This is one of Scrote's all-time favourite 'fancy' side dishes, mainly because he can do it all two hours beforehand and then completely forget it until he comes to serve it up. This means he has plenty of time to make the green salad, pepper the tournedos steaks and to lash into the red wine in a big way.
Peel or scrub a number (say 6) of waxy potatoes & slice them very thinly into rounds. Rub a cut clove of garlic over the inside of a shallow oven-proof dish and then grease the inside with some butter. Arrange a layer of the potato slices in the dish and season with some black pepper over them and dot with small pieces of butter. Repeat the process until all the potatoes are used up, producing at least 3 or 4 layers. Pour a half-pint single cream over the potato layers. Grate some gruyère cheese over the top. Cook very gently, preferably covered, in a very low oven (gas mark 3 or so) for 2 hours until the potatoes are soft all through (stick a skewer in), the top is gently browned, but it remains moist.
This dish is a near relative to Pommes Dauphinois above, and a close cousin to the English Potato Bacon & Onion Hotpot. You need potatoes, onions, some butter and parsley. Peel or scrub a number (say 6) of potatoes, and slice them thinly. Peel several onions (say 2) and slice them very thinly also. Grease a shallow oven dish and arrange a layer of potatoes, a layer of chopped onion and dot with bits of butter, salt, pepper and parsley. Repeat for until the potato & onion are used up, about three layers. Bake very slowly in a low oven for about two hours until the potato is soft.
Pork and cider is a classic Normandy combination, and there are several variations. The simplest is pork chops fried with chopped shallots and then finished with a pint of Normandy cider. Less expensive is a casserole of pork, as you can use a cheaper cut such as shoulder or even belly of pork rashers and it can be bulked out with a thick sauce.
Peel & chop an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. Peel an eating apple and slice it very thinly. Fry the pieces of pork in a little oil until they are lightly browned, then add the chopped onion and garlic and soften them. Stir in the chopped apple and a teaspoonful of Dijon mustard. Add half a pint or so of cider, cover and simmer gently for an hour on a low heat.
Interestingly, there is an exact English equivalent from the West-Country - Market Day Casserole is made with pork chops, onion, sage, apples, potatoes and cider.
A fine, absolutely classic and above-all, dead-easy French soup. Prepare & shred finely a large leek, chop 2 carrots, and dice 2 or 3 good sized potatoes. Fry the leek gently in a big lump of butter, add the carrot and the finely diced potato, season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt, add water to cover & cook for at least 45 minutes until all the vegetables are soft and pulped. Purée the soup with a liquidiser or Mouli if you have one. In this form the soup will keep a week in the fridge if it is sealed into a container while still hot. Before serving, adjust the liquid content by adding water or (better) milk. Heat well & serve with a dash of single cream &/or grated cheese on top. Do not store or reheat after adding the milk or cheese.
This is a vegetable soup from Paris, not unlike Minestrone and other nations' vegetable soups, but smooth so you will need a liquidiser or mouli for it. It makes a very simple meal, and is especially refreshing if you have over-indulged the previous evening. The amounts given produce a surprisingly large amount of soup.
In some butter in a very large pot, gently fry a chopped onion. Add a couple of blades of celery chopped, two leeks chopped, a couple of carrots diced, a couple of turnips diced, two or three potatoes diced, a cup-full or so of peas, and a few cabbage leaves also chopped. Season with salt & pepper & parsley, and add about 4 pints of water (the french would use stock) then simmer for an hour or so. When the vegetables are soft, put the soup through a sieve, or the mouli or a liquidiser. Serve hot garnished with a blob of cream or a bit of butter on top.
This Leek, Potato & smoked Bacon soup from northern France is another favourite with Scrote from way back. He has been making this almost as long as he can remember. You need a a bit of smoked bacon in the piece with the rind still on- this is most important. The end of a bacon fitch is ideal. Finely chop the leek,and dice the potato. Remove the smoky rind from the bacon in a piece and cut off the surplus fat. Shred the bacon meat as finely as possible. Stew the ingredients in some of the bacon fat, add the bacon rind (still in one piece) then add sufficient water to cover and cook slowly until the potatoes start to dissolve. The bacon rind is there to give gives the soup its characteristic smoky flavour and gelatin to thicken it- you are supposed to remove the rather ugly-looking rind from the soup before actually serving it. Old Scrote advises you not to add any salt to this soup, because it is already salty from the bacon.
