French fare for time-poor cooks

Pumpkin soup has never tasted so good with a touch of t urnip, thanks to the great French chef, Auguste Escoffier. The recipe book 2000 Favourite French Recipes was his final gift to French housewives and is translated in English. First published as Ma Cuisine in 1965, ingredients are given in pounds and ounces, which calls for creative input as my scales are now metric only.

Our friends delight in a French touch and they always arrive with a basket of seafood to whet our appetites for my own offerings. This menu, which serves 6, was easy and enjoyable to prepare – and the three courses tasted delicious.
The menu, which serves 6:
Soupe Dauphinoise, (Turnip and Pumpkin Soup) – Escoffier.
Tajine of Lamb with Prunes (Moroccan) wit h Moroccan roast vegetables.
French pastry cups filled with lemon custard.

Soupe Dauphinoise:
Two turnips, one big potato and 250 grams of peeled pumpkin; 2 heaped tablespoons butter, 4 cups of water or chicken or vegetable stock, 2 cups of boiling milk, ½ tsp of salt if using stock or 1 tsp if using water.
Slice vegetables and sauté for a few minutes in the butter. Add the water and salt and cover and cook over moderate heat. When cooked, vitamise before returning to stove top to add boiling milk. Continue stirring for a few more minutes. Just before serving add a swirl of fresh cream and fresh herbs of choice.

The main course is a modified version of a Moroccon recipe from Claudia Roden, who first published A Book of Middle Eastern Food in 1968. However, Tajine of Lamb with Prunes comes from her Tamarind & Saffron, Favourite Recipes from the Middle East, published in 1999. A simple dish from a renowned cook.

1kg cubed shoulder of lamb; 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp grated ginger; ¼ teaspoon powdered saffron, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, salt and pepper; 1 large onion, finely chopped; 2 garlic cloves, chopped, and 350g Angas Plains pitted prunes, soaked for 1 hour.

Put oil in pan adding ginger, saffron, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, onion, garlic asalt and pepper. Add meat, cover with water and simmer gently on top the stove, covered for 1 ½ hours, adding water as necessary to keep meat covered, until the meat is very tender.
Add prunes and remaining cinnamon, stir well and simmer for another 30 minutes.
Serve with couscous.

Dessert: Use small sweet French pastry rounds (La Noire Rose brand, which I buy from Fergusons Australia).
Follow the normal custard recipe on the pack of any custard powder packet, but add the zest and juice of one large lemon. Continue stirring until thickened and place in fridge to cool and thicken further. Pour in pastry just before serving. Decorate with whipped cream or half a strawberry.

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