beef casserole – cupboard style!

My favourite way of throwing a dinner together, is shopping at a local market inspired by the ingredients on offer.  I throw a few fridge and cupboard staples into the mix, search the internet and adapt a recipe or two til I find something I reckon will work.

Yesterdays mix up was a huge hit at the Beach House.  With 1kg of casserole beef brought from Brussels, and a wander at Fouesnant Market on Sunday, I managed to mix together a great Beef Casserole with a little help from Google! Perfect for an Easter Monday supper…….


Beef Casserole


  • 1 kg casserole beef (cheap cut)
  • 2 onions (roscoff of course!)
  • 3 garlic cloves (fresh if you can find them)
  • 3 leeks
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 tbsp worchestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree (I had to cheat and use ketchup but it worked perfectly)
  • 100ml red wine
  • 500ml hot water
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 cubes beef stock crumbled (I substituted pork ones – due to depleted stock in cupboard)
  • 50g butter and a couple of tbsp of olive oil


Brown meat cubes in a little olive oil and set aside.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large heavy casserole dish that can be placed in the oven.

Brown the sliced onion, 2cm slices of leek and carrot and garlic until lightly browned.

Add the flour and cook until incorporated (just a few minutes).  Add the worchestershire sauce and puree, crumbled stock cubes and then the beef.  Slosh in the red wine, and then add the water.  Stir well.

When the casserole is simmering, transfer the pot into the over (covered) and cook at 160 degs for 2.5 hours.  Check at this point as my casserole was perfect but you may need an extra 30 minutes in the oven uncovered, to thicken the gravy.

In the meantime prepare mashed potato to accompany the meal.  My current favourite is boiling cubed potatoes and swede until soft, and then masking it all up with a little milk, a large knob of butter and some horseradish sauce…….. delicious!

While all this is bubbling, I can thoroughly recommend a seat in the sun, a good book and a glass of red wine…….


Bon Appetit!





pork in marsala

I love it when I have the chance to go ‘off piste’ with a recipe.  I just stick my head in the cupboard, and make do, with whatever.  This was one of the success stories during our February break, when I refused to do the original recipe route and head out to the supermarket!




1 (2-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Marsala wine drizzled over!

red onions and leeks (any veg will do here) – to roast with the pork



1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Place pork on a roasting pan; set aside.

2) In a small bowl, combine garlic, rosemary, sugar, and pepper; rub over all sides of pork. Brush with the honey and vinegar mixture.

3) Roast 30 minutes; remove from oven and brush the surface of the pork once more with the honey and vinegar mixture. Return to oven; roast until internal temperature reaches 160°F, an additional 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes; slice and serve.



adapted from

Garlic and Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin recipe | Pork Tenderloin Recipes.

which I recreated successfully back in Brussels and can also recommend!





cheese fondue and vacherin bake

Here are two other winter favourites at the Beach House, when the wind is blowing a gale and the time is right to enjoy comfort food while wrapped up all cosy and warm…….


Classic Cheese Fondue


Preparation method

  1. Rub the inside of the fondue pot with the halves of garlic.
  2. Add the wine and lemon juice to the pot and heat until boiling. Lower the heat and gradually stir in the cheeses until melted, stirring all the time.
  3. If using kirsch/cherry brandy, blend with the cornflour, otherwise use water. Add to the cheese mixture and cook gently until the mixture is smooth – don’t let it boil or it will burn.
  4. Using the fondue prongs, dip the bread cubes into the cheese and serve.


Baked Vacherin Mont D’Or


For the baked Vacherin Mont d’Or
For the garlic bruschetta

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. For the baked Vacherin Mont d’Or, remove the lid from the cheese box. Make several slits in the top of the cheese with a sharp knife and place the garlic slices and rosemary sprigs into the slits.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Place on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until melted.
  5. For the garlic bruschetta, drizzle the slices of baguette with olive oil and rub with garlic.
  6. Heat a griddle pan and griddle the bread for two minutes on each side, or until charred. Remove from the heat and cut into fingers.
  7. To serve, place the cheese box onto a serving plate and dip the garlic bruschetta fingers into the molten cheese.

