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This is restaurant-style risotto which is packed full of lobster flavour. The shells are used to flavour the stock and it’s finished with a delicious reduction, the kitchen smells amazing! We associate risottos with Italy but this is proper French food, full of butter and brandy. Recipe from Rick Stein’s Secret France.

Wine Suggestion: This is a rich dish that needs a wine that is fresh and flavoursome as opposed to something equally rich. Our go to wine would be an oaked Chardonnay in this case, but it doesn’t work as well as you’d think. A toasty Champagne or good bottle fermented sparkling with good age on lees is a fine choice though, and tonight we had treat of the Champagne Valentin Leflaive cuvée CA/15/40. A new project by Olivier Leflaive from Burgundy made with 100% Chardonnay from Cramant and Avize, 45 months on lees and only 4g dosage. An exciting debut and a good match to boot.

Poached Lobster Risotto – serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter

  • 1 cooked lobster
  • 30ml olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 200g risotto rice
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • fresh tarragon sprigs, to serve

FOR THE LOBSTER STOCK AND REDUCTION

  • lobster shell, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (no need to peel)
  • 50g butter
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 500g tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • a small handful of tarragon, roughtly chopped
  • 1.5 litres fish stock
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp Cognac
  • a squeeze of lemon juice

Remove the meat from the lobster and keep the shell for the stock. Slice the body into chunky slices and keep the meat from the claws as chunky as possible. 

For the stock, put the lobster shell in a large pot with the onion, garlic and 20g of the butter. Cook for about 5 minutes over a medium heat, then add the wine, tomatoes, tarragon and stock and bring to the boil. Add salt and simmer for 40 minutes. Pass the stock through a fine sieve over another pot and throw away the solid ingredients. Put 200ml of the stock aside for the reduction and keep the rest warm over a low heat. 

Heat the oil in a pan, add the shallot and garlic and cook until soft. Add the rice and stir until glistening with the shallots and oil, then add the wine and let it bubble until absorbed. Add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring until absorbed before adding another. Keep going like this until the rice is al dente, then season. 

Meanwhile, put the reserved 200ml of stock into a saucepan with the Cognac and bring to the boil. Cook until reduced by three-quarters, then whisk in the rest of the butter (30g) to make a sauce that coats the back of a spoon. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. 

Heat a tbsp of butter in a frying pan. When it’s foaming, add the lobster meat and warm it through. Serve the risotto topped with lobster and spoon the reduction around it. Finish with some tarragon sprigs. 

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Secret France, BBC Books, 2019.)

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Chicken Fricassée with Morels

It’s bean a while since we’ve been in France, but when we were there we stocked up on dried morels (and ceps) at the Saint-Cyprien market, and bought as much wine as they would let us have at Domaine Labet in the Jura. Creamy mushroom sauce and chardonnay from the Jura is a magic combination! We served this with roast potatoes made with a variety called carolus from McNally Family Farm – they make amazing roasties!

Wine Suggestion: We were fortunate to find a couple of different vintages of Labet’s En Chalasse Chardonnay which comes from very old vineyard plots. Tonight we opened the 2015 which showed the effect of a warm vintage with a broad and lifted ripe apple character and hints of nuts and spices. More gentle acidity than usual but well in balance with hints of skin contact and phenolic textures on the palate.

Chicken fricassée with morels – serves 4

  • 20g dried morels
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts with the skin on
  • 1 banana shallot, finely chopped
  • 90g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
  • 100ml Noilly Prat or dry sherry
  • 130ml chicken stock
  • 300g full-fat crème fraîche

Soak the morels in 200ml of tepid water for about 15 minutes, then drain through a sieve over a bowl to catch the liquid.  Strain the liquid and keep 75ml for the sauce. Rinse the morels under cold water to remove any grit, then dry with kitchen paper and cut in half lengthways.

Melt half the butter in a large sauté pan and fry the chicken, skin-side down, for about 3 minutes or until nicely browned. Turn the chicken pieces over and continue to brown for a few minutes on the other side. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

Add the rest of the butter to the pan, then fry the shallot until softened. Add the morels and chestnut mushrooms and fry for a few minutes. Add the Noilly Prat or sherry, the reserved soaking liquid and the stock, then bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for a few minutes.

