Monthly Archives: January 2013

Noodle stir-fry with crunchy vegetables

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERARice Noodles stir-fry with crunchy vegetables

Stir fries are great dishes created in seems to use up anything in the fridge and more! They need very little planning and even less preparing but they can be easily adjusted to feed two or fill a crowd. That is why we all love them so much…

Ingredients list:

  • Thin Chinese rice noodles for stir-fry, 1 large bunch
  • Whole cherry tomatoes 5 to 6
  • Red pepper 1
  • Avocado 1
  • Cucumber 1/2
  • Carrot 1
  • Spring onion 1
  • Soya sauce 2 tsp
  • Crushed ginger 1 small bite
  • Pressed garlic 1 clove
  • Rice vinegar, a dash
  • Rapeseed oil, a glug
  • Fresh chopped basil
  • 
Optional: dried seaweed Hijiki for decor (pre-soaked)

First soak the noodles 5 minutes in boiling water. Rinse with cold water, drain and reserve. They must be still firm but malleable and gone completely translucent.

Fry your cherry tomatoes and strips of carrot and red pepper in a wok with a spoonful of rapeseed oil. Reserve.

Start dicing the avocado, chopping the cucumber in strips (ideally with a mandolin or grater) and slicing the spring onion finely lenghtwise.

Throw the drained pasta in to the wok, season with soy sauce, rice vinegar and ginger or 5 spices. Shake around the wok until coated with the sauce and warm.

Assemble all the vegetables in a dish then throw the noodles in and season with some more soya sauce and crushed ginger, the pressed garlic and  some rice vinegar. Add a dash of olive or sesame oil if too dry. The salad must be generously dressed and have a certain bite! Tear some basil into it and serve at room temperature .

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Butternut, goat cheese and honey filo tartlets

This is an old favourite with a sweet twist. The combination of butternut squash,  fresh goat cheese and honey works miracles on your taste buds and it is VERY difficult to be satisfied with only ONE of these tartlets… You have been warned! They make a lovely starter , pretty and dainty, for a dinner party – and because they are the opposite of fuss, they do belong to this blog…
Select a very soft, fresh goat cheese from a good cheesemonger for best results. I go to Beillevaire in Montpellier street for their gorgeous dairy products and the most delicious truffle oil, by the way…
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 Ingredients list:( per mini tartlet)
  • Filo sheets, 1 per mini pan
  • Butternut squash, diced (1 cupful)
  • Olive oil
  • Liquid honey, 1tsp
  • Pepper and salt
  • Soft goat cheese, 1 Tbsp
Rub the diced butternut with the olive oil and some sea salt flakes.
Roast for 15 min until soft, at 200°C. Reserve.
Fold you filo sheet in four like a hankerchief : Put several layers of filo brushed with a little oil into a a few large muffins holes or  individual tartlet pans . The tray in the photo has several dips for smallish tarts and is ideal!
Chuck in some roasted squash with torn bits of cheese. Fill it up nicely.
Sprinkle with mace and black pepper.
Put under a hot grill until the cheese has melted and the filo turns a nice golden colour. Watch out for it tends to burn quickly! Drop a little honey all over the cheese.
Serve straight away as filo sheets tends to soften as they cool down and I love a crispy light base for this.
PS: if you are in France and can’t find any COURGE MUSQUEE, try it with pumpkin: it’s just as delicious.
Nutrition notes: Filo is a great and tasty alternative to the usual pastry base for tartlets. I use it all the time for convenience and nutritional reasons. Half the  pastry and twice the taste! What’s not to like?
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Paella? No: Fideo! Learn a very hip dish…

IMG_3096Ingredients list:

  • garlic, 2 cloves
  • parsley, a small bouquet
  • fideo no1 (also called vermicelli) 200g
  • 3 small tomatoes
  • 1 courgette
  • chopped mushrooms, a handful
  • onion, 1 small
  • veg stock, 400ml
  • cumin and safron, 1 Tbsp
  • Paprika, 1 tsp
  • A handful of frozen mussels or prawns or a handful of butter beans – if you want to keep it  veggy.

Today I am revisiting an ingredient used last year as Black Vermicelli and this time I use the normal version, available at Spanish delis or specialised gourmet shops . It is worth hunting for because it produces a super dish in minutes. The French mostly put “fideo” in soups but the Spanish use it to do a quick and tasty version of the ubiquitous paella. Choose the Fideo number one for the thinner quality.

