Green beans with hazelnuts and crème fraiche

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The moment when summer meets autumn and the fruit and veg available start to change.  Before “the change” goes too far I like to pair the taste of summer and autumn together.

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This is a delicious recipe to eat as a side dish or mixed with pasta.  Just cooked green beans, a bit of pig for the salty richness, toasted hazelnuts for a bit of crunch and some very good quality “raw” crème fraiche from gorgeous local Jersey cows to blend it all together.

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Although it has been, in general, a pretty bad  year for veggie gardens in southwest France this year, the green were as prolific as usual.  This year I grew your basic French green bean, gorgeous purple ones and very long Chinese red beans (just for fun).

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Green beans with hazelnuts and bacon servings = 4 as a side dish

  • 500g green or runner beans, trimmed and sliced
  • 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, chopped into pieces
  • handful of hazelnuts, toasted (peeled if you like) and roughly crushed *
  • 2T cider vinegar
  • 5 T crème fraiche (or thick cream), more if serving with pasta
  • handful of tarragon or parsley, chopped

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the beans for 4-5 mins until cooked, but still vibrant. Drain the beans and tip straight into a bowl of ice-cold water. Drain again and set aside.

Heat a frying pan, tip in the bacon and sizzle for 4-5 mins until it starts to crisp.  Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the bacon, but leave behind any juices and residue. Place the pan back on a low heat, slosh in the vinegar and sizzle for a moment, then stir in the cream. Return the beans, bacon and hazelnuts to the pan to warm through and toss them in the dressing. Tip into a bowl and mix in the tarragon just before serving.

** To easily peel hazelnuts:  Dry toast them in a frying pan, being careful not to burn !  Tip them onto a clean tea towel and wrap them up.  Once cool rub them around in the tea towel which will help remove most of the papery skins.

***Adapted from the BBC Good Food Magazine

Bon appetit !

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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 . . .

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GOOD food from the good life . . .

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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

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New “Rolls Royce” solar oven: 

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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. . . 😦

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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 🙂

 

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