Saturday, 10 August 2013

A Flavour of France

After spending two relaxing weeks basking in the South-Western French sunshine, I had to share some of my favourite recipes and dishes inspired by the region. My family rented an old converted farmhouse near Gaillac, a town in the Tarn department of France where the regional produce includes excellent wines, pâtés and game. As we were self-catering for a fortnight and temperatures exceeded thirty degrees celsius every day, no one was up for spending hours in the kitchen, especially with lazy days reading and sunbathing by the pool on the agenda. Furthermore, the laid-back style of living is most definitely reflected in the food - un-fussy, straightforward recipes that still deliver in terms of flavour. So here is a selection of some of my favourite and ridiculously easy yet delicious summer dishes, with one or two of my mum's thrown in for good measure!

A simple and delicious start to the day - Natural yoghurt topped with frozen berries, flaked almonds and a drizzle of maple syrup. 
Foil Fish Parcels

A lovely light supper that can be prepared well in advance.

You Will Need To:-

- Place a fillet of fish of your choice ( I used mullet) on a rectangle of foil and top with a squeeze of lime juice, salt and pepper, one bay leaf, a sprig of parsley, a slice of lemon, a teaspoon of capers and a tablespoon or two of cream. 
- Scrunch up the corners to make a foil parcel and cook for ten minutes in the coals of a hot barbecue or on top of the grill if using a gas barbecue. 
- Serve with salad and crusty bread to mop up the juices. 

Foolproof Tarte-Tatin

This is effectively a cheats version of the French classic, yet still utterly moreish and crowd pleasing, as well as a personal favourite! Apologies for the uselessly vague measurements - it has kind of evolved over time with no set recipe, plus there were no scales on offer!

You Will Need To:-

- Cover the bottom of a fairly deep metal handled frying pan with a thin layer of caster sugar (about 100g). Place on a medium heat and add about 100ml of calvados, armagnac or brandy and the scraped seeds and remaining pod of one vanilla pod and leave to bubble - do not stir or the sugar will crystalise. 
- Swirl around by the pan handle from time to time until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture turns a caramel brown colour.
- Peel, half and core four or five apples. Place cut-side down into the caramel.
- Add half a dozen small knobs of butter (about 50g).
- Allow to bubble away for about fifteen minutes until the sauce darkens a little and thickens - spoon this over the apples to coat the tops in the boozy, vanillary caramel.
- Allow this mixture to cool. Then half an hour before serving, place a thin sheet of puff-pastry on top of the pan over the apples and tuck the edges down around the apples if there is any overhang. The French supermarkets sell round pre-rolled sheets which fit perfectly but I am yet to find these in English supermarkets. I have used a regular pre-rolled rectangular sheet before and managed to make it fit though!
- Bake in a hot oven for about half an hour or until the pastry is golden and risen.
- Cross your fingers and turn the tart out onto a plate to serve. (upside down so the pastry is underneath and the apples ontop)
- Serve with a spoonful of creme fraiche, several spoonfuls of the vanillary syrup, and a generous glass of brandy of your choice.

Lemon and Herb Chicken Kebabs

A barbecue favourite in my family - you can't really go wrong with grilled chicken and veg, plus it is a good way of using up any random vegetables you have kicking around in the fridge. The marinade for the chicken lifts the flavours, adding a zesty citrus hit. 

You Will Need To:-

- Chop chicken breasts into bitesize chunks and leave to marinade in the following mixture for an hour or so - Olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, chopped rosemary, thyme, crushed garlic, salt and pepper. 
- Chop a variety of veg into similar sized pieces - I used courgettes, peppers, mushrooms and onions. Tomatoes also work well.
- Thread the chicken and veg onto skewers and grill on barbecue for about 15 -20 minutes or until chicken is cooked. 

Unfortunately I cannot pass the following dishes off as my own, however I had to include them as they were so delicious and most accurately reflect the food of the region.

Mum's delicious Smoked Duck Salad, with goat's cheese, apple, walnuts, raisins and crisp lettuce leaves
The remnants of my amazing personalised pear and hazelnut birthday gateau, sourced from a local patisserie.

C x


  1. Hello there,

    Lovely article about the French cooking you discovered - I was wondering if you’d like to enter one of these recipes into our Gourmandize Giveaway recipe competition. This month the theme is apples so it would be perfect, and there are nice prizes to win – let me know what you think:



    1. Thanks, Laurence,

      Glad you enjoyed the post - how did you find our blog? Have had a look at your website and the competition looks great - do we just fill in the form to enter?