Cindy’s Grand Columbier Carrots:

Cindy’s Grand Columbier Carrots:

(Because Cindy, one of our gorgeous French daughters,  lives in Culoz, Ain, France, in the shadow of The Grand Columbier, a friggin’ great  big mountain and a famous ascent of the Tour de France, where the Jura meet the Alps, very near to Geneva, and this is her way with carrots; hence…….)

Prep:           5 mins.

Cooking:      25 + 20 mins.  Re-heating in the oven when you want them.

Course:        Veg side dish

Serves:         As many as…..

Rating:         2:  Easy

Find:

  • Fresh carrots
  • Butter
  • Thyme
  • Chicken/Veggie stock (use a stock cube!)
  • Oven dish
  • Foil

 

Method:

  • Peel and cut the carrots into good-sized chunks. Big enough to be ‘rustic’ but not too big t’get into your mouth.  They won’t need to be peeled if they are nice, small-ish carrots with thin skins.  If they are like this, just clean them.
  • Put them into the oven dish and spread them with soft butter. Chuck some dried thyme over them – enough that you can see it’s there…… just experiment!
  • Mix it up and make it nice.
  • Pour in about a cup/mug of hot water with a chicken stock cube crumbled into it and stirred up. Use a veggie stock cube if you are not a carnivore.
  • Cover with foil (or use a Pyrex type glass dish with a lid) and stuff it into the oven for about 25 mins on 180 degs C. Turn out the oven.  They are ready to be reheated when you need them.
  • About 20 mins or so before you need to serve them, re-light the oven to 180 again for 20 mins. Pour the liquid into your gravy or make it into a sauce, or use it as it is.
  • Thank you Cindy!

Saffron rice:

Saffron rice:

Follow Delia’s Perfect Rice, but put a good pinch of saffron  stems (available from health food shops, town markets, ethnically diverse shops) into the water & rice at the start of the cooking, giving just a gentle stir before putting the lid on the pan.

Varying the amount of saffron will give you different grades of colour.  I have to say that I think it looks great to serve Saffron rice with a light sauced meat or fish dish.  Saffron is generally regarded to be more valuable, weight for weight, than gold.  The strands are individual bits from the middle of the crocus flower and there are about 250,000 strands to a kilogram.  No wonder it’s expensive.  However, it can be bought in very small quantities for not too much.

Well worth the outlay and effort, I can tell you.

Plain Boiled Rice:

Plain Boiled Rice:

Prep:           2 mins.

Cooking:      15 mins.      

Course:        Starter or main

Serves:        2  

Rating:         1: Very easy

 (See Tricks’n’Tips for variations, i.e. saffron rice – also very impressive)

Saint Delia (the amazing, wonderful and incredible Delia Smith) really has the perfect recipe for plain white rice. I have her permission to reproduce this – see credits on the home page.

It is just waiting to be used to impress your guests.  It’s specific, accurate, down to earth and to the point.  No messing about at all.  Just follow her recipe to the letter and you will not go wrong. 

Ever. 

I have used the method hundreds of times and never (not even once) been disappointed.  It is 100% reliable.  It’s probably as reliable as 2000 following 1999 – and that went ok, as I recall.

If it DOES actually go wrong, you must have strayed from the method.  Honest.  Trust me.  The recipe is in her book “Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course”.   This book has to be first on your ‘must have’ list.  Delia has kindly given permission for it to be replicated here:

Delia’s Perfect Rice:

Ingredients for two people:

  • Long grain white rice measured to the 5 fluid ounce level in a glass measuring jug.
  • Boiling water or stock measured to the 10 fluid ounce level in a glass measuring jug. (In other words, twice as much volume of liquid as volume of rice).
  • 1 dessertspoon oil or ½ ounce (10g) butter.
  • Salt.
  • One small, solid based saucepan or flameproof casserole
  • Shallow serving dish, warmed.

Method:

Begin by heating the oil or butter gently, just to the melting stage, then add the rice and, using a wooden spoon, stir the grains to get them all coated and glistening with fat.

Now add the boiling stock or water and salt, stir just once as the liquid comes up to the simmering point, then put on a tight-fitting lid.  Turn the heat down to the gentlest simmer – then go away and leave it completely alone.  Don’t take the lid off and, above all, don’t stir it.

After exactly 15 minutes for white rice I give you permission to have a look and test a few grains.  If they’re tender and, when you tilt the pan almost on its side you can see no trace of liquid left, the rice is cooked.

