Indulge in a few French flavours this Bastille Day

Indulge in a few French flavours this Bastille Day

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French Onion Soup

Add a little dash of Gallic savoir faire to your cooking on France’s national day of celebration on July 14 by trying out this trio of fabulous French fancies. The soup, salad and cheesecake will make a delicious three-course meal

FRENCH ONION SOUP WITH GRUYÈRE GARLIC TOASTS

Richly flavoured beef stock and tangy Gruyère cheese make this soup a thing rich in taste. There aren’t many other ingredients, so it follows that there aren’t many places for mistakes to hide. Therefore you need to nail the caramelisation of the onions – cook them slowly at first, then turn up the heat and cook until sticky and golden brown.

Serves: 4

What you need:

50g butter
1kg onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 tablespoons Cognac or brandy
300ml dry cider
1.2 litres beef stock
1 bouquet garni (1 sprig each of parsley, thyme and bay) Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

For the garlic toasts:

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 small baguette or ½ large baguette, sliced
200g grated Gruyère

What you do:

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

To make the garlic toasts, mix the olive oil and garlic together and season well.

Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush with the garlic oil. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes until crisp.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan or casserole over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and stir until starting to soften. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook gently for 25–30 minutes until really softened.

Take the lid off and add the sugar. Cook for a further 20 minutes, stirring until golden brown and extremely floppy-looking. This is the secret to a successful onion soup. Pour in the Cognac and cider and leave to bubble up for 1 minute. Add the stock and bouquet garni and stir to blend. Simmer for 45 minutes, then season to taste. Remove the bouquet garni.

Preheat the grill/broiler. Divide the soup between 4 ovenproof bowls and place them on a baking sheet. Float 2–3 garlic toasts on top of each bowl and scatter the Gruyère over the toasts. Grill until the Gruyère is bubbling and golden.

Remove the baking sheet and lift off the hot bowls with an oven glove, warning everyone that they are hot.

Roquefort Salad

ROQUEFORT, PECAN & APPLE SALAD

Apple and cheese are natural partners. Here, the apples are pan-fried in a light honey-butter sauce until golden and glossy, while the piquant blue cheese balances out any sweetness.

Serves: 4

What you need:

30g butter
2 large, crisp eating apples, peeled, cored, and each apple cut into 10 wedges
1 tablespoon clear honey
100g watercress, tough stalks removed
50g baby spinach leaves, tough stalks discarded
175g Roquefort or other blue cheese, crumbled into chunks 60g cup pecan halves, toasted

Dressing:

5 tablespoons extra virgin
olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

What you do:
Mix together all the ingredients for the dressing and season lightly with salt, bearing in mind that Roquefort is already quite salty, and more generously with pepper.

Melt the butter in a large, non-stick frying pan. Add the apple wedges and cook for 5 minutes, turning once.

Stir in the honey, turn the apples to coat them in the honey-butter sauce and cook for 1 minute more, or until golden and glossy. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Spoon as much of the dressing over the watercress and spinach as needed to coat the leaves in a serving bowl. Toss until combined, then top with the apples, Roquefort and pecans. Serve immediately.

Fig Tart

FIG AND HONEY RICOTTA CHEESECAKE

Ricotta makes for a pleasantly light-textured cheesecake. Here it’s combined with figs and honey to give a Southern France flavour. Serve it for dessert or enjoy it with coffee as a mid-morning treat.

Serves: 6

What you need:

150g digestive biscuits
50g butter, melted
750g ricotta
2 eggs
2 tablespoons runny honey
½ teaspoon orange flower water
40g plain flour
5–6 fresh figs, halved A 20-cm loose-based cake pan

What you do:

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Using a rolling pin, crush the biscuits into crumbs. Use a large bowl to mix the crumbs with the melted butter. Next, press this mixture firmly and evenly into the cake pan to form a base.

In a separate large bowl, mix together the ricotta and eggs. Stir in the honey, orange flower water and flour. Spoon the ricotta mixture evenly across the base.

Now, press the halved figs, skin-side down, into the ricotta mixture.

Bake the cheesecake in the preheated oven for 50–60 minutes until set. Remove the pan from the oven and cool, then cover and chill until serving.

The cheesecake will keep for a few days, covered, in the refrigerator.

Cooking With Cheese

Recipes taken from Cooking With Cheese, published by Ryland Peters and Small. Cooking with Cheese is available to Times readers for the special price of £11.99 including postage & packaging (rrp £16.99 by telephoning Macmillan Direct on 01256 302 699 and quoting the reference GJ8)