Dinner With The Omnivore

Posts Tagged ‘summer

Following my recent cheesecake post, I suddenly found that I could barely leave the house without bumping into further cheese dessert related recipes. A bit like buses, evidently – wait for ages and then three turn up at once. Though admittedly the resemblance between buses and cheescake begins and ends there.


The Franco Phoney - Antipodean in the Alps.

One of the best of these Johnny-come-lately upstart pudding recipes was supplied by the Franco Phoney, an Aussie journalist and blogger who lives in La Clusaz and writes about cheese for a living. And let’s face it, if you’re going to do that at all you might as well do it in France.

All things considered, I think Audrile’s baked cheesecake pips this one to first prize, but having said that, the second one makes a much better summer dessert, as the lack of egg and addition of lemon juice give it a much lighter and fresher taste. It also has the significant advantage that it needs no cooking, a boon when you’re already dealing with temperatures heading for the 30s and have no need to go getting involved with ovens.

Janelle’s vegie-friendly cheesecake

You will need: can condensed milk; 550g cream cheese; 140ml lemon juice; 2 drops vanilla essence; 150g cheapo butter biscuits; 50g butter.

Crush the biscuits, add melted butter and squish the misture into the bottom of a baking tray. Whisk all the other ingredients together and pour over the base. Chill in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight.

There, how easy was that? I might try it with a ginger biscuit base at some point – could be good with the lemon.

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Soft fruit: very short window of edibility

Desserts don’t feature prominently on the summer menu (they’re not all that prominent on the winter menu either, what with work and skiing taking up all the available cooking time) and when they do appear they tend to consist largely of soft fruits which need to be eaten urgently before they disintegrate into small piles of green fur.

But inviting people for dinner provides a flimsy excuse for indulging in piggy pudding, particularly when you’re doing roast veggies as a main course and can therefore fool yourself into thinking that you can afford to stuff your face with mega-calories afterwards because you haven’t really eaten much. We will obviously gloss over the fact that the veg are roasted in generous quantities of basil oil.

Bossy goverment ad campaigns. Just piss off and leave me alone, will you.

Cheesecake is a fairly heatwave-friendly dessert, since it is eaten cold and can reasonably be served with fresh fruit. So it even qualifies as counting towards that five-a-day rubbish, yet another piece of idiot government advice which turns out to be based on no evidence whatsoever and isn’t about to make you immortal after all.

There are multiple different recipes for cheesecake out there in the webworld, but this one is courtesy of a Lithuanian friend in Portsmouth. She made some for our wedding, where it went down a treat, along with banoffee pie, Savoyarde cheeseboard and (in my case) for too much champagne. But let’s face it, if you can’t get ratted on expensive champers at your own wedding, when can you?

Audrile’s cheesecake

You will need: 215g of cheapo butter biscuits; 115g melted butter; 675g of Philadelphia or similar cream cheese; 175g caster sugar; 2 eggs; 1 tsp vanilla essence.

Make the base by crushing all the biscuits, mixing with butter and then squishing the mixture into the bottom of a baking tin, preferably one of those ones with a removable base. Chill in the fridge for about 20 mins. Mix together the rest of the ingredients then pour the filling over the base and bake in the centre of the oven at 150°C for about 30 minutes until set. Turn off the heat and allow the cake to cool in the oven. Chill before eating.

Since I’m making this in France I have virtually zero chance of finding Philadelphia cheese, but fortunately St Moret produces just the same result, despite what the various purveyors of expensively imported US/UK groceries would have you believe.

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Well, the sun finally put in an appearance and provided us with an unexpectedly scorching bank holiday weekend. I’m sure this must be some kind of administrative error, but no-one was complaining. Beers were drunk, barbecues lit, new flipflops bought and cotton hippie-trousers fished out of the back of the wardrobe. It didn’t last, obviously, and we are now back to torrential rain and October temperatures, but it was a pleasant interlude.