Old Scrote says this is incredibly fattening, so he can't eat it very often.
You need a flan dish about 10" across, preferably quite deep. Make the flan case from about 8 ounces of short-crust pastry. To make the pastry, weigh out an amount of flour (say 6 ounces of plain flour). Weigh out half this weight in fat (say 3 ounces of butter). Put the flour and the cold butter (and a pinch of salt) into a mixing bowl. Rub the fat with your hands into the flour until you achieve a consistency which is always described as "like breadcrumbs". Add a very little water- a dessertspoonful or so, and mix it in lightly using a chopstick or a wooden spoon, so that the mixture just sticks together in a lump. Do not knead the pastry at this point or it will be like concrete, and from now on avoid 'working' the pastry any more than necessary. Wrap the pastry, and put it in the fridge to 'rest' for half an hour. Press the pastry into the dish with the fingers, and bake the flan case 'blind' in a medium oven for about 20 minutes. (Blind baking is where the pastry case is filled with some inert ingredient, such as beans or rice, to hold the pastry down during baking.)
The filling is made from: 1 oz butter, 3 oz Roquefort cheese, 2 oz rindless Camembert, 6 oz cream cheese, 3 tablespoons double cream, 2 eggs, chives salt & pepper. Cream all the ingredients together & pour the resulting mixture into the flan case. Cook 25 minutes in a moderate oven.
Another french classic. Real men not only eat quiche, at a pinch they know how to make one as well.
You need a flan dish about 10" across, preferably quite deep. Make a flan case from about 8 ounces of short-crust pastry. To make the pastry, weigh out an amount of flour (say 6 ounces of plain flour). Weigh out half this weight in fat (say 3 ounces of butter). Put the flour and the cold butter (and a pinch of salt) into a mixing bowl. Rub the fat with your hands into the flour until you achieve a consistency which is always described as "like breadcrumbs". Add a very little water- a dessertspoonful or so, and mix it in lightly using a chopstick or a wooden spoon, so that the mixture just sticks together in a lump. Do not knead the pastry at this point or it will be like concrete, and from now on avoid 'working' the pastry any more than necessary. Wrap the pastry, and put it in the fridge to 'rest' for half an hour. Press the pastry into the dish with the fingers, and bake the flan case 'blind' in a medium oven for about 20 minutes. (Blind baking is where the pastry case is filled with some inert ingredient, such as beans or rice, to hold the pastry down during baking.)
For the filling, roughly chop several ounces of bacon into thin pieces and fry them gently until they are cooked through (but no more), or you can use small pieces of ham which are already cooked. Beat three eggs in a bowl. Whisk in anything up to half a pint of single cream, season with ground black pepper and a little salt, stir in the cooked bacon or ham, and a good dessertspoonful of chopped fresh chives if you can get them, give it a final whisk and pour it into your flan case. Bake it gently in a medium oven for 25 to 40 minutes, until it looks done. If in doubt use a gentler oven for longer- the idea is to make a sort of savoury egg custard. You don't want to bake it into oblivion and the more cream you have used the longer it will take to set right through.
This a real traditional french dish from Provence and staggeringly easy. You need an aubergine (egg-plant to you Americans), two courgettes (zucchini), a big white onion, a green pepper, a couple of cloves of garlic, olive oil, some herbs such as thyme, oregano and a bay leaf, and several big, red, ripe plum tomatoes. (Ordinary salad tomatoes are too anaemic, but tinned ones will do.) Cut the aubergine and the courgettes into slices and sprinkle them with salt. Let them stand for about 20 minutes to sweat out some of their water. You don't actually have to do this and it may sound pointlessly crazy, but it does make a real difference to the final flavour- try dispensing with it and compare the result. Drain the liquid away and rinse off the salt. Meanwhile, slice the onion and the green pepper into rings, chop the tomatoes roughly and smash the garlic.
