pea and courgette fritters

Normally I’m a bit dubious about courgettes but these were delicious (if I say so myself). Really quick and easy, would be a great starter for up to 4 or take these as a guideline for the ingredients per person if you fancy it as a main meal.

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120g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
Sprinkle of salt
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
Handful frozen peas, defrosted (pour boiling water over them and let stand a few minutes)
1 courgette, grated (or other veg, e.g. I also did these with a grated carrot and diced onion)
80-100ml water
6 tbsp vegetable oil

  1. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and mixed herbs, then stir in the peas and courgette until coated well.
  2. Add the water and mix until it forms a paste.
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and, once hot, drop in blobs of the mixture. Fry on one side for a few minutes until golden then turn. Once cooked, drain on a kitchen towel while you put the next batch on.

serve with…

Cheat’s tomato chutney-sauce: cut 3 ripe tomatoes into 8, then heat with 1/2 tsp harissa / chilli paste and a few drops of worcestershire sauce. Nom!

Or – any chutney, and/or mint mixed with some yoghurt.

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bricks

Though these are stodgy, they’re not quite actual bricks, but rather deep-fried pastry parcels with whatever you want inside. The Madagascar-an grandmother of the boys for whom I au-paired made particularly excellent tuna and egg ones and I’m annoyed I didn’t get her exact recipe, but in its place here are a few options. In France I think you use feuilles de brick pastry, which places like Waitrose might have over here, but I searched online and apparently sheets of filo (phyllo) are an acceptable alternative, either singly or with melted butter smeared between two layers.

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(served with salad and a squeeze of lemon juice for a semblance of health…)

tuna, potato, and egg (serves 4)

feuilles de brick, or 4 or 8 sheets of filo
1 tin tuna, drained
4 potatoes, boiled and mashed
A sprigs of parsley
4 eggs
Oil for frying (e.g. vegetable)

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan
  2. Stir together the tuna, mashed potato, and parsley. Season.
  3. Roll out one of the sheets of pastry and place 1/4 of mix in middle. Press to make a slight hollow, then break the egg in the middle. Fold into a triangle as if you were making a samosa.
  4. Cook for 2 minutes on either side until golden then place on kitchen towel to drain while you cook the rest.

goat’s cheese, honey, and rosemary

Same principle as above, but here use 1/4 of a roll of goats cheese and 2 tbsp honey then a sprinkling of rosemary for each brick.

nutella and banana (maybe don’t serve this one with salad)

Same principle as above but add banana rings fried briefly in a little butter beforehand and then a spoon of nutella on top.

From looking online, it appears these can be baked for 10 minutes at 170oC if you’d rather avoid all that oil, but depends on oven availability I guess.

cheat’s nectarine and bramble crumble

You probably wouldn’t serve this up at a dinner party, but when it’s past the best nectarine season, you have some nectarines that are about to go off, and you don’t want to make peach pasta, then I feel this was a very acceptable quick dessert.

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(serves 1)

for a jar of compote

5 peaches/nectarines, peeled (dip in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes then they’ll peel off very easily) and chopped
Handful brambles (aka blackberries)
2 tbsp brown sugar

  1. Simmer with the lid on for 5-10 minutes then mash well.

for the crumble

2 tbsp oats
1 tsp butter
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup

  1. Place in a bowl and microwave, or a pan and heat, then stir together.
  2. Place some of the compote in a bowl then put the crumble mix on top.

avocado salads

As the trainees have gathered in the kitchen to snatch lunch over the past few weeks, there have been some very interesting varieties of salad on display… the following have been two of my showings, based on avocados being cheap (not sure if this means they’re in season or not).

southwestern pasta salad with creamy avocado dressing

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(serves 4)

pasta

300g pasta
400g can black-eyed or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Handful cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 diced red bell pepper
1 diced yellow / orange bell pepper
1 small red onion, diced
1 large avocado, peeled, seeded, and diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Handful chopped parsley or cilantro

dressing

1 ripe avocado, peeled and mashed
3 tbsp plain (Greek) yoghurt
125ml buttermilk (or use 1tsp lemon juice then fill to the 125ml measure with milk)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chopped salad onion
1 small jalapeno pepper, chopped and seeds removed
2-3 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp ground cumin
(Optional: goats cheese)

  1. Cook the pasta until al dente in salted water, then rinse with cold water to stop it cooking further and becoming a soggy mess.
  2. Make the dressing by combining all of the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and blending until smooth.
  3. Combine the pasta ingredients in a large bowl then pour over the dressing and stir until the salad is well-coated.

