Sunday, 2 April 2017

Sweet memories

 Cream Tea
And so, sadly, it was time to take my leave of all my new found friends in the Auvergne- but not before we had one last 'Recettes Partagées'.

This time, the theme was distinctly sweet.

It was my turn to present first of all, and so ( by popular request) I made a 'Teatime Anglais' or English cream tea. Scones, jam and cream and cups of proper Tetleys.

Well readers, they loved it. Who wouldn't?

Much more interesting though, from my point of view, was the recipe for 'Bugnes' presented by Marie-Claude.

These are little Lyonnais fried pastries- dusted with sugar- very like doughnuts but flavoured with lemon or orange. Essentially, you make a sweet pasta dough- and then deep fry it.What's not to like?

Ingredients:  Warning- this makes dozens and dozens (scale the ingredients down for a smaller batch or freeze the excess).
500g plain flour
5 eggs
150g sugar
150g butter
2 tsp baking powder
1 dessertspoon rum
grated zest of 1 lemon

All ingredients in the bowl

Place all ingredients in a bowl, mix well with your hands until you have a supple and smooth dough, ready for rolling. (You can use a mixer of course).
Form a smooth dough

Roll out thinly on a floured work surface, then use cookie cutters in any shape or variety that you choose to cut out the shapes. You can use the leftover pieces any way you like too- as twists, plaits ..whatever.
Heat up some flavourless oil and  deep-fry them quickly in batches.

Deep fry quickly

Drain on kitchen paper and serve warm, dusted with icing sugar. Heaven!


Other sweet treats this time included a Ginger Bread Pudding- that is to say, a bread pudding but made with pain d'épices (gingerbread).

1 lemon
300g ginger cake or pain d'épices
50g sultanas
50g mixed candied peel
150ml milk
2 tbsp rum
2 apples
4 eggs
60g butter
1 sachet vanilla sugar

1. Wash the lemon then grate its zest and squeeze it for juice
2. Break the ginger cake into large pieces in a bowl and add the sultanas, peel, milk and lemon zest. Leave to soak.
Let the mixture soak up the liquid
3. Peel the apples and cut into small dice and add to the lemon juice
4. Add this to the mixture along with the beaten eggs
5. Line a cake dish with baking paper.
6. Melt the butter and coat the paper with it

Line a cake dish with paper and melted butter
7. Sprinkle on the sugar and coat the melted butter with it.
8. Pour in the ginger cake mixture and bake for 25-30 minutes at 160 degrees or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Gingery Bread Pudding

One treat left over from my summer bottling and jamming were some Boozy Peaches. I chose some of our best pêches de vigne, slipped the skins off under hot water, took out the stones and placed them in sterilised jars with 100g of sugar, a split vanilla pod and enough alcool à fruits to cover them. (This is readily available in France, where everyone makes their own alcoholic drinks from fruit if they can. You can use brandy instead.)

Boozy Peaches
Seal up the jars and store in a cool place.
It is best to turn these regularly to allow the sugar to dissolve completely.

After a few months, you have delicious jars of Boozy Peaches- wonderful with ice cream, or placed atop stale cake and covered with creme anglaise and whipped cream to make trifles.

Top rounds of stale cake with peaches, custard and cream

Any leftover liquid makes a nice liqueur to drink too.
Can't beat a trifle!
And finally, one last dessert from Marie-Claude.
At our pot-au-feu afternoon, we all had to make an apple tart for dessert- all to the same recipe and to serve 8.
16 tarts were duly baked and served to the waiting crowds- but alas, that meant that none was left for the hungry volunteers next day who came to wash up and clean the village hall- and to eat Les Restes.

To the rescue, Marie-Claude! Up at dawn, she baked 3 more tarts for us all to enjoy.

Line a tart tin with shortcrust pastry and coat the base with 2 tbsp of apple compote. Then peel and finely slice 4-5 dessert apples (depending on size) and arrange them on top of the compote in a circular pattern.
Bake at 160 degrees until the apples are tender and the pastry golden.
Whilst warm, brush the top with a little jam ( apricot is traditional, but I used peach for mine and it was good).
Serve dusted with icing sugar if you can.

Tarte aux Pommes

Bravo Marie-Claude et à bientôt!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017


Image result for getafixThis weekend was our village Pot-au-Feu.

Jean-Jacques- our very own Getafix - set to work with his cauldron making a stew of epic proportions.

Beef, vegetables, herbs and seasoning all went into the pot- to simmer for hours in the traditional way.

The result was pure magic.

Pot-au-feu is a traditional Auvergnat stew made from shin of beef, cheek and other cheaper cuts of stewing beef, cooked in a bouillon of herbs and onions with carrots, potatoes, leeks, turnips, swede and celery. The whole lot is simmered in a sealed pot until the meat is tender. It can then be served either as it is, or in two courses- with the bouillon as a soup to start.

