Saturday, 31 May 2014

A quick hello! And that Lamb Madras recipe.

I think I will be posting about next week's menus tomorrow - I need to get out on the balcony and in the courtyard to finish planting out my pots - but I wanted to direct you over to the View from the Teapot so you can read about our visit to Lyon with my mum. You can read about it here: Flâner-ing in Lyon

The curry night on Tuesday went well -  and the Lamb Madras was delicious!!! I made it on Sunday and it matured in the fridge for a couple of days, which I think made it even better. I reduced the heat a little, in deference to French tastes, but otherwise this is the recipe.

  • The Paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5-8 dried red chillies (depending on how hot you want the curry)
  • 6 fresh curry leaves
  • 5- 7 cloves garlic, chopped, or ten teaspoons of garlic paste
  • 2 teaspoons ginger paste or fresh chopped ginger
  • The Curry
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 kg diced lamb
  • 125g ghee or butter
  • 100ml vegetable oil
  • 4 medium onions, sliced
  • 1 tin (400ml) of coconut milk
  • 1 cup (250ml) water
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste mixed with 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Garam Masala


Preparation:30min  ›  Cook:1hour30min  ›  Ready in:2hours 

  1. Making the curry paste: In a dry frying pan, dry roast the coriander seeds till they start to go brown, then pour into pestle and mortar or a food processor. Repeat this with cumin seeds and dried chillies. Add the salt and the curry leaves to the mortar or food processor and grind them into a fine powder without any lumps. Add the garlic and the ginger and pound or stir to form a thick paste. Leave aside.
  2. Making the curry: dry roast the fennel seeds as you did for the coriander etc, set aside. Sprinkle the turmeric over the diced meat and make sure it’s all coated. Set aside.
  3. Heat the butter and oil and add the onions and fry on a medium heat for 10 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Add the curry paste and fry for 1 minute. Add the meat and fry for 1 minute. Add 2/3 of the tin of coconut milk and the water and bring to the boil. Cook on a medium/high heat for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining coconut milk and 1 cup of water. Bring to a simmer and turn the heat right down so the liquid gently bubbles. Stir in the cardamom pods, the cinnamon stick and the fennel seeds.
  5. Cook for 1 1/2 hours with the lid partially on, stirring occasionally to ensure it isn’t sticking. Add little bits of water if it reduces too much.
  6. Add the tamarind, sugar and garam masala and cook for 5 more minutes or until the sauce thickens. Scoop out the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick before servin
Do try it! If you like curries I think you'll like this.

I couldn't get hold of tamarind paste but used this as a substitute: 2 tbsp tomato purée, 1 tbsp worcester sauce, 1 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 squeeze of lime juice, 1 tsp sugar. It seemed to work.
Also, here in France it's difficult to find things like curry leaves...I just busked with what I could find. Delicious!!

See you tomorrow!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Busy, busy, busy!!

Goodness me! It's been a busy week and an even busier weekend!

I had good intentions to write about our trip to Lyon two weeks ago, but somehow that went out of the window! I have been busy with work - always a good reason to be short of time! - as I took on two more students this week, on phone lessons. I have almost reached saturation point and in a couple of weeks I'll be losing my planning morning (Tuesday) as I take on another face-to-face student. It means I'll be working at the weekend too, as I won't have time to plan during the week.

This weekend has been manic too: we've been cleaning. deep cleaning. You see, we have good friends who have come out to their holiday home for half term. We have invited them for a meal on Tuesday, together with Monique & Michel across the square - we feel that everyone will get on well together. However, Hazel is  very allergic to cats...and as you know, we have four of the beasts!

So, Mr FD and I spent yesterday cleaning and hoovering and mopping the floor of the big downstairs room. We stripped the chairs of their covers and washed them, we removed a lot of cat un-related mess plus a lot of cat related mess (one - or more - of our cats seem to have forgotten that litter trays are provided for peeing purposes), we dusted and wiped. Then this morning Mr FD spent several hours steam cleaning the two sofas, the floor, the rugs and the little pee-stained corners... We have now covered the chairs with sheets which can be removed when Hazel et al arrive on Tuesday, hopefully minimising the cat hair/dander/saliva that sets her off. We'll also confine the cats to barracks on Tuesday evening.

