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Recipes: French feast on a budget

822677_66066175To mark Bastille day, I’m planning a French feast this evening with some friends. Tucking into French onion soup, a classic Coq au vin and a Crème brûlée; a French three course meal doesn’t have to cost a fortune and this menu contains basic ingredients that won’t break the bank.

Incorporating onions, white wine, cheese and french bread; French onion soup involves simple ingredients that won’t set you back too much. This recipe was posted by Jean a while back and I have tried and tested it myself and it’s really tasty and the perfect starter.

For the Coq au vin, you can pick up free-range chicken pieces in Dunnes for only €4.99 which will save you the chore of cutting up a whole chicken yourself. This recipe requires a decent red and Dunnes are offering a reasonably priced bottle of Chateau Fonfroide; reduced from €13.99 to €6.99. The dish is served with creamed potatoes.

Crème brûlée is another dish with simply ingredients incorporating cream, eggs, sugar, milk and a vanilla pod – it’s a complex recipe but equates to a cheap and delicious finish.

Coq au vin


  • 1 whole chicken, jointed or chicken pieces (see above)
  • 115g gamon rashers
  • 115g shallots
  • 60g butter
  • ¼ bottle of red wine
  • 2 cloves of garlic (crushed with ½ tsp salt)
  • Bouquet garni
  • ½ pint chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Kneaded butter

For garnish

  • 1 French roll (for croutes)
  • Butter, for frying
  • Chopped parsley


  1. Cut the bacon into lardons (¼ inch thick strips, 1 ½ inches long). Blanch these and the onions by putting into a pan of cold water, bringing to the boil and draining well.
  2. Brown the chicken pieces slowly in butter in a casserole . If using a whole chicken, brown the whole chicken in butter and then joint it. Remove the chicken from the casserole and add the onions and lardons for a couple of minutes and replace the chicken joints in casserole and pour in the wine.
  3. Add the crushed garlic, bouquet garni, stock and seasoning. Cover the casserole and cook slowly for 1 hour in a pre-heated oven at 160C.
  4. To make the croutes – fry slices of the bread on both side until golden brown.
  5. Test to see if the chicken is cooked by piercing the flesh with a knife, if clear liquid runs out, it is cooked.
  6. When ready, remove the chicken and the bouquet from the casserole and taste the sauce for seasoning. Thicken with the kneaded butter, then replace the chicken in the sauce and surround with the croutes and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with creamed potatoes.

Creamed potatoes


  • 1.5 lb potatoes
  • 60g butter
  • ¼ pint boiling milk
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Place the peeled potatoes (even sized) into cold salted water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender (20 minutes).
  2. When they are tender, pour off all the water and return to a gentle heat with the lid half-closed, continue cooking for a few minutes until the the potatoes are dry.
  3. Add the butter and mash the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Press them down firmly to the bottom of the pan and then add the boiling milk. Do not stir, but put the lid on the saucepan.
  4. Set aside in a hot place until ready to be served, just before dishing up, beat the potatoes very well with a wooden spoon and serve.

Crème brûlée

Serves 4


  • 450ml double cream
  • 100ml full-fat milk
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 50g golden caster sugar , plus extra for the topping


  1. Preheat the oven to fan 160C/conventional 180C/gas 4. Sit four 175ml ramekins in a deep roasting tin at least 7.5cm deep (or a large deep cake tin), one that will enable a baking tray to sit well above the ramekins when laid across the top of the tin. Pour the cream into a medium pan with the milk. Lay the vanilla pod on a board and slice lengthways through the middle with a sharp knife to split it in two. Use the tip of the knife to scrape out all the tiny seeds into the cream mixture. Drop the vanilla pod in as well, and set aside.
  2. Put the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk for 1 minute with an electric hand whisk until paler in colour and a bit fluffy. Put the pan with the cream on a medium heat and bring almost to the boil. As soon as you see bubbles appear round the edge, take the pan off the heat.
  3. Pour the hot cream into the beaten egg yolks, stirring with a wire whisk as you do so, and scraping out the seeds from the pan. Set a fine sieve over a large wide jug or bowl and pour the hot mixture through to strain it, encouraging any stray vanilla seeds through at the end. Using a big spoon, scoop off all the pale foam that is sitting on the top of the liquid (this will be several spoonfuls) and discard. Give the mixture a stir.
  4. Pour in enough hot water into the roasting tin to come about 1.5cm up the sides of the ramekins. Pour the hot cream into the ramekins so you fill them up right to the top – it’s easier to spoon in the last little bit. Put them in the oven and lay a baking sheet over the top of the tin so it sits well above the ramekins and completely covers them, but not the whole tin, leaving a small gap at one side to allow air to circulate. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the mixture is softly set. To check, gently sway the roasting tin and if the crème brûlées are ready, they will wobble a bit like a jelly in the middle. Don’t let them get too firm.
  5. Lift the ramekins out of the roasting tin with oven gloves and set them on a wire rack to cool for a couple of minutes only, then put in the fridge to cool completely. This can be done overnight without affecting the texture.
  6. When ready to serve, wipe round the top edge of the dishes, sprinkle 1½ tsp of caster sugar over each ramekin and spread it out with the back of a spoon to completely cover. Spray with a little water using a fine spray to just dampen the sugar – then use a blow torch (or place under a grill for 20/30 seconds) to caramelise it. If using a blow torch, hold the flame just above the sugar and keep moving it round and round until caramelised. Serve when the brûlée is firm, or within an hour or two.

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