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           A TASTE FROM FRANCE

If you are ever fortunate enough to visit a French food market, you will be dazzled bt the beauty and perfection of the display.  All over the country, the attention te food is the same.  Impeccable cuts of meat, dozens of cheeses, bright vegetables lovely enough to inspire an artist and all being carefully inspected by local housewives intent on buying nothing but the best.


To recapture the elegance of the haute cuisne dishes of France, or the comforting qualities of the more homely regional cookery, it's worth emulating this care and attention to detail.



    WineMenu

| Breakfast | Soup | Sauce | Fish | Meat | Poultry | Dessert | Baking |


Canard la Bigarade
Duck in orange sauce

Serves 4       Preparation:  25 minutes     Cooking time:  2½ hours
  • 2 large ducks
  • salt and pepper
  • 2oz (50g) butter
  • orange slices to garnish (optional)

    The stock:
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 small carrots, diced
  • 9floz (250ml) dry white wine
  • 9floz (250ml) cold water
  • juice of 3 Seville oranges or sweet oranges and 1 lemon

    The sauce:
  • Stock from above
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur


  Remove the breast fillets from the ducks.  Pat them dry.  Rub with salt and pepper.  Set aside.  Cut the carcasses into portions.


  To make the stock, heat the oil in the saucepan and lightly saut the onion and carrot.  Do not allow them to brown.  Add the carcass pieces and continue stirring over a low heat for 5 minutes.  Add the wine and water and bring to the boil. Remove scum, cover the pan, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 2 hours.


  Strain the stock and return it to the saucepan.  Boil vigorously until reduced to about half the original volume.  Squeeze the oranges (and lemon if used) then strain the juice into the stock.  Allow to simmer for a further 10 minutes.


  Remove the meat with the bones to a serving dish and keep hot.  Rub the sauce through a sieve.  If necessary, re-boil to reduce a little.  Serve separately.  And provide spoons for eating the marrow.


  Heat the butter in a large frying pan and brown the duck fillets on both sides-about 5 minutes if you like the duck pink and rare, or longer until the duck is cooked to taste.  Transfer to a serving dish and keep hot.


  To finish the sauce, drain any excess fat from the pan, pour in the stock, and boil to loosen the residue from the base of the pan.  Mix the cornflour smoothly with 2 teaspoons cold water.  Stir into the pan and cook until thickened.  Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, sugar and orange liqueur.


  Spoon a little salt over the duck and serve the rest in a sauceboat.  Garnish the duck, if liked, with slices of orange poached for a minute in the sauce just before serving (and before adjusting its sasoning).


  Serve with sauted new potatoes and a green vegetable salad.


Tip:  For a less extravagant dish, use duck portions on the bone.  A well-flavoured duck or chicken stock may be used instead of the cold water in the recipe, then you do not need a duck carcass.



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        Petite Marmite
Beef soup with vegetables

Serves 4       Preparation:  30 minutes     Cooking time:  3 hours
    The soup:
  • 1lb (450g) shin of beef with the bone, chopped
  • 3 pints (1½ litres) cold water
  • 1 large onion
  • 8oz (225g) carrots, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 2 leeks, green parts only, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 8 parsley stems
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 1 blade of mace
  • 2 cloves
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 1-2 chicken portions, together weighing about 8oz (225g)

    The garnish:
  • 8oz (225g) carrots, diced
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, sliced
  • 1 small turnip, diced
  • salt
  • chopped parsley


  Put the beef into a large pan with the water.  Bring to the boil, then carefully skim off the scum.


  Add the rest of the soup ingredients except the chicken.  Cover and simmer gently for 2½-3 hours, or until the meat comes away from the bones easily.


  Add th chicken and continue to cook for a further 20-30 minutes, or until it is tender.  Remove the chicken and the meat from the pan and strip all the flesh from the bones.  Set the bones aside.  Cut the meat into small pieces.


  Skim off the surface fat from the liquid, then boil it vigorously until reduced by about half.  Meanwhile, prepare the garnish vegetables.  Add them to the reduced stock and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender but still crisp.


  Finally, add the chopped chicken and beef and reheat.  Season to taste.  Just before serving, sprinkle with chopped parsley.



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        Marmite Crotes
Marrow toasts

Serves 4       Preparation and cooking time:  10 minutes
  • 3oz (75g) butter
  • 4 slices white bread, crusts removed
  • marrow from the cooked beef bones
  • a little chopped parsley

  Lightly butter the bread.  Put a large knob of butter into a frying-pan and heat until just turning brown.  Add the bread, buttered side up, and fry until brown.  Turn and brown the buttered side.


  Scoop the marrow from the bones with the tip of a small spoon.  Mix well with the remaining butter and a little chopped parsley.  Season to taste then spread over the fried bread.  Serve hot.



