u3a - French Cuisine


French Recipes by Angela Lamont

Cheltenham u3a

About Angela

I am Angela Lamont, married to Nick Mitchinson. We belong to Cheltenham u3a and live in Bourton on the Water, having lived in both France & Austria in the past. Special thanks to Nick's photography skills in putting this page of recipes together.

Growing up in my 1950s, ‘cleanliness might have been next to godliness,’ but in my Yorkshire family, ‘a light hand at pastry’ was more akin to moral virtue, and being a post-war child, a lot of cooking involved wrapping more expensive ingredients in carbohydrate. Pies, tarts, (never called quiche) and puddings were what I knew. 

When my own children were young I  learned a lighter style, mostly from library books. The first time I made Chinese style stir fry seemed an astonishingly labour intensive business involving about 12 little pots. Today I would pop a poly-bag of chopped veg in a pan and go from there.    

My culinary turning point was watching ‘Ready Steady Cook’ on 90s telly. For the first time cooking was a game, quick, cheap, practical. With herb and spice blends other than the ‘sage and onion,’ or ‘parsley and thyme.’ The most fun was when we happened to have all that day’s ingredients in the house. I would watch how it was done, whizz into the kitchen and reproduce it for supper.  

Now the aid of Google I now type in whatever ingredients we have in the fridge. Invariably multiple recipes pop up. It just needs a quick read to draw one’s own conclusions.



'Nearly 20 years ago we bought a small, pretty townhouse for holidays in the centre of Cognac, Charente. It was more Coronation Street than the rolling acres beloved of the telly house hunting programmes, but we lived there happily for part of each year for eleven years. With French friends, we shared rather plain, unpretentious meals with a tiny splash of wine in a tumbler.'




Oiseaux sur leurs Nids

'Oiseaux sur leurs Nids' - Spaghetti Nests with salmon, spinach, soft boiled eggs and leeks

'Birds on their Nests'

This has a lot of stages but is really culinary Lego - an assembly job of piling one thing on top of another. A bird brain can do it!

The only difficult part can be peeling the soft boiled eggs, because the pH of the white is more acidic than the shell, making it stick to the shell membrane. To peel more easily; either use older eggs, or, add a little bicarb soda to the cooking water to increase the pH. Then peel the egg under running water. Also - Treat the eggs like swimmers testing the water so they do not crack as they boil. Gently lower each one in for a few seconds, then lift it out again. A few moments later, put it back.

Finished item – un oiseau, doux a l’intérieur, avec un jaune qui coule.

Course Main for 4 people

Prep Time 25 minutes   Cook Time 25 minutes


 4 ‘balls’ of tagliatelle or noodles ‘twigs’ of the nest
 4 tsp Philadelphia or Boursin soft cheese mixed with 1 tsp mustard the baselining of the nest       
 4 tbsp of finely chopped fresh spinach the  ‘vegetation’ in the nest
 I leek shredded, small tomatoes the surrounding vegetation
 4 eggs boiled the baby birds
Salmon, zest of one lemon to layer in the nest
Paprika & sesame seeds (optional) for colour & flavour
Carrot or beetroot shreds   plumage for the cockerel egg