Get your cast-iron pan with the close fitting lid, or a sauce pan, and heat a table-spoon of your best olive oil. Stew the onions & garlic gently in the oil for minute or two, put the green pepper on top and add the aubergine and courgettes. Top it off with the chopped tomatoes, the herbs and a bit of salt and black pepper, turn the heat right down and put the lid on. Simmer it very gently for about 45 minutes. Check it very occasionally an give it the odd stir. Notice that no liquid is added- it all comes from the vegetables, so the heat needs to be low. That is it- serve it with crusty French bread, with olives and saucisson on the side- heaven.
Scrote came across Rillettes several years ago in France, and they are still relatively rare in English shops. They are a sort of potted, shredded meat paste, common as muck in France, but unlike paté Rillettes are made with meat rather than liver. Rillettes are usually made from pork, but any fat meat will do, and you do sometimes see Rillettes made of duck. Scrote was deeply impressed with the ingredients listed on pots of the stuff at the hypermarket at Calais. The entire list of ingredients (in French) is: lean & fat of pork, salt, pepper. That's it- the whole lot, not an additive or number in sight, and basically that's also the recipe too.
To make Rillettes you simply need about a kilogram (2lbs) of belly of pork- quite a big piece of meat really, but usually a fairly cheap cut. You also need a good metal saucepan with a close-fitting lid and a ring on your stove that can go very low, to barely a simmer. This is because you are going to cook it for a very long time. In theory it should be poached in a tightly sealed casserole in a very low oven, but it works very successfully on the top of the stove if you have a ring that goes low enough, and you are much less likely to end up baking it into a brown mess of meat.
All the preparation that is needed is to cut the rind, the skin, off the meat carefully leaving the fat on, and to dissect out any unpleasant bits of gristle or soft bone. The meat should have quite a lot of fat, Rillettes won't work properly if the meat is too lean. Chop the meat into rough cubes, and pack it into the bottom of the pan. Add some salt and just a little pepper. Pour over it one (only one) glass of white wine. This should be just enough to moisten the meat so it will stew gently without starting to fry, but we don't want any more than is needed. The Rillettes have to set at the end, and it's not gravy we want here.Cover the pan tightly and put it on the lowest possible heat, so it gradually comes to an imperceptible simmer. Cook it very gently for four hours, stirring it from time to time to ensure it is not sticking or drying out. After 4 hours, the chunks of meat will be very tender, swimming in a small amount of thick gelatinous liquid, and starting to break up. At this point, take it off the heat and simply mash the contents in the pan very thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Mix in a few extra peppercorns to provide the odd moment of excitement in the final product. Finally spoon the mixture (while it is still very hot) into pots and cover with an air-tight seal (cling film will do). Don't worry if the mixture still looks a bit like glutinous stew at this stage, and smells odd- it is meant to. Set the pots aside and allow them to cool down, then transfer them to the refrigerator where they will keep for several weeks while they are still sealed.
When the Rillettes are cold, the fat-content will set the mixture solid, and you will have a lovely rich, moist, fibrous meat-paste you can spread thickly onto chunks of bread. Try it- although Rillettes are not a good idea if you are trying to lose weight, Scrote loves the stuff.
A classic french salad from the south of France. Take several lettuce hearts (the miniature Kos lettuce Little Gem is best) and rip them into pieces. Chop a number of fresh tomatoes in quadrants (or halve a dozen cherry tomatoes), cut a good number of cucumber slices and halve them, hard-boil several eggs and quarter them, add cooked green beans, several cold boiled potatoes sliced, sprinkle over some anchovy pieces, tuna pieces and black olives, and mix it up roughly. Make a vinaigrette dressing of 4 parts of your extra good olive oil, one part of white wine vinegar, and a teaspoonful of Dijon mustard and toss the salad in it just before serving. Serve in the sun with crusty French bread, saucisson and some wine of course.
The Italian version (Insalata Capricciosa) is very similar with tuna, anchovies, quartered hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, queen olives, cold cooked new potatoes and asparagus on a green salad, dressed with an oil and balsamic vinegar dressing
Legend has it that this was early morning breakfast for porters at Les Halles in Paris. Strictly speaking for this you need a beef stock which can be made as follows:
Take beef bones and scraps and roast in a hot oven for 30 minutes until well browned. Put the roasted pieces into a large pot, add a chunk of onion with some onion peelings (the brown papery stuff? yes, Scrote knows it sounds mad but it adds to the colour), some pieces of carrot, a bit of celery and a couple of pints of cold water. Cover and simmer for several hours, then strain out the pieces, keeping the liquor which should be a clear brown, skim off any fat and store.