While Mr FD was going mad with the steam cleaner this morning I was cooking up a rather delicious smelling lamb madras. It will sit in the fridge for the next couple of days, deepening in flavour, until Tuesday evening. Because we've invited our friend Richard, who is vegetarian, I have to cook some veggie dishes too. That will be done sometime on Tuesday, in between lesson preparation and phone lessons.
The menu is:
STARTER: Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Tahini dressed courgette and green bean salad. 
Yes, I know it's not Indian, but it's delicious and it's simple! And I can at least partly make it in advance!
MAIN COURSE: Lamb Madras, River Cottage's Potato and Chard curry (made with a mixture of spinach and bette leaves), Red Lentil Dhal, and Mushroom Bhaji.

Dave & Hazel are bringing naan breads and mango chutney. I've got some poppadoms in the cupboard that need using too, so I think we'll dispense with rice.
PUDDING: Chocolate Banana cake (made it today) - not quite the recipe I use, but close enough! We'll have this with ice cream. Again, not very Indian - but I'm not sure what is, except for kulfi, or those tooth-achingly sweet sweeties.

So we won't be eating for a week after that!!

I have also spent part of this weekend making cards -one for my friend who has her Christian "birthday" shortly. We both said "Yes" to Christ in the same week in 1977 (I think!) me at the Christian Union at school, and she at a prayer meeting a few days later. Since then we have always sent each other cards, and, to be honest, there have been a few years when I have been grateful that my "birthday" came before hers, as I've only been reminded by her faithfulness!!

This is the card I made:

Of course, it had to include Zentangling!

The other card was for the daughter of one of my students. A couple of times Didier has been unable to get childcare for Louise, his 10 year old, when school is closed, so she has come along and sat in on our lesson. Once it was just Didier and Louise, so we were able to spend more time chatting (in English, bien sur!) and teaching Didier "Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes"! Well, last week Didier brought in a gift for me - a lovely little cat statue made by Louise! (He is a potter, and obviously she has inherited his talent!)

On one side there is a happy cat...
...and on the other an angry (sad?) cat:

I think he's fab!

So I had to make her a Thank You card (already sealed! I forgot to take a photo!) and I made her a bookmark, and popped in one of the cat badges that I received from a blog swap a few months ago.

And the other busyness has been attacking the huge pile of ironing, mostly caused by the fact I swapped my winter/autumn clothes for my spring /summer ones...I seem to have far too many clothes which are worn over far too short a period!! I've already spent one session ironing and I still have more to do! I also need to iron a tablecloth for Tuesday and the seat covers etc. that I washed.

So. I really will tell you about Lyon. Just not quite yet!

And one more bit of zentangle inspired art to show you - this one is for my sister's birthday card. She's 60 in a couple of weeks time. How did that happen?! I can't have a sister who's 60!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Hello again!

Hello everybody!

We had a lovely gourmand weekend in Lyon with my mum, my brother and my sister. I will write more about it tomorrow, but suffice to say we ate far too much!!

Last week's meals were a bit thrown together, as I hadn't planned very well, but they were very enjoyable - especially last night's. I marinaded a couple of chicken breasts in lime juice, sweet chilli sauce and some low-fat Balsamic dressing. Mr FD was in charge of grilling them while I was out teaching. Then we had them with some lettuce and tomatoes, some bought tabbouleh salad, bought mixed carrot-and-cabbage salad, and (for me) bought Macedoine of vegetables salad. All these from Lidl, so almost as cheap (and much more convenient) than making them myself. With a big handful of tortilla chips this was our supper. A client had given Mr FD's work place a crate of delicious German beer, and so we had a bottle of this each as well. Finished off with a crisp apple and a Lindor chocolate ball - verrrrrrrrrrrrry nice!

This week's plans are in place, as follows:


Celeriac cakes, potato rosti and red bean chilli sauce. The celeriac cake recipe is from the 5:2 Recipe book - served with chicken, in a cider sauce - but I like them as they are. This is the closest recipe I can find, but I'm using lardons, not ham, and my recipe also adds crushed walnuts and some grated cheese. 

 Hairy Dieter's Spicy pork-and-rice. I've made this before - it's really simple, but yummy. There will be two portions going into the freezer for another time.

