Classic French Recipe: sauteed potatoes with persillade

sauteed potatoes with persillade 150116

I have an unapologetic addiction to potatoes in all their forms, and one of my favourite dishes is simple sautéed potatoes, but I had never made them with a persillade before. I don’t know why, as it doesn’t get more ‘classic French recipe’ than potatoes and parsley.

Before you start worrying about how complicated this recipe is likely to be, let’s look at what ‘persillade’ actually means. It comes from the French word for parsley, ‘persil’, and in its most classic form it is a simple mixture of parsley and garlic. There are a few other ingredients you can add depending on what dish it means to complement. Its freshness and crunch lends itself well not just to potatoes, but also to fish, meat and vegetables.

French recipe for Sautéed Potatoes with Persillade

Ingredients

1 kg waxy potatoes, cut into 2 cm pieces

2 tbsp vegetable oil

300 g smoked bacon lardons (optional)

25 g butter

For the Persillade

Small pack of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 tsp/1 sprig tarragon leaves, chopped

1 echallion/banana shallot (or 2 small round ones), finely chopped

2  garlic cloves, crushed

Method

  1. Boil the potatoes for 5 minutes so they are nearly cooked. Drain and leave in the colander for a minute to steam out.
  2. Mix all the persillade ingredients together in a small bowl. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the lardons and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until they are slightly caramelised. Add the potatoes, then the butter.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly until they turn golden brown. Spoon out any excess fat and stir in the persillade. Adjust the seasoning for taste and eat!

We had roast chicken with our sautéed potatoes with persillade but you can serve them as a side dish to just about anything. Bon appétit!

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Meal Planning Tips + Free Templates!

Meal Planning Tips + Free Templates blog post 231115

I have been meaning to post on the topic of meal planning for a while. It’s a very practical tool that I am passionate about, and my aim today is to show how I plan meals to save money on food shopping. It’s not rocket science and it’s not original, but it works. I will also be sharing the two templates I use on a weekly basis to do this, to be used by anyone without having to create a whole system from scratch.

First, a bit of background: I started meal planning out of necessity. About two years ago, I was at home with the kids and not contributing financially to our household, and we were struggling to live within our means without touching our overdraft. I had never pre-planned what we ate before and Badgerman and I are both naturally willing to spend a bit more on higher quality meat and fair trade items, which are not particularly cheap options. An Etsy shop of fancy little sewing projects was never going to be on the cards so I had to find alternate ways to save.

I was struggling to see how I would do it, and yet, since implementing a simple meal planning system, I have been able to cut our food budget by about a quarter by being intentional about the way I shop and plan meals.

Online Shopping

The first thing I did was to start shopping online. Again, necessity. I had a newborn and no car, no way was I going to try to do a weekly shop by foot! Thankfully, most UK supermarkets have an online delivery service nowadays, and you can either collect in store or get your shopping delivered to your home for a small fee. The added bonus, actually make that the main attraction, is that the stress of shopping with small children is taken out of the equation altogether, and that has had an immediate effect on quality of life. I seriously could weep at how grateful I am for online shopping. Obviously I still occasionally shop in store but I try to do it on my own rather than take the children if I can help it, and it’s almost fun!

Meal Planning Tips

Planning meals doesn’t have to be stressful. Most weeks, it only takes me 30 minutes from start to finish to plan and shop for a week’s worth of meals. For this to work, you do need to have a system in place. It took me about a year to implement purely because I lacked motivation, rather than because it was massively time-consuming. Once I sat down and decided I was going to do this, it only really took a few evenings to be up and running.

The first thing I recommend is having a pre-written shopping checklist. My mum has been using one for years and I could see how helpful it was so I basically just updated her list to suit my shopping habits. It is much easier to run through such a list than to hope you will remember everything. Ideally, I would have the list on the fridge for easy access so it can be filled as we run out of items; alas, it seems that even in plain view, it is surrounded by a (selective) invisibility shield. For now, I’ve given up hope that it will be filled in by anyone but me.

