Roasted fennel and tomatoes

Everybody seems to be cooking fennel these days, so here I am, jumping on the bandwagon with this beautifully simple recipe from my grandmother: roasted fennel and tomatoes.

Up to a few weeks ago, I don’t believe I’d ever had roasted fennel before; I mainly remember eating fennel raw, in sandwiches or salads. I had a delicious fennel salad in Rome last summer, with black olives, orange and rocket and a tangy olive oil and orange dressing, and have fond memories of eating the most amazing homemade sandwiches on the Amalfi coast: fresh mozzarella, slices of tomato and raw fennel, fresh floury Italian rolls soaked with extra-virgin olive oil; just add a cool breeze, the sun shining on my skin & a good view and I’m in heaven.

In any case, eating cooked fennel was a revelation: this recipe is simplicity itself and tastes so good you won’t even believe it. Three ingredients are needed: fennel, tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil. Put the lot in the oven, wait a little while and enjoy! For those of you who aren’t the biggest fans of the liquorice-like taste of fennel, you’ll be glad to know that cooking this vegetable definitely tones this flavour down, bringing out much softer tones.

A really lovely dish, tasty and so easy to make! My grandmother likes to have it as a side dish, with a piece of baked fish and some rice, but I can picture this as a vegetarian main, with some butter beans added in for good measure (and a bit of a carb and protein boost). How will you choose to eat it?

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Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 bulb fennel, fronds cut off and kept aside

1-2 tomatoes

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

IMG_37911. Preheat oven to 190° C.

2. Cut fennel and tomatoes into halves, then into wedges.  Place vegetable wedges into an oven-proof dish. Cover in some olive oil, a little salt and pepper.

3. Cook in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until fennel is tender, turning over halfway through.

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4. Serves hot with rice and a fillet of fish, or with some beans. Sprinkle the fennel fronds on top.

5. Enjoy!

My grandmother’s sausage rougail

The week I’ve spent in the south of France at my grandmother’s house has been the most restful holiday I’ve had in a while, mainly because I’ve been able to truly enjoy it. Life here seems to go so slowly, and I’ve spent most of my time reading, talking and cooking with my grandmother – and a little blogging too.

My grandmother was born in the Reunion Island and spent most of her early years there, up to her young married life, so a lot of her cooking, although she now eats very simply, is inspired from her childhood in the Indian Ocean. My favourite, and a family favourite I dare say, of all the creole dishes she cooks is her sausage rougail, a deep, rich sausage and tomato dish spiced with turmeric which I very specifically ask her to cook for me every time I come visit.

Although I am used to eating this dish for Sunday lunch, cooked by my father with a myriad of small accompaniments, my grandmother doesn’t remember it that way. According to her, sausage rougail and embrocal, the turmeric pilaf rice that rougail was traditionally served with, were mainly cooked as a picnic dish: pots would be carried in woven baskets up to the lunch destination and eaten there.

Whether cooked by my grandmother or by my father, this truly is in my top 5 family recipes, especially when served with rice, fresh avocados and a simple version of fresh tomato salsa. It’s perfect as a dinner dish and makes for delicious leftovers!

Careful, though: although I adore turmeric, this spice stains worse than anything else I’ve seen. Definitely wear an apron while cooking this, or at least avoid delicate or white clothing!

PS. If any of my family is reading this, this recipe was written according to Grand-mère: although we may all have our own version, this is the definitive one! 😉

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

4 Toulouse sausages (or thick pork sausages)

1 onion

2 shallots

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 can chopped tomatoes or 3 fresh tomatoes, diced

200ml water

Turmeric

Salt

Pepper

Oil (olive or coconut)

1. Heat some oil in a large pan over medium heat. When hot, cook sausages in pan until browned. This will mainly give the sausages better texture and facilitate the next step.

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2. Take the sausages off the heat and cut them into quarters or thirds, then set aside in a small bowl.

3. In the same pan as the sausages, brown onion, shallots and garlic. When browned, put half-cooked sausage pieces back in the pan and mix together.

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4. Add a generous amount of turmeric to the pan, covering onions and meat, and stir well. Make sure to add the turmeric BEFORE you add the tomatoes.

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5. Add 1/2 can of chopped tomatoes, or 3 fresh chopped tomatoes. If using fresh tomatoes, make sure they can give a lot of water.

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6. Add about 150 to 200ml of water to the pan, not enough to cover the sausages but mainly to allow the sauce to thicken. Lower heat and let simmer until the water has evaporated and the sauce is no longer liquid.

7. To make the fresh tomato salsa, dice two tomatoes into small pieces. In a bowl, mix diced tomatoes, one tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper and possible a dash of lemon juice and set aside.

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8. When the sauce has thickened, serve rougail with rice and fresh tomato “salsa”.

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9. Enjoy!

