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Archive for the ‘Light Meal (Lunch-Supper)’ Category

I was reminded of this recipe this morning when a friend at church brought in duck eggs for sale.  We had a ready supply throughout last year but the ducks have been taking a break from laying and the resumed supply is something we have eagerly anticipated!  I discovered this very simple recipe last year and although you can use hen’s eggs the larger and richer duck eggs (see picture) make it an extra special light supper.  I have made egg curries in the past and we always enjoy them, but this is one of the simplest recipes I have come across.

Once more this recipe is based on one from one of my favourite books: Hot & Spicy Cooking: Exciting Ideas for Delicious Meals with recipes by Judith Ferguson, Lalita Ahmed and Carolyn Garner, with just a few very small tweaks.  It’s simple sauce could be used as a base for any grilled meat or fish or diced meat or fish could also be incorporated.  It reminds me a little of other recipes on this site, in particular Pork Sausages Indian Style, a Madhur Jaffrey recipe and Prawn & Tomato Korma, both of which are favourites.  If using hen’s eggs then it is probably better to serve one and a half or even two per person for a light meal: with duck eggs one should be adequate.  If you are serving this at a larger main meal then you will definitely need more eggs and the sauce will serve only two or three people.  If serving as one option at an Indian style multi dish meal then the eggs should be quartered.  This could also be served as a starter with half an egg per portion (in two quarters) and a small piece of naan or poppodums.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Egg Curry
(Serves 4 as a light meal – 2-3 as a main meal – 6-8 as a starter)

4 duck eggs (1 per person – ½ for a starter)
or
4-8 hens eggs (depending on appetite of diners – 1 or less for a starter)
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 large or 2 small white onions (be generous)
2.5cm/1inch piece of cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
6 green cardamom pods
3 cloves
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1.5cm/½inch piece of root ginger, finely chopped
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
¼tsp ground turmeric
1tsp garam masala
1tsp chilli powder
1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes, chopped
Salt & black pepper to taste
180ml/6fl ozs vegetable stock or water (or 1tsp stock powder and water)
To garnish
Small handful fresh chopped coriander (parsley if unavailable)
1 small green chilli, a few fine slices (optional – I usually omit this)

1.  Hard boil the eggs in boiling water: 10-12 minutes for duck eggs or 8-10 minutes for hens eggs.  Once cooked plunge immediately into cold water, which will cool them and also help prevent the unsightly grey ring that can form around the yolk.  I usually steam hard boil eggs, having pierced the shells first, which takes about 5 minutes longer.

2.  Finely chop the onion and gently fry it in the oil for 2-3 minutes so it is soft but not browned.

3.  Stir in the finely chopped garlic and ginger along with the cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamoms and cloves.  Fry for 1 minute.

4.  Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, garam masala and chilli powder.  Stir well and fry for about 30 seconds more.

5.  Add the chopped tinned tomatoes.  Stir well, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.   Add the stock or water and bring to the boil.  Season to taste.

6.  Put the hard boiled eggs into the sauce and simmer for 10-12 minutes.

7.  Serve sauce on a bed of plain boiled rice with egg or eggs placed on top.  Garnish with coriander or parsley and, if you wish, a little finely sliced green chilli.

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Mulligatawny is such a strange sounding word, but it simply means pepper water.  Rather than being rooted in India, it is thought that Mulligatawny probably originated in Sri Lanka, although it could possibly have come from the Tamil speaking people of South India.  ‘Mulligatawny’ or ‘Milagu Thanni’ is an amalgam of two Tamil words: ‘Millagu’ meaning pepper and ‘Thanni’ meaning water, although the soup we eat is probably closer to another Tamilian soup called Rasam.  Originally a thin soup, under the rulers of the British colonial Raj Mulligatawny became rich and dense.  A Mulligatawny soup recipe such as this one would have been familiar to those Britons who lived and worked during the Imperial Raj, the British rule of the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947.  Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon), a large island just to the south of mainland India, had close ties to Britain but was never part of the Raj.  The British tried to recreate familiar dishes, as far as possible using the new and unusual ingredients they found but the hot climate, lack of refrigeration and unfamiliar cooking facilities would have made this very difficult.  Originally Mulligatawny was served as a vegetarian ‘sauce’, but the British varied the recipe, including meat and other ingredients, often thickening it with rice and adding turmeric to give a yellow colour.  Recipes for Mulligatawny appeared in many Victorian publications including one in the 1870 Nabob’s cook book which featured the addition of ‘fowl’.  Although the soup was popular in India and Ceylon, it was not highly thought of back home in England but the resulting mixture of East and West has cast an influence on British cooking which can still be found today.

