Saturday, 16 February 2013

my first meat free dinner party

'Paris is not the kind of place vegetarians want to hang out in for too long, while there are more and options on French bistro menus, most French people love their meat, my husband included.  He has adapted to what he calls his rabbit food diet quite well, we eat mainly vegetarian and when I do cook meat it only tends to be when when we are having guests over, and even then I would plump more for a fish dish.

My mid week vegetarian cooking, let's be honest is not dinner party material, and last night we had invited a Franco-American couple for over dinner , where the American part of the couple is a devout vegetarian. 

I was a little worried that my mid week vegetarian repertoire  would not be up to scratch, and at the same time I did not want to risk trying something new.  Eventually I settled on an old firm favorite for main course; a stilton, leek and spinach tart from the Cafe Paradiso cookbook, which I have made several times.   It used to be that sourcing non French cheeses in Paris was a real mission, but now most cheese shops stock at least one good mature cheddar and stilton. In the past I have substituted the stilton for roquefort cheese, but the taste is not the same at all, this tart merits the real deal.

Originally I had been planning to serve the tart just with the braised lentils as per the suggestion in the cookbook but for simplicity decided to also serve it with a salad from Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home cook-book that I had been planning to serve as a starter. This tangy salad was a perfect match for the tart and was a real hit with my husband who squirreled away the leftovers and hid them at the back of the fridge to have for his lunch today, that's a first for him with a salad!

In keeping with the Jamie Oliver theme I decided to switch my usual apple crumble recipe for 
Jamie Oliver's apple crumble recipe and was a little disappointed with the result, my husband said it 'lacked something' but could not put our finger on what. 

Tonight we have more guests and I have kept the Moroccan theme going with a modified version of Angela Hartnett's chicken and date tangine currently bubbling on the stove top filling the apartment with the sweet spicy smells of North Africa. To be soaked up with the perfect steamed coucous and moroccan flat bread from the bakery around the corner.

PS:photos coming as soon as my Galaxy3 recharges back to life 

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Christmas Cranberry Compote

Christmas fruit compote

Give the new year a healthy start with this lovely tangy and light fruit compote with just a hint of Christmas to carry over that feel good factor a bit longer into the new year. Easy to make, great on porridge or to liven up a natural yogurt, it also makes a lovely gift when presented in a glass jar.

You will need: 200g of fresh cranberries, handful of kumquats (peeled), 2 clementines (peeled and segmented - making sure to remove as much pith as possible), 1 apple -peeled, cored and chopped, 2 tablespoons of water, 1 tablespoon of caster sugar, 1 teaspoon of all spice and 2 star aniseed.

To make: put all ingredients except for the caster sugar, in a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes then add sugar. Good hot/cold on porridge or cold on yogurt.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

a lunchbox hit

This is another great lunchbox salad that promises to keep you full until dinner time.  Its  travels well, is dressed in advanced and even tastes better if made the evening before and chilled as this allows the flavours to develop.

For a complete lunchbox just add some cherry tomatoes and some fruit - pictured here is the French Summer fruit, Mirabelles which taste like small sweet plums.

For the salad for one person you need:

1/2 cup of cooked and drained chickpeas
1/2 large carrot julienned/grated
2 teaspoons of raisins
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds crushed
tablespoon chopped parsley

For the dressing:

1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil
2 tablespoons of lemon juice

To assemble:

Whisk dressing ingredients together the mix well through the salad, then chill overnight. If you like serve on a bed of green salad.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

lite lunch with enough bite to keep you going through the afternoon

This is a lovely light simple to make Summer salad that gives you four of your five a day. The chickpeas are not only a good source of protein but because they have a low GI will keep you fueled through to dinner and hopefully avoid those afternoon cravings. The quantities double up easily.

For one person you will need:

1 cup cooked chickpeas(or from a can, drained)
5 cherry tomatoes
5 olives
1/2 a bell pepper chopped (red works best but today I only had yellow)
1/2 small red onion sliced
2 large fistfuls of lettuce (any green salad works, good with lambs lettuce or water cress, I used a butter leave salad), washed and thorn (if necessary)

For the dressing (makes 2 portions):

2 x teaspoons rapeseed oil
1/2 garlic clove crushed
4 x teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon runny honey

To make: 

First make the dressing by whisking all of the ingredients together.
The put all salad ingredients in a serving bowl pour over half the dressing and mix well through the salad.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

