A Meal For Those Who’ve Had A Tooth Pulled Out

Like most men, Darling-Chéri isn’t massively keen on doctors, dentists, and anyone who might have to do with health services. But eventually, after four years of gentle hints unremitting hassle, he agreed to make a dentist appointment. Well, it’s fair to say his had been a high-risk-high-reward strategy where he lost. As a result of not going for such a long time, he has to have 2 fillings re-done, 2 crowns put in and a tooth extracted. For appointment #3 (after the initial appointment and the one with the fillings), DC thought the dentist would start preparing for the crowns. So there was some serious bottom-lipping when he turned up in the office having had a tooth pulled out! This also meant we had to improvise a bit for our meals as he could only eat liquid or soft food. The small town where we work is quite limited for lunch options so he ended up having a tuna jacket potato, which was ok. For dinner I had planned some Sticky Sausage Kebabs from Delicious Magazine but with chewing not an option, I had to improvise a bit, bearing in mind I had already thawed the sausages! So we ended up with this Spiced Pork Mince Mess, Courgette Mash and Polenta:

For 2 people
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
4 pork sausages or 230g pork mince
2-3 tbsp fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves
1/2 red onion
1 tsp lemon or lime juice
1/2 tbsp. garam masala
1/2 tbsp. tumeric
1 red chili
1 courgette
500ml vegetable stock
2 tsp soft cheese
100g polenta
400ml water or 200ml water + 200ml milk (I prefer it that way)
A pinch of salt

Method:
– Bring the vegetable stock to the boil. Cut the courgette in large chunks and boil for 15 minutes, until tender.
– Meanwhile, finely chop the onion, 2 garlic cloves, half of the chili and the parsley.
– Mix in a bowl with the spices and pork mince.
– When the courgettes are cooked, blend them into a creamy mash with the soft cheese, the last garlic clove and the other half of the chili. Season to taste then put back on the hob (low) and stir every now and then.
– Put the mince mix in a frying pan and cook it for about 10 minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.
– In the meantime, pour the water or milk and water in a pan, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Timing is quite important here as polenta is very quick to cook! Follow the instructions on your pack but essentially, you’ll get soft polenta after 1 minute, and then the longer you leave it the more compact it gets. Remember to stir all the time to avoid lumps and ensure the polenta doesn’t jump in your face (it does have some remarkably volcanic properties!).
– Remove from the hob when you’re happy with the texture.

Plate up. I’ll admit it doesn’t look much. But it most definitely passed DC’s very strict flavour test. So don’t hesitate to try it in case of an emergency!

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Croque-Mrs And Lazy Sunday Mornings

Lazy Sunday mornings are the best. Mostly because they usually come at the end of a wild work week, a busy DIY Saturday or an intoxicated night out or a mix of the three.

So come Sunday we are all too happy to stay in bed for as long as we can before dragging ourselves downstairs to prepare what has quickly become one of our favourite breakfasts (ahem… brunch/lunch/mid-afternoon snack): the Croque-Mrs. It’s definitely not my healthiest recipe, but it feels like a comforting hug on those special mornings after the night before, and that’s where it all started! A couple of years back, on a morning afternoon after a somewhat inebriated night out, we decided we’d make lazy Croque-Madames (without the Bechamel sauce), only to realise we had no ham or gruyere.  Never mind, we decided to anglicise the recipe, so here are the Croque-Mrs:

For 4 Croque-Mrs
Prep: 10 minutes
Cooking 5 minutes

Ingredients:
4 slices of bread
8 bacon rashers
4 eggs
4 slices of cheddar or about 100g of grated cheddar
Butter

Method:
Grill the bacon under the grill or on a griddle pan. In our home we like it crispy, but it’s personal preference that rules on this one!
Place the bread under the grill (medium) until lightly toasted.
Turn the slices over and spread butter on the non-toasted side.
Now, timing is of the essence if you like to eat uniformly warm food, so you might want to start frying your eggs now.
When the eggs are doing their thing in the frying pan, place 2 bacon rashers on each slice, then add the cheese.
Place under the grill (low) for 3-4 minutes until the cheese has melted.
By then, your eggs should also be cooked so you can start plating up by simply topping each slice of bread with a fried egg.

