L'apperot a la francaise

Despite our football history, greatfood.ie and sopexa are celebrating the French apperitif way of life.

Visit the L'Aperitif section on www.Greatfood.ie or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/aperitifalafrancaise) to get some superb, yet simple, French recipes. If you live near an outlet of Donnybrook Fair, pop in during July to pick up any of the French ingredients required for the recipes, check out their price offers, enjoy the free samples and enter their great competitions. Or why not sign up to one of their special L'Aperitif events taking place in The Cookery School (learn how to make French cocktails and canapes) and The Restaurant at Donnybrook Fair, Morehampton Road (special 4-course French food and wine dinner) on 21st and 27th July respectively.

There's a vast array of French food and drink products involved in this year's L'Aperitif a la francaise celebrations ranging from plums, melons, tomatoes, cheeses, ham, chocolates and jams to wines, lemonade and mineral water. Sponsors include Barton & Guestier, Febvre Wines, Horgan's Delicatessen Supplies, Richmond Marketing and Sheridan's Cheesemongers, as well as newcomers, Donnelly Fruit & Veg and Comptoir du Cacao chocolates.

Here are a few simple sweet and savoury L'Aperitif recipes :

Comte, Boursin & Le Foue Savoury Mini-Muffins
Makes 24 mini-muffins or 12 large ones

310g plain flour
4 level teaspoons baking powder
A good pinch of salt
55g Comte, grated
1 slice Le Foue Ham, diced
2 eggs
375ml milk (full fat)
160g melted butter
75g Boursin Ail & Fines Herbes, crumbled
12 chives, chopped finely

1. Preheat the oven to 210ºC (415ºF/Gas Mark 6).
2. Put paper cups into a muffin tray or if you are not using them, oil the muffin holes well (use a non-stick pan).
3. Get two bowls ready, one large, one medium. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the grated Comte and the diced Le Foue ham and stir. In another bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, milk, melted butter and the Boursin together. Add the chives and a good pinch of salt.
4. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Mix with a wooden spoon to gather everything together (you may not need all the milk). The mixture should be lumpy, don't be tempted to over-mix it. It's meant to be that way.
5. Spoon the mixture into paper cups in the muffin tray or straight into oiled muffin holes. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean (ovens vary so keep an eye on it near the end). They should have risen beautifully and be golden. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then lift out and place on a rack to cool.


Tomato Tart with Comte and Selles-sur-Cher
Makes about 8 mini-slices of tart

200g puff pastry
50g Comte cheese
50g Selles-sur-Cher cheese
2 exotic tomatoes
Pinch of salt
Black pepper
5 pitted black olives, halved
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
5 fresh basil leaves

1. Oil a baking tray with a little of the olive oil and preheat the oven to 180ºC/360º/Gas Mark 5.
2. Roll out the puff pastry to a rough circle (about 5mm thick) and place on the baking tray. Cut the Comte into thin slices. Cut the Selles-sur-Cher cheese into small pieces. Lay the cheese over the pastry sheet leaving an inch all round free. Slice the tomatoes and place on top of the cheese. Sprinkle on a little salt and a few grindings of black pepper. Spread the olives evenly.
3. Drizzle olive oil over the pastry and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is melting and the pastry is golden. Dress with fresh basil leaves and cut into mini-slices.


Bleu d'Auvergne Dauphinoise Squares
Serves 6 as an aperitif (recipe doubles easily)

Knob of butter
5 medium potatoes, peeled
300ml single cream
A pinch of salt
Black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
50g Bleu d'Auvergne cheese

1. Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC/375º/Gas Mark 5.
2. Butter a small baking dish.
3. Thinly slice the potatoes and line the baking dish with the slices in a circular fashion until you have created 5-6 layers.
4. Mix the cream, a pinch of salt, a few grindings of black pepper and a few gratings of nutmeg together and pour over the potatoes.
5. Sprinkle the Bleu d'Auvergne cheese on the top layer.
6. Bake for about 40 minutes (covering the dish with tin foil if the cheese is getting too brown) or until the potato is cooked (you can check this by piercing it with a knife). Leave to rest covered loosely in tinfoil so the dauphinoise can solidify, then cut into small bite size squares and serve.
Note: This dish may also be served hot direct from the oven as part of a main meal, e.g. with roast lamb.


Plums with Cinnamon Syrup served with Comptoir du Cacao Chocolate
Serves 6

6 Philibon plums
100g caster sugar
450 ml cold water
2 sticks of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of orange zest
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
100ml red wine
6 Comptoir du Cacao Chocolate Croquants

1. Halve the plums and remove the stone. Put the caster sugar and cold water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to medium and add the plums, cinnamon, orange zest and vanilla extract. Add the red wine and simmer for 20 minutes or until the plums become soft, turning them once.
2. Remove the plums to a serving dish and turn the heat up under the saucepan. Cook the liquid until it reduces to a loose but sticky syrup. Pour over the plums. Serve one plum per person in individual little dishes with a Comptoir du Cacao Chocolate Croquant on the side

Philibon Plums come in a range of colours: yellow, red, purple, and have a smooth skin with a bloom and a superbly sweet flavour which means not only does this taste good, it looks great too. Comptoir du Cacao fine single-origin chocolates are made from pure cacao butter in unique flavours.


Charentais Melon and Strawberries with Lorina Pink Lemonade
serves 6

1 Charentais Melon
1/2 punnet of strawberries, hulled
1 bottle of Lorina Pink Lemonade
6 leaves of fresh mint (plus one for garnish)

1. Cut the melon into balls using a melon baller (cut it into neat chunks if you don't have one).
2. Cut the strawberries into quarters.
3. Chop the 6 leaves of mint finely.
4. Combine everything in a large glass dessert bowl or divide among individual glasses. Chill, and just before serving, pour chilled Lorina Pink Lemonade over the dessert at the table so you can see the bubbles! Serve with a glass of Lorina Lemonade on the side for thirsty guests.