Saturday, 10 September 2011

HORSES AND FOOD (no connection whatsoever here!)

The headquarters of the horse welfare organization that has been taking care of Shahdlou for the last few years since I left le Mée is now in Daoulas, which is only 30km away from me. Before it was near Lille! So I went up there at the beginning of the week with my cheques to take care of his keep until the end of the year, rather than sending them by post. I was able to meet the person in charge, and had a good chat about how often his feet are done, and how often he sees the dentist. I came away satisfied with the care he is getting. It's just a shame that he's so far away, in Nozay, just above Nantes. An all day journey there and back, for a quarter of an hour of cuddles (he gets tired of cuddling very quickly!).

The first two pictures above I took when I last visited, he is with the very nice farmer who takes care of him. And the last photo was taken by the organization this winter, he's all fuzzy in his winter coat. He is considerably thinner than when he was with me, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and has lost muscle, which is not surprising as he is now 25. Looks good doesn't he?!

So lets catch up on food! I have lots of food pictures to show you, things I have cooked, recipes I have picked up on the web.

Seared beef bento! I marinated a chunky piece of beef (quite a small piece) in grated garlic, grated ginger and Kikkoman soy, and seared it in a very hot heavy frying pan for about a minute on either side. Served topped with fresh red chili, fresh spring onions and toasted sesame, over pink sushi ginger and some raw peas, with on the side cucumber salad with sesame and a chunk of lime. A nice ripe apricot for dessert.

The makings of broad bean and nasturtium salad. Just add vinaigrette and chopped chives!

Live spider crabs

Cooked spider crabs
 In June my neighbour gave me a couple of small spider crabs he had just fished. I cooked them, made a mayonnaise, and had them for my supper!

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of this pastis gascon when it came out of the oven. The recipe? You put two sheets of filo pastry, at right angles to each other in a tart dish. Brush all over with melted butter. Peel core and slice 6 to 8 apples. Slice a couple of apples over the filo. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of demerara sugar (or any sugar actually), and a tablespoon of armagnac (I used Fine de Bretagne, an apple alcohol similar to Calvados, but it should be armagnac). Put another couple of pieces of filo, paint with butter. And so on to three layers of apple. Gather up the filo that is hanging over the edge of the dish, crumple it delicately like tissue paper, add another couple of pieces of filo in the centre to form a rose (no apple should be showing). Brush all this liberally (very liberally) with melted butter. And put it in the oven for half an hour or so. Just be careful the filo only goes golden and does not burn. Serve with a little cream. It's very spectacular and quite easy. And always produces oohs and aahs!

When I pruned my vine in May, I used the leaves to make dolmades, something I have been meaning to do for years, but never had time in Le Mée. My vine, in fact my whole garden, never sees any weedkiller, bug killers, or anything that is not totally natural. So I'm not afraid to use any leaves for food. I first blanched the leaves quickly in boiling water and spread them on a tea towel to dry. I then made a stuffing, with onion, garlic, raw rice, raisins, olive oil, lots of herbs like parsley, thyme, spring onion tops, salt, pepper, and a skinned tomato all pulped up.

I placed a teaspoonful of the mixture in the centre of each leaf and made envelopes (far easier than making spring rolls, the vine leaves are not at all fragile).

And packed them into the bottom of a saucepan with more olive oil and a little chicken stock, about half way up the little packets. Simmered for half an hour.

Quite a lot of trouble, and actually if truth be told, I don't like dolmades all that much, but you get a sense of having something for nothing which is pretty cool!

For one of my summer vegetarian lunch parties, I did a tatin d'aubergine. You cut about three or four aubergines into 0.5cm slices, sprinkle them with salt, and leave for an hour. Rinse very well under running water and squeeze out like a dish rag. Fry in a little olive oil. Brown some pine nuts and sprinkle them in the bottom of a tart dish. Put one sundried tomato in the very middle of the dish, and a layer of aubergine slices overlapping to cover the bottom. Then sundried tomatoes to fill up all the gaps and quite a lot more over the aubergine, then another layer of aubergine slices. You can add squeezed garlic over the aubergine, or dried oregano. DON'T salt. Then top the lot with some ready rolled out puff pastry, tucking in the edges. Oven for half an hour or so, until the pastry is nice and golden. Put a large plate on top of the tart dish and turn the whole thing over so that the pastry is on the bottom and the aubergine on the top. It should be served warm or hot, and should not be turned out until you are ready to eat or the pastry goes soggy. I serve it with green salad. Everyone is always very impressed by this dish, even people who are not fond of aubergine.

I think that's it foodwise.

Some nice fresh salad from the garden
and some raspberries and fraises des bois


  1. Wow, I feel inspired to make some of these dishes! The tatin aubergine and salad and apple filo would make a great dinner. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. I love dolmades but in the north of england vine leaves can only be found in speciality supermarkets in vacuum packs. The aubergine tart tatin looks fantastic. Must try it sometime.
    I see you live near Quimper. I adore Brittany, but we had a bit of an upsetting experience in a cafe in Quimper! We shared a table with a lovely elderly French lady who was quite happy about it, but when the waitress came she was horrified we'd dared to do so, and started saying bad things about 'the English' . The whole cafe joined in. We were mortified, our boys were only little. We left. It didn't stop our love of the town though and hope to visit again someday.