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kale and avocado salad with parmesan dressing

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(serves 4)

Pack of cut curly kale
4 avocados
65ml fresh lemon juice
1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup very finely grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra virgin oil

  1. Note on avocados: if you’re not going to be eating the salad immediately, keep the avocados intact and just bring in an avocado along with your salad then chop at lunchtime, otherwise they go brown.
  2. Combine the lemon juice, shallot, and salt in a small bowl, then whisk in the parmesan and the mustard. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the dressing becomes really thick.
  3. Pour half of the dressing over the kale, and massage into kale leaves with your hands (yes this is what the original recipe told me I had to do. The benefit of kale is that it doesn’t get soggy an hour after you put dressing on it.) Add more dressing to taste.
  4. Right before serving, gently toss the avocado into the kale.

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sables

Right, so life has been too busy to blog and nearly too busy to cook recently, but quickly here is something I made in June-time and never got round to sending live:

While normally French for ‘sand’, here meaning ‘jammie dodgers’. (Pro-tip: actually describes the texture of rubbing butter into flour which we know as “breadcrumbs”.) The impetus for this recipe came from giving Cyriaque, the youngest of my erstwhile charges, such a store-bought biscuit for his goûter (snack… French people do actually have them, it seems!), to have him respond by saying “Can we make these?” Challenge accepted…

(Jammie-dodger-disclaimer: I am not at liberty to advise on whether for tax purposes these are technically biscuits or cakes.)

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250g plain flour
200g butter
100g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
jam to taste

  1. Place the flour, butter, icing sugar and salt into a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the ingredients together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the egg yolks and mix until a dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out to a thickness of about 0.5cm/¼in. Cut out shapes using a 4cm/1½in cutter.
  3. Divide the sables in half. Using a 2cm/1in fluted cutter, make a hole in the middle of half of the sable biscuits and discard the dough. Place all the sables on a baking tray.
  4. Bake the sables for 10-12 minutes at 170oC, or until light golden-brown and crisp. Remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  5. Using a teaspoon, place a small dollop of raspberry jam on a whole sable. Place a sable (with a hole) over the whole sable biscuit and squish to spread out.

(recipe via BBC Good Food)

life update and grilled pink grapefruit

Unfashionable as true pour-your-heart-out all-the-feels blogs are these days, as I’m coming to the end of my séjour here (can’t believe I have only one week left, and 2 weeks before starting work!), I thought I’d nonetheless take a chance to reflect for posterity on the latest excerpt in my life.

It’s been a funny old blip from ‘real life’ spending the time since the Diploma finished out in a village near-ish Marseille, looking after three young boys through school and summer holidays, and improving my tan and spoken French along the way (and getting much lazier with grammar, but hey). It’s been fun exploring another region of a wonderful, different country.

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Overwhelmingly, I’ve been so thankful for how God has provided these months. Contrary to the beliefs of some, I am not always as gungho about leaving as keen-ness for Erasmus and aupairing might imply – there’s always the fear that old friends will forget you and new friends will not be forthcoming. Or that everyone will think I’m stupid if I ask them to repeat things several times. Especially worrying this time round was the thought of “What if it all goes terribly wrong and the family are horrible?”. And “What if there’s nobody to make friends with and I’m alone all summer?”.
Very thankfully, these fears were unfounded – though looking after three small boys is about as much of a handful as you’d expect (/more), the family has been absolutely lovely, and I’ve very much enjoyed nights in on the sofa with the ravishingly young and beautiful* Joëlle watching (the admittedly sometimes melodramatic) Nashville, as well as weekend meals and spending time together with the extended family.
And while I’ve had plenty of time to relax and to justify my purchase of a Kindle, I’ve also been blessed to have made some friends – and even if it sounds self-evident, having someone to hang out with and chat to at the beach and to go and explore the region with makes everything so much better.