My mam's legendary carrot cake

Wet stuff

1 carton of hazelnut yoghurt (150g)
6oz sunflower oil
4 eggs (free range)
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Dry stuff
9 oz wheaten flour
9 oz brown sugar
3 oz coconut flakes
1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
11 oz carott grated
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg

(I normally reduce the sugar to 6oz and add 3oz golden raisins)

Couldn't be simplier, you beat the wet stuff together then add it to the dry stuff and stir it up, it will be quite sloppy but that's ok trust me, then you pour this all ino a silicon loaf "tin" (which I normally oil lightly first) then stick it all in preheated oven (150 °c) for about 1 1/2 hours (test with a skewer - the cake is done when it comes out clean) in my oven it was done in one hour. Let cool on a wire rack.
You can choose to "top" the cake or not, for those of you not going for the whole hog option, it is quite nice served with some greek yoghurt or creme fraiche (with some orange juice added) for those of you not concerned with your waist bands tough luck - you will have to find a good frosting recipe yourself!

While the cake was in the oven I was browsing the internet and came across a recipe for a mango cake from joy the baker (, no I know mangos don't grow in France and I really do try and make an effort to buylocally bu honestly I was really only trying the recipe out from my brother living in Pakistan who has more mangos than he knows what to do with....anyway highly recommend this receipe and can easily be made into muffins perfect for a Sunday brunch!

Friday, 30 March 2012

old recipes: oxtail stew part one

A few months ago we were invited to some French friends for dinner who made us a fantastic coq au vin with a real cock (apparently), this started a lively debate on old fashioned recipes that our grannies used to make. I had two months to think about how to retaliate and came up with the idea of oxtail stew.

Last night my mam poured through all her cook books and spent a good part of the evening with me on the phone detailing the various recipes of Darina Allen, Georgina Cambell and off course Brenda Costigan - whose recipe in the Sunday Independent a few months ago sparked off the idea in my mind, only I failed to find the recipe I had so carefully cut out.

French husband had to do the rounds of several butchers today in his quest to get a is definitely a cows tail but I would not swear to it being an oxes! He was also gives an a bone marrow to add taste, though the butchers were confused as to why anyone would want to vook this dish given the current Parisien heat wave - relatively speaking for this time of year.

Well most of the recipes had pretty much the same ingredients, oxtail, butter, onions, carrots, more butter but Nigel Slater's was the only one to include a bottle of red wine, I am sure this was not around in my grannies fact I can't ever say I saw Lizzy with a bottle of bold strong Rioja in hand, although I am sure she would have been one to double the quantity of butter (of course the real stuff made by herself) in oxtail stew - but in my heart and soul I felt that the bottle of wine would give a modern touch to an old recipe and make it more Frenchie friendly)!

The proof is in the pudding or the stew as they say and currently it has another 2 hours in the oven before going in the fridge overnight and being reheated tomorrow. Will let you know if it passes the taste test. It goes without saying that I also doubled up the butter quantities - Georgina Cambell style - Granny would be proud!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

good old fashioned pancakes like my mam makes!

While the French prefer to eat there pancakes for "Le Chandler" in Ireland we eat ours for Shrove Tuesday, which as the answer I gave my French husband when he had the audacity to ask me where the pancakes were a few weeks ago.

Dinner guest is coming tonight who loves all things anglophone so it would be rude not to serve pancakes for dessert, but like my mam makes, not French style pancakes. The batter has been resting in the fridge since early morning, and they will be served with nothing more than some brown sugar and lemon juice.

This batter will make ten pancakes and is less rich than some other recipes because it uses less eggs and no sugar. You will need: 125g of plain flour, 1 large egg, 300ml of milk and a knob of butter. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and whisk in 3 tablespoons of the milk until you have a sooth paste and gradually whisk in the remainder of the milk. Leave to stand in the fridge for a few hours. Take the batter out of the fridge 30 mins before you start making your pancakes.

Heat some of the butter in a non stick pan on a medium. Pour a small ladle of batter into the pan, swirling the batter to evenly cover the pan base. When the edges of the pancake start to dry, it is ready to be tossed or turned. Before tempting either you should loosen the pancake with a fish slice or a palette knife. If you have difficulty loosening it melt some butter under the edges of the pancake. The toss. The more faint hearted can gently turning it using a fish slice. Then cook until the pancake in nice and brown underneath and service rolled up drizzled with lemon juice and sprinkled with brown sugar.