Thursday, 27 September 2007

Pumpkin Recipes

Prepare a smallish pumpkin or even a butternut squash by peeling the skin, removing the seeds and cutting into crescent shapes. Baste in olive oil, season with salt, pepper, tabasco, soy sauce, sugar and cinnamon. Roast in the oven (200C/400F/gas mark 6) for about 25-30 minutes until browned and caramelised.
Make a prune and onion confit with about
Heat some olive oil and add 500 g peeled shallots. Fry until brown and golden. Season with salt and pepper and add some whole garlic cloves. Add 400g stoned prunes and enough water to just cover. Simmer on a fierce heat, until it is all absorbed, adding water a little at a time, until the shallots become golden and caramelised all the way through but still maintain much of their shape, and the prunes are soft with some dissolving into the sauce. The whole thing should take about 20-25 minutes. A few minutes before the end, add a handful of blanched almonds and heat. This is better if made before the day you wish to eat the meal.

Serve the roasted pumpkin crescents with a couscous made with saffron and parsley or other herbs and with some of the prune and onion confit. The confit can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for several days.

Take a small pumpkin. Chop off lid. Keep. Peel off outer skin keeping some skin on the bottom of the pumpkin if you wish. Scoop out all the seeds. Find a round casserole dish that the pumpkin will sit into comfortably. Note that as it cooks it will fall into position!Now make a minced beef stuffing with 300g of steak haché ( minced or chopped beef or maybe lamb) Onions, garlic, red peppers, courgettes etc can be sautéed. The sauté the meat separately. Combine and add seasoning. We added ground coriander but any combination of herbs and / or spices could be interesting. We also added canned red kidney beans. Some tomato purée will help to thicken the vegetables. Put the combined mixture into the pumpkin.
Put the unpeeled pumpkin hat / lid on, including the stalk if it has one and roast until ready. Cover it with foil for part of the cooking time. Take off the lid and add grated cheese and grill or further bake in the oven. We served it with rice. Delicious!
Omit the meat for a vegetarian recipe.
This gave sufficient for at least 4 very generous servings.

Memories of Autumnal days

Well ... after the initial inspiration for starting this blog, factors such as energy and stimulus have recently appeared to be lacking in the literary direction. In wishing to create an interesting website as well as a positive portrayal of living in France, it is also for my pleasure that I like play with words. It takes time to write.

Seasons disappear. Autumn will become Winter. The nights will draw in, the days will shorten, the temperatures will fall. I predict a cold winter because the berries have been on the bushes since late August. The elder flowers and berries were too early.

Captain Sensible is fighting a valiant battle with the inclement weather that we have recently had. Having worked with old oak and green oak for the first time, he says he feels frustrated because it is slow progress especially with the rains we have recently had. Sweet Pea thinks his work is excellent... but as she cannot even use a hammer correctly she would never have dared to start such a project.

And now ... we are approaching the end of October. The days have clear, blue skies with a crisp, fresh air quality. There have been at least two mornings with below zero temperatures and hence frost.

And now, still with this article not yet published, December arrives!!! It will be published in retrospect!

Let's go back to August...

The first weekend had been the hottest and the most humid weekend of the year! We rocked in the hammocks. Our garden provided us with haricot beurre beans and mirabelle plums.

After mid August Family and Friends arrived. The warm weather enabled us to enjoy an evening barbecue, sitting in front of the fire until just after midnight.

At Angles-sur-Anglin we re-discovered a fabulous street theatre group - artistes in the Soup Kitchen were in action but as it was late afternoon they were making hot chocolate drinks, toast and jam. Musicians, actors and actresses entertained us as we sipped our kir in the centre of the town.

The weather turned colder, the hirondelles collected on the telegraph wires. We thought they had migrated but later in the month they returned to wheel in the blue skies. On the 22nd of the month we celebrated our second anniversary of leaving England and moving to France.

Six Friends in France - August 2007
Captain Sensible and his Sweet Pea entertained two friends and their two friends in our two bedroomed cottage, sleeping ourselves downstairs on the sofas/settees. Given the recent cold winds, rain and early autumnal weather we rejected the idea of sleeping under canvas in the garden preferring the warmth of an indoor lifestyle. It was cosy and comfortable.

Day One
Warm winds and sunshine enabled us to welcome the evening arrival of our guests on the unfinished verandah. It was good to see such friends as if we had seen them only yesterday!

