I left my husband at home alone with no children for 3 weeks this summer (doesn’t that sound great ?) and he said he was going to “rough it” and only cook using the solar oven. No sun? Raw food diet ! Well it was a heat wave most of the time we were gone, so the raw food was not on the menu as often as he had hoped.
He did get inventive with the solar oven though…. From heating water for his morning tea to making . . . RICE !
I didn’t believe that the rice was not “over cooked” so he made us a batch the other day. The most exciting part is that the little rice grains “stand up” to the sun like little soldiers 😉
He was right, I was wrong…. AGAIN and the rice was perfectly cooked !
1 part rice to 2 parts water directly into the solar oven without pre-heating. How long? “depends” is his answer… at least an hour, maybe more !
Though totally addicted to my solar oven, I’d given up on BAKING in it ! Until recently 😉 The problem is that most baked goods need to either rise, brown or both and a certain temperature is needed for that (and 100°C to 120°C is not it !).
I decided to give a CLAFOUTIS a try as its not really a leavened dessert.
SUCCESS ! It cooked perfectly and it was so hot out that it even browned (a bit). The taste made up for the lack of crusty edges that I usually get in the normal oven.
Instead of the traditional cherry clafoutis, I made this delicious blueberry version…. The recipe is for a traditional oven. If you are fortunate enough to own a solar oven, this went in cold and cooked in less than an hour uncovered. Ready when a knife comes out clean !
1 teaspoon GOOD vanilla extract or 1/2 a scraped pod
pinch of salt if you like your baking that way like me 😉
Preheat your oven to 210°C and butter a pie or tart dish.
If you do make this with cherries, the REAL way is to leave the pits IN !
Melt your butter. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt if using. Incorporate the eggs one by one then the milk, slowly and the vanilla whilst stirring gently. Add the melted butter and stir well.
Place your fruit in the buttered dish then pour over the batter.
Cook for 10 minutes at 210°C then lower your oven to 180° and cook for another 20 minutes.
Summer continues with loads of sunny days, meaning the solar oven is in over-drive 🙂 The green beans in the garden are also in over-drive so it was time to make an old favourite that cooks just beautifully in the solar oven…. Greek style braised beans.
Adding to the inspiration was a fresh chunk of Feta Cheese that I picked up from George (originally from Crete) in a local market.
My recipe planning continued with a bottle of beautiful raw Jersey cow milk in the fridge… Hmmm chunks of home made Paneer Cheese fried in Ghee swimming around in those beans sounds good !
The only thing missing was something so soak up the succulent juices…. to stick with the “Greek” theme, I served this with little rice shaped pasta (a bit like Orzo) also from George and Crete ….
The whole meal took on another aspect by adding slight twists to the original recipes…. A bit more dried Oregano to the beans, the Paneer (usually used in indian dishes) added a creamy protein along with the Feta crumbled over the beans just before serving. The pasta drizzled generously with good organic Olive oil made this a rich vegetarian Sunday lunch 😉
(Click on the above links for the recipes for the cheese, beans & ghee)
I’m still trying to get used to the “new name” that chicken stock has been given 😉 I actually looked up “Bone Broth” to see what all the fuss was about, and found that it’s just good old “stock” or “broth”, we make this chez nous at least 3 times a month to keep a constant stock.
Another shocker with the “Bone Broth” trend is that I realized how many people (even those that like to cook) NEVER make it from scratch anymore ! I would be personally lost without it …. I’ll give you some ideas below on the various things you can use it for.
For me, it probably has a lot to do with the fact that, in rural France, you either make it or use stock cubes. No-one sells “fresh” stock (supermarkets, butchers, specialty shops). The fact that most families here also eat soup on a daily basis in the winter.
I am therefore, delighted that such a nutritious and delicious thing is trying to claw its way back into the main stream (thanks to North Americans skill at food trends that spin out of control (hmmmm Kale?). I had first read of the wonders of broth on the Westin A. Price website (the man was a genius !). Go and have a look, you’ll also be drinking raw milk before you know it 😉
I make broth in 3 different ways using the best quality chicken you can get your hands on:
Poaching a whole chicken…. In a very large pot, place your raw chicken and your veg, herbs and other ingredients and cover with water. After about an hour, remove the chicken and when cool enough to handle, get your hands dirty and strip the bird of its juicy meat. Put the meat aside for future use and put all the bones back into the stock pot. Continue to simmer for at least another 2 hours but the longer the better. Strain and put your beautiful stock in the fridge once cool. The next day you can just scoop all the fat off the top before using or freezing your stock.
Stock using bones from a roast chicken….
Save time and use a pressure cooker…..
In the summer, I use my trusty solar oven which allows me to simmer the broth all day long….
What to add to the cooking water (some or all of the following, your choice, be creative and its a great way to empty the fridge): leek or spring onion tops and bottoms, onion skins, garlic cloves (with skin), celery sticks, leaves or root, carrots, turnips etc….. about 10 whole peppercorns, herbs such as parsley stems and bay leaves. If you want to go asian try adding a couple of star anise some coriander roots or stems and a chunk or two of ginger root or galangal.
NOTE: One new thing I have learned from this “new” trend is that adding a good spoonful of cider vinegar helps the good minerals make their exit from the bones into the broth.
Other than the obvious “soup” there are many uses for the broth. At this time of year, I generally use it for risotto to use up veg from the garden, such as courgettes. Risotto using “real stock” is miles better than one made using even the best bouillon cubes or powders. In the winter we often eat a broth based asian soup.
