August ’Meanderings’ …
All images ©’Meanderings through my Cookbook’
We spent most of August on holiday in France so I arranged for some automated posts while I was away. No one wants to spend longer in the kitchen than they have to when the weather is warm and it is lovely outdoors. Sadly the weather has been less than perfect this year. On the few really good days we had I was pleased to be able to make some simple snacks such as Cheese & Tomato Tortilla Bake, served with some quickly grilled meat, or Pitta Pizzas both of which were accompanied by a side salad. Also on the menu was Welsh Rarebit, an old family favourite and a perfect light snack at any time of year. Marinaded Feta, Hummous and Pesto Hummous are also good eaten as a light snack and perfect for a summer buffet.
I love salad meals in the summer and so I am always on the lookout for new and tasty sounding mixtures, ingredients and marinades. One salad recipe which I have been making for a number of years is Mixed Bean Salad, which has a choice of two different marinades: both are delicious, so it is difficult to choose my favourite. Minted Apple Salad was the result of an experiment using cider vinegar and the recipe for Tzatziki Potato Salad was another experiment using yoghurt based tzatziki as a dressing for cold potato in place of the usual mayonnaise. Finally, I added the delicious Middle Eastern Fattoush Salad in advance of posting (in September) the delicous Za’atar Chicken with which it should be served: both from recipes by Nigella Lawson.
This year we travelled to Haute-Savoie in the French Alps for our summer holiday not far from the Swiss and Italian borders. We were based on a lakeside campsite at the southern end of beautiful Lake Annecy, but as usual we made our way slowly there, looking and tasting as we went. There were many foodie delights along our way, some of which I hope may make an appearance in these pages if I am able to find both recipe and ingredients. We ate with ex-pat English friends who served us Gesiers in a salad (literally gizzards, which some people might be inclined to turn their noses up at, but it definitely is a case of ‘don’t knock them until you have tried them’). With the same friends, were served an extensive cheese board including Chaource, Mimolette Ancienne and several types of Brie. We also tried some other cheeses, including Morbier which has a creamy texture and a thin blue vein running through the centre. The Alpine region is well known for its cheeses. Apart from the well known Fondue, which we did not eat this time, one of the best known dishes is Tartiflette, a delicious mixture of bacon, onion, cheese, mushrooms and potato. (I made this at home before I went and it makes a regular appearance as a quick meal.) On a day out from Lake Annecy we visited Beaufort, watching the fascinating cheesemaking process in the Coopérative Laitière, then buying and eating some of the cheese we had watched being made. We enjoyed Jambon Sec, dried ham, several times in salads at restaurants and when self-catering: it is becoming more readily available here in the UK, but is still difficult to find and often rather expensive. Freshwater fish is found on many menus. At one restaurant I had a delicious Trout Meunière and in another Sandre or Pike-perch (called this because it is like a cross between the two fish). Memorable desserts were Mousse aux Myrtilles (delicately amethyst coloured from the bilberries and served in a tiny taster cup), Pineapple Coconut Tarte Tatin (something to try at home: a rum sprinkled ring of pineapple on a coconut crumble base) and Iles Flottante (Floating Islands – always a favourite). On the way home we dined with some French friends and they gave me their recipe for Flan, a very traditional French dessert which I will eventually post here. There was one very unusual ingredient discovery as well, the famous red Poppy (or Coquelicot). Coquelicots de Nemours (named after a town South East of Paris, not far from Fontainebleu) is a sweet created in 1870 from poppyseed, fruit paste and liqueur. We found Coquelicots de Nemours as a delicious jam at breakfast at our Ibis hotel in Fontainebleu, but were unable to find it in the supermarkets: I expect it is very regional so I will keep looking on future holidays. It was also available as a special ice cream flavour in the chain restaurant Flunch: always a place worth looking out for in France if you want an inexpensive quick meal.
As always, we returned with wonderful French ingredients which are mostly unavailable in the UK: Walnut Vinegar, Raspberry Vinegar, Sea Salt (from Guérande, where we holidayed some years ago), olive oil, Confiture de Lait (or Dulce de Leche), cheeses (goats cheese, Chaorce, Mimolette Ancienne, Beaufort, Morbier, Reblochon and Emmental), pate, Spicy Beef Merguez and Chipolata Pork Sausages (totally different in taste to the ones available in the UK), Gesiers (which can be bought ready prepared and vacuum packed, so preparation is unnecessary) – and of course liqueurs and wines. I also managed to buy some really inexpensive individual tart tins in two shapes: not sure how I will use them but I could not resist.
I have enjoyed browsing though Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson which has a wealth of lovely summery recipes. My copy came from the library but I may just have to invest in a copy of my own. This book is the source for Middle Eastern Fattoush Salad and Za’atar Chicken. Other recipes that have caught my eye are: Keralan Fish Curry with Lemon Rice, Moroccan Roast Lamb (using the delicious spice mixture Ras el-Hanout), Chicken & Cashew Nut Curry, Gingery Duck with Red Onion & Orange Salad, Hasselback Potatoes (so simple – so attractive!), Banana & Butterscotch Upside Down Tart, Lemon Rice Pudding, Figs for 1001 Nights & Gooseberry & Elderflower Ice Cream.
Highlighting one food site from the UK, one from outside the UK plus something completely different, which may or may not have a food connection. This month my three are:
UK foodie site … Cherrapeno ‘A cherrapeño is the result of a cross between a cherry pepper and a jalapeño chilli pepper’, writes Nic at the top of her blog page. I was inspired by one of her recipes, which led to my post this month for Marinaded Feta. True to form, there was a red chilli in the jar giving a great spicy flavour but not all recipes on the site contain chillis. I like the look of Frozen Raspberry Kent Mess (I make a normal version, but have never thought to freeze it), Chelsea Buns (I’ve made these before but must do so again!) and Sablés (a butter biscuit which we have eaten in France) with a caramel glaze.
Non-UK foodie site … My French Kitchen (Allow me this one, after all I have just come back from France and am pining for it already…!) Ronelle’s site is a beautiful mixture of recipes with photos of France and artwork. This lovely combination appeals as I love France and enjoy drawing and painting as well as cooking, although for me it is mostly a holiday hobby. These caught my eye for the recipe as well as the illustrations: Tomato and Goats Cheese Tartlets, Mackerel Pate and Crystallized Orange Strips.
…and something else – The Old Foodie A fascinating Australian based site giving anecdotes about the history of food in a plethora of well researched subjects. Each time there is a detailed history, recipes and a clever and often connected quotation. See Sorbet Story, Fragrant Food, Bubble & Squeak and Eating à la Française.
August Recipes …
Meanderings Revisited took a break during August …
‘For what we are about to receive…’ September 2010 and beyond
Coming in September … a selection of ideas for cooking and using Chicken plus some French Style recipes.