Shopping List 2015 pic afal

And so, here’s the first template! I’ve made the list in Word document so it can easily be amended to fit personal preferences: Shopping List Template

The second thing I recommend is creating a list of go-to recipes. I went on Pinterest looking for menu planning ideas and found amazing homemade meal planning boards. I even toyed with the idea of making one for five minutes before deciding it was too much faff. But you can see the Pinterest board I compiled right here!

The main idea I got from looking at these boards is that it is much easier to plan ahead for a week or two with a visual aid so I decided to create individual recipe cards that would include the list of all the ingredients required to make the dish.

This is really easy to do:

  1. Create a label template in Microsoft Word.
  2. Compile a list of recipes used on a regular basis, plus any special occasion recipes, and write down the list of ingredients against the title (see picture below).
  3. Colour code: it looks more attractive and helps visualise the week better. There are endless combinations, but I went with blue for fish, green for meat-free dishes, red for red meat, orange for all other meats (pork, poultry, etc) and purple for special occasions.
  4. Print the pages and fold in the middle so that each recipe card has the recipe title on one side and the list of ingredients on the other. This way, you don’t need to forage into recipe books to figure out what you need to buy. You can just take your box of cards, pull out the recipes you fancy making that week and fill out your shopping list there and then.
  5. Laminate and cut to size.

recipe list pic afal

If I think I won’t remember which recipe book it comes from, I make a note of it on the card with the page number. Every so often, I add a recipe to the template and print the latest page.

Here is the Recipe Labels Template; it is ready to amend with your own recipes.

recipe labels close-up

So there you go! I hope this is a useful post, and don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments section.

Classic French Recipe: Tarte aux pommes {day thirty}

 

{day thirty} Classic French Recipe- Tarte aux Pommes

One should never under-estimate the power of a good picture. To conclude my 31 days series, I was all set to make my favourite dessert, a delicious puff pastry filled with frangipane (almond cream) and black cherries. Then I posted a picture of a French Apple Tart I made at the weekend on my personal Facebook page and got so many comments and likes I decided there and then that I would share the recipe here today. There is something very satisfying about this picture, don’t you agree?

French apple tart

The recipe comes from Michel Roux Sr‘s Pastry book, that I mentioned on Day 5.

Ingredients

  • 300 g shortcrust pastry or sweet shortcrust pastry
  • 6 dessert apples (about 850 g) like Cox’s
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 60g butter
  • 80g caster sugar

cut apple tart

Method

1. The pastry: Roll out the pastry to a round, 3 mm thick, and use to line a lightly buttered 24 cm diameter (3 m deep) loose-bottomed tart tin or flan ring. Pinch up the edges with your index finger and thumb at 1 cm intervals to make a fluted edge a little higher than the rim. Chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

2. Make the apple compote: Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Peel, core and halve the apples. Place cut-side down on a board and cut into 2 mm thick slices. Put a third of the apples (the outer smaller slices) into a saucepan. Keep the other two-thirds packed together (to stop them discolouring). Add 50 mls water, the vanilla pod and butter to the apples in the pan and cook gently until tender. Take off the heat, discard the vanilla pod and work the apples, using a whisk, to a compote consistency (it should be creamy). Leave to cool.

3. Make the glaze: in a small pan, dissolve the sugar in 40 ml water. Bring to the boil and bubble for 4-5 minutes to make a syrup. Leave to cool.

4. Put it together: Take the pastry base out of the fridge and prick the base lightly with a fork. Pour in the cold apple compote and spread gently with a spoon. Arrange a border of overlapping apple slices around the tart, then arrange another circle inside, with the slices facing the other way. Fill the centre with a little rosette of small slices, trimming to fit as necessary. Bake for about 35 minutes until the pastry and apples are evenly cooked to a light golden colour.

5. Leave the tart to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing the flan ring or tart tin. Brush the top with the glaze, place the tart on a wire rack and leave until just cooled. Transfer to a place and serve cut into slices (with vanilla ice cream).

