It rained hard in these parts all day today. The distant hills were smudged with mist and the low steel grey sky felt oppressive. The short time I spent in the sun-kissed South of France, in May last year, now seems centuries ago. Occasionally as an antidote to dull days I recall the clear blue skies, the shimmering azure sea and the colourful food markets of Provence. One memory of the holiday has hooked itself crochet like into my mind; it is the taste of the orange wine, which is a speciality of the region. Now that Seville (marmalade) oranges are in season I decided to make a batch of Vin d’ Orange.
Category Archives: Recipes
As an expression, it’s never too late to bake a Christmas cake, may not be in the same league as one of my favourite quotes ‘It’s never too late to be who you might have been’ (George Eliot). This recipe is from a Delia Smith Christmas Cookery book; she calls it last-minute Christmas mincemeat cake. It seems to prove the point that as in life so too in Christmas baking it’s never too late. Once cooked it can be iced in the traditional way, topped with a glazed nut topping, or simply left as is.
I went to see ‘Cézanne et Paris’ an exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg (running until 26th February 2012) when I was in Paris last week. Cézanne urged by his old school friend Émile Zola to come to Paris, to further his artistic career, arrived in the capital aged twenty-one in 1861. From then on Cézanne travelled back and forth between Paris and his native Province, he did however return permanently to the landscapes of his childhood for the last fifteen years of his life. The exhibition is of Cézanne’s Parisian works and includes a picture of Zola; sadly the two friends fell out possibly because of Zola’s portrayal of an artist, loosely based on Cézanne, in his novel The Masterpiece.
I don’t buy biscuits. I simply don’t because I might simply scoff the lot. Plus there is the vexatious question of dubious ingredients in some shop bought biscuits (think additives and trans fats). However I do have a sweet a tooth so I occasionally bake a batch of biscuits. These vanilla biscuits are one of the first things I learnt to bake many years ago; they are beyond easy to make and if you exclude the cooking time the making of them takes just five minutes. You should get about twenty from this recipe.
I love the glorious aroma of freshly baked home-made bread. However I have limited bread making skills and I am rather scared of using yeast so other than occasionally making focaccia I tend to stick to baking breads that don’t require it. The yeast free spelt bread pictured above is very easy to make; it is just the thing when you want to cut back on your wheat intake and it tastes delicious. The recipe comes from ‘Cornucopia at Home: The Cook Book’.
Am I alone in sticking to a very limited choice of foods to eat for breakfast? I usually select either the healthy option of a bowl of porridge with yogurt or the not so healthy alternative of a scone. In an effort to make some tiny changes to my breakfast routine, when I was baking a batch of scones for the freezer I added walnuts and dried mango instead of the usual couple of handfuls of sultans. I try to avoid dairy as much as possible but I have never been able to find an acceptable substitute to use for baking, if anyone knows one please let me know.
I am of the make-your-own-pastry-tribe but if you’re not and would like to make the tart you could always seek out a good ready-made pastry. When a recipe calls for a pastry shell to be baked blind, I adopt a twenty-four hour approach to tackling it; I make the pastry and bake the shell the evening before it’s needed and then all I have to do the following day is make the filling and cook off the tart. This is a Simon Hopkinson recipe, I suspect everybody is probably into Simon Hopkinson’s latest book, The Good Cook, post his recent BBC series, but the chocolate tart recipe is from his older and excellent book Roast Chicken and Other Stories published by Ebury Press in 1994.
For the pastry
65g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
225g plain flour
For the filling
3 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
40g caster sugar
200g dark chocolate broken into pieces (I used one with a 70% cocoa content)
To make the pastry, put the butter, sugar and egg yolks in a bowl (or food processor) and work together quickly. Blend in the flour, and work to a homogenous paste. Chill for at least one hour.
Preheat the oven to 180°C . Roll out the pasty as thinly as you can and use it to line a 20.5cm tart tin. Bake blind in the oven for about 25 minutes or until pale biscuit in colour, but thoroughly cooked through. Remove. Increase the heat of the oven to 190°C.
To make the filling, put the egg yolks, whole eggs and sugar in a bowl and beat vigorously together, preferably with an electric mixer until really thick and fluffy. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Pour on to the egg mixture while just warm. Briefly beat together until well amalgamated, them pour into the pastry case. Return to the hot oven for 5 minutes, then remove and leave to cool. Serve with thick cream.
Note: To bake the pastry case blind I lined it with tin foil and weighed it down with uncooked rice.
My five-day detox in June (see here) left me feeling so energized that I decided to devote this week to another dose of healthy eating. The ideal was no wheat, dairy, sugar, alcohol, caffeine or meat. I have to confess that I racked up: one coffee, a few cups of tea with *whispers* milk, a delicious square of apricot sponge cooked by a friend and oh two glasses of wine this evening. Oops. I don’t feel too bad about my breakouts as in the main this week eats were über healthy. Tonight I made a dish that I have christened, roasted vegetable, goat’s cheese and chickpea bake. Here’s the recipe, which makes two/three portions.
One small onion finely chopped
400g can of chopped tomatoes
Two cloves of garlic very finely chopped
Handful of basil
Two medium courgettes cut into bite sized chunks
Two red peppers cut into bite sized chunks
70g goat’s cheese diced
Handful of chopped walnuts
Half the contents of a 410g can of chick peas drained and washed
2 handfuls of breadcrumbs (I used spelt bread)
Grated zest of one lemon
Handful of parsley
Salt and pepper
First pre heat the oven to 180°C. Saute the onion in a frying pan in some olive oil until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for a further two minutes (don’t be tempted to throw the garlic in at the start, as garlic burns easily). Add the tin of tomatoes with salt and pepper to taste and leave to simmer over a low heat for thirty minutes, towards the end of the thirty minutes throw in the handful of basil leaves. When the thirty minutes are up, take the pan off the hob and allow to cool for a few minutes before whizzing to a smooth sauce in a food processor. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary, if the sauce is too acidic you might like to add a teaspoon or so of sugar. While the sauce is simmering on the hob toss the chopped vegetables in olive oil and put them in a roasting tin and pop in the oven until the vegetables are soft (approx 30- 40 minutes). When the vegetables are cooked, mix in the diced goat’s cheese, chickpeas and chopped walnuts and gently fold in the tomatoe sauce. Make the topping by mixing the chopped parsley and lemon zest into the breadcrumbs. Transfer the vegetable, chickpea and goat’s cheese mix into a baking dish, top with the breadcrumb mix and place in the oven until heated through (approx 20 – 25 minutes).
This recipe for blueberry, raspberry and strawberry cobbler is from Tamasin’s Kitchen Bible; one of Tamasin Day -Lewis’s excellent cookery books. She describes cobbler as ‘a sort of pie with a scone-like crust’. I made it tonight to celebrate the start of the Bank Holiday weekend (in Ireland). It’s easy to make and it tastes delicious, so delicious that I ate two helpings!
Tomorrow, Bastille Day is the French national holiday; it commemorates the storming of the infamous Bastille prison on 14th July 1789 by disgruntled revolutionaries. The rebels took the Bastille and that event became a symbol of The French Revolution. Tomorrow all of France will be en fête; I decided to celebrate from afar by baking some madeleines.