Cooking with Alcohol

France has changed me. For one thing, it’s brought me around to cheese. There, I’ve said it. I no longer categorically avoid the yellow and smelly stuff, but definitely appreciate a nice brie (particularly if melted over a toasted baguette and drizzled with honey and walnuts: delish!), or even some grated emmental over a chilli (the nearest France gets to cheddar). I’m even partial to some mushrooms when cooked nicely (see below). The most pertinent-to-this-blog change in my eating behaviours, however, is in my new propensity for adding a nice slosh of wine or cider to my dishes, which is something with which I’d never really experimented before. Which is all well and good when you can pop into the nearest Simply market and have your choice of white, red, or rosé for 1€, but I’m not sure how this is going to translate to my student meals repertoire upon my return to Ecosse. Still, it’s surprising how much of a difference in terms of depth of flavour it really does make to a dish, so I think I’ll be tempted to have some classy wine-in-a-box kept aside.

The below 3 recipes are just some ideas I was throwing around, which you  can use as set out or adapt to suite whatever you’ve got around: Tomato Sauce, Mushroom Stroganoff, and Lentil and Apple Stew.

French Tomato Pasta Sauce [Veggie]

It might seem like somewhat of a contradiction in terms to name a vegetarian sauce French, particularly after having been informed of French nutritional guidelines: according to them, you should have at least 3-4 portions of calcium a day; not more than 1 egg a week; at least 500g of carbohydrates per day; and your diet must include something from the category “meat and fish” – different from the likes of lentils, which here are classed as just another carb rather than the protein they actually are. But anyway, this sauce is thusly named because of the wine involved. So there you have it.

Add in whatever veg you want; I went for some fresh tomatoes, carrots, and a red pepper. You could also add some meat if you must… or some beans.

(serves 4-5)

800g / 2 tins of chopped or plum tomatoes

4 tbsp tomatoe purée

1 tsp dried parsley, or 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp dried garlic, or 1 minced clove fresh garlic

1 tsp salt

Pinch pepper

6 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped


1/2 cup white wine

  1. You have the option either of using one pot or two: if two, then blend the first 6 ingredients together with a stick mixer, and separately fry the onions lightly in the oil for 2 minutes before stirring the sauce in along with the wine and vegetables. If one, then fry the onions, add the other ingredients apart from the vegetables, and blend together, before adding in the vegetables.
  2. Simmer for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Serve with pasta and some yummy French bread.  You can finish up the wine while you’re at it… though not if it was 1€, I’d really not recommend that for actual drinking!

Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff -y Thing [Veggie]

For those times when you just crave mushrooms even though you’ve hated them all your life…

(serves 2)

2 medium onions

250g basic white mushrooms

1 heaped tsp pepper

1 minced clove garlic / 1 scant tsp dried garlic

1 scant tsp herbes de provence

150ml double cream (maybe using single would be less calorfic… meh)

50ml milk

75ml rosé wine (white would also work)

Rice or tagliatelle or crusty bread to accompany

  1. Chop the onions and soften them in a little oil and salt in a large frying pan over a medium heat for 5 minutes
  2. Add the garlic, herbs and pepper and fry for a further 3-5 minutes
  3. Meanwhile, you should have been chopping the mushrooms. Put them into the pan and stir them around for a few minutes so they’re evenly heated.
  4. Add in the liquids and stir.
  5. Leave for 5-10 minutes so it reduces a bit, then serve.

Apple Cider and Lentil Stew [Veggie]

This is an adaptation of another recipe, hence the use of relatively dry cider, but it was actually a bit dry for me, so using apple juice instead might well be a nicer and cheaper, if sweeter.

(serves 4-5)

2 onions, chopped

2 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1 tsp herbes de provence

1 tsp paprika

1 cup green lentils

2 cups cider / apple juice

200ml vegetable stock

2 potatoes, peeled and chopped

  1. Sauté the onions in a little oil for a few minutes until softened
  2. Add the carrots, herbs and spices and fry for a further few minutes
  3. Stir in everything else. Bring to a boil then simmer for 40 minutes – 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If the liquid’s disappearing too quickly, then put a lid on the pot.

3 thoughts on “Cooking with Alcohol

  1. Oo that mushroom stroganoff looks good. Normally I make my beef stroganoff with cream cheese which I haven’t found here so I’ll have to try cream instead! Funny you should say about the wine – I’ve got my 1euro carton in the cupboard and am about to make myself French onion soup, feeling sorry for myself with a sore throat 😦

    Also I used it last week to make chicken in a white wine sauce!

    Haven’t quite accepted the existence of cheese in the world myself – I was running away from a giant parmesan shop the other day as Graeme was dreuling in the window at their 1 year old matured stuff. I couldn’t believe the smell!

    You should watch Cherry Healey’s show that was on BBC last night at 8pm UK time all about Britain’s favourite supermarket foods. She says how good tea, tinned tomatoes, baked beans etc are for you! And goes on an egg diet where she her cholesterol doesn’t change at all after 4 eggs a day for 2 weeks – you could compare this to the French’s nutritional diet.

    1. Ah, I do like a bit of Cherry! I did find their egg recommendation extremely bizarre, possibly explains why they can be so against vegetarianism if they pretty much take out that source of protein from their diets. That onion soup does look good actually, shall try it when I’ve got an oven again!

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