Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

My first post for a while. Lost my enthusiasm! Hope to get it back soon!.
Off tomorrow to the UK for 15 days.

Have a very Happy Christmas.


Sausage and pumpkin casserole

This post was intended for yesterday, Halloween, but for some reason I was unable to post it.
This is the lovely pumpkin I bought for a euro.
There was a great pile of them, and the lady in front of me in the queue took one from underneath, and you can guess what happened - yes, we chased pumpkins down the road!
This recipe is from yesterday's 'Saturday Kitchen'.
I changed the recipe a bit by using a tin of baked beans instead of the cannellini beans and I didn't add the tin of tomatoes or the white wine vinegar. We found the sauce too thin, so I thickened it with cornflour.

Doesn't look very appetizing, but it was delicious.
I still have a lot of pumpkin flesh left to make some soup.


Green tomato chutney

Like many others, we planted too many tomatoes this year, so we have lots of green tomatoes. Today I made some chutney with some of them.

This recipe made 2x 500g jars and a small jar [one used for baby food]. It's from a French cookery magazine.

1kg green tomatoes, finely chopped
500g onions, finely chopped
500g cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
2 fresh green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 tspn powdered ginger
1 good pinch ground cloves
1 good pinch turmeric
50g sultanas
250g brown sugar [use muscovado if you want a darker chutney]
30cl white wine vinegar

Mix the tomatoes, onions, apples and chillies together in a large pot. Add the garlic, ginger, cloves and turmeric. Then add the sultanas, sugar and vinegar. Stir it all together.

Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and cover.
Let it simmer for about 11/4 hours, till the chutney has thickened and is soft.
Put into sterilised jars and label. Leave it for at least 3 weeks in a cool, dark place before using.
it will keep for 6-12 months if well sealed.

This is one of the finished pots.

I also made some quince jelly, but it was a lot of effort and the recipe [from Marguerite Pattern] only made one jamjar of jelly. Shan't bother with jelly again. Too much work!

I used all these quinces to make one pot!


Tollhouse cookies

I've read about the name of these cookies, how at the tollbooths on the roads people would stop and buy a drink and a cookie.
This version comes from Hannah Miles' new book 'The big book of cakes and cookies' which has 365 recipes for new cakes and well-loved favourites.
Hannah was a finalist in Masterchef 2007, and has a lovely blog which is on my list of favourite blogs - Hannah's country kitchen.
Here's the recipe:

125g butter
350g plain flour
1/2 tspn bicarb.
2 tspns cinnamon
100g caster sugar
100g soft brown sugar
1 tbspn golden syrup
1 large egg, beaten
100g chocolate chips
100g chopped walnuts

Preheat oven 180C/350F/gas4
Makes 20 cookies

Sieve flour, soda and cinnamon into a bowl.
Melt the butter and syrup in a saucepan.
Add the choc. chips and walnuts and egg to the flour mixture and then add the butter mixture. Mix it all together with a wooden spoon.
Divide the dough into walnut sized pieces and put onto greased baking trays. Make sure you leave a space between each one.
Press the tops down lightly.
Bake for 12-15 mins till golden brown and just firm.
Leave to cool on the trays for a few minutes then put on a wire rest.

My variations
I didn't have any chocolate chips so I broke up a 100g bar of dark chocolate, and I didn't add walnuts.


Souligne news

I haven't posted in a while because I couldn't add photos, but now it's sorted.
It's a glorious autumn here, still warm, and the trees are now beginning to turn colour. It's the time of year when we gets lots of fruit and veg. from our neighbours and friends, things we've not grown or haven't room to grow.
We've had lots of figs, quinces, cabbages, leeks and beetroot.
Have already posted about the fig and almond tart I made, and I've been trying out new fig recipes.
We loved Nigella's 'Figs for 1001 nights' and I also cooked them with honey, cinnamon and a little orange liqueur. Tonight I'm going to use them as starter with parma ham.
As for the quinces, think I'll try to make some quince jelly from Jane Grigson's great 'Fruit book'. It's supposed to be good with meat.
I love Jane Grigson's recipes as they're very straight forward and I've always had good results with them. I have her 'Vegetable book' and 'English food' and have used them a lot for inspiration.


