I've been learning French for just over a year and a half but no matter how many verbs I conjugate, I still don't get it. And since I'm no longer studying French at uni, I'm trying to experiment with ways to keep the many liasons, pronouns, accents, inflictions, tenses, rules and the all important exceptions to the rules stuck in my non language-other-than-english brain.
Every week I strain my ears while listening to French podcasts, dying to understand conversations. I struggle to read Le Monde online, bypassing heavy news articles and instead attempting the easier articles on Lady Gaga and celebrity love scandals. I watch French movies hoping to catch a word I understand, all the while taking sneaky glances at the subtitles. And I even have taken to watching colourful, flashing youtube clips aimed at the under 5yr olds dedicated purely to French vocab. Although it all helps, nothing has really helped me to cement any knowledge... until I decided to explore the world of french food.
Up until recently I've always viewed french food as stodgy, meat heavy and laden with butter hence my hesitation. Then I started exploring French food blogs and am discovering what real French people eat on their day to day basis. I'm happy to report that most of the dishes I've found are based on a bounty of fresh vegetables and delicious things like cheese and pasta. I now trawl through French sources to find french recipes I can cook from. This has proven to be a much more exciting and successful way to learn my verbs. Granted, sometimes I get the verbs wrong and end up cutting when I should be grating but my progress is slowly starting to chug along.
So, ask me how to say leek or veal in French and I'm there, just don't expect me to know anything about le subjontif or plus-que-parfait. At least for now...
This dish is a delicious vegetarian meal that leaves your tum full and satisfied. Quinoa is a high protein, high fibre seed that is kind of like cous cous in texture. You can get it from most supermarkets or health food stores.
Eggplant Stuffed with Quinoa and Goats Cheese
Recipe adapted from Elizabeth Bard's, 'Lunch in Paris'
4 medium eggplants
1 tablespoon plus 2 tablespoons oilve oil
1 small red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 x 400g can of tomatoes
1/3 cup white wine
1 1/3 cups chicken stock
1 cup quinoa
pinch of cinnamon
a big handful of parsley, leomon thyme, mint, basil - use any herbs you like
250g soft goats cheese, sliced into 8 rounds
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Lay the eggplants on a lined baking tray and prick each a few times with a fork to allow steam to escape when cooking. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the eggplants. Bake for up to 1 hour, or until the flesh is tender (the skin should stay intact, but when pressed the eggplant should feel soft inside). Remove from the oven and set aside to cool partially.
In a pan, saute the garlic and onion in olive oil for a few minutes. Add the wine then the tomatoes, lower the heat to a slow simmer and cook down for about 15 minutes.
In another pan bring the chicken stock to the boil. Add the quinoa, bring back to the boil and cover tightly with a lid, lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 mintues until all of the stock is absorved and the quinoa is cooked through.
Take each eggplant and cut a 15cm slit down the length of the eggplant. Open the slit carefully, and with a small spoon scoop out the majority of the soft flesh inside, making sure that you don't break the skin of the eggplant.
Put this flesh in a bowl, along with the cooked quinoa, roughly chopped herbs, salt and pepper and two thirds of the tomato sauce (leaving the rest to pour over the eggplants later.) Mix all ingredients to form the filling for the eggplant skins.
Stuff each eggplant until brimming with mixture and place tightly next to each other in an oven proof dish (make sure the eggplants just fit together as they need to support each other while cooking). Pour over the rest of the tomato sauce. Add 2 slices of goats cheese ontop of each eggplant and grill under a high heat for about 5 minutes. Serve with a salad.
My favourite French food blogs: