An easy chocolate pudding made with neither dairy nor egg, but don’t let that fool you – it’s rich, chocolatey and delicious. You can prepare it a day or two in advance, making it a perfect dish for entertaining.
- 100 g good quality dark chocolate (dairy-free of course) such as Green and Blacks
- 300 ml coconut cream
- 1.5 tbsp cocoa (or to taste)
- 2 tbsp caster sugar (or to taste)
- 2 heaped tbsp freeze-dried raspberries (optional)
- a handful of fresh summer fruits (optional)
Put a bain-marie (easily made by putting boiling water into a saucepan and placing a smaller saucepan inside it so it’s sitting in the hot water) on the hob on the lowest heat, and melt the chocolate and coconut cream together. Give it a stir every few minutes until all the chocolate is melted. Taste it at this point. If it needs to be more chocolatey, sift in the cocoa, so that it doesn’t make lumps. If the mixture needs sweetening (which it probably will unless your dark chocolate is very sweet) add the sugar. Stir for a few more minutes on the hob. Remove from the heat when you’ve got a smooth mixture that tastes right to you.
The next step of the recipe will ensure the mixture stays smooth as it comes down to room temperature. For this, transfer to a mixing bowl, and whisk vigorously by hand (or equivalent speed in a mixer) for 5 minutes. Cover and leave to cool in the fridge (this speeds up the process), whisking again every 10 minutes or so, as it cools down. This should take about 30–45 minutes.
When the mixture has come down to room temperature, you can add the freeze-dried raspberries, whisk one last time and your work is nearly done. By this point, it should have taken on a slightly lighter colour, and be about the consistency of thick cream. Pour into ramekins, and place in the fridge for a minimum of 20 minutes.
Remove from the fridge just before serving, top with a handful of fresh raspberries and blueberries or other summer fruits, and tuck in!
The solution to knowing exactly what is in your hamburger is to make your own. It’s neither hard, nor very expensive, as you only need about 100–125 g meat per head.
Unexpected though it may seem, a good recipe appears in the first volume of Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Childs’ Mastering the Art of French Cooking, published back in 1966. It only needs slight modification for the lactose- or egg-intolerant, and I would say for the better!
In France, butchers mince the best cuts of beef. Elsewhere, since this is a dish calling for a top cut, it is advisable to buy lean steak and grind it at home, in a mincer or food-processor.
Serve with, say, baked or sauté potatoes and a green vegetable, such as cabbage with garlic and fennel seeds (see the Book), unless you want the traditional hamburger garniture, in which case dispense with deglazing the pan at the end.
- 1 lge onion
- olive oil
- 400–500 g fresh minced beef, without fat
- 2–3 sprigs or ½ tsp dried thyme
- salt and freshly milled pepper
- 12.5 ml wine, red, white, or rosé
Chop the onion finely and soften it in a tablespoonful of olive oil in a frying pan in which the burgers can eventually be cooked.
Mix the onion and its oil into the mince – if it has all been absorbed, add 2–3 tsp fresh olive oil to the meat to hold the mixture together – and season with thyme leaves and salt and black pepper to taste. Work the mince into a homogeneous ball.
Flour a plate and your hands and shape your patties one by one, pressing them firmly together. Personally I prefer to make them with a diameter of about 5 cm which is smaller than the typical industrial size, but means that they are easier to handle and cook.
Fry the patties in hot oil, about 2–3 min a side if you like them well done on the outside and pink in the middle, otherwise longer, and turning the heat down once the meat is sealed.
Transfer them to a warm serving dish. Deglaze the pan with the wine, pouring it over the meat as soon as it has reduced by at least half and thickened.
I’ve got several posts backing up for lack of pictures, but this elegant dish, which well deserves its Basque description ‘gachucha’ or ‘gracious’ and which can bring a bit of summer and spice into winter, without too much trouble or expense, has already attracted the photographer’s eye!
The recipe is given in Cuisine du Terroir, by the Master-Chefs of France. It needs nothing grander than short-grained or pudding rice, which they recommend you don’t wash, to prevent it going sludgy.
Romano peppers are, incidentally, what would be used locally.
- 150 g green and/or black olives
- 2 med to lge onions
- 1/2–1 (lactose-free) chorizo sausage, hot or mild
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 250 g short-grained rice
- 100 g homemade smooth tomato sauce (see the Book) or 1–2 tbsp tomato paste
- a lge pinch of cayenne pepper or chilli powder
- 150 g smoked streaky bacon
- 500 g green and/or red peppers
If you have olives seasoned with herbs or garlic, say, you can skip the blanching. Should you have plain olives in brine, bring a small pan of water to the boil, drop the olives in, and drain as soon as the water comes back to the boil. In either case, stone and chop them roughly.
