Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Stone Fruit

That is, fruit with a stone in the middle- as opposed to stoned fruit which is how I often seem to serve it- macerated in creme de cassis or poached in red wine!
We are now getting well into the stone fruit season- apricots, cherries, then peaches and nectarines as the summer goes on and plums as the season reaches its peak. Time to look at some ways of using up these fruits whilst they are plentiful and getting cheaper- before they spoil in the fruit bowl.

I'm starting with an Apricot Pavé.

A pavé is French for a cobblestone and is used in menus to describe something which is that sort of shape eg. pavé de saumon or pavé de rumsteack- but hopefully a little lighter in texture!
This cake is a basic sponge, but made delicious with the addition of some chopped apricot, orange and coconut.
It doesn't need any icing or drizzle- it is quite soft and moist as it is.


5-6 apricots, sliced
200g of softened butter
juice of 1 orange
200g sugar
100g dessicated coconut
300g flour
2 tsp baking powder
120 ml milk
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Cream the butter, orange juice and sugar and gradually beat in the eggs.
Add the flour, baking powder and coconut and mix in the milk to make a batter.
Mix in the chopped apricots, pour into a greased and lined square cake tin (if you have one) and bake for 40-50 minutes until golden and firm.

Once cool, cut into squares (to be proper pavés) or slices if you prefer.

Apricot Pavé

Another good way to use up apricots is in a clafoutis- which I have featured on the blog before, but here it is again if you missed it.
Halve the apricots and place in a greased pie dish

Make a sweet batter with eggs, milk, sugar and plain flour

Pour over the apricots and bake at 180 degrees until set

Likewise for my Cherry Soup ( which- OK -does require poaching in wine etc etc)

Poach cherries, grapes and other fruit in red wine and sugar until syrupy
 (You can look these recipes up using the panel to your right and clicking on the link).

If you have any cherries left over - use them to decorate a refrigerator cake . This is my Fluffy Ruffle Pie- so named because that is what we used to call this mousse-like confection when my two brothers and I were little. It is definitely a blast from the past- but easy and tasty, so I urge you to try it.


250g digestive biscuits, blitzed to crumbs
100g butter
1 fruit jelly (lime, lemon, cherry, strawberry whatever you like)
1 small tin evaporated milk

Make up the jelly to 300ml with boiling water and leave to cool. (After about an hour it will begin to set slightly- this is perfect).
Grease and line a 23 cm cake tin. (If you use a loose bottomed one - make sure you do line it, or you will have a lemon jelly/evaporated milk catastrophe in your fridge as I did!)
Melt the butter in a saucepan and mix in the biscuit crumbs
Press the mixture into the tin, lining the base and sides to make a shell
Place in the fridge or freezer to cool.
Mix the evaporated milk into the jelly mixture and whisk with an electric whisk until good and frothy.

Whisk up your jelly and evaporated milk
Pour into the flan tin and leave in the fridge to set  (overnight is best).

Serve decorated with fruit or whipped cream.

Fluffy Ruffle Pie
If you prefer a more grown up version, you can make a Key Lime pie- which uses condensed milk and fresh limes rather than jelly and evaporated milk. The biscuit base is the same - but the filling uses 450g sweetened condensed milk, the juice and zest of 5 limes or lemons and 300 ml of lightly whipped double cream. Whisk the lime juice, zest and milk together - watch it start to thicken- and then fold in the whipped cream.

Finally- and you might think this is a bit of a cheat- I have a savoury recipe for you- using olives (which I think do still count as a stone fruit).
I made these Olive Cookies Sablés for our annual garden party and they went down well with the apéritifs - so I thought I'd share the recipe with you as it is such a good one.

(Makes 24 cookies)
180g flour
80 g soft butter or marge
1 egg
24 pitted black olives
80 g grated strong cheese eg. Parmesan or mature cheddar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp fresh herbs- finely chopped (eg. rosemary, thyme, oregano)
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven  to 160 degrees.
Put the butter, egg, 16 of the olives and the oil into a food processor. Pulse in the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and the grated cheese and keep going until the mixture forms a ball of soft dough.
Line two baking trays with baking paper, then, using wet hands form 24 balls of dough - each one about the size of a walnut. Lay them on the trays, spaced apart.

Cookies spaced apart
Flatten them slightly with a fork.
Cut the remaining 8 olives into 3 rings each- and put an olive ring on top of each cookie.
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.
Baked and decorated
Cool on a wire rack- and enjoy with your apéros !

Olive Cookies Sablés

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Super Speedy Summer Suppers

It seems I am carrying on the theme of things beginning with 'S', with some recipes this time which are super quick and summery- mainly because no one wants to be spending much time cooking in the evenings, now the weather is (slowly) improving.

Although I did put my slow cooker into service today ( to stew up a batch of soft onions for me to use in various dishes), generally speaking, summer isn't a time for stews and casseroles. It's a time for fresh stuff and salads, which are quick to prepare.

