Piedmont beans

With the late August heat, this has re-emerged as a “test” in the solar oven. Great results with a beautiful crispy top . . .



GOOD food from the good life . . .


Its late August and the garden is in overdrive !  We are now on our 8th continuous week of eating green (or purple😉 ) beans numerous times per week…  I usually make this recipe at least once in the season when I want to “get rid” of loads of beans in one meal.

Its an interesting recipe as it seems a bit odd, on the verge of “will this work?”.  The ratio of beans to the other ingredients just doesn’t seem right.  Trust me as I trusted the original recipe, it does work.


I’ve adapted this Italian inspired recipe to suit my tastes and the ingredients I can get here in France so play around with it, its a forgiving recipe.  I used a beautiful ground red pepper produced in the Basque Country called “Espelette Pepper”, that I’m quite addicted to which adds a bit more depth and a…

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Roast chicken with preserved lemon


If I was to be condemned to a desert island tomorrow, a beautiful roast chicken would be on the list of possible “last suppers”.

Nice crispy skin and juicy meat and a jus that is begging to be sopped up with crusty bread, potatoes or rice. . .   For this slightly exotic version, bulgur or couscous would be nice too.


The bird itself must be of the best quality.  No battery hens here.  I only eat one about once or twice a month, so I think I can afford the best !

Yotam Ottolenghi does it again with a great new twist for roast chicken, stuffing preserved lemons under the breast skin before roasting. . . The results were pretty amazing !  My dear friend Marie makes me a jar of preserved lemons once or twice a year (lucky me !).  But they are easy to make yourself if you can’t find them in your local shops.


My solar oven is in full swing this week with gorgeous sunny days that seem to never end.  So this recipe was cooked in the solar oven.  See below for specific notes on solar oven cooking for this recipe.  (This is also why the photo of the finished chicken looks a bit “collapsed”.  I had poked and prodded the poor bird to see what state it was in after hours in the sun).



Roast Chicken with preserved lemon servings=4

  • 70g unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp thyme leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 small preserved lemon, pips discarded, flesh and skin roughly chopped
  • 1 red pepper sliced
  • 1 onion sliced
  • Flaky sea salt and black pepper
  • 1.5kg free-range chicken

Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Put the butter, thyme, garlic, preserved lemon,  half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper in a food processor or chopper. Blitz, then set aside while you tackle the bird.

Use your hands to loosen the skin from the breasts. Spread most of the butter mixture evenly over the breasts, under the skin, then smear the remaining butter over the legs. Put the peppers and onion in a medium-sized, high-sided baking tray with the chicken on top, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper.

Roast for about 70 minutes, basting every 15 minutes or so, until the skin is golden-brown and crisp, and the juices run clear (stick the tip of a sharp knife into the thickest part of the thigh to check; if the juices are still a little pink, just give the bird five to 10 minutes more cooking). Remove from the oven, leave to rest for 10 minutes, then carve and serve.

***Directly adapted from a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe in the Guardian

Solar oven notes: I popped the bird in (out of the fridge an hour before) at 9:30am. The oven was at 140°C but dropped soon after to 120°C as the bird was still cool.  After 2 hours I basted the chicken.  After 3 hours it was nicely browned and falling off the bone when prodded.


New Solar Oven

There is something special about “sun cooked” food.  I am very possibly dreaming, but I think it tastes better and that the suns energy must add elements that are good for me . . .  Who knows?

I have been happily cooking in a solar oven for years.  My handy husband built the first one and it has been “much more than a gadget” !  As soon as the sun is out, it is on a table in front of the kitchen door with something in it….

This summer we are delighted to be inaugurating a NEW solar oven into the family…

Old solar oven

four solaire.JPG

New “Rolls Royce” solar oven: 


My old oven, on a sunny day in the summer, would get up to 120°C max..  This baby was at 170°C yesterday, I have what was supposed to be roasted tomatoes to prove it. . .😦


What can you cook in a solar oven ?  Well with this new powerful model I have made stews, pulled pork, tagines, braised meats or veg, Spanish tortillas, baked eggs……  I have also had much more success with baking, as you do need a certain temperature for cakes and bakes to rise.

