So the thick parcel addressed to Adrian caught my eye. Serge Dansereau’s French Kitchen – classic recipes for home cooks. I will freely confess I hadn’t a clue who he was - though the name conjured a 70s crooner in tight white trousers and a deep tan. Seems he’s a multi-award winning chef, a French-Canadian who trained in Quebec (oh happy memories of getting totally and utterly slewed on Cointreau after the best meal of my entire life – I wonder if he cooked it?) and then moved to Sydney. His credo is local seasonal produce and I like that credo, always have. Why cook food that's come halfway round the world when you can eat what's on your doorstep?
Anyhow, it’s a nice book. Unusually he includes a lot of recipes for breakfast/brunch (blackberry bran muffins; pear and pomegranate with sheep’s milk yoghurt; butter brioche with cognac and almond marmalade). The dinner/supper section is – as might be suspected with French cooking – not too helpful for vegetarians but there are some nice suggestions in the lunch section.
Mostly the choices are quite predictable though some of the recipes in the Deserts and Baking section made me lick my lips – er, slurp to Coffee Custards (I love anything coffee-flavoured) and yum to Sugar and Walnut Pie (a traditional French Canadian treat). ‘Man on the dole’ pudding (pudding chomeur) was a new one on me – basically a brown sugar desert of sugar, flour and margarine (though Serge adds maple syrup and cream) and Basque custard cake looks delicious. Weird, I never had a sweet tooth until I became vegetarian – riddle me why?
I was particularly interested to see what he’d put in his Cooking for Kids section and confess was a bit disappointed that he just tends to stick to the usual fare – minified. In other words, mini chicken sandwiches; mini chicken and leek pies; mini beef burgers and so on. Hmm.
But I’m rather taken with the idea of pineapple, cranberry and honeydew icy poles (barres glacees aux jus de fruits). And, given there is a glimpse of sun today, I am going to perform some sympathetic magic. By giving you the recipe (sure Serge won’t mind) I am hence summoning beautiful sunny days and the possibility of picnics by the frisky sea or by cool deep rivers or atop bright sunny hills (wherever your fancy takes you). And yeah, I'm very aware that pineapple isn't remotely local to Exmoor but what the hell?
Pineapple, cranberry and honeydew icy poles (makes about 30)
You can use lollipop moulds or do what Serge does and use little shot glasses (er, he has 30 shot glasses??)
250g (1¼ cups) caster sugar
½ honeydew melon
300ml pineapple juice
300ml cranberry juice
Make the sugar syrup by putting the sugar and 250ml (1 cup) water into a saucepan and bringing to the boil. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove and set aside to cool.
Remove the skin from the melon, discard the seeds and chop into chunks. Process to a smooth puree.
Combine with 50ml of cooled sugar syrup. 100ml water and mix well. Pour into ten shot glasses (or similar) and freeze for 30 minutes or until they start to set. Now add “icy pole sticks” (I think we’d call them lolly sticks in the UK) to the glasses. Freeze for a further two hours or until totally frozen.
Repeat the procedure with the pineapple and cranberry (using the same quantities).
When ready to serve, remove the icy poles from the freezer and wait for a few minutes so they come out easily from their moulds. Serve immediately on crushed ice.
Serge says you can also use juice from strawberries, passionfruit, mangoes, lychees or rhubarb syrup. See if children can guess the flavours.