French Family Food – an experiment Part 2

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Avocado and tomato salad

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Spicy prawn pasta

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crackers, apples and cheddar

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Caesar salad with anchovies and parmesan

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Baked pork with grilled tomatos and peppers and pesto sauce (Pesto mixed with a little creme fraiche).

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H-G and I had parmesan in the entree and so we skipped the cheese for the fruit and cheese course.

I made us a three course meal several times over a few weeks. In the end we decided we could not sustain it as a daily event, as I found it simply too labour-intensive thinking of 3 courses daily. Certainly at the weekends, or when we are less time-pressured we will make a point of eating multiple courses, but for every day we went back to our regular one course dinner. However we are definitely sticking with eating together at the dining room table. I have bought a lovely new table cloth, and set the table up daily with candles and flowers. It is a simple thing, but makes me very happy.

 

*** I am thinking that we will keep the fruit course as a pudding. We hardly eat puddings, but an extra serve of fruit is not going to hurt anyone.

French Family Food – an experiment Part 1

Naturally,being a food obsessive, I love reading other blogs and gaining an insight into other worlds of food.  I was recently involved in a discussion with friends where we talked about the different types of lunch that school children enjoy around the world. That led me to the article  http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/school-lunches-around-the-world-10054568.html

In the rather meandering way that I pootle around the net I then came across this blog and was riveted.

https://karenlebillon.com/tag/french-kids-school-lunch-project/

The whole concept of what are apparently typical school lunches in France fascinated me. Raw vegetables, a main,a cheese course and fresh fruit. I am on an endless quest  to get real, nourishing food down B-G and so with H-G’s eager acquiescence I decided that for a week we would experiment with eating in a prescribed ‘French Family Way’. We would enjoy a raw veg starter; a main with veg on the side, cheese and fresh fruit as a pudding. We would eat together at the table as a family with water to drink and candles. Dinner would be a slow, relaxed, family affair. No matter how busy our days had been, our family meal would be a punctuation in the day. As a starting point though our portion sizes had to be drastically curtailed as there was simply no way we could eat 3 courses daily otherwise. For our Monday main course of chicken paprika for the three of us I would usually cook 2 and a half chicken breasts. This time I cooked 1 chicken breast in total and that made three meals comfortably.

 

Monday.

Menu:

Starter – tomatoes with cucumber yoghurt sauce.

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Main- Chicken and red pepper paprika with rice

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Cheese course and dessert -1 small triangle Camembert with sliced apple.

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B-G ate the tomatoes and dabbed at the sauce. He ate the all the rice,some of the chicken and left the peppers.He ate his apple, nibbled at his Camembert and ate his small sliver of cheddar that I had put on his plate. I was exceptionally pleased with this, as he is usually quite conservative in his approach to food, and the attempt at the Camembert in particular pleased me hugely. We usually eat a single meal each evening, with the occasional pudding of fruit and yoghurt. While we do eat at the table a few times a week-mostly at the weekends it has to be said- B-G initially found it hard sitting at the table for what ended up being a solid 45 minutes rather than the 20 or so minutes we are used to. However by the cheese and fruit course he had relaxed and had started to volunteer snippets about his school day and his teachers.

Tuesday

Starter – raw mushroom and lettuce salad with vinaigrette.(B-G had a honey mayonnaise dressing).

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Main – tagliatelle with prawns, chilli and fresh cherry tomatoes

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Cheese course and dessert -apples and camembert / cheddar.

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B-G was horrified at the raw mushrooms. It is more usually one of the ‘hidden vegetables’ that I have become used to sneaking into his food. He tried one bite.

We then ate our main course and B-G wolfed it down. This was delicious. I just gently heat a cup of olive oil, add prawns, one crushed garlic clove and a tablespoon of dried chillis. B-G had his version without the chillis. Just before serving I stir through diced raw cherry tomatoes.

One of the cats was also keen to partake in the cheese.

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Wednesday

Starter – radish and cucumber salad

Main- Salmon fillet baked with pesto, potatos and peas

Dessert – Vanilla ice cream

This radish salad is one of my all-time favourites. I just slice radishes, a spring onion and mix with sour cream a little bit of salt and black pepper. Today I also added cucumber just because. This is perfect on a very heavy dark Eastern European bread. Delicious.

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The salmon fillet is easy, but tastes amazing. I just dollop a bit of pesto (from a jar) onto the raw fillet, wrap in foil and bake at 180 degrees celsius for 18 minutes. With buttered boiled potatos and peas this makes a gorgeous mid-week meal.

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B-G got a mid-week treat of vanilla ice cream while H-G and I again had apples and a sliver of cheese. It is only Day 3 and already B-G is learning to relax over his meal and that the aim is not to wolf it all down in 15 minutes flat before racing upstairs to watch The Simpsons.  Result!

[…. see Part 2 next week…..]