I have wanted to make Mulligatawny Soup for some time but when looking for a recipe, as you can imagine from the information above, there is  a great deal of choice.  I knew that I wanted to make a hearty and spicy soup which could be eaten in place of a main meal: the type that would be ideal when the weather is at its January chilliest.  I found two complementary recipes and this version of Mulligatawny Soup is a combination of the best of both.  The sources were Women’s Institute Soups for all Seasons by Liz Herbert and a wonderful recent find (from the secondhand bookstall at the church where my choir meets) The Ultimate Hot & Spicy Cookbook by various authors (published by Lorenz books), which I will certainly be revisiting again and again.  I certainly wanted to add meat, chicken from choice (but this could be varied) and unable to choose between adding rice as in the Women’s Institute Soups for all Seasons and lentils as in The Ultimate Hot & Spicy Cookbook I decided to add both, something I will definitely do again.  The second book also included sultanas, but as I do not like these in curries I have left them out.  The dollop of Mango Chutney (home made, of course!) made it sweet enough for me.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Mulligatawny Soup
(Serves 3-4)

10g/½oz butter
1tbsp olive oil
4 chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite size chunks
or
2 chicken breast fillets, cut into bite size chunks
or
about 8ozs/200g leftover turkey or chicken from a roast
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 medium sized carrot, diced
1 medium sized potato, diced
1 small turnip, diced (optional)
1 tbsp mild madras curry powder (or another powder of your choice)
1 litre/1¾pints chicken stock
2 large tomatoes, chopped (did not skin & deseed as in original recipe)
2-4 cloves (according to personal preference)
6 black peppercorns, crushed lightly
4ozs/100g rice (preferably Basmati)
2ozs/50g red lentils
2ozs/50g sultanas (optional – I left these out)
handful chopped coriander (reserve some for garnish) – or parsley
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Garnish
1tbsp per bowl natural yoghurt/crème fraîche/sour cream (more if you wish)
1tsp per bowl mango chutney
chopped fresh coriander (reserved)
grind of black pepper or light dusting of cayenne pepper/chilli powder

1.  Melt the butter and oil together in a large saucepan.  Turn up the heat and fry the diced raw  chicken quickly turning frequently until it has browned.  (Cooked leftover chicken should be added about 10minutes before the serving which should be just long enough for it to be thoroughly heated through.)  This should take about 2 minutes.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

2.  Stir the curry powder into the remaining oil and cook briefly.  Add the onion, garlic, carrot, potato and turnip (if using) to the oil remaining in the pan.  Stir well and turn down the heat.  Cover and cook very gently for about 10 minutes.

3.  Add the stock and stir well.  Add the cloves, crushed peppercorns and chopped tomatoes.  Bring to the boil and reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer gently for 2o minutes.

4.  Return the cooked chicken to the pan along with most of the chopped coriander, including the stalky pieces (use just chopped leaves for the garnish).  Add the rice and lentils and simmer gently until they are just cooked, adding a little extra water only if needed.  (If leftover cooked chicken is being used in place of fresh meat, this should be added about 10 minutes before the end of cooking time.)

5.  Remove the cloves before serving if you can find them. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve in warmed soup bowls topped with a dollop of natural yoghurt, crème fraîche or sour cream, a spoonful of mango chutney and a scattering of chopped fresh coriander leaves (or parsley).  This can be served with Naan bread if you wish.

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When the colder weather arrives my thoughts turn to soup, home made of course.  Soup is fantastic for this time of year and can be very forgiving if you have slightly less than fresh veggies that need finishing – not that I am advocating using items that have started to rot!   I had been planning to make Leek and Potato soup for ages and now I had no excuse, with leeks left over from Turkey Flan with Leeks & Cheese, potatoes in the cupboard and turkey stock in the freezer.  So far this year as the weather has been fairly mild and life has been busy soup has not made much of an appearance on the menu, but this last Saturday I finally rectified that.  This soup is not just for winter though.  It can also be served chilled during the summer months, often served poured over two or three ice cubes and garnished with leek strands as below or a sprinkling of chives, see this BBC recipe.  I had thought that Vichyssoise was the name of the cold version with the hot soup called the much less exciting Leek & Potato.  I discovered however that both hot and cold versions can be called Vichyssoise and further it is quite possible that it is not, as I had previously learned (or perhaps assumed having visited Vichy in France) a uniquely French soup.  According to Wikipedia:

‘…food writer Julia Child calls Vichyssoise “an American invention” whereas others observe that “the origin of the soup is questionable in whether it’s genuinely French or an American creation”‘.