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        Sole la Normande
Sole, Normandy-style

Serves 4       Preparation and cooking time:  1¼ hours
  • 8 sole fillets
  • salt and pepper
  • 5 tablespoons white wine

    The sauce:
  • 2oz (50g) butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ½ pint (300ml) fish stock
  • cooking liqueur from the sole
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons cream
  • salt and pepper
  • squeeze of lemon juice

    The garnish:
  • 4oz (100g) button mushrooms
  • sqeeze of lemon juice
  • 12 mussels
  • 3oz (75g) peeled prawns


  Prepare the garnish.  Wash the mushrooms and trim the bases of the stems. Slice the mushrooms and place in a saucepan with a little salted water and a sqeeze of lemon juice.  Simmer for 3-4 minutes until just tender.  Drain.


  To prepare the mussels, scrub them well and remove the hairy beards.  Stream them open in a little water in a wide, shallow pan over high heat.  Remove them from their shells.  Discard any that do not open.


  Wrap mushrooms, mussels and prawns in seperate foil parcels and set on a baking tray.


  Pre-heat the oven to 350F (180C) gas 4.  Butter a shallow ovenproof dish large enough to hold all the fillets when folded.  Season them, fold them in half crossways and arrange them in the dish.  Pour the wine over, and cover the dish with foil.  Place the garnishes in the oven to warm through while the fish is cooking.  Check the fish after 10 minutes to ensure it doesn't overcook.  When the fish looks white and opaque, it is ready.


  Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.  Melt the butter slowly in a heavy-based saucepan.  Add the flour and cook gently for a minute or two, stirring.  Off the heat, stir in a little fish stock.  Return to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens.  Add the rest of the stock in batches, off the heat, and cook, stirring, until the sauce is smooth.  Simmer the sauce gently for about 5 minutes.


  Take the fish from the oven and pour the cooking liquor into the sauce.  Mix in well.  Turn the oven to low and keep fish garnishes warm until ready to serve.  Keep this time as short as possible or the fish will dry out.


  Finish the sauce by blending the egg yolk with the cream in a small basin.  Stir 3 tablespoons of the hot sauce into the egg mixture (liaison) then, off the heat, add this to the pan of sauce.  Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.


  Spoon some of the sauce over the fish, and garnish with the mushrooms, mussels and prawns.  Pour the rest of the sauce into a sauceboat and serve.


Tip:  If you like, you can make the sauce a day in advance, omitting the cooking liquor from the fish.  When it is cool, store it in a covered container in the fridge. Ten to fifteen minutes before serving time, pour it into a small covered dish to heat in the oven while the fish is cooking.  Add the cooking liquor from the sole just before serving.  Take care not to over-thin the sauce.



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        Gteau au Chocolat
Chocolate cake

Serves 10-12       Preparation:  20 minutes   Cooking time:  55 minutes     Decoration:  15 minutes
    The cake:
  • 4oz (125g) butter
  • 4oz (125g) caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, size 2
  • 3oz (75g) ground almonds
  • 2oz (50g) plain flour
  • 1oz (25g) cocoa
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons brandy

    The Icing:
  • 4oz (125g) plain dessert chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 1oz (25g) butter
  • 1 tablespoon water

    To finish:
  • 5floz (150 mi) double cream
  • 2 tablespoons brandy


  To make the cake, beat the butter and sugar together until very light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat in well.  If the mixture curdles at this point, don't worry-it won't hurt the cake.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir sufficiently to mix well together.


  Turn the cake mixture into a greased 8in (20cm) cake tin and bake at 350F (180C) gas 4 for about 55 minutes or until baked in the centre.  Leave to cool in the tin then turn out and spread with the icing.


  While the cake is cooling, make the icing.  Break the chocolate into small pieces and put them into a basin with the sugar, butter and water.  Place over a pan of hot but not boiling water and stir until the chocolate melts.


  Put the cooled cake upside-down on the serving plate and spread the chocolate over evenly with a palette knife.  Leave to set in a cool place for about 30 minutes.


  Whip the cream and the brandy together and pipe rosettes on top of the cake, using a ½in (1cm) star pipe.


Variation:  The French prefer a single layer, but you can split the cake and fill it with whipped cream or a thick fruit pure before coating in the chocolate.


To freeze:  Either before or after icing but before piping cream, set on a tray in the freezer until hard.  Remove, and wrap in foil or freezer wrap.  Store in the freezer for not more than one month.


  To thaw, remove the wrapping, set the gteau on a serving plate and leave to thaw at room temperature for about 2 hours.  The icing will be covered with beads of moisture at first but these will dry out when the cake has come to room temperature.



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        Tarte de Cambrai
Cambrai apple flan

Serves 4-5       Preparation:  20 minutes     Cooking time:  45 minutes
    The Barrer:
  • 1oz (25g) butter
  • 4oz (100g) self-raising flour
  • 4 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 2 eggs, size 2
  • 5 tablespoons milk

    The topping:
  • 2-3 dessert apples
  • 2oz (50g) butter
  • 3 tablespoons caster sugar


  Pre-heat the oven to 400F ( 200C) gas 6.  Place 1oz (25g) butter in a tin (23cm) diameter cake tin and put this in the oven to melt.

