French Green Beans and Baby Tomatoes with Tapenade (4)

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French green beans or haricots verts as they are known in France are a thinner version of the traditional green beans found in the US and UK and I much prefer them. In France haricots verts and tomatoes are often combined, whether it be in a salad or a hot dish such as this. I have added tapenade – a traditional Mediterranean appetizer often served on toasted bread in a similar way to bruschetta or used as a dip for crudites – and stirred it in with the vegetables. Tapenade at its most basic combines black olives, capers and olive oil. My version also includes anchovies, garlic and lemon juice. If you don’t want to make it yourself you may be able to find it in your local supermarket. Goes well with lamb or firm white fish.

8 oz thin green beans – topped, tailed and cut in half

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 oz cherry tomatoes – cut in half

1 tbsp. tapenade (or more if you want)

Boil the green beans for just a few minutes until ‘al dente’, then drain.

At the same time put 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. When sizzling add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes become soft and browned on both sides.

Add the beans and 1 tbsp. of tapenade to the pan with the tomatoes and the juices and toss well together.

TAPENADE (makes approx. 1 cup – which is more than you need for this recipe)

1 x cup pitted black olives

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 heaped tbsp. curly parsley

1 tbsp. capers – drained

1 large clove garlic – cut into small pieces

4 anchovies

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and blend to your desired consistency.

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Potatoes Boulangeres (serves 4)

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Potatoes Boulangeres are the poor relative to Potatoes Dauphinoises. They are made with broth instead of cream and cheese but are nonetheless a classic potato dish that pairs very well with lamb. Boulangere is French name for a baker and in the olden days, after the baker had made his bread it was traditional to let the local residents use his oven to cook their various homemade dishes.

You could use a mandolin to prepare the potatoes and onions but I used the slicer attachment to my food processor.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Olive oil for greasing ovenproof dish and for brushing the top layer of potatoes

2 large onions – peeled and sliced in food processor

2 large baking potatoes- peeled and sliced in food processor

1 cup veg/beef broth

Oil an ovenproof dish.

Place a layer of onion on the bottom of the dish and season with salt and pepper.

Next place a layer of potatoes on top of the onion and season.

Continue layering and seasoning finishing up with a layer of potatoes.

Pour over the broth.

Brush the potatoes with olive oil

Cook for some 45 minutes or until potatoes are soft when pricked with a fork – but not too soft else bottom layer will be soggy.

Pilgrim Cake (6 – 8)

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This cake is traditionally found in the North Western region of Spain bordering on Portugal known as Galicia. Many European Catholics make a pilgrimage to this area to visit the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where it is believed that the relics of the Apostle St. James, Patron Saint of Spain, are buried. This type of cake can be found in virtually every bakery in the town and has the Cross of St. James depicted on the top of it. It is so easy to make and is virtually foolproof. The template of the St. James’s cross can be found on the internet, otherwise just sift confectioner’s sugar over the top. The cake is  lovely and moist cake and can be eaten at any time of day with a cup of coffee or a cup of tea or a glass of dessert wine.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

1 x 8 – 9 inch round cake tin, oiled and lined with a circle of parchment paper (which should also be oiled on the top to prevent the cake sticking)

8 oz. caster sugar

8 oz. ground almonds

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Zest of half an unwaxed lemon

5 eggs – lightly beaten

Confectioner’s sugar for sifting over the top of the cake

Place the first four ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Slowly add the beaten eggs a little at a time while stirring with a spoon.

When mixture is smooth pour into the cake tin.

Cook in the oven for 50 around minutes until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch.

Turn cake out onto a cake rack and let cool before either placing the template on top of the cake (oil it lightly to stop it from moving around) and sift confectioner’s sugar over the cake. Carefully peel off the template and serve.