There are a lot of good Leek & Potato Soup/Vichyssoise recipes around.  This version came from Potatoes: more than Mashed by Sally Mansfield, one of my most recent charity shop finds.  It has other lovely ideas I am sure its recipes will appear again. The original quantity, however, was a less than generous lunch for the four people specified so the quantities below have been increased by about a quarter so as a first course it could probably serve up to six. There are also a few little personal tweaks: cooking in olive oil as well as butter, increasing the onion, adding fine strips of leek and crème fraîche to garnish. The original recipe was for chicken stock but turkey or vegetable stock can be substituted.  For a richer soup replace some of the water with milk or even single cream (in which case a little could be reserved to swirl on top).  Yoghurt, or as I used this time, crème fraîche could also add the finishing touch.  All that is needed is some lovely crusty bread to serve alongside.  In the picture is a small piece of a large Pide flatbread bought from the wonderful bakery in our local Turkish supermarket.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Leek & Potato Soup
(Serves 3-4 or 6-8 as a starter)

25g/1oz butter
1tbsp olive oil
3 leeks, chopped (reserve a few fine slices to garnish)
1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped
454g/1lb potatoes, floury type if available, chopped
1150ml/2pints chicken, turkey or vegetable stock (or use mix of stock & either milk or cream)
Salt & ground black pepper
To serve
Cream, yoghurt or crème fraîche
Fine strands  of leek
Grind of black pepper
Crusty bread

1.  Heat half of the butter and the olive oil in a saucepan and gently fry the onion and chopped leeks until transparent and soft, about 7 minutes.  Stir them occasionally and make sure that they do not brown.

2.  Add the potato pieces and cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes.

3.  Add the stock, bring to the boil and reduce the heat.  Cover and simmer gently for 30-35 minutes.  The vegetables should be very tender.  Taste and season as required.

4.  The soup can be left either very chunky or liquidised until smooth.  I part liquidise the soup so there are a few chunks left.  Take care over liquidising potato as the starch can make it very sticky.  Add plenty of liquid with the vegetables and liquidise in short bursts until smooth.  Return to the pan, combining with any remaining chunks if making a mixed texture soup.

5.  Reheat the soup, stirring in the remaining butter in small pieces.  Check seasoning.

6.  Serve with a swirl of cream, yoghurt or crème fraîche, a few strands of leek and a grind of black pepper in each bowl, along with a piece of crusty bread.

 

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The addition of orange and mint to the mixture makes this couscous recipe both colourful and refreshingly delicious.  It has a summery look and taste, although it originally appeared in a winter magazine and would be perfect served as part of a summer buffet or BBQ.  It was originally designed to be served with Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks which would be perfect cooked outdoors, although I grilled them in the kitchen.  There is already a recipe for the much less sweet Coriander & Chickpea Couscous Salad on this site, using preserved lemon and flavoured with fresh coriander.

The original recipe came from the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of the Tesco free instore magazine and there is also a link to Moroccan Lamb Chops with Couscous online.  The couscous recipe below is my own variation with slightly adjusted quantities and the addition of a tin of chick peas to make it more substantial. The original recipe included halved red peppers which were grilled alongside the meat and then added to the couscous mixture, but I simply used a diced ungrilled red pepper.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Orange Couscous
(Serves 4)

3 oranges
250g/8oz couscous
handful mint leaves – reserve a little for final garnish
50g/2oz black olives
1tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper
1 x 400g tin chick peas
150ml/¼ pt boiling water
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1.   Peel two oranges and remove all of the white pith.  Holding the oranges over a bowl to catch any juice, slice them between the membranes with a sharp knife and carefully divide into segments.  Once the segments have been removed squeeze any remaining juice from the orange membranes before discarding.

2.  Cut the remaining orange in half and squeeze out the juice, adding it to any already collected.

3.  Drain and rinse the chick peas.

4.  Halve, deseed and finely slice the red pepper and cut into small pieces of around 1 inch/2.5cm. Alternatively the pepper can be grilled alongside the meat, as in the original recipe, and then sliced and stirred into the couscous mixture at step 7.

5.  Place the couscous in a heatproof bowl along with the chick peas, red pepper pieces and the olive oil.  Pour over all the orange juice plus the boiling water.

