If you follow us on Instagram you will know that I spent a few weeks holidaying in France this summer with my family. Aside from sunbathing, swimming and a little canoeing, the holiday involved a lot of eating (naturally). If you are a long-term reader of Not Just A Pretty Plate you may remember a similar post last year in which I threw a handful of French-inspired recipes into one post. Once again, please excuse the slightly haphazard and vague ingredients/quantities/timings used in these recipes. In true holiday spirit, all the cooking was fairly relaxed and thrown together so don't worry too much about being precise! I've included canapés, a starter, two main course dishes and also a pudding, but if that doesn't satisfy your appetite for french cuisine be sure to check out last year's Flavour of France for some similar recipes. Bon appétit!
Goat's Cheese and Grape Bruschetta
Despite bruschetta being Italian, these nibbles are inspired by South Western France, a region know for it's goat's cheese. This is a slightly different take on the tried and tested combination of sharp cheese and sweet fruit. They literally take minutes to prepare - simply slice a small and slightly stale baguette into thin slices and place on a baking tray. Warm in the oven for about eight minutes until slightly toasted, then top with a slice of goat's cheese and half a grape. Serve slightly warm to ensure the cheese is melting a little in the middle.
This is a bit of a seventies throwback, but the fact that it has stood the test of time is testament to the fact that it is simple, good, tasty food. With only four ingredients, this is a classic example of how good food need not be fussy or overcomplicated, and if you have good produce it can speak for itself. To prepare all you need to do is artfully combine chunks of Cantaloupe melon and wafer thin sheets of jambon sec or parma ham on a plate, then top with a drizzle of walnut oil and sprinkling of ground pepper.
Baked Salmon with Roasted Veg
This is SO easy and basic it really doesn't warrant a recipe. As well as being an ideal dish to throw together on holiday when you'd rather be spending time on a sun lounger than in the kitchen, this is also makes a great weekday supper. All you need to do is: lay a few fillets or whole side of salmon on a large sheet of baking parchment on a baking tray. Top with a few slices of lemon, a couple of handfuls of chopped parsley and some salt and pepper. Wrap the parchment over to create an envelope for the salmon - as well as gently steaming the fish in its own juices, it also removes the skin underneath as it sticks to the paper as it cooks. Bake for about 20-30 minutes until just cooked through. For the roasted veg chop up a selection of vegetables such as onions, courgettes, peppers and garlic. Dress with olive oil and toss through some dried oregano and fresh rosemary and thyme as well as plenty of salt and pepper. Roast in a hot oven for about forty minutes or until all the veg is cooked through and starting to crisp at the edges.
Duck Confit with Puy Lentils
Now I have to confess that these delicious duck legs weren't confit-ed by myself from scratch - the ingenious French supermarkets sell them ready-confit-ed and vacuum packed in duck fat so all you have to do is whack them under the grill for ten minutes to heat them through and crisp up the skin nicely. I'm not sure you can buy them like this in the UK although I shall be keeping my eyes peeled. Having confit-ed from scratch before, I can assure you it isn't particularly difficult but involves buying a LOT of duck fat to cover your duck legs in! We served ours on Puy lentils with a touch of crème fraîche - a regional classic. To make the lentils you will need:
1 celery stick
2 small carrots
1 small potato
2 garlic cloves
500g Puy lentils - rinsed well in cold water
1 bouquet garni - tie together a few sprigs of rosemary, thyme and a bay leaf
1 stock cube
Red wine vinegar
1 small bag of spinach
1 tbsp crème fraîche plus more to serve
-Finely dice your celery, onions, potato and garlic and sauté in a large pan until softened.
-Stir in the lentils, bouquet garni and stock cube. Add boiling water to cover.
-Simmer gently for about 40 minutes or until soft - keep an eye on it and add more water if necessary.
-Stir in the bag of spinach and allow to wilt.
-Take off the heat and stir in a good slug of red wine vinegar, a tablespoon of crème fraîche and some generous seasoning. Adjust to taste.
-To serve spoon the lentils onto a plate, add a teaspoon of crème fraîche and top with your confit duck.
Maple Roasted Nectarines
These are inspired by The Londoner's Honey Roast Peaches although I've substituted peaches for nectaries and honey for maple syrup. If you haven't checked out Rosie's blog before then go and have a look - her simple yet delicious recipes are great and the photography is always on-point. To make this pudding you need to half and de-stone your nectarines and place them in a baking tray. Pop a small knob of butter in each half and drizzle the whole lot generously with maple syrup. Scatter over a handful of flaked almonds and bake for about 20 minutes. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or crème fraîche and a couple of spoonfuls of the syrupy buttery nectarine juice.
Enjoy! C x