Cooks of South West France  
   Please, please comment!! If you try any of the recipes it would be of great help if you could let TAG readers have your opinion. PLUS - You are more than welcome to send in your own recipes; the more the merrier.

Home oven-dried Tomatoes
Here is an excellent way of using up a glut of tomatoes. Home dried tomatoes in olive oil are much nicer than the leathery sour imported variety. Although I think the tomatoes would have to be really dry to keep well in jars, they are even better when taken out of the oven early. These soft, sweet, powerfully flavoured semi-dried tomatoes keep for days in the fridge and are gorgeous in salads or with bread and cheese.
Cut tomatoes in half and spread them on a baking tray. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, salt, and (if you like) chopped basil.
Drizzle over a little olive oil. Bake in a very low oven. The exact time will depend on your oven - I found Gas 1/140C/275F for three hours gave perfect wrinkled semi-dried tomatoes
More fully dried ones took ten hours at Gas ¼ /110C/225F. Eat the semi-dried tomatoes as they are.
Fully dried tomatoes should be put in a sterile jar with any oil that has accumulated in the tin.. Add some slivers of garlic and chilli. Top up with olive oil. Use in sauces, soups and casseroles, or slice very finely to put in salads.
The best and cheapest tomatoes are in the shops at the same time the English crop ripens, from mid July to September.
Choose unblemished, deeply coloured tomatoes. Allow shop-bought tomatoes to ripen out of the fridge - even cheap orange supermarket tomatoes taste much better when given a week to turn deep red.
Tomato leaves are toxic - the plant is related to deadly nightshade.
Yellow tomatoes are generally particularly sweet and low in acid.
When cooking tomatoes for a sauce, the calyx can be left in to give a herby flavour.

Greg’s Version :
Only adding drizzles of Olive oil & a sprinkling of salt (No Sugar)
Bake @ 100C for (say) 2 hours , repeat until NEARLY what you want,
   allow to 1 or 2 tomatoes to cool occasionally to check what they are like when they are cold
also, take out any that are beginning to show signs of burning etc.
and pop them in a jar, awaiting the others !
then :
100C for 30 mins or appropriate
repeat until the desired consistency
Notes :

To use the oven to maximum potential, do as many as you have or can fit in !
The tomatoes need to be kept/stored under the olive oil. I re-use the oil the following year
The resultant oil is also good for dressing a salad or as a dip for bread etc.

I also add some tomatoes to Spaghetti Carbonara

Late summer peaches and figs

Whether you choose the sweet or savoury route, ripe peaches and figs are a late-summer highlight, Mark Hix Published: 19 August 2006
I haven’t tried the ‘Starter’ version
Biting into a juicy peach or fig is one of the most pleasurable sensations of high summer, but we don't often get these fruits in peak condition in this country. They're very delicate and they're often imported in an under-ripe condition to avoid spoilage during transport, as well as to prolong their shelf life.
I have both fig and peach trees at home, but I'm not counting on them filling my fruit bowl this year. The fig tree has already borne fruit once this season, but our shortage of rain combined with my lack of consistent watering and nurturing meant the tiny figs shrivelled and fell off. Now they seem to be reappearing, but I fear frost will probably set in before they even reach juvenile status.
I have spotted some large established fig trees in neighbouring roads, so I'm looking forward to scrumping a few figs from them when they ripen, but I'm still not sure whether they're going to live up to the sticky purple ones we had in Provence a few weeks ago. The problem with figs is that when they're in perfect soft, sticky condition, they're not that appealing and therefore not terribly marketable for shops and supermarkets.
Pan-fried figs with chestnut honey and Gorgonzola
Serves 4
This dish makes a good dessert replacement if you haven't got too sweet a tooth, or if you can't choose between pudding or cheese - and I've even eaten it as a starter just drizzled with aged balsamic, Pedro Ximinez or Vincotto vinegar.
4 large ripe figs or 8 small ones (say 400g)
1/2 tbsp olive oil
150-180g Gorgonzola 
(I used  100g of Bleu de Bresse)
2tbsp chestnut honey or ordinary clear honey
Pre-heat a non-stick frying pan and rub with olive oil.
Halve the figs, or quarter them if they are large. Quickly sear the cut sides in the pan for 30 seconds or so, then arrange the figs on serving plates.
Break the Gorgonzola into small pieces and arrange on the figs and drizzle with the honey.
Val says both recipes will move in t the Cooks label, so as TAG moves on they will always be there.

Just the best lemon curd
On social media the "big chat" is where can I buy Seville oranges for my marmalade. I like to be different so yesterday with my Spanish lemons I made lemon curd.
I used as always my recipe book from the Yorkshire women's institute, given to me by my mother when I left home.
I use half the amounts given as lemon curd needs to be eaten fresh. Half the amount makes three medium size jars.
6oz of butter
4 eggs
4 lemons
1 and a half pounds of sugar
Put the butter, sugar and grated lemon rind and juice into a double pan over hot water and see that the sugar is well dissolved before adding the beaten eggs. Strain the mixture over the eggs and return to the pan to cook gently over the heat. When the mixture adheres to the back of the spoon it is ready for potting.
It always works and is delicious, never compromise with margarine, use best butter. We are now told butter is better for you than margarine!

Hi Val
A recipe for mince pies with a difference - I made some this week and they're delicious.
You don't have to make the viennese topping but they make a difference, Love Glynis x
Viennese Ring Mince pies            You will need a tart tin, a piping bag and a                     
                                                                         Star nozzle
Makes 12

65g butter
110g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 level tablespoon caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 dessert spoon water
225g mincemeat
15g glace cherries (optional)
1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
75g butter
25g caster sugar
50g plain flour
25g ground almonds
½ teaspoon almond extract

Pastry. I would put the butter and flour into the food processor and whiz together then add the other 
ingredients and mix until it forms a ball or you could rub it and mix it by hand. Chill in fridge for
 at least 15 mins
Cream together butter and sugar then add the other ingredients. Mix it well as you need to pipe this

Roll out the pastry – fairly thinly. Cut rounds and line a tart tin.
Mix the mincemeat with the other ingredients and put a teaspoon into each pastry case.
Using a piping bag and a star nozzle,  pipe around the outside. This will spread in the oven.
Bake at 180 for about 20 to 25 mins. Dredge with icing sugar before serving
These freeze well
Val says  readers who do not bake might be interested in buying Glynis. Do you sell them?
 Glynis has a business " Cakes in France"
Comments to

A recipe from her French mum.

 “ Gratin de courgettes” from Martine Lewis
I am going to let you in on a gorgeous French recipe using courgettes, my mum used to cook for us kids in summer with the unsold courgettes. It’s a dish I do often and never tire of. Plenty of courgettes right now in the garden so here it is. if you haven't tried it yet, have a go.
1kg of courgettes (serves 3 people)
A little olive oil
1 biggish onion
1 garlic clove
1 bunch of flat parsley
Salt & pepper
1 tbs flour
½ glass of milk
50gr X2 of grated Emental cheese( or more if you love it!)
¼ glass bread crumbs
1- In a large saucepan( the courgettes will greatly diminish while cooking), fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil for a few minutes until golden.
2- Add the courgettes washed and sliced, peel and all if the courgettes are fresh. If they aren’t, get rid of half the peel. It’s easy to see if the courgettes are fresh, the skin should be shiny.
3- Toss for 10 minutes or so then add salt, pepper and parsley then cover and let simmer for ½ hour or until the vegetables are tender.
4- Take the lid off and let the water from the courgettes evaporate for a few minutes.
5- Once evaporated, bring the heat right down and add a tablespoon of flour and ½ glass of milk and stir well. You should have something that looks like a puree. At that point I often add a table spoon of mustard but mum never did.
6- Stir in half the grated cheese.
7- Take it out of the heat and pour the lot in an oven-proof dish.
8- Top with the breadcrumbs and the rest of the cheese and let it cook in the oven gaz mark 180 for between 35 to 45 minutes, or until brown. It’s yummy!
Comments to

For tag
Time for icecream. With fruit galore this year, one must make some icecream with the surplus fruit! Here is a simple recipe that doesn’t require an icecream making machine. It’s so simple that’s it’s not even funny…. 1kg fruit, 500gr crème fraiche, 500g sugar. Put all ingredients in a blender, blend for a couple of minutes, pour in freezer compatible plastic boxes and that’s it!!! My sister Bibi uses this recipe every year with her strawberries, raspberries, blackscurrants and gooseberries and they are such delight in summer….If you want to make sorbet then you need a machine to brake the crystals, as you don’t use cream. I am off to make some icecream with my 2 kgs of strawberries I’ve just picked. I hope you make loads this year!!!!

Comments to

A flan you must have second helpings of and is easy to make. sent by Martine Lewis

Here is the recipe for the coffee flan we had today:
You’ll need one litre of milk, 6 eggs, 1 vanilla pod, 300gr of sugar and 2 table spoons of instant coffee.
1) Heat the oven, 170 degrees and start by making the caramel: put 150gr of the sugar in the flan dish with a tablespoon of water and turning constantly over the heat until the mixture darkens. Remove from the heat and leave to cool on the side.
2) In a pan bring the milk to boil with the 150gr of sugar remaining, coffee and vanilla pod opened. Stir until the sugar desolves.
3) In a separate bowl, beat 6 eggs.
4) When the milk is nearly boiling, pour gently over the eggs beating all the time, then pour this mixture over the caramel in the flan dish.
5) Place the flan dish itself in another larger dish with an inch of water at the bottom.
6) Put the flan in the oven for 35 minutes (or when a knife dipped into the flan comes out clean).
7) Remove from the oven and let it cool before putting in the fridge. You may want to warm up the flan dish a little bit before serving to melt the caramel at the bottom of the dish such that when you turn it up side down in a serving dish, the caramel then runs over the flan. Mmmmmmm…’s delicious! I was telling Val and Malcom that this was one of our favourite desert when we were kids. Mum loved it too because it was so easy to do!
Chat soon,
Comments to

Sent by Jean Lewis
Hello Val
A wee canapés this time.
2 ounces of butter.
4 eggs.
4 ounces  off strong cheese,blue or white but must be able to be grated or
easily crumbled.
roasted crushed walnuts,take five minutes in hotish oven,need a bit of
colour and crispness.

Melt the butter,whisk the eggs and crumble or grate cheese.

Add the eggs to the melted butter and scramble on a low hear until just
commencing setting,add cheese and take mixture off as soon as passed the
runny stage,still very loose.
Roll into small balls when cold,not fridge cold,room cold. Crumble the
walnuts and roll the egg mixture into the nuts,when I say mixture I mean the
egg balls,make them approx the size of a quails egg.
If you use a strong cheese you may not need too much seasoning try to
taste and go for it,curry powder is good,grated ginger excellent and just
make your own choice,they are never the same in our house.
Hope this is to your liking Val and lots more coming over me at the
moment,taken to cooking again after a skip of 12 years.Lots of mistakes but
I do not mind being corrected by strangers,actually, I like it.
Val says sounds wonderful Jean, you never make a mistake in my book, you are just a super cook.
Comments to

Granola sent by Glynis

2 tbsp veg oil
125mil maple syrup
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tsp vanilla
330g rolled oats
4 tbsp sesame seeds
50g pumpkin seeds
100g flakes almonds
100g dried fruit / berries
50g desiccated coconut

Heat the oven to 150°c

Mix the oil, maple syrup, honey and vanilla in a large bowl Add all the other ingredients except the berries and coconut and mix well

Tip the granola onto greased baking trays and spread well

Bake for 15 minutes. Add the coconut and berries and bake for another 10 minutes

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before packing into airtight jars for storage.


