time.
  4. When it is cooked (refer to the instructions on the packet for the cooking time), add the cream of courgettes and stir.
  5. Transfer into an oven-proof dish for 10 minutes at 180C.
  6. Just before serving, ladle some of the meat jus on top.

Bon Appétit!

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)

Coconut and Mushroom Pasta

A little improvised sauce for a pasta dish that does not take very long to prepare. In fact, it will be ready by the time the pasta are cooked.

On this occasion, I used the beautiful papillon shapes or farfalle but you can use anything you have in your cupboard.

Serves 4:

200 g farfalle, dry

1 medium-sized onion, peeled and finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

2 small carrots, peeled and chopped

3 large chestnut mushrooms, peeled and sliced

100g crème de Brie cheese

1 tin coconut cream

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 teaspoon ginger paste

  1. Bring 1 litre salted water to the boil, adding 2 drops oil. Then add the pasta and cook to your taste.
  2. Gently sweat the onions in a frying pan with the sunflower oil and add the carrots and the mushrooms. Stir constantly.
  3. Stir in the ginger paste, the coconut cream and the crème de Brie at the last minute.
  4. Drain the pasta and toss in the frying pan. Stir.
  5. Serve immediately with a cool white wine.

Bon Appétit!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Petit Rôti de Lapin = Small Rabbit Roast

Looking for a change and wanting some lean, white meat ?

Then, look for rabbit and veal. Some people don’t like it but for those of us who do like it, it makes a nice alternative to chicken.

The meat is firm and tasty and can be accommodated in a variety of ways. This time, I have chosen to stuff some saddle of rabbit with diced veal and prunes. This provides an extra tenderness without giving a sugary flavour to the meat. If you can find some pruneaux d’Agen ( prunes from the Agen region in Southwest France, not too far from Bordeaux), it is better as they are organic.

To make life easier, ask your butcher to de-bone the rabbit.

Serves 2:

1 saddle of rabbit

100g diced veal

3 pruneaux d’Agen, stoned

1 large onion, peeled and sliced in long strips

1 slice of smoked back bacon

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small glass strong red wine
1. Prepare the stuffing : in a frying pan containing the oil, sweat the onion slices and then reserve, leaving the oil in the pan. Toss the veal for a few minutes and add the stoned prunes.

2. Spread the rabbit meat on a plate and place the stuffing in the centre, then roll the meat tightly and use the bacon to close the parcel. At this stage, you can use a wooden toothpick to hold the meat together.

3. Place the parcel in an oven-proof dish, cover with the wine and cook at 160C for 40 minutes.

4. Remove the toothpick, decorate with the onion strips and serve on a bed of petits pois.


Bon Appétit!
Tip: 

Depending on your appetite, this is sufficient for 2 people as the flesh is very firm, but you may wish to double the proportions.