6.  Cover and allow it to stand for 5 minutes, until the couscous has absorbed the liquids.

7.  Chop the mint and gently stir most of it into the couscous along with the orange segments and the black olives.  Be careful not to break up the orange pieces.  Season well to taste.

8.  Serve the meat on a bed of fruity couscous, scattered with a little extra chopped mint.

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This simple flavour rub for a lamb steak or chop is full of the summer warmth of North African spices: cumin, paprika and coriander. Perhaps then in November, once the nights start to draw in, it is a good way to bring back Mediterranean holiday flavour memories that are by now receding into the past.  It is almost too simple a recipe to add here but I have been exploring different marinade recipe ideas recently: for pork especially but also for chicken and lamb so wanted to add this as a stand alone item.  The original recipe was for marinaded chop with a delicious minty/fruity couscous but I have divided the recipe into two posts, with the couscous to follow next.  Both recipes stand alone, of course … but they were delicious together.

The recipe comes from a winter (Jan/Feb 2011) issue of the Tesco free instore magazine. In the original the spice rub marinade is simply rubbed onto the meat just prior to cooking, but to get a better depth of flavour it is much better if left throughout the day or overnight.  The recipe is delicious if served with Orange Couscous, its original accompaniment.  I quickly grilled the lamb steak on a George Foreman grill, but it could be grilled conventionally or pan fried as in the original recipe.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks
(Serves 4)

4 thick lamb chops or steaks (alternatively use chicken or pork)
2tbsp olive oil
1tsp ground cumin
large pinch paprika
1tsp ground coriander
Salt & ground black pepper

1.   Wipe the lamb steaks and place in a dish.

2.  Sprinkle over the the spices, add a little salt and pepper and then drizzle over the olive oil.

3.  Gently turn the chops around in the spicy mixture using fingers or a fork then cover and leave the flavours to develop.  Ideally this should be throughout the day or overnight.

4.  Using as much of the spicy marinade as possible, grill the chops or steaks under a preheated hot grill for about four minutes each side, or a little long if preferred, but until the lamb is cooked to your preference.  Alternatively they can be gently pan fried for a similar length of time in a hot frying pan with a little additional olive oil if needed.  A George Foreman grill can also be used.

5. When cooked, the meat can be covered with foil to keep warm while the couscous mixture is being finished.  The meat can either be served in one piece or cut into strips or chunks.

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Chorba is a Moroccan spicy vegetable and pasta soup flavoured with the traditional North African spice mix Ras el-Hanout, which translates as ‘top of the shop’.  There are many versions of this spice mixture and each spice merchant has their own, sometimes containing up to one hundred different ingredients. I have already added details on the combination I use to make Ras el-Hanout.  It can be bought ready made, of course, but if you are like me and have a good selection of individual spices in your cupboard it is not difficult to make.  The only ingredient I had to buy was the rose petals, which I found in a local Turkish supermarket.  As far as I am concerned this warming and filling vegetarian soup is definitely as good as any plated evening meal, especially in the colder months.  A decent sized bowlful is adequate for me, but for larger appetites it could be served before a light main course such as a salad or in a much smaller quantity before a more substantial main course.

The recipe comes from the book on my shelf with the honour of having the longest title: The Complete Illustrated Food & Cooking of Africa & the Middle East: A Fascinating Journey Through the Rich & Diverse Cuisines of Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Turkey & Lebanon by Josephine Bacon and Jenni Fleetwood, bought after I felt I could no longer hang on to the copy I had found in the library.  So many interesting and different ideas from Africa, which is after all a very big place so I would expect a huge variety.  Even though there are some unusual ingredients most of the recipes do not appear to be completely impossible to attempt.  Certainly with this recipe I had everything I needed to hand.  I have made very few adjustments to the original recipe: slightly less clove, half the quantity of celery (as my husband isn’t all that keen) and a tin of tomatoes in place of fresh ones (though both given here as an either/or).  The finishing touches were a swirl of plain yoghurt (always in the fridge), fresh coriander (currently in a pot by the back door) and some crusty bread.  I did not have the Moroccan loaf recommended but we had a crusty seeded pide loaf from the bakery at our local Turkish foodshop which produces wonderful bread.   If you can find an ethnic style flatbread, or even some warmed pitta bread, they would be perfect.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Chorba with Ras el-Hanout & Noodles
(Serves 4)