Val asked me a while ago if I knew of some French recipe and I said no, not really. I could not think of any at the time. And then yesterday I made some delicious mayonnaise and thought I could share the recipe with you Tag readers, especially when it’s so easy and quick to make.
When we were kids, we always had home made mayonnaise. Our mum, like most mums around us, could not afford any of these ready stuff we buy today without thinking. I learned how to cook from her, as you do when you’re a girl, and the French dishes I most enjoy today are those my mum cooked for us, years ago. Life on the farm was hectic, demanding and tough for mum. She had 6 lively kids to hug, feed and love, crops, vineyard and orchard to tend to, animals to feed first thing in the morning for a couple of hours and last thing at night again for a couple of hours, and a loving but war wounded and sad husband for whom she remained a pretty and tender wife until he died in the late 80’s. Her meals had to be good, plentiful, cheap and really quick to prepare. I don’t know how she did it all. Nobody does. She was, and still is, extraordinary my mum..I’ll share more about her later.
And the mayo was one of those precious things that was quick to make. Having seen her make mayo in 30 seconds, year after year, I always took for granted that everyone knew how to make mayo in 30 seconds, when actually very few people do. So here it is, and if any of you readers makes it after reading this, do write in and tell us how it turned out.
You’ll need a hand blender with a container ideally just wide enough at the bottom so that you can sit the hand blender in it. You’ll need an egg, a big table spoon of French mustard( we like the Dijon’s extra strong one) and about ½  cup of sunflower oil. ( another vegetable oil will do I’m sure, but I’ve never tried another one) I find olive oil to be too strong for my taste. All ingredients should be at room temperature before you start. If the egg is straight from the fridge I usually put it in my pocket and get busy with something else for 15 minutes.
1- Crack the egg gently in the container trying to keep it whole
2- Put one tablespoon of mustard with the egg
3- Add the oil, a pinch of salt and pepper
4- Sit the hand blender in the bottom, covering  the egg yolk,  and start blending lifting the blender very slowly. It should only take a few seconds. And that’s it!!! Taste your mayo and if you like garlic( we do!) crush a clove and add it, then blend a few seconds more. For a lighter one, I add some natural yogurt….you can experiment and add whatever you fancy. Sometimes I add a lemon juice if we’re having it with fish…we added some curry powder the other day but I didn’t think it was interesting enough.
My sister Bibi mentioned the other day that she doesn’t always succeed in making her mayonnaise like mum did. So here is another way that  has never failed me so far: you put the yolk only with the oil and whisk for a couple of seconds. You then have like a yellow liquid. To that you then add the white of the egg and the mustard and whisk again. Now you have a lovely thick mayonnaise.
One Sunday dish we loved so much when we were kids and that was made with my mum’s mayo is called “oeufs mimosa” or “Mimosa eggs”. Very simple to make . Here is the recipe:
You hard-boil for 10 minutes as many eggs as you have people eating, peel them and let them cool down. Make the mayonnaise while the eggs are boiling. Then cut the eggs in half, long ways. Remove the yellows gently so as to not damage the white parts and put aside a couple of yellows. With the rest of the yellows, crush them with a fork and mix them to the mayo with a tin of tuna flakes. Arrange the white egg boats on a bed of lettuce, fill them generously with the tuna/egg/mayo mixture and then grate the other 2 yellows you’ve put aside, over the top of them. It’s like a mimosa shower, very pretty. My mum had one of those little kitchen gadget that she used for grating cheese very finely, and she used that with those yolks. She always put a black or green olive on top of each one, and for my dad she added a few anchovies he loved. She did the same thing with fresh tomatoes in the summer, cutting them in half, emptying them, refilling them with the mayo mixture….and it made a lovely summer first dish…I made some Mimosa eggs for my brother last month when he came for lunch with his girlfriend and when I brought the dish onto the table his smile said it all…I hadn’t done any “Mimosa eggs” for years and when I did, it’s my childhood that came rushing past my face with all it’s wonderfully chaotic and ferocious mumble-jumble mixture of emotions and memories…
Belly Pork from Jean Lewis
Ecconomy time,buy a large piece of belly Pork,ask the butcher to score it

and forget the crackling for this dish.

  You will need a roasting dish the size of the pork joint,slice onions into

thick pieces and line the dish,place the pork on top and rub  in any spice

you like,fennel seeds are great but what ever tickles your taste buds,Place

in oven for approx two and half to three hours at 160,check your oven is

doing its business by prodding the meat to ensure that it is tender,very


     Leave to cool and then into fridge,cut slices to the desired quantity

and fry in a hot pan with a little oil,the onions in their juice make an

excellent sauce to finish with.

      A hand of pork will do the same job buy takes longer to cook,not sure

what this joint is called in France.   Enjoy,its a winner.

I notice my spelling mistakes but unable to correct,keeps us on our toes

working it out. Speak soon.Love Jean

Hell Val,forgot to mention that you need a bottle of dry cider to pour over

the onions and half way up the side of pork.  /good job I read it back.Love

Val says Jean is an exceptional cook and uses a voice activated system for typing - less
errors than I usually make Jean. Many thanks

Cakes in France ©   Glynis Howgego
Banoffee cupcakes makes 13
225g/2 ¼ cups sifted plain flour
110g/ 1/2 cup softened butter
2 ripe mashed bananas
115g / 1 cup sugar
55ml/ ¼ cup buttermilk
2 eggs
½ tsp bicarb soda
¼ tsp salt
2 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 170°. Line a tin with baking cases
Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder in a bowl and mix together. Add sugar and mix together
Place all the other ingredients in a food processor and mush.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold together
Spoon into liners (1 small ice cream scoop) Cook for about 20 mins.Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 – 10 mins before transferring to a cooling rack.
Cut a hole in the middle and fill with caramel. Top with fresh banana and swirl some cooked  buttercream frosting on the top


Processes take a little time but well worth the effort !

First you need lard for your hot water crust pastry.  You may get it at your local butcher (Sainedoux) but if they haven’t any it is really easy to render your own.  Just ask them for ‘graisse de porc’ or La panne (not sure of the spelling of that) and you will be given a mound of white fat.  Chop it up into smallish pieces and put in a heavy pan with a splash of water.  Melt it slowly, stirring once in a while and once melted, keep stirring until the little bits of fat drop to the bottom.  The liquid is quite clear.  Pour into kilner jars through muslin and once cool you have lovely white lard.  It keeps for months in the fridge or you can freeze.

(Approximately 1Kg of fat will render down to about 1/1 ½ lb lard.)
The amounts below will make one large pie (spring-clip cake tin of 8” diameter and 2½-3” deep) or up to three smaller ones (c. 10cm diameter)

For the jellied stock
2 or 3 pig’s trotters
1 onion
1 carrot
2 celery sticks
Black peppercorns
Sprig of Thyme
1.8Litres (3 pints) water

Make the stock ahead.  Put all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to simmer.  Cook for about 3 hours before passing through a sieve.  Top up with a little more water if necessary.  You can then reduce t until you are left with 600-900 ml (1-1½ pints) stock.  Refrigerate and it should set well.

For the filling:
25gm butter
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh sage, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh mace, ground
1 tsp English mustard powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1 Kg. trimmed pork shoulder
100 gm pork belly/poitrine fraiche
100 gm smoked bacon

Melt butter in saucepan.  Once bubbling add chopped onion and sweat, without colouring until they soften.  Remove from heat and add sage thyme, mace, mustard and mixed spice.  Leave to cool.  Chop pork shoulder into small dice.  (You can mince this coarsely if you prefer or mince half and chop half).  Mix meat with the cooled herb mixture.  Season well with salt and pepper.  (I fry off a little piece of this mixture to check seasoning.)  Refrigerate until ready.

For the hot water crust pastry:
150ml (¼ pint) milk
150ml (¼ pint) water
175gm (6 oz) lard
675gm (1½ lb) plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten to glaze.

Turn oven to 220C.  Grease pie mould and put on baking sheet.  Bring milk, water and lard to boil.  Sift flour with salt into a bowl, leaving well in centre.  Pour in boiling lard water and mix quickly into a dough.  Knead lightly by hand until smooth.  Keep ¼ warm to one side and roll remainder out to fit the tin (it should be about ¼” thick).  (If making small tins, you may find putting a jamjar in the tin to help work up the pastry helps). 

Fill the lined mould with the pork filling, packing it just above the top.  Fold pastry back around the top on to the mix and brush with beaten egg.  Roll out remaining pastry to the same thickness and sit on top of the pie, pressing edges together and cutting away any excess.  Cut a cross in the middle top and place a ½” plain metal piping nozzle in to create and maintain a hole.  Leave it in place.  Brush pie with beaten egg.

Bake immediately for 30 mins then reduce oven temperature to 190C and cook the pie for a further hour.  Once golden brown cover loosely with foil to prevent burning.  Check pie by inserting a skewer.  It should be hot and clean when removed.  If not, cook for a further 15 minutes.  Lift pie from the oven and relax for 15 minutes before removing from mould.  Brush pastry with beaten egg and return to oven for another 20 minutes or until pastry is golden.  Remove from oven and leave to rest for 30 minutes.  Filling should have shrunk leaving space for jelly.

Use a jug and funnel and pour a little jelly into the nozzle in the pie.  Repeat process until pie has cooled.  Once pie is cold you can top up the jelly.  Freeze left over jelly.  Keep 48 hours for flavours to develop.

Victoria China

Streusel Topping for mince pies  from Glynis

50 grams plain flour
50 grams ground almonds 
 50 grams ground hazlenuts

50 grams demerara sugar

1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
60 grams butter (unsalted and softened)
Mince Pies should be eaten within 3 days. 

Pâte Sablée  from Glynis

250 grams plain flour
200 grams butter (small dice and slightly softened). Unsalted is best. 
100 grams Icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 egg yolks

Sieve the flour and icing together then add the butter together.
Lightly rub the butter into the flour mix to form a breadcrumb consistency.
Add the egg yolks then work into smooth dough.
Wrap into cling film and rest in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes before using. 

Greg Honey with his first seasonal recipes

The Number One Winter Soup
From : Women’s Institute Soups for all Seasons by Liz Herbert
This soup contains everything that you would expect in a winter soup - vegetables, bacon, lentils and chicken - meal in itself !
Preparation  time 15 minutes + 55 minutes cookingFreezing recommended
Serves 6
1 table spoon olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
4 rashers streaky bacon, snipped (or lardons)
1 boneless chicken thigh, diced
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sticks celery, diced
carrots, diced
1 parsnip, diced
2 leeks, sliced
1.7 litres (3 pints) half strength chicken stock
175 g (6 oz) red lentils, washed
tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 1/4 teaspoon dried  thyme 2 bay leaf
freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil and butter in a large lidded saucepan. Add the bacon and stir round until golden.
Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes, turning, until browned.
Stir in the onions, garlic, celery, carrots, parsnip and leeks. Cover and sweat for 10 minutes.
Add the stock, lentils and herbs. Bring to the boil and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes at a rolling boil. Reduce the heat, cover and carry on simmering for 30 minutes.
Adjust seasoning and ladle this luscious soup into warmed serving bowls

Spiced Sweet Potato and Pumpkin (or Squash) Soup
A self-taught chef, inspired by her Sri Lankan grandmother, brings a scintillating touch of the east to the West Country, writes Tamasin Day Lewis. 23/10/2004 (
There was an ingredient I couldn't detect when I tried this magical soup. It was the roasted sesame seeds.
Serves 4
·  1 tsp cumin seeds
·  1 tsp coriander seeds
·  1 tbsp sesame seeds
·  1oz/30g butter or 1 tbsp light olive oil
·  1 medium red onion, finely chopped
·  2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
·  A thumb of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
·  1–2 green chillis, seeded and chopped (add less ? – according to strength/taste)
·  Zest and juice of a lime
·  2 pints/1 litre vegetable stock
·  1 tsp honey (add more ? – according to taste)
·  12oz/340g sweet potato, peeled and diced
·  12oz/340g pumpkin (or squash), peeled & diced (I got about 8oz of flesh)
·  A handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
To garnish:
·  2 pint/125ml live yoghurt or 1 tin coconut milk
·  Olive oil
Lightly roast the cumin, coriander and sesame seeds separately for about one minute, then grind them together. Heat the oil or butter in a heavy-bottomed pan and cook the onion and garlic over a medium heat without browning, until they are softened.
Add the spices, ginger, chillies and lime zest and stir them in. Cook for a minute to amalgamate the flavours.
Add the stock, half the lime juice, the honey, the sweet potato and pumpkin and the coriander leaves and bring to the boil.
Then reduce to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender (about 20 minutes).
Liquidise until very smooth, adding more stock to achieve the right consistency if you need to.
Add the rest of the lime juice and seasoning to taste.
Serve with a swirl of yogurt or coconut milk and a few drops of olive oil.

            or as an alternative, we used - taken from a similar recipe by Nigel Slater :
4 rashers smoked bacon – thin’ish, so that it will crisp up
(not too salty/smoked - could ‘clash’ with the soft taste of the soup – I used Allumettes de Lardons
100ml single cream

Pour in the cream and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Return to the pan, bring almost to the boil and then serve, piping hot, with the bacon bits scattered on top.

Val Hughes, expert cook sends this recipe for mincemeat

Traditionally this is made with suet but this can be difficult to get hold of in France. Tesco will deliver and I know people get together to order. There are various 'English' shops around and on line that will sell it or buy it from the butcher and grate your own. Mary Berry uses butter and this is delicious and gets round the problem.

175g currants
175g raisins
175g sultanas
175g cranberries
100g mixed peel
1small apple- peeled, cored and finely chopped
125g butter cut into cubes
50g chopped almonds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
Finely grated rind and juice one lemon
200ml brandy, rum or sherry

1.  Measure everything but alcohol into a pan
2. Heat gently and allow the butter to melt
3. Simmer gently for 10 minutes stirring occasionally
4.Allow to cool and stir in alcohol.
5. Put into sterilised jars and seal tight. Store in cool place.

This is better made at least 4-6weeks ahead.

Mince Pies

This Josceline Dimbleby recipe is a different take on the traditional.

Orange pastry mince pies.

500g plain white flour
375g butter
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 large orange
175g icing or caster sugar

1. Sift flour and sugar into a bowl
2. Cut butter into small pieces and rub into flour and sugar until it looks like breadcrumbs.
3. Stir in orange rind.
4. Use a knife and stir in orange juice until dough sticks together.
5. Gather dough into a ball, put in cling film in fridge for 30 mins.

Pie filling

250g cream cheese or marscapone
25g golden caster sugar.                   (Mix these together until smooth)
500-625g mincemeat
Grated rind and juice of two lemons
Milk to glaze and caster or icing sugar to dust.

Preheat oven to 200' (ovens vary so much- you will know your oven!)

1. Knead pastry lightly and roll out fairly thickly
2. Use 7.5cm cutter, cut out 24 rounds
3. Butter tins and line with pastry rounds
4. Mix mincemeat and lemon together
5. Fill the rounds ½ depth with mince and put 1tsp cheese mixture on top.
6. Roll out the rest of the pastry and use a small round or star cutter and cut 24 tops.
7. Brush tops of pies with milk and bake 15-20 mins until light golden brown.
8. Cool, take out of tin and sprinkle with sugar before serving.

These can be served warm or without the cheese mixture. The orange pastry can be used for  other tarts .