To make the onion soup- peel & slice several pounds of onions (you need a lot for this). Soften gently in a chunk of butter until golden- this may take half an hour or more. Add the beef stock.
(For vegetarians, or those who do not have a pint of beef stock about their person, then add a pint or so of water, and use any of a stock cube, a teaspoonful of marmite, a dash of soy sauce or any other savoury, brown goo you can think of.)
Check the soup, adjust the liquid content and the seasoning with salt and pepper and add a teaspoonful of Dijon Mustard. Simmer for about half an hour. Serve into deep individual bowls. For each bowl, cut a round of french bread from a stick and toast it on both sides. Float it in the bowl on top of the soup and grate a stringy cooking cheese over it. Put the bowls in a hot oven (or under a grill if you have enough clearance to get the bowls under) and melt the cheese on the top thoroughly. Serve.
In France this dish usually appears on the children's menu, for by french standards it is mild and unthreatening fare suitable for kids with tastes too undeveloped to eat proper cooking. Actually this a real beefburger. Forget the Americans with their soft, indeterminate, over-cooked, 2 ounce discs. Forget the edible glue & additive flavoured concoctions in the supermarkets. This is the real thing.
You need reasonably good beefsteak- it doesn't have to be rump steak but it should be a good cut of beef such as sirloin. Haché just means minced or chopped finely. If you have a mincer this will do the job, if not freezing the meat and then defrosting it a bit so that it is not quite rock hard will enable you to shave wafer thin slices off it with a knife- it's hard work but it works. Do not use 'mince' no matter what the butcher claims unless you have selected the right sort of meat yourself and seen it go into the mincer- ordinary butcher's mince beef is not nearly good enough for this.
You can just form the meat into 4 ounce patties. Adventurous souls will want to season them with salt & pepper and mix in a little very finely chopped onion and other flavourings of your own devising. The best way of cooking them is to grill them out of doors on a charcoal fire, but you can do pretty well if you sear them in a very hot cast iron frying pan for 5 minutes on each side. In either case, the idea is to brown them well on the outside but leave them rare inside. They are not meant to be well done all through. Serve in a bread roll, or as the French do with just chips.
This is another quiche from northen France, made with masses of onion, a sort of solid version of the onion soup.
You need a 10 inch flan dish. Make a shortcrust pastry for the flan. Take 5 ounces of plain flour and rub in 2.5 ounces of butter. Mix in a beaten egg and a little water to make a pliable dough. Chill the pastry. Meanwhile take about a pound and a half of onions (about 4 big ones) and peel and slice them finely. Soften the onions very gently in a big knob of butter in a pan until they are golden. Beat together two eggs and half a pint of cream. Cool the cooked onions and mix in the the egg and cream. Season with salt & pepper. Roll out the pastry very thinly into a big round and line the flan dish with it. Fill the interior with the cooked onion mixture and bake in a medium-hot oven for about 40 minutes. Serve hot.
Dressings are used to 'dress' salad. This Eleanor's recipe for the classic French dressing:
Take approximately two thirds good olive oil to one third vinegar, and mix them well. (The vinegar should be mainly white wine vinegar, but a little balsamic adds taste.) This is a basic dressing. You can then start to flavour it 'to taste' with a little lemon juice in lieu of vinegar, a dash of mustard, or various herbs. Thyme, marjorum, basil, and a little origano are the best. If they are fresh pestle them to release the flavour and spoon in, but if fresh aren't available dry will do - they just take longer to infuse. For true mediterranean authenticity (hem hem) the dregs of a jar of feta give that just rescued from the goat taste.
Scrote reckons you need more like four parts of really good olive oil to one part of wine vinegar, a good dash of Dijon mustard, and go easy on the herbs- keep it simple. Scrote used to think Balsamic vinegar was merely an affliction of the chattering classes until he was eventually made to try some, but now he loves the stuff to bits, and strongly suggests you use it for dressings. A genuine one is much softer and less acid than ordinary vinegar and has an excellent and subtle flavour of its own