LASAGNE BOLOGNESE for 6 persons.
In a wide based pan sauté 2 medium onions, 4 small shallots and 2 chopped garlic cloves in olive oil until soft. Empty from the pan. Add chopped courgettes and chopped red pepper to your liking and sauté in more olive oil. Empty from the pan once cooked.
Saute 450g quality Steak Haché (minced beef). Use a wooden spatula to break it into smaller pieces as it cooks. Whilst this is cooking, add salt and pepper, fennel or celery seeds, dried or chopped fresh herbs, bay leaves and a good pinch of cinnamon. Once cooked stir in a little flour until absorbed, then add some white or red wine, tomato purée or tomato sauce to make a moist mixture. Add the vegetables and more sauce or wine as necessary. Stir until the mixture is like a thick chunky sauce.
In another pan make a roux of 75g hot butter and 75g flour. Add a little milk and stir continuously to beat the roux. Gradually add more milk and beat until it is a thick creamy sauce. Add some grated hard cheese and seasoning.
In a large oven proof dish (I used a 30cm square brown earthenware dish), put in a layer of
good quality ready to cook lasagne pasta, the mince mixture, a little creamy sauce mixture and repeat until the dish is full, ending with a layer of pasta and then creamy cheese sauce. Scatter with grated hard cheese and maybe grated mozzarella cheese.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes 190°C Gas 5. Remove from the oven if you are not ready to dine. Cook for another 15 minutes approximately when the top should be nicely golden brown.
Cut into portions and serve in the centre of individual plates with a glass of red or white wine or water.
Measure 150 g butter, 75 g sugar, and 225 g plain flour into a bowl and with your fingers mix lightly together until it is a crumbly mixture.Add a small pinch of edible lavender flowers. This is optional. Continue using your fingers and press the mixture into a 20cm diameter glass flan dish. Break an egg into a cup and whisk with a fork and pour over the shortcake. Bake in oven 190°C for about 5 minutes. Take out and arrange the pre-stoned mirabelle plums on the top leaving no gaps. Scatter with a very light sprinkling of caster sugar, and for the courageous a small smidgen pinch of dried lavender flowers. Bake in the centre of an oven for about 30 minutes, however, depending on the fruit it may take longer. You can serve it warm or cold as it is, or with a dollop of crème fraîche, yoghurt or cream. As a variation you could use fresh stoned apricot fruits.
Day Two
International Chefs presented their cookery school in their own home. We enjoyed good company whilst being shown how to create a most magnificent meal. Our menu was:

Tarte Fine of Aubergine, Tapenade and Mozzarella
Chargrilled Snapper with A Mango, Prawn and Chilli Salsa
St Maure's Cheese Soufflé
Tiramisu Boat with Three Sauces

It is an understatement to say how delicious this was. This unique experience of first class world cuisine was sheer delight.

In Angles-sur-Anglin we explored the Low Town insearch of the Stone Loges. These are ancient, small, dry walled, stone constructions where workers in the vineyards, fields and woodlands would once have sheltered from the rain, wind and sun.

Day Three

It was our second visit to Les Flaveurs de la Terre, un Caviste-conseil at Loches. Jean-Christophe LAPLANCHE was a fantastic host. Our picnic menu was:
Anchovy and Vegetable Tart,
Cheeses with Batavia lettuce,
Fresh strawberries with Lemon Cheescake.
There is a deep science to wine tasting AND there is a deep science to the matching of food and wine. Somehow, we have not yet got this right!!! I think our caviste was unimpressed with the challenge of choosing wines to serve with the combination of different tastes, smells and flavours of the ingredients in our menu! Woops.
However, he was absolutely charming, explaining his reasons for choosing certain wines for us to taste, and explaining his philosophy of food and wine. It was a unique experience.
Montresor- un Plus beaux Village de France. Whilst it is quite pretty it does not have the magic and ambience of Angles-sur-Anglin.

Day Four
A rest, computer maintenance, wine shopping and a walk along La Balade des Plaisirs preceded
delicious cuisine from Le Petite Auberge, a restaurant which we highly recommend marred only by losing the car key which several days later was retrieved from the most property section at the Mairie. Marvellous!
Day Five
On the last day of August our guests travelled to a gite in Brittany. We proceeded with nettoyage and a rest from our holiday with friends! My Mother asks if we "potter about". Is THAT what we do? We had an extraordinarily brilliant time, exceeding all our expectations.

No crying over fermented milk

We have again accidentally purchased fermented milk thinking it was fresh milk!

However, with the assistance of the glorious web, fount of all knowledge, we have finally learned more about this particular dairy product.

Lait Ribot is a Traditional Armorique fermented milk which has been made in Brittany for thousands of years since possibly before the Gauls lived there. The brand name is Bridel. Ribotte is an old word for "churn", and in Breton language it is called "laez ribod".

Evidently, the white liquid that remains after the milk has been churned into butter, is fermented. In England we would call it buttermilk. In France it is called babeurre.

We are impressed at how inexpensive it is and obviously it is very nutritious. This evening, we added vanilla sirop and realised the glorious potential of this drink.

We will use it to make galettes and crêpes as it has been traditional to use this instead of fresh milk. It is cheaper than yoghurt and we have already thought of adding fresh crushed fruit and juices to it as a breakfast drink ... AND ... I am going to make sour milk scones and sour milk dough for bread. Just another obsession to keep me occupied and to satisfy our pleasure for food.

The following paragraph was discovered on a Tourist Site for Bretagne, France.
"This pale white liquid, which is also called buttermilk, was kept in the coolest part of the house and drunk to quench thirst. It was delicious in summer with fresh fruit and gave that extra touch to fish cooked in a court-bouillon. In times gone by, it was also used to make a kind of soup. People would mash potatoes in a bowl, spreading them around the edges and then pour lait ribot on top. It was often combined with chestnuts and potatoes at meal times. People would also cut buckwheat pancakes into pieces and dunk them in a bowl of lait ribot. And then of course people got used to drinking it during a meal of galettes and crêpes. Not everyone likes lait ribot but its fans will drink nothing else, except perhaps cider!"

Well ... I'm not that keen on cider but I am very happy to drink this as it will be cheaper than buying Yakult or any other acidophulus drinks for the digestive system.