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Endive, walnut, sweet onion, radish, black olives, orange and feta salad

for 6/8

This wonderful spring salad–a perfect starter to the Easter meal–is from my first cook book, Delicious Dishes for Diabetics.

Beautiful to look at, it raises the spirits and whets the appetite.

Endive! There’s a stall in Castres market that sells only these seasonal white torpedoes. They are sweeter than the industrially grown ones available all the year round.

I buy more than I need for the salad–we’ll have them slow-roasted another day.

It’s an assembly job–and fun to do…

  • Slice off the base of three endive–this will make it easier to pick off the individual spear like leaves.
  • Dry roast walnuts—about 5oz  (a handful)– in a pan on top of the hob.
  • Slice half a medium, sweet red onion as finely as possible.
  • Slice a handful of radishes.
  • Stone about 10 black olives and cut in half.
  • Peel two juicy oranges by slicing off the top with a sharp knife and gingerly cut down through the peel top to bottom without cutting into the flesh. When you have completed the sphere–pull back the peel in each segment (very satisfying!)–and hey, presto! You have a neatly peeled orange. Now slice the orange horizontally into thick-ish pieces.
  • Dice 4oz Feta cheese.
  • Roughly chop a handful of parsley (optional)

Next make the vinaigrette for the salad:

  • In a small screw top bottle put some freshly-grated pepper and a few pinches of salt.
  • Add a tablespoon of red wine vinegar and 4 tbs olive oil.
  • Shake it all about–and set aside.
  • Now assemble the salad on a large platter that will show it off well (before you spoil it, by turning it all over in the vinaigrette).

This is how I arrange things:

  • Define the arena by arranging spears round the bowl with the tips upward facing.
  • Slice additional spears into twos or threes and scatter in the bottom of the bowl.
  • Arrange the orange slices nicely over these.
  • Scatter the sliced onion and radish over the orange and add the black olives.
  • Scatter the feta round the bowl and finish with the walnuts and the parsley.
  • Pour over the vinaigrette (after shaking it again) and present the result to the table before turning everything over–ruthlessly.
  • We finished it at the lunch with several of the guests having seconds.

The rest of the menu for the

***

BIRTHDAY LUNCH

Roast leg of lamb with White Bean Gratin

Slow-roasted Tomatoes with rosemary and garlic

Roast Asparagus Spears

Freshly-made Apple, Mint and Onion Sauce

Milk Gravy

Panacotta —made by Meredith–served with mango, more orange chunks and blueberries

***

All the recipes (except the panacotta!) are in

Mediterranean Cooking for Diabetics.

One of the lunch guests, my old nemesis from Poldark days, Donald Douglas (aka Captain McNeil), decorated eggs for place-settings.

This is Meredith and me:

(Hair clippings provided by Donald’s horse)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meredith and I travel SOUTH!

A skip and a jump from chez nous–about a two-and-half hour drive.

We are heading for Corneilla-del-Vercola–a handsome, wine-producing village south of Perpignan, not far from the Spanish border.

I have been invited by the members of the local branch of the University of the Third Age to join them for their monthly get together.

On the first Monday of every month the group assembles for a shared meal–with a theme.

A recent event involved them learning how to make a pork pie.

This month was to be a bit different.

Jane, the host for the event, invited everyone in the cooking group to bring something they have prepared from one of my cook books–or this blog!

She says that Type 2 diabetes has an increasing presence among the retirees in the area.

Be that as it may this is some ego-trip and I don’t have to cook!

Jane and her partner Chris live in a prettily painted house on the village square with a magnificent view of the mountains from the loggia of their sitting room.

As the evening progresses the sunlight on the fine brick church across the square turns it a glowing red.

The guests (twenty of them plus us two) start arriving at 7pm and it’s clear from the animated chatter that the group s’entendre bien [gets on together well] and looks forward to these convivial evenings.

Each arrival proprietorially clutches a food box, as they mount the narrow staircase to the sitting room two floors up.

Jane has emailed the list of dishes we are going to be sampling.

Healthy eating/pre diabetic cookery with Robin Ellis

Menu

Nibbles:

Janet’s guacamole & babaganoush dips (Jane & Chris)

My contribution was the black olive tapinade from Delicious Dishes for Diabetics and Mediterranean Cooking for Diabetics.