Now tip it out into a warmed serving dish, using a rubber spatula to dislodge any grains that refuse to leave the base.

Lightly fluff the grains with a skewer.  Serve immediately.

So there we are.  That is her perfect way to cook rice.  It will work.  Quite simply, it will work.  It’ll probably also be just about the best plain rice you’ve ever had, too.  There are variations on the basic theme included in her book, so that particular book should be on the top of your MUST HAVE list.  How about taking the old and battered version (pardon the culinary pun) as Mummy replaces it with a new and pristine copy.  

I like to use Basmati rice, as it seems to give a better texture then long grain or some other types (see Ingredienty-type thingies, or Tricks’n’Tips).

Posh Cabbage:

Posh Cabbage:

Prep:           5 mins.

Cooking:      15 mins.      

Course:        Side dish

Serves:        6-8  

Rating:         1:  Very Easy

Posh cabbage, eh? 

So wassat then?

Well, cabbage is generally regarded as not cool at all, but if you want to impress someone ‘of a more ancient nature’, this really fits the bill.  And it tastes great too – not like cabbage at all.

Find: 

  • Spring greens, Brussels tops or a good green cabbage like Savoy or Greyhound  (don’t use white cabbage – ugh2)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Oil – I use either olive oil or rapeseed oil with a dash of sesame oil, but you can use any oil you wish, except ‘engine’.
  • Frying pan (a deep one)

Method:

  • Break off and discard the outer grotty or scruffy leaves.
  • Break off the rest of the leaves and strip out the centre rib (the bit that gives the horrible smell and the ugh taste) with a sharp knife, leaving the more tender parts of the leaves. Wash and pat dry the leaves.
  • Scrunch them all up tightly together and slice them across to give thin strips about 5 mm wide. Shredded cabbage.  Give it a rinse under a cold tap.  Don’t dry them.
  • Heat a large frying pan or similar and put a splodge of oil in, then heat until it is quite hot, then chuck the shredded cabbage in and stir……… for a couple of minutes. The water from rinsing the cabbage will steam the leaves, the oil will fry/sauté the cut edges and the heat will do the cooking.  Clever, eh?  Yeah!
  • Putting food in front of guests requires a bit of thought, and one thing to consider is texture. So, chuck some sesame seeds in as well and keep stirring.  The amount of sesame seeds?  Well, how much do you like sesame seeds?  I suppose I use about a heaped dessertspoon.
  • Keep stirring for a minute, still on a high heat. The cabbage will not be soggy, just nicely steamed/stir-fried and the sesame seeds will add a texture difference as well as a lovely nutty flavour to the veg.  I think that you’ll really like it.  It is so nice and costs so little, it’s unbelieveabubble.

Colin’s Camargue Red Rice Mixture:

Colin’s Camargue Red Rice Mixture:

Camargue Red Rice is also lovely, so is wild rice, but these are both too weighty to be enjoyed on their own, so here is my preferred mixture.   I discovered it quite by accident as I found myself in the rice fields in the south of France very near to where we live for certain parts of the year.  It isn’t the Camargue, but the French red rice fields actually stretch down as far south as Narbonne, and so it was on the southern edge of the la Clape peninsular that we found the red rice fields.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found them all flooded with the waters of the Canal de la Robine.  It was a bit of a revelation!

If you want to impress someone with your cooking, try my mixture of around 10% wild rice, 30% Camargue red rice and 60% Basmati rice (all measurements are very approximate – you don’t need to count the grains).  It’s a bit of a phaf to assemble, but it is really worth it.  I mean REALLY worth it.

Rice swells when cooked, so you don’t need too much.  Half a normal-sized mug of dry rice is certainly enough per person and probably too much, so if you are cooking for 6-8 people, you need a total of 3 mugs of rice.

That is:  less than 1/3 mug wild rice and a little more than 2/3 mug Camargue red rice in a saucepan with at least three mugs of boiling water, making sure that the rice is well covered by a big margin as these two rice types swell a great deal.  Add a little salt, put onto a high heat and bring to the boil, simmering for at least 40 mins.  They are sturdy grains – they need a lot of cooking.

When time is up, drain away the remaining water, rinse thoroughly with boiling water from the kettle and set the rice aside.

At the same time as cooking the red & wild rice, use Delia’s wonderful method of cooking plain white rice, using 2 mugs of Basmati rice and 4 mugs boiling water, etc.

When the white rice is done, mix thoroughly with the red & wild, add a large knob of butter, lots of chopped dill and serve.

It is simply wonderful.

Creamy mushystuff wild mushroom sauce:

Creamy mushystuff wild mushroom sauce:

Prep:           2 mins.

Cooking:      15 mins.      

Course:        Side dish-ish….

(but could be full starter or veggie main if modified a little).

Serves:        2  

Rating:         3:  Moderate

It’s lovely, soft and creamy and goes beautifully with moistly cooked chicken, pork or turkey.

Find:

  • Wild mushrooms from the reduced cabinet (shitake, oyster, sheep’s foot, lion’s mane, phoenix fir … two types if possible…. If not, well…….)
  • Bag of baby spinach leaves
  • 2 glasses white wine – dry if poss.
  • Small pot of single cream
  • Oil & butter
  • Seasoning
  • Saucepans

Method:

  • Oil the pan & put on to heat up. When warm, add the butter – about three ‘knobs’, but you can make the knobs as big as you wish.
  • Roughly slice the mushrooms and throw in. Give the pan a shake and then leave it alone for the mushrooms to cook for about four minutes or so, on a lowish heat.  The butter shouldn’t be allowed to burn and the pan can be moved about so that the butter is kept moving, but don’t chivvy the mushrooms about too much or they’ll start to drown in their own moisture.
  • Turn up the heat and pour in the white wine, letting the wine reduce to about a third of the original.
  • When that has been achieved, just throw in the baby spinach leaves and pour the cream on top straight away. Stir around gently, adding a little seasoning of freshly ground black pepper and granular sea salt to taste, then quickly serve onto the plates beside the meat.

Butter bean purée:

Butter bean purée:

This lovely purée can be served instead of (and a change to) normal spud mash, and can be varied as spud mash – see the mash variations.

Prep:           10 mins.

Cooking:      65 mins.      

Course:        Accompaniment

Serves:        2    

Rating:         2:  Easy

Find:

  • Can of butter beans or uncooked butter beans from the market stall, or health shop.
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Seasonings
  • Bowl
  • Saucepan
  • Potato masher/food processor

Method:

Method 1 – from dry beans:

  • Soak the butter beans overnight in lots of cold water, remembering that they will swell as they absorb the water – so use a big enough bowl to cope. Do not add salt to the water.  The next day, pour the water away and rinse the beans again. 
  • Boil the beans for an hour, drain and then mash in a big bowl with butter and milk.
  • Add plenty of ground black pepper, sea salt and a little dried parsley (no, you’ll need more than that of all of the above). Mash again.

It is very adaptable; you can add so many things to ring the changes, but whatever you do, the mash will still be lovely and smooth.

Method 2 – from canned butter beans (much easier):

Please note:  One can of butter beans does not go far at all.

Two cans may be necessary for two or more people, according to what you are serving it with.

  • Empty the can into a colander and drain.
  • Rinse and drain again.
  • Mash them in a big bowl with butter and milk.
  • Add plenty of ground black pepper, sea salt and a little dried parsley (no, you’ll need more than that of all of the above).
  • Mash again.

It is very adaptable; you can add so many things to ring the changes, but whatever you do, the mash will still be lovely and smooth.

Cushion of Marinated Red Pepper Confiture:

Cushion of Marinated Red Pepper Confiture:

Prep:           2 mins.

Cooking:      15 mins.       Then overnight to marinate thoroughly.

Course:        Side dish, but……

Serves:        2

Rating:         2:  Easy

This recipe is for a cushion of red pepper confiture on which you can present the star ingredient of your dish.  It’s a bit of showin’ off, but it’s a good bit of showin’ off.

Find:

  • Ripe red, yellow and orange peppers
  • Dried dill leaves (Dill Weed)
  • Olive oil
  • Sherry vinegar
  • Cling film
  • Oven tray

Method:

  • Oil the whole peppers & roast in hot (Gas Mk 7) oven for 10 minutes on a baking tray.
  • Remove, quickly put into a bowl and cover with cling film to allow steaming to occur (or just into a plastic bag & seal it).
  • After 15 minutes remove from the bowl (or bag) and the skin should peel off easily. Remove and discard the skin and all seeds.
  • Thinly shred the floppy flesh and throw into a bowl, add a mixture of olive oil & sherry vinegar, and then sprinkle with dried dill. Mix thoroughly.
  • Put cling film over the bowl and leave to marinate for a few hours, or overnight. These beautiful marinated peppers can be used as a lovely cushion on which to sit a nice bit of meat, like the green lamb later in this section.  MWAH!