3-4tbsp olive oil
2-3 whole cloves
2 onions (or 1 very large)
1 crushed garlic clove
1 butternut squash
2 celery sticks, scrubbed and chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
8 large ripe tomatoes
or
1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes (if using decrease amount of stock or water – see recipe)
1tsp sugar
1tbsp tomato purée (optional)
1-2tsp Ras el-Hanout
½tsp ground turmeric
large handful chopped fresh coriander (reserve a few leaves to garnish)
2-2½ pints vegetable stock (adjust amount if using tomatoes – see recipe)
or
1tsp-1tsp vegetable stock powder, made up with 2-2½ water/tinned tomatoes
1½oz sheet of egg noodles, broken up a little
Salt & ground black pepper
Yoghurt to serve

1.  Peel and de-seed the squash and cut into chunks. Place in a heavy pan with the olive oil, cloves, onion, crushed garlic, celery and carrots.  Fry gently together until they just start to brown.

2.  Stir in the chopped tomatoes or the chopped up contents of the tin of tomatoes and the sugar.  Cook gently for about 5 minutes.

3.  Add the tomato purée, Ras el-Hanout, turmeric and chopped fresh coriander.  Pour in the stock or add the stock powder and water.

4.  Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30-40minutes.   The vegetables should be very tender and the liquid reduced a little.

5.  The soup can either be puréed until completely smooth or left chunky with a thinner sauce.  I compromised, liquidising half the soup to thicken the sauce whilst still leaving some chunks.

6.  Return the puréed soup to the pan, add the broken noodles and cook for 8-10 minutes until the pasta is soft.

7.  Season to taste and spoon into soup bowls.  Add a swirl of yoghurt to each portion and garnish with a fresh coriander leaf or two.  Serve with crusty bread.

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I made my own version of what we called ‘Cauli-mac’ some years ago but it wasn’t particularly exciting so we had it just once, twice at the most.  Cauliflower cheese and macaroni cheese are both popular here but I was attracted to this version as it was just a bit different.  Finding a good recipe to make both at the same time was always going to be a hit and this is proving to be our favourite recipe from the Jamie Oliver 30 minute meals series and book.  It is simple comfort food at its best and I have lost count of the number of times I have made this or a variation.  Although it is a fairly standard mixture of cauliflower, macaroni and cheese I have changed the ingredient proportions in the original recipe to give a less stodgy version: more cauli and slightly less mac.  There are two brilliant ideas that lift this Cauli-mac out of the ordinary.  The first is the addition of crème fraîche along with the cheese, saving the need to make a time consuming flour based white sauce: simple but brilliant.  (Of course part of the 30 minute meals brief is the need for speed.)  The second idea was to add a breadcrumb topping which included bacon and rosemary, both delicious flavourings.  There is very little bacon – just enough to add a slight flavour – but if you are vegetarian never fear as I have included some information below, giving my still tasty but meat free version.  Adding chopped parsley to the cauli-mac mixture gives a pretty green flecked sauce and I saved some to scatter one top as well.  Recently I have been making a new variation of my own, which includes tomatoes.  This is still being ‘tested’ by my guinea pig team (aka family) and needs photographing, however it will make an appearance in due course.

As I have already said, this recipe comes from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals (by Jamie Oliver).  This is just one dish, part of a menu he suggests can be cooked within the half hour time limit and which also includes a mixed salad and a dessert.  I am afraid I have not cooked the complete menu and probably will not, but I have often served some salad on the side.

Vegetarian Variation: The bacon can, of course, simply be omitted but a similar smoked flavour can be obtained by using grated Applewood Smoked Cheese (or a similar variation – though possibly not the Bavarian Smoked log type cheese).  I replaced about half of the mature cheddar.  For a stronger flavour replace all the cheddar with smoked cheese.  A dusting of smoked paprika before cooking will also add to the smoky flavour and give a little heat as well.

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‘Cauli-mac’ – Cauliflower Macaroni Cheese
(Serves 4)

4-6 rashers of smoked bacon, or a similar quantity of bacon offcuts or leftover smoked ham
1 large head of cauliflower
250g dried macaroni
Olive oil as required
150g mature Cheddar cheese
2/3 thick slices of bread
large sprig of fresh rosemary
1 large clove of garlic
150g crème fraîche (about half a tub)
Parmesan cheese, to serve
2tbsp chopped parsley, to divide between mixture & to garnish
Salt & pepper

1.  Fill the kettle with water and bring to the boil. Preheat the oven on to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas 7.

