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 French cookery magazines, and I found this recipe in a very old one from 1998!

 It adds potatoes, lardons [bacon pieces], crème fraîche and cheese to the cauli, which makes it much more interesting

You need: 1 medium cauliflower, 100g lardons [bacon bits], 500ml crème fraîche, 3 medium potatoes, 50 g of grated Conté,  a good strong Cheddar or Beaufort cheese, 1 egg and some salt and pepper

Preheat oven 200C?Gas 6                 Grease a gratin dish [this amount feeds about 4 people]

Break the cauliflower up into florets and peel the potatoes. Cook them in boiling water for 15mins.

Beat the cream and egg together and add a little salt and pepper.

Spoon the cauliflower into the greased dish, slice the potatoes and add with the bacon pieces.

Pour over the cream mixture and sprinkle over the cheese.

Bake for 15-20 mins then put under the grill for a nice brown top.

Even my veg hating grandson liked this! It's good on its own or as a side dish with a chop. A great way of using a cauliflower!


Gratin d'Abricots

 I love apricots, but usually in the supermarket they are in little punnets. I went to a market in another town at the weekend, and to my delight, they were selling them on a stall. 

This recipe comes from a free recipe card from one of the French supermarkets. It's a popular recipe with my family.

You need: 80g caster sugar and 80g soft brown sugar, 1 tspn vanilla extract, 50g ground almonds, 40g soft butter, 1kg apricots, 125g brioche [slices cut from a loaf], 200ml crème fraîche, 3 eggs, icing sugar to sprinkle

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                                Grease a large ovenproof dish.

Lay the slices of brioche in the bottom of the dish. 

Cut the apricots in half and remove stone. Arrange the halves over the brioche, packing together well. 

Sprinkle over the ground almonds and the brown sugar.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs, caster sugar, vanilla extract, butter and crème fraîche. Pour this over the mixture in the dish.

Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown. 

Sprinkle over a little icing sugar before serving.

I like the texture contrasts - the soft brioche at the bottom, the juicy fruit and then the topping, again soft, but in a different way to the brioche. I've used plums instead of apricots and they work well. Am going to try it with sliced pears and maybe apples. It's a delicious way of serving fruit.


Biscoff Cheesecake with a Raspberry Coulis

 Summer at last, or at least for a few days! Raspberries are my favourite summer fruit, so decided to make a cheesecake. I bought a jar of raspberry coulis in Waitrose. This is a baked cheesecake. 

I adore the speculoos flavour of the Biscoff biscuits you get with coffee [and now in a jar], so used these biscuits as the base. 

225g Biscoff biscuits, 3 eggs, 175g caster sugar, a jar of raspberry coulis [or you can make your own by sieving raspberries],75g butter, 675g cream cheese and 1 tspn vanilla extract, a few raspberries to decorate

Preheat oven 180C/gas4            Line a shallow 23cm cake tin with baking paper.

Put the biscuits in a large plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin.

Melt the butter and mix with the biscuits. Spoon into the cake tin and flatten with the back of a spoon. Put in the fridge to set.

Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the cheese and beat together with the sugar and vanilla extract.

Spoon it over the biscuit base and bake for 35 mins. Leave to cool then put in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Gently pour over the raspberry coulis just before serving.

I decided to pipe the coulis over the top as it was quite thick. Rather messy! I was trying to be clever and pipe round the side, but it didn't look good. It tastes delicious, but you could change the type of fruit and do a blackcurrant or redcurrant coulis or even a caramel one. It's very refreshing on a hot day.

Instead of coulis you could use fresh raspberries, adding some to the cheese mixture and decorating the top with them. 


Courgette Gratin de Tante Marie

Thought I'd post something different this time. When we lived in France we had a large potager, and courgettes grew everywhere they could find a space! Look away for a minute and you had a marrow!

This is my friend G's Tante Marie's recipe to use up some of them. It's useful as an a accompaniment to lots of meals, and is very easy to make.

You need for 6: 2 courgettes, 4 potatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 tbspn crème fraîche, 100g grated gruyère cheese, 3 sprigs of thyme, salt and pepper

Preheat oven 180C/gas4

Grease a gratin dish.

Peel the potatoes and cut into rounds, not too thick,  then do the same with the courgettes.

Spoon into the dish, strip the thyme off the sprigs and sprinkle over the thyme, together with the crushed and chopped garlic, pepper and salt.

In a bowl mix together the cheese and crème fraîche and spoon over the courgette mixture.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 mins.

A very simple, tasty dish. It goes well with pork chops or as an accompaniment to a bbq. 



Strawberry Cheesecake

 Now that the English strawberries are good value, I thought I'd make a cheesecake. I had a pot of mascarpone to use, so used it with some cream cheese [such as Philly]. This is very easy to make when you don't feel like cooking!

