Bread Puddings!

In English cooking there are lots and lots of different PUDDINGS.

Here are two puddings which are made with stale** bread.

**stale bread = bread which is a few days old.


This is eaten hot, as a dessert.

I made this pudding with just two slices of bread.

* Spread butter on the bread and cut each slice into 4 triangles.
* Put the triangles into a small buttered dish, and sprinkle with a little sugar & a handful of raisins.

Mulled Wine

TO MULL verb (pronounce the "U" like sun, run, fun, mum NOT like pull)

1. followed by "over" to think about, to consider eg: I don't know whether to leave my job or not. I need to mull it over.

2. to heat and sweaten wine with spices. (MULLED WINE)

At Christmas time English Connection offers every adult student a glass of MULLED WINE.

There are lots of different recipes for this hot winter drink - but as many of you have asked for my recipe - here it is:-

You need: Red wine, orange juice, sugar, an orange and the following spices:

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Quantities? I'm afraid there is no exact science to this - because everyone has their own preference. You just need to add a little bit of this & a little bit of that, add quite a lot of sugar, mull the wine gently for at least 1 hour and keep tasting it until it tastes good!

I usually start by warming 1 bottle of red wine & half a litre of orange juice. Add 100g of sugar. Add 8 cloves, a spoonful of nutmeg and half a cinnamon stick. Slice an orange and add that too.

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After half an hour, taste the mulled wine and adjust the flavours. You will almost certainly need to add more sugar and possibly more spices.

Mull for another 30 minutes and taste again.

I usually mull the wine for 2 hours, keeping the heat low, tasting & adding from time to time. This gives a wonderful Christmassy smell to the whole house.

You can keep any left-over wine and re-heat it the following day, but if you do this, take out the orange & all the spices otherwise you will get a sediment.

You can use Port instead of wine. In this case you don't need quite so much sugar. You can also add a drop of cognac.

For students living in Vannes, you can buy the spices you need in this lovely little shop in one of the narrow streets in the old town. (Buy them individually - not the ready prepared mix for 'vin chaud'. It's cheaper & you can adjust the taste yourself.)

ville historique, vannes


Simple Soup


There is some dispute as to who invented Vichyssoise soup.
Some say it was invented in New York in 1917 by a French chef called Louis Diat.

He was working at The Ritz – Carlton hotel when he remembered a soup made by his mother and grandmother in his home town near Vichy. The soup was made from leeks and potatoes and he and his brother used to put milk in it to cool it down. He decided to recreate the soup for the diners at the hotel and, originally, Crème Vichyssoise was served cold.

However, there is also an earlier recipe which was first published in 1869 in a book called Le Livre de Cuisine by the French chef Jules Gouffé. His book was also published in English under the title “The Royal Cookery book”. In 1872 he also published Le livre de soupes et des potages,which contained more than 400 soup recipes.

Whoever invented Vichyssoise soup, it is delicious and very easy and cheap to make and you can serve it hot or cold.

If you have never made soup before – the one essential bit of kitchen equipment you will need, however, is a blender.

electric soup blender

The reason that soups are easy to make is that you don’t need to worry too much about exact quantities.

To make Vichyssoise for 2 – 3 people:-

2 big leeks – chopped and carefully washed
2 big potatoes, peeled and chopped.
Milk & cream ( crème liquide ou crème fraîche)
Salt & pepper

Put the leeks & potatoes into a saucepan with enough water to cover them, some salt & pepper & a knob of butter.

leek & potato soup

Put a lid on and bring to the boil. Simmer (gentle boiling) for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are very soft. Take the saucepan off the heat and add a splash of milk.

preparing vichyssoise soup

Use the blender to make a thick soup. Add more milk if the soup is too thick. (You can also add a spoonful of crème fraiche, if you like.) Taste it, and add more salt & pepper if necessary.
Reheat, and serve with some cream, if you haven’t already added it.


