Spring veggies

aspergesHEAVEN !  I love this time of year…  One by one, the spring veg show up in the market and in the garden 🙂

asperges1Lunch becomes more fresh and simple…  Quick to prepare.  Less cooking, more green, more crunch, feels healthy…  The chickens LOVE radish greens, so everyones happy 🙂

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To celebrate the arrival of the first broad beans and peas in our garden, I made a simple lunch adding fresh purple asparagus, bright red radishes and fresh herbs piled high on a beautiful slice of toasted sourdough bread after smearing a thick layer of the first fresh goats cheese from Anita’s farm.  A good shake of Espelette pepper and some local fleur de sel and we felt like we where the richest people in the world.  Quite sure that any great chef would be delighted to have access to this quality….

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Feeling fortunate and pretty pleased with myself !

Bon appetit !

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Garlic Confit

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I suffer when garlic season gets to the point where the cloves become soft, dry and past their prime.  The green shoot in the middle changes the taste. . .   I love young garlic, or even “young-ish” garlic.  Since coming to live in France, I have never eaten so much garlic.  Our family of four easily get through 2 heads per week.

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In the spring I wait impatiently for the first fresh new garlic on market stalls.  Then the garlic party starts and we eat masses of it until its gone until the following year.  This is my favourite way to preserve garlic. This couldn’t be easier ! I may be addicted to this stuff.

I also freeze a bag of peeled cloves to use during the “down time”.  They can be grated (using my handy microplane) straight from frozen.  The fresh skins and stalks of new garlic can be kept in the freezer as well to pop into meat stocks.

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Peel one or two heads of garlic and place the cloves in a heavy bottomed pan.  Cover them with olive oil and slowly heat the oil.  Cook on a very very low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour until they are knife tender.  Leave to cool, pour into a clean glass jar and store for several weeks in the fridge.  Make sure that the garlic is always covered with oil.  Don’t forget to use the oil for cooking when the cloves are all used up  🙂

A few ways to use your garlic confit (though you will easily find ways to use it !) :

  • spread the cloves on toasted bread and sprinkle with salt flakes and/or chili flakes
  • toss the cloves and some of their oil through pasta
  • mixed in with roasted vegetables
  • blended into a home made mayonnaise (very delicious)
  • spread over a piece of fish or meat
  • flavour soups, sauces, dressings and dips

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Solar oven notes: We do this in our solar oven whenever the sun is out and we have nothing else to cook.  Almost fill a jam jar with garlic and pour over enough olive oil to cover the cloves.  Place, uncovered in your solar oven just until some of the cloves start to rise to the top or they are knife tender.  This could take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.  When I do this in the solar oven their is a thin film of yummy stickiness that forms on the surface and sticks to the sides of the jar.  My husband calls this “caramel d’ail” or garlic caramel 😉

 

A Canadian in France — Our French Oasis

Thank you to Susan for including me in her beautiful blog 🙂

 

Remember a few weeks ago I chatted about introducing you to some expats who have set up their own businesses here and have made France their home? Well today I am really excited to get this started and to introduce you to Leanne, who is Canadian. She has lived in France for many years […]

via A Canadian in France — Our French Oasis

Sardines on Toast

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I know what you are thinking….  “Do I really need to read a blog post on putting tinned fish on bread?”.  Well this is just a friendly reminder of how sometimes the simplest of things can be the most healthy, inexpensive and delicious.

Tinned sardines contain LARGE amounts of Vitamin B12 as well as selenium, phosphorous, OMEGA 3 fats, protein, calcium, vitamin D . . . and the list goes on.  Thanks to the Vitamin B12 (over 150% of the daily recommended amount) sardines are incredibly good for your heart’s health.

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While sardines are wonderful when eaten fresh, they are most commonly found canned, since they are so perishable. With growing concern over the health of the seas, people are turning to sardines since they are at the bottom of the aquatic food chain, feeding solely on plankton, and therefore do not concentrate heavy metals, such as mercury, and contaminants as do some other fish. They don’t live long enough to accumulate too much mercury.

Not all tinned sardines are created equal though !!  Choose your brand carefully, reading the label.  Choose olive oil packed as many are packed in Soybean oil or may contain other additives.  We live close to the Spanish border, therefore blessed with access to some amazing sardines.

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Sardines smashed with some nice butter, salt and freshly ground pepper spread on a nourishing slice of sourdough bread served with a fresh green salad is one of the most satisfying QUICK lunches you could eat !

