Tag Archives: france

Raclette

My parents own an incredibly old Raclette machine that they were given as a wedding present many moons ago…  Every once in a while it is dusted off, ready to be used to cook/grill the Raclette.  I am not sure how safe our machine is but I don’t care as it transforms the Raclette into molten cheese that is absolutely delicious when served with crudités (raw vegetables), boiled new potatoes and cured meat.

 

As kids we used to love it when it was a Raclette night.  However, there is one major downside to this type of supper – you have to wait your turn – not an easy feat when there are six of you …  The fun side of cooking and eating  Raclette this way is all about getting your timing right; taking your turn too early results in a minimal return of the cheese, whereas taking it too late means the vast majority of the cheese will end up on the base of the machine leaving it wide open to being pilfered by various members of the family…

Raclette is an expensive cheese to buy, so it is best bought when it is on offer.  However, as a treat once in a while it is worth spending your money on…  You can normally find it being sold in a deli, specialist cheese shop or, if you are very lucky, in the supermarket.  Don’t panic if you don’t have a Raclette machine you can always melt it in a non-stick frying pan or on a griddle.

 

 

Raclette Night

Ingredients:

  • Raclette (amount will depend on how many people you are feeding)
  • boiled new potatoes (serve with butter)
  • carrots (cut into batons)
  • celery (cut into batons)
  • cauliflower (cut into manageable pieces)
  • mushrooms (cut into chunks)
  • red pepper (cut into batons)
  • radish (and any other vegetables you fancy)
  • cured meat (e.g. Rosetta salami, Parma ham, etc.)

Step(s):

1.  Melt the cheese using your machine or in slices using a frying pan/griddle.  Serve whilst hot with the other vegetables and meats that have been laid out on a large platter.  Enjoy!

 

Moules mariniere

Our local supermarket had a special offer on fresh mussels yesterday – they were being sold for the bargain price of €1.50/kg.  After a quick look to make sure they looked OK (weren’t too damaged and the shells were closed) two kilos of the mussels were bought.  There was no doubt in my mind as to how we would be eating them with – white wine, shallots, garlic, parsley and cream – yup you’ve got it – Moules Marinières!

The last couple of times I have enjoyed eating mussels have been at village fêtes this summer.  The first of the fêtes cooked the mussels in the classic Moules Marinières way, serving them with chips and was very tasty.  However, it was the way they cooked them at the second fête which made me sit up and pay attention.  They placed kilo upon kilo of mussels onto huge metal trays roughly 2m long and ½m wide and then scattered over a combination of garlic, parsley and seasoning. They next covered the mussels with newspaper before drenching them with water, covered the lot with straw, which was then set alight.  By the time the straw had burnt away the mussels were cooked and they were beyond delicious!  Over here in France this way of cooking the mussels is called, éclade de moules.

Whilst I would have loved to have made an éclade de moules yesterday I think it would have been a little bit risky given the ground is bone dry at the moment.  So Moules Marinières it was and boy did it taste good with a nice glass of white wine and some crusty French Baguette!

 

Moules Marinières

Ingredients: (serves 2-4 people)

  • 2 kg mussels
  • 10-12 shallots (finely sliced)
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • ½ a bottle of dry white wine
  • large handful parsley (chopped)
  • 80-100 ml single cream

Steps:

1.  Clean the mussels, removing any barnacles or beard.  Discard any mussels that remain open when tapped sharply with a knife or have broken shells.  [The pictures below show the cleaned shells (on the left) and a few of the discarded shells (on the right).]

   

2.  Place the shallots and onions in a large saucepan with a little oil and cook until soft.

3.  Once soft, get the pan really hot, test that it is hot enough by pouring in a little of the wine and it should boil straight off.

4.  At this point add the mussels and the wine to the pan, cover with a lid and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the mussels are open.

5.  Add the cream and the parsley, stir well.  Remove from the heat and serve with a crusty French loaf.

 

 

Changing the way I think about some foods – Rabbit…

Living in France has opened my eyes to many things in terms of food – the most notable of which has been the versatility of rabbit. Growing up in England, the only rabbit that I had eaten was wild rabbit.  Wild rabbit tends to look like a red meat that has a lovely gamey taste.  In France the rabbit is different because they are reared for their meat much like chickens in the UK, subsequently their meat is white.

It is a dream of my parents to become self-sufficient (if any of you have ever read John Seymour’s book The Concise guide to Self-sufficiency – you will know that if you are successful the only thing you should ever need to buy is salt).  In terms of the production of fruit, vegetables, honey and meat my parents do pretty well.  I am not sure they will every go the whole hog and plant wheat/barley in order for us to have our own flour but the possibility is there should they wish.

One of their best producers is their rabbits.  We have three breeding rabbits, Hop, Skip and Jump who have a maximum of two broods during the winter and spring months.  In our experience the rabbits produce roughly 6-9 kittens (baby rabbits) each time, which means we get anywhere between, 24-36 rabbits each year for consumption.  This makes rabbit a very economical animal to rear, particularly when one rabbit can comfortably feed 5-6 people.