French apple tart

Notes:

  • I didn’t have a vanilla pod, so I used a teaspoon of pure vanilla paste, which worked very well.
  • I had problems with the glaze, maybe not enough water, but whatever the reason it hardened as it cooled rather than staying syrupy. I had no choice but to reheat it to brush over the tart and of course, it turned rather gloopy. The tart tasted great, but was not as glossy as it could have been.

slice of apple tart

 

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Classic French Recipe: crepes {day twenty-three}

{day twenty-three} Classic French Recipe- Crepes

I am very excited to share this recipe with you not only because Crèpes are delicious but also because I know, from bitter experience, how difficult it can be to make a lump-free batter. I grew up watching my mother make crèpes; they never failed and so I now use the same technique she did. I fell pretty confident about it, and can guarantee a 90% chance of success at getting the batter right if you use it (I won’t say 100% because there’s always one, isn’t there?). There is definitely a knack to it but it is a simple thing when you know how, and with a bit of practice there is no reason why anyone, even people who consistently produce lumpy batter, can enjoy light and thin crèpes just like the French make them. I have taken a lot of pictures to show you what the batter should look like throughout the process.

I make crèpes every couple of weeks at home, either as a full meal or at breakfast. It’s cheap and festive and everyone loves them. Little Girl has been known to eat as many as 6 crèpes all by herself; she is an addict, just like her mum.

Ingredients

For approximately 20 pancakes
For our family of four, I count 2 savoury crèpe per adult, 1 savoury crèpe per child, and the rest goes towards making sweet crèpes.

  • 250g plain flour
  • 500 mls semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp of vegetable oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • optional flavourings for sweet crèpes (not all at the same time, obviously, just pick one!): 1 tbsp dark rum, 1 tbsp orange flower water (very popular in France), 1/4 spoon vanilla extract

Utensils: a whisk, a very flat frying pan, as wide as possible, a ladle, a palette knife or flat plastic/wooden spatula

20151004_crepes

Method

A. Mixing the ingredients:

1. Put the flour and the pinch of salt in a large bowl.

2. Make a well in the middle of the flour: literally, with your fingers, dig a hole in the middle.

20151004_the well 1

3. Break the two eggs into the well.

4. Pour the oil into the well.

5. Now is the important part for making lump-free batter: you must pour the milk into the well very gradually, starting with the equivalent of half a small glass, whisking it well before adding the same amount, again and again. First, gently break the egg yolks with your whisk. Instead of mixing all the flour in straight away, start mixing from the well out so that everything in the middle is relatively whisked together. There will be lumps at this point. Then add a little more milk, and whisk in slightly larger concentric circles, incorporating a little more of the flour. You can be quite forceful in your whisking, just keep it to small circles to start with. Eventually, you will have added all the milk and whisked all the flour in, and it should be lump-free!

mixing1-3 Collage

mixing 4-6 Collage

6. If you’re going to flavour the batter, whisk your chosen poison in now. If you are making savoury crèpes first, wait until you’ve cooked those before adding the flavouring. I’m not sure ham and vanilla go that well together.

7. Cover the batter with cling film and let it rest in the fridge for an hour (you can make the crèpes straight away, but they will be so much better after a little rest).

B. Making the crèpes:

8. After an hour, take the batter out of the fridge. It is normal for the mixture to have separated a little bit and for it to be thicker. Just mix it all in together and add a little more milk if needed to loosen it a bit. The batter should not be so thin as to be completely liquid but it should coat the ladle a bit and should not be so thick that it can’t flow around the pan without help.

Batter Collage

9. Add a very small amount of oil in your frying pan (about half a teaspoon), using kitchen roll to evenly coat the pan. You won’t need to add any more oil after each crèpe, just this once to start. Now turn the heating on as high as you can. The pan must be very hot before you start pouring the batter in. You can adjust it later when you have cooked a couple if it is too high but keep it fairly hot anyway.

10. Tip the frying pan and using a ladle, pour the batter at the top of the pan, using your wrist to rotate the pan and distribute the batter thinly and evenly.