During the sunny window, I thought I might as well test drive a new salad or two, just in case summer showed any sign of sticking around for a while. As if. I found this one in a BBC book which is awash with good ideas, though you get the impression that some of them haven’t progressed past the idea stage because the final result either doesn’t quite work or needs a further tweaking. It also has an annoying habit of telling you to buy stuff which you could just as easily make for yourself. But despite these niggles it remains a terrific little book which has contributed quite a few dishes to the regular menu – red onion tart to name but one.

English garden salad

You will need: new potatoes; runner beans; broad beans; spring onion; sun dried tomatoes; cheshire or Lancashire cheese; fresh mint leaves; yoghurt; mayonnaise; grain mustard; honey

Cook the potatoes and beans in boiling water until tender, then drain and rinse with cold water. Chop the onion, tomatoes, mint leaves and cheese then mix everything together in a bowl. Mix together the yoghurt, mayo, mustard and honey in proportions to suit yourself, pour the resulting dressing over the salad and toss thoroughly.

English garden salad, complete with sundried tomatoes

See the original recipe here – you’ll notice I’ve added the broad beans, which is because I love them and I happened to see some on the market last week.

Pernickety readers will no doubt point out that sun dried tomatoes are hardly known for being the traditional produce of an English garden. This is entirely true, and I suggest that you take it up with the BBC.

Being in France, I didn’t even bother looking for Cheshire or Lancashire cheese, but substituted Cantal, which was perfectly acceptable. I imagine it could work well with feta, though that’s possibly even less English garden than the tomatoes.

If the dressing recipe is a little haphazard that’s because it was one of the things the book advised me to buy (like I’m going to buy salad dressing, ridiculous idea) and I just made it up as I went along.

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As the so-called spring marches on, we stick doggedly to our summer eating habits of lots of salad and veggie dishes, plenty of fresh fruit, minimal pig & cheese meals and so on. But if the weather fails to get its act together soon I’m going to be forced back into beef bourguignon and Tartiflette. It’s hard to rustle up enthusiasm for cold food when it’s trying to snow outside.

Meanwhile, we compromise on sort of warm things – salads with poached egg and lardons, asparagus with new potatoes, and various tarts and quiches. Like this one, which makes a change from what Nanny Ogg described as ‘them eggy pies’.

Red onion, feta and olive tart

Red onion tart

You will need: 25g butter: 2 red onions: 2 tblsp light brown sugar; 2 tblsp balsamic vinegar: 100g feta cheese: 175g black olives: olive oil: basil leaves: pastry

You can either buy your pastry or make it yourself, as you please. Either way, you want about 30x22cm of it.

Slice the onions and fry them in butter until soft, then add the sugar and vinegar, and cook until the mixture is syrupy. Leave to cool for 10 minutes and then spread the mixture over the pastry and scatter with the cheese and olives. Season and drizzle with olive oil, then bake for 20 minutes at 180°C. Garnish with shredded basil leaves and serve with salad.

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Pigs .....

It’s a big point in favour of the end of the winter season that we can stop living on the traditional montagnard diet of pigs, potatoes and lard. Much as I like all the possible permutations of cheese and bacon with a side order of starch, it’s possible to get nostalgic for a vitamin or two after a while. When asked what we should eat this week,  JC (a man whose culinary speciality is high-calorie stodge) growled: “Salad. FEED ME SALAD!!” Whatever you say dear, salad it is. Now, put the axe down quietly.

.... and lard. That's enough of that.

Indian chickpea salad

You will need: 2 garlic cloves; 1 red chilli; 2 tsp cumin seeds; 400g can chickpeas; large tomato; zest and juice of a lemon; things for salad.

Slice the garlic and fry it along with the cumin seeds and chilli until soft. Add the chickpeas, chopped tomato and lemon, cook gently until the whole lot is warmed through. Serve on a bed of whatever you like by way of salad – I usually go for mixed leaves, cucumber, and spring onion, with a bit of fresh coriander if I can ever get hold of the stuff.

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Food for thought

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” ― Orson Welles

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