We are in the throws of wild mushroom season here and it seems to be a very very good year so far ! Even my husband is finding some, and he thought he was “cursed” 😉 So lovely chicken raised at a local farm on hand and a pile of Cèpes (or Porcini for you Italians) and this dish seemed like a good idea. Frozen peas are one of my “exceptions” to how we get our food. They are just so yum and useful when there is nothing in the fridge…. I am compiling a list of “Things that are useful to have in your freezer”, so watch this space 🙂
A word about chicken. We all know what we are supposed to buy and not buy when it comes to poultry these days, so make the best choices you can. But one habit I managed to kick a few years ago (with no regrets whatsoever) is never buying boneless, skinless chicken breasts or any other chicken parts for that matter. I always start with a whole chicken, and dear husband has even become quite skilled at getting those breasts OFF the carcass if I really want to use that. So sometimes I use the chicken whole, or it is cut up (even Martha Stewart has a youTube video on how to do that) to use in pieces. Sooooo much more flavour, more responsible, less waste AND you get to make homeade stock to boot !
We are having beautiful weather this Autumn so this was done in the Solar Oven for a “fall off the bone” result !
1 Chicken (best quality you can find) cut into pieces (don’t forget to save the carcass for broth)
Flour for dusting (ignore this if gluten free)
75g cubed good quality pancetta or bacon
300g mushrooms (I used wild Cèpes or Porcini but button mushrooms will do)
2 good size shallots or 1 onion, chopped
300 ml good quality chicken stock
1 TBS white wine vinegar (I used a lovely lemon infused one)
60g frozen peas
a good handful of parsley, chopped
Heat some olive oil in a heavy and deep frying pan with a lid. Season and dust the chicken pieces with flour before browning on all sides. Remove and set aside. In the same pan fry the bacon and mushrooms until soft, then remove.
Add more olive oil and cook shallots for a few minutes. Add the stock and vinegar and leave to bubble for a couple of minutes. Return the chicken, bacon and mushrooms and leave to cook, covered on a light simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and add the peas and parsley and bubble uncovered for 5 minutes or so.
I served this with some garlic mashed potatoes but I think the leftovers will be served with some fresh Tagliatelle ….
We have been experiencing exceptionally warm and often sunny weather this winter, encouraging us to get the solar oven out ! Here is a great simple recipe we like to make in the Solar oven but works great in your normal oven as well 🙂
This is a very versatile recipe, with little “rules”… All you need is individual ramekin dishes, nice fresh farm eggs, butter, cream (is optional) and then let your imagination take over and tuck some leftover meat, cooked veg and loads of herbs in the ramekin before cracking in the egg.
Our latest Oeufs Cocotte creation (above) was simply some little bits of cooked lardons or crumbled bacon, lots of chopped fresh parsley and chives at the bottom of the buttered ramekins. Crack in your eggs (we made 4 little pots) and top with a couple slices of nice fresh “raw” butter and some sea salt and freshly ground pepper….
Place the ramekins into a warm water bath then bake in the oven (or solar oven) until the egg is set to your liking. This should take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes (the latter when using a solar oven. For a normal oven 180°C should do it.
Serve with nice crusty bread for dipping and a lovely salad. 1 or 2 ramekins per person makes a lovely lunch …
Nice additions for Oeufs Cocotte:
Chopped herbs such as parsley, chervil, coriander or chives
Leftover cooked meat
Shredded duck confit
Leftover cooked veg
Crumbled bacon or pancetta
Chopped and cooked chorizo & chopped grilled peppers
Chopped artichoke hearts
Top with a bit of nice cream instead of butter
The list goes on and on . . .
Yes, we have a Solar Oven ! Thanks to a pretty “handy” man at home who built it 😉
Aicha is a lovely woman that came from Morocco years ago to take our soapmaking course for a Humatarian Organisation she worked for. She spent a few days with us after the course and one afternoon, she wrapped her hair up in a scarf and announced that she would be cooking dinner. A traditional tagine….
We actually had the proper clay tagine dish with its cone-like lid that we had purchased in Morocco the previous year including the special flat bit of metal to place in between the clay dish and the gas flame, so she felt right at home. The only meat we had in the house that day was Duck Breast so she made a beautiful Duck Tagine…. A perfect image of the Moroccan / French freindship. Today, after finding some gorgeous fish in the market we came up with this dish, directly inspired by the recipes that Aicha left us before heading back to Morocco.
I have since given away the Tagine, in a hastefull spring cleaning one year, and now miss it terribly since we have a solar oven, and it would be a perfect “vessel” for slow cooking ! So, without the Tagine, we managed to make a pretty tasy fish Tagine !
500 – 600g white firm fish (choose sustainable bien sûr !)
marinate the fish pieces in a bit of oil, juice of 1/2 a lemon and a heaped teaspoon each of paprika, cumin (toasted and freshly groun), grated garlic and ginger and turmeric. Add 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground pepper.
Oil “generously” a baking dish (round shaped pie type dish is nice) and cover the bottom with long slices of steamed carrots. Sprinkle with a bit more of the above spices.
Add a layer of rings of red pepper and sliced tomatoes.
Top with the fish and more tomatoes and peppers. The idea is to “layer”.
Top all of this with a couple of lemon slices before pouring over any leftover marinade mixed with a bit of water and a heaped teaspoon of tomato paste.
Put a lid (or cover with foil) on your “tagine” and either cook on the stove top or in a moderate oven for at least 20 minutes or until the fish and veg are cooked through. If YOU are clever enough to have a solar oven in your garden, ours was done in 30 to 45 minutes without “pre-heating”. Top with lots of chopped parsley and coriander before serving with nice crusty bread or couscous if you are really hungry 🙂