Add the crème fraîche and stir until melted into the sauce, then put the chicken back in, along with any juices on the plate. Cover the pan with a lid and cook over a medium heat for about 8 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Season with salt and lots of black pepper.

(Original recipe from Secret France by Rick Stein, BBC Books, 2019)

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Aioli

Otherwise known as garlic mayonnaise and a super handy condiment to have up your sleeve and infinitely better than most supermarket versions.

Aioli – serves 4 to 6

  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 250ml mild olive oil or sunflower oil
  • a squeeze of lemon juice

Put the garlic in a food processor with the egg yolks and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper (we prefer freshly ground white pepper).

Turn the food processor on and start drizzling in the oil, just a few drops at a time. When it starts to emulsify, you can start adding the oil in a slow, steady stream until you have added it all and you have a mayonnaise. Check the seasoning and add a squeeze of lemon to taste.

(Recipe from The Hairy Bikers’ Mediterranean Adventure by Si King & Dave Myers, Seven Dials, 2017)

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Croque Madame

This is a cheat’s version of the French classic and makes a great brunch/lunch.

Croque Madame – serves 2

  • 4 large slices of sourdough
  • Dijon mustard
  • 100g grated gruyère
  • 4 slices thick-cut ham
  • butter
  • 4 tbsp crème fraîche
  • 2 eggs

Spread the sourdough with a thin layer of mustard on one side, then fill the sandwiches with half the gruyère and the ham. Spread the outside of the sandwiches with butter.

Heat a non-stick frying pan and fry the sandwiches on both sides until golden.

Mix the crème fraîche with the rest of the gruyère and spread over the top of the sandwiches. Put under a hot grill until the cheese bubbles and starts to brown.

Serve with a fried or poached egg on the top.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, May 2015)

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Roast chicken with a Breton sauce

We made this on the first weekend of social distancing as our dinner date was cancelled. We were all in a bit of shock but reassured ourselves by planning all of the things that we could cook while spending time at home. We loved this recipe by Diana Henry and the sauce is absolutely delicious. We served with some purple sprouting broccoli and roast potatoes. Diana suggests green beans or Savoy cabbage and waxy potatoes.

Wine suggestion: Our inspiration tonight was the Loire, being the closest wine region to Brittany, which specialises in apples (cider & Calvados). We chose a bottle of Chateau du Hureau’s Foudre, a Chenin Blanc that is fermented and aged in large oak barrels; full of appley flavours alongside a refined texture and enough body and a freshness to match the rich, creamy dish.

Roast chicken with a Breton onion sauce – serves 6

  • 1.8kg chicken
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 4 thyme sprigs, leaves stripped

FOR THE ONIONS:

  • 30g unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 450g onions, finely chopped

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • 300ml full cream milk
  • a slice of onion
  • a few parsley stalks
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • a bay leaf
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 30g plain flour
  • nutmeg, for grating
  • 3 tbsp crème fraîche
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp Calvados

Preheat your oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.

Prep the chicken first by mashing the butter and thyme leaves together with some salt and pepper. Loosen the skin over the breast of the chicken with your hands. This is easy to do but be gentle so you don’t tear the skin. Spread half of the butter under the skin with your hands, then spread the rest over the outside. Season all over with salt and pepper and put into a roasting tin. Cook for 20 minutes per 500g plus an extra 10 minutes.

Melt the butter for the onions in a heavy-based pan, then add the onions. Stir to coat them in the butter, add 2 tbsp of water, then cover and cook over a very low heat until completely soft. Check them now and then and add a bit more water if needed. Set aside until needed.

Remove the chicken from the oven, cover loosely with foil and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

To make the sauce put the milk, onion, parsley and peppercorns and bay leaf in a saucepan and slowly bring to just under the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes, then strain into a jug.

Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan, add the flour and stir over a medium-low heat for a minute. Remove the pan from the heat, then start adding the strained milk, a little at a time, stirring until smooth. Season and add a little grated nutmeg. Return the pan to the heat and stir until boiling. Turn the heat down and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the onions and their juices, the crème fraîche, mustard and Calvados and taste for seasoning. Serve the chicken with the sauce and veg on the side.

(Original recipe from A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 2015.)

