Puy lentil and halloumi salad and how does your garden grow

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Spring has truly arrived and along with it the opportunity to eat outdoors and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of nature.

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The scent of apple blossom and lime flowers is carried on the air with the sounds of a distance cuckoo, and the melodic singing of a multitude of birds. What is not so melodic are the mating calls from the frogs and toads in the pond, but it makes me smile to hear them.


My garden is not really a garden, but a wild place where nature has been allowed to run amok. I love to see bees forage for nectar amongst the flowers that have seeded themselves wherever they like.


I love also the fresh tastes of spring, and this salad is another one of my, make what you can with what you have meals, that has turned out to be a favourite with my veggie daughters’ and my non veggie husband alike.
It is quick, simple and nutritious to make and tastes full of flavour.

Ingredients (serves four)
2 cups of Puy lentils cooked in slightly salted water for around 40 minutes until soft, but not mushy, drain and leave to cool
1 avocado finely sliced
1 courgette finely sliced
A handful of pine nuts slightly toasted
A handful of fresh mint finely chopped
1 block of halloumi cheese in fine slices
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of lime juice
Maple syrup or balsamic vinegar

Method
Chargrill the courgette slices and set aside to cool
Mix the olive oil and lime juice and toss the avocado, cooled courgette, lentils in the mixture then gently mix in the pine nuts and mint
Grill the halloumi on both sides
Arrange the lentil salad on a serving place and top with slices of halloumi
Drizzle with Maple syrup or balsamic vinegar if preferred
Serve immediately
(This delicious salad can also be served as a starter for 6)

 

 

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April in Paris and Warm Courgette and Avocado Salad

 

IMGP5154Spring has finally arrived, my favourite time of year in Paris. Warm enough to stroll around in light trousers and jacket, and sit outside a pavement café people watching. But not hot enough to make public transport unpleasant. Plus the Easter visitors have left and the summer ones not yet arrived in droves, so the city is relatively calm.

I would recommend this time of year to visit, even if you do run the risk of the odd April shower, especially as the trees are all in bud and the blossom is in bloom.

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I love cooking this time of year also using fresh ingredients, so I am gong to pot a lovely salad that I made using my newly sprung fresh mint.

Ingredients
(for two people as an accompaniment)
1 large courgette, washed and finely sliced
1 ripe avocado cut into small slices
A good handful of pine nuts
bout 12 decent sized fresh mint leaves, rolled and finely sliced
1 Tablespoon of white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon of lemon juice
1 Tablespoon of olive oil (I used ‘Oliviers & Co. Olive oil with mint
1 tablespoon of light olive oil for frying

 

Method
Sauté the courgettes in the light olive oil until slightly charred on both sides
Add the pine nuts and cook stirring for 2 minutes
Add the white wine vinegar and lemon juice and reduce until only half the liquid remains
Transfer to warm serving dish and toss in the avocado
Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the mint leaves.
Serve immediately with either some grilled fish, chicken or spring lamb cutlets
For a veggie option serve with grilled haloumi

This is also great cold with feta cheese crumbled over the top before you drizzle the oil

 

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Paris in the Springtime

 

 

 

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to eat them!

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Burgundy is renowned for it’s soft, fruity wines, Boeuf Bourguignon and of course ‘Les Escargots de Bourgogne’……
Everything is larger than life here, from the army of giant snails that muster in the garden every morning so that you have to tread gingerly when going out to open the many shutters surrounding the house or you will crunch them underfoot, to the squadron of enormous fairy like dragon flies that patrol the passage between the house and the outbuildings at the back sweeping up any fly of mosquito in its path.

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It is these spectacular creatures with their vibrant green and yellow bodies, electric blue tails and orange wings that move as fast as a humming bird’s, that have given the house the name of ‘Les Liberlulles’ (The Dragonflies). I truly believe that people mistook them for fairies as they are truly enchanting.
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Along with the snail and dragonflies, there are also huge butterflies in every colour imaginable from deep midnight, to pale cornflower blue, to orange and red and yellow.

There are variety of other beast that are not so grand, like this little lizard that I found in the bath.

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Fear not though dear reader, the snails that I have cooked came from the market and not from my garden, so the one in the picture roams free munching on my various plants……….
These beauties were stuffed with parsley butter, I must confess also bought from the local supermarket, but is very easy to make in a food processor with softened butter and fresh finely chopped parsley then rolled into a sausage shape and store either in the fridge if ready to use fairly soon, or in the freezer (if storing in the freezer I slice into two centimetre disks and separate with a equal sized disk of baking paper for ease of use)
Parsley butter is also great to melt over fish or fry steak………

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Here is a picture of my favourite beast of all, my cat Pussy Willow………

 

Autumn leaves and seasonal salad

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The ‘Indian Summer’ persists with temperatures in the mid 20s in mid October, but it is a ‘Trompe d’oeil’, the trees at the back of the house are a shimmering golden yellow and the screen of poplars to the front a lemony lime.