Slice the onions finely, and skin and slice the chorizo.
Heat all but 1 tbsp of the oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan or casserole and soften the onion slowly for 7–8 min. Add the rice (unwashed) and stir it in the oil until the grains become translucent. Mix in the tomato sauce or paste and pour over enough boiling water to come about 2 cm above the rice. Without stirring, add two-thirds of the olives, two-thirds of the chorizo, a little salt, and the cayenne pepper or chilli powder.
Cover tightly and cook very gently without stirring for 25 min.
Meanwhile, cut the bacon into lardons, and wash, tail, seed, and cut the peppers into strips. In the last spoonful of oil, crisp the lardons, set them aside with a slotted spoon, and soften the pepper strips in the same oil.
In a ring mould (or, failing that, a pudding basin or soufflé dish), arrange the remaining chorizo slices and olives and all the lardons around the bottom. Fill it with the cooked rice mixture and press it down evenly. Unmould on to a platter and pile up the peppers in the middle or around the rice, according to the shape of the mould.
Nothing else is required as an accompaniment.
Can you ever have too many chicken recipes? This one’s rich and delicious. It’s a simplified version of a standard North African dish, that can be found in David Scott’s Traditional Arab Cookery, a book so much used in our kitchen that our copy’s yellowed by turmeric. If you have a whole chicken and can make a stock from the carcass, it will be all the nicer. Rice or couscous (except for the gluten-intolerant) will go perfectly – for recipes, see Olive Oil, Garlic & Parsley.
- 100 g almonds (shelled)
- 1 chicken (approx 1.5 kg), jointed, or 4 joints, leg or breast
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2–4 cloves of garlic
- 2 tbsp parsley
- 100 ml olive oil
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 275 ml chicken stock (for a homemade one, see a recipe in Olive Oil, Garlic & Parsley) or water
Blanch and peel the almonds by dropping them into boiling water for a couple of minutes and removing the skins, which come off satisfyingly easily.
Skin the chicken pieces as far as possible and season generously with salt and pepper.
Crush the garlic and chop the parsley finely.
Let the garlic take colour in about three-quarters of the olive oil, heated in a thick-bottomed frying or sauté pan (with a lid). Stir in the turmeric before adding the chicken pieces and browning these all over.
Meanwhile, bring the stock, or an equivalent amount of water, to the boil and pour over the chicken to cover. Stir in the chopped parsley, seal with a lid, and simmer for about 1 h, turning the chicken over 2–3 times, and adding more stock or water if necessary.
Towards the end of the cooking time, fry the almonds in the last quarter of the oil, drain on kitchen paper, and scatter over the chicken just before serving.
Strawberries appear in Provence after Easter. And this year, spring having been wet, they are not as fragrant as they might be. Perfect candidates for this tart where the glaze brings out all the latent flavour of the fruit.
The three parts, the pastry, the glaze, and the strawberries may each be prepared beforehand. The glaze (made according to the recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol. 1, by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child) is arguably the fiddliest bit, but it truly enhances the strawberry flavour, and can be made in quantity, stored in a jar, and re-heated when needed.
The fat for the pastry can be vegetable fat or lard. The latter is no longer so disapproved of by nutritionists.
- unsweetened shortcrust pastry dough (see Olive Oil, Garlic & Parsley – the Book for an easy and reliable method, if you don’t already have your own), using 50–60 g fat for 180 g flour
- fat to grease the tart tin
- 500 g fresh strawberries
- 175 ml apricot jam or red-currant jelly, for the glaze
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200°C.
Roll out the pastry, line a greased tart tin (22 cm), and bake the pastry blind (i.e., the pastry base pricked with a fork, and the whole tart mould covered with greaseproof paper weighted down with dried haricot or ceramic beans) for 7 min.
Remove the beans and greaseproof paper, prick the pastry base again, and return it to the oven for a further 7–10 min for a fully baked shell. Set it aside to cool, but keep the oven on.
While the pastry is baking, hull the strawberries, leaving them whole.
To make the glaze, first strain the apricot jam, if used, through a sieve to remove skins (if the jam is very stiff and dense, soften it over a gentle heat first). Then heat the strained jam or the red-currant jelly with the granulated sugar, in a small saucepan, over a medium heat, stirring continuously, with a wooden spoon, for 2–3 min. The glaze is ready when it coats the spoon with a thin film and drips off stickily. Don’t overheat it or it will become brittle on cooling.
Arrange the whole strawberries in circles, stem-end downwards, on the tart base. Pour over the warm glaze and return to the oven for 5 min. Serve warm or cold.