  1. SET OVEN to 180°.
  2. PEELING, GRATING OR FINELY CHOPPING. The zest of ¼ a lemon peel, spinach,  small tomatoes, (optional,)  a small piece of cheese, (optional.)  Shred the leek.
  3. MIX Philadelphia or Boursin with mustard
  4. Either GRATE a few strands of carrot OR take a bit of beetroot out of a mixed salad bag
  5. POACH the portion of salmon in water or stock, then flake it and carefully stir in the grated lemon peel.
  6. Poach the spinach for 30-45 seconds -drain.
  7. Wipe paper ‘bun’ cases with oil or use silicone muffin cases. 
  8. Put leek into a separate pan and either shallow fry or poach for 3-5 minutes, depending on which you prefer. (wet or dry foliage.) 
  9. Heat a saucepan of salted water to boiling. Gently put the pasta into a saucepan, cover with water to ½ way up. Use a well-fitting lid on tight.
  10. Turn heat to low enough that the water does not boil over. When pasta is ‘al dente’ lift each boule into the colander to drain, keeping the circular ‘nest’ shape.
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  12. Bring the water back to the boil. Lower each egg into the water. Boil for 4 minutes.
  13. Put pasta into the paper/silicone cases. Use 2 teaspoon handles to gently open the nest in the middle. Line each nest with a tsp of Philadelphia or Boursin into the bottom.
  14. Divide the spinach between the nests.
  15. Top with the salmon and lemon mixture. Sprinkle a little paprika over the top.
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  17. Put the nests into the oven to keep warm with a piece of foil over them to stop them drying out whilst you boil the eggs for 4 minutes, then put them in cold water. Tap each end on the counter, then roll the egg to crack the shell. Peel half the shell under the cold tap.
  18. After taking the nests out of the oven, sit the egg on top of the nest. Poke a skewer or cocktail stick in to make a little hole, then poke in his beetroot or carrot ‘coxcombe.’  
  19. With a damp finger, I added eyes – you could use 2 large pumpkin seeds or cloves if you prefer.
  20. Line the plate with leek and tomato (a treat for a chicken,) vegetation and sprinkle with sesame or other seeds to feed the bird.

'Tart Tatin'

Tarte Tatin is a simple, ‘upside down’ tart. Any stone or firm fruit is caramelized in butter and sugar. Puff or shortcrust pastry is put on top, then the tart is baked.

It originated in 1888 at a hotel in the small l'Hotel Tatin, in Lamotte-Beuvron, a small rural town in the Loire Valley. The hotel was owned and run by two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin.

You can make stages1-4 up to 24 hours in advance and keep in the fridge. 


  • 75g/2¾oz white sugar  
  • 40g/1½oz butter  
  • 300g/10½oz fruit, halve and stone (5-6 large or 7-8 small apricots, peaches or plums or 2 cooking apples.)  
  • 25ml water. 
  • 375g/13oz (1 packet,) ready-rolled puff or shortcrust pastry 
  • 1 desert spn of plain flour for dusting.  



  1. Put the sugar with 25ml water in a 20cm heavy-based metal ovenproof pan and gently heat it until the sugar melts and bubbles, without stirring, for 3-4 minutes until it is a light golden brown. Do not overcook the caramel or it will turn to toffee.  
  2. Add the butter with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring for 2–3 minutes until the caramel cools and thickens to a smooth caramel.   
  3. Arrange the fruit on top, cut-side down. Leave to cool for 20 minutes. 
  4. Scatter half the almonds onto the fruit. 
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  6. Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. 
  7. Unroll the puff pastry sheet onto the floured surface. 
  8. Roll it out to 2cm/1in wider. Place a dinner, (salad,)  plate or 25cm/10in cut around it. 
  9. Gently place the pastry on top of the fruit. Push the edges in with a round-bladed knife. Prick the surface to let the steam out. 
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  11. Bake for 25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven using an oven cloth or silicone glove. Do not touch the metal pan.   
  12. Leave the tarte tatin to stand for 2-3 minutes to settle, then loosen the edges. 
  13. Place a large serving plate or board on top of the pan and quickly but carefully turn it over on to a serving plate.  
  14. Scatter remaining almonds on top. Serve warm with crème fraichee, custard or ice cream.  

AngelaLamontTartTatin5 AngelaLamontTartTatin3

Bottom of the tart ... and flipped topside!

'Charentaise Salad avec Avocado Dip'

This salad is super quick to make and made entirely of ingredients local to the Charente region of southwest France – except salt and pepper.

For the Salad


  • 75g walnuts
  • 50g grapes
  • 25g chopped apricots
  • 25g olives
  • 2 pears- peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 gerkin
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped mint
  • Cider vinegar to taste
  • Salad greenery eg pea shoots, lettuce, chicory
  • Salt and pepper


Simply chop and combine ingredients


Just before serving, drizzle with olive oil and vinegar to taste.


For the Avocado Dip


  • I tbsp olive oil
  • Garlic granules to taste 
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped coriander
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped mint
  • 1avocado, peeled, stoned and roughly chopped
  •  ¼ small-medium  sized cucumber, peeled and roughly cut into chunks
  • 2 tbsps plain yoghurt
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredient in a blender and blitz for a few seconds.


Serve with baguette and Camembert both warmed for 5 minutes in the oven at 180° and avocado dip.    


'Tour de France Tian'

In honour of the Tour de France, these recipes form a bicycle – two quiches/ tian/ flans with Mediterranean fillings and a cheese straw bicycle frame.


Below is the recipe for both a Vegetable Tian (front wheel) and a Tomato, Avocado & Olive Quiche (back wheel). Both beautiful dishes served on their own or combine with cheese straw bike frame for a real show-stopping party piece!

For the Vegetable Tian

This is a popular dish in Provence, using thinly slices of Mediterranean vegetables. They are roasted with flavourings, garlic, herbs according to taste, sometimes with chicken or ham included.  They are baked in a shallow dish, possibly with cheese.

The tian is similar to ratatouille but whereas ratatouille uses thoroughly pre-cooked vegetables, the tian uses slices of blanched or lightly fried but firm vegetables with cheese either underneath, amongst or on top of the veg.


  • ½ packet filo pastry.
  • 2 tbsp oil 
  • Approx  2 tbspns chevre blanc
  • 5-6 medium sized mushrooms,
  • I courgette 
  • ½ each of red and yellow pepper
  • Thyme, or other herb to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste.



Line the dish with 4-5 layers of filo pastry, a little brush of oil between each sheet.

Layer thin slices of veg alternating the colours in a loose-bottomed flan tin. Season with salt and pepper.

  1. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil, add salt and pepper.
  2. Dot the chevre blanc amongst the veg.
  3. Bake uncovered at 190° for about 35 minutes.
  4. Add grated cheese on top if you want more flavour.


For the Tomato, Avocado & Olive quiche


  • ½ packet of filo or shortcrust pastry
  • 1 dst spn plain flour for dusting
  • 150g Cherry tomatoes
  • I avocado mashed up
  • 6-8 stoned olives
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 tbspns Double cream.
  • 50 g soft cheese ( or cheddar if you prefer.)
  • A few basil leaves torn up


  1. Line a 9”  loose bottom flan tin with baking paper. 
  2. Spread the pastry on a lightly floured work surface.
  3. Gently put pastry into the tin pressing in to the edge.
  4. For filo, trim the top a centimetre above the rim. For shortcrust, put into fridge for 20 minutes to chill and allow to contract.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200°C (200°C fan, gas mark 7).
  6. Line the pastry case with another circle of baking paper and fill with baking beans. Bake the pastry case for 10 minutes until pale golden.
  7. Remove the baking paper and beans.
  8. Return the pastry case to the oven for a further 5 minutes until golden and crisp.
  9. Spread the avocado in the pastry case, top with the tomatoes and olives.
  10. Beat the eggs, milk and cream and cream cheese (if using,) together with a black pepper and pour into the pastry case.
  11. Bake for about 25 mins, or until golden and softly set.
  12. Top with torn basil leaves.

For the Cheese Straws 


  • The remaining puff pastry to make the cheese straws.
  • 2-3 oz strong flavoured cheese eg mature cheddar or parmesan to layer in the pastry
  • 1 tsp mustard


  1. Roll a 3” circle of pastry  - to make the central bicycle cog
  2. Cut 2 long strips of pastry and 2 short strips for the frame.
  3. An oval pastry for the sadle.
  4. Small left overs for the handlebars.
  5. Preheat the oven to 190.
  6. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
  7. Roll out the dough to the thickness of a £1 coin.
  8. Cut the strips.  AngelaLamontCheesestraws
  9. Transfer carefully onto the lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until crisp.
  10. Bend the 2 long strips whilst they are hot, then leave to cool on the tray.
  11. Assemble where you want to serve the bicycle.


Tour de France Tatins

 A huge thanks to all the chefs taking the time to send in their recipes.

If you have a passion for a particular countries food - let us know here!