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The morning mists are now full on as Halloween approaches. The silvery sun of the fading year filters through the fog casting an eerie light giving the little hamlet a ‘Sleepy Hollow’ effect, I half expect to see a headless rider galloping down the lane.

The sounds of autumn abound also, the tinkling of brittle leaves as the freshening breeze passes through them as they cling on to their branches, the satisfying crunch of those  who have already fallen to form a deep carpet of deep orange and nut brown and the soft sound of shiny saddle coloured conkers fallen to the ground.

Conkers are not the only nuts which are falling in abundance, walnuts are also tumbling from the trees in abundance and we have been collecting them to store over the winter to use in salads, cakes, to eat with the aperitif, and maybe make some ‘vin de noix’

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This little salad uses late season red lettuce and, of course apples which are just coming in to the shops and markets. I added some cubes of Greek feta cheese sprinkled with paprika to give a little ‘kick’ and made a dressing from L’Olivier grapefruit olive oil (but regular light olive oil would be fine) and Olivier & Co.’vinaigre de pommes’ (but a little cider vinegar or a sweet white wine vinegar would be fine also)

I ate this for a light, cleansing lunch, but it could be served as an entrée or side salad to accompany fish or pork. The feta cheese could be exchanged for grilled halloumi and a little crispy bacon and or capers could also be added – be imaginative, but keep it as seasonal as possible.

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QUIRCA d’ORCA AND FRESH PESTO PASTA WITH GREEN BEANS AND POTATO

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To bring my little Italian detour sadly to an end. I hesitate before revealing the name of this veritable little ‘Brigadoon’ of a village…..the added bonus being the journey to get there took us through some of the most stunning countryside in Tuscany

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My daughter, Kate, bought us a book about the loveliest ‘secret’ villages in Tuscany for Christmas last year and it is in this book that I stumbled across ‘Quirca d’Orca’ I must add that I am not too worried that I am going to introduce it mass tourism, as it took us three attempts to actually find it and that was with the GPS. It obviously evaded others also, as we spent about four hours in this lovely little hamlet, and only saw two other non residents’  (an American couple)

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The almost hidden entrance to the village

 

Sleepy little back streets, a plethora of medieval buildings (many 12th and 13th century) an Italian garden and ancient ruins. Add to this some gorgeous little restaurants and very friendly locals and you have the recipe for a perfect Tuscan Sunday afternoon.

 

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We ate in one of these little restaurants that boasted pasta made from its own organic flour from its own mill, and our very simple pasta dish took a full 25 minutes to prepare, and we, being French (well one of us French and the other indoctrinated!)  used to eating lunch MUCH earlier than the Italians, were the first to arrive.

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Our table for two!

 

I tried to emulate the dish back at the apartment (by using ‘fresh’ pasta from the local supermarket (I know this is a contradiction of terms…..)

The results were very good, but not in the same league………But here goes………

Ingredients
Serves 2

6 (3 if serving as a starter) ‘Fresh’ lasagne divided into four (place each sheet long size across the top and cut in half and half again)

A handful of fresh green beans

1 medium (small) waxy potato

1 tablespoon of fresh pesto (see below)

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Freshly grated parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh basil leaves and a little freshly squeezed lemon juice to garnish

Method

Cook the potato whole in boiling salted water for around 20 minutes until just cooked, remove from pan and leave to cool a little while cooking the pasta and green beans.

Cook the pasta and green beans together in boiling salted water for around 7 minutes until ‘al dente’, drain and separate the pasta from the beans and toss the pasta in the fresh pesto (you can of course use shop bought, but it is so simple to make your own, trust me!) mixed with half of the olive oil to ‘loosen’ the mixture a little.

Slice the cooled potato and gently toss this along with the green beans into the pasta.

Drizzle with the remainder of the olive oil and a little freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper

Italy on a plate!

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For the pesto

50 gm of pine nuts

50 gm of freshly grated parmesan cheese

A large bunch of fresh basil

1 large clove of garlic

3 tablespoons of olive oil + extra for storage

Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste

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Method

Lightly toast the pine nuts and leave to cool

Put the cooled pine nuts, parmesan and basil in a food processor and blend for 20 seconds son the slowest speed

Add the olive oil a tablespoon at a time, checking the consistency

Add a little salt and pepper to taste

What you do not use, can be stored in the fridge in a sealed jar, covered in a little extra oil and kept up to two weeks. To make a lighter sauce for pasta, the pesto can be mixed with crème fraiche, to give a milder flavour and a more fluid consistency.