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Nice things to add to your Sardines on Toast

  • Espelette pepper or any chili pepper flakes
  • Lovely with flavoured butters
  • Freshly grated lemon zest and a squeeze of juice
  • Finely chopped preserved lemon
  • Fresh parsley
  • Tomatoes and/or avocado
  • Thinly sliced onions or caramelized onions

Be creative and bon appetit !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harissa

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30°C  in the shade. . . mid-November !  Nice, worrying maybe and great for this years chili harvest 🙂

I thought I had come to the end of transforming my gardens Calabrese (below) and Jalapeños with 3 different chili sauces when my friend Carol Reid strikes again by giving me a mountain of chili peppers and “vague” instructions on making HARISSA.  Harissa is a common spicy condiment used in North Africa.

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We had conducted a very intense Harissa tasting at Carol’s house (yellow, red and green versions) and Sylvain (though head about to explode) was convinced that we needed this in our own fridge ….

So armed with wine (naturel si vous plaît) induced discussions around the table, I had enough information to make my own version which turned out fantastic and just beautiful to look at.

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To keeping with the vagueness of Carol’s recipe, I just sort of winged my version as well 😉  Here it is:

Filled up my blender jug about half way with partially seeded Calabrese Chili Peppers.  Added a very good glug of lovely Olive Oil, about 2 teaspoons of sea salt, a rounded teaspoon of both toasted and ground coriander and cumin seeds and a handful of fresh coriander leaves and stems.

Blend away and pour into a clean jar and store in the fridge.  Apparently keeps for months ! (not quite months, see update below)

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We should be able to keep warm through winter now 😉

UPDATE:  Well maybe not through the “entire” winter as this sauce kept for only about a month in my fridge….  So make in small batches and eat it on everything 😉

Bon appetît !

Preserving Chili peppers – 3 ways

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Actually “4 ways” !  One of my favourite things to do with my garden Chili peppers is to make Chili Butter.  My Chili Butter is a sound favourite in this house, especially when spread on toast and topped with a boiled egg for breakfast.

Rural France = no fresh chili peppers for sale !  This has led me to grow them myself and to be creative and find ways to preserve that addictive heat to get me through until the next Chili season . . .   This years harvest includes Jalapeños and Calabrese peppers.

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In chili season I pick a few and finely chop them (followed by thorough washing of my hands) to have them freshly chopped, ready to use in the fridge.  Next step is to preserve the bounty !

ChilisaucesI have added 3 new additions to my “preserved chili pepper” larder this year.  Chili Jam which is sweet with a fairly mild heat, a Caribbean Chili & Herb sauce  which tastes like Jamaica to me and makes me want to make Jerk Chicken with Rice & Beans !  The third sauce, and the fiercest, is a Trinidadian Hot Sauce which is not for the faint hearted !

All three sauces should keep many months in the fridge . . .   My first batch of Chili Jam was made 3 months ago and has not moved a muscle in the direction of going “off”.  It is gorgeous served alongside these “Thai” Green Bean Fritters !

Et voila !  Here are the recipes (in order of FIRE power) :

Chili Jam

Makes approx. 1 jam jar

  • 300g ripe tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 large red chilies (or more if small), seeds in if you want the heat
  • 3 cm chunk of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 150g organic sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Thai fish sauce
  • 5 Tablespoons cider vinegar

Blend half the tomatoes with the garlic, chilies and ginger in a food processor or with a stick blender.  Pour into a heavy based saucepan.  Add the sugar, fish sauce and vinegar, bring to the boil, stirring slowly then reduce to a simmer.

Dice the remaining tomatoes (to leave some texture in the finished sauce) and add them to the pan.  Simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring from time to time.  The mixture with go darker and sticky.

Pour into a hot sterilized jar and seal !  Once cool, store in the fridge and enjoy 🙂

**adapted from Sarah Raven’s Food for friends and family

Caribbean Seasoning Sauce

This is a delicious RAW sauce that oooozes flavours of the Caribbean.  The amount of FRESH herbs here sound pretty immense but that is where the flavour comes from !  Don’t worry about using “exact” amounts.

  • 4 cups basil leaves
  • 1 cup oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup chives
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 large onion
  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 3 Jalapeños (seeds in if you want the heat)
  • 1 celery rib
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon organic sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt

All ingredients in the blender and whizz until smooth.  Pour into clean jars and store in the fridge for at least 3 months.

**adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian Cookbook 

Trinidadian Chili Sauce

This sauce is pretty HOT HOT for my taste so beware 😉

Makes about 250ml

  • 115g fresh hot chilis (with or without seeds to taste)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh coriander (cilantro)
  • 5 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • 1 rounded teaspoon organic sugar (or palm sugar)

Place all ingredients into a blender and whizz until nice and smooth.  Pour into a saucepan and bring to a boil then turn down and simmer very gently, stirring for 3 – 4 minutes.  Take of heat and allow to cool before pouring into clean jars.  Stored in the fridge this sauce should last for months.

**adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian Cookbook

Bon Appetît !

Sun cooked rice

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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 !

Bon appetît !