 

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Hanger Steak with Shallots

We adore this cut of beef but it’s not always easy to get in Irish butchers. Talk to your butcher in advance and tell them you want a piece of onglet or hanger steak – they should be able to order it for you, and it’s much cheaper than some other cuts.

We cut this across the grain and it’s meltingly tender so you can be brave and serve “blue” like we did here, but it also works well at your choice of doneness if you prefer.

Wine Suggestion: we think this combination of meltingly tender beef and the buttery shallots in red wine goes with Rhône reds – Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre et al; either as a blend or Syrah alone. Tonight we had one of those insider wines, a Côtes du Rhône labelled under Jean-Paul Daumen’s name. He’s the owner-winemaker at Domaine de la Vieille Julienne, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a superb domaine with an enviable reputation. The wines under his name are from a mix of vineyards from the estate and friends, all farmed organically and biodynamically by Jean-Paul and made with just as much care as his own domaine. The result … great value and a delicious pairing.

Hanger Steak with Shallots – L’onglet à l’échalote – serves 4

  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 800g onglet/hanger steak (you will probably get 2 long pieces)
  • 250g shallot, finely sliced
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 125ml red wine
  • 100ml beef stock
  • watercress, to garnish

As soon as you get home from the butchers put your steak into a dish and sprinkle generously with salt. Then put in the fridge until you need it but take it out of the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it.

Heat a large frying pan over a high heat. Add a knob of the butter and when it starts to melt add your steak. You might have to cook it in batches depending on the size of your pan. A rough guide is to cook for about 2 minutes on each side for very rare steak or longer if you prefer it more well done. This is dependent on the size of the steak, so you should do the finger test on the meat and go with gut feel. Put the steak onto a warm plate, cover with foil and keep warm while it rests.

Melt half of the remaining butter in the same frying pan and add the shallots, thyme and bay leaf. Cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes or until softened. Add the red wine and the stock, turn the heat up to high and cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Season with salt and lots of black pepper, throw away the herbs. Pour the meat juices from the resting plate into the sauce and whisk in the remaining butter to make a thick, glossy sauce.

Slice the steak across the grain into thick slices and serve on top of the shallots with some watercress on the side.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Secret France, BBC Books, 2019.)

To do the finger test for steak you compare the resistance of the cooking meat to pressing the ball of your palm with a finger from the other hand

  • Blue: an open palm, relaxed
  • Rare: thumb and your first, index finger touching
  • Medium Rare: thumb and second finger
  • Medium: thumb and third, ring finger
  • Well Done: thumb and fourth, little finger

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Well hello there, we have been very quiet for the last few months while our new kitchen and other house renovations are happening. We had really hoped to be back to normal by now but we’re still kitchen hopping amongst our very generous (and patient) family & friends. So normal service will hopefully resume very soon and in the meantime here’s a fab recipe for a super rich ratatouille by Barney Desmazery for BBC Good Food. We served with some steak off the barbecue but it is also great on it’s own with some toasted bread.

Wine Suggestion: we love choosing southern French reds when eating this dish and find that Syrah, Grenache, Mourvédre and Carignan (either on their own or as a blend) just work. Tonight it was the superb Faugères “les Bancels” from Domaine Cébène which is elegant, effortless and wonderfully long on the finish.

Ratatouille – serves 6

  • 3 red peppers, quartered and seeds removed
  • a handful of basil, separate the leaves and stalks (you will need both)
  • a large sprig of thyme
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil, plus extra for frying
  • 2 courgettes (any colour or a mix), roughly chopped
  • 1 aubergine, chopped into large chunks
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 x 400g tins cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • grilled sourdough, to serve

Put the pieces of pepper onto a baking tray and place under a hot grill until blackened. Tip them into a bowl, cover and leave to cool. Peel the skin off the peppers, then cut into strips and toss back into the juices in the bowl.

Tie the basil stalks and thyme together with kitchen string.

Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 4.

Heat the olive oil in a large flameproof casserole dish and fry the courgettes and aubergine for 15 minutes or until browned. It is easiest to do this in batches, adding a little of the oil each time.

