Tag Archives: espelette

Goat’s Cheese Fritters with Spicy Apple Chutney

Live dangerously.

When I given my bottle of Piment d’Espelette, I checked it out online…and found out that there was a competition being run by the local producers’ association (English version here) to come up with new dishes. So…prepare something original. For a critical audience who don’t know me. In French. Dangerous enough?

To enter, there were obviously a few rules to observe: it had to use Piment d’Espelette (duh!), it should be quick and easy to prepare, it should be original, and it should be something that could be prepared on an average family budget. I sent my applications in on Friday night, so I’ll just have to sit tight and see what happens.

To come up with something, I sat down and did a bit of logical thinking. The producers are in the Basque part of France, so some sort of raw vegetable dish was out of the question. These people are likely to prefer a rich, meaty dish for the main course, so my best chances were in the starter or dessert category. So a starter that showcases the Piment d’Espelette…got me thinking about chutney. I reasoned that the Piment d’Espelette would work well, so that the subtle heat would pervade the sauce and mingle with the apple, without dominating. Plus, the flecks of red would show up in the chutney. Next question: what can I serve with a semi-sweet sauce? I thought about goats cheese. And bingo! My entry is a simple cheese fritter coated with a breadcrumb/Piment d’Espelette mixture, gently cooked until golden and crispy, and served with a simple, fresh apple chutney. That was the theory…

Et alors…the chutney. This was super-easy – chop the apples, throw everything in a pot, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Done! On its own I think it is great. It’s a deep burnished amber colour and the Piment d’Espelette does indeed show up as hoped. It’s got heat, but it never gets too much. I am modestly calling this an unmitigated success. I had a little left over after my test, and I’ve been munching it on strong English cheddar as my 11am snack for the past week. Really delicious.

The fritters? Again very simple. The coating was just flour, breadcrumbs and Piment d’Espelette. The goats cheese is rolled into balls, flattened, dipped in egg and coated, and then shallow-fried. I figured this dish would provide a nice series of contrasts – crisp coating, creamy cheese, soft fruity chutney.

Happy with the theory, I made them and duly noted everything down. I’ve got to say, the result was pretty darn good. You need to be really generous with the chutney, but I think the spiciness and gentle heat worked well with the cheese. It’s a nice combination. Let’s see if the competition judges agree!

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Filed under Recipe, Savoury

Spicy Lentil Soup

Over the recent hard winter, I have been making a lot of lentil soup. It’s great as a quick lunch, cheap as chips, and has the bonus of being a filling, healthy dish. I know that lentils are just about the stereotypical vegetarian food (up there with unflavoured tofu), but I really like them. Lentil burgers, croquettes, heck, even on their own.

It took me a while to get my recipe for lentil soup quite right. As a child, my grandmother’s was the lentil soup, so I guess that I have been trying to recreate that over the years. I’ve also realised that it is the sort of dish that everyone has an opinion about (probably based on what their grandmothers used to make as well). Some like lots of pepper, others very salty, thick, thin, lumpy, smooth…lots of scope to vary it. So mine is quite thick and still has the texture of the lentils and whatever vegetables I’ve added. I also chuck in a load of fresh garlic, ginger and other spices to give the soup a real depth of flavour. You could add a bit more water and blitz it to a puree, but I find smooth soups just really, really dull.

I blogged a couple of days ago about my recently-acquired Espelette pepper…and this recipe needs spice…so is this a marriage made in heaven? Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I gave it a go – the usual recipe, but I added less curry powder, and instead threw in a generous teaspoon of the Espelette. And…this works so well. The smoky, paprika-like flavour was there and there was a noticeable warmth to the soup this time, and it is flecked with little bits of red which looks pretty cool. In place of the usual black pepper and a squeeze of lemon, I sprinkled a bit more Espelette on top. My timing was good as well – a holiday weekend in London, and the usual rain has rolled in. This was just perfect for sitting on the sofa and watching a film.

For the soup:

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 white onion, finely chopped
• knob of ginger, peeled and finely grated

• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 2 tablespoons ground cumin seeds
• 1 tablespoons ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon mild curry powder
• 1 generous teaspoon Espelette pepper
• 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
• 250g red lentils
• 2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
• 1 stock cube
• 1 litre hot water

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onions and cook on a medium heat until translucent (five minutes). Add the ginger and garlic, and cook for two minutes (don’t let them burn). Add the spices and cook for 30 seconds (if very dry, add another spoon of oil).

Add the lentils and carrots and cook for one minute, stirring all the time. Add the tomatoes, and stir well.

Pour in the water and add the stock cube. Stir well, bring to the boil, the simmer until the lentils are tender (at least 20 minutes). Serve with a sprinkling of Espelette pepper.

Worth making? This is a great soup, and is easy to adapt to what you have in the store cupboard. It takes spices really well, so feel free to be creative. It’s great on a chilly  day, and freezes well in small batches.

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Filed under Recipe, Savoury