Tag Archives: eggs

Courgette gratin and Java’s midnight garden

I love the summer, when the windows are left open for the night air to cool the house. And for me to escape through, furtively. Once everyone’s in bed, I creep past Hugo on the tips of my paws, jump onto the window sill, then spring over the rosebush to freedom in the shadowy, moonlit garden.

My first stop is the wise old boar who lives quite close by. He’s always good for dispensing advice on dealing with humans. His insight is surprisingly spot-on for someone who has virtually no contact with them. I don’t stay too long because, once he gets started on a subject, he tends to harp on a bit. I’m fond of the boar and his rough-skinned ways though, and we have a lot in common: we both love mud, will eat just about anything with gusto, and hate the sound of guns. In his wisdom, he tells me that it’s a good thing hunting rifles are so noisy, as it’s a warning to hide.

Giving Bertie the Badger a wide berth (he can be very bad-tempered), I make my way through the pine trees and over the bridge to the deer that live by the river. I admire the deer for their beauty, grace, agility, and speed; we have these traits in common. They tell me about the blackberries that are ripening in the late summer sun, and the best places to find them. I can see they’ve been gorging because their muzzles are stained purple. They know all there is to know about edible plants and shrubs due to their odd eating habits; who eats roses for breakfast? Certainly not me!

My last visit is to the mice, who I find nestling in the horses’ hay. On the way I make a detour to say ‘bonsoir’ to Minou, the cat. We chat quite amicably at night, when nobody’s looking, but make a pretense of being enemies in the day; it’s what expected of us. Mice aren’t very interesting companions to be honest — they’re quite inconsequential — but I do like the way they roll. They love to party and sometimes organise an illicit rave in the kitchen at night, fueled by the crumbs left on the floor. They let me gently chew their little heads. They seem to enjoy it — I suppose it gives them a head massage, a bit of relaxation after their high jinks.

When I see that dawn is breaking, I head back home. The hedgehog, rabbits, and stone martens will have to wait for my visit another night.

This recipe uses courgettes, which I don’t see the point of, and cheese, which I love.

Ingredients (serves 4)

750g courgettes (unpeeled, sliced and lightly precooked)

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 eggs

200g crème fraîche

75g hard cheese (I used Comté)

Seasalt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Arrange the precooked courgettes and finely chopped shallots in a gratin dish. Beat the eggs, gradually adding the cream, cheese, and seasoning. Pour the mixture over the courgettes and shallots and bake for 15 minutes. Delicious served alone with green salad, or as a side dish.

The perfect omelette

I managed to live for over half a century without knowing how to cook an omelette properly. Or at least in a way that avoided husband and son sharing eye rolls and ostentatious dry heaves.

Speaking of exasperation, there are a few culinary fads that really boil my noodle: egg white omelettes (just eat the whole egg or go for the polystyrene option) and spiralised ‘spaghetti’ vegetables (eat spaghetti or eat vegetables, both if you really want to push the boat out, but don’t eat ‘pretend’ food unless you’re a toddler; exactly how idiotic do you think your taste buds are?)

Back to The Omelette. There used to be a restaurant, l’Hôtel de la Tête d’Or, on the Mont St Michel in Normandy, which was famous for its omelette. The owner of the hotel, Madame Poulard, attracted tourists from all over, and although there was much speculation about her secret recipe, she always stayed circumspect. I suspect that her secret had more to do with hardware and impeccable timing than the actual ingredients, although apparently we will never know. 

In any case, the simplest dishes are often the most delicious, but also the most difficult to get right. During my years of blissful ignorance, I used to beat the eggs a bit, add a touch of seasoning and then fry until most of the runniness was gone. They used to taste OK, although they sometimes looked as if I’d finished them off in the tumble dryer.

In my naivety I didn’t realise that in fact you have to go all sado-masochistic on the poor eggs, furiously beating and whipping them into complete submission.  You then have to pitch them, molecules awhirl, from across the room into a blazing furnace of a pan for mere seconds, until the outside is seared and the inside still runny. The experience is athletic, stressful, and affirmative.

As the saying goes, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, sweating profusely, hyperventilating, F-bombing anyone and anything in your way and setting off the smoke alarm…

Ingredients (serves 1)

knob of butter

2 fresh free-range eggs

Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a flat-bottomed frying pan over a high heat. Beat the seasoned eggs very fast until they become frothy. Throw the still-frothy mixture into the pan immediately and sear. Fold the omelette in half while the top is still runny. Serve! And breathe…


Low-GI chocolate mousse with cocoa nibs

I needed a delicious dessert to make for a lunch party today and, as our kitchen has apparently recently been transformed from family kitchen to medium-scale fig jam processing plant (see previous post!), it had to be something quick and easy. My husband and I married for better or for worse, but absolutely NOT to be cooking in the kitchen at the same time.