totally natural...
And the cherry on the top – though Marseille was just a little bit far away to frequent often mid-week, I found myself most Sundays in the lovely and welcoming église 1o2 (which I may have picked, after checking mission statements and beliefs, over another likely looking candidate merely on the basis of it having a better website, but that did seem to work out :P ), where I had the joy of meeting with brothers and sisters in Christ and worshipping with them.

(*she didn’t like it when I called her ‘au-pair mother’ a couple of posts back… ;) )

Things I’ve learned?

  • Driving on the right in a left-hand-drive isn’t actually that complicated.
  • Childcare is an incredibly time-consuming endeavour if you actually care about the children.
  • Straw hats bought for 1€ at market are apt to tear easily.
  • Re-use Arial clothes-washing-tablets tubs as re-sealable sick boxes for car journeys.
  • Cuddles while reading a bed-time story are the best.
  • Out-right bribery, while evil in principle, is also sometimes highly necessary…
  • Micro-scootering works for getting from A to Z but might get you some strange looks.
  • While Dairy Milk (along with trains unlikely to strike at the drop of a hat, comparative lack of queues in supermarkets, and Scottish accents) is lacking here, Cote D’Or milk chocolate with caramelised almonds and sea salt is just about the best chocolate on the planet.
  • Blonde beer is surprisingly quite alright tasting.

Well, congrats to anyone who got this far! Normal recipes will resume imminently, unless interrupted by the next chapter of starting ‘proper’ work (though surely a legal traineeship can’t be as tiring as full time childcare? Right???).
In the meantime, here’s a recipe that I’ve had in draft form for over a year but never posted for some reason… I have eaten a fair few pink grapefruits recently and can attest that the messiness unfortunately does hold true.

I have a history of being a bit of a messy eater [future Sarah: I think at this stage I was thinking of a particular picture of me decorating my face with chocolate cake for the first time. But that picture is not to hand, and given the fact that it has not been forthcoming for the past year I'm just going to go ahead and post this without it]. Messy eating as an adult, however, may have hit a new high last Saturday with this, the grilled pink grapefruit. Not gonna lie, the juice was everywhere. Still, this simple recipe was pretty tasty. Maybe eating with a proper grapefruit spoon rather than a semi-blunt grapefruit knife would have helped; on the other hand, I kinda doubt it. Wear an apron, tie hair back if applicable, and have copious amounts of kitchen roll to hand and you’ll be fine. Probably.

1 grapefruit, washed and halved
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp ground ginger / 1cm root ginger, peeled then grated with a zester

  1. Place halves, skin down, onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.
  2. Sprinkle over the ginger and drizzle over the honey.
  3. Place in a pre-heated grill, about 3-4 inches away from the heat source, and grill for 5-10 minutes until thoroughly grilled but not burnt.

Pissaladière

A speciality from Nice that I tried when visiting a couple of months ago [insert disbelief about time passing] and wanted to emulate. Tastes good. Onions do take a while to chop as you might expect. Use any pizza dough you want – I had some that I’d made up in the freezer so just took it out and used it up.

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(makes 1 x 30cm tarte)

5 tbsp olive oil
1kg onions, very thinly sliced
Scattering (think 1 tbsp) herbes de Provence
1 tsp sugar
Handful black olives
A few anchovies
400g pizza dough

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan over a low heat. Add the onions and cook very gently for 30-40 minutes, adding the herbs and sugar halfway through (think caramelising – you don’t want them to be crispy).
  2. Roll out the dough onto a greased or silicone tarte tin. Spread the onions on top then garnish with anchovies and olives.
  3. Bake  at 220*C for 20-25 minutes; eat hot or cold.

 

sole meunière

My aupair-mother was nice enough to give me free reign of the fishmonger’s for lunch last week, and so I decided to divert from my go-to salmon and branch out to other fish. Lemon sole sounded like a good bet, and this simple recipe from BBC GoodFood was tasty tasty tasty, particularly with some delicious French bread and a baby-spinach salad.

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(serves 4)

4 fillets sole (or apparently you can also use plaice), skin-on
6 tbsp plain flour
3 tbsp light olive or sunflower oil
85g unsalted butter
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp small capers

  1. Pull out any fishbones with tweezers.
    In a large shallow bowl, season the flour with a little salt and black pepper. Toss the fish in the flour to coat well.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Cook fish skin-side down for 2 minutes, then turn and cook the other side for 1-2 minutes until golden.
  3. Remove the fish to a warmed plate, then season.
  4. Return the pan to the heat, add butter until melted and beginning to turn a light brown, then mix in the lemon juice and capers. Swirl in the pan for a few seconds then return the fish to the pan to coat. Serve immediately.

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fennel and avocado salad

One of the things I like best about summer is getting to enjoy different fruits in turn as they come into season. Never mind chat about air-miles and consideration of environmental impact, nothing beats a first peach in May… except maybe strawberries in June… or cherries in June… or raspberries in July… Of course, the other thing I like best about summer is ice-cream, so things balance out.

For this salad, I’ve heard that fennel is a winter vegetable, but our local greengrocer’s has it marked as coming from the region, so I’m guessing either I thought wrong or things are different in Provence. And podded peas, if you can find them, are definitely a summer thing (though at any other point in the year, just pop some frozen peas in [à la this salad] – honestly, it won’t kill you and does taste good!). Anyway, this is simple and fresh for a sunny summer’s day :) Makes about as much as you’d expect would be made from one fennel bulb so you can decide if you want a small side salad for a family or larger portions for lunch. I can’t remember ever having had fennel before, but the lemon and onion in this salad stop the slight aniseed-flavour of the vegetable from being overpowering, and the avocado mixes slightly to make a creamy dressing. (The picture is half of what it made as I’d eaten before deciding the recipe was worth keeping.)

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1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1/2 (red) onion, sliced finely
(handful freshly podded peas)
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and sliced finely
(bunch of torn mint leaves)

  1. Mix the oil, juice, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  2. Toss the avocado in the dressing.
  3. Stir in the onion, fennel, and peas if using.
  4. Add pepper to taste.

rocket, goat’s cheese, and caramelised onion quiche

Who knew salad could be heated up and cooked with? Not me before I made this, but rocket (aka arugula) certainly can. I preferred the leftover quiche eaten cold the next day to it just after it had finished cooking, but à chacun ses goùts (each to his own). Also going to go ahead and claim that the use of yoghurt rather than cream in this quiche makes it wonderfully healthy (even though I fear this may be akin to my argument that banana bread and apple crumble each count as one of your 7-a-day).

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(for a 30cm ish quiche)

Pie-crust (either make your own shortcrust and bake blind or roll out a pre-made pâte feuilleté)
Handful cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium red onion, sliced
4 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp plain yoghurt, greek if you’ve got it
salt and pepper
60g goats cheese, diced into chunks
Handful of rocket leaves, torn by hand into smaller pieces

  1. While blind-baking the pie crust, on another shelf of the oven toss the tomatoes in a little oil and cook (should be for about the same time as the blind-baking – 8-10 minutes).
  2. Meanwhile in a pan, sauté the thinly sliced onion over a low heat in a little oil until caramelised (add a tad of balsamic vinegar right at the end if you’d like, as in this recipe). Spread over the pie base.
  3. In a jug, beat the eggs, yoghurt, pepper, and salt until the ingredients are well-combined.
  4. When the pie crust is cooled a little, layer the filling with rocket, goats cheese, and tomatoes. Pour the egg mixture over the filling and bake in the oven at 180oC for 30-40 minutes until golden-brown, with the filling just-set.

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