Quick dinner

Marie-Pierre Moine conjures up an imaginative menu for high summer, to prepare in sixty minutes

3 tablespoons groundnut, sunflower or rape seed oil

3 tablespoons lightly-flavoured olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

A few drops lemon juice

Sea salt and ground black pepper

TO SERVE: warm garlic bread

Prepare the ingredients: rinse the leaves, dry in a salad spinner, remove any tough-looking stalks and thick, dark leaves. Wipe and thinly slice the mushrooms, crumble or cut up the blue cheese and cut the prosciutto into slivers.

Heat 2 tablespoons groundnut oil in a large frying-pan. Spread in the mushrooms, season with a little salt and saute for a few minutes over a moderate heat, until a little soft and partly golden.

Arrange the leaves and mushrooms on individual plates or in a large, shallow bowl. In a cup, mix the rest of the groundnut oil with the olive oil. Season with salt, then dribble over the leaves and mushrooms.

Scatter the blue cheese and slivers of prosciutto over the dressed leaves and mushrooms. At the last minute, drizzle over the balsamic vinegar. Add a few drops of lemon juice and a generous grinding of black pepper. Serve with warm garlic bread.

This month I focus on what today may seem a rather old-fashioned ingredient: boned duck breast, often sold under its French name of magret. Served ultra-pink and fanned out elegantly on huge hexagonal plates, duck breasts with a red fruit sauce were the great darlings of nouvelle cuisine a good ten years ago. The contrast between the crisp, fatty skin and the tender, lean meat made for a memorable morsel. Magrets have disappeared from many fashionable menus, now replaced by more nutritionally correct, but sadly ubiquitous, free-range or cornfed chicken breasts. I think the time has come to try duck again. In the frying-pan, under the grill or in the oven, magrets cook quickly and easily.

Here they are roasted with a simple mustard, ginger and honey glaze, with most of the fat poured out at the end of cooking. The recipe produces very crispy duck. If you prefer your duck cooked in a more traditional French style, use a gas 6 oven and reduce the timing by 5 minutes. The same recommendations will apply if your magrets weigh t between 9X/2 oz and lOoz (from 270g to 285g) rather than 12oz (340g). Serve with boiled courgette slices coated with basil cream, and plain boiled or steamed new potatoes.

With the first course, I suggest serving another old favourite – garlic bread. For six people, cut both ends off a chunky baguette stick (the crusty extremities toughen to excess when baked again). Mash together about 2oz (55g) of soft butter with 1 or 2 garlic cloves (free of any green shoots). Cut the bread into 8 slices, almost, but not quite, to the bottom, and spread with the garlic butter. Wrap with foil and bake for 7-10 minutes in the oven while the duck is cooking. A possible plan of action is as follows: chill the white wine and the mineral water; make the coffee for the cafe frappe: immerse the pot in iced water until cold, then chill in the coldest part of the refrigerator; whip up and chill the Chantilly; prepare and set aside the ingredients for the salad starter; saute the mushrooms; slice, blanch and cook the courgettes, and boil or steam the potatoes (if using); preheat the oven; prepare, coat and roast the duck breasts; prepare and bake the garlic bread; lay the table; put ready all the ingredients and utensils you still need; assemble the salad starter; just before sitting down to eat, pour out the duck fat, baste the magrets and return to the turned-off oven; after the first course, reheat the courgettes (and the potatoes, if using), add the cream and snip in the basil; slice the duck breasts, add soy sauce and water to the roast-ing-pan, bring to the boil, add butter and spoon over the duck; after the main course, assemble the cafe frappe. All the recipes serve 6.


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