In fact that's one of this weekend's jobs: I want to go through the freezer and list what ready cooked meals are in there so that I can use them up on the days when I am back late from teaching. I don't want to ask Mr FD to start cooking from scratch when he gets home at 6.30 - especially as he leaves early too, so will be tired - so on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday we're pulling meals from the freezer. We have thought that every alternate Thursday we may go out for a meal, but we need to replenish our savings before that starts. We used a good chunk of them to buy a second car - may I present Happy to you:

With Mr FD going in one direction to work and me in the other a second car became a necessity. So we bought Happy (so called because it's a happy car to drive and the first song on the radio when we were test driving it was the Happy Song by Pharrell Williams. By the time we'd finished singing along we'd decided to buythe car!)
Unfortunately buying Happy wiped out most of our savings, so we need to replenish that before going too bonkers with the fact we have two decent salaries coming in!

MONDAY (semi fasting) 
 Spicy aubergine curry (not quite the recipe, but near enough) with 25g raw rice. I'll prep this on Sunday, so Mr FD only needs to heat it up and cook the rice. I'll also make  a vegetable soup for our lunch.


Again, the recipe is for four, so I'm making two pies and freezing one for future eating.

 Usually a full teaching day, but two students are not here, so I will be home earlier and will be able to cook. So we'll have Baked Fish with Chorizo Crust (more Hairy Dieters!) with green veggies and maybe some potatoes of some description. I've had this fish before and it was yummy!

THURSDAY: (semi fasting)  
Chicken provencale (from the I'm afraid I don't know where the original recipe came from) with green veggies - steamed asparagus, I think, as I have some already bought. Maybe a bit of pasta, but maybe not.

Hairy Dieter's Meatloaf, baked potato and courgettes-and-tomatoes

to every one for their comments. I love reading them.

JANE & CHRIS: As you will be able to read tomorrow (I hope!) we didn't make it to that restaurant, but I certainly would have avoided the tripe soup!! We did eat in a Lyonnaise Bouchon though and while the menu was a little challenging it wasn't of Tripe Soup standard - I'm happy to say!

JUNE: I'm glad you have joined us - and that you enjoyed the dhal. A vegetable curry is at the very least veggies sautéed with curry powder, but here's a link to a page of vegetable curry recipes that are so much more than that!

KEZZIE: I hope you can contact Emma & that you find the app useful. I am very happy with the book version. 

POMPOM: Always happy to oblige with cat pictures - isn' t the ginger boy handsome?! I hope you are well - I hope to have time to catch up on some blogs soon and yours is on the list!

TRISH: I think it's worth fiddling round with the eggs to make the omelette soufflé-y...we had it and it seemed "extra filling" with the soufflé-ness!! I enjoyed it a lot and we will be having soufflé omellette again.
Anyway...time to go and have lunch. I've got an ex-student coming along in an hour or so to "top up" his English before his Baccalauréat English oral exam. Frankly, I can't help thinking he needs more than a couple of "top up" lessons, but hey, what can you say?! Just be helpful and encouraging, I suppose.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Food and family

We're looking forward to a gastronomic weekend with my brother, sister and mum in Lyon next weekend. It's mum's 85th birthday and this is our present to her...

Here is a pic of mum and I on our recent trip to the UK. We went for a walk in the fields around her home - she was thrilled to find that there were egrets in the little flood lakes (known as "flashes") just behind the house.

Mr FD and I have booked into the same hotel as J., M. and mum, and we are planning to go to these restaurants (I have to book them today):

which is one of the Paul Bocuse brasseries. It has a little train running around the restaurant - how fun is that?! You can see it just to the left of the door in this photo:

and Le Musée, one of the traditional Lyonnaise "bouchons"

This review makes it sound quite appealing: Un café, un musée? Les deux, mon général! Ce vrai bouchon comme avant, avec  ses banquettes de moleskine, son bar en cuivre et bois, ses murs de crépi, sa fresque « monastique » de 1935, joue les monuments bonhomme. Il plait aisément à tous avec sa jolie mine de rade populaire, propret, soigné à l’envi. Luc Minaire, qui fut boulanger à Saint-Cyr au Mont d’Or, anime la maison avec une vraie gentillesse, tandis qu’un jeune chef, formé à l’Oustau de Baumanière, a repris les recettes d’antan le adjoignant quelques nouveautés.
On aime la simplicité du lieu, la soupe de tripes, le saucisson brioché, les pieds et museau en salade, les rognons sauce madère ou la blanquette du veau, témoignant tous d’une franchise sans faille. On achève avec une tarte citron meringuée, des œufs en neige aux pralines ou une salade d’agrumes, non sans avoir sacrifié à la cérémonie des beaujolais en pot signés Pierre Ferraud et Louis Tête.