Some of my favourite things to cook in the “sun”:

My latest pleasant surprise was a roast chicken (with an Ottolenghi twist, recipe to follow soon).  Nicely browned with meat falling off the bone . . .   Have you noticed ?  I’m hooked🙂








KUKU (Iranian fritatta)


How can you not want to try something with such a great name ?

This Persian Fritatta type dish is a keeper for summer picnics or potlucks.  Easy to make, transport and share :)  Add a  nice salad and you have lunch.


I have seen and tried a few different versions of this dish, this being the latest and a way to use up all of those courgettes in the garden my son is turning his nose up at…  The main difference with a Fritatta or Spanish Tortilla is that there is usually alot more veg and herbs in proportion to the amount of eggs, and its usually simply baked in the oven.  Recipes vary widely…  Flour or not, baking powder ? Maybe.  Walnuts or barberries are a nice addition.  Spices AND herbs or just one or the other…  So flexible, therefore the fun is endless😉


This one was a biggie !  12 eggs and loads of veg…  Yellow and green courgettes (zucchini), new potatoes, coriander and spring onions.


If you keep the approximate total weight of veggies for the same amount of eggs  the variants are endless !  I understand that saffron is expensive, so leave it out if you wish.  Lucky me, a friend brought be some back from Iran this year :)  PS  this works in my solar oven too !


Courgette, Saffron & New Potato KUKU servings=8-10

  • olive oil
  • 12 large eggs
  • 500g courgettes/zucchini, grated and sprinkled with 1t of salt.  Leave for 10 minutes before squeezing out excess moisture
  • 400g potatoes, parboiled, cooled and coarsely grated
  • 1 bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
  • a pinch of saffron threads, ground, then steeped in 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 T Greek yogurt
  • 2 T  flour
  • 2 heaping t baking powder
  • 1/2 t ground allspice
  • 1 heaping t flaky sea salt, crushed
  • large handful of chopped coriander (add some dill if you like !)
  • freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Line a  rectangular (approx.33 x 23cm)  ovenproof pan with parchment paper, then drizzle a little olive oil onto the parchment and rub it over the base. Combine the eggs, courgettes, potatoes, spring onions, saffron, yogurt, flour, baking powder, allspice and herbs and salt in a large mixing bowl, season with black pepper and mix until evenly combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, ensuring the mixture is at least 1 inch clear of the rim so it does not overflow during cooking. Bake for 35 minutes or until the top of the kuku is golden and begins to brown. To check if it is cooked, insert a knife into the center of the kuku – if it comes out clean of liquid but moist, the dish is done; if it looks wet and eggy, it will need a few more minutes.

Allow to cool slightly, then flip the baking dish upside-down and tip out the kuku onto a chopping board. Peel off the parchment paper and cut the kuku into pieces to serve.

*** Adapted from Sirocco: Fabulous Flavors of the Middle East, by Sabrina Ghayour © 2016








My BEST chocolate chip oatmeal cookies



I’m treading dangerously here (and of course generalizing😉 ), but the French don’t make the best cookies, and don’t even get me started on Brownies !  I wouldn’t bother to make most of the beautiful classic French pastries that I can get down in the village, but for cookies, nothing beats North American style and home made !

I’m sure that I’ll never stop trying new cookie recipes, but this has been my favourite for a while now (I should say, my kids favourite).  Its very forgiving, and I change the “additives” depending on what I have on hand.

My dear mother always kept the “cookie jar” full when I was growing up and I’m doing the same for my kids.  To avoid buying industrially made snacks, I always have on hand a big bagful of frozen cookies or frozen dough, ready to be baked.  Keeping them in the freezer helps “just a little” to avoid eating the whole batch when they come out of the oven😉


Oats and chocolate are always present and I then add nuts or seeds, depending on what I have on hand.  I’ve even left the latter out, and the recipe worked just fine.

Walnuts are delicious but you could add almost any type of nut or seed….  pumpkin or sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, almonds or even pistachios.


Its important to use a good sticky brown sugar, not easy to find in France, for the chewy cookie effect.  I find mine through “fair trade associations” here that import delicious organic unrefined Moscovado sugar from the Philippines.  Be careful that your brown sugar is actually the real deal as many are just white sugar with added beetroot juice or caramel colouring….


Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

  • 200g salty butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar (such as Moscovado)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour (whole wheat works well)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt (up to you as you already have the salty butter !)
  • 1 cup nuts or seeds (or both), lightly crushed
  • 1 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 2 cups oats

Cream the butter and sugars until smooth.  Add the eggs and vanilla  and mix for another few minutes.  Add the dry ingredients, mixing on low speed just until incorporated.  By the time you get to the nuts, chocolate and oats you will probably have to do this by hand with a wooden spoon.

Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  Roll the dough into golf ball size balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  You could freeze the balls on the sheet and then pop them into a freezer bag to bake later if you wish.

When you are ready, heat the oven to 180°C and bake the cookies for 11 to 12 minutes, turning the sheets halfway through.

Bon appetit !






Blueberry Buckle


Winter has barely showed its face this season in the South of France but its drizzly enough outside to feel like soup.

In an effort to make room in the freezer for a good stash of home made stock, AKA bone broth (in the past week, I’ve made chicken, duck and . . . he he he Cornish Game Hen stock, OH not to mention duck FEET stock)  I thought it was time to use up some of those juicy blueberries that have been there since last summer.

blueberry buckle

Is it a Crumble ? A Slump ? A Cobbler ? A Brown Betty ? A Grunt ?

There are so many delicious North American Cakes using blueberries, but the BUCKLE is one of my favorites.  Loaded with berries and pretty enough to pass as a dessert as well as a great tea time treat.

Blueberry Buckle

  • 2 cups (255 grams) plain or partially whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) of softened butter
  • 3/4 cups (150 grams) organic sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries


  • 1/2 cup organic sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • generous grating of nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) cold butter cut into cubes

Preheat oven to 190°C and butter a 23cm round spring form tin (square tin would work too) and line the bottom with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and ginger.  In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and beat until well incorporated.  Add flour, bit by bit, alternating with the milk until mixed.  Gently stir in the blueberries and pour into the prepared tin.

Topping:  Combine the dry ingredients, then mix in the butter using your fingers until you have a crumb-like texture.  Sprinkle the mixture on top of the cake and bake on the middle rack in the oven for 35 minutes or until golden in colour.  Cool for at least ten minutes before serving.

Bon appetit !




Pics in file treated !

Crispy Cauliflower


Following at a close second to Kale as the “wonder vegetable” of the moment, cauliflower is being used in ways unheard of before.  I’m  not a fan of ALL of these new ideas.  A notable failure was Cauliflower “bread sticks” or pizza base !  NO !    Maybe if you haven’t eaten bread in a while or for those who are truly gluten intolerant (ie have Celiac Disease), but this is not better than real bread .   Cauliflower Fried “Rice” is another that I’m not a huge fan of.  Its nice, but lets not call it . . . rice😦


So back to the basics with good old cauliflower, which I do love !  The kids fight over this.  So so easy to make and great as a side dish to many things or eaten on its own as snacks with drinks.  Its also nice, if cut smallish, to sprinkle on top of soup for a lovely texture.


I usually make this with “Indian” spices, but it would be just as nice with simpler flavorings such as dried oregano and chili flakes.  Make it Middle Eastern with sumac and allspice.

Today’s crispy cauliflower was served with Pea and Paneer Curry with home made paneer, Brown Rice (for feeling a bit virtuous😉 ) and a selection of home made chili sauces.  Sooooo good on a drizzly winter day.


I used the first spice mix for this recipe.

Crispy Cauliflower

  • 1 cauliflower (as much as will fit into your pan without over crowding)
  • 3 or 4 Tablespoons good olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Seasonings of your choice (feel free to make up your own versions):

  • A good sprinkle of turmeric, black mustard seeds, chili flakes and garam masala
  • Dried oregano and smoked paprika and feta when it come out of the oven
  • A good sprinkle of ground sumac and ground allspice
  • A good sprinkle of ground cumin and coriander with black onion seeds
  • A bit of lime juice at the end would be nice

Preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F)

Cut the cauliflower into smallish pieces (size of your thumb) and put into a roasting tin.  It’s important to not pile them up (or they will steam instead of go crispy), try to keep spread out evenly.  Add your chosen spices and your olive oil and toss.

In the oven they go for around 30 minutes, stirring halfway or until crisped to your liking.

TIP:  If you want to serve this as finger food with drinks, don’t use too much stalk (keep them for making soup !).

Bon appetit !