Remove the courgette and aubergine from the pan and set aside. Add a drizzle more oil, then add the onion and cook for 15 minutes or until softened and starting to brown. Add the garlic and sizzle for a minute. Scatter with sugar, then leave for a minute to caramelise before adding the vinegar. Stir in the cooked veg and pepper juice, season well, then pour over the cans of tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Add the tied herbs to the dish, cover, and cook in the oven for an hour. Remove the lid and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes or until reduced and jammy. Leave to cool until just warm, then stir through most of the basil leaves and the extra virgin olive oil. Scatter the rest of the basil over the top and serve with the toasted sourdough.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Friday Night Tartiflette

Reblochon season begins in May so it’s time to indulge in a Tartiflette. If you want to try a sophisticated version then we recommend the Chicken Tartiflette we posted this time last year but it does take a bit of time and effort. This one is much quicker and almost as tasty.

Wine Suggestion: We’d suggest an oaked Chardonnay that has a good balance between fruit and texture, but not too tropical or oily. We quite often go for the Rustenberg from Stellenbosch, or one of the Javillier Bourgogne Blancs as we have good access to these and they over-deliver in quality, but there are many other options you could choose.

Tartiflette – serves 4

  • 500g new potatoes, sliced into 1cm thick slices
  • 200g rindless streaky bacon, cut into 2 cm cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 100g cheddar or gruyere, grated
  • a couple of sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped
  • 200ml cream
  • 200g Reblochon cheese, sliced into thin wedges

Preheat the oven to 220C.

Cook the potato slices in boiling salted water until tender – start checking after 10 minutes, then drain.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon bits until light brown and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Cook the onion in the bacon fat for a few minutes until softened then add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Spread the cooked potatoes over the bottom of a baking dish. Scatter over the onion and garlic, then the cheddar cheese, thyme and bacon. Pour over the cream, season, and top with the slices of Reblochon.

Bake in the hot oven for 15-20 minute or until browned and bubbling.

Serve with a green salad.

 

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Coq au Vin

Coq au Vin

Coq au vin was on every restaurant menu when we were kids. Not so much now, but still a much-loved French classic.  You can also still find it on many set menus in France – La Formule – and rightly so.

Wine Suggestion: As this is a classic French dish we would suggest going French with the wine too. For something decadent, a good red Burgundy, our choice would be Gevrey-Chambertin; for the thoughtful choice a really good Beaujolais, like Domaine Rochette’s Morgon Côte du Py; or something a little rustic and country: Côtes du Rhône. This last was our choice tonight with the excellent Coste-Chaude Madrigal CdR Villages Visan.

Coq au Vin – serves 4

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g pancetta cubes
  • 150g small button mushrooms
  • 12 small pickling onions or small shallots
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • 8 chicken pieces (a mixture of thighs & drumsticks), bone-in but skin removed
  • 4 tbsp brandy
  • 300ml red wine
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly
  • 1 bouquet garni

Heat 2 tbsp of the oil over a medium heat in a large, deep, frying pan. Fry the pancetta, mushrooms and onions for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the pan.

Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of oil in the same pan. Season 1 tbsp of the flour and put onto a plate. Dust the chicken pieces with the flour and shake of any excess. Fry the chicken for 3-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Do this in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan. Add the brandy, take off the heat, and light with a match to cook off the alcohol.

Remove the chicken from the pan and add to the vegetables and pancetta. Add the remaining 3tbsp of flour to the pan and stir for 1 minute. Add the wine, stock, redcurrant jelly and bouquet garni. If it seems too thick you can add a little more water.

Return the chicken, pancetta and veg to the pan, and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, then cover and cook for 40-45 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve with potatoes and seasonal veg.

(Original recipe from Family Kitchen Cookbook by Caroline Bretherton, DK, 2013.)

 

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Bouef Bourgignon

A classic dish for good reason. We’ve tried many versions over the years but always come back this simple recipe. Serve with mash and greens.

Despite the name, we prefer juicier reds for this dish and often veer toward the Rhone or similar. This time it was a Merlot from Chile and as long as the wine is decent you won’t spoil the dish; don’t throw in bad wine as you will notice this.

Wine Suggestion: A Northern Rhone Syrah by Jean-Michel Gerin brought by our guests was a very good match. This was followed by a Grapillon d’Or Gigondas, an equally good match.

Beef Bourguignon – serves 6

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 750g cubed braising or stewing steak
  • 3 tbsp seasoned flour
  • 9 shallots, peeled and halved
  • 3 garlic cloves, halved
  • 125g lardons/cubed pancetta
  • 75cl bottle red wine
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 250g button mushrooms

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/Fan 160C.

Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole with a lid. Toss the meat in the flour then cook in batches until well browned. Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add shallots, garlic and lardons/pancetta and cook for 5 minutes until golden brown. Return all the meat to the pot, pour in the wine and bring to the boil. Stir in the thyme, tomato purée and some seasoning.

Cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 1 hour. Add the mushrooms, cover, and return to the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the meat is tender.

(Original recipe by Ainsley Harriott in BBC Good Food Magazine, November 2001.)

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Mouclade

We mainly eat mussels in the colder months – something to do with months with an r in the them, but also they just seem like cold weather food to us. They’re so cheap and yet such a treat. This is typical Friday night food in our house, served with crusty bread or fries. La Mouclade is a French recipe from Rick Stein’s French Odyssey and includes a creamy curry sauce – delicious!

Wine Suggestion: As this dish comes from the Charentes region of France, we sipped some chilled Pineau des Charentes as an aperitif and then a glass of Bordeaux Blanc. While we would have loved to have found some Right Bank Bordeaux Ch Monbousquet or Valandraud Blanc we had some Chateau Bouscaut Blanc from the Graves instead. A Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon blend with some barrel aging after fermentation in stainless steel. Great with seafood and able to stand up to the curry and saffron.

La Mouclade – serves 4

  • a good pinch of saffron threads
  • 1.75 kg mussels, cleaned
  • 120ml dry white wine
  • 25g butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp good-quality medium curry powder
  • 2 tbsp cognac
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 200ml crème fraîche
  • 3 tbsp chopped parsley

Put the saffron into a small bowl with a tablespoon of warm water.

Put the mussels and wine into a large saucepan, cover and cook over a hight heat for 3-4 minutes, shaking occasionally, until the mussels have opened. Tip them into a colander over a bowl to catch the liquid. Transfer the mussels to a large serving bowl and keep warm.

Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the onion, garlic and curry powder and cook gently for a few minutes. Add the cognac and cook until almost evaporated, then stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Gradually stir in the saffron liquid and the mussel liquid (leave the very last gritty bit behind). Bring to a simmer and cook for a few minutes. Add the crème fraîche and simmer for another few minutes, until slightly reduced. Season to taste, stir in the parsley and pour the sauce over the mussels .

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s French Odyssey, BBC Books, 2005.)

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Smoked ham salad, with shaved Gruyere, Escarole & Walnuts

You know those fab salads that they serve in French bistros? Well this is one of those and it’s from Rick Stein’s French Odyssey – a book we never travel to France without.

Wine Suggestion: this wine reminded us of holidays in the Dordogne in France so we chose a white Bergerac from Chateau le Tap, a nearly even blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with a touch of Muscadelle thrown in.

Smoked ham salad with shaved Gruyère, escarole and walnuts – serves 4

  • 1 escarole lettuce or 2 English curly lettuces
  • 100g piece of Gruyère cheese
  • 400g of good quality smoked cooked ham – about 12 very thin slice
  • 10 walnuts in the shell
  • 1 small bunch of chives, chopped

FOR THE DRESSING:

  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp walnut oil (or use more olive oil if you haven’t got this)

Remove the outer lettuce leaves and discard, then break the rest into leaves. Wash and dry well in a salad spinner.

Cut the cheese into very thin strips using a cheese slicer or mandolin.

For the dressing, whisk together the mustard, lemon juice and vinegar. Add the crème fraîche, whisk until emulsified then gradually whisk in the olive and walnut oils. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange the sliced ham, lettuce leaves and shaved cheese onto 4 plates and scatter over the shelled walnuts. Drizzle over the dressing and sprinkle with the chives.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s French Odyssey, BBC Books, 2005.)

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Fennel & Potato Gratin

Fennel makes a great addition to a classic dauphinoise. We served with chargrilled steak and spinach but it would also be great with venison.

Fennel Dauphinoise – serves 2

  • 225g medium potatoes, very thinly sliced (a mandolin works best for this)
  • 1 small fennel bulb, sliced (reserve the fronds)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 75ml whole milk
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan
  • butter

Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

Put the potatoes, fennel and garlic in a medium non-stick pan. Pour in the milk and cream, season well and simmer gently, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the potatoes are just tender.