Shalfleet

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Shalfleet is one of our favourite villages on the Island, and The New Inn,  it’s pub is one of our favourite pubs. We went there this week just for a lazy mid-week treat.

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Shared a smoked mackerel pate starter with homemade piccalilli.

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Then steak with red peppercorn sauce and a wild mushroom risotto

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Then a wander around the church and churchyard. On a foggy and wintry day it was very atmospheric and I hoped there might be ghosts…… it certainly felt very ghosty!!

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The inside of the church is austere and lovely.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shalfleet

http://thenew-inn.co.uk/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_St_Michael_the_Archangel,_Shalfleet

 

Slow Saturday

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The day started with an early morning dog-walk around our little town.

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I then made up a strawberry compote using frozen strawberries. I use alot of frozen fruit,particularly in winter when berries come from who-knows-where and are exceptionally expensive. Most often I cook up the frozen fruit with a little bit of butter, some water and a teaspoon of sugar. This is then used in porridge, with Greek yoghurt and honey or just hot and with ice cream.

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We had a light supper of Oeuf en cocotte (eggs baked in the oven) and toast. H-G had his with spinach and B-G and I had ours plain.

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Following a relatively light meal I thought we were justified in having a pudding. Meringue nests with strawberry compote and fresh cream.

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Happy Weekend everyone!

Chicken soup with Knaidlach

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I have just spent 4 days in London and one of the things I love doing is shopping for items it is hard to get on the Island. I was pretty excited when I saw this box of kneidl mix. Kneidl are dumplings that are traditionally used in chicken soup. Growing up, we were lucky to regularly dine with family friends who made extraordinary chicken soup with dumplings- but the dumplings were very much made from scratch and were exquisite.They were light, puffy and fluffy.  I have never tried to re-create them, but bought this box to see if I could approximate them even if only slightly.

The box contained dehydrated kneidl mix. You just add beaten egg.

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I love these free-range blue eggs. The shell is a very pale pastel blue and are produced by a breed called the Cream Legbar. I just love how pretty the colour is. It makes me happy.

You then mix the kneidl and egg together then roll into little balls.

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I made chicken soup just my standard. I almost always make chicken soup from the leftovers from when we have roast chicken. Just celery, onion and carrots and the chicken meat.

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This was the finished result.

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The chicken soup itself was very good, but the dumplings were a disappointment. They were tough, stodgy and hit the stomach like cement. A bit of a fail really. I looked up homemade dumplings and it seems that the light and fluffy texture is achieved by whipping egg whites and folding them into the mixture so I will try that at some point in the future.

Christmas2016 – Getting hygge with it

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If you do not live in Great Britain, you may be (sadly) missing out on the ‘hygge’ craze. Hygge is apparently a Danish word, pronounced ‘Huh Gah’ (Or something like that).  It is generally described as ‘coziness’.An entire industy has sprung up to sell the concept of Scandinavian style and contentment (and fuzzy socks) to the Brits, but at its essence hygge seems to mean promoting a feeling of contentment with life. Fostering family, friends, and living well.

I am all for living well.  I tend to think that as life can often be difficult, stressful or uncomfortable, taking a conscious decision to celebrate anything- big or small – can only be a good thing.  If that means sitting in a cozy chair covered by a blanket while knitting and calling out tv quiz answers while Baby-Gusto plays board games then that is a good day. If it means getting together family and friends for Christmas drinks then even better. It is about celebrating – no, relishing- the small.

Christmas has to be the ultimate in hygge. In it’s best incarnation Christmas is about spending time with loved ones.

This week this is what I have celebrated.

This simple, gorgeous Christmas wreath. Not my house or door, but one in the Old Town of Cowes. I love the pale, pure, icy feel to this wreath.

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Studying with candles. I am a sucker for candlelight, and lamps. We DO have overhead lights, but thankfully both H-G and I are big believers in diffusing the light by having chandeliers. When we first were married some 9 years ago we went a little overboard buying chandeliers from ebay. We still have more chandeliers than rooms- I joke that every decent bathroom needs a chandelier. Actually, that’s not a joke.

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Clearing the junk from the hall table, and finally finding a place for the gilt mirror that H-G was a bit [hmm] about.

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Christmas days out with the family.

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Why have one wreath at the door when you can have 3?

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My dog snuggled on her favourite chair is definitely hygge.

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Christmas Eve dinner of baked ham, potato dauphinoise, peas and cranberry jelly.

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Putting out on the mantlepiece the mince pie and sloe gin for Santa and a carrot for the reindeers.

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Christmas day meal of roasted goose, apple sauce, roasted vegetables, bread sauce and gravy

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Boxing day cosy dining room

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Boxing day light lunch of cheeses (brie and stilton), apples, pears, walnuts, cucumber, tomato and crusty bread

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This is our first ever crop of home-grown walnuts.

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Followed by a good book in front of the fire.

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Merry Christmas everyone!