Glynis says

Hi Val

I've prepared a sheet on cream that I hope is useful to your readers.
It is possible to buy proper thick cream here but I only two places that sell it. One is the cheese man in Caussade (the one with the long queue) and the other place is Hyper U in Villefranche. All I can remember is that it was expensive and I think the it's a white tub with green and white writing and I also remember it wasn't in the cream section in Hyper U. Maybe one of your readers can help out some more.

Glynis x

Crème fraiche is a mature, thickened cream. It has a slightly tart flavour, close to sour cream but a bit sweeter. Unlike sour cream it won’t curdle if boiled and it can be whipped like fresh cream.
Substitutions: Greek yogurt, Plain yogurt, (both lower in fat); sour cream

Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a very thick, very creamy yogurt, often made from ewe’s milk in Europe. It’s a bit higher in fat than regular yogurt. Any yogurt should be added at the end of cooking time and not boiled otherwise it might curdle
Substitutions: Plain yogurt, (lower in fat) crème fraiche and sour cream

Fromage frais
Fromage frais is a soft, fresh cheese, similar in taste to cream cheese but much lower in fat. It’s smooth and creamy. It is NOT the same as fromage blanc
Substitutions: ricotta, cottage cheese, cream cheese

Fromage Blanc
Fromage Blanc has the consistency of sour cream with a slightly less tart flavour and fewer calories. It can be whipped to make it fluffy (sour cream can’t be whipped) and it’s often used in desserts with fresh fruit. It is less tart than either Greek or plain yogurt.
Substitutions: Greek yogurt, plain yogurt (lower in fat); crème fraiche, sour cream

Ricotta is a soft Italian fresh cheese, slightly grainy and naturally low in fat. It is used in desserts and pasta dishes.
Substitutions: cottage cheese, Fromage frais

Mascarpone is a triple cream, high fat Italian cheese; an integral ingredient to tiramisu. It has only slightly less fat than butter
Substitutions: ½ ricotta and ½ heavy cream; crème frache
Comments to

 I didn't know people even read the recipes so it was a pleasure to have two

separate conversations with people who had actually tried them.
 The microwavable fig jam worked! 
 This months discovery is deconstructed crumble
Make a crumble mix and put it in the oven with no fruit. Bake it well.
 You can then sprinkle it on top of cooked fruit. It also works well on ice
and yoghurts
 I made one 3 weeks ago. I've kept it in a pyrex dish with an airtight lid
 and it's still as crunchy as when I made it.

My next post will be on cream - bear with me!

 Glynis x
Emma Hilditch tells us about her last curry  meal

Last curry for 2013

Monday saw our last secret supper club curry night for 2013.  It was a
roaring success with the highest number of diners yet.  There was a brand
new menu which I can share with you here.  We had a lovely convivial
atmosphere and our first French guest, who cleared his plate, so we were
very proud.  I must say I am loving the whole supper club idea so let's hope
we can do some more next year.

On a totally different note, I have just come back from Scotland where I
cooked for an extremely posh shooting party for a week.  I had to do a
number of things I have never done before such as bone hare, roast grouse,
make scotch eggs from scratch and open three tins of genuine caviar!  My
favourite new thing was the scotch eggs which are even easier here as you
don't need to take the sausage meat out of the skins, just buy chair a
saucisse.  Another fab purchase in France are those moulded boxes of ready
boiled and peeled quails eggs they sell in the chiller cabinet.  No easier
way to make a nice posh canapé.

Recipe for Scotch Eggs

Boiled eggs
Eggs for dipping
Sausage meat (chair a saucisse)

Take a small piece of sausage meat, flatten into a round and squish it onto
the boiled egg so no gaps show.
Dip egg in flour, whisked egg and breadcrumbs
Deep fry for 6-8 minutes

Jean says

Hello,something for this time of year and as usual,simple.

Prove that it works before buying too much.

 1 killo of belly pork. 1 small bag of cooking salt,the fancy salt does the

same trick but casts twice as much.

A handful of cloves.

Table spoon of bro n sugar,2 if preferred.

A smattering of black pepper corms.

Put all the dry ingredients into bowl and mix,rub well into pork which is

still in a whole.

  Place in a plastic bowl,flat,for 3 days only,any more and its

hellish,turning daily,at the end of three days wash thoroughly and dry,you

can hang it up on a meat hook or slice and eat,also very good boiled with

parsley sauce.  In britain we call in bacon. Enjoy

Jean Lewis sends a recipe for chicken liver paté

Hi Val.

    Hope this is suitable for this week.

Chicken liver pate with fig chutney.


1 killo fresh fegs.

10 onces balsamic vinegar.

thumb sized stick of fresh ginger

Half killo brown sugar

teaspoonful of salt and same of black pepper.

Place all the ingredients except sugar into pan,top the figs first and then

chop into 8 pieces per fig.  Bring to boil and turn heat down and simmer

unit reduced by half,take off heat and add sugar bringing slowly back to

boil,simmer for approx ten minutes and thats it done.

Chicken liver pate.

Half killo of chicken livers

tablespoonful of chopped thyme

sherry glass of dry sherry.

6 ounces of better and a tablespoonful of cooking oil.Salt and pepper.

Place half the butter with the oil into pan and add livers,fry until just

pink and no more,you will end up with a very grey pate if the livers are

overcooked and it will taste gritty. Back to the pan. I almost forget the 2

large cloves of garlic which have to be cooked very lightly before the

livers but in the same pan,put all the ingredients into liquidizer and whizz

until smooth adding the extra butter as you go.  It really is good with the

fig pate and essential to put the dry sherry into the pate as makes it just


Plum sauce for duck, another from Glynis

1 shallot
1 tbsp olive oil
250 dark red plums, de-stoned
50g demerara
50ml red wine
330 ml beef stock

1.       Fry the shallot until it’s translucent, not coloured.
2.       Add plums ad sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved
3.       Add red wine and stock then leave on simmer for about 15 minutes

4.       I put mine through a sieve so I had a smooth sauce but you could put in a blender or serve as is depending how you like it

Sangria style fig jam   from Glynis

The blend of flavours here is outstanding – almost strawberry jam like

Makes 1.75kg

900g fresh figs – I chop mine up quite small
150ml Spanish red wine (of course you can use local)
1 large orange
45ml lemon juice
1kg jam sugar

Put the figs in a 4 litre bowl with the wine
Zest  half of the orange then peel the orange disgarding all traces of pith, then cut the flesh into small pieces removing the pips. Add to the bowl with the orange zest and lemon juice. Cover and cook on full power for 10 minutes stirring once
Uncover, stir in the sugar and cook on full power for 8 minutes until the sugar had dissolved stirring twice with a wooden spoon
Reduce power (550w) and cook uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes until setting point is reached, stirring 3 or 4 times
Allow to cool to lukewarm and then spoon into sterilised jars

Rich Fruit Cake  Glynis Howgego

500g raisins
500g sultanas
250g dried figs
250g dried prunes
125g glace cherries
65g dried apricots
60g glace pineapple
Zest and juice small orange
100ml brandy

125g dark brown sugar                       
125g muscavado sugar
250g unsalted butter
2 tsp apricot jam
4 tsp golden syrup
½  tsp nutmeg
½  tsp
½  tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
½  tsp cloves
250g plain flour
125g ground almonds
5 large eggs

This is enough for an 8” square tin and will be fairly deep (maybe 3”)

1. Use a pair of scissors to halve and chop the various fruit. Add and change according to taste as long as the net weight is  1.75kg. I often vary the fruit which is what makes this recipe so lovely. You can use what you have in the cupboard.
2. Place all the dried fruit, orange zest and juice and alcohol into a bowl. Add a dash of flavoured brandy if you fancy. Leave for a week. Overnight will do if you’re in a hurry.
3. Preheat oven to 140°
4. Cream butter in a large bowl until soft. Gradulally add the two sugars, apricot jam, golden syrup and spices
5. In a separate bowl sif the flour and stir in the almonds
6. In another bowl beat the eggs and gradulally add them to the butter/ sugar mixture alternating it with the flour/almond mix
7. Mix the soaked fruit into the batter
8. Grease and line an 8” cake tin. Fill the tin about two thirds. Cover with a piece of greaseproof with a whole in the middle the size of a 50p
9. Bake for 3 hrs
10. Allow the cake to cool slightly in the tin – add a dash of alcohol and leave to cool some more.
11. Store in greaseproof then wrapped in cling film or foil. Leave for at least a week – several months is better

The finished product David's tomato tarte tatin

TOMATO TARTE TATIN  by Davis Hatfield

Here's yet another way to use up tomatoes. Although they don't look large these tarts use up quite a lot of tomatoes.

Here is my recipe for Tomato Tarte Tatin.

This recipe works really well with lots of cherry tomatoes since you don't have to do anything with them except put them in the pan.
Here, however, I've used plum tomatoes because that's what a friend (?) gave me.

You need:

About 11/2 -3 lbs of tomatoes (Depends up on the diameter of your frying pan.)
5 tablespoons of powdered sugar
3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
50 grams of parmesian shavings
30 grams of unsalted butter
1 sheet of puff pastry

 cut each tomato in half then push out the seeds & pulp. They're now ready to cook.

First make a syrup using the butter, vinegar and half the powdered sugar. Let this mixture cook for a minute or two until its a thick consistency.

Now (carefully) add the tomatoes cut side down.

Sprinkle the remaining powdered sugar over the top, add the parmesian shavings spread evenly  and cook for roughly 5 minutes. Let cool a bit then;

Cover the tomatoes with the sheet of pastry carefully tucking it in around the side. Make a few cuts in the pastry to let steam escape.

Place in a 200 degree C oven and cook until the pastry is browned on top.

Take the tarte out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes.

Now comes the moment of truth. Place a flat plate over the top of the tarte and quickly invert the whole thing. (CAREFUL THE PAN HANDLE WILL STILL BE HOT!) With any luck the tarte will fall onto the plate.

Eat hot or cold; delicious either way. Freezes well, I made three & 2 are in the freezer waiting for a winter's day when we need a bit of summer cheer.

OK, Val that's the written recipe I'm now going to try to attach the pictures in the right order. Ideally the pictures would be interspersed with the text.

Let's see how well this works.

In Basket

Cut and seeded



HI Mrs Johnstone (I'm trying to remember no more just Val)
Guess its my turn for cooks & recipes. Here's the first:
I'll continue the tomato theme started by my compatriots,
1 large tomato per person (the big Marmonds are good)
1 clove of garlic per tomato.
a dribble of balsamic vinegar per tomato
2-3 fresh basil leaves per tomato.
a good grind of sea salt per tomato
- Heat the oven to 200 degrees C
- Cut the top off of each tomato. Only about 1/8th.
- Chop the garlic finely and sprinkle over the cut top of the tomato.
- Drizzle a small amount of the balsamic over the cut top. 1/2 a tea spoon roughly.
- salt the tomato tops liberally.
- Put the tomatoes on a tray & put into the oven for about  30 minutes.
- Take out of the oven and place the basil leaves on top.
- Back into the oven for 15 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft & slightly browned on the top edges. 
Take out & serve immediately along with some really nice bread.
A simple, but good recipe. I have a more complicated tomato recipe for tomorrow. 
What's the best way for me to sent you pictures to go with the recipe?
Cheers David

Jean Lewis 
A starter for two persons. >> 2 Largish tomatoes. >> I whole egg and one extra egg white. >> 3 Ounces of strong tasting cheese. >> A medium slice of bread,brown or white. >> Enough milk to soak the milk into a soft dough >> Teaspoonful of mustard. Cut the rounded bottom off the tomato and take the seeds and centre core out leaving a clean shell. Soak the bread in the milk and aim for a softish dough,it needs to be quite sloppy,beat in all the other ingredients and fill the empty tomato shells,put in a very warm oven and leave for twenty minutes and then take a peek,the inside will have risen well over top of the tomato and with a home made tomato sauce it is great,itworks,put plenty of chilli and into the sauce and its certainly tasty,I do love chillie,ginger and pepper. Its a winner and another use for the tomato

Emma Hilditch gets out her preserving pan

Time to Get that Preserving Pan Out again

The merry season of preserving has come round once again and if you are like
me and can't bear waste you'll find yourself up early in the morning and
late at night stirring the preserving pan with your latest concoction.  I
have realised over the years that although you need to try and use
everything in the garden and hedgerow there is no point if you make chutney
or jam that is not delicious as no one will want to eat it and you'll end up
throwing it away 5 years down the line.  So, I try to search out or develop
recipes that use up the glut but are also wonderful in the jar, even if it
means sometimes buying an additional ingredient or two to add to your home
grown delights.  Below are two recipes that I can wholeheartedly vouch for
as being absolutely yummy.  In my case I am using up the Peche de Vignes
from my two trees and the boxes of melons that a local farmer friend often
leaves on my doorstep.

One last note on the subject of jam making.  Three years ago I discovered a
great product called Dr Oetkers Fruttina Extra Sucre Gelifiant.  It comes in
500g packs and can be used in jam making with 1kg fruit.  Usually for jam
you need 1kg normal sugar to 1kg fruit which often makes a jam that is far
too sweet for modern palates (including mine). Also traditionally you need
to boil the jam for far longer with normal sugar to reach setting point
which means that the jam comes out darker and more cooked looking which is
not nearly as appealing as my lighter fruity looking jars.  So I strongly
recommend you start using it for all your jam making and you'll really
notice the difference.  You can buy it in E.Leclerc in Montauban and Cahors
and in Auchan they sell a similar product from Beghin-Say.  It is sold in
500g packs only so don't be tempted by the 1kg bags of Sucre Confiture or
Sucre Gelee as this has added pectin but you still need a kilo of sugar to a
kilo of fruit so it does not help to reduce the sweetness of the end result.
Here endeth the lecture on sugar!

