Tartiflette – a dish to warm the soul (but only if you’re not counting the calories)

Reblochon is a delicious soft French cheese which is wonderful eaten “as is” but when cooked in a typical dish of Tartiflette, reaches another level of gorgeousness. Well, if you love soft creamy melted cheese it does!

The weather in England taunted us with its spring like warmth and Big Man decided that it was perfect weather to start painting the outside of our seaside house. Of course, day one was perfect as we prepared. We covered what felt like miles of guttering with newspaper and masking tape. We bought paint and thinner and got our brushes and rollers ready. Day two the painting commenced. And the clouds moved in, the temperature dropped and rain looked ominous. We were working at the back of the house which gets the sun, so at least when there was a break in the clouds we could enjoy a little of its warmth.

Tartiflette (3)

Day three, second coat of paint. The clouds were there to stay. The odd splash of rain (or was it a passing seagull?…I prefer not to dwell on it). But we persevered. Luckily the paint was made for British Weather (oh yes, the word Weather deserves a Capital Letter) and dries in 20 minutes.

Job done but we were chilled through. Time for some hearty Alpine food, and to hell with the calories!

Ingredients (to serve 3-4 people)

  • ½ Reblochon cheese (the original recipe calls for a whole one but we found half to be plenty)
  • About 700g small or medium potatoes in their skins
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 4 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, cut into small strips (or use a packet of lardons)
  • About half a glass of dry white wine
  • 100ml cream
  • Black pepper

Boil the potatoes in their skins until just cooked (timing will depend on their size but probably 15-20 mins). Drain and leave to cool slightly before peeling them. These can also be prepared ahead and left to go cold before peeling and slicing not too thinly.

In a frying pan with a little oil, add the bacon, garlic and onions and fry until the bacon starts to go crispy and the onions brown a little at the edges. Pour in the wine and cook until about half the wine has evaporated.

In an ovenproof dish put about half the potatoes, then the bacon and onion mix and then the rest of the potatoes. Now slice your cheese in half so that you have two half moon shapes and lay these on top of the potatoes. Keep the skin on the cheese and if it helps to distribute over the top more evenly, cut into triangles.

Tartiflette (6)

Pour the cream over the whole thing and season with black pepper. Bake at about 200C for around 30 minutes or until the cheese is starting to become golden and the cream is bubbling. Delicious with a simple salad.

And don’t forget to wash your paint brushes or you won’t be able to use them again….

For a vegetarian version of this dish, pop over to Promenade Planting and see Claire’s great version!

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Chocolate and Amaretto Semifreddo

Now please don’t send the dessert police round if this is not really an authentic semifreddo. I’ve just looked at the Wikipedia definition and it seems like it should have ice cream mixed in with the whipped cream.  Oh dear, Chica taking shortcuts again.

Regular readers of this blog will probably have already noticed that I don’t post a huge number of dessert recipes. Mainly because I’m not very sweet toothed, and secondly because Big Man and I don’t really need to be eating too many naughty treats and generally stick to fruit and yogurt at the end of a meal.

But sometimes, yes sometimes, life calls for pudding and with some new pals round recently for supper, this was such an occasion. Obviously, after a long day of house renovation, I needed a meal which I could prepare in advance so that I could relax and enjoy the food and company.

The main course was Pollo Cacciatore, made the day before. Dessert was made the evening before, inspired by part of a programme presented by Nigella Lawson. I missed the detail of the recipe, so this is my version and it worked out perfectly. I am my own Domestic Goddess.

Semifreddo (4)

Ingredients (serves 6-8….well 4-6 in my house)

  • 600ml of double or whipping cream
  • 100g of your favourite chocolate which you need to put into the fridge for an hour or so
  • 2-3 tablespoons of amaretto (or your favourite liqueur)
  • 4 ready-made meringue nests (or you could be a complete Domestic God or Goddess and make your own)
  • A loaf tin or plastic ice cream tub lined with cling film

Beat the cream until is softly whipped (but not stiff). Finely chop the cold chocolate and add it to the cream with the liqueur then crumble in the meringue (break it up into small pieces). Mix gently with a large spoon until combined and then spoon it into your container. Cover with cling film and freeze until you are ready to serve. Take it out of the freezer a few minutes before you want to eat and slice it (I found it easiest with a bread knife) into portions.

I served mine with fresh raspberries, a raspberry coulis (made with one cup of raspberries and half a cup of icing sugar, cooked then sieved) and some flaked almonds. It’s not the most beautiful photo in the world, I apologise, but it was taken as I served it up after an evening of food and wine conviviality, at about 10pm in an underlit kitchen.

Easy, delicious and very little effort. Perfect!