Ingredients: to make Pot-au-Feu for 8

1.5 kg shin of beef, 500g beef cheek,(marrow bone if you can get one) or 500g oxtail
We used 35 kilos!

6 carrots
Our carrot mountain
4 turnips
Tons of Turnips
4 sticks celery, 4 leeks, 4 onions,1-2 small swede, 8 potatoes..
Enough veg boxes to bury a brontosaurus!
4-5 bay leaves, bunch of thyme and parsley chopped roughly
 3 litres water
 plenty of salt and pepper
(to serve- gros sel and mustard)

1. Brown the onions to colour the bouillon, add the water to the pot along with the herbs and seasoning
2. Add the veg (peeled and washed but left whole), and bring to a simmering boil.

Simmer the veg

3. Lightly brown the  meat and add it (again left in large chunks) along with the marrow bone and close the lid.
4. Leave to cook undisturbed for 3 hours.
5. Serve in a dish with a good selection of meat and veg, with salt and mustard for guests to help themselves.
Not only were 140 people fed that afternoon, but 20 of us volunteer chefs and waiting staff sat down the next day to enjoy 'Les Restes'

Leftover lunch!
And still there was more- litres of bouillon to take home for soups:

Magic bouillon
I am going to use mine with some ravioli poached in it:

Soup with Ravioli
And Tupperware after Tupperware filling my freezer with cooked potatoes for gratins, soups and purees

Parmentier topping

And leftover meat for pies, Parmentiers and ragouts.

Individual Meat Pies
Even the fat that was skimmed from the bouillon went to good use- mixed with bird seed and put out for the hungry garden birds:

Don't forget to feed the birds!

And so, the feast comes to an end- and we feel suitably fortified and ready to face up to any adversity...

just as well as we head back to Brexit-torn and beleagured Britain next week!

Image result for ils sont fous ces anglais

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Tipsy Lady Marmalade

Seville oranges are in season (less than 2 euros per kilo in the market) and the weather is uninspiring and grey outside- so, a good time to get out the preserving pan again and brighten things up with some home made marmalade.

I am actually a novice marmalade maker- so this was a bit of an adventure.
I looked for an easy recipe- and here it is:

Easy Marmalade
Makes 2.5 kilos

7 Seville oranges (scrubbed)
2 sweet oranges (scrubbed)
1 lemon (scrubbed)
1.3 kilos sugar

1. Put the whole fruits and 1.7 litres of water into a large pan and simmer for an hour until soft.

Boiled and softened fruit
2. Allow to cool (preferably overnight), then take out the fruit and cut it in half. Squeeze out the juice and put it back into the pan and pick out the pips.
3. Put these into a square of muslin and tie with string.

Pips all bundled up
4. Put the peel and flesh into a food processor and pulse coarsely
5. Make the liquid in the pan back up to 1.4 litres
6. Dissolve the sugar slowly in the cooking liquid and add the bag of pips, tied to the side of the pan.
7. Stir in the chopped fruit and bring up to a rolling boil.
8. Boil for 25-30 minutes until the marmalade reaches setting point (105 degrees) or when a spoonful of it placed on a cold saucer wrinkles and 'sets'.

I was lucky enough to be given a jam thermometer at Christmas- which took a lot of the guesswork out of reaching setting point. However, I read that adding two tablespoons of whisky to the cooled marmalade will help with a stubborn set- and enhance the flavour somewhat too!

Ready to set and go!

Talking of whisky, I don't really drink the stuff (except on Burns Night of course)- but it can add a certain je ne sais quoi to various dishes. I use it to bring my Scottish Shortbread together and it adds a lovely smooth, toffee-like flavour to the biscuits:

Whisky Shortbread
Whisky Shortbread

The best shortbread is made with a ratio of 3:2:1 (eg. 300g flour, 200g butter, 100g sugar). I like to replace 1 tbsp of the flour with cornflour to lighten it a little.
Just put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until fine. Add two caps of whisky and pulse until it comes together in a soft dough.
Turn out into a greased baking tin, press evenly to fill the space and bake at 150 degrees for 15 minutes or so until lightly golden. (Keep an eye on it, as you don't want it to overcook).
Once out of the oven, prick with a fork all over and mark into slices.

Sprinkle with vanilla sugar et voila!

I am looking forward to tasting my marmalade with fresh French bread or croissants- but it will go well in either of these dishes too. (Better still, if you want to use up leftover shop bought stuff before luxuriating in your homemade preserve.)

Sticky Marmalade Cake:

Souffled Marmalade Pud:

Cookery Club was interesting this week too, from a fruity point of view. We made 'Pommes au Four au Porto' (Baked Apples in Port Wine). Thanks to Michelle for the recipe and demonstration.