One last note on utensils, a preserving pan is essential for making jam and
chutney.  Because it is wider at the top than the bottom it helps the liquid
to evaporate much more quickly which means the jam or chutney is ready
sooner so all the flavour does not get cooked away.  I have the cheapest
copper pan on the market from Pole Vert and it is excellent, it's really
really worth buying one rather than trying to make do with your largest
casserole.  Here endeth the lecture on preserving pans!

The Maharajah’s Melon Chutney

1kg melon (peeled and chopped)
500g courgettes (peeled and chopped)
250g tart apples (peeled and chopped)
150g raisins
25g root ginger (peeled and chopped)
4 x lg cloves garlic (peeled and chopped)
Juice of 2 limes
1 tea spoon cayenne pepper
1 coffee spoon ground cloves
1 coffee spoon ground cardamon
1 coffee spoon ground allspice
2 coffee spoons ground coriander
2 dessert spoons concentrated pomegranate juice
300g sugar
200ml cider vinegar

Put everything except the sugar into preserving pan
and gently stew for 20 minutes or so until it becomes mushy

Add sugar and stir to dissolve

Boil medium heat until it becomes chutney (approx one hour)
stirring regularly to prevent sticking.

Peach and Passionfruit Marmalade
1 orange
1 lemon
tbs water
1kg peaches
500g Dr Oetker Fruttina Extra Sucre Gelifiant
Pulp from 8 passion fruit

Pare the peel from the orange and lemon and slice very finely
Cut off the pith and discard, then chop up the pulp.
Put peel slivers, pulp and water in a bowl and leave to soak overnight
Next day pour into preserving pan and bubble gently for about 25 minutes until peel is soft
Stone the peaches and food process roughly, then add to the preserving pan.  Cook for a further 20 minutes until peaches are soft
Add jam sugar and cook (as per directions on the packet) for a further 3-5 minutes until setting stage is reached (test for wrinkles on a saucer that has been in the fridge)
Turn off the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Then add passion fruit pulp and stir to distribute.
Pot into sterilised jars, seal while hot.
This should get the week started - Glynis
 Glynis says
I've just made some plum puree with some of my glut and it tastes delicious
.....and it's easy and feezable.
Would be a fab topping for ice cream or use to make ice cream, or with chocolate pudding
or make a plum custard

225g plums
50g caster sugar
1 tablespoon water
I added lemon juice, vanilla and cinnamon

Place everything in a saucepan and heat gently until it's all mushy. Leave to cool.
Put through a sieve.


This week is all about cakes!

This is the Barbie cake I was talking about and it contained one
entire Barbie along with some rather yummy chocolate cake

What an incredibly busy two weeks!
I was at the vendage at Domaine de Montels on Sunday (next to the bouncy castle)
The French were fascinated by the cakes, thankfully I had Trudy there to help me out
although the first question was always 'is it marzipan followed by are they real hence the need
for me to cut the wine bottle!
One of my favourite cakes in the last few weeks was a Barbie doll - I'll post the picture later.
Now I'm off to a bee keeping workshop them back to work on this weeks wedding cake

If you were at the regatta you will be aware that someone we know celebrated their
70th birthday recently and they ordered a cake from me.
This is what I came up with
Happy birthday Malcolm 

Val says Malc has had a great birthday and the cake with the blue ribbon around looked even nicer. For the boulists amongst you I think Malc is down for a measure, and his boule is bound to be the winning one!
comments to 
Glynis Howgego
My husbands mother passed away last month and the family decided to hold the funeral on what would
have been her 92nd birthday and they wanted a cake. This was my tribute along with 92 hand decorated

David Hatfield's week
Dave's Little salad. (for two people)
     Some rocket or other small leaved green salad.
       Four small ripe tomatoes  (not cherry tomatoes they need to be larger than that)
     About 2 oz. of salmon rillettes. (if you can't buy rillettes just cut up some raw            salmon filet into small pieces.)
    10 or so tinned Anchovy filets, salted
    Some lemon juice
    Some olive oil
    Salt & pepper
- Make a dressing by combining the olive oil, some lemon juice and some of the oil from the anchovies. Salt & pepper the dressing.
- Cut off the tops of the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds & pulp.
- Fill each tomato with the salmon rillettes.
- Dress the rocket lightly with the dressing.
- Arrange the rocket and the stuffed tomatoes on a plate.
- Drape an anchovy filet over each tomato and place more anchovy filets around the plate on top of the rocket.

TBBC's Salmon Casserole  with pasta & broccoli (purloined from their website)
Two nice salmon filets, deboned and skinned
125 g pasta (penne or fusilli or similar)
300g Broccoli, cut into medium sized florets
25g butter
25g flour
600ml milk
100g mascarpone (or use crème Frais)
8-10 sun dried tomatoes
2 tbsp. capers
10 anchovy fillets cut into small pieces
10 large basil leaves, finely chopped (used dried if necessary.)
50g mature cheddar, finely grated. (or substitute cantal.)

-Using the butter, flour and milk make a medium thick roux.
- Boil up a large pan of water & put the pasta in to cook. After about 6 minutes add the broccoli
- Cut up the sun dried tomatoes into 3-4 pieces for each one.
- When finished boiling drain the pasta & broccoli into a colander & drain well.
- Add the mascarpone to the roux and stir well.
- Add the sun dried tomatoes, the capers, the anchovies and the basil to the roux/ mascarpone mix
- Finally carefully mix in the pasta & broccoli.
- Arrange the salmon filets on the bottom of an oven proof casserole.
- Pour the roux mixture over the salmon filets, smooth and sprinkle the cheese over the top.
- Bake in a 190C oven for 30 minutes or until the mixture just starts to bubble and brown.
- Serve immediately.

Both dishes are great and compliment each other well. Idea for a nice lunch.

Lunch at the golf course
I wasn't going to do cooking post today because I was going to be playing golf most of the day. Then I realized that I could write about lunch at the golf course.

As any golfing readers will know this isn't the best area for golf. Courses are few & far between. The little 9 hole set up in Villefranche is Ok, but not a full proper course. Montauban is not much better. There is a very nice course at ALbi, but it tends to be expensive & a bit snooty.

Thus, I and my golfing friends tend to play at Florentine. Its a full course and is slowly getting into better shape since the new owner took over  a couple of years ago. The interesting thing is that the owner is Taiwanese; he owns several golf courses around the world. (I think there's a tax write off somehow involved as the course can't possibly be making money)

Even more interesting is that his manager is a Japanese lady. She's very nice AND is a very good cook. Thus if they know you and you ask in advance she and/or her sister will cook lunch for you. Its always very good and has some kind of Japanese touch. Today for instance we had melon with ham as a starter followed by roast chicken with sautéed potatoes & roast garlic accompanied by rice. The kicker was a delicious piquant sauce served on the side. Home made & it made the meal special. Very hard to beat at 10€.

So if you're ever down that way its worth calling ahead and ordering lunch. They don't advertise the lunches so there's normally hardly anyone having lunch.

You can also do as I do and attempt to play golf. I say attempt as the game I play is nothing like what Tiger and friends do. I was happy to get around in 106 strokes today. 

Florentine is slightly West of Albi. 

The quickest way to get there from here is to go to Cordes then turn right towards Gaillac. Just before Gaillac there is a roundabout where you take the Left exit, you then take another Left exit at the next roundabout (its over 2 km to it) Carry on until you cross the River Tarn. At the traffic light (about 100 Meters) take the second Right road. Carry on straight ahead until you see the Golf signs then follow these.

There is a quicker cross country route, but it too complicated to describe. OR just do a Google maps search for Golf, Florintine, France

Sunday Lunch

Sunday lunch can be a slightly controversial topic in our house. The controversy arises from the cultural difference between Linda, my English wife and me, an American. What Linda thinks constitutes a great Sunday lunch and what I consider to be a great Sunday lunch can at times be two different things.

Of course Sunday lunch in the states can be a lot of different things given our cultural diversity. Mexican, German, French, Polish, Italian; what have you. In my case even though my ancestors were mainly English with a bit of Irish & Dutch thrown in to keep things interesting; we had Italian Sunday lunches more often than not. This arose from a desire to give my Mother a day off from the cooking chores (She by the way was a 'plain' cook. Mostly English style dishes).
The reason for the Italian Sunday lunches was that in addition to having a large Italian population our area of Northern California had a small town (village) that boasted three great Italian restaurants. As far as I know people still flock to Occidental to eat Italian food. Thus on many Sundays we would drive over to Occidental for our lunch. And a great lunch it was, antipasti, soup, a pasta course, the main course and dessert. Lots of well prepared food, not to mention the wine once I was old enough to have some.
If not going out to a restaurant a typical Sunday lunch would be BBQ in the back yard with friends or family around. Lots of salads, fruits & vegetables.
So, those things are my idea of Sunday lunch. Modified, however, by living in several countries other than the USA.

Linda on the other hand being from the North of England prefers what I consider to be the traditional English Sunday lunch. Roast meats, potatoes, a variety of vegetables and hot desserts. While this is fine with me most of the time I like to be a bit more adventurous. Thus, we have heated discussions about what to have. Normally we end up with a compromise.

Yesterday was no exception. There were 8 of us for lunch. All English except me. The compromise menu was:

- Cold cucumber & Avocado soup (recipe in an earlier post)

- Slow roasted shoulder of lamb with roast vegetables (ratatouille) and roast potatoes. Note: Its usually lamb or pork here as we find the beef to be not all that great.

- Cheeses. Four types.

- An open Apricot tart with ice cream.

Thus the heart of the meal was very English while both ends were a bit more American. A great compromise in my opinion AND our guests seemed to enjoy it.

I would love to hear from my readers (if there are any) as to what they consider to be their favourite Sunday lunch menu.

I was going to write about Sunday lunch, but got sidetracked when I realised that Caussade market is tomorrow ( Monday). It will be awash with very cheap tomatoes. This is the place to get them for your oven dried tomatoes. The pear shaped (Romas) are best followed by the small round ones. Don't buy ant that are too big. 
I'll write about Sunday lunch on Monday.

Oven Dried Tomatoes
Tomatoes everywhere! From friends, at the market, everywhere you look. We love the huge misshapen local varieties which taste delicious, but they're only available for a few weeks. Thinking of that & thinking of how to preserve summer I came up with the idea of drying my own tomatoes. Hardly original.
Sun dried tomatoes have become over the years almost a cliché, but when done properly they are still delicious and can remind one of summer whenever eaten. My problem has been in finding really good ones. Occasionally our market would have packets from Italy that weren't bad. Most of the time, however they were either too hard & chewy and resisted all efforts at re- hydration or were so soft that they just fall apart. So I decided that I couldn't do worse if I tried to dry tomatoes myself.
Before doing anything else I searched the net for recipes, tips, tricks & experiences. As you can imagine there was a ton of information. It seemed to boil down to three major techniques: Real sun drying; dehydrating; and oven drying. There were lots of variations within each technique. I don't own a dehydrator so I ruled that technique out. Sun drying was tempting as it is the original technique and we were having nice hot sunny weather, but having read about making drying racks and muslin/cheesecloth covers; bringing the fruit in & out during the day/night my inherent laziness kicked in. So, oven drying it was to be.
In oven drying tomatoes there seemed to be two schools of thought. Proper drying and slow roasting. Proper drying takes place at very low (110- 140 F) temperatures over a long period of time with the oven door propped open to let the moisture out. It is supposed to yield a fully dry leathery tomato. Slow roasting takes place at a higher temperature (220- 250 F) over a shorter period and is supposed to yield soft tomatoes that are slightly chewy. Having read all I could find I decided that I'd do it my own way. This was a compromise between proper drying and slow roasting. I wanted full chewiness (not sure that's a word?), but not leather either. I also wanted to add some herbs & garlic to my dried tomatoes.
Here's what I did:
I bought 20 plum (Roma variety) tomatoes.
Let them sit out on the counter to ripen for several days. (They'll never get there in the fridge. They may rot, but they won't ripen.)
When ripe I cut them in half length ways, scraped out the seeds and cut out the vein.
I very lightly oiled a cookie sheet and turned the oven to 110C (about 225F).
Placed the tomato halves cut side up on the cookie tray(s) and gave each one a small pinch of Herbs de Provence and then an even smaller pinch of dried garlic grains. (do not use fresh garlic as it can promote bacteria later on.)
I put a light grinding of salt & pepper over all of them and put them in the oven.
Timing was the unknown. Slow roasting was supposed to take 2-3 hours. Proper drying 8-10 hours. I monitored my tomatoes about every half hours after the first 4 hours. I did some turning and swapping of shelves to get even cooking. In my case I judged the tomatoes to be ready after about 6 1/2 hours. They were soft, but chewy just as I had hoped. I suspect that the timing will very from batch to batch dependent upon ripeness, temperature and other factors.
As they were cooling Linda came in and pinched one, pronounced it delicious, pinched another one and disappeared before I could grab her.
I sterilized a jar and packed the tomatoes into it as tightly as I could using a wooden spoon. I then filled the jar with olive oil; just until the tomatoes were fully covered. Then wanting to be sure there would be no spoilage I put the jar in the fridge.
A few days later we had friends over & I served the tomatoes cut in half ,with a basil leaf on top & placed upon a toasted round of French bread. They were a rousing success. The flavour & texture turned out as I'd hoped they would.
Now the hard part. Repeat the recipe and achieve the same results.

