Friday, 30 August 2013

Week 29- Farewell French Feast

The table set for farewll lunch
Another lovely summer draws to a close- the shops are full of pencil cases and calculators for la rentree- and my suitcase (and cool box) is filling up with caviare d'aubergine, cheese and wine, cream, meringues, sirop and all the French goodies I love to take home.
It's time to go- but not before we invite friends over for a last French feast.

On the menu- canapes and cocktails, tarte aux blettes and stuffed chicken breast wrapped in jambon fume with salads. There will of course (as this is France) be cheese as well. And dessert - in the modern French tradition- comes via the local patisserie.

The canapes are made from melon and mozzarella on sticks, dried apricots wrapped in Italian meats and blinis topped with creme fraiche and little red fish eggs. Simple to do- but very pleasing to the eye. (The recipe for blinis can be found on the blog 'Cooking for a Crowd' or click on blinis in the cloud above.)
blinis and canapes

The next course features blettes or Swiss Chard.

This vegetable is abundant in August here- everyone's garden is full of it. It's white stems are like celery- and make a lovely soup with garlic croutons and grated gruyere.
Soupe aux blettes
The dark green leaves can be used like spinach. In this case, we used the leaves to make a tart.

Bake a pastry case blind (see blog entry 'Who ate all the pies?' for a step-by-step instruction.) As the cooked case cools, sprinkle with a grating of parmesan along the base. This melts to form a seal so that any liquid which seeps from the chard won't give you a soggy bottom. (This is a tip from my French neighbour- one of the best things about cooking is sharing ideas with like-minded people. Blogging in a way has become the new 'chatting over the fence'. Still nice to do the real thing sometimes though).

Chop your chard with some spring onions. Steam very quickly to cook- then wrap in a tea towel and squeeze hard to remove as much moisture as you can. Mix with 2-3 eggs depending on the size of your tart case, a little extra milk and a heavy dose of salt, pepper and nutmeg (the secret ingredient). You can add bacon lardons if you wish and extra grated cheese to your taste.
Tarte aux blettes

Bake in a moderate oven (170 degrees) until firm to the touch. Serve at room temperature.

For the main course, I took chicken breasts and butterflied them (use a sharp knife to cut them almost in half lengthways and then open them out like a book). Stuffing was made from chopped sun dried tomatoes and two teaspoons per fillet of Boursin with herbs and garlic. Fold the chicken 'books' back together and wrap in a piece of jambon cru/fume/Parma ham.
Wrapping the chicken parcels
Secure the ends with a cocktail stick (but remove it before serving!). Place on a baking tray lightly greased with the oil from the sun dried tomatoes and bake in a moderate oven 170 degrees for 45 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

The juice from the chicken/Boursin should be drained off and served in a jug with the meal.
Stuffed chicken in jambon fume 

I served this with a rice salad, mixed with all the bountiful veg in the garden: tomatoes, cucumbers
And in the market
chives, mint and parsley, spring onions and big, yellow tomates ananas from the market.
Cucumbers in the garden
Pineapple tomatoes

Dress with a lemon vinaigrette and plenty of seasoning.
Rice salad with herbs

I'm not a great cheese eater- but there were plenty of people who were- so much was consumed.

In France these days, it has become increasingly rare for a host to make a dessert themselves. Guests arrive bearing boxes of goodies form the local patissier. This would seem a little odd in the UK- where we pride ourselves on so many delicious desserts and where show-stopping puddings have become very popular- but it is considered good form in France.

We went with the flow on this one.

It is tempting though when you look at all the goodies on display :

Le Patissier

All this feasting took many hours, and guests could do little more afterwards but loll on sunbeds and snooze whilst I wrapped up the leftovers.

What was left over?

Well, all the canapes were scoffed, the chicken made another meal with green beans and potatoes the next day, the tart packed up nicely for our picnic on the way up the motorway- and the cheese was wrapped in foil and braised on the barbecue to be served with toasts for an indulgent snack.
Braised camembert with toasts

So, it's au revoir Provence for another year.

Of course, there's the Auvergne to stop over on the way home and more cuisine to sample there and maybe even the fishy delights of Dieppe before we get on the ferry.

So much food, so little time....I'll just have to do my best.

Farewell French food!

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