This mousse is really divine. It’s rich but simple and not too sweet. The recipe is a slightly adapted (I’m incapable of leaving a recipe intact) Montignac recipe, so its GI rating is good (ie low!) because it contains absolutely no added sugar. The rum I used is very luxurious and deliciously fragrant but I’m sure any rum will do.

Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants. Cocoa is a good source of vitamins and minerals including magnesium, calcium, iron, sulphur and manganese. It also contains B vitamins. Cocoa nibs have all the same benefits as chocolate in a purer, more powerful form.

Ingredients (serves 4)

200g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa)

4 eggs

1/2 glass of rum (5 cl)

2 tablespoons cocoa nibs

pinch of salt

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a casserole with the rum. Separate the eggs and beat the whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Once the chocolate has melted, add the beaten egg yolks to the mixture and stir rapidly for about a minute. Stir in the cocoa nibs and then delicately add the mixture to the egg whites, stiring well to obtain a smooth, homogenous texture. Transfer into four ramekins or glasses. Chill for at least five hours before serving.


Sardine pâté and then there were three…

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I haven’t had much time to blog lately as I’ve spent much of the Summer slaving over a hot stove (real punishment in 40°c of heat), producing food for an abundance of hungry guests. The latest ‘feast’ was a three-day party … Continue reading

Basque Piperade and a disoriented white hen

When is an a tomato not a tomato? Answer: when it’s an egg…

The white hen has taken to laying her eggs amongst our tomato plants. I only realised the other day when I spotted several egg-coloured tomatoes.  As hens tend to lay where there are, or have been, other eggs, I wondered whether she thought that the pepper tomatoes were green eggs. Which begs the question: are hens colour blind or just a few French fries short of a Happy Meal? Answers on a postcard please!

Of course the other explantion is that she’s a Basque hen gagging for some Piperade, no doubt one of the most renown Basque dishes.

Ingredients (serves four)

6 medium tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

100g sliced Bayonne ham

3 cloves of garlic

2 onions

Chopped parsley, thyme, bay leaf

2 red bell peppers cut into strips

2 green bell peppers

2 teaspoons Espelette pepper (if you don’t have this, Paprika, chilli powder or Cayenne will do)

4 eggs

Blanche and skin the tomatoes. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a medium frying pan and cook the ham until golden brown (about 7 minutes). Set aside. Cook the garlic and onion in two tablespoons of olive oil until golden brown. Add the herbs and peppers, Espelette pepper and seasalt to taste. Cover and leave to cook until the peppers soften (about 10 minutes). Stir in the tomatoes and browned ham and cook until the mixtures melds and juices slightly thicken. Beat the eggs and add over the heat to the tomato/pepper mixture, stirring until cooked. Serve immediately!


Salt and Pepper

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We have two hens called Sel and Poivre (Salt and Pepper). We bought them in the hope of being able to teach Hugo, our dog, that chickens are to be admired from a respectable distance and not eye-balled viciously, whilst … Continue reading

Floating islands

After three years’ pretending that he’s So Not Bothered by storms, our neurotic labrador has suddenly decided that they absolutely terrify him. He’s gone from superior nonchalence to quivering wreck in one furl swoop; no half-measures with Hugo. Which means that when it’s stormy (which is quite often here in the Spring), I gain an appendage of 30 kilos of black fur, which is a bit of a hindrance for moving around the kitchen (and certainly not a good look).

In spite of my appendage (or perhaps thanks to), I somehow managed to make this which is really delicious. The recipe came from my late mother-in-law.

Ingredients (serves about 6, depending on greed)

1 litre of full-fat milk

120g cane sugar

1 vanilla pod

1 tablespoon of cornflour

4 eggs (preferably free-range)

1 tablespoon of rum (optional)

Heat a glass of the milk and sugar mixture in a saucepan until it starts to simmer. Dilute the cornflour in a tiny bit of water and add to the milk and sugar mixture. Separate the eggs and four yolks to the mixture.

Beat the egg whites (adding a pinch of salt) until firm, then separate with a serving spoon and cook in the remaining milk which should be simmering (this should take about two minutes; one minute on each side). Sieve once cooked.

Add the cooking milk to the milk/cornflour/egg mixture with a whisk and bring to the boil until the mixture thickens (a couple of minutes). Add the rum and pour into a bowl and place the cooked egg whites on top. Refrigerate and serve chilled.