Cooking Under Fire – Creamy Crab and Brandy Soup

This so very nearly wasn´t a recipe. I treated us to two Dressed Crabs which we had planned to eat with a crispy salad and some beautiful new potatoes dripping with butter.

In my flustered and tired state I left them in the fridge in the house we are renovating and we got home to face an entirely different supper. I rescued the crabs the next day, but as they weren´t as super fresh as on the day they had been dressed, I decided to turn them into a luxurious soup. This wasn´t really Cooking Under Fire either as I used my parents´ kitchen in their holiday home, but I did still have to rummage around to find the Brandy…so there was some small element of hardship involved in the process…

Serves 2 as a hearty main course or 4-6 as a starter

  • 2 dressed crabs (white and dark meat)
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 2 tablespoons of brandy
  • About 150ml of single cream
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 dried chili
  • Half an onion
  • A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 2 or 3 pieces
  • Water

Remove the meat from the crab shells and reserve. Break up the shells a little with a rolling pin and put into a saucepan then cover with about 1 litre of water. Add the onion, ginger, bay leaf and dried chili. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 mins, drain and reserve the stock.

Add the crab meat and potato to the stock and simmer (uncovered) until the potatoes are tender and the stock has reduced a little. Stir in the cream and brandy, taste and season with salt if necessary and pepper (I used white pepper). Mash the mixture gently so that the soup thickens but there are still chunks of crab meat and potatoes. If you prefer a smoother, silky texture, blitz in the blender or with an immersion blender stick. Warm through gently before serving and remind yourself that sometimes being forgetful can be a good thing.

Gnocchi in a Creamy Asparagus Sauce

I have previously mentioned my love of potatoes, and being a big fan of carbs, a plate of gnocchi really hits the spot.  Today we´ll be using a packet of ready made gnocchi, as this is a speedy dish that looks gourmet, and we all like those.

Would Madam like a lifejacket with her sauce?

The sauce is enough for four.  Of course, rather than save half for another day, we used it all and had our gnocchi swimming in a delicious creamy sauce.  Shame on us.

Ingredients

  • 1 packet gnocchi
  • 200ml of pouring or single cream
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons of soft blue cheese (optional but highly recommended)
  • Fresh parmesan for grating
  • Some chopped cooked lardons, bacon or jamon for sprinkling over the finished dish (or leave these out if you want to keep it vegetarian)
  • Seasoning

Start by finely chopping the asparagus, leaving the aside the tips.  Cook in salted water (not the tips) until tender and remove with a slotted spoon. Now cook the tips, drain and set aside, keeping warm if possible. You can always save the cooking liquid to add to vegetable stick or soup.

In a blender jug put the cream, milk, blue cheese (if using), asparagus (again, not those tips!) and plenty of black pepper.  Blitz until you have a smooth thick cream and put into a small saucepan.

Boil the water for your gnocchi, add salt, and cook until they float to the top.  While they are cooking, gently warm the cream sauce, taste and add salt if necessary.

When the gnocchi are done, drain and mix the cream sauce in, place into warmed serving dishes. Sprinkle over the asparagus tips and jamon or bacon (if using) and grate over some fresh parmesan.  Speedy, luxurious, delicious.

For some other wonderful suggestions of what to do with asparagus, check out RaeDi´s Pizza recipe here and Greg´s Lemon Asparagus here.

On Thursday Big Man and I are heading to London for a week to catch up with family, friends and food. My parents are probably one of the few families on the planet who don´t have internet, so although I may post again before Thursday, I won´t be able to read blogs or comment from Wednesday evening until we get back when I will do a big “catch up”.  Hopefully we´ll come home with lots of lovely foodie goodies and some good eating experiences to share with you all.

Update – I have added this recipe to Greenslove´s recipes, check out Linda´s link here at Savoring Every Bite for more info

Creamy Mussels with Garlic and Bacon

Delicious!

It was another day for Fish Man to visit and I bought a kilo of mussels.  Such a bargain food, so easy to prepare, and such a wonderful taste.

I have been inspired by some of the recipes posted by Olives and Artichokes here and here and often make a tomato based soup version, as you can see here.

Today, I decided to use up some of my bacon from the UK, although I could have used lardons or jamon instead.

Time for a wash and brush up...

After cleaning my mussels, I lightly fried in olive oil two cloves of crushed garlic, one onion fairly finely chopped and 4 rashers of chopped bacon.

When these had all softened I added a glass of white wine and simmered for about 5 minutes before adding the mussels and a couple of tablespoons of chopped parsley and putting the lid on.

A few minutes later the mussels had all opened, so I took the pot off the heat, stirred in 100ml of single or pouring cream and that was it.

I served it in big bowls with spoons and crusty bread to soak up all the garlicky, creamy juices.  ¡Muy rico!