Fig and almond tart

Am on a roll today!
Yesterday our lovely neighbour Maurice, aged 86, gave us a tray of figs. They were very ripe so had to do something with them quickly.
Last night I cooked some with honey and served them with mascarpone - delicious. Today I made a fig and almond tart. I bought ready made pastry so it didn't take long to make.
I found the recipe on the good food channel site.It's by David Massey.

for 6

350g shortcrust pastry
100g ground almonds
10g flour
100g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter
2 eggs
9 figs halved

preheat oven 180C/gas4/350F

Roll out pastry to fit a 23cm flan tin and bake blind for 15 mins or till base is firm.
Beat butter and sugar together till fluffy. Add the eggs. Fold in flour and ground almonds.
Spoon the mixture over the pastry and arrange the halved figs on top.
Turn oven up to 190C/gas 5 and bake tart for about 35 mins. or until almond fillings has set.
Serve with mascarpone.

When you take the tart out of the oven, you can glaze it with apricot jam which has been lightly boiled till it's become liquid.

Helen's apple cake

Yet another apple cake! We still have some more Bramleys to come - a great year for them.
Helen is a friend who is an excellent cook. She made this cake during one of our visits and it's really delicious. Bob,my husband,hates bananas, but loves this cake. He doesn't know that there are any in it!!!

This amount makes 2 generous 2lb loaf cakes, but I usually halve the recipe. I'm not sure if it would freeze.

250g unsalted butter
250g dark brown sugar
500g sr flour
4 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped
5 small ripe bananas
500g sultanas
4 large eggs
cinnamon and mixed spice to taste [I use a lot as I love them!}

Preheat oven 180C/gas4/350F

Beat sugar and butter together till fluffy.
In another bowl beat eggs and bananas together and then add to the sugar mixture.
Add the apples and mix well.
Add the spices to the flour and then add gradually to the mixture, mixing well after each addition.
Divide between the 2 tins and bake for about an hour. In my oven it took longer than an hour. Test with a skewer to see if done and then cool on a wire rack.


Courgette and walnut loaf

I love teabreads and loafcakes. This one is quite healthy as it uses wholemeal flour, sunflower oil and nuts. It's one of my Mum's recipes so is in ounces.

3 eggs
4fl oz sunflower oil
8oz wholewheat flour
3oz light muscovado sugar
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn bicarb. of soda
1 tspn cinnamon
1 tspn allspice
5oz grated courgettes
4oz chopped walnuts
2 oz sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/gas4

Lina a 2lb loaf tin.
Beat eggs and sugar together and gradually add in oil.
Sift flour into another bowl and add the baking powder, bicarb,spices and nuts. Add the courgettes and mix well.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and spoon into loaf tin.
Bake for about 40 mins. Cool slightly in tin and then turn on to a wire rack.


Irish apple cake

Still more windfalls from the garden, so have tried another apple cake recipe. This time it's from Rachel Allen's book 'Rache's favourite food at home'.
I like her style very much; it's straightforward and makes you feel you can achieve what she's done.

Here's the recipe:
225g plain flour
1/2 tspn baking powder
100g butter - room temperature
100g sugar, plus 2 tbspn
1 beaten egg
100ml milk
1 large cooking apple, about 300g, cored, peeled and diced
1 tspn cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180C/gas4/350F

Grease a 25cm ovenproof plate [I used a tin plate belonging to my mum]
Mix flour and baking powder in a bowl and rub in the butter till it looks like breadcrumbs.

Add sugar, beaten egg and enough milk to make a soft dough - it will be wet.
Then pat half of the dough into the bottom of the plate. Put the apple onto the dough and sprinkle with 1 tspn of sugar and the cinnamon.

Spoon the rest of the dough on the top, covering the apple. Sprinkle top with the other tbspn sugar.

Bake for 30-35 mins till golden and serve with cream.

It's really delicious.


Poulet Basquaise

This is a delicious dish from Trish Deseine's book 'Trish's French kitchen'. I think there was a series of it on the uktvfood channel. It uses piment d'Espelette, which comes from the Basque region of France.
Every year there is a festival in Espelette and the houses are covered in these chilies.

The peppers,onion and garlic were from our garden as were the bay leaves and thyme. I adapted the recipe for 2 of us and used chicken breasts.

This is the recipe:
for 6
1-2 tbspns olive oil
6 chicken pieces
4 large onions, peeled and 1/4d
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 bay leaf [ I used 2]
2 tspns fresh thyme, chopped
800g tin tomataoes
235ml dry white wine [ didn't have any white so used a dry red]
2 red and 2 green peppers, slices
large tin pitted olives [didn't use these as we don't like them!]
1 tspn piment d'Espelette

In a large casserole put the olive oil to warm , then put in chicken pieces and brown them on all sides.
When brown, add the onions, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, tomatoes and wine. Cover and bring to the boil then simmer for about 40 mins.
Add the peppers, olives and the piment d'Espelette, then cover and simmer for a further 20 mins ot so till the chicken is completely cooked.
Season with S&P.
Can refrigerate stew overnight and it tastes better the next day.


Sue's apple cake

We have a lot of windfall Bramleys to use up, so I made this apple cake. The recipe is from Sue L, a lovely lady on the bbc food forum. This is her blog - http://www.mainlybaking.blogspot.com/ . It's good as a cake and also great as a pudd. with ice cream or cream.
The recipe:
250g butter or margarine
300g sr flour
1 beaten egg
350g apples - peeled, cored and sliced
150g caster sugar
1/2 tspn cinnamon
1/2 tspn mixed spice
1 tbspn brown sugar

Preheat oven 180C/gas4/350F
Grease a 20cm cake tin.

Melt fat in the microwave in a large bowl.
Stir in the beaten egg and caster sugar.
Gradually stir in the flour. The dough should be like cookie dough.
Spread half the dough into the bottom of the cake tin.Use fingers to spread it evenly.

Mix the apples with the spices and arrange in an even layer on top of the dough.

Cover with the rest of the dough, again using fingers to spread it out.Sprinkle top with the brown sugar.

Bake for about an hour, or till golden. Leave in tin to cool.
If using this as a dessert, can sprinkle chopped nuts on top in place of the sugar.

You can see the layer of apple in the middle. It's really delicious.



The weather here has been so hot that I decided to make some real lemonade. I used the recipe from Delia's 'Summer Collection'

You need:
6 lemons
150g sugar

Scrub the lemons and thinly pare the outer coloured zest from 3 of the lemons. Remove any white pith as it will make the lemonade taste bitter.
Put the zest in a large bowl and add the lemon juice and the sugar. Pour in 1.4 litres of boiling water, stir well, cover and leave overnight in a cool place.

Next day stir again and check for sweetness. Add more sugar if necessary. Serve chilled with lots of ice.


An easy fruit pie

One of the books I've had for a long time but never used is Delia's 'Summer Collection'. I decided I'd like to try her easy one-crust pie, so having bought some apricots, we [my granddaughter and I] made it today. I have to admit that I didn't use the semolina flour or the egg in the tart base, but it turned out fine. Maybe with fruit that are have more liquid, like rhubarb, you should use them.I didn't use the crushed sugar cubes and egg white on the top either - just brushed it with milk.

The recipe:
for the pastry:
175g plain flour
40g lard
40g butter or margarine
cold water to mix
for the filling:
750g prepared fruit [rhubarb,gooseberries or really any fruit at all][I used apricots stoned and 1/4d and added 25g flaked almonds]
75g caster sugar
2 rounded tbspns semolina flour
for the glaze:
1 egg white
6 crushed sugar cubes

Sift flour into a bowl and rub in fat. Add enough cold water to make a smooth dough. Chill in the fridge for 30 mins.
Preheat oven 200C/gas 6
Roll pastry out to a round of approx. 35 cms.Transfer to the centre of a greased baking sheet.

Paint the base of the pastry with egg yolk and sprinkle with the semolina flour.
Pile the fruit into the centre of the pastry sprinkling each layer with caster sugar, and turn up the edges of the pastry.If it breaks, patch it!
Brush the pastry with egg white and sprinkle the crushed sugar cubes over it.

Bake for about 35 mins till golden. Serve with cream or ice cream.


Apples galore!

When we first came to live in France, we brought 2 Bramley apple trees with us. This type of apple is unknown here. The trees have done well, and this year have been loaded with fruit.
What to do with them all?

Today I decided to try an apple muffin recipe from Susan Reimer's excellent book 'Muffins fast and fantastic'.
It's a nice and easy treat to makeThis is the recipe which I have changed a little.
Apple muffins - makes about 10 -12 muffins

250g sr flour
1 tspn baking powder
11/2 tspns mixed spice
85g sugar
1 egg
150ml milk
170g peeled, cored and chopped Bramley [or any other type] apple
90ml vegetable oil

soft brown sugar for the tops

Preheat oven 200C/400F/gas6 and grease muffin tin.