C. How to know your crèpe is cooked:

11. Keep a close eye on the crèpe in the pan. When the edges start to visibly brown and/or curl a little (after approximately a minute), the crèpe is ready to be turned. Release the edges slightly all the way around and slide your spatula underneath, then turn (yes most people only do the whole crèpe-flinging thing to show off or entertain the kids) The other side will take about 10-15 seconds to cook max. You can see from the right-hand picture below that a cooked crèpe should actually have some colour to it. I’ve seen a lot of pictures of crèpes on the internet that look suspiciously anaemic to me, but one side of the pancake should look cooked.

cooked crepe Collage

This is how thin a crèpe should be:

20151004_thickness 15

D. How to keep your crèpes warm:

12. You need a pan of boiling water, set on low so it doesn’t actively ‘boil’ anymore, with a plate on top. Gradually add your crèpes as you make them and keep them covered with foil. Sure, you can separate them with baking paper if you want, but that’s a lot of faff for something that’s going to be eaten in the next fifteen minutes. If they have been done well, they are not actually going to stick to each other and turn to mush when you try to separate them. Just put the plate on the table when you’re ready and peel them off as you go.

Fillings

You can put whatever you want in your crèpes. I am a big fan of filling them with just a spoonful of caster sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice, but I only started doing that in England. It’s not a filling French people use. Instead, we tend to have Nutella (with or without fresh banana slices) or jam in it. There’s always whipped cream, maple syrup, plain fresh fruit, honey, whatever.

Ham and cheese crèpe topped with fried egg:

This is what we do at home when we have crèpes as a main meal. You need: ham slices, grated cheese and eggs. I get all my ingredients ready before I start, because it requires to be a bit quick, seeing as each crèpe only takes a minute to cook and you can’t leave the room/try to do it all at once.

20151004_ham egg cheese crepe

– Before I start cooking the crèpes, I set a separate pan on low/medium heat and start frying the eggs.
– Once one side of the crèpe is cooked, I turn it over and quickly put grated cheese all over it, topped with a slice of ham.
– Then I slide the cooked crèpe onto a plate, top with the fried egg, and fold the four sides over the egg.
– Grind a little black pepper on top, and eat!

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The Truth about Frogs and Snails {day nineteen}

{day nineteen} The Truth about Frogs and Snails

 

When I was preparing for this series earlier this year, I asked people on my Facebook page if they had any questions about the French that they would like answered, and one of the things that came up was: why do the French eat frogs and snails?

 

That’s a good question, which is just as puzzling to foreigners as the following two are to me: why do the British eat Marmite and why do Americans eat syrup with bacon? Mystère… If you live in the culture, it’s a no brainer; ‘because it tastes good‘ comes to mind, but like many cultural things, it can be an acquired taste, a ‘you have to be there to get it’ sort of thing.

 

When you think about what the Romans used to eat, you should maybe not be so surprised, France was properly invaded by them, and then of course, in medieval times, nobles owned the land and were pretty much the only ones allowed to hunt on it. The peasants had to make do with, well, peasant food. So in the case of frogs and snails, it probably went like this:

 

It was a dark and stormy night in medieval times and the peasants were hungry. They woke up to find an invasion of frogs crawling everywhere. ‘What to do with the vermin’, they wondered. Eat it of course! And so they did. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that. Don’t judge them.

 

I joke, but that’s as likely as any other myth story you will hear on the subject.

 

You are lucky in that I have tasted both frogs’ legs and snails so I can give you my personal opinion, and then you can decide whether it’s a food idea worth pursuing for yourself.
Photo: Todd Coleman

I liked frogs and I hated snails: both are pretty tasteless. I always describe the taste of frogs’ legs as ‘chicken that lives in water’. Bland but tasty enough when fried in butter, herbs and garlic. You do need quite a few of them to make a decent meal, as they are only skin and bones, the poor things.

 

Snails dish

 

Snails are prepared all manner of ways, including the traditional pan-fried in butter, garlic, and herbs (a French classic trio of flavours) and they’re OK I guess, if you like things that are bland and chewy. They taste fine but I didn’t like the texture at all, which goes to show it is a matter of personal taste.

 

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