Fresh stuff brings with it the greater possibility of waste though- and making the most of the leftovers can be a challenge.

To help with this, each of the dishes I've prepared has a sister dish (or two) which use the leftovers up quickly.

I'm starting with a summer stir fry: mange-tout, mushrooms, peppers, spring onions and radishes (yes, radishes). Very much in season and much more versatile than you think.

Summer Stir-Fry

Begin by cutting all your veg into equal-ish chunks.

Ready for stir frying
Heat some oil in a wok until it is smoking hot and then toss in the mushrooms, mange touts, peppers, onions and radishes in that order, a minute or two between each addition.
I added some cooked chicken and fried it all quickly for 5 minutes or so more.
Meanwhile cook some noodles in boiling water for 2 minutes, drain them (reserving a ladleful of the water) and add them to the vegetables.
Add 1-2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1-2 tbsp of sweet chili sauce and the reserved noodle water.
Toss everything together, bring up to the boil and give a final few stirs then serve.

The radishes give a water-chestnut like crunch to the stir fry and keep their pretty pink colour too.

Summer Stir Fry

To use up your leftover radishes, slice them finely (or use a food processor) and toss them in some mustard mayonnaise along with finely sliced celeriac to make a Radish Remoulade:

Radish Remoulade
You can use shredded white cabbage or carrot if you prefer this to the celeriac.

Salads are needed as an accompaniment to the next dish- a cheat's Pissaladiere (an onion tart/pizza from Nice).
Some say it should have a dough base like a pizza, others insist on a pastry base.(You will never get two Provencal mamies to agree on any recipe!)

So, you can  either make this tart using frozen puff pastry rolled out to a rectangle, or use pizza dough rolled thinly or cheat even further by using a pre- cooked pizza base, as I have done here.

Pissaladiere Pronto

1 pizza base ( or puff pastry or pizza base mix as described above)
2 large onions
1 clove of garlic (crushed)
black olives
1 small tin anchovies (optional)

1. Slice the onions finely and cook them slowly and gently in olive oil and butter in a pan with a lid or in the slow cooker until they are cooked to a golden brown pulp. Season with salt, pepper, crushed garlic and a pinch of sugar.
2. Lay out your base (pizza or pastry) and spread the onion pulp over it.
3. Criss-cross with anchovies (if you are using them) and dot with black olives
4. Bake in a hot oven (200 degrees) until either your pastry is golden ( 20 mins) or your pizza base is crisp ( 10-15 mins).

Pissaladiere Pronto
Sorry! we had eaten half of it before I remembered to take a photo!

Serve with the radish salad and some dressed green leaves. (I am using watercress, spinach and rocket).

Bagged salad can be as much of a scourge as a boon. Yes, it's convenient but you may end up throwing half of it away as it doesn't keep long once opened.

Just as cooking with radishes might have taken you by surprise- cooking with salad leaves is also a good way to use them up. Try this:

Salad Bag Soup

Salad Bag Soup

1 onion, chopped finely
1 litre of vegetable stock
3-4 fat garlic cloves, peeled
3-4 sage leaves
2 bay leaves
200g watercress, washed and roughly chopped
200g baby spinach leaves or a bag of salad leaves
2 tbsp finely chopped herbs (parsley, chives, dill)
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
croutons of thinly cut baguette
1. Soften the onion in a little olive oil
2. Tie the sage and bay leaves together with some string and place them in a pan of simmering vegetable stock, in which you also have put the whole garlic cloves
3. Simmer for 10 minutes until the garlic cloves are soft.
4. Remove the herb leaves and discard. Keep the soft garlic cloves to one side.
5. Add the onion, watercress, spinach and chopped herbs and simmer for a further 10 minutes
6. Blitz in a liquidiser until smooth, taste and adjust seasoning
7. Mash the garlic cloves with a little olive oil and spread the paste onto the croutons
8. Serve the soup and croutons together.
This soup keeps its flavour and colour for up to 2 days in the fridge and freezes well.
I often serve it with a dash of milk or cream in it too.
Finally, I'm using up the rest of the onions that I cooked in the slow cooker to top a Flammekueche or Tarte Flambee.
Traditionally, this tart is made with a dough base which is wafer-thin and crispy. I have made the quickest possible version here, using sandwich thins ( those square toasting breads). You could use pitta bread too.
Tartines Flambees
1 sandwich thin or pitta bread per person
1 tub of creme fraiche
2 onions ( cooked slowly with garlic as in the recipe above)
140 g bacon lardons or diced cooked ham
1. Split the breads, spread the creme fraiche and onion paste generously over them
2. Sprinkle on the lardons or ham and bake on a baking tray in a very hot oven until the creme fraiche starts to turn golden brown and the bacon is looking caramelized.
Delicious with a glass of Alsace white wine.

Tartines Flambees
So, there we are: five fast foods to help you out quickly at supper time. 

(Alas, a little too much alliteration though!)