In a bowl mix the flour, baking powder and spice together. Add the chopped apple.
In another bowl beat egg into the milk and add the oil. Mix together well.
Pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture and stir till just combined.
Spoon this into the muffin tin and sprinkle brown sugar over.
Bake for 20-25 mins till lightly browned.
Cool for 5 mins then remove from tin to a wire rack.

My granddaughter is with us and is keen on baking, so she wanted to make the apple muffins and then helped me make an apple scone round. This recipe comes from my Mum's old hand-written notebook, so I don't know where it originated.

Apple scone

1 large cooking apple,peeled cored and diced
250g sr flour
1 level tspn baking powder
60g caster sugar
60g butter or margarine
little milk to mix
brown sugar for topping

Preheat oven 200C/400F/gas6

Sieve flour and baking powder into a bowl. Rub in the fat.
Add the caster sugar and chopped apple.
Mix with milk to make a soft but not sticky dough.
Make into a round and mark into sections with a knife.
Sprinkle brown sugar on top and bake in oven for 25-30 mins till golden.


Back again.

We came back from out holidays on Tuesday night. Had typically British weather! The caravan in Norfolk was much bigger than I thought it would be. We went to the sea a couple of times, the second time we had rain, but determinedly sat under our umbrellas waiting for the rain to stop - how British!

Got back to find the garden growing like the Triffids. No-one had picked the courgettes so one had grown into a huge marrow - 54 cms long. Lots of tomatoes, aubergines and peppers - so a ratatouille is called for methinks.



Apologies to Cliff.....!

We're all going on a summer holiday,
No more blogging for a week or two,
Fun and seaside on our summer holiday,
Going to make Rhys's dreams come true
in a day or two.....

Thanks to Trekkie for this verse .....

You're going where the rain is warmer,
You're going where there's swine fluuuu,
You've seen it in the movies,
Now let's see if it's truuuuue..

Lots of laughter on our summer holiday,
Now back where the sky is really blue,
Sun and rainstorms on our summer holiday,
Managed to survive the swine fluuuuu,
But only for a week or two...!! [we're going back!!]


Plum ice cream

Picked a lot of plums on Saturday so after making a plum torte, clafoutis and stewing some, I decided to make plum ice cream from a recipe on the Good Food site.

Forgot to take any photos as I went along, but this is the finished ice cream and it is delicious.
Plum ice cream - makes 1 litre
450g ripe plums, stoned and quartered
125g light muscovado sugar
4 egg yolks
125g icing sugar
284ml pot double cream
Put plums in a pan with the muscovado sugar and 300ml water. Bring ro the boil, cover and simmer for about 10 mins. till plums are cooked.
Pass the stewed plums through a sieve. Chill the puree in the fridge for 20 mins.
Put egg yolks and icing sugar in a bowl and stand it over a pan of simmering water. Whisk with an electric beater till the mixture has just warmed through. then take bowl off the heat and keep beating till the mixture hasd tripled in size. Chill in the fridge.
Whip the cream with 2 tbspn iced water till just holding its shape.
Churn in an ice cream maker or pour into a container and freeze for an hour till mushy. Then take out container and whisk the ice cream vigourously.
Return it to the freezer and freeze for 2-3 hours till firm.
This ice cream will keep up to 2 months in the freezer.


Summer crumble

I am a great fan of Nigella, so when I decided to make an apricot crumble today, I looked in her 'Forever Summer' book and found this one. It's a bit different from the norm, as she adds grounds almonds and flaked almonds to the crumble.

I doubled the quantity of crumble as we love it thick!

serves 4-6

750g apricots [or any other stoned fruit] - quartered and stoned

75g butter diced

100g sr flour

25g ground almonds

75g caster sugar [I used soft brown]

50g flaked almonds

preheat oven gas6/200C/400F

Put the apricots in one layer in a shallow dish.

Rub the butter into the flour and grounds almonds till it looks like breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar and the flaked almonds.

Sprinkle this over the fruit and bake for about 30 mins.

Serve with creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream.
From 'Forever Summer' by Nigella Lawson


Ocean tart

I decided to make this tart for some friends and neighbours who are coming for lunch tomorrow.

It's from a French cookery book called 'Sweet and Savoury tarts' - 'Tartes sucrees et salees' - by Margot Stephan.

