We had our lovely French neighbours over for a meal at the weekend. Last week had been crazy with all the visitors and then a change of guests on Saturday. Alex, my eldest and his girlfriend Jenn left on Saturday too, after we all spent a fabulous day at Futuroscope with my nephew and younger son. I have to say I’d started to reach burn out so we decided on a barbecue. Ok, so it wasn’t me doing the actual cooking, it was barbecue after all, so my husband did the cooking (in the rain..). I’d made the salad and the wedges and prepped the meat but I wanted to try them with something French too to see what they thought.
I discovered this salad of Champignons à La Crème at the deli section a year ago. We love it but it’s around 3 Euros for a really tiny pot, so I perused the ingredients and added a bit here and there until it tasted right. The original doesn’t have tarragon but I often add tarragon to fried mushrooms so I couldn’t resist adding it. It’s a really different change to coleslaw and easy to do. There were eight of us but I reckon it would serve six comfortably.
Here’s what you need:
- 10 wiped white button mushrooms, halved then sliced thinly
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 shallot finely chopped
- 1 tbsp virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp dry white wine
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp chopped chives
- 1 tbsp dried tarragon
- 3 heaped tbsp reduced fat creme fraiche
It takes about 15 mins to prepare and there’s no cooking!
Here’s what you do:
- Combine everything in a large bowl except the creme fraiche and half the chives.
- Cover and stick it in the fridge for 2-3 hours.
- Give it a good stir every hour.
- Stir in the creme fraiche and seasoning and top with the remaining chives before serving.
The mushrooms are ‘cooked’ by all the acid in the vinegar, lemon and wine, so should be softened with a little bite. You could add different herbs such as parsley or thyme or oregano. My French neighbours loved it!
This would also go really well on a jacket potato or served with a chicken salad or sandwich. You could always use the green part of spring onions if you didn’t have chives.
Who doesn’t love a spring roll? I have to say they were never really one of my favourite take-away foods as more often than not they were always oozing, and I mean ‘ooozzingg’ with grease! Luckily, the lovely French people seem to love the old ‘printemps’ and sell them everywhere in all flavours, including crab, prawn, pork and chicken, but still they are desperately greasy. So yes, chez le rêve, we are trying to be healthy, and the poor deep fat fryer has been cleaned and consigned to the cellar for a while, (sob..) but I still have urges! I now feel quietly smug that I may have found a solution to this using a few cheats along the way.
Here’s what you need for 8 rather large spring rolls!
- 8 sheets Brique pastry or 16 of filo.
- 50g (1 nest) mung bean vermicelli noodles (any glass noodle type thingy will do).
- 1 small jar Chinese veg drained (usually beansprouts and carrots etc).
- tin of cheapo crab.
- finely chopped red chilli (optional) .
- I finely chopped spring onion.
Here’s what I did:
- Cook your noodles. Normally shove them in boiled water and wait about 3 minutes.
- Drain noodles and combine with other ingredients.
- Take a sheet of brique (or 2 sheets filo, lightly oiled between) and dollop an 1/8th of the mixture as shown on the picture.
- Roll up and bring in the sides carefully and stick on a baking tray.
- Lightly brush the top with oil and bake about 10 mins gas 6, or 200 degrees.
Serve it with a bit of shop bought or homemade chilli sauce and enjoy the delicious crunch of pastry and veggies without piling on the pounds! Perfect as a starter or side in a Chinese banquet or when you are just feeling naughty. Give ’em a go and tell me how easy it was – I promise it will be!
- If you have cooked shredded meat like pork, chicken or duck you could use this instead.
- Use defrosted budget prawns or chopped squid lightly cooked. Be sure not to freeze if you have used defrosted ingredients.
- If you can’t get hold of Chinese veggies in a jar – hard luck! Some supermarkets sell fresh mung beans but I’ve not seen them in France. I would suggest finely sliced spring onion, grated carrot, peppers and mangetout. In fact, add what you like!
- We ate 4 and froze the rest in an old takeaway plastic container. They are best cooked from frozen or will go soggy. If you are doing this add a few minutes more.
So please have a go. It looks difficult but it’s really easy. Your family will think you are marvelous and you will know it’s as healthy as you can make it at a fraction of the price. Another Virtuous dish.
This is another Virtuous dish. Can you guess that I am on a diet yet? It’s been hot for weeks here, regularly in the 30’s, so the good thing is that we haven’t wanted to eat much. I absolutely love squid and have seen similar recipes on the television but they looked a bit complicated so I just thought about what I already had in the house . This is what I came up with.
Here’s what you need for 4 people:
- 12 small squid bodies (they were frozen)
- 1 160g tin cheapo crab, well drained
- 1 chopped birds-eye chilli or a few flakes
- 1 finely chopped spring onion
- 1 shallot, finely chopped or half an onion
- 1 clove of crushed garlic
- 1/2 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tbsp chopped coriander or 1 tsp dried
- 1 tsp fish sauce optional
What I did:
- Mix crab, fish sauce, chilli, coriander and spring onion in a bowl.
- Heat about 1 tsp vegetable oil in a small pan and add the shallot to soften.
- Add the garlic and ginger for 1 minute stirring constantly.
- Combine the crab and garlic mixture and use a teaspoon to stuff the squid, leaving enough room to secure with a cocktail stick.
- Heat a griddle pan or bbq and cook for about a minute each side to get some sear marks but take care not to overcook.
We had this as a starter on our weekly curry night. Serve them with a little chilli sauce or just a squeeze of lemon. I put a little salad garnish of cucumber and sliced radish, cucumber and spring onion. It tasted amazing! Great for a dinner party or romantic dinner for two. Give it a go – I’d love to know what you think.
- If you don’t want to shell out for crab chop up some budget prawns or use a mixture of the two.
- To save time make a garlic and ginger mix. Peel 3 whole bulbs of garlic and 1/3 their weight in ginger. Roughly chop ginger then add to a food processor piece by piece then garlic. Add some vegetable oil until a paste is made. You might need to scrape the sides a few times. Stick it in a container and pour over extra oil to seal, cover and store in fridge. It save grating your fingers if you like a lot of curry dishes. I got this tip from having a day cooking with Reza Mohammad who has a home in the Charente. Of course, you could buy a little jar of crushed ginger!