Starters:
Smoky cauliflower Soup (Morag & Mike)

Chilled Curried apple soup (Lesley and Joe)

Spinach and red onion frittata (Gill & Chris)

Salmon fishcakes (Margaret)

Mains:
Charlotte’s chicken tagine and whole grain rice (Genny & Giles)

Chicken with leek and lemon ( Mike and Morag)
Sausage & bean one pot wonder (Paul Jackson)
Pork loin in balsamic vinegar (Gill, Chris & friends)
Cauliflower & chickpea curry with rice
Asparagus risotto (Derek & Marjorie)

Salads:
Chickpea and cumin salad (Jane & Chris)
Fennel salad (Gill, Chris & friends)
Tomato Salad (Tonia)

Desserts:
Strawberries (Lesley & Joe)
Mango surprise (Marian)
Peanut butter swirl chocolate brownies (Jim)

(Not sure how the Peanut butter swirl chocolate brownies snuck in there–but nobody objected.)

Anticipating the feast,…

After a half hour of anticipation we got stuck in…

The food was delicious (but I would say that!) No, it really was!

The only problem was knowing when to stop–we were spoilt for choice on a laden table.

Thanks everyone–for the very fine effort!

And no one asked a single question about POLDARK!!

I’m rewarded with a box at the end of the evening–excellent wine from the village and some fine local olive oil.

Too kind!

As the French say–on s’est regalé  (we’ve enjoyed them very much!).

Next day we set off further south–for Spain and ancient Catalonia–where the Romans trod before us.

Heading for Cadaqués–where Salvador Dali built the house of his fantasies.

The heart of ancient Catalonia.

Hasta la vista!

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Planned this post for Monday–but have been so overwhelmed by workmen in the house this week, it got delayed….

I had forgotten how delicious this spicy cauliflower dish is–and how easy to do.

Perfect supper material–especially when one is feeling slightly invaded with the daily presence of decorators/painters.

Didier and Jordan could not be bettered as workers and both are delightful, but there’s nowhere left to hide–they are painting all the doors and windows.

Monday’s post

That cauliflower sitting comfortably in the crisper–so unpushy these whey faced fellows–gets its chance tonight.

Retrieving it from obscurity saves my bacon.

Mondays can be a challenge if I forget to plan for them.

There’s an option to shop of course but I like to maintain Mondays as a marketing free day–I go to four markets a week.

Inspired by a recipe of Madhur Jaffrey–the cookery writer and actress.

for 2--as a main course:

1 medium cauliflower–the head separated into small bite size florets

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

2 cloves of garlic–chopped fine

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

  • Soak the cauliflower in water for a half hour–then drain the florets.
  • Heat the oil in a pan large enough to hold the florets in a single layer.
  • Add the fennel and mustard seeds and sauté until they start popping.
  • Add the turmeric and the cayenne.
  • Add the garlic to the pan and let it colour lightly.
  • Add the drained florets, salt and 3 tablespoons of water.
  • Cover and cook for 10 minutes–or until the cauliflower is almost tender.

Brown basmati rice, red lentil dhal and yogurt sauce accompanied it.

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I’m rewarded with a double first at Castres market this morning.

Two Spring firsts–though there is nothing spring-like about the weather.

I get there early–battling through a tempest of wind and the rain–determined to avoid last week’s crowds.

“Arrivez avant neuf heure le matin, ça suffit!” [Get there by 9am and you’ll be fine!] was the advice from our neighbor and friend Flo, who has recently taken over her sister’s lovely spice stall on Saturdays.

The spice stall on a sunnier Saturday–with cooking workshop attendees checking it out.

What a contrast to this morning as I arrive in Place Jean Jaures just before 8.30am, to find the dance of the parapluies in full swing.

Stall holders and punters alike are desperately trying to prevent their umbrellas–large and small–from taking flight while undertaking the normal buying and selling transactions.

With difficulty, I make my way down the line of local vendors–nodding and grimacing the “isn’t this awful!” message, before arriving at my destination.

Opening a conversation with the vendor under these conditions is problematical.

I settle for more nodding and grimacing and secure (ho ho!) my open umbrella under my chin.

With my head looking down at the ground, I reach for my porte monnaie [change purse].

The umbrella is doing its best to turn inside out.

It succeeds–WHOOSHand I’m involuntarily propelled towards the dry fruit stall–earlier than planned.

I manfully regain control and…

JOY!

Our newly acquired hen’s guardienne–for ’tis her stall–hands me a carton of six eggs.