Jean Lewis is back this week

Just a few ideas.

   Kitchen sayings that are more than often true.

God sends the food the devil sends the cook  .

Wetter dough is the better dough.

Eggs at room temperature make better cakes

     Chicken livers as a starter.

 Your need spprox three livers per person is ample as  a starter.Balsamic

a few frozen raspberries if none in the garden
a little chicken stock.

 Roll the livers in a little flour and put into the pan of very hot oil,I

always use vegetable but that is your choice,fry until lightly coloured on

both sides and then put them aside on warm plate,pour oil out of pan leaving

the morsels and  add a half cup of stock,tablespoonful of balsamic

vinegar and the frozen raspberries,warm through and pour over livers,the

livers should be pink in the middle so no over cooking and I think its pretty

good. Hope you enjoy them.

Beetroot cake
Hi Val.

  I had not read the article in the paper about Tom,fancy the onions being

that memorable,we still have them once a week in the colder months.

   Hope the following recipe will be of interest,it is so light.

6 Ounzes of self raising flour,white sugar,eggs,raw beetroot

a teaspoonful of baking powder,salt,pepper and chillie powder.

    Beat the eggs,oil and sugar until pale  and well mixed.add the raw

beetroot and dry ingredients giving it another good mix.

     Pour into baking tin,a bread tin is perfect and makes it easy to cut

into even slices when cooked.

     Not good at telling you all the different oven temperatures but the

same as for a sponge cake,leave for approx third five to forty minutes and

it is as light as a feather and when cold delicious served with butter into

which you have grated,finely,the inevitable ginger and yes,I am addicted to


    I should mention that my typing leaves a lot to be desired and sorry for

mistakes,a bit like a brain trainer.


Here we go again.

Fishy number this time

Enough for 4 people as   a starter.

12 Queen scallops

4 good sized shallots

Grated ginger to your own taste but makes the dish

4 medium raw carrots.

Cut the carrots on the fine shredded of your mandoline .

Put a tablespoon of cooking oil and two ounces of butter into frying  pan

and warm through.fry the shallots until opaque but not more then lightly

coloured,remove and cook the scallops quickly with a light colour on both

sides,replace the onions and grated ginger into the pan and add a glug of

white wine and a dash of cream. Done  and pour over the carrots on the warmed

plates, Its delicious,easy and looks good,chpped parsley is the finished

touch,enjoy and the odd spelling mistake is called a brain tester and is

supposed to be good for the brain and I believe it.

Hi Val.
  This is my favourite crumble dish and we had emails from all over the
world for the recipe,so easy.
I will give my favourite filling but use whatever fruit you fancy.
For six or eight people depending an appetite.
Eight cooking apples,four pears and a good stick of grated ginger.a cup of
Chop the fruit finely and grate the ginger and mix with sugar and sprinkle
over fruit place in oven dish.
The topping as follows
2 good cups of porridge oats
1 and a half cups of brown sugar.
1 cup of chopped walnuts.
eighteen ounces of butter,salted is best.
Mix the dry ingredients together and if you freeze the butter and grate it
into the mixture you will find it works perfectly mixing it with a fork as
you go.
    Crumble mix on top of fruit and into oven and cook until golden,it is
still one of the most popular autumn puddings and homemade custard is a
winner to pour over the top

Aubergine recipe
A starter out of the garden,great at the moment as its all there.

I am giving portions for two people but just multiply as needed.

1 Good sized Aubergine

four ripe tomatoes

4 ounges of grated tasty cheese,dare I say a good cheddar or its equivalent.

   Slice the aubergine and brush with a little oil on both sides,place in

cooking tray in the oven for approz ten minutes at  medium heat when they

will be almost cooked,at least,should be.

      Allow aubergines slices to cool and then taking the widest slices

start to pile up,An aubergine followed by tomato and then cheese,you will

need at least three layers,I do them on a small oven tray with flat

bottom,we all like those.

     You can do this the day before if it makes life easier and then put

them in a moderate oven for approz twenty mins when needed and a tomato

sauce over the top with a little chilli makes it or if like me,ginger.

     I do sprinkle a little salt and pepper on each layer on the turn of the


     I am going to cook my recipes and ask wee robert to photo them,he is a

better photographer than I am a typist,could be fun.

    This recipe is easy and very tasty,a sprig of basil on top does finishes

the dish to perfection.

EMMA HILDITCH takes over this week

Pop Up Curry House - hard work but worth it

You may have heard that Glynis and I launched a pop up curry house this

August.  Jumping on the bandwagon of secret supper clubs in London and Paris

we decided to give our local ex-pat community a treat with a local curry

house on their door step - for two nights only.  It has been a great

success, the last night is on Monday and is fully booked.  We got lots of

compliments on the first one so I thought you might like to see the menu

[VAL I HAVE ATTACHED IT ABOVE].  If anyone wants any recipes or tips let me

know and I will post some here.

I am a keen curry cook but I recently came across this new book which I

would really recommend for beginner and experienced curry cooks alike.  It

is Curry Nation by Madhur Jaffrey

Everything I have tried so far has been delicious and totally geared to the

UK curry house palate which we all miss so much when we can't get it.

Curry à la campagne

Glass of nimbu pani, bombay mix, popadums, chutney, mint raita
Vegetable samosas, chick pea chaat, green salad with Madras-style dressing
Masala Gosht (Lamb curry with tomato and tamarind)
Nadan Kori Kootan (Chicken curry with coconut)
Gobi saag bhaaji (Cauliflower and spinach curry)
Red lentil dahl
Rice & flat breads
Hot chilli sauce
Melon lassi
Home-made mint ice cream with chocolate mint leaves
Coffee and tea with Russian Roulette home-made truffles

Cooking with Wild Plants

Yesterday I went on a guided walk around the Mas de Monille (organic farm and table d’hote, 
raising delicious black foot pigs ) near St Projet.  The aim of the walk 
was to learn about edible plants.  The guide was brilliant, he was an ethnobotanist who worked
 for the regional council.  But here was the good bit, nearly everyone else on the walk was an 
expert in one way or another and chipped in with their recipe ideas and knowledge about using
 plants for healing and eating.  It was absolutely fascinating and at the end we tasted some dishes
 that had been cooked using these wild foraged plants. The plants and dishes we learned about 

Acacia Tree
Acacia flower fritters
Nettle rice with chilli
Amaranth and Plantain leaves
Wild leaf tapenade
Juniper berries
Juniper berry jam/paste
Elderflower cordial
Wild oregano
Oregano shortbread
Elderberry and apple crumble
Stuffed mallow leaves

Here is the recipe for the rice.  Please do let me know if you would like any of the other recipes 
and I will post them later this week.

Green Rice with Chilli

This is a lovely way to eat nettles. Harvest by pinching off the top few leaves of tender young plants. Violet leaves are a nice addition. If you don’t have nettles, use spinach, chard, or beetroot tops. I like using white
 rice for this dish to show off the green colour. Long grain white Basmati or short grain Arborio 
rice give different, but equally good, results. I have an abundance of chillies in the garden this

Ingredients: 1 cup rice, 1 1/2 Tbs olive oil, 2/3 cup chopped onion, 8 to 10 oz nettles or other green 
leaves (enough to make 1 to 1/2 cups when steamed), `1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 1/2 cups 
water, 1/2 tsp salt

Wash the rice and set aside to drain. Wash the nettles or other greens and steam 2 or 3 minutes 
until wilted and tender. Warm the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and sauté the onion
 2 to 3 minutes. Add the drained rice and cook, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Using a blender, 
puree the greens and parsley with the water and salt. Combine the rice and greens in a saucepan 
and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover tightly, and cook the rice about 20 minutes, 
until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.

Serve topped with chopped fresh chillies.
La Mauve fr. [mallow, Eng]

Stuffed  mallow leaves


Glynis's week
Fresh Mint Ice Cream

  • 250 ml)whole milk
  • 150 g sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 250 ml heavy cream
  • 40 g lightly packed fresh mint leaves – about 3 or 4 bunches
  • 5 large egg yolks


Heat the milk and the mint leaves gently in a saucepan. When it just starts boiling turn the heat off and leave for an hour. Strain the milk using a sieve and press on the mint leaves to extract all the flavour then discard the leaves
In a bowl whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and salt. Add the milk slowly then pour the custard mixture back in the saucepan. Heat gently stirring all the time until it thickens.
Leave to cool
Once cooled add the cream and sometimes I add some green colouring then pop into the ice cream machine

Chocolate mint leaves

Melt chocolate in a microwave (I used dark dessert chocolate but this will work with any)

Leave to cool then brush onto mint leaves - you can also use rose leaves. Be generous with the layer
and it's easier to peel off a mint leaf if you don't go all the way to the edge

Put in the fridge for 30 minutes

Bring out and peel carefully immediately. It doesn't take long for the chocolate to melt in this heat.
I found it was better to do them in small batches as the heat of your hands can melt the chocolate when peeling.

I made these leaves during the week and stored them in a Tupperware box in the fridge. 

South West France pop up curry restaurant
If you didn’t already know Emma and I are holding curry nights here in South West France. We thought well cooked Indian food was probably oneof the things that was difficult to find here in Tarn et Garonne and I think we were right as our first night which is Monday is almost fully booked. It means we have spent the weekend shopping and preparing. We both wanted to focus on fresh local ingredients and have raided our gardens and adjusted the menus so we could incorporate all the fresh produce. The chicken curry is particularly delicious.
I’ll let Emma report on the curry recipes. My focus has been on the sweet side – no surprise there!    I will post some menus and tutorials later in the week along with a very special cake that I have been commissioned to make.
We even roped in Emma’s family who are here on holiday. I wonder if they knew that when they planned their stays?

David Hatfield then moves to 
Low Calorie recipes

I'm happy to say that I've been lucky enough to come through my strokes with no discernable damage; so far at least. The cardiologist gave me a clean bill of health yesterday. I'll still. however, watch my diet carefully. I've managed to lose around 15 pounds and an back at the weight I was at in my prime. I'd like to keep it that way.

Thus, I've worked up a few low calorie dishes that also happen to taste good. They're pretty easy to prepare as well so are suitable for quick meals. Here they are:

Mussel Pasta
Clean the mussels (about 1 to 11/2 pounds per person) then cook as for Moules Mariniere .
That is you sauté finely chopped onion & celery in a bit of butter in a deep pot. When they are soft add some wine & bring to a boil. Add the mussels & cook at high heat until the mussels open. Shake every so often. This should take about 5 minutes.
Drain the cooked mussels over a sieve into another bowl. Put all of the juices from the mussels back into the pot and boil gently to reduce to about 1/3 of the original volume. While is is happening & once the mussels have cooled remove the 'mussels' from their shells. Keep as much of the onion & celery as possible.
When the juice has reduced enough thicken it with roux or cornflower. Boil up a pot of water for your pasta; then cook the pasta until al dente. Add the mussel meat back into the reduced hot mussel juice, then add the cooked pasta. Stir well & serve immediately with parmesan cheese to sprinkle over.
Not only is this a delicious pasta its both low calorie & low fat. Alcohol is eliminated by boiling the wine. If you want to be healthier yet use whole wheat pasta.

Tuna sandwich filling
Nothing too innovative about this, but its a great quick lunch. Take a can of water packed tuna, open it & pour off the water. In a bowl put in the tuna, some chopped onion or shallot, chopped Cornichons (or if you can't find those use sweet gherkins) and some chopped celery. Add some ground cumin, salt & pepper and just enough low fat mayonnaise to bind the mixture. Spread the mixture over bread slices (your choice of bread type) or for an even healthier disc spread the mixture on Swedish rye crackers.
This both quick and nutritious. You can make a batch as it keeps well in the fridge for a day or so.

Fried apple & banana dessert
Dead simple, delicious and very low calorie. Allow one apple per person & 1/2 a banana. Peel, core and cut the apples into a dice of 1/4 - 1/2 inch chunks. Peel & slice the banana thinly. In a frying pan on high heat melt about one teaspoon of butter per apple. When the butter is foaming add the apples and toss well to coat with the melted butter. Sprinkle over a generous amount of ground cinnamon. Stir & toss the apples until they just begin to brown at the edges then add the banana slices. Continue cooking until the bananas start to brown.
Depending upon how "good" you want to be you can serve the mixture over plain yogurt, sour cream or vanilla ice cream. For an extra kick sprinkle over a bit of ground walnut.
This is very low calorie and very low fat and very delicious.

Those three are a start. I'm working on some more recipes and would welcome any suggestion or contributions.

Should you try any of these please let me know what you think of them.