Les Pommes Au Porto de Michelle

Ingredients: (for 4)

4 dessert apples
4 dessertspoons raisins blonds or sultanas
15g butter
4 tsp golden caster sugar
white port or dry sherry

1. The day before, soak the raisins in port
2. Wash and then hollow out the apples, but don't completely core- you don't want to go all the way through
Hollow out the apples

3. Put a knob of butter in each apple

Butter in!
4. Then a spoonful of raisins

Raisins in!
5. Pour over some more port and sprinkle on the sugar

Pour on the port generously!
6. Bake at 180 degrees for 45 minutes, basting occasionally with the syrup.

Pommes Au Porto
They look a little like I feel after all this boozy cooking!

Time for a little siesta now.

There are a few more cooking events coming up before I set sail for England again. I don't want to spoil the surprise but here is a little hint of what is to come:

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Spuds You Like

Back to village life in the Auvergne- and it's pretty busy here.
I have joined the Village Cookery Club and went to my first session last week. Goodness me, the standard was high! But the welcome was warm and I learned a lot.

Each session, a group member shares a recipe with the rest- and we all take turns in its preparation.
The main dish we made this time was 'Pommes Dauphiné'- and thus the idea was born for this month's potato- themed blog.

'Pommes Dauphiné' are not to be confused with Potatoes Dauphinoises- which everyone is familiar with. No, these tasty little morsels are deep-fried bites of choux paste and potato. Great for using up leftover mash.
They also freeze well- or can be made the day before you need them and reheated in a hot oven.
This recipe makes at least 60. (Many thanks to Joselyne for the recipe and the demonstration.)

Pommes Dauphine

450g mashed potato (well seasoned and not too sloppy)
75g margarine
3 eggs
180g flour
salt, pepper and oil for frying
Begin by making a choux paste- melt the butter in the seasoned water. When the liquid starts to bubble, take off the heat,  shoot in the flour and work well with a wooden spoon until smooth.
Making the choux paste

 Add the eggs one at a time, working them in with a fork, until the mixture is smooth. Next work in your mash- plenty of elbow grease required-

and then leave the paste to firm up (in the fridge for a few hours or the freezer for an hour or so.) As we are in the Auvergne, and temperatures were -10 degrees, it was sufficient to put it out on the windowsill for a short while!

Heat up some sunflower oil and then drop in teaspoons of the mixture.

Fry in batches

Take care not to crowd the pan too much- lift out the potato balls as soon as they are golden and drain on kitchen paper as you fry in batches.

Fry until golden

This week gives us Burns Night too- and we celebrated with our Neeps and a Haggis Parmentier.


I varied the potato topping this year however by adding leeks to make a 'Champ'.
Usually, this potato puree is mixed with spring onions- but I am using leeks as they are in season here.
To make Champ, heat some butter in a saucepan, and add 1 shredded leek. Reduce the heat, add a dash of water and some seasoning and cover with a butter wrapper or piece of cooking paper. Put on the lid of the saucepan and simmer the veg until tender. Drain off any excess water, add 200g per person of cooked potato and some milk and heat. When beginning to bubble, take off the heat and mash the potatoes, incorporating them well with the leeks.

Champ with Leeks
Adjust seasoning, pile on top of your haggis and cook in the oven at 170 degrees, topped with a little cheese if you wish until brown and bubbling.

Another recipe I have gleaned in the short time I have been back is Potato Cocotte.

Potato Cocotte

Peel 1 kg of potatoes and cut into chunks. Slice half a dozen of the pieces with a sharp knife and slide a bay leaf into the slit.

Add a bay leaf
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Chop and fry 1 onion and 300g of bacon lardons until the onion is transparent, add the potatoes and turn them well to absorb the cooking butter.
Place in an ovenproof dish with salt, pepper, nutmeg and some fresh thyme.
Pour over 300ml of hot chicken or vegetable stock.
Cover tightly and cook in the oven for about an hour, stirring halfway through the cooking time.
Dot with butter before serving.

This dish reminds me of Truffade- a traditional Auvergne dish of potato, cheese and bacon.

No truffles are involved in this recipe: it comes from the Occitane word truffa which is what the suspicious Auvergnats called potatoes when they were first brought to the region. Their gnarly, dirty appearance made everyone think they were truffles at first. They soon discovered their mistake.

Image result for wild boar
What? No truffles?

Plenty of other wasy to elevate the humble spud on ths blog by the way- try Marmite Potatoes Boulangere,
Image for Marmite Potatoes Boulangere

Or Aligot

Image for Raclette Potatoes
Or even good old Bubble and Squeak

Just click on the link below the picture to take you to the blogpost.

Image result for potato peel
Time to get peeling!