We will, of course, be doing some sight seeing too, but the eating regime wil be out of the window next week! We will be enjoying good food without guilt!

Yesterday we had a roast dinner, instead of the planned meal, as I bought a short date chicken for less than half price on Friday. So we had it with roast potatoes, oven-baked cabbage, carrots and steamed green beans last night. Mr FD has requested cold chicken and chips this evening, so we'll probably have that with some coleslaw, tomatoes and some green bean salad. 

The carcass is already boiling away to make stock for soup, which will be my fast day lunch tomorrow...and we'll finish off the meat on Monday. So this week's menus look like this:

TODAY: Cold chicken; chips and salads

MONDAY (semi fasting): Vegetable & chicken stir fry with a few noodles.

TUESDAY: Fish & leek pie - a version of this, from the Woman 500 calorie diet recipe book - fewer leeks, more fish and lemon-and-garlic breadcrumb topping. But I couldn't get smoked haddock this week, so it's an unsmoked fish pie, with extra leeks and plain breadcrumb topping (well, go on then, maybe a bit of cheese!)

WEDNESDAY: Spinach & cheese soufflé omelette - postponed from Saturday (recipe on last week's post) - with potato wedges & salad.

THURSDAY (semi fasting): Lentil dhal, veggie curry and a smidgeon of rice. The dhal is from the freezer, but is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe - which is, no doubt, like most people's recipe!

Then on Friday it's off to Lyon, pausing to pick Mr FD up on the way from his work. The others are arriving at midday-ish, but we'll leave them to do as they wish on Friday afternoon, and we'll arrive about 6.00 at the hotel. 

We'll get back to St Just on Sunday evening...I have a pizza in the freezer if we should want it, but we may be still quite stuffed from the weekend!!

Thank you again for your comments - Trish: did you try the omelette? Was it nice?
Pompom: another funny Lolcat for you (the contented cat looks a little like our lovely boy-cat, George!)
And June, I've contacted the person at Woman magazine, so you might be lucky! I'll let you know!!

And finally...because it made me smile:

(I do hope there's no pieces missing!!)

OK, off to finish the soup & go to the recycling!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

RECIPE: Spanish Chicken

1st May is a bank holiday here in France - I had planned to buy plants from the Plant Man in the market, but due to grotty weather and a temporary cash flow problem I decided to wait until next Thursday - also a bank holiday!

Mr FD invited a friend for dinner, so I spent the morning making asparagus soup, chocolate mousse and lavender shortbread.
The shortbread was my recipe from my vintage kitchen swap - I liked the shortbread recipe but wasn't convinced by the lavender part of it. Mr FD took the left over biscuits into work on Friday...What the French co-workers made of it I have no idea!

We also had Spanish Chicken - an easy but enjoyable meal. Here is the recipe for 2 people:

1/2 level tsp turmeric                    1/2 litre stock (chicken)
1 tbsp oil                                       2 chicken legs, divided into thigh & drumstick
1 onion, chopped                          1/2 red pepper, sliced
25g chorizo, chopped                   1 clove garlic, crushed
150g long grain rice                     20g frozen peas (I missed these out)

1. Add turmeric to stock & leave to infuse for at least 5 minutes. Heat oil in large pan & brown chicken portions (about 10 minutes) Remove from pan.
2. Add onion & cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. add pepper & chorizo & continue to cook, stirring occasionally. Add garlic after about 5 minutes & cook some more until all veggies are softened.
3. Return the chicken to the pan, add the rice & mix togerher. Pour in about 1/3 of the stock & bring to a simmer. Cook until stock is absorbed. Add the peas and mix everything again, adding the rest of the stock. Cook for a further 15 minutes or so, uncovered, until the liquid is absorbed & the chicken is cooked.
4. Serve, scattered with parsley (if that's what you like!)

You can make this spicier, if you wish, with the addition of more chorizo, or some piri-piri sauce. To add another portion of veggies, I guess you could reduce the amount of stock, but use a can of chopped tomatoes

Menu plans tomorrow!