Serves 6-8

1 pack ready made puff pastry


200g cooked and peeled prawns

250g smoked salmon pieces

2 tbspns creme fraiche

150g grated cheese [I used Gruyere]


flan tin 28cm [11"]

Preheat oven gas6/200C/400F

Roll the pastry out and line the tart tin. Spread the prawns and cooked salmon pieces onto the pastry.

In a bowl, separate yolks and whites of 2 eggs and beat the whites till stiff.

In another bowl, mix the cream in with the 2 egg yolks and the other 4 eggs. Beat together and season to taste. Then add most of the cheese and the beaten egg whites and fold together.

Pour into the tin and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.

Bake for 30 minutes.


Strange creature in the garden!

I know this isn't anything to do with cooking, but thought I'd show what Bob found on the potatoes [food link!!!] when he was digging them up yesterday.

Having done some research, I've discovered that it's a death-head hawk moth caterpillar. It's big - about 11cm long and the biggest one in the UK and here too I expect. Sorry the photo isn't too clear.


Chocolate and courgette cake

I've been a big fan of the great 'Chocolate and Zucchini' blog for a while http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ so when Clotilde published a book of the same name, I knew I had to buy it. I'm ashamed to say that I've never cooked from it till today. We had a lot of courgettes [zucchini] to pick in the garden, so I decided to make her chocolate and courgette cake.

It serves 12

110g unsalted butter, at room temperature

or 120ml extra virgin olive oil

240g plain flour

60g cocoa powder

1teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

180g light brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 large eggs

350g unpeeled grated cougettes [zucchini]

160g good-quality chocolate chips I used a bar of 70% dark chocolate and broke it into pieces]

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/gas4

Grease a 25cm springform caketin/pan with butter or oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder.

Beat the sugar and butter/oil until creamy [you can use a food processor or a hand-held electric beater to do this].

Add the vanilla, coffee granules and eggs, mixing well together.

Keep back about half of the flour mixture and add the rest to the egg mixture. Mix until combined - it will be a thick batter.

Add the courgettes [zucchini] and chocolate chips to the rest of the flour and toss to coat. then fold this into the batter and blend with a wooden spoon. Don't overmix.

Pour into the prepared pan/tin and level the surface with a spatula.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes.

If you like, you can sprinkle icing sugar on the top or glaze with melted chocolate.

It makes a good dessert served with creme anglaise.

from 'Chocolate and Zucchini' by Clotilde Dusoulier


Marais Poitevin

I live in a village bordering on a lovely area called the Marais Poitevin. It's also called 'Green Venice - La Venise Verte - as there's a network of canals bordered by trees.

Welcome to my blog

Hello and welcome to my blog. I'm a keen cook who loves baking and who has way too many cookery books! Don't we all?

I started this blog to encourage myself to cook at least one recipe from all these books, so hope you'll enjoy sharing some of these recipes with me.

Thought I'd start with one of my favourite recipes - a bit of a cheat as I've done it many times before. It's from our lovely Delia's site and is her easy wholemeal bread.
The reason I love this recipe is that there is no kneading - which is a chore. Mind you, when I was teaching, I used to take all my frustrations out on the bread dough while kneading, instead of on the little dears at school! The resulting bread was very good too!
This recipes makes 1 large [as above] or 2 small loaves.
570g wholemeal flour
400ml handhot water
2 teaspoons salt [I use fine sea salt]
1 teaspoon soft brown sugar
2 teaspoons easy- blend dried yeast [1 packet]
Put your flour into a bowl, sprinkle in the salt, sugar and yeast.
Make a well in the centre and pour in the hand-hot water [ use half cold and half boiling water and this gives the right temperature].
Mix the liquid into the flour with a wooden spoon.
If the dough seems a bit dry, add some more hand-hot water; it's better to have too much water than not enough. The dough should leave the bowl clean.
On a flat surface, stretch the dough out into an oblong shape, then fold one end into the centre and the other edge over that. That's all there is to it - no kneading.
Put the folded dough into a 2lb [900] loaf tin or 2x1lb[450g] tins and press firmly round the edges.
Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise.
Preheat oven to gas 6/400F/200C.
When the dough has risen to the top of the tin/tins bake it for about 40 minutes. When it's cooked it sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.
Allow it to cool on a wire rack and then enjoy.

Gratin de choux-fleur

 I was given a medium sized cauliflower and as it's not my favourite vegetable, struggled to know what to do with it. Have kept a few Fr...