You need: 60g icing sugar, 200g digestive biscuits [or other biscuits of your choice], 50g butter [melted], 1 lemon, 250g mascarpone, 100g soft cheese [Philly] and 1tspn vanilla extract, few mint leaves

Blitz the biscuits in a food processor or blender. Add the melted butter and mix together.

Press into the base of a 23cm flan tin, pushing the crumbs slightly up the sides.

Beat the mascarpone with the cream cheese, icing sugar, vanilla extract and lemon zest.

Spoon into the tin on top of the crumb base. Smooth with a spatula.

Cut the washed strawberries into 2 [or 4 if large] and put the on top of the cream mixture, cut side down.

Cut the washed strawberries into 2 and put the on top of the cream mixture, cut side 

Top with a few mint leaves and put into the fridge.

A good dessert for a hot day, but nice for any time in the Summer.


Rhubarb Yoghurt Cake

 Last year I was given a rhubarb plant from a local group which shares excess plants. I didn't cut it even though I desperately wanted to, as I love rhubarb! I was told it would make it stronger for this year!

It's doing well again, so this is the first recipe I've made using it, and it's a very simple one.You use a yoghurt pot as a measure. Yoghurt pot recipes are very popular in France.

You need: 250g rhubarb cut into chunks, 1 pot of yoghurt, 3 pots of caster sugar, 3 pots of sr flour, 1 tspn baking powder, 3/4 pot vegetable oil, 2 eggs, 1 tspn vanilla extract, 1/4 pot of milk

Preheat oven 200C/gas 6

Grease and base line a 20cm cake tin.

In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the rhubarb. Beat together. Add the rhubarb and mix in with a spatula.

Spoon into the cake tin. Bake for 30 mins till golden.

A lovely, simple cake. It has a moist crumb and is very tasty. You could add a mix of 2tbspn sugar and 1/2 tspn cinnamon  as a topping. A great way to use up my first rhubarb!


Gateau Moelleux au Mascarpone

 I've written the title in French because moelleux is a difficult word to translate. It means soft or tender or moist. This cake is soft and moist and simple to make.

 It's another recipe passed on by my French friend [who is my school penfriend from when we were 11!] and is a useful recipe to have, as it can easily be adapted.

You need; 150g flour and 1 tspn baking powder, 50ml vegetable oil [I use rapeseed], 150g caster sugar, 2 eggs, 125g mascarpone cheese, and either the zest of a lemon or a few drops of lemon oil, icing sugar to dust

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                         You need a ring mould, greased

Beat the eggs and sugar till light and fluffy. Add the mascarpone, oil, flour and baking powder and lastly the lemon zest or lemon oil. Mix well.

Spoon into the tin and bake for 30 mins.

Leave to cool in the tin for 5 mins before turning our onto a wire rack. A dusting of icing sugar is all it needs.

As I said earlier, this is a very versatile cake. It can be decorated with fruit such as raspberries, or with nuts. You can change the mascarpone for yoghurt or fromage blanc. It has a lovely soft and moist texture and I love it with a fruit coulis, especially raspberry. It's good to have a slice with a cuppa or as a dessert.


Peanut and Chocolate Brownies

 We all need a treat in these strange times, and these brownies fit the bill. No guessing that the recipe's from the US originally, handed to me by a neighbour when we were living in Chicago.

They are very calorific, so no good if you're watching you weight!

For the brownie mixture you need: 170g butter, 330g caster sugar, 3 eggs, good pinch of salt, 110g dark chocolate, 45g cocoa and 125g flour

For the peanut mixture you need: 50g butter, 60g caster sugar and 250g smooth peanut butter

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                           Grease and line a brownie tin [one I used is 28 x 18 cm]

Brownie mixture - melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave or over simmering water in a bowl.

Add the sugar, salt, beaten eggs and beat together till well mixed.

Peanut mixture - melt the butter. Using an electric hand beater, beat the melted butter, peanut butter and sugar together till smooth.

Spoon alternate tbspn of brownie then peanut mixture into the tin. With a knife zigzag lengthwise through the mixture then from right to left to create a marbled effect'

Bake for 35mins.

Cool in the tin then cut into required slices.

 I love peanut butter and brownies, so this is perfect for me. I like the mix of the chocolate and peanut flavours. It's very rich, so one of these generous sized pieces is sufficient for a sweet fix!


Grapefruit, Lemon Balm and Almond Cake

Having a sort out of my herbs and spices jars, I came across a jar of dried lemon balm that is almost past its sell by date. Not sure why I bought it, but it needed using up. I hunted through my recipe folders, and found one that a school friend gave me ages ago. It used lemon balm with pink grapefruit! I'd give it a try.

You need: 

200g ground almonds, 2 tbspn dried lemon balm, 1 pink grapefruit, 150g caster sugar, 2 large eggs and 22ml of olive oil [or 20g!], flaked almonds and icing sugar to decorate top

Preheat oven 160C/gas3                               Grease a 20cm springform cake tin and sprinkle inside with sugar

Wash and dry the grapefruit, then zest about 1/4 of it and put this aside.