Even in Provence it gets cold, especially in the evening, and the idea of a beef and beer casserole has had particular appeal this winter, to warm the kitchen and ourselves. Finally, one got made.
Carbonade de boeuf is traditional in Northern France and Belgium, what might be termed Flanders, an area famous for its bleak weather – and its beers. You don’t need a special beer to cook this, though one might wash it down a treat. For myself, I’d rather have a robust red wine.
Along with the brown sugar, vinegar, black peppercorns, and onion, the beer and long slow cooking make for beef that melts in the mouth while diffusing wonderful hints of all those flavours – it’s a far cry indeed from leathery, tasteless fried steak.
Lard is the traditional cooking medium, olive oil less authentic but arguably nicer. The stale bread acts as a primitive thickener, but can be omitted without problems. If you have time, cook the carbonade for as long as 3–4 hours, in a lower oven.
Baked potatoes go well especially as there should be lots of sauce. Other possible accompaniments are red cabbage and apple, or a potato, chicory, and bacon salad – for recipes for these see the Book.
- 300–400 g onions
- lard or olive oil
- 800 g – 1 kg lean braising steak, in thin slices, cut on the bias, if possible
- 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 1 tbsp wine vinegar
- 2–3 sprigs of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 heaped tsp coarsely crushed black peppercorns
- 500 ml light beer or lager
- 1 slice of stale bread, optional
- 1 tbsp strong Dijon mustard
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3/170°C.
Slice the onions thinly.
On top of the stove, heat enough lard or olive oil to cover the base of a heavy casserole, and brown the beef on both sides, a couple of pieces at a time, adding more fat or oil as necessary between batches.
When all the meat is done, toss the onion in the same pot, having reduced the heat and added more lard or oil, until they are soft (about 8–10 min), then stir in the brown sugar and the vinegar and cook a further 1–2 minutes, not more.
Return the beef to the pot, layering it alternately with the onion. Place the thyme and bay leaf in the middle and season with salt and the crushed peppercorns. Pour in enough beer to cover by just under 1 cm and crumble in the bread.
Cover, place in the oven, and cook for a minimum of 1½ h.
Away from the heat, work the mustard into the sauce, taste, and serve from the casserole, or, if you prefer, transfer the meat to a hot dish and keep it warm while you blend in the mustard and adjust the seasoning. Pour the finished sauce over the meat having removed the thyme and bay leaf.
This is a delightful and easy cake to produce, and we have added it to our repertoire of dairy-free and egg-free cakes (two others can be found in our book). The present recipe came from the web but has undergone some changes, and there’s plenty of room for further adaptation.
As long as you include some 600 g dried fruit, the proportions of each fruit and the fruit itself can be varied, dried cranberries or blueberries replacing some of the sultanas, raisins, or currants, for instance. You can be as generous as you like with the (dark or light) glacé cherries and the peel, the latter being better quality when not pre-chopped. You may also want to add more or less of one of the spices, all a matter of taste.
Lard, incidentally, is the traditional fat for fruit cakes, according to The Constance Spry Cookery Book. A vegetable fat is obviously a viable option (we are anyway speaking of only 45 g – one and a half ounces – of which 15 g is for greasing the mould).
This type of cake usually improves with keeping, but I’ve not yet been able to test this!
- 45 g lard or vegetable fat
- 150 g candied peel and glacé cherries
- 1 lemon
- 360 g plain flour
- ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
- ½ tsp grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp mixed spice (quatre-épices in you’re in France)
- 240 g soft brown sugar
- 240 g sultanas
- 240 g raisins
- 120 g currants
- ¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C.
Prepare the tin first, greasing it inside with approx 7 g lard or vegetable fat before lining it with paper to 2 cm above the sides and brushing the paper with another 7 g or so melted lard or vegetable fat.
Chop the peel, if necessary, and the glacé cherries, and grate the rind of the lemon.
In a mixing bowl, sift in the flour, a good pinch of salt, and all the spices. Rub in the remaining 30 g lard or vegetable fat and incorporate the sugar.
In a second bowl, mix together the dried fruit, peel, glacé cherries, and lemon rind, before incorporating the fruit mixture thoroughly into the flour. Make a well in the centre and blend in 280 ml cold water.
In a small bowl, pour 2 tbsp warm water over the bicarbonate of soda and when the latter has dissolved, work it into the cake mixture with a light touch.
Pour the mixture into the greased tin and bake in the centre of the oven. After 1 hr turn the temperature down to gas mark 2–3/160°C for a further hour, or longer if required. Test by plunging a skewer deep into the cake: it should come out clean.
Turn the cake out of the tin when it is cool enough to handle and see how long you can keep people off it.