  Mix the flour and icing sugar together in a basin and make a well in the centre. Break the eggs into the well, then add the milk.  Remove the cake from the oven and pour the melted butter into the batter mixture.  A film of butter will remain in the tin to grease it.  Stir to mix well together and beat finally for a minute or so.


  Pare and core the apples and cut into thin rings.  Cut the butter into small pieces


  Pour the batter into the buttered tin and arrange the apple rings on top.  Sprinkle with the sugar, and dot with the butter.  Bake for about 45 minutes.  The batter will bake beneath and around the apples to form a springy base for them.  When cooked, the pudding will be a lovely rich brown with an appetizing sugary top.  Serve immediately with cream or custard.



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        Terrine Tante Marie
Pork and chicken liver pt

Serves 10-12       Preparation:  1¼ hours     Cooking time:  2 hours
  • 1lb (450g) chicken livers
  • a little milk
  • 8oz (225g) thinly sliced streaky bacon, rinds removed
  • 1lb (450g) boned shoulder of pork
  • 5oz (150g) lean chicken flesh
  • 3oz (75g) white bread, crusts removed
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 tablespoons brandy
  • 3 tablespoons red wine
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • sprig of thyme to garnish


  Rinse the chicken livers in cold water then soak them in just enough milk to cover for an hour.  This removes the slightly bitter taste.

  Reserve a few bacon rashers for the top of the pt.  Stretch the rest and use to line the sides and base of a 3 pint (1.5 litre) terrine.

  Drain the livers, discarding the milk, and mince finely with the pork, chicken, bread, onion and garlic.  This can be done in a mincer or food processor.  With your hand, mix throughly with all the other ingredients except the thyme sprig to be sure you have an even mixture.


  Pack the pt mixture into the lined dish, pressing it well into the corners.  Cover with the remaining bacon rashers.  Add the sprig of thyme.  Cover the dish with a lid or a piece of foil and stand it in a roasting tin.  Place in the oven, then carefully pour hot water into the tin until it reaches halfway up the sides of the pt dish.


  Heat the oven to 350F (160C) gas 4.  Cook the pt for about 2 hours, checking after 1½ hours:  insert the tip of a sharp knife into the pt.  If it is cooked, the knife will come out clean and feel hot to the touch.  Make sure the level of the water doesn't drop during cooking, and if the water shows any hint of bubbling, lower the temperature.


  Remove the pt from the water bath (bain marie) when it is cooked, and pour off the juices which have collected.  Set the pt on a rack to cool.  Store, covered, in the refrigerator for several hours before serving with crusty bread and butter.



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        Boeuf Bourguignonne
Burgandian beef stew

Serves 6-8       Preparation:  marinate overnight, plus about 30 minutes     Cooking time:  2½-3 hours
  • 2lb (900g) lean braising or stewing steak

    The marinade:
  • ¾pint (450ml) red wine
  • 6 tablespoons brandy
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 6 parsley stems, chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 2 small carrots, chopped
  • 8 black pepercorns
  • pinch of dried thyme or a large sprig of fresh-thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt

    The sauce:
  • 2oz (50g) butter
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 8oz (225g) streaky bacon, chopped
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 pint (600ml) beef stock
  • salt and pepper

    The garnish:
  • 2-3 tomatoes
  • 8oz (225g) butter
  • 120z (350g) buttoned mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 8 slices of white bread, crusts removed
  • 9oz (250g) button onions, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley to garnish


  Rinse the chicken livers in cold water then soak them in just enough milk to cover for an hour.  This removes the slightly bitter taste.


  Reserve a few bacon rashers for the top of the pt.  Stretch the rest and use to line the sides and base of a 3 pint (1.5 litre) terrine.


  Drain the livers, discarding the milk, and mince finely with the pork, chicken, bread, onion and garlic.  This can be done in a mincer or food processor.  With your hand, mix throughly with all the other ingredients except the thyme sprig to be sure you have an even mixture.


  Pack the pt mixture into the lined dish, pressing it well into the corners.  Cover with the remaining bacon rashers.  Add the sprig of thyme.  Cover the dish with a lid or a piece of foil and stand it in a roasting tin.  Place in the oven, then carefully pour hot water into the tin until it reaches halfway up the sides of the pt dish.


  Heat the oven to 350F (160C) gas 4.  Cook the pt for about 2 hours, checking after 1½ hours:  insert the tip of a sharp knife into the pt.  If it is cooked, the knife will come out clean and feel hot to the touch.  Make sure the level of the water doesn't drop during cooking, and if the water shows any hint of bubbling, lower the temperature.


  Remove the pt from the water bath (bain marie) when it is cooked, and pour off the juices which have collected.  Set the pt on a rack to cool.  Store, covered, in the refrigerator for several hours before serving with crusty bread and butter.



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