Pumpkin Soup

We don’t really know who invented pumpkin soup, but we do know that this vegetable was native to North America before it was brought to Europe. Its name comes from the Latin “Pepon” meaning “big melon”, which was given to it by the French explorer Jacques Cartier in 1584 when he used it to describe the strange vegetables he had seen growing in the Saint Lawrence region of what is now known as Canada.

This name was later changed to “Pumpkin” by the British Pilgrims who arrived in 1620. They used pumpkins to make pumpkin pie and pumpkin beer.
Later, during the American War of Independence, the French army were sent to help the Americans fight against the British and pumpkins began to be imported to France – but they were not at all popular in England. In fact, “Pumpkin Pie” was, and still is, considered to be an American speciality and not at all British.

However, several hundred years later, pumpkins are slowly creeping onto menus in trendy London restaurants – especially at this time of year.

Pumpkin soup is easy to make and, as with the Leek & Potato soup, exact quantities are not very important.

pumpkin soup

½ or ¼ pumpkin, (it depends how big your pumpkin is!) peeled and chopped into large pieces.
1 large onion.
Salt & Pepper, cream, milk

Put the pumpkin, onions, S&P into a saucepan with a knob of butter and enough water to cover. Simmer for 15 -20 minutes until the pumpkin is soft.

preparing pumpkin soup

Blend to make a thick soup, adding a drop of milk and some crème fraîche.

making pumpkin soup

Taste it & add salt & pepper if necessary. Reheat and serve with a swirl of cream. (Crème liquide)

If you want to really impress your guests, you can serve the soup in the hollowed out pumpkin.


Going Nuts! 2

Nutty Recipe 2

If you made the banana & walnut cake successfully, perhaps you would like to try this next recipe:

Nut Tart (Gâteau au noix)

It’s slightly more difficult than the cake, but well worth it. I often make this as a dessert when people come to dinner. You can make it in advance, even the day before, and everyone loves it. However, it does contain alcohol, so this dessert is strictly for grown-ups!

gâteau au noix

For the pastry:
250g flour
100g butter
25g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
Pinch of salt

For the filling:
300ml cream (crème liquide douce – NOT crème fraiche.)
2 egg whites – beaten until stiff
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
Packet of powdered almonds (125g)
100g caster sugar

For the topping:
100g Icing sugar
50ml Cognac or Armagnac
12 perfect walnut halves

slice of nut tart

Mix all the pastry ingredients together into a firm ball. Butter & flour a pie dish, then roll out the pastry & place it in the dish. Put it into the oven at 180° for 10 minutes. It should NOT go brown at all.
Meanwhile, mix the cream, vanilla essence, sugar, salt & powdered almonds together. Then carefully fold in the stiff egg whites.
Take the pie out of the oven & fill it with this mixture. Put it back into the oven & cook for another 30 -35 minutes until it is a golden colour.
When the pie has cooled a little, mix the icing sugar with the Armagnac & pour it all over the top of the tart. Decorate with the walnut halves.

Then sit back and wait for the complements!

baskets of walnuts

Going Nuts!

There is a walnut tree in our garden which is probably about 40 years old. This year, it has produced a bumper crop*.

A bumper crop of walnuts

So what can we do with so many walnuts?


Easy Banana & Walnut Cake

75g semi-salted butter
110g caster sugar
1 large, beaten egg
Grated rind of 1 lemon
225g flour + raising agent
4 ripe bananas
75g chopped walnuts

Pre- heat your oven to 180°. Put buttered, greaseproof paper into a deep cake tin.
Put butter, sugar, beaten egg, flour & raising agent in a large bowl.
Slice & mash* bananas with a fork in a smaller bowl.
Mix the sugar, butter & flour using an electric whisk. (Don’t worry if it looks dry at this stage.)
Add the lemon rind, the mashed bananas & the walnuts. Mix together with a fork.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin.
Bake in the centre of the oven at 180° for 45 minutes, until golden.

This cake is delicious warm or cold, with a cup of coffee or a cup of English tea!

Banana and walnut cake

*a bumper crop = more fruit or vegetables than usual.
* to mash = to crush fruit or vegetables, eg:mashed potatoes
*"going nuts" = (idiomatic expression) to become mad or crazy