Celeriac soup with bouillabaisse seasonings and rouille toasts

I have to concede that this can’t be called bouillabaisse because it has no fish in it. But the wonderful richness of flavour rivals a real bouillabaisse, and it looks gorgeous too. Nadine Abensur is a genius to think of replacing the fish with celeriac, whose sweetness complements the spiciness of the soup perfectly (I think parsnip could be another option here). Although it’s “just” a soup, it makes a light main course; this quantity will serve 3 or 4. Sorry, no photo because the ones I took were so awful. But it’s a lovely brick-red colour, just like the real thing — and a lot cheaper 🙂

The ingredients list looks long and daunting. But almost all of them are storecupboard ingredients or basics you are likely to have on hand anyway. And it’s an excellent idea to make it in advance. I cooked it completely several hours beforehand, then left it to sit and mature before liquidising part of it and reheating. The rouille, a spicy form of mayonnaise, takes minutes if you have a stick blender.

This recipe is from Nadine Abensur’s excellent Cranks Bible. If you remember the ghastly wholemeal stodge Crank’s used to serve in the 1970s, it’s nothing like that. As this recipe demonstrates, the recipes are imaginative and heavily influenced by Abensur’s French and North African background. If you like Ottolenghi’s Plenty, you’ll like this, and I highly recommend it if you are vegetarian, cook for vegetarians, or just fancy meatless meals every now and then. You’ll probably have to search for a second-hand copy, but it’s worth seeking out.
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Tartare de tomates

OK, this is just tomato salad presented in a trendy form. But draining and marinating the tomatoes really concentrates the flavour. Assuming your tomatoes have flavour in the first place. If all you’ve got are Dutch hothouse tomatoes, don’t bother.

This is good served with mild fresh goat or sheep cheese. But I think it would go well with fish too. Or thinly sliced raw vegetables (fennel, baby artichokes…). Maybe even roasted garlic. Note that you need to start preparing it at least 8 hours before you want to eat it.

I had a photo, but I deleted it! Oh well.
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Gâteau aux abricots et au miel

apricot yogurt cake

This is that old French favourite, yoghurt cake. Good for cooking with children or Americans because no scales are required — you just use the yoghurt pot to measure your ingredients. Of course yoghurt pots may vary slightly in size, but then so do eggs, and anyway it’s all about ratios. For this cake it’s not critical. I found the mixture a bit sloppy, so I added a couple of extra tablespoons of flour. You might need to cook it for more or less time too, depending on how wet your mixture is.

You can bake the apricots into it — or if, as I did, you happen to have a whole trayful of baked apricots in the fridge, add them before pouring the honey over. Or use any other fruit you fancy. Cherry compote for example.
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Hollandaise sauce


Maille hollandaise
Or this?

hollandaise sauce

I know many people buy hollandaise in jars and OK, it’s acceptable. But it’s not true hollandaise. The real thing is easy and quick to make, and is infinitely superior. I’ve seen recipes that faff about with blenders or even food processors, but this is quite unnecessary A couple of small, heavy pans and a whisk are all you need.

A good hollandaise is a perfect blend between the smoothness of butter, the sharpness of lemon, and the velvety consistency of egg yolks. Wonderful with vegetables such as asparagus or artichokes, and with fish. Or, of course, eggs benedict.
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Tarte aux myrtilles, or bilberry tart

This is a patisserie staple in France. I love the look of these tarts, so dark purple they are almost black, glistening with juice, with just a sprinkle of icing sugar. They taste pretty good too 🙂 I had a big bag of frozen bilberries in the freezer and 6 guests coming, so the conclusion was obvious. I googled, and found Clotilde’s recipe, so I started with that, but tinkered a bit to suit my own tastes. Frozen bilberries have lots of juice, which risks making the pastry soggy and purple even if you blind-bake it. So I added a layer of almonds, sugar and flour to soak up the juice. This worked really well; the tart was easy to slice and serve, and tasted gorgeous with a blob of crème fraĂ®che on the side. Within minutes, there was none left, that’s why there’s no photo. You can take my word for it that it looked just like Clotilde’s.
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Lotte Ă  l’AmĂ©ricaine

AmĂ©ricaine, armoricaine, who cares when the sauce is this good? I wouldn’t smother lobster in this, but I find monkfish on its own a bit dull. This sauce is anything but dull; I don’t think the cream is conventional, but it smooths out the acidity of the tomatoes and gives an extra unctuousness. Steve adapted the first recipe he found when he went to marmiton.org and typed in “lotte”. And it was quick to make; we got home from work after seven, and it was on the table by eight. This sauce would work well with other firm fish/seafood; I can imagine it with squid, for example. Monkfish is on the expensive side, but you do sometimes get tails relatively cheap.
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Carottes forestière

Carrots, courtesy of sxc.hu

A la forestière in French cuisine invariably means the dish contains mushrooms, because in autumn every self-respecting peasant is out there scouring the woods for fungi while hoping to avoid trigger-happy hunters. All we’ve scored so far are a few piboules from the poplar tree in our garden, but luckily dried ceps are always on hand to add a secret kick to savoury dishes.

This Jane Grigson recipe (from her Vegetable Book) worked wonders with the woody organic carrots in our veggie box. She serves them in hollowed-out bread rolls brushed with butter and crisped in the oven; I just served them on toasted muffins. They make a good vegetarian starter or light lunch/supper, but would also be an excellent accompanying vegetable for a roast, with or without the bread.

You could just use common-or-garden cultivated mushrooms, but fresh or dried ceps (porcini) will take it into another league.
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Potato galette

I adapted this from a recipe by Jeremy Lee of the Blueprint CafĂ©. It’s rather like pommes Anna, only made with duck fat instead of butter. OK, neither of them is very good for you, but it’s not something you’re going to eat every day! Serve with a simple roast; we had it with the pot-roasted pork I posted a couple of days ago. It is crispy on the outside and melting in the middle — lovely!

Really it should be turned out, but a galette made with enough potatoes for 9 people was so large and so dense I just served it straight from the dish, using a slotted spoon so it wasn’t swimming in fat. If yours is smaller, do turn it out.
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Pot-roasted Pork VallĂ©e d’Auge

This is a recipe from an ancient Sainsbury’s magazine. La VallĂ©e d’Auge is in Normandy, and this name invariably means a dish (usually chicken) that’s cooked with apples, cream, and probably cider and/or Calvados. We don’t eat much pork, but for this occasion (9 people for dinner) we treated ourselves to a fabulous 2 kg pork roast from the local charcutier. It’s quite a lot of work, but the results are worth it. There wasn’t a scrap of it left over.

We served it with a potato galette cooked with duck fat, and followed it with Val’s gorgeous pear upside-down cake, so all in all it was an artery-clogging extravaganza.
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