Start by toasting the fideo in a shallow frying pan with a bit of olive oil. If you can, use a pan that can also go into the oven. When the Fideo turns brown, reserve in a bowl.

Make a Spanish “sofrito” with the onion, garlic and parsley all chopped up. Fry it in the same pan.

Add the tomatoes chopped up, the courgette, mushrooms and paprika, cumin and a pinch of saffron. Cook and move about a little until the mix soften and add enough tomatoes to make a thick sauce – you can use a half tin of chopped tomatoes if easier! No harm in cutting corners, is there?!IMG_3097

Add the noodles  underneath the veg if you can, by pulling them up with a spatula.

Pour the warm stock in. Allow to cook on slowly until all the liquid is absorbed – do not cover. It will take less than 15/20 min. A few minutes before the end, you can add a few frozen prawns or mussels to jazz it up but you really don’t have to.

Just before serving – if your pan allows- put the dish under the grill and get a crispy top in 4/5 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

IMG_3102This is a delicious last minute dish! Most of it is pulled out of a cupboard or freezer. But with the addition of a few fresh vegetables, you can produce a very healthy lunch. Customise according to what you have and it is great every time… The version on the picture  above had butter beans, red peppers and aubergines, for example.

Fideo is very popular around Alicante and gets used in all sorts of wonderfully tasty variations: Once the basics are there, nothing should stop you improvising. Having fun in the kitchen is a great reason to cook! Maybe the only one…

Dainty chesnut and whipped cream mont-blancs

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Once you have mastered the art of tempering your chocolate , a whole world of sweet opportunities opens up!

Here I have just used melted chocolate (tempered to a T!) to brush inside mini silicone cup cake cases in order to produce my mini version of the so iconic and delicious Mont-blanc pudding!

Once the inside of the cup is brushed several times with chocolate, let it cool. Delicately peel off the silicone cup and you are left with a nice chocolate shell ready to fill as you please.

I have used Clement Faugier “Creme de Marrons” and topped it up with Chantilly made in my siphon: 500ml single cream, 1 sachet of vanilla sugar and a drop of dark rum. Put the cartridge in. Shake the siphon and start spraying!

The top is decorated with a chocolate coffee bean. Delicious combination.

I love my new ISI Gourmet Whip bought last summer and I have to stop myself making Chantilly at every opportunity…

Curried parsnip soup with sweet peppers and paprika

A nice soup to warm you up, body and soul!

Parsnip (or “panais” in French) may not be yet on your “favourites” shopping list but it has the advantage of being plentiful and cheap at this time of year. The British here use it cut as long chips and roasted with olive oil and thyme, but  only recently I have enjoyed it in a very typical soup paired with Curry.

A bit of Britain and a bit of India in an unlikely butIMG_3322 winning combination…

Curried parsnips soup

  •         300g parsnips
  •          2 medium onions
  •          2 to 3 cloves garlic
  •          25g butter
  •          1 tablespoon curry powder
  •          1/2 chopped fresh red chilli
  •          Sweet paprika to taste
  •          1.2L chicken or vegetable stock
  •          150g potatoes
  •           1 tablespoon creamed coconut
  •           Olive oil
  •           Diced red pepper to decorate

Fry the chopped onions with a little oil and add the garlic cloves and butter.

Peel and cut the parsnips and potatoes in chunks of similar size so they cook more or less at the same speed.
Add the stock and the seasoning and boil for 20 minutes on low heat – which is achievable once you have got it to a rolling boil on high heat.

Blend all the ingredients, once cooked through, and add the creamed coconut just before serving. Blend some more until the soup is very fine and creamy.

Decorate with chopped red peppers and smoked paprika in the plates.

This is a lovely way to enjoy a not much loved winter vegetable! The sweet taste of the parsnip makes a very comforting and warming dish, especially with the addition of the spices. I think that the association with the curry and paprika is proper genius! As for the coconut cream (or milk), I already knew that it goes perfectly with all sorts of winter delights: pumpkins, squashes, sweet potatoes AND now parsnips!

Do try it as well with sweet potatoes in a very energizing soup on this blog.

Have a bowlful  and  you are ready to brave the cold outside your front door: Snow is predicted for the week-end!