This is a classic cake that I always associate with back home in the USA. I have no idea if it really originates from there or not, but little matter. Its absolutely delicious.                                                                                              
1.     2 cups plain flour
2.     1 tsp baking powder (here in France one packet of 'leveur chemic)
3.     1 tsp baking soda (yes, you can find it here)
4.     1/2 tsp salt
5.     1 tsp cinnamon
6.     1 tsp ginger
7.     1/2 tsp nutmeg. (NOTE: Use your judgment here.  I use more of this holy trinity of spices than normal because I like my cake to have a spicier taste. Its your choice.)
8.     4 eggs
9.     1 cup vegetable oil
10. 1 tsp vanilla
11. 1 cup sugar
12. 1 cup crushed pineapple, well drained ( here I buy canned or fresh pineapple the mince it up into a rough mash)
13. 2 1/2 cups carrots, finely grated.
14. 1/2 + cups raisins. (again, to taste.)
  • Place all of the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix well.
  • In a separate bowl beat the eggs and the oil, add the vanilla and sugar. Mix well.
  • Pour the wet mixture & the pineapple into the dry mixture and mix well.
  • Add the carrots and raisins and mix until well combined.
  • Butter two 8" ( 20 cm) cake tins and pour the cake mixture into them dividing it as equally as possible. (NOTE: As an alternative I use an Angle food cake tin; that one with a hole in the middle, and make one whole cake. I then either leave it whole or cut it into two pieces)
  • Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 30 minutes or until a straw come out clean.
  • Let cool.
Icing recipe:
1.     1 cup softened butter
2.     1 1/2 cups cream cheese (Note: In the USA you would use Philadelphia cream cheese. Which since I originally wrote the recipe has become available in the Supermarkets. Look near the chevres. Here in France you can use Fromage blanc or better yet a very young Chevres. We have a local lady at our Friday market in Parisot who sells a wonderful Chevres.)
3.     1 tsp vanilla
4.     2 cups icing sugar. ( Sucre Glace her in France)
  • Mix the softened butter & cheese in a large deep bowl and mix well. You can do this with a whisk or being lazy like me a motor driven whisk or a food processor.
  • Add the icing sugar a bit at a time beating constantly until you have it all in.
  • If your cake has cooled enough you can now proceed to ice it.
  • Decoration is up to you, but walnuts are nice or coconut or whatever you like.
That's it! The cake keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days and it freezes well for later use.
Try it you will enjoy it. Even the French rave about it, but won't believe that it actually contains lots of carrots

Tomato Season               
I had a whole post just about finished yesterday when the power went off & I lost the whole thing. Pity. It was about yet another concert and dinner afterwards. The dinner grew from 5 people to 12 in the matter of an hour, Linda just can't help being generous.
Fortunately, I'd anticipated her to some degree and had put 9 very large potatoes into the over to bake before the concert. Thus I could serve !/2's to some of the delicate Lady diners. The green salad was easily expanded with extra lettice and tomatoes. Luckily I had plenty of sausages, four different types. Linda had decreed no desert, but I improvised. Vanilla ice cream covered by my home made marmalade. (this was good because that batch of marmalade hadn't set properly. Thus the consistency was about right as an ice cream topping. In any case everyone seemed to go home full & happy.
I'm coming to the tomatoes believe me.
 My original started course was to have been roasted tomatoes. I'd done 6 really large ones so was able to divide them in two to make the requisite number of portions. I'd roaster them in two halves anyway so no problem. As this is an absolute favourite of ours I'll share the recipe. ( Don't know quite where the original recipe came from, but Delia Smith's version is very similar)
Roasted Tomatoes
  1. Get one really large ripe tomato per person. Big beefsteak type or the large heirloom types work best.
  2. Cut the tomatoes across about 2/3 of the way up towards the stem end. 
  3. Arrange them on a baking tray. Put a light sprinkle of sea salt on each followed by about a teaspoon (or slightly more) of olive oil. Now sprinkle on a a nice bunch of finely chopped garlic. (amount is to taste. In my case its lots.) Grind on a goodly amount of black pepper and top the whole thing with a fresh basil leaf.
  4. Place in a hot (190-200 degree C.) oven and bake until the tomatoes are soft and their edges are just starting to brown. This normally takes about an hour or slightly less.
    Remove the tomatoes from the oven to cool.
  5. Make a mixture of equal parts olive oil & balsamic vinegar and mix it well. Drizzle about a teaspoon's worth over the top of each tomato. Now add a nice fresh basil leaf to top everything off.
  6. Place on individual plates. Serve with the best crusty French bread you can find. Note that this dish is actually better served at room temperature or even slightly cold. Thus the timing is not important, I normally make it several hours in advance.
NOTE: I like to serve 2/3 of a large tomato, but in a pinch !/2 will do & takes only half as many tomatoes.
You will find that these are the most delicious tomatoes you've ever eaten. Try them, then you'll believe me.
Monday Michael & I went to Caussade market. I was lucky enough to find more of the right size cucumbers to make some more dill pickles; I bought about 3 lbs. (We've eaten all of the last batch).
I also found a stall selling local tomatoes at the equivalent of 30 cents a pound. I didn't buy immediately as they are at one end of the market & I didn't want to lug a big lot of tomatoes all over the place with me so I did the rest of my shopping then came back. To my dismay a lady was just buying the last tomatoes in the big box. Shucks! I asked, however, if they had any more. Fortunately the answer was yes & they brought out a whole new crate from their van. This was wonderful because I could pick the best from the crate. So, I bought about 10 pounds of tomatoes for $3.00. I was very pleased.
Of course now I had to do something with the tomatoes so I made a basic tomato sauce to freeze for later use.  I will be able to use this as a base for various pasta sauces or for a chilli or for stews. Here's what I did:
  • I fried up a miripoix (carrots, onion & celery) in a bit of olive oil.
  • I then peeled, seeded and deveined the tomatoes. Quite a chore this with that many tomatoes.
  • I added the tomatoes to the miripoix. Then I added Pepper; oregano, dry basil, and finely chopped garlic. Gave all this a good stir and let it simmer for several hours.
  • I then added some fresh basil and a couple of cups of red wine. I pureed the mix using an immersion  blender  and let it simmer for another couple of hours.
  • I might have let it simmer even longer, but Linda thought that it was thick enough so I turned it off and let it sit in the pot overnight. Next morning I ladled equal portions into a number of plastic containers, labeled them and put them into the freezer. We now have 8 nice large lots of tomato sauce for meals later this year.
Another concert tonight. This one at a beautiful chateau overlooking the River Lot. The Count likes to greet his guests as they come in. He was proudly telling me when he realized that I was American about how a number of men from this area fought with Lafayette on our side in the revolutionary war. Great fun!

Pizza on the BBQ!

Last night we made pizza on our BBQ. This is great fun when you have a crowd of people around since every body gets to make their very own customized pizza. I learned the technique from our German friend, Hellmouth, in Chicago a number of years ago. He's still the Master pizza maker.
Here's the recipe, but bear in mind that it can very according to your own taste & preferences. Use whatever topping you prefer. The wackier the better so long as they taste good.
A.    Make a batch of pizza  dough. (there are lots of recipes on the Internet) A standard recipe will make about 4-5 pizza crusts of about 8-10 inches in diameter. You can scale up or down according to how many pizzas you want to make.
After the initial 4 hour rise oil your hands well and divide the dough into the appropriate number of more or less equal portions. Cover them & let rise for 30 minutes just as for the regular bread making.
B.    Make a good batch of Sauce Bolognaise. Or just mix tomato puree with salt, pepper, Herbs de Province & garlic powder, then dilute it with a bit of olive oil. You want to keep a fairly stiff consistency. Again, the quantity will depend upon the number of pizzas you plan to make. For pizza I usually make the sauce a bit dryer than normal, but this isn't very critical.
C.    Now you need to start slicing, grating, chopping & what not to prepare all of your toppings. These can be just about anything you like. Here's a list of what we had last night as an example:
  •             Thinly sliced salami.
  •             Chorizo
  •             Thinly sliced ham
  •             Fried lardons
  •             Diced green peppers
  •             Diced onions
  •             Sliced mushrooms
  •             Pitted green & black olives
  •             Anchovies
  •             Sun dried tomatoes
  •             Grated Cantal cheese
  •             Chopped up Mozzarella cheese
  •             Parmesan cheese
So, just make up your toppings and put them out in small bowls for people to use.
Get you BBQ very hot!
Put out a rolling pin & some flour near a flat surface. (we us a large cutting board)
Give each guest a ball of dough which they can then roll out thinly. Degree of thinness depending upon taste , but not too thin.
Once rolled out the dough goes on the BBQ. If the BBQ is nice & hot it will only take a very few minutes to cook on the grid side. Flip it over using tongs or quick fingers. Almost immediately pull it off the grill onto a plate.
Now load on the toppings, starting with a thin smear of the Bolognaise sauce followed by whatever they like. Put the cheese on last.
Put the pizza back on the BBQ. Close the BBQ lid & let cook. Again this will not take long. Dont let the crust burn!
When done slide directly onto a plate using tongs or the before mentioned quick fingers. Enjoy!!
As a finale I usually do a large after pizza, pizza. It very simple, but delicious. Just make up a mixture of melted butter lots of chopped garlic & chopped fresh rosemary. Cook the pizza as before just brushing on the mixture after you turn the pizza over. Absolutely delicious!
This is a great party dish since everyone has a great time making their very own tailor made pizza. Just don't drink too much before the pizza making as we don't want anybody to get burned fingers.

Dill Pickles

It may be my American heritage, but I Iove dill pickles.  Problem is that you can't buy them in France. So I make them. Just in case there are any other pickle lovers in TAG land here is the recipe.
First you have to wait for the right kind of cucumbers to appear; that's about now. You want the dark green ones that are kind of fat & knobbly. The long thin ones that are normally available just won't do.
Next you need large canning jars of the type of can be sealed totally. The one litre size are the best but you can also use smaller ones if you wish to cut your pickles into shorter lengths.
Make sure that you sterilize the jars very thoroughly and that the cool before filling
Now you'll make your brine; the brine is simply bottled water so that it doesn't have chlorine in it and a regular salt with sea salt being the best. The proportions are 2 tablespoons of salt to. 1 litre of water. Shake or stir the brine until all the salt has dissolved.
Gather your herbs and spices you will need dill or aneth in French, pepper corns ,peeled crushed garlic and I like to add some little red hot peppers that you can buy in jars in the supermarkets.
You now have all of your ingredients in place. The first step is to cut the cucumbers lengthwise into quarters if they are too long for your jars just trim the ends off. It is important that the cucumbers are low enough in the jars that when you pour the Brine and they are completely covered with brine.
Now I place the sliced cucumbers into the jars keeping them up right and sliding as many as possible in so that there is as little space as possible.
Next put all of your herbs except the dill into the jar of pickles. Try to push the peppers and garlic down into
the sides of the cucumbers
fill the jar with brine until the cucumbers are just covere Place a sprig of dill on the top of the brine.
Do not close the jar fully, but leave it loose enough for the air to get in.leave the jars out at room temperature for at least 24 hours,  up to 36 is OK. After this time seal the jar & place in the fridge.
The longer you wait the stronger the pickle. Wait at least one week before trying.
Delicious & well worth the effort.

 " barbecued courgettes"
Everybody seems to have as usual a glut of courgettes. Thus, I'll follow on from my fellow cooks and give you yet another recipe for them.

These are done on the BBQ so you need to get it going & reasonably hot in advance. Normally one does these while cooking burgers or some other dish.

You need one medium sized courgette per person. About 6 inches (15 cm) in length.

Cut the courgette into quarters lengthwise. (If you have very long ones then cut in half) 
Rub the courgettes with a light coating of olive oil. Then place them skin side down on a tray.
Sprinkle the cut side(s) with garlic granules (Ail semule) & Herbs de Province.
Place on your hot BBQ skin side down. After a minute or so turn the courgettes onto one of the cut sides then after another minutes or so turn them onto their other side.
They're done when they soften slightly & Have some nice grill stripes.  
Serve immediately.

Jean Lewis starts her recipes for the week.

 A simple pudding
Take one  steamer

        and 8 medium ramekin dishes.

Easy,6 ounces of Butter,sugar and self raising flour and three eggs.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and pale,add eggs and beat again until

smooth and then add flour,I use a whisk for the whole procedure.  The

winning bit is putting a spoonful of ginger jam or marmalade in the base of

each dish and then filling with mixture to approx two thirds up  the dishes.

   Place dishes in steamer and just cover with the lid of pan not

individually and steam for approx thirty minutes.  They will be as light as

a feather and as I like ginger and cream that is what I serve it with,finely

grated ginger in fresh cream,love it..

Good morning. Just about to send my special treat,very impressive  and

tastes as good as it looks.

 A side of salmon off the bone,as large as ;you think you need but a little

goes a long way as a starter,a little over the top for main course.

    Right,you have the side of salmon,also a cup of sea salt,a cup of white

sugar,generous with pepper corms,at least thirty and a large or two small


     Place the salmon skin side down,onto a plastic or stone surface,rub the

sugar,salt,peppercorns and beetroot,finely chopped into the flesh of the

fish.leave in a cool place and turn before you go to bed,this recipe only

takes a day and a half,turn again at lets say midday,the following day and

at six in the evening wash it off with cold water and place in fridge to


     This recipe will be ready for this weekend and served with  a sprig of

dill on a white plate looks the ticket.    We serve it with a dressing that

is simple,a little olive and vegetable oil in equal quantities,a little

white wine vinegar and some finely chopped shallots. Enjoy it as I think its a

wee winner.

     Hope you have enjoyed my recipes and note salmon is up front but what

better at this time of year,purple beetroot is different and you can play

guess the starter.  A half teaspoonful of mustard,ready made,is also good in

the dressing but that is up to you.

Hi Val,on a roll,another interesting little number.
Take a cucumber,wash it and liquidize,whole with skin on,pass through a fine
sieve and pour into ice tray,very attractive and tasty green ice,looks cool.
  Tried and tested. Speak soon.Jean

Green pea, Iceberg and mint soup 
Ingredients for soup.