Matilde’s first offering under our ownership.

What a thrill!

And to go with them for lunch today–a bunch of the locally-grown ASPARAGUS–FIRST of the season.

As I turn into our driveway 20 minutes later–the sun comes out!

Asparagus and eggs–a match made in heaven!

 

 

 

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A bit fanciful to call these CHOPS, though the soft chunkiness gives a similar sensation in the mouth.

The taste is pure cauliflower, which I love.

The egg(s) on top are optional but add to the interest.

  • 1 large cauliflower
  • simple dressing–3tbs olive oil and 1 tbs of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper
  • grated parmesan to sprinkle
  • salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 200c.

Rest the cauliflower base on a chopping board–making sure it’s secure and won’t wobble.

You are cutting top to toe.

With a large knife carefully cut down through the head in roughly one inch wide slices.

Fascinating to see the thick filigree of this beautiful vegetable in cross section.

Cover a shallowing baking tray with foil and brush with oil; arrange the chops on the tray. (You may wish tidy the pieces with a sharp knife, but don’t cut through the little connecting stems.)

Generously brush each chop with the dressing and season with salt and pepper.

Slip the tray in the top of the oven for about 30 minutes.

After about half an hour turn them over–easing them gently off the foil.

Top with a generous sprinkling of grated parmesan.

Pop the tray back into the oven for about another 15 minutes.

Wise to check during both oven sessions–as the thickness of the slices will vary.

Serve with a poached or fried egg and green salad.

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Market day in Castres and a parking place opens up after a single tour–thanks to our Parking Fairy–who has been kind these last two weeks after the ticket.

Teeming today–du monde–too many people, making it difficult to move along.

I resolve to make the effort next week and get there before 9am.

Queues at each stall.

I have to stand and watch one punter filling her bag with those sweet Spanish lemons I’d driven in to buy.

Not all of them–please!

She left a few and then the vendor magicked more lemons from under the table!

This is a new-ish stall—a breakaway from the neighbouring stall selling organic vegetables.

Seems she has a source south of the border supplying her with said lemons, the odd grapefruit and almonds that taste like almonds.

Until last week she had rosy red apples but warned that there’d be no more next week–the tree was bare—until next season. I like seasonal– it makes sense.

Last week she handed me a sheet of paper dense with text about a new idea she’s hatched: Adopt a Chicken!

You pay 12 euros. She looks after the chicken, which lays eggs for you which you buy after getting your first 12 euros worth. She includes a photo of your little dear one, so you can prop it up at the breakfast table while eating your boiled egg.

Merci infiniment ma cherie—je me regale!

We are buying into the idea–and I handed over 12 euros.

Meredith translated the dense text and found a sweet drawing illustrating the special kind of chicken, La Flèche–a rare French breed.

Our stall holder—yet to know her name—was delighted!

Go to it, Matilde*!

(*I christened her–sight unseen!)

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I’m always on the look-out for one-potters–the sheer convenience of them attracts.

This I found the other day on a printed sheet stuffed behind some recipe books.

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Treasure!

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Delicious. Eureka!

This is the classic mix of pork and beans.

Here the meat is in small sausage shape; these chipolatas happily bob along in the tomato and bean base for 45 minutes as it slowly thickens up, concentrating the smoky taste.

There is a certain amount of building work to do before you leave the pot to get on with it.

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  • 1lb small sausages– like chipolatas
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic–peeled and chopped
  • 1 carrot–peeled and chopped small
  • 1 leek –carefully cleaned and sliced thin
  • 1 stick celery–chopped small
  • 1 tin [can] tomatoes–chopped with the juice
  • 1 tin [can] or (better still) bottle white beans–drained
  • 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pint water
  • salt and pepper

In the medium casserole in which you cook the whole dish heat a tablespoon of oil and add the sausages.

Sauté them over a medium heat until they are nicely browned.

Take care they don’t leave a burned residue in the pan.

Set them aside.

Add the second tablespoon of oil and the vegetables–celery, leek, carrot and garlic

Sweat the veg until tender–about ten minutes.

Add the tomatoes, paprika and mix thoroughly before adding the beans, sausages and water. Add the bay leaves.

Combine everything with care and bring to a simmer.

Cook for about 45 minutes, turning from time to time as the sauce thickens and the smoky deliciousness concentrates.

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Good with some dijon mustard on the side.

Chopped parsley garnish optional.

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