Gazpacho & toppings

gaspacho

Peak tomato season is the best time to blitz up some delicious cool gazpacho. This is the type of recipe I think is best made without a recipe 😉

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There are so many methods and recipes out there, I prefer to just start with whizzing up deliciously ripe tomatoes and then go from there, tasting as you go. If you go for 3 parts tomatoes to 1 part other veg you should be happy.

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Here are some things I usually or sometimes add:

  • Peeled cucumber
  • Red or Yellow peppers, cooked or raw
  • Garlic (not too much)
  • Good olive oil (a few good glugs or to taste)
  • Sherry or apple cider vinegar (add slowly to taste)
  • Basil, parsley or coriander
  • Water if needed to achieve the desired thickness
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper . . . THIS is usually where I stop but you could carry on experimenting with the following ingredients:
  • Bread soaked in water (often used in Andalucia, Spain)
  • Melon, peach, watermelon or other summer fruit to add a bit of sweetness (very nice !)
  • Red onion
  • Chili’s
  • Smoked paprika or pimenton

Toppings are the fun but optional:

  • Croutons
  • Cubed cucumber
  • Cubed melon or watermelon
  • Cubed raw peppers
  • Chopped hard boiled egg (a personal fave)
  • More olive oil

To be made ahead and eaten very cold

Bon appetit !

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Labneh with Zaatar & Olives

Labne olives zaatar

Beautiful silky strained thick yogurt … That’s all it is ! Total revelation the first time you try it. Like a homemade cream cheese.

It all starts with these beauties… 🙂 Jessica the super farmer and her Jersey cows. Don’t panic, keep reading ! This is how I do it, but Labneh can be made much more simply using shop bought whole milk yogurt. If you live in the south west of France, don’t miss Jessica’s mom Véronique at the local markets. The butter will change your life 🙂

Jessica & the Girls

In the spring the milk is extra rich with all the new green grass they are eating. The amount of creamy milk fat floating on the top of the is crazy.

Raw Milk

Then my lovely husband makes delicious yogurt.

Next step is to stir a bit of good salt into your yogurt. The fun begins finding the best way to strain it using a cheese cloth. If your fridge shelves are racks you can tie the cheese cloth onto the rack over a bowl. I place my cheese cloth over a large canning jar and shut the lid to hold the yogurt suspended in the jar. Empty out the whey after a few hours (my chickens get that 😉 ) so the ball of soon to be labneh is not sitting in liquid. The idea here is to get most of the liquid out of the yogurt leaving you with a thick spreadable yogurt “cheese”.

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Labneh

  • 600g whole milk yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Cheese cloth or étamine

Stir the yogurt with salt and place it into the center of your cloth. Leave to strain over a bowl or large jar in the fridge for at least 24 hours and up to 36 hours. Check from time to time to make sure it is not dipping in its own liquid. Once well strained you are done ! The labneh can be stored for almost a week in the fridge.

Then what ?

  • Sprinkle with olive oil, Zaatar and olives to make a dip or spread
  • Top with roasted veg such as leeks or asparagus
  • Play around with replacing cheesecake in a recipe
  • On toast with smashed peas or broad beans
  • Top with good olive oil and eat with a spoon 😉

Bon Appetît !

Home Grown Edamame

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Needless to say,  Japanese restaurants are a rarity in the French countryside.  When I came across a packet of organic SOJA BEANS it took me a minute to put two and two together in my head to conjure up the image of a bowl of freshly steamed  EDAMAME pods sitting in front of me in my own home !!  I even have the bottle of Japanese Whiskey (merci Gianni 😉 ) to accompany this delightfully fresh “aperitif”.

edamameplant

Once cooled, I toss those gorgeous little pods in coarse sea salt and serve up a bowl.  How to eat?  Pick up a pod and pop the beans directly into your mouth (careful they are jumpy little guys).

So now I can have a slightly “sushi bar” experience in my own garden, and the quality of the whiskey is better 😉

Oeufs Cocotte or Baked Eggs

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 🙂

eoufs cocotteThis 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
Sun-dried tomatoes
Top with a bit of nice cream instead of butter
The list goes on and on . . .

Bon Appétit  !

four solaire

Beetroot and Simplicity at its Best …

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OK, I know what you are thinking….  Nothing new here !  Everyone knows the lovelyness you get when you pair Beetroot and Chèvre together.

But I just had one of those moments when its quite hard to speak due to moaning about how good the thing in your mouth is, so thought I would share.  I even had 11 yr old daughter begging me for more BEETROOT !

This evenings meal was just a pure example of what can be created with incredibly perfect ingredients …. and …  Simplicity.

The baby beetroot were plucked from the garden, scrubbed then “poached” in a small amount of water with salt and fresh herbs until knife tender.  Once cool enough to handle, their skins were slipped off.

On the plate…..  Slices of cooled beetroot, very very fresh goats cheese, and a lovely mixed salad with whatever you have at its best to put in it !  I had some gorgeous crunchy cucumber, tomatoes, spring onions and garlic and some toasted pumpkin, sunflower seeds and almonds.

LOTS of freshly ground pepper, fleur de sel (we have a producer just 15 minutes from us), fruity olive oil from Provence and a drizzle of good quality balsamic.   A slice of bread from our beloved baker (see previous post for a video about him)

MERCI to all of the wonderful farmers that make this type of meal possible ! AND to beautiful Eva (11 yr old beetroot lover) for taking these pics 😉

Not to forget, the “sulphite” free glass of chilled Jurançon wine…..

HEAVEN on a plate !

beetrootsalad

Bon Appetît !