I am not going to pretend that the first time I was told that we were going to eat rabbit for supper I was a little sceptical.  This is because my first pet was a huge white rabbit, called Snowy (I know it was a very original name).  Once I got past the fact that I was not in fact eating Snowy but an animal that had been reared for eating and it not the type of animal you can pick up and cuddle, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it tasted.   People often make a comparison between the taste of rabbit and chicken and it is probably the best way to describe the flavour.  The meat to all intents and purposes is fairly bland, but it absorbs flavour wonderfully which makes it very good to cook with.  I fully appreciate that rabbit is not for everyone, but I would definitely recommend everyone try it once.

Yesterday I had some friends around for supper.  When I asked them what meat they would like for supper they replied ‘rabbit’ because they don’t eat it that often and, when they do, it is wild.  I have had an idea about how I wanted to try cooking it for some time with apple, cider and mustard and this presented me with a perfect opportunity.  The meal does take quite a long time to make as initially you have to poach the rabbit very slowly in the oven.  However it is certainly worth the effort.

 

Rabbit in an apple, mustard and cider sauce

Ingredients:

Stage 1

  • 1 rabbit (whole)
  • 2 small onions (roughly chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 2 carrots (peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 2 apples (cored and roughly chopped)
  • 1 – 1 ½ litres stock
  • 1 bay leave
  • 1 large sprig of thyme
  • 5-6 juniper berries
  • Oil (for cooking with)
Stage 2

  • rabbit meat (stripped off the bone from stage 1)
  • ½ – 1 pint stock (that is left over from stage 1)
  • 2 medium onions (sliced)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • handful of plain flour
  • handful of lardons
  • 2 apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • 2 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
  • 250ml medium dry cider
  • seasoning
  • oil (for cooking with)

 

Steps:

Stage 1:

  1. Preheat oven to 150C fan.
  2. Place the onions, garlic and oil in a large casserole dish, cook on a low heat until the onions are soft.
  3. Add the herbs, apples, carrots and rabbit to the pan.
  4. Pour over the stock until the rabbit is about ¾ covered.
  5. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and then place in the oven for 2 hrs.
  6. Remove for the oven and leave to cool.
  7. Once cool, strip the meat off the rabbit and place in a bowl and pass the stock and vegetables through a sieve into a measuring jug so they are both ready to be used in stage 2.

 

Stage 2:

  1.  Place the onions, garlic and oil in a large casserole dish, cook on a low heat until the onions are soft.
  2. Add the lardons and the flour, stir together well.
  3. Gradually add in the stock and mustard and allow it to thicken, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add half of the cider, the meat from the rabbit and apples.  Cover with a lid and leave to gently simmer for around 20-30 minutes.
  5. Add the remaining cider and cook for a further 5 minutes then taste and season as necessary before serving with green beans and mashed potatoes or roasted vegetables.

 

French Biscuits – Langue de Chat

I have just returned from a quick visit to see a couple of friends who live just over an hour away.  We went on a lovely walk that took us to the top of a small “bastide” village which had brilliant views over the surrounding countryside.  On the way there we passed some vines that were being harvested.  It was quite unlike the more romantic “vendange” that I went to a couple of weeks ago where all the grapes were being picked by hand.  By contrast these grapes were being picked by specially designed machine that drives over the vines and strips the grapes as it goes.  It was quite impressive to watch from the road and extremely quick. One thing I did notice was how bashed the grapes were as evidenced by how much juice there was when the grapes were tipped into the back of a trailer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took a very small gift with me for my friends – some French biscuits known as Langue de Chat (Cat’s Tongue).  The name of the biscuits might not sound the most attractive but I can assure you they are definitely worth trying as they are very simple and taste delicious!  I first started making Langue de Chat biscuits after a neighbour came around with a box of them shortly after they moved to the area and I just had to give them a go.  What I like about them is you can make a batch and then add different flavours to them.  Over the last year I have made the following types; orange, almond, chocolate orange, vanilla, chocolate and various ones with slithers of almond on the top.  Yesterday I divided the batter in half and made both almond and orange biscuits.

As I was making them, I made two very silly mistakes yesterday firstly, never turn your back on biscuits when they are cooking in the oven and secondly, don’t forget to turn the temperature of the oven down when you are using a fan oven.  Consequently the first batch of the biscuits that went through the oven were slightly on the brown side, however I got the bake on the second batch right.  All I can say is pay attention to the biscuits when they are in the oven.

Langue de Chat

Ingredients:

  • 4oz butter
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 8oz plain flour

Flavouring ideas:

  • almond essence
  • chopped almonds
  • orange zest
  • chocolate chips
  • vanilla essence  (chop and change the flavours as you wish)

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C fan and line several baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Place the sugar and butter in a bowl and cream them together.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are at the soft peak stage.
  4. Add the egg whites to the butter and sugar mix.
  5. Fold in the flour carefully.
  6. Then add the flavour of your choice.
  7. Place the batter in a piping bag (I sometimes use a freezer bag which I cut the corner off).  
        
  8. Pipe the batter in straight lines on to the prepared baking trays (note they do expand a little when they cook).
  9. Bake in the oven for 7-8 minutes.  (Make sure you keep an eye on them.)
  10. Once cooked place them on a cooling rack and leave them to cool down before eating them or placing them in a box to be given away as a gift.