Asparagus with homemade French mayonnaise

Truth be told, I’m not the biggest fan of mayonnaise (especially store-bought), but when I saw Dana from I Got Cake use a similar technique to make a dressing to her amazing-looking Caesar Salad the other day, I was reminded of this easy recipe from my childhood. I remember making this while my mother and grandmother bustled around the kitchen in our Normandy home, preparing lunch and dinner for ten or more people every day. As such, I guess this simple homemade mayonnaise recipe reminds me of my childhood, family and my burgeoning love of cooking.

The mayonnaise recipe couldn’t be simpler and really tastes 100x better than any mayonnaise you can get ready made in a supermarket. It can be used in much the same way (even in sandwiches, if you’re a fan), but I remember it most used three ways at home: with freshly-boiled asparagus, steamed artichoke leaves and steamed whelks and prawns – our Normandy home being close to the seaside, fresh seafood was often on the menu, with fresh bread, rock salt and this mayonnaise.

Interesting old French wives’ tale: this mayonnaise won’t take if it’s made by a pregnant  woman, according to my grandmother. Indeed, if a pregnant woman tries to make this mayonnaise, it will apparently split. I’ve never been able to test this old wives’ tale, but if you are expecting, beware!

Side note: this mayonnaise keeps for about a day or two in the fridge, but is best when at its freshest!

 

Ingredients:

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 egg yolk

125 ml oil

1 dash apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

Salt

Pepper

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1. In a small bowl, whisk together dijon mustard and the egg yolk. Lightly salt and pepper.

2. While continually whisking, pour oil into mustard-yolk mixture little by little.

3. Whisk in vinegar or lemon juice, then salt and pepper to taste.

4. Enjoy – I personally dip asparagus spears or the edible end of artichoke leaves in the mayonnaise before eating them.

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Sweet potato dauphinoise

My mother often made Gratin Dauphinois for us when I was a child, as a hearty side dish to some delicious meaty Sunday main. I looked forward to this very much, and still do, as I absolutely adore this warm and creamy potato gratin, the bottom potatoes melting in my mouth, the cheesy top having gotten crunchy and crispy under the grill and the nutmeg adding its distinctive nutty aroma.

I still make it myself, sometimes simply because I’m in the mood for it or if I cook for a large enough number of people, as it is a very satisfying dish which to be honest doesn’t really take that much preparation time. However, I’ve played around with it a little to make it a bit healthier: my main trick is to use sweet potatoes as well as classic, white potatoes, which gives this old French classic a new twist – as well as a higher dose in vitamin A and a lower calorie count.

In any case, this dish really is a wonderful side dish and scrummy comfort food, perfect for Sunday lunch, dinner party or a cosy Sunday evening. A must-try!

Serves 3

Ingredients:

2 sweet potatoes, washed and peeled

2 potatoes, washed and peeled

150 ml crème fraiche or double cream

1 tsp of nutmeg

Salt

Pepper

50g cheese (English cheddar or French comté, for example), grated

1. Preheat oven to 180° celsius.

2. Chop potato and sweet potato into even slices, not too thick. Wash the starch off the potatoes, then put them in a bowl with the crème fraiche or double cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper and mix them well, covering all slices evenly.

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3. Take an ovenproof dish and butter the sides. Layer alternate slices of potato and sweet potato inside the dish, covering with the rest of the cream. Place the grated cheese on top of the potatoes.

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4. Put the dish in the oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces the potatoes and the top is well gratiné (browned in the oven).

5. Serve as a side dish or as a main with a side salad or vegetables on the side.

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6. Enjoy!IMG_3356

Scallop, orange and baby leaf salad

Having a dinner party? Want to impress a guest with a fancy starter? Try this salad on for size: easy as pie to make and never fails to make an impression! The orange dressing is zingy and sweet, while the scallops are soft (and delicious) and add a lovely elegant touch to the dish.

This is actually not my recipe: it’s my maternal grandmother’s. Grandparents have so much cooking wisdom to share, don’t they? I’m actually thinking of starting a “Family recipes” page to share some of my family’s cooking secrets. In any case, I discovered this scallop salad when my grandmother served it at a family dinner a few years ago and have been obsessed with it since. Tell me what you think of it if you try it!

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 1/2 oranges

10 medium scallops or 20 small scallops

Baby leaf salad

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

Coconut oil

1. Grate the first orange and keep the zest in a small bowl. Slice off the peel with a knife and slice the orange into wedges. Put aside. Juice the leftover orange half and strain the juice in with the zest.

2. Add some olive oil, salt and pepper to the orange juice and zest mixture to finish off your dressing.

3. In a pan, melt some extra virgin coconut oil. When hot, fry scallops on both sides until golden.

4. Plate up your salad by layering washed baby leaf salad, orange wedges and fried scallops. Spoon on some dressing and serve.

5. Enjoy!

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