1 Large Iceberg lettuce

6 to 8 long sprigs of mint,

Pound of frozen peas,the greenest ones there.

Take a large pan and chop the lettuce into eight pieces, place in pan

with peas and mint leaves,two stock cubes and two pints of water,bring to

the boil and simmer for approx ten minutes, no longer, allow to cool and

liquidise until smooth,place in fridge and chill thoroughly, serve in white

cups or saucers with a blob of creme fraiche and chpped mint in centre. Looks

good and tastes even better.


Main course
 poached salmon and hollandaise. A
lso easy and enough for eight people and              some bits left over 

for the best sandwiches.

     1 Salmon weighing about three pounds 6 peppercorns,one small onion and

4 whole cloves.

   Gut the fish or asked fishmonger to do the deadly deed.  Place all

ingredients in fish kettle and cover with cold water,must be cold.   Bring

to the boil and make sure the lid is on,allow to boil for one and half

minutes and turn heat off. Leave lid on,no cheating,and allow to cool,when

cool lift out of kettle and place on large dish or plate and put it in the

fridge to cool,I think it is better over night.  Next day the skin will peel

off easily,to make it look the tops,open your heart and buy a cucumber,take

a very sharp knife and cut into rings as thin as humanly  possible and

commencing at the tail end of the fish working towards the head,lie the

rings overlapping by a third and just slightly on the sides ,it

looks like scales and really very simple.Practice on a plate if in doubt and

if very doubtful,do not bother.

       If a fish kettle is needed I have one which anyone is welcome to


      Try and leave the head on as it looks good and also the fish inside is

great for sandwiches,very moist.

     That over and done I forgot I was going to seve it hot but half way

through decided it would be a hell of a lot easier cold and with the

cucumber and served with mayonnaise,nothing better,new potatoes and mint

butter really finish it off.

    For the mint butter,Four ounces of butter and as much mint as you like,a

lot is best,chop the mint very finely and allowing the butter to soften roll

the mint through and it keeps in the fridge for days but on hot afternoons is

just the best of tucker.

 Sorry about changing my mind but that is how 
I worked most of my life,more interesting.

 Maybe it would make more sense if we did not mention salmon with

hollandaise and change  it to salmon with mayonnaise and minted potatoes,you

will note I like mint and have an excellent pudding recipe but that also

contains mint so will miss that one.

 recipe for simple hollandaise.

 Take one egg,juice of half a lemon and six ounces of butter.

Put the butter in pan and bring to almost boiling but not

quite,liquidize the egg and lemon juice and a touch of english mustard gives

it a good tang,slowly tip the butter into liquidizer going at speed two

until all there and it will be thick and glossy,never fails and no need to

stand over a pan ending up with a runny mess.promise not to fail,.

    Hope you can work all this out to make sense,I cannot correct mistakes

as lose the flow.  More soon.Jean

Emma Hilditch gives her first recipe, then her second recipe and now her last recipes for this week

You may not realise it, but courgettes are also fantastic as an ingredient

in baking cakes and biscuits.  They add a lovely moistness and don't really

affect the flavour at all.  Here are two recipes I use a lot:

Courgette Cake (from Nigella's Domestic Goddess)


Large handful sultanas

2 medium – large courgettes, grated using course side of box grater

2 large eggs

125ml vegetable oil

150g caster sugar

225g self-raising flour

1/2 teaspoon bicarb

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 sandwich tins, greased & lined

Filling – good quality lemon curd with some lime juice to taste, or home

made.  Or you can use a nice jam such as apricot, raspberry, strawberry or



200g tub cream cheese

100g icing sugar, sieved

juice of 1 lime

1. Preheat oven to 180 C

2. Soak sultanas overnight in cold tea (if you remember)

3. Grate courgettes and squeeze dry in a clean tea towel.

4. Combine eggs, oil and sugar in bowl.

5. Sieve in flour, bicarb and baking powder and beat until well combined.

6. Stir in courgette and drained sultanas.

7. Pour into tins and bake for 30 minutes until slightly browned and firm to


8. Once cool, sandwich with lemon curd in middle. Cream cheese icing on top.

serves 8 people

Courgette Cookies


For the Cookies

113g unsalted butter, room temperature

128g sugar

1 egg

1 cup grated courgette

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp vanilla extract

272g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp salt

½ cup raisins or one bar white chocolate chopped into small pieces

For the Lemon Glaze

128g icing sugar, sifted

2 tbs lemon juice

¼ tsp vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees and line a couple of baking trays with

greaseproof paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a

hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2

minutes. Beat in egg, courgette and lemon zest and vanilla.

3. In a medium bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder,

cinnamon and salt. Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients until just

combined. Fold in raisins or chopped up white chocolate pieces.

4. Dollop teaspoonfuls of dough onto the baking trasy, leaving space for

them to spread in the oven.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until very lightly browned.

Remove to wire racks to cool.

6. Make the glaze by mixing together the icing sugar, lemon juice and

vanilla extract. Put the cooled cookies onto a plate and drizzle the glaze

over.  Leave to set for at least 30 minutes

Makes: 24-30 cookies

Stuffed Courgette Flowers

Don't forget you can also eat the flowers of courgettes, raw in salads,
stirred into pasta sauces and risotto and most impressively - stuffed. Thisis much easier than you might think, it is very impressive, but even better
they taste delicious...........

8 courgette flowers
1 small courgette
1 small red onion or spring onion
1 garlic clove
1 small goat’s cheese
2 slices parma ham
2 tsp polenta
3 tsp pumpkin seeds
3 tbsp cooked risotto rice
Pepper & salt
1 heaped tbsp chopped fresh herbs such as tarragon, parsley, mint, lemon
2 eggs beaten
100ml milk
2 tbsp plain flour
Sunflower oil for frying


Chop the courgette, onion and garlic finely and place into a bowl.  Add

goat’s cheese, finely chopped parma ham, polenta, pumpkin seeds, cooked

rice, chopped herbs and seasoning.

Whisk eggs in a bowl and pour a little into your stuffing mixture.  Stir to

combine thoroughly.

Add flour and milk to the remaining eggs in your bowl and whisk to form a

smooth batter.

Clean the courgette flowers carefully then fill with the stuffing mixture.

Twist the ends of the flowers to seal.

Heat sunflower oil in a shallow frying pan (approx 3cm deep).  When oil is

hot, dip each flower into the batter to ensure well coated then fry in oil

for about 3-4 minutes on each side.

Remove and drain on kitchen roll.  Serve warm, two each as a starter with

some salad or griddled courgette slices.

I am a big fan of growing vegetables that are easy to grow.  This means I tend to have gluts of certain things which has made me very creative in finding delicious ways to eat them.  Having come back from UK to a glut of courgettes I have literally just spent the 7 days eating courgettes at lunch and dinner – and managed not to get bored.  Some of the dishes are obvious such as frittata and ratatouille so I don’t need to share those with you
Courgette “Spaghetti”
This is a great way to use lovely firm fresh courgettes.  It’s light, delicious, uses quite a few courgettes and is very low in calories.
1.       3-4 smallish courgettes
2.       ½  red onion
3.       Handful toasted pine nuts
4.       1 fresh goat’s cheese (crottin) or buffalo mozzarella ball
5.       Handful of chopped fresh herbs ( whatever you have, I have used parsley, mint, coriander, dill, chives)
6.       Balsamic vinegar dressing (Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, 1 clove garlic)
Wash the courgettes  and trim off their ends.  Turn the courgettes  into “spaghetti” use a spiralizer or a mandolin, or make shavings with a potato peeler and slice, or lastly which is what I always do, slice finely with a knife.  You soon get the knack.

Place the courgettes in a salad bowl with the finely sliced red onions, the toasted pine nuts, the fresh herbs and the dressing.  Toss to mix the dressing in well.  Just before serving tear the cheese over the salad and season liberally with black pepper and just a little salt.

Jean Lewis TAG Cookery Editor

Many of you may know Jean from her various activities, including running a Fifi sewing group. Many of you may also know that she is an exceptional cook with a cookery background for most of her life
Jean's story
Rob and I sold our farm in Wales and bought a property in the southern
highlands in Perthshire,The farm overlooked Loch Doin and Loch Voile in the
Braes of Balquhidder which is a no through road and leads to Ben Mhor
attracting a lot of visitors who are brave enough for the narrow road along
the loch,slight turn of the wheel and your in the loch,only one car in the
thirty  years we have been there had had that pleasure.
I have been in catering most of my life and it was the natural furthermost
of a large house in a fantastic situation.
Over the years we have been at Monachyle have done television work and
 My story of how it all began and to the day we left and our children
took over, a long story and hope to finish the book this year. Very difficult
talking about oneself but finding it easier with the hope of a being published
at the end.  Enjoy my recipes, a lot used in my day at Monachyle, if you

google Mhor you will learn more..

Glynis says

Just thought I ‘d share my latest creation and give you some tips on baking in this heat.
I really struggled with this cake and the temperature

Tip No 1 – avoid it if you can!

2. Bake and decorate early morning or late evening

3.  A fan nearby will keep things cool. If you put a frozen bottle of water in front of the fan it will cool the air.

4. I dry my iced cakes in the oven with the light and the fan on

5. Store cakes in tins or cardboard boxes. Plastic will make them sweat. A fridge will dry them out

6. If you need to carve a cake put it in the fridge first. It’s okay tp put a cake that you’ve covered in ganache or buttercream in the fridge to firm up before icing but not after you’ve iced it as it will sweat when you bring it out to room temperature

7. Keep them as cool as you can when finished

Watermelon salad
I believe in using seasonal ingredients where possible.
At the moment I have mint growing madly in my garden so I’m going to give you my two favourite mint recipes.

The first is a watermelon salad. Forgive me for not giving measurements.
Tomatoes (optional)
Red onion
Mint leaves
Red wine vinegar
Olive oil
Feta cheese

Chop up the watermelon into bite sized pieces and pop into serving dish
Add chopped tomatoes if you wish
Chop up some red onion and add that
Add chopped mint leaves – be generous
Cover with a dressing of olive oil and red wine vinegar
Crumble feta cheese over the top and add some more mint leaves

This looks and tastes delicious – trust me!
Serve as a starter or a light lunch

If you wanted to serve it as a healthy (ish) petit four you could cube some watermelon, add a small piece of feta and top with a mint leaf

Glynis Howgego

I have been making celebration cakes for family and friends for more than 20 years. I think it started when my daughter had her first birthday and I decided to make a cake. With no experience whatsoever I produced a hickory dickory dock cake in a figure one complete with a mouse. It was a great success and I continued to make her a birthday cake every year which always came in some novelty shape or design. In fact it hasn’t stopped – she will be 23 this year and will still expect a birthday cake!

I never dreamed I would turn it into a business but I lovedesigning and creating bespoke celebration cakes.

I probably am ‘obsessed’ and I spend hours researching and following online tutorials. I love workshops and learning new techniques. Every time I go back to the UK I book myself into various lessons. I intend to run workshops over here so I can share my knowledge with like minded people. I’m happy to share my experiences with tag readers.

I am lucky enough to have a very patient and supportive husband who is happy to leave me in the kitchen or at the computer whilst he continues to chop down trees and work down his list of jobs, whilst he’s not working at his proper paid  job that is!

I have some tried and tested recipes that I stick to but it doesn’t always go smoothly.Although I have my faithful recipes I love experimenting with flavour combinations and recipes. It isn’t unknown for me to be up at 5am perfecting some cake or flower. All this helps with the learning process and hopefully my previous experiences will allow me to answer queries from tag readers and I will happily share my experiments with you – good and bad

Ingredients can sometimes be difficult to source. In some cases  I have found alternatives or worked out how to make something, for example I now have tried and tested reciped for fondant icing and flowerpaste and I also import from the UK. I’d consider collating bulk orders for delivery over here if there’s enough interest.

If anyone wants to see my work they can check out my but I will be sharing some of my creations with you.

DAVID's last recipe of the week
This is my all purpose recipe for pie crust. It works for tatin type pie as well the open faced pies I gave you the recipe for. It's also good as a lid for fish & meat pies. I don't make many enclosed pie, but it works pretty well there as well.
Obviously, It's no good where flaky pastry is called for. Being a lazy sort I normally buy that.

All Purpose Pie Dough

To make enough dough for an 8 to 10 inch diameter crust you need:

5 oz all purpose flour (Type 51 here in France)

about 250 g unsalted butter

a pinch of salt

Use a food processor with its metal blade.

Place the flour & the salt in the processor. Cut the butter up into chunks. Turn the processor on then feed the butter, one chunk at a time, into the flour. Here's where the 'about' 250 g butter comes in. Keep adding butter until the butter/flour mixture takes on the consistency of corn meal. The measurement need not be exact.
Once this consistency is achieved start pour in cold water a bit a time. Continue adding a bit of water while running the processor until the dough just forms a ball which whizzes around the processor bowl.
Remove the dough & place it on a large piece of cling film. Bring up the edges of the film until the dough is completely encased. Now knead the dough a bit, not too much, until you satisfied that it well mixed. Pat until a ball shape & put in the fridge for at least 1/2 hour before e using.
Remove the cling film & roll out in the normal way.

That's it. You're ready to make your pie!

A Bit of shopping  by David

We have 8 people coming to dinner tomorrow night so I did some shopping today. I'm very pleased with the new Simply market & the Carrefour in St Antonin. They save me a drive to Villefranche & I can get most things I need there.