Divide the mixture between 2 small (about 150ml) buttered ramekins and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the potatoes are golden and tender when pierced with a knife. Snip the fennel fronds over before serving.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Merguez pot au feu with couscous

A dish of Merguez sausages and couscous from Marseilles. Like a Pot au Feu with flavours of the Maghreb. So delicious!

Wine Suggestion: French meets the Mediterranean, meets the Middle East – the Massaya le Colombier is a Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Tempranillo blend. Made in stainless steel to preserve the fruit we love to chill this for 30 minutes, but you don’t have to.

Merguez with Couscous – serves 6 to 8

  • 2 tbsp ras el hanout
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 700g skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 courgettes, thickly sliced
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, halved and sliced
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 1 pinch of saffron
  • 1 large piece of orange zest (use the juice to soak the raisins)
  • 400g merguez sausages
  • 1 x 400g tin chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp harissa

FOR THE COUSCOUS:

  • 450g couscous
  • 100g raisins, soaked in orange juice
  • 50g butter

Put the spices in a large wide pan with 2 tbsp of olive oil and heat until sizzling. Add the chicken, vegetables, chillies, saffron and orange zest with 1 litre of cold water and slowly bring to a simmer. Season well and continue to cook uncovered for 10 minutes.

Add the merguez sausages to the chicken, then cover and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas.

Meanwhile, put the couscous into a bowl and cover with the same volume of boiling water. Cover with cling film and leave to steam for 5 minutes, then fork through.

Tip the couscous into a serving bowl and add the raisins, butter and plenty of salt and pepper.

Add 4 tbsp of the chicken cooking liquid to the harissa to make a sauce.

Serve the chicken & sausages with the couscous and harissa sauce on the side.

(Original recipe by Lulu Grimes IN: Olive Magazine, September 2013.)

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Summer Soupe au Pistou

A lovely fresh-tasting soup full of veg and basil – smells just like summer.

Summer soupe au pistou – serves 4 to 6

  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 1.7 litres of chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you prefer)
  • 2 courgettes, chopped
  • 225g green beans, chopped into short lengths
  • 225g drained tinned haricot beans (or use another white bean)
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 bunches of basil
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 125ml extra virgin olive oil
  • grated Parmesan, to serve

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pot and gently cook the leek, potato and celery for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, season well and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the courgettes, green beans, haricot beans and cherry tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, then add the parsley.

To make the pistou: whizz the basil and garlic with some seasoning in a blender then gradually add the olive oil.

Top the soup with the pistou and Parmesan.

(Original recipe from Food from Plenty by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 2010.)

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Chicken Tartiflette

Reblochon cheese from the Alps arrives in the cheese shops from May and reminds us to make tartiflette, the famous dish from France’s Haute-Savoie region made with cheese, bacon, potatoes and onions.  This version also has chicken and kale and it needs no accompaniment. It makes a hefty portion but it’s hard not to go back for more.

Wine Suggestion: We would suggest finding a white from the Jura, usually made from Savagnin, Chardonnay, or a blend of the two. Even better try to find a Vin Jaune, which is aged in oak under a Voile, similar to the Flor of sherry, and with similar characteristics. We had a beautiful Côtes du Jura, the Cuvée de Garde by Anne & Jean-François Ganevat. An equal blend of the two grapes and held under voile for 48 months (not long enough to classify as a Vin Jaune) which allowed the fruit to sing alongside the nutty, voile aromas.

Chicken tartiflette – serves 4 (generously)

FOR THE CHICKEN:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium chicken, about 1.5kg, jointed into 8 pieces (we used 8 chicken thighs)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
  • 200ml white wine
  • 2 litres chicken stock
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves

FOR THE TARTIFLETTE:

  • 1kg waxy potatoes, like Charlotte, sliced 1cm thick
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 200g smoked bacon lardons
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 50g plain flour
  • 300ml double cream
  • 400g curly kale, blanched in boiling water for 3 minutes and roughly chopped (discard any thick stalks)
  • 400g Reblochon cheese, broken or cut into pieces

Start by cooking the chicken. Heat a large sauté pan over a high heat, add the olive oil and the chicken pieces – skin side down to start. Cook until browned all over, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan then add the onion and garlic and sweat until the onion has softened. Add the white wine and reduce until almost evaporated. Add the chicken stock, thyme and bay, then season with salt and pepper and bring to a very gentle simmer (you might need to transfer to a large pot to fit it all in).