 

Cetona and tomato and chorizo salad

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This time last year we were in Tuscany and this year we were back again enjoying all the fresh home grow produce from the wonderful garden including home produced olive oil, red and white wine, home made bread, fresh laid eggs, and home grown tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, chillis, shallots, garlic, peaches, plums, pears, melons.

This veritable garden of Eden is just outside the sleepy little hilltop village of Cetona, and it felt just like going home to us, sitting taking a morning coffee (me) or early apero (Monsieur le Frog) with the locals in the café in the square and wandering the pretty streets searching for a different angle to photograph from last year.

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This year a bit of a theme has emerged and I have photographed some rather swish scooters in various locations around Tuscany / Umbria also.

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I have been taken by the architecture – mainly ‘arches’ that I noticed are an integral part to Tuscan life, and the beautiful ornate street lights which you can see adorning many walls – as last year, other people’s washing has continued to interest me, so you will be treated to a glimpse of Tuscany life over the next few posts, with a few simple recipes thrown in………

 

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When we arrived after an 8 hour drive from the French Alps, all this was waiting for us, along with some chorizo, so I quickly knocked together a tomato and chorizo salad (I ‘dry fried’ the chorizo until it was crisp and drizzled the tomatoes with a dressing made of the home produced olive oil and red wine), I seasoned it with freshly ground sea slat and black pepper and sprinkled dt with fresh basil from the garden and we mopped it up with Fabio’s home made bread – food of the Gods……

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No meal would be complete without a glass of wine made from the home grown grape….

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Two more cheerful little scooters parked in Cetona

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Lindy’s mango Chutney and New Brighton

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Mangoes are still in season, but some are going a little ‘ripe’ perfect for making Mango chutney to serve with some nice barbeque’d meats.

The weather has been perfect for ‘al fresco’ eating here in Liverpool, but sadly not so in Paris where the river Seine has burst its banks and the lovely island near to my home, where I love to sit and read, is also submerged.

I, however have been basking in the lovely sunshine in Liverpool while my new husband has been battling wind and rain in Paris.

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One of my fondest memories as a child was taking the train to New Brighton with my father to paddle in the sea and explore the many rock pools
New Brighton is Liverpool’s answer to ‘The riviera’! It is a lovely family resort with a promenade that stretches for 3.5 kilometers, making it the longest in the United Kingdom!
The prom is wheelchair, cycle and doggy friendly (there is even a special section of the beach for our four legged friends!)
There is a plethora of traditional Tea Rooms, wonderful Fish and Chip cafe’s and traditional British pubs.

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Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

There is a ‘pirate ship’, The black Pearl on the beach where children of all ages come dressed in their best eye patches and stripey T-shirts to ‘shiver their timbers’ on the beach.(more about my own ‘pirate’ connections coming soon) And a lovely park with a ‘Fairy Glen’ with delightful ‘fairy tree houses’ to discover (again, post to follow)

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‘The Black Pearl

Actually since beginning writing this post, as I have been so busy with other things, the weather has now took a turn for the worse – so I am going to serve my next mango chutney with a nice hot curry!

Ingredients

2 fresh mangoes cut into cm chunks

100gm unrefined brown sugar

100 ml white wine vinegar (I use Maille vinaigre de Chardonnay as it is less sharp)

1 medium shallot very finely chopped

2 cm of fresh ginger very finely chopped, or grated

1 small green chilli very finely chopped

1 clove garlic crushed

1 level teaspoon of cumin

A good pinch of fennel seeds

A good pinch of sea salt

The juice and zest of 1 small lime

Method

Dissolve the sugar in the wine vinegar over a low heat stirring all the time

Add the mango, shallot, ginger, garlic, chili, fennel seeds, lime zest, cumin and salt

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Simmer over a low – medium heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally

Add the lime juice and simmer for a further 15 minutes or until a loose ‘jam’ consistency

Pour into a preserve jar, seal and allow to cool

This chutney will last for up to a year unopened – once opened store in the fridge and eat within three weeks

The aroma when this is cooking is torturous – it is spicy and fragrant and you just want to dig your spoon in – but watch out you could burn your tongue – patience is a virtue…

This chutney is perfect with grilled summer meats, with poppadoms as a prelude to a curry, with cold meats and cheeses and really livens up a cheese or cold meat sandwich.
It is also perfect for giving as a gift

A bientot
Lindy