Peel the grapefruit, cut in half and scoop out the pulp.

Put sugar and lemon balm in a bowl, add the eggs and beat with an electric beater till mixture is white.

Add the pulp and zest of the grapefruit and mix together.

Add the ground almonds then the oil. Mix well. It's quite a liquid mixture.

Pour into the prepared tin, sprinkle with flaked almonds and bake for 45 -50 mins.

Cool on a wire rack and sieve icing sugar over the top.

I love the flavours - the grapefruit isn't strong, but is in the background, and you can taste the lemon of the lemon balm [vervaine]. Lovely texture and the flaked almonds add a bit of crunch. Definitely one to make again.

Haven't seen dried lemon balm in my local supermarkets. I bought mine online from The Spiceworks, but Amazon and Etsy sell it. Lemon balm grows well in my herb planter, so will pick some this summer and dry it. 


Gâteau Fondant with Pears

 Feeling a bit down lately, with the freezing weather and not getting out, I thought I'd make one of my favourite cakes as a treat. I bought a bag of Conference pears on offer at the supermarket, and this is a great way to use them.

The most famous fondant cake is the chocolate fondant, a cake with a lovely oozy chocolate centre. In this cake, the lovely centre is made of pears.

For the cake you need:  100g caster sugar, 100 ml milk, pinch salt, 2 tspn baking powder, 150g plain flour, 2 eggs and 3 tbspn sunflower or vegetable oil, 4 medium pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

For the topping you need: 80g butter, 3 tbspn caster sugar and 1 egg

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                     grease a flour a 24cm tart tin

Put the sugar, 2 eggs and salt in a bowl and whisk till light and fluffy. Gently fold in the flour and baking powder, then the milk and oil.

Pour half of the mixture into the tart tin and then layer on the pear slices. Top with the other half of the mixture. Bake for 30 mins 

For the topping - melt the butter gently. Beat the egg and sugar till frothy then add the melted butter and gently mix together. Pour over the cake and put back in the oven for a further 20 mins.

Let the cake cool in the tin.

The crispy topping adds sweetness to the cake and goes well with the pears. I love the different textures, the crispy topping, the light cake and the soft pears. It works well as a cake or as a dessert with some cream or ice cream. 


Onion and Bacon Tart


For some reason, I seem to have an awful lot of onions. With this wintry weather I thought I'd use some up and make an onion and bacon tart. Nothing fussy, just pastry, onions and lardons. 

I knows chopping onions can be a tearful job, so I admit to using the slicer on my food processor. I used the grater for small slices, but they can be hand chopped!


You need 200g short crust pastry, 2 big onions [or more if you really like them!], 400ml crème fraîche, 150g lardons and some grated Gruyère or other flavourful cheese

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                   You need a baking sheet

Peel and chop the onions. Put into a frying pan, add half a glass of water and cook gently for 5-10 mins. leave to cool.

Roll out pastry into a circle that will fit the baking sheet. My sheet will take a 28cm circle. prick with a fork.

Spread the crème fraîche over the pastry leaving a gap round the edge. Spoon the onions on top and finish with the lardons.

Sprinkle the cheese on top and bake for 45-60 mins till golden.

I made 2, the second one for my neighbours. Apart from the onions, it's easy to make, and you could use other ingredients you have left in the fridge. The flavours are delicious, and it's just the thing to have on a cold day.


Galette des Rois with Chocolate and Hazelnuts

A Happy New Year! Bonne Année!

 I can't let Epiphany pass without a Galette, and I think we all need something sweet to keep us going in these difficult times.

 I asked my French friend for ideas for something different and she sent me this recipe. I found the ground hazelnuts in Waitrose, or you could grind your own.

So you need: 2 sheets of butter puff pastry, 125g ground hazelnuts, 100g dark chocolate, 100ml single cream, 1 egg, 75g caster sugar, 50g melted butter, 1 tspn vanilla extract and 1 egg yolk

Preheat oven 200C/gas6                       Baking sheet

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in the microwave or over a pan of simmering water. Beat the egg with the sugar till fluffy. Add the melted chocolate and mix well.

Add the hazelnuts and vanilla extract and stir together.

Roll out the first sheet of puff pastry and cut out a circle using a large dinner plate or something similar. Place on the baking sheet. Spread the chocolate mixture on top, leaving a 1.5 cm border.

Cut the second sheet into a large circle, the same size as the first, and roll over the top. Press the edges together with your fingers.

Cut the traditional design on the top using the point of a knife, but don't cut through the pastry!

Brush the top with the beaten egg yolk and bake for 30 mins till golden.

I gave half to my neighbour and he loved it. I loved the chocolate/hazelnut mixture, the rich chocolate with a nutty bite. I've always preferred the original almond filling, but this version comes a close second. A great treat as a dessert or as an indulgent offering with a cuppa.

ps, I actually managed to find puff pastry already cut into circles.

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...