Recipes via

BBC – Food – Recipes : Swiss cheese fondue.

BBC – Food – Recipes : Baked Vacherin Mont d’Or cheese with garlic bruschetta.




mont d’or pumpkin fondue

This is a recipe inspired by a trip to the market over Christmas, that we tried out on one of the blustery wet days we were marooned in the Beach House.  Easy and hugely satisfying, it continues my adoration of all things pumpkin in the deep winter months!



  • small pumpkin (or any other type of squash)
  • left overs from a pot of mont d’or cheese (or reblochon)
  • small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
  • some white wine (I used riesling)
  • black pepper
  • olive oil


Chop the top off the pumpkin and scoop out all the seeds.

Fill the pumpkin to about a third full with the cheese.

Lightly fry the onions in the olive oil and add the chopped garlic.  Pour into the pumpkin, until two thirds full.

Add the rest of the cheese to the pumpkin until loosely filled to the top.  Pour in the wine.


Put the pumpkin top back on the pumpkin and cook for approximately 45 minutes on 175 deg C.  Take the top off and grill on hot for 5 minutes until the cheesy crust is a golden brown.

Serve with crusty bread to dip for a deeply satisfying snack, and forget about the rain, the wind, and the waves!



slow cooking – braised beef with horseradish

I have been dreaming about my new Slow Cooker for the last couple of weeks, investigating gorgeous recipes, chatting to my N. American friends who swear by them, and waiting patiently for the Crock Pot to finally arrive in France.

It was worth the wait – tonight I am testing out my latest cooking appliance with a lovely adapted recipe from The Slow Cooker Cookbook.  A perfect meal for such a cold, wet stormy Halloween night…….

Braised Beef with Horseradish


  • 30ml/2 tbsp plain flour
  • 4 x 175g braising steaks (I used a large pack of beef bourguignon cubed meat)
  • 30ml/2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 12 small shallots, peeled and halved (I used 4 roscoff onions quartered)
  • 1 clove of garlic crushed
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp dark muscovado sugar (I substituted brown sugar from the cupboard)
  • 475ml/2 cups beef stock
  • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp creamed horseradish
  • 225g baby carrots, trimmed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh chives to finish (I added 1tsp of dried to the crock pot at the start)
  • roast vegetables to serve


  1. Place the flour in a large flat dish and season with salt and pepper. Toss the cubes of meat to coat.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and quickly brown the steaks on both sides.  Transfer them to the ceramic cooking pot.
  3. Add the halved shallots (or onions) to the pan, and cook gently for 10 minutes or until golden and beginning to soften.  Stir in the garlic, ginger and curry powder and cook for 1 minute more, then remove the pan from the heat.
  4. Tip the shallot mixture into the ceramic cooking pot, spreading it over the meat, and sprinkle it with the sugar.
  5. Pour the beef stock over the shallots and meat, then add the worcestershire sauce, horseradish, baby carrots and bay leaf.  Stir to combine, then season with salt and black pepper.  Cover with a lid and cook on high or auto for 1 hour.
  6. Reduce the slow cooker to low, or leave on auto, and continue to cook the stew for a further 5-6 hours, or until the beef and the vegetables are very tender.
  7. Remove the bay leaf from the stew, and sprinkle with the chopped chives, before serving with roast vegetables.



honey balsamic roasted pork with grapes

This is a great late summer dish, using the grapes from our cottage garden….

1 boneless pork tenderloin (about 1 to 1 1/4 lb.)
Freshly ground sea salt and pepper to taste
6 strips bacon
2 tbsp. each: honey, Balsamic Vinegar
and red wine
2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary (plus
additional for garnish)
2 tbsp. minced shallots (we used red onions)
2 cups seedless red and green grapes

Prep time: 20 minutes,
Cook time: about 30 minutes

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Wrap bacon strips around the pork, securing with toothpicks.  Cook in a fry pan over a medium-high heat until golden brown on all sides.