Return the chicken pieces to the pan and cook very gently until just cooked – about 10 minutes for the breasts. Remove any breast pieces from the pan with some of the broth and leave to cool in the broth. Continue to cook the leg meat for another 30 minutes, then take off the heat and leave to cool in the broth.

When cooled take the chicken out of the broth, remove the skin and bones and cut into large pieces. Strain the broth and reserve for later.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Simmer the potato slices in boiling, salted water until almost tender, then drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the bacon lardons and cook until coloured, then remove from the pan and add the onion. Cook until the onion is translucent, then stir in the garlic. Add the flour and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the cream with 200ml of the reserved strained chicken braising liquid and slowly bring to a simmer, stirring. Remove from the heat and season.

Fold the chicken and bacon through the cream mixture, along with the kale, 300g of the cheese and the potatoes. Pour into a large baking dish and top with the remaining 100g of cheese, then bake until golden brown (about 20 to 30 minutes).

(Original recipe from The Skills by Monica Galetti, Quadrille, 2016.)

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Rabbit with onions and rosemary

A rustic French dish with meltingly tender rabbit. Serve with the lamb’s lettuce salad (included in the recipe) and some roasted baby potatoes.

Wine Suggestion: This goes great with with a nice Cabernet Franc from the Loire, like a Saumur or Chinon if the weather is bright and warming up for Spring. Alternately we love the richer, more velvety wines of La Clape in the Languedoc if it’s a cooler Winter day.

Rabbit with onions & rosemary – serves 6

  • 2kg rabbit portions
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large onions, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp chopped rosemary
  • 600ml white wine
  • 425ml chicken stock
  • 200g chestnut mushrooms, halved
  • 6 rashers streaky bacon, thinly sliced
  • chopped parsley to serve

FOR THE LAMB’S LETTUCE SALAD:

  • 140g lamb’s lettuce
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Season the rabbit joints on both sides and sprinkle lightly with flour.

Heat 3 tbsp of the oil in a large heavy pan, then quickly fry the rabbit in batches over a high heat to brown all over. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan and fry the onions over a medium-high heat for about 10 minutes or until browned. Return the rabbit to the pan with the bay, rosemary, wine and stock. Cover and cook for 50-60 minutes or until the rabbit is soft.

Add the mushrooms and cook for another 10 minutes, then taste and season.

Meanwhile, grill the bacon until crispy, then break into chunks. Sprinkle the rabbit with the bacon and parsley before serving.

To make the salad: 

Tip the lettuce leaves into a large bowl. Mix the shallot, vinegar & mustard, then set aside for 10 minutes. Add some salt and pepper, then gradually whisk in the oil until the dressing has thickened. Toss with the lettuce just before serving.

(Original recipe by Mary Cadogan IN: BBC Good Food Magazine, March 2008.)

Rabbit w onions & rosemary

 

 

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Rabbit with tarragon & mustard

Jono’s birthday treat this year was a rabbit, which we ate. Orlaith (the 3 year old in the house) also ate it despite being very attached to her favourite fluffy ‘Bunny’.  If you’re nervous about rabbit don’t be, the flavour is really good and not too gamey. We highly recommend this mustard & tarragon sauce too.

Wine Suggestion: A classic French dish needed a classic French wine to go with it. Our choice was a favourite, the Patrick Javillier Bourgogne Blanc Cuvée Oligocene, in reality a good Meursault. Well worth seeking out.

Rabbit with Mustard & Tarragon – serves 3-4

  • 1.5kg rabbit joints
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 100ml double cream
  • 4 tsp Dijon mustard
  • a good squeeze of lemon juice
  • leaves from 8 springs of tarragon

Season the rabbit joints with salt and pepper.

Heat the butter in a deep frying pan and brown the rabbit pieces, then remove from the pan and set aside. Cook the onion in the same pan until soft and golden. Add the stock, bring to the boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer and return the rabbit pieces to the pan. Simmer very gently, covered, for 1.5-2 hours or until tender and still moist.