2.  Lay the bacon in the dish you will eventually be using for the cauli-mac mixture and put on the top shelf of the oven to pre-cook.

3.  Trim off any very coarse or spoiled outer leaves from the cauliflower and remove the tough end of the stalk.  Quarter the head or break it up into large pieces. Place in a large saucepan, stalks downwards and add the pasta. Chop or crush the garlic well and add to the pan.

4.  Pour over the boiling water to cover the ingredients, season, add a little olive oil and place on a high heat. Stir well, and cook with the lid just askew.  I found it was worth stirring the mixture once or twice to help avoid the pasta sticking to the pan.

5.  Grate the cheddar cheese in the food processor and tip into a bowl.

6.  Remove the bacon from the oven.  Using a mini chopper or food processer, chop or process well with the bread and rosemary leaves.  Add a good drizzle of olive oil to bind the ingredients into a coarse breadcrumb consistency.

7.  When the cauliflower and the macaroni is just cooked (a knife inserted into the cauliflower stalk should slip in easily), reserving the cooking water, drain the cauli-mac through a colander into a large bowl.  Tip the cauli-mac into the dish the bacon was cooked in.

8.  Add about 300ml (about three quarters of a pint) of the reserved cooking water.  Stir in the crème fraîche, grated cheddar and most of the chopped parsley, breaking the cauliflower up with a fork or potato masher until you have bite size, but still recognisable, chunks.

9.  Taste the mixture and if required add more salt, plus a little ground pepper. The sauce should be loose and if necessary, add another splash of the reserved cooking water.

10. Spread the mixture out evenly in the dish and scatter over the breadcrumb topping. Cook on the top shelf of the oven for around 8-10 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the mixture bubbling.

11.  To serve grate over some Parmesan and scatter the top of the dish with the remaining parsley.  Serve with a simple side salad.  Crusty bread or garlic bread can be served alongside if required.

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Once we have got across the channel we buy a lovely fresh stick ‘pain’ for our first picnic and then spend time poring over the wonderful offerings on the delicatessen counter.  Which cheese?  Can’t choose: OK let’s get two types …and we mustn’t forget the pâté!  Mostly we buy this from a supermarket but sometimes, if we are in a town, we buy from a Charcuterie or Pork Butcher, where it is likely to be the butcher’s shop own recipe.  Pâté, of course, comes in many different local and regional guises.  My husband loves Pâté Provençale, often slightly spicy with pieces of red and green pepper and there are no prizes for guessing what my duck loving daughter chooses … I’m just happy to try as many different ones as I can!  We all have a bit of a weakness for a good meaty (and garlicky!) French pâté.  The French seem to have a penchant for adding pistachio nuts to cooked meats and pâtés so I was very pleased to come across this recipe which made a very pretty addition to our Christmas afternoon tea (and several subsequent meals) last year.  I have been intending to share it for some time and as there is a French theme this month, here it is at last … and as promised.  Be warned, though, this is not a particularly quick recipe to make as the pressing and cooling takes at least 2 hours in addition to the making and cooking time, but it is worth it.

The recipe comes from one of my Christmas presents (a request!) last year: The French Market by Joanne Harris & Fran Warde.  I already own a copy of the companion book by the same authors: The French Kitchen.  The pâté had favourable comments from our Christmas and New Year visitors but if I was being critical I think it needs a few little tweaks when I make it again, and I will.  Firstly, I felt that the recipe needed a little more seasoning (I was probably being careful so underseasoned) and the addition of garlic for a stronger flavour.  This is down to personal preference and is a comment rather than an instruction: you will have to make up your own mind and alter as you think fit.  I used the exact amount of pistachio nuts but felt it was rather a lot and could be reduced a little next time, perhaps by a quarter or even more.  You can see from the photo just how generous the quantity is.  Other recipes include peppercorns which give a lovely spicy hit in the mouth: the quantity to add would be trial and error of course and certainly not the same in quantity as the pistachios.  I have a tub of mixed coloured peppercorns bought in France – a mixture of black, white, green and pink which I will try sometime.  Another adaptation could be a version of Pâté Provençale, adding chopped mixed peppers and Herbes de Provence.  I chose to make the mixture in two smaller loaf tins, which meant that I needed almost double the number of bacon rashers and then froze one block to extend the use by date, defrosting it overnight before cooking, though I could easily have cooked both and simply frozen one afterwards, perhaps ready sliced.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