Place the pork in a large shallow baking dish. Preheat oven to 375°F. Stir together honey, vinegar, wine, rosemary and shallots in a small bowl and pour over pork.
Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add grapes to the pan and cook for 15 minutes more or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 150°F.
Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Transfer to a platter and surround with grapes and any sauce in dish. Sprinkle with additional chopped fresh rosemary, if you like.

We serve with oven baked garlic potatoes and a tray dish of any veg available in the kitchen, on this occasion we used courgette and red peppers.



via Honey Balsamic Roasted Pork with Grapes.

chicken satay…..

One of the favourite dishes to hit the BBQ this summer, has been chicken kebabs with a satay sauce.  From my most favourite cookbook ever during the long summer daze, Ainsley Harriotts Barbeque Bible, I love preparing these easy chicken kebabs with the mix of spices I keep in the Beach House kitchen.

Spicy Speckled Peanut Sauce

(if you have peanut lovers at the party – double the quantities!)


  • 50g roasted salted peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 3 shallots, very thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, very thinly chopped
  • 1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 50g crunchy peanut butter
  • 175ml coconut milk
  • 75ml water
  • 1 tablespoon dark muscovado (brown) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon thai fish sauce
  • salt and cayenne pepper


Grind the peanuts in the food processor.  Heat the oil in a small pan, add the shallots and fry til golden brown.  Life out of the oil and set aside.  Add the garlic and chilli and fry until softened.  Add the ground peanuts, peanut butter, coconut milk, water and sugar, and simmer gently for 4-5 minutes until slightly thickened.  Stir in the fried onions, lime juice, thai fish sauce, and season to taste with a little salt and cayenne pepper.  Pour into a small bowl and serve warm.

Million Meaty Satay Sticks


  • 450g chicken fillets
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 stalk lemongrass (often difficult to find in France, so I often leave it out)
  • 4 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of light soya sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of light muscovado (or brown) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 4 tablespoons of coconut milk


Cut the meat into strips approximately 1cm wide.  Heat a frying pan over a high heat.  Add the cumin and coriander seeds and shake over the heat for a few minutes until they start to darken.  Grind to a fine powder with the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar.  Remove the tough outer leaves from the lemongrass and roughly chop the tender core.  Put into the food processor with the shallots, garlic, and soy sauce and blend to a paste.

Scrape the mixture into a bowl and stir in the ground spices, turmeric, salt and sugar.  Stir in the meat and marinate for 2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.


Thread the cubes or strips onto the skewers.  Mix the coconut milk with the curry powder.

Barbecue the satay sticks for 7-10 minutes, turning and basting with the coconut milk, until lightly brown on the outside but still moist and juicy on the inside.

Serve with the peanut sauce, baked potatoes and sour cream (spiced with horseradish and chives), and a simple salad – delicious!


From; Ainsley Harriott’s Barbecue Bible: Ainsley Harriott: Books.




concarneau chowder

This is a super easy and delicious fish chowder, which I adapted to suit local ingredients here in Concarneau.  It was a huge hit and due to be repeated later in the holiday!


  • 500g live mussels, cleaned
  • 150ml breton cider
  • 25g butter
  • 100g rindless smoked bacon, cut into small cubes
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 20g plain flour
  • 1 litre full cream milk
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 225g local fish (we used dorade) cut into short chunky strips
  • 120ml double cream
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • salt and ground pepper


Put the cleaned mussels and cider in a medium sized pan over a high heat.  Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes or until they have just opened, shaking the pan occasionally.  Then tip them into a colander set over a bowl to catch the juices.  Leave to cool slightly and then remove the mussels from their shells, cover and set aside.  Discard the shells.

Melt the butter in another pan, add the bacon and fry until lightly golden.  Add the onion and cook gently for 5 minutes or until the onion has softened.

Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.  Gradually stir in the milk and add all but the last teaspoon of the mussel cooked liquor (as the last part may be gritty), the potatoes and bay leaf and 1 teaspoon of salt and leave to simmer gently for 10 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

Remove the bay leaf, add the pieces of fish, and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the fish is just cooked.

Stir in the cream and season to taste with cayenne pepper, salt and white pepper.  Remove from the heat and stir in the mussels, to warm them through just briefly, and most of the chopped parsley.  Serve in warm bowls, sprinkled with parsley.


adapted from a recipe by Rick Stein

fish for tea…..

The weather has been mixed for the last 10 days which on a positive note means that we’ve not overdosed on sausage and beefburger BBQ’s, and the kids have been quite adaptable on what they are prepared to eat.  Today, as the weather is more upbeat and sunny, I really fancied some fish. So at lunchtime we cycled to the Market Hall in Concarneau, and bought some Dorade (sea bream) for Thila and I,  and some steak for Inigo.

– our friendly fishmonger, directly in the front entrance of the Market hall in Concarneau.  Don’t forget to ask him to descale and gut it  (détartrer et vider).

The cooking instructions are foolproof – Stuff the fish with laurel (bay) leaves from the garden.  Then chop potatoes and tomatoes and layer them in the base of a oven dish large enough to hold the fish, and add 5 whole and unpeeled cloves of garlic.  Place the fish on top of the potatoes, pour one glass of wine and 1/2 glass of olive oil over all over it, and garnish the fish with lemon slices on top of laurel leaves.

With a sprinkling of salt and pepper, place it in a hot (220 deg) oven and immediately turn it down to 180.  It takes approximately 40 to 50 minutes for the fish to cook, but check regularly that you don’t over do it.  That was it! Yummy!

adapted from a recipe via; Baked Royal Dorade.

Enjoyed tonight on the terrace with a glass of very cold Beach House white – delicious!


liqueur 44

As I start my final countdown to my summer in France, I have to say I got very excited about the prospect of trying out this recipe (ok, I admit, may’be even more excited about drinking it, and will struggle with the wait of 44 days!).  Note to myself (and other Mums) – do not leave the chocolate version of this lying around in front of the kids -> in case they mistake this for a homemade version of Nutella……

Liqueur 44 from Brittany (Bretagne)

The Good Life France Liqueur 44


1 ½ lt kilner jar or similar with a tight screw top lid (one that you can get a whole orange into!)

1 large Orange or Lemon

1lt Alcohol (vodka is always good or the type of alcohol used sprecifically for pickling fruit)

44 sugar cubes (it doesn’t matter if brown or white, large or small cubes)

44 cubes of chocolate or 44 beans of coffee


1. Place 44 sugar cubes in the bottom of the kilner jar

2. Stab the orange or lemon 44 times,

If you’re going the coffee way, insert a bean of coffee into each of the stabs in the orange or lemon. Put the orange or lemon into the jar on top of the sugar cubes, then pour the alcohol over and screw the lid on.

Leave the jar for 44 days (or longer if you want) in a cool dark place.  It’s traditional to not decant the drink but place it on the table in the jar, and use a “Louchette à sauce” to ladle it out into the glasses.  Or you can decant it into sterilised bottles cut the fruit into slices and insert into the bottles and keep them airtight.

If you’re using the chocolate method – leave out the coffee beans and add 44 small squares of chocolate on top of the sugar and then the fruit covered by alcohol.

You can make the Chocolate 44 into a delicious spread! Warm the jar in hot water until the chocolate melts, shake the jar until it all mixes and becomes a smooth paste – sounds irresistible!

It’s also traditional to leave the jar you’re making the liqueur in on the table and when people come to visit you simply ladle them out a glass of the delicious orange or lemon based liqueur ♥


  • Some people add two cloves to the mix to add depth/Some people add a vanilla pod for sweetness



Many thanks to The Good Life France, and Colin Peake at The France Forum, for sharing the recipe details of this traditional liqueur drink from Brittany, France.

recipe via Liqueur 44 | The Good Life France.