Take the rabbit back out of the pan, put into a warm dish and cover. Add the cream to the stock and reduce by about half. Add the mustard, lemon juice and half the tarragon. Reduce again until the sauce is the consistency of single cream but be careful the sauce doesn’t reduce too much and become sticky and salty.

Return the rabbit to the sauce to heat through and add the rest of the tarragon just before serving.

(Original recipe from Food from Plenty by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 2010.)

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Daube of Beef

Daube of Beef

This dish was traditionally cooked in a glazed clay pot. However these have successfully been replaced by cast-iron casseroles, like our favourite oval shaped one from le Creuset. It keeps the heat stable which makes it perfect for the long and slow cooking required for this dish. Very like our Chianti Beef recipe but with a few French touches.

Wine Suggestion: with a nod to the French origins of this dish we’d suggest a good Gigondas from the Rhone to match. With rich brambly fruit, good spicy tannins and a touch of elegant leathery development the Grapillon d’Or Gigondas was immensely enjoyed last time we cooked this, but other GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre) blends from around the world would work well too.

Daube of Beef – serves 6

  • 1.2kg shin of beef, cut into large pieces
  • 4 tbsp plain flour, well seasoned
  • oil for frying
  • 200g smoked bacon lardons
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 celery sticks, sliced thickly on a diagonal
  • 4 carrots, sliced thickly on a diagonal
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 750ml red wine
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 cloves, ground
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 strips of orange peel
  • flat-leaf parsley, to serve

Heat the oven to 150ºC/Fan 130ºC/Gas 2.

Toss the beef in the seasoned flour (we shake them together in a large freezer bag).

Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large non-stick frying pan and brown the beef in batches before transferring with a slotted spoon to a large casserole dish with a lid. Add the bacon to the frying pan and cook until brown and crispy, then scoop out and add to the casserole with the beef. Cook the onions until golden and caramelised then add these to the beef. Finally fry the carrot and celery until just starting to colour. Add the garlic and cook for a minute then add to the beef. Add a splash of wine to the frying pan to deglaze, stirring to scrape any crusty bits from the bottom of the pan, then tip into the casserole. Add the rest of the wine to the casserole and bring to a simmer. Stir in the tomato purée, cloves, bay leaves and orange peel.

Transfer the casserole to the oven and cook for 2½ hours or until the meat is very tender – leave the lid off for a while at the end if you want the sauce to thicken to bit. Scatter with the parsley to finish.

(Original recipe by Lulu Grimes in BBC Olive Magazine, September, 2012).

 

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Bœuf à la Gardiane

 

Another classic from Elizabeth David, this stew originates in the Gard region of France and is very simple but full of flavour. Elizabeth suggests serving it with rice (a la Camargue) but it also worked well with roast potatoes and rosemary. There won’t be a lot of sauce as it is almost all absorbed by the meat as it cooks but this part of the charm; intensely flavoured, tender beef.

Wine suggestion: This dish would go well with any of the local red wines of the Gard and surrounding southern-French regions (Rhone, Languedoc, etc). Any combination of Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault, Mourvedre and Syrah will work, particularly if they come from older, lower yielding vines and a sensitive hand in the winery. We drank a VdP La Clape from Domaine de Boède, Le Pavillon which is a great value combination of Cinsault and Syrah and which stood up to the flavours and adding it’s own character.

Bœuf à la gardiane – serves 4-5

  • 1kg top rump of beef, cut into small neat cubes approximately 2.5cm square
  • butter and olive oil
  • 4 tbsp brandy
  • 1 large glass of full-bodied red wine
  • bouquet garni of thyme, parsley, a little strip of orange peel and a whole garlic clove crushed with the back of a knife but left whole (tie together with thread)
  • 175g stoned black olives

Heat the butter and oil in a heavy based casserole dish and brown the beef in batches.

Warm the brandy in a soup ladle, pour over the meat, then carefully set alight. Shake the pan carefully until the flames go out.

Add the red wine and bubble for 30 seconds before seasoning with a little salt and pepper. Add the bouquet garni, turn the heat down as low as possible and cover the pan with at least two layers of greaseproof paper or foil and the lid.

Cook as gently as possible for about 3½ hours. Ten minutes before the end, remove the bouquet garni and add the olives.

Season to taste and serve.

(Original recipe from At Elizabeth David’s Table: Her very best everyday recipes, compiled by Jill Norman, Penguin, 2010.)

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