For dinner we're going to have tomato tarte tatin, roast chicken with a mushroom & tarragon sauce accompanied by leek, green beans & garlic mashed potatoes, a few types of cheese and a lemon comfit for dessert. Thus, the shopping was pretty easy.

It  turned out that Simply has a special on red cherry tomatoes, much cheaper than the panniers. They also had some very nice late season leeks. Although their fresh green beans weren't bad I prefer the frozen ones.

Simply almost always have trays of chicken thighs, my favorite cut. I bought enough for 8 people in 2 panniers. Less than 10€.

Although their cheeses aren't that great did buy some Boursin and some St Augur to top up the other cheeses I already have.

Finally I bought 8 lemons for the dessert. Also, I cheated and bought some patebriseé instead of making my own.

That was it for the dinner. For some reason Simply's debit card readers were kaput & I had no cash nor a cheque book with me. We just put my shopping aside while I zipped over to the Post Office for some cash. I love how when things go wrong the French always seem to come up with an easy & logical solution.

Because I'll be busy cooking & eating tomorrow I probably won't post, but I'll do some thing Saturday to round out the week. Some of tomorrow's recipes if I get any requests.

On Monday I gave you an appetiser recipe, on Tuesday a main course so for Wednesday it has to be a dessert.
What follows is one of my favourites; simple & not too calorific.


  • First make or buy some pate Brisé. ( at some point I'll share my easy method of making this pastry)

  •  Next shop for or make sure you have:
                200 grams of ground Almonds
                200 grams of castor sugar
                100 grams of plain flour
    Most importantly you need about 1 -11/2 kilos of  ripe Apricots!

  • Roll out the pastry onto a baking sheet. (I have a round pizza sheet that I use, but a regular rectangular baking sheet will do just as well.)

  • Cut the apricots in half & deseed them.

  • Mix the ground almonds, sugar & flour together. The quantity depends up the size of your baking sheet. You want enough of the mixture to cover the pastry to a depth of about 1/4 inch (not critical). What is important is that you have equal parts ground almonds & sugar, but only 1/2 the amount of flour. For instance 1 cup sugar, 1 cup almonds & 1/2 cup flour. Mix the mixture well to combine.

  • Spread this mixture fairly evenly over the pastry leaving about a 1/2 inch margin all around the edges.

  • Next place the halved apricots, cut side down, around the pastry in concentric circles making sure to leave the 1/2 inch margin. Cover the entire surface.
    If you have more apricots than you need for a single layer you can add a second layer starting in the centre, again in a circle.

  • Wet you fingers and bring the edge of the pastry up over the apricots pinching it every inch of so to make a rim all around the tart.

  • Place the tart in a 200º C oven & bake until the pastry edges have lightly browned and the apricots are soft.

  • Serve plain or be wicked and add a scoop of ice cream to each serving.

That's it. The nice thing is that you can make this tart using various fruits. Purple plums (Linda's favourite), peaches, nectarines, ripe pears; you can even use juicy varieties of apple. Strawberries, raspberries and cherries also work, but are a lot more effort.

Hi David
Some great ideas here - I love cold soups and now its warmed up its just the time . Going to try the roast pork loin too.
Sue Carter

Roast Pork

As most of you will know pork is both good and inexpensive here in Tarn et Garonne. Thus, its a great choice for a meal. This post, therefore, is about cooking a pork roast.
This is my favourite way to cook a pork loin roast. Tasty and delicious. The nice thing is that you can cook in two different ways.
In any case, first you buy your pork. Look for a nice lean loin roast , not the tenderloin, but loin. Typically these will weigh about 1 kilo as sold in the Hyper Markets. Usually there are two types sold. Choose the cheaper one.
Once have selected & bought your roast the next step is to brine it for at least 48 hours, preferably for 72 hours. Make up a brine with roughly one cup of salt per 2 quarts of water, add about a tablespoon of sugar, then  herbs. The herbs are to your choice, but I use marjoram, thyme, crushed juniper berries, crushed black peppercorns and coriander seeds. Mix the brine well to dissolve the salt. Now put the pork roast in a container (NOTE: If you have space you can use a large pot, but if not I use a plastic bin liner. Put the water, roast and herbs in then force out as much air as is reasonably possible and tie the bag securely closed. I then place that bag inside a second bag for safety's sake.) making sure its covered and put it in the fridge for the requisite amount of time. Give it a stir every so often.
About 3-4 hours before you're going to cook it take the pork out of the fridge and out of the brine and let it rest at room temperature. Set the oven for 150 degrees F, not Centigrade.
At this point you can now roast or BBQ the roast. Because of the brining process you only need to cook the pork roast to an internal temperature of 135ºF. This makes the pork very succulent. If BBQing save the herbs to throw onto the grill. Their smoke will add further flavour. Turn the roast several times while roasting so as to make a nice crispy crust.
Roast until the internal temperature reaches 135ºF.
(Don't have a meat thermometer? You can cut into the roast to see what colour it is. Because of the brining it should stay slightly pink. If you're worried just cut the roast into thick, one inch, slices and cook these on both sides.)
Let the roast rest for a few minutes then carve & serve.
An alternate method of roasting is to proceed as follows. After taking the roast out of the fridge as described above place the pork in a roasting tin.
Then make a paste using lots and I do mean lots of Dijon mustard, fresh sage (dry if you can't get fresh) well chopped up, and coarsely ground black peppercorns. Spread this thickly over the top of the roast then place the roast in the pre-heated oven.
Roast for one to two hours depending upon the size of the roast or until a thermometer inserted into the middle of the roast reads 135 degrees F.
When done,take the roast out of the oven, scrape the mustard crust off into the roasting pan and set the roast onto a carving board to rest. Place the roasting pan over medium high heat, add a good dollop of dry white wine  to the roasting pan and stir & scrape around to get all of the crust and baked on bits dissolved. Add one pork stock cube (if you have one. If not its OK, the gravy just won't be quite as rich.) Turn the heat right down and when the mixture quits boiling add a generous amount of cream (the heavier the better, but if you're watching the calories you can use lighter cream or even sour cream), bring back to the boil and stir until it gravy is reduced and of a nice thick consistency. Put the heat on low and carve the roast into nice slices.
Don't be panicked if the pork looks red. The brining process cures the meat and its perfectly safe to eat and will be the moistest most tender pork you've ever had.
Serve with the gravy and enjoy.
I apologize for the lack of pictures, but when I went to use it I discovered that our trusty Nikon's batteries were too low for picture taking.
In any case its not a particularly photogenic recipe, but do try it as its absolutely delicious.

Summer Soups

Hopefully the weather has turned and its warmer; we may still get some hot weather. Eventually! Last year I came up with three cold soups which are just the thing in hot weather. With any luck you'll want to try them hot weather or not.

Of course my all time favourite is Gaspacho. Delicious, but a lot of chopping to do. I'll put it in TAG later.

Here are the new recipes:
·         Courgette (zucchini) & Mache (Lambs Lettuce)
Note that watercress will works as well as if not better than Mache, but its hard to find here in France.
The idea behind this soup is to use up the courgettes which are very very abundant this time of year.

So, 3-4 good sized courgettes, two good handful's of Mache, one large onion, a dab of butter, a quart of chicken stock, 8 oz full cream plus salt & pepper to taste.

Chop up the onion fairly finely then sauté it gently in the butter in a large pot. Cook just long enough to soften, but don't brown the onions.
Meanwhile roughly chop up the courgettes and the Mache.
When the onions are soft add the courgettes to the pot and sauté gently for 3-4 minutes.
Add the stock and simmer everything of 5 minutes.
Add the Mache. Push it down into the soup & stir. Let simmer for a minute or so then take off the heat.
When the soup has cooled a bit roughly puree it. I use a hand held blender, but a food processor or blender will do equally well.
When blended add the seasonings to taste. 
When cooler add the cream.
Refrigerate for at least several hours or, better yet, overnight.
Serve very cold with good bread or croutons.

·         Leek & Celery root
This is Linda's favourite and I was complimented on it by a Chef who came to lunch. It at heart a vichyssois, but with the addition of the celery root.

2-3 leeks, a large onion, 1 celery root, a dab of butter, a  quart of chicken stock, 16 oz full cream plus S&P.

Chop up the leeks & onion and sauté in the butter in a large pot. Go gently so they soften, but do not brown.
Peel & chop up the celery root into about 1/2 inch chunks.
Add the stock to the pot then the celery root. Simmer until the celery root is soft about 10 minutes.
Let cool then puree as above. Season to taste.
Add the cream. Refrigerate for 4-5 hours or overnight.
Serve cold with bread or croutons.

·         Cucumber & Avocado
My favourite. I really like this soup and I think its the easiest of all to make.

2 large cucumbers, 2-3 nice ripe avocados, a quart of chicken stock, a dab of butter, 16oz full cream plus S&P.

Peel, seed & chop the cucumbers into 1/2 inch chunks. Scoop out the avocados & cut into chunks.
Add the cucumbers to a pot along with the butter and gently cook just until the cucumbers soften; just a couple of minutes.
Take off the heat & let cool just a bit then add the avocado..
Puree everything, S&P to taste then add the cream. 
Refrigerate overnight & serve cold.

Obviously you can substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock to yield a full vegetarian soup.

These are all good and are just the thing on a hot day

Try them!

Sunday in France. Busy mornings, quiet afternoons & evenings. I think its been that way for a long time and long may it remain so. Truly a day of relaxation; a time to think and a time to be with friends & family.

It seems quiet in the morning, but only if you don't know the score. Sunday morning is for church and/or the market or a last minute trip to the local shop and, for sure a trip to the bakery for bread and, perhaps, a fancy dessert. Its also a time in the summer when brocantes (flea markets) and vide greniers (garage sales) are held. The Sunday markets are particularly important as they're where you catch up on all the latest gossip.

Thus the local shops, bakeries and markets are open, but not much else. The local gas station will be open if there's a market, but not if not. We do have one of the large supermarkets over in Villefranche opening on Sunday morning, but they're the only one. This Sunday morning opening by the way is a main reason why most of these same shops are closed on Monday. Everybody needs a full day off.

Sunday afternoons are for eating and spending time with family and/or friends. Mostly this is done at home, but in our area almost every restaurant puts on a special Sunday lunch. Many of the local families go out to eat on Sunday about once a month. Its a treat for everybody & gives 'the cook' a Sunday off. If you want Sunday lunch at one of the better places then you'd better make a reservation otherwise you'll be lucky to get in. On the other hand you'd better eat lunch or have food to hand Sunday evening as you certainly won't find an open restaurant anywhere around here.

I'm afraid that the above is part of "old" France; the way it used to be all over. These days I think that the French who live in cities & larger towns are going the way of the states. Sunday is just another day with most things open. A pity, I think.

If Sunday lunch is at home as it most often is then its a long drawn out affair. Many small courses served with plenty of time between each one. The Sunday lunch I described a couple of posts ago took over 4 hours and was pretty typical. Contrary to popular opinion not a lot will be drunk at these lunches. Most French women we know drink very little; an apero & a glass of wine with the meal - that's it. The men drink more, but still not a lot. An eau de vie or digestif to finish is traditional.

Its a nice way to spend Sunday and reminds me of my childhood when we did much the same. Its nice that many of the French are keeping up the tradition as are the Italians and the Germans. The British, unfortunately, seem to be going the way the states have.

C'est la vie I'm afraid.

Cooking Biography

 Dave Hatfield

You can see my more general bio over on Tripping About, but here I'm focusing on my interest in cooking.

I started cooking at an early age, abou8 years old. My Mother was a plain cook, nothing 'fancy'. She took after my Grandmother who cooked in the lumber camps in Oregon. They wanted simple, but lots of it. In any case, I was allowed to mess around in the kitchen.

A lot of my early cooking was learned from the Mother's and Grandmother's of my friends. They were mainly Italian in
 the part of California where I grew up. I was often invited to lunch or dinner & would hang around the kitchen to watch & learn. I also learned to drink wine at this early age. The wine came from 2 gallon jugs & was usually made by Dad, Grandpa, an Uncle or a friend. We started with 1 part wine & 5 parts water; you only got to full strength wine at age 13 or 14 and then you got one small glass only.

I then cooked very little for many years. University came and then I was busy with building a career, but did find the time to dabble occasionally.

Then I met & married Linda. She is a very good cook and handled the culinary duties most of the time. I did cook on weekends for enjoyment and to try and replicate favourite restaurant dishes. We entertained a lot and shared the cooking when we did.

When we retired and moved to France 11 years ago I started cooking again; this time seriously. Linda was happy to let me do it as not only did it keep me busy, but she also got to eat the results. What better place to get serious here in T&G where there are so many fine ingredients available. Thus, I've been a serious cook for the last 11 years.

For me cooking satisfies three important things/needs that I have in addition to just satisfying my hunger. First, you need to be creative to cook well; its no fun just following other people's recipes. Second, you need to be organized. Putting a 5 course meal on the table for a dozen people requires organization.Both the creativity & the organization are things that I find satisfying.

Lastly, but most importantly, cooking is the best way I know of of sharing with friends & family. To me there's little that's  more satisfying than sitting down to a meal with friends, having some wine and some good conversation.

I hope in my contributions to the TAG cooking topic to do some of that sharing although in this case it will be vicariously.

Emma Hilditch
Cook, eat, discuss, dream about, write about food. Luckily I live in SW France where I am completely normal
Emma Hilditch has joined the TAG editorial team and this week will be giving us her ideas of ''Quick and impressive meals'' Read about Emma by following this link.

If you have any queries or questions Emma can be contacted by email