French Style Country Terrine/Pâté (Terrine/Pâté de Campagne)
(Serves 6-8 as a lunch dish – more as part of a buffet)

450g streaky bacon, thinly sliced & rind free (extra for more than one block of pâté)
200g chicken livers, trimmed
500g lean pork, diced
4 shallots, finely diced
or
2 small white onions, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped/crushed (optional addition to original recipe)
2 eggs, beaten
bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
4 sprigs of thyme, just the leaves
or
1tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves, chopped
Sea salt & ground black pepper
100g pistachio nuts, or less (whole or chopped – reserved some whole to garnish) optional

1. The original recipe specified heating the oven to 160oC/Gas 3.  No Farenheit temperature was given but I think this is about 312oF.

2. Chop the chicken livers and 250g of the bacon and place together in a bowl.

3. Stir in both the chopped and the minced pork, chopped shallots or onion, chopped or crushed garlic, herbs and seasoning. Add most of the pistachio (or other nuts, peppercorns or similar) at this point, reserving a few as a garnish.  Mix well.

4. Line a 22cm x 11cm terrine dish or loaf tin with most of the remaining slices of bacon, reserving a few to go on top once it is filled. Alternatively use two (or more) smaller ovenproof containers, but as mentioned previously you will need extra bacon. The bacon can be gently stretched with a knife so it covers a larger area of the tin and should be laid side by side with no gaps. The pâté will have an attractive striped appearance.

5. Fill the dish(es) or tin(s) with the meat mixture.

6. Fold the ends of the lining bacon over the top of the meat mixture and lay the remaining slices on the top side by side.

7. Bake in the oven for 1½ hours – two separate containers should need slightly less time. Watch the surface and if the meat starts to brown too much, cover with a layer of tin foil, shiny side up to reflect away the heat.

8. Remove and leave to cool for 30 minutes before carefully draining off the collected juices. These can be kept as stock and added to another meat recipe.

9. Place sheet of tin foil and then a snug fitting weight on the top of the terrine or tin for at least 1½ hours in order to compress it. (I used some tins with some heavy bags of salt on top, but use whatever is to hand.)

10. For ease the finished terrine should be turned out while still slightly warm. It can then be eaten immediately or chilled in the refrigerator until ready to slice and serve. Scatter with the remaining pistachios or other nuts, if using, to preserve their crunchiness for as long as possible. (If adding peppercorns you do not need to reserve any.)

11. The book recommends that this will keep for up to 7 days in the refrigerator. If making more than one container or loaf the second one can be wrapped well in tin foil and frozen. It should be thoroughly defrosted (overnight in the refrigerator) before eating.

12. This can also be cut into portions or individual slices to be taken in advance from the freezer and defrosted.

13.  Serve with crusty French style or Wholegrain bread and salad.  Good for buffets and summer picnics and excellent to serve as a starter, especially as it can be made in advance.

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From time to time the supermarket has a 2 for 1 offer on bags of large prawns so I stock up.  I buy the grey uncooked ones which change colour as they cook, just like magic, before your eyes.  I discovered a bag of these large prawns sitting in the freezer waiting for a good recipe shortly after we returned from France and I remembered this recipe and thought it would help keep our recent holiday memories alive: a simple summery dish in a piquant sauce and ideal for a light quick meal.  It would also be good as a starter.  My family’s only complaint was that they would have liked more: perhaps a mixture of large and small prawns would be possible.  Certainly this recipe could just as easily be made with the small relatively inexpensive prawns.  This is also another recipe where I can use the mild flavoured Piment d’Espelette I bought in the Basque region of France.

The recipe comes from the Tesco book Mediterranean Food by Christine France, which is fast becoming one of my favourite titles.  The original recipe used Tiger Prawns, which I am sure would be wonderful, but not what I was intending to use.  In place of a 400g bag of shell on Tiger Prawns I used a 200g bag of uncooked & peeled frozen large prawns.  I added an optional 1tsp tomato purée for extra richness as I did not have plum tomatoes, having substituted ordinary round English ones which are often less sweet, plus a pinch of sugar to bring out the flavour of the fruit.  The quantity was really only enough for a light main meal for three people and if feeding more people more large prawns or some small ones should be added.  Extra tomatoes would also give a larger quantity.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Prawns with Provençal Style Tomato Salsa
(Serves 2-3 – 4 for a starter)

400g/14ozs raw tiger prawns in shells
or
200g/7ozs shelled tiger prawns, large or small – raw if available
2tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or crushed
¼tsp dried crushed chillies (Piment d’Espelette if available)
3 or 4 plum tomatoes finely chopped (round English tomatoes if plum unavailable)
1tsp tomato purée
4 sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained & finely chopped
2tsp red wine vinegar
6 pitted black olives, quartered
2tbsp chopped fresh basil
Salt & black pepper

1.  If using shell on prawns remove the shells, slit open the back of each one and scrape out any black vein.  Rinse well and pat dry with kitchen towel.

