Sunday, 8 September 2013

Week 30- Last of the Summer Sun

September is a glorious month- the sun still has plenty of warmth in it, but there's an anticipatory feel of a new season round the corner.

It's also one of the best months for produce- summer fruit and veg is still in abundance: melons, courgettes, peppers, soft fruit and tomatoes to name a few. And autumn favourites are also now starting to appear: blackberries, apples and pears, marrows and sweetcorn.

You can take your pick of fresh fish too:

It's a great time to be shopping and cooking.

So, today's menu celebrates all of this bounty- stuffed summer veg for starter, hake with mijot of vegetables and iles tropiques for dessert (floating islands but in a tropical sea!)

Stuffed veg are a great way to use up leftovers (rice, curry, pasta, paella...all go well inside a pepper or an aubergine) but are also lovely as a dish in their own right. 
I used (for 4 people) 2 onions, 1 large courgette, 1 aubergine, 2 tomatoes and 2 peppers.
Peel the onions and place in a steamer, over a pan of simmering water. Steam for about 15 minutes.
Whilst they steam, halve the aubergine and courgette lengthways, and then cut each half into two.
Add those to the steamer for 10 minutes.
Then halve and de-seed the peppers and add them to the steamer for the remaining 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut a lid from the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. (Squeeze the juice into a pan and then discard the seeds.)
Veg in the steamer

Once steamed, remove the veg. Cut the bottoms and tops from the onions and gently press out the inners (so you are left with just a hollow onion tube), chop the inners and put in the pan with the tomato juice. Use your teaspoon to hollow out a groove in the courgettes and aubergines too and chop their flesh to add to the pan.
Hollowed out veg
Fry the mixture with some garlic and some chopped bacon (not essential if you prefer a vegetarian version). Add 2 cups of soft breadcrumbs (I used polenta crumbs from leftover cornbread - I keep all sorts of odds and ends of breadcrumbs in the freezer!) and fry until soft.
Fry the chopped 'flesh'

Stuff back into the vegetable cases, sprinkle with grated cheese and bake in a moderate (170 degree) oven for about 15-20 minutes until browned.
Stuffed veg ready for the oven

Serve warm with a green salad.
Stuffed Summer Vegetables

No apologies for using similar vegetables for the mijot (stew to you and me!) which accompany the fish.

In a saucepan, gently stew 1 diced aubergine, 1 sliced onion, 1 chopped clove of garlic and 1 tomato (peeled, deseeded and quartered) in a tablespoon of olive oil. As it becomes tender (about 10 minutes), add a glass of white wine and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed.
Meanwhile, fry your fish: place firm white fillets of fish (hake, bass, cod, pollock or halibut) in a cold frying pan, skin side down. Add some olive oil and heat up quickly. As soon as the skin becomes crispy and you can lift it out of the oil without it sticking to the pan, flip it over with a palette knife and cook for a minute or two more on the other side.
Hake with stewed summer vegetables.

Serve on a bed of the stewed vegetables. Nice with some boiled potatoes (add a pinch of saffron to turn them golden if you want, as here)
And with saffron potatoes

Dessert is a crafty way to use of leftover fresh soft fruit- as versatile as using fruit up in a crumble but a little bit fancier.

We had fresh melon as a starter earlier in the week (so half of one left) and various fruit in the fruit bowl looking a bit 'now or never'.

I decided to puree it all into a 'fruit soup' and use it a base for floating islands (poached meringues with caramel sauce). 
This is simplicity itself (as I cheat and buy my poached meringue and sauce from the supermarket when in France! They freeze well and you can use spoonfuls of it as and when you need it.) Incidentally, the fruit soup freezes well too and can be defrosted and used as a standby pud.

If you want to make your own meringues ( and they are great for using up leftover egg white - which also keeps well in the freezer, for those of us who waste nothing!)- here is a link to a video of how to do it. Or you can follow Raymond Blanc's recipe here: 

I usually recommend this when people ask me for the recipe. (With my tongue firmly planted in my cheek).

Good luck!

Meanwhile, here is my tropical floating island:

Tropical floating islands

And so, the summer sun goes down on another batch of recipes. I hope you enjoyed them.

Sunset over Sussex

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