Should your perfect trip to Paris allow ample time, why not spend a few days in the city soaking up all of the cultural sites, before renting a car to spontaneously escape into the French countryside? On a whim, of course! It may not be typically British, but it’s certainly what a European might do.
But, even if you aren’t vacationing in glorious France, you can still eat like the French! Try our sumptuous recipes as an ode to a beautiful country and a wonderful holiday; Dijon Moules Marinière with Cider, sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley and served with crusty, warm baguette and a green salad (yum!!) or make yourself a warming Provencal Vegetable Soup with Puy Lentils and Tarragon; absolutely gorgeous for lunch or as a light supper.
Dijon Moules Marinière with Cider
(Serves 2 – 4)
500g mussels, cleaned
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 large handfuls fresh parsley
1 ½ tbsp Dijon mustard (such as Grey Poupon)
2 tbsp white wine
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 x 500ml bottle dry Cider
Crusty white baguette, warmed
Extra fresh parsley
Clean the mussels in a colander and remove the beards by tugging them gently from the shells. You need to remove any mussels that are no longer alive – if they have opened up their shells. Some of the mussels may have relaxed and opened up their shells to have a breather but you can give them a tap and if they close up they are still ok to use. Discard any mussels that remain open when rapped sharply against the worktop.
Pop the cleaned mussels into the fridge for an hour or two to rest; this is preferable however not always possible, so you can cook them straight away if you need to.
Finely chop the shallots and the parsley and finely slice the garlic cloves.
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C and pop in some foil-wrapped baguettes to serve with the Moules.
Put a large heavy-based saucepan on a medium heat with the olive oil. Once hot, add the shallots and brown for eight to ten minutes, stirring occasionally so they don’t stick.
Add the garlic and as soon as you smell the warm aroma of the garlic, pour in the cider. Add the sea salt and white wine and bring to the boil slowly.
Add the Dijon mustard and whisk in. Toss in some of the parsley and clatter in the mussels. Clamp on the lid and allow them to bubble and steam away for three to five minutes.
Keep the lid on for as long as you can, when you think the Moules have had enough time have a quick peak; if all of the shells have opened and the exposed coral mussels are plump and slightly firm yet still tender, they are ready.
Serve into warm bowls, scatter over some fresh parsley and enjoy with the crusty warm butter-smeared baguette; ideal for mopping up the delicious Moules liquor.
Provencal Vegetable Soup with Puy Lentils and Tarragon
For the Soup:
3 tbsp olive oil
4 shallots, finely sliced
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
200g Puy lentils, rinsed and drained
400g can of chopped tomatoes
50ml dry white wine
1 tbsp tomato puree
600ml vegetable stock (homemade or organic Bouillon)
3 stalks of fresh thyme
3 stalks of fresh tarragon
1 bay leaf
1 tsp herbs de Provence
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Zest of ½ an un-waxed lemon
Juice of ½ an un-waxed lemon
1 ½ tsp coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crusty French bread, buttered with French unsalted butter
A handful of freshly chopped parsley
2 tbsp freshly chopped tarragon
Pre-heat a large, casserole pot or saucepan over a medium heat and sauté the chopped shallots for five minutes until they have softened slightly.
Add the carrots and celery and continue to slowly sweat the vegetables in the oil for a further ten to fifteen minutes until soft and lightly golden. Add the bay leaf, both the dried and fresh herbs and the Puy lentils.
Gently stir the lentils into the oil with the vegetables. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for a further minute until you can smell the scent of the warm garlic.
Pour in the can of chopped tomatoes and rinse out the can with the white wine. Add the salt, pepper, tomato puree together with the zest and juice of the un-waxed lemon.
Allow the tomatoes to warm through with the vegetables for a further three or four minutes and pour in the vegetable stock, adding more or less depending upon your preference.
Bring the soup to the boil, turn down the heat to medium low, cover with a lid and continue to cook for 20 – 25 minutes until the lentils are soft. Check after fifteen minutes or so and taste to test, seasoning further if desired.
To serve, decant the warm soup into bowls, sprinkle with freshly chopped tarragon and parsley and enjoy with buttered French bread and a glass of dry white wine.