Serve with ketchup or something tomato-based if you fancy cooking.

C’est prêt, bon appétit!

Inspiration Is In A Kitchen Cupboard

I really like lamb and mustard and I have a great recipe of mustard and feta crusted lamb which I’ll share one of these days, but by the time I’d got home from work yesterday and spent an hour removing lining paper in the front room, I just wanted to cook a really quick-fix dinner. I had the lamb already thawed in the fridge, so that was one thing I’d have to use for sure. As for what to do with it, I had a look around the kitchen tops and in the cupboards and ended up making this Mustard and Basil Lamb Rump Steaks served with tender stem broccoli and red peppers. Now a couple of caveats: rump steak really isn’t my favourite cut, I tend to find leg steak has got less fat, but I went with what I had in the fridge, obviously. For the vegetables, I would normally have had pan-fried or roasted Mediterranean veg, but the broccoli was about to go off and is much quicker to prepare so I swapped. And it worked rather well I have to say!

And now for the recipe:

For 2 people
Prep time: 10 minutes
Marinade (optional): 30 mins to 2 hrs
Cooking: 6-8 minutes

Ingredients:
2 lamb steaks
3 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp clear runny honey
1 tsp lemon or lime juice (optional)
About ten leaves of fresh basil

Method:
In a shallow bowl, mix the mustard, olive oil and honey
Chop the basil leaves finely and add to the mix
Place the lamb steaks in the bowl and cover with the marinade.
You can cover and leave it in the fridge to marinate for a couple of hours (optional)
When ready to cook, heat up a bit of olive oil in a frying pan or use a griddle pan. Cook the steaks for about 3-4 minutes on each side.
If you have any leftover sauce, set the meat aside once cooked and add the sauce to the pan for a minute or two then drizzle over the steaks.
Serve it with vegetables and roasted potatoes.

C’est prêt, bon appétit!

Close Your Eyes, You Are In Provence…

At the week-end a couple of my friends came for lunch. It was the first time they visited since we’ve moved house so we had a customary tour of the place (loose lining paper, picture rails hanging off walls and areas covered in “protective” newspaper, what a sight!) and then settled in the kitchen to enjoy the aperitif while I was finishing to cook lunch. It was a lovely day so I decided to mirror the blue sky with some sunshine in our plates, looking at Provence for some inspiration. I will post the lunch recipe later (mustard and feta crusted lamb with roasted vegetables) but I completely forgot to take a picture! So we started with a typical southern drink – and no, it wasn’t pastis! – le vin d’orange, orange wine. It is something my mother and her friends and family would usually prepare in April/May, ready to open in June (in the South of France Summer does not wait until mid-July to show up).

For 2.25L
Prep: 15 minutes, 6-8 weeks in advance

Ingredients:

3 bottles of rosé wine. No need to go expensive, you will add flavour to it!
0.45L vodka (or white fruit alcohol)
350g white sugar
4 oranges
1 vanilla pod
1 cinnamon stick
3 tbsp lemon juice
4 cloves

Method:

– In a large airtight container, mix the wine, vodka, sugar and spices.
– Cut the oranges in quarters and add them to the mix.
– Add the lemon juice, mix well and close the container.
– Let it macerate for 6 to 8 weeks in a cool dark place. Every week check on the container and mix gently to ensure the sugar dissolves properly.
– After about 6 to 8 weeks, carefully filter the wine, ideally through a muslin (or a coffee filter, although that takes longer), and bottle.

Serve chilled for a very summery aperitif!

Another Last Soup Before The End Of The Winter

It’s a bit difficult to tell what season we’re in at the moment. Every other day there is a short moment where it feels like April-May, when the sun is out and you can feel that slight heat on your back. The rest of the time looks more like early March, cold, wet and windy, and you just want to curl up on the sofa. So less time spent in the garden (which now officially looks like a jungle), and more time spent in the kitchen or removing lining paper. As a result I’ve cooked a batch of a new soup, a recipe reminiscent of one my mother used to make: Courgette and goat’s cheese soup. My mother used to put portions of Laughing Cow and crème fraiche where I put goat’s cheese. I used to really enjoy hers but when I read a recipe that married courgettes with goat’s cheese, one of my favourites, I had to try it.

For 4 people
Prep: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
500g courgettes
250g potatoes
200g onions
1L vegetable stock
200g soft goat’s cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Wash the courgettes and slice them
Peel and cut the potatoes in cubes
Chop the onions
Put the vegetable stock and the vegetables in a large pan and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender
Blend until smooth
Add the cheese and let it melt while mixing with a wooden spoon
Season to taste

Bon appétit!

One Last Soup Before The End Of Winter

It’s nearly the end of Winter! Quick one last soup before it gets too warm! Although to be fair there probably is another 2 or 3 months before we really feel a difference in the temperatures! Both Darling-Chéri and myself have been feeling a bit under the weather recently, so the idea of a light meal made of soup, a couple of toasts and some ham felt very appealing, saving our energy to curl up on the sofa while watching repeats of The Big Bang Theory.

I made an executive call on the soup flavour as I had bought some leek a week ago and we hadn’t manage to eat it. So Leek & Potato soup it would be. I scouted the web for a few recipes, picked ideas here and there, and here is what we ended up with:

For 4 people
Prep: 15 minutes
Cooking: 40 minutes

Ingredients:
500g leek
200g potato
2 shallots
1 chicken or vegetable cube
0.8L water
0.2L milk
20g butter
1 tsp ground nutmeg
Salt, pepper
Crème fraiche

Instructions:
Peel and wash the leeks and potatoes
Cut Finely
Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the shallots and leek. Stir and cook for 10 minutes.
Add the potatoes, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Stir, then add the water, milk and chicken cube.
Cook for another 30 minutes.

I really liked it as a broth but Darling-Chéri prefers it blended throughout with a spoonfull of crème fraiche for a smooth result. You can then decorate with a dusting of ground nutmeg and serve with hot toasts or croutons!

Bon appétit!

Tasty Ginger Biscuits

The other day I had to cook for work. Not for a charity fundraiser, birthday or other event, no. For work. We were putting together a little magazine and I needed the recipe and pictures for a wintery snack. So I made the Truly Luscious Hot Chocolate, but I was looking for something fun and tasty to dunk in it. Ginger biscuits, of course. Having never made them before, I had to look around. I found two recipes and adapted them into this:

For 12-15 biscuits
Prep: 15 minutes
Cooking: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients:
200g (7oz) self-raising flour
120g (4 oz) soft brown sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
60g (2 oz) butter (at room temperature)
1 rounded tsp golden syrup
1 small egg, beaten

Method:
First of all, you may need to warm the golden syrup as it is quite thick and stickystraight out of the tin: Pour the golden syrup in a small glass and place it in a bowl of hot water.
Preheat the oven at 180C (350F) (Gas 4).
While everything is warming up, place all the dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, sugar, bicarbonate and ginger. Mix together.
Work the butter in the mixture. It turns into a very dry crumble.
Add the golden syrup, then add the beaten egg bit by bit. The mixture should hold itself together quite well.
Roll the mixture into walnut-sized balls and place them on greased baking sheets or foil. Space them out as they will spread as they cook!
Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. The longer you leave them to cook, the harder they will be, so if you like them soft and chewy, remember to set your timer!

You can even decorate them with coloured icing for special occasions!
They will hold for 3-4 days in a tin so you can make loads and treat your family and friends around Christmas!