2.  If using frozen prawns they should have been prepared in advance but must be defrosted before cooking.

3.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the garlic and chillies together for one minute to release their flavour.

4.  If using raw prawns, fresh or defrosted, add them now stir fry over a medium heat for 3 minutes or until the prawns have turned pink and cooked through.  Pre-cooked prawns can be cooked for a shorter time, especially the tiny ones, as they only need to be heated through thoroughly (if cooked for too long they become rubbery).

5.  Stir in the fresh and dried tomatoes (plus tomato purée if using) and simmer together with the prawns for one minute.

6.  Stir in the wine vinegar, olives and most of the basil and remove from the heat.  Season and scatter with a little more shredded basil before serving with salad and crusty bread or rice.

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This recipe is a regular at my table, especially in the Summer.  I think it deserves a place on this site even though it seems almost too easy to be worth posting, but the simplest recipes are often the best.  I don’t know how many types of tomato you are able to find locally.  Most weeks just the round red type are available on our market, with unusual varieties a rarety.  In the Summer there are often the small sweet ones, useful for skewering, plus vine tomatoes and sometimes the oval Italian plum type.  One week last Autumn, therefore, I was surprised and pleased to see a number of varieties I had not come across before.  I knew, though, that if I bought several types of tomatoes I would also need to have a plan for them.  No problem: our favourite warm tomato dish, flavoured with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and basil – perfect!  It would be extra pretty, multi-hued rather than the usual plain red.  I decided on some medium sized pale yellow tomatoes and some enormous crinkly orange/red ones, plus the ordinary red type I had already bought at an earlier stall.  Later on I saw dark tomatoes too, a combination of maroon and olive green: my heart said yes … but my head said that I had bought enough already!  A pity as the splash of extra colour would have made the dish particularly attractive.

Although I am sure that there are many similar versions of this Mediterranean style dish in recipe books this recipe is my own.  I have not specified amounts – use as many tomatoes as you would like to serve, but be generous as this is moreish. The other ingredients should be according to taste.  Since I made (and photographed) this recipe I have discovered the existence of white balsamic vinegar, though have not yet bought a bottle.   It would be useful as the tomatoes would not have the usual dark staining associated with ordinary balsamic vinegar.  I usually serve this as a warm side dish as part of a main meal or as a warm or cold salad.  It also makes a good light lunch spooned onto a slice of crusty toast or a delicious starter, either cold or a warm, served on its own, or on crusty bread drizzled with additional olive oil, or topped with a slice of flash grilled melted goats cheese.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Roasted Mixed Tomatoes

Tomatoes – one variety or mixed varieties and colours if available
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar, dark or white
Fresh basil leaves, torn – plus a few to garnish
Sugar (a small sprinkle for added sweetness)
Sea salt
Black pepper, freshly ground
Slices of French baguette loaf – optional
Slices of goat’s cheese roll – optional

1.  Cut the tomatoes into ¼inch/½cm slices and layer in an ovenproof dish.

2.  Sprinkle generously with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add sugar, torn basil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

3.  Put the dish uncovered into a preheated oven at around 170oC/325oF/Gas 3 for about 15 minutes.  (The temperature and cooking time can be a little higher or lower as this recipe is often cooked at the same time and heat as another dish for the meal.)
OR
Cook uncovered on medium in the microwave so the tomatoes heat through relatively gently.

4.  Whichever method of cooking is used the tomatoes need to be warmed through, retaining their shape, rather than dried up (although they are still delicious if they have shrivelled a little!)

5.  Serve drizzled with a little extra olive oil and some more torn green basil, as the original leaves will have darkened and have lost their attractive colour.

6.  If adding goats cheese then, before finishing with extra olive oil and basil, lay slices of a goat’s cheese log on the top and gently flash grill to melt and colour. Alternatively toast a slice of French baguette loaf on one side, then turn over and lay a slice or two of goats cheese on the other side.  Flash cook cheesy side under the grill.   Serve laid on a bed of warm or cold cooked tomatoes.

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