Tomatoes à la Provençale

I absolutely love tomatoes, but even so, a tasteless under-ripe specimen is a challenge to make into a delectable meal. You can make tomatoes confits which work wonderfully in salads, sandwiches or on platters, but this recipe originating from my time at Le Cordon Bleu is fantastic and casts the tomato as the star of the show. Serve these delicate stuffed tomatoes with a selection of other mediterranean style vegetables or simply with sides or a salad. I guarantee that any non-descript tomato will emerge from the oven as a tasty delight. And even better if you had a quality ripe tomato to begin with.

Tomatoes a la Provencale (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, soya-free, vegetarian and vegan)

serves 2 if each person has 2 halves each

  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 pice of bread, make into breadcrumbs
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tbsps parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

– Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5

– In a food processor (or just in a bowl) combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, seasoning and olive oil.

– Remove the tough core where the stem attaches to the tomato (I’ve no idea what that bit is called!)

– Cut the tomatoes in half, horizontally.

– Spoon the breadcrumb mixture onto the top of the tomatoes, piling it up attractively, don’t press down too much because you want the fluffy sticking up bit to brown.

– Place in a baking tray, drizzle with a little extra olive oil.

– Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes are cooked through and the breadcrumbs nicely browned and crispy.

At Last An Egg-Free Frangipane

This is the recipe for the frangipane layer used in the Knockout Pear and Almond Pastries that I posted yesterday. I thought it was probably worth posting the recipe for just the frangipane as I’ve never before developed a suitable egg/dairy-free recipe. Frangipane is basically a delicate almond paste that can be used as a filling in a variety of cakes, tarts, pastries or croissants. This paste is a remarkably good substitute for the original French recipe – maybe it’ll have to be Almond Croissants next….. mmmm my favourite all-time breakfast!
Egg-Free Frangipane (dairy-free, egg-free, soya-free, peanut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)
  • 60g dairy-free spread, such as Pure Sunflower
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups ground almonds
  • 3 tbsps cornflour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tbsps oat milk, such as Oatly

– Rub or pulse the spread into the sugar, ground almonds, cornflour, salt and essences. It should be dryish and crumbly.

– Add the oat milk and combine to make a stiff paste.

– keep cover at room temperature until ready to use.

Scrummy Shortbread

I felt rather proud seeing Claire Clark (my Patisserie tutor from Le Cordon Bleu) as a judge on Masterchef last night. She was an incredibly nice and inspiring teacher and many of her recipes have been staples over the years. In fact it’s her lemon cake recipe that I turn to for every birthday that doesn’t have to be dairy/egg free. I’m determined to make a version that is egg and dairy-free over the next few days…. Watch this space!

But first, this morning I’m going to make Claire’s awesome shortbread – of course, it’s not quite the same when it isn’t laden with butter, but it’s still pretty damn good and makes a fine partner to a cup of coffee or even a lemon posset or chocolate mousse.

Scrummy Shortbread (vegetarian, dairy-free, egg-free, soya-free, nut-free, vegan)

makes approx. 12

  • 225g plain flour
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 150g dairy-free margarine (I used Pure sunflower)
  • 1 vanilla pod (I left it out as didn’t have one, but it’s much nicer with)
  • 50g granulated sugar, to sprinkle

– Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade

– Line a baking sheet with parchment

– Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the sugar and vanilla

– Add the dairy-free spread and rub in with fingers. Once it starts to combine, bring together to form a soft dough.

– On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1cm thickness.

– Cut into even sized shapes – rectangles look rather elegant

– Place on the lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Then turn the baking sheet round and bake for another 10 minutes.

– Once the shortbread is golden brown remove from oven. Leaving it on the baking sheet, dust with the granulated sugar. Cool on the baking sheet.

Patisserie, but not as you know it

Attending Le Cordon Bleu was one of the most amazing experiences possible and I learnt to cook some truly wonderful food. But shortly after, on an extended trip to India I decided to attempt my life-long aim of becoming a vegetarian, and since then I have never looked back. Obviously, that meant I could no longer cook and eat the kind of food I’d learnt to prepare in the Cuisine part of the course. But I could still enjoy making patisserie – and it’s a very good way of making friends!! However, since my daughters have come along I simply cannot make fine French sweet things for them to eat. How would it be possible to make proper patisserie without any butter, eggs, milk or cream? So ironically, whilst I learnt to make these fine pastries under the amazing tutorage of Claire Clark (who later became head pastry chef at the great French Laundry in California – I’m stupidly proud of this fact!), my daughters have never eaten a croissant, pain au chocolat, mille feuille etc. Most parents have the luxury of stopping for coffee in any old cafe and buying their child a hot chocolate or a croissant. Mine have had to make do with an apple juice or water with a homemade biscuit or a breadstick (only certain brands though!).

So, I will attempt to make fine patisserie that is dairy and egg-free for my daughters to sample. Maybe they can have what everyone else has….