Posts

Showing posts from 2017

Pithiviers Fondant

Image
I know it's that time of year and all good food bloggers should be presenting their Christmas cakes, mince pies and puddings but I'm afraid I don't really do the classic Christmas stuff anymore. So here's the closest thing to a festive cake that I've made recently. I hope it makes up for the lack of Yuletide baking. It may not be traditional, but I like it a lot.

The French town of Pithiviers has become famous for the puff pastry concoction that shares its name. They can be delightful but they're a newfangled invention dating back no earlier than the 18th century. By that time Pithiviers had long been renowned for this gâteau.

So forget all about those pastry newcomers, this is one of those meltingly soft (well, fondant) almond cakes that has probably been around since the middle ages, although some people even claim that it originated with the Roman invasion of Gaul. It's a bit like a cross between a Gâteau Nantais and a Tarta de Santiago in my opinion. (…

Caponata

Image
I was sad to hear recently of the passing of Antonio Carluccio. Many years ago I used to visit his Neal Street deli whenever I could and met the man himself there a few times. His respect and enthusiasm for quality ingredients and simple but intensely flavoured dishes were a significant influence on me. For instance, I didn't realise just how good Parmesan cheese could be until he scooped a piece from a wheel and handed it to me and I might never have tried to make risotto if he hadn't told me to stop worrying and just get on with it. He was a great ambassador for Italian food and I for one will always be grateful to him.

Although I use quite a few Italian recipes I haven't posted many here. The fact is that when I started this blog it seemed to me that the world really didn't need me to add to the mountain of recipes for Italian food. There were just so many blogs already specialising in Italian dishes and so many Italian restaurants down here in Surrey that if you t…

Ossau-Iraty, Smoked Duck and Peppers

Image
A lot of the recipes on this blog are pretty easy, but they really don't get much easier than this. Not too long ago I was wandering around a local supermarket in my usual bemused manner and I stumbled across some particularly fine produce: Lamuyo peppers from Spain, smoked duck breast from Scotland and, one of my favourite cheeses, Ossau-Iraty from the southwest of France. Then from some particularly murky corner of my mind I remembered that these were just the kind of ingredients that Guy Martin put together on one of his TV programmes.

Thanks to Google I've realised that the name Guy Martin often seems to refer to a bloke that rides motorbikes mystifyingly fast. I definitely don't mean him. I mean the chef of Le Grand Véfour in Paris. (Please be careful if you're tempted to peruse the prices at Le Grand Véfour - you may need to have someone nearby to administer strong drink to aid your recovery). Mr Martin intended this combination of ingredients to celebrate the wo…

Les Patiences Fraxinoises And Boodle Goes To Provence

Image
If you follow any of Julie Andrieu's TV programmes then you'll know that she's fond of wandering around digging up authentic, local recipes. (My wife is firmly of the opinion that I'd follow Julie Andrieu anywhere she wanted to lead me. She may well be right.) Ms Andrieu visited La Garde-Freinet in Provence a few years ago and was given a recipe for the authentic patience fraxinoise. Until I saw the programme I thought they were little almond biscuits but it turns out that I knew nothing.

In fact, these biscuits are somewhat similar to a langue de chat, although there are a few major differences: they don't include any butter, they're flavoured with orange flower water and they're round and not shaped like a cat's tongue. I did depart a little from the original recipe by adding some maple syrup.

Strictly speaking these should be baked in a very hot oven – something wood-fired would be ideal – but they work perfectly well in a domestic oven on a high se…

Galipettes

Image
I'm in a retro mood. Shirley Conran famously wrote in the mid-seventies that ‘Life is too short to stuff a mushroom’. I suppose if she were thinking along the same lines now she would suggest that life is too short to spiralise a courgette. Despite the Conran statement, the stuffed mushroom was a staple of the seventies and early eighties and I remember it very fondly.

What's that got to do with galipettes? Well, if you order ‘galipettes’ from a French menu, then expect stuffed mushrooms to arrive on your plate. The word ‘galipette’ actually means ‘somersault’ and either refers to the fact that the mushroom is turned upside down to be eaten or that the mushrooms are so large that they start to fall over of their own accord. I've been given both explanations and I've no idea what's correct, so take your pick.

British mushrooms of the 1970s were usually stuffed with garlic butter and breadcrumbs but in France galipettes can also be stuffed with goat’s cheese or snai…

Slow Cooked Courgettes - A Dip & A Mash

Image
Five years ago I wittered on about slow cooked courgettes and, as if once wasn't enough, I'm afraid I'm now going to witter on about a few variations on that theme.  After all, there are a lot of courgettes around at the moment that need to be cooked somehow and these recipes even allow me to use up the overgrown courgettes that I've neglected so badly in the garden.

To be honest, though, the main reason to revive this way of cooking courgettes is that nobody believed me the first time. I know we're forever being told not to overcook vegetables but if you cook courgettes for as long as I say then Jamie Oliver won’t break down your door and take you away for questioning. Really, that hardly ever happens.

So here's how to produce tasty, healthy dips and a different sort of mash with that courgette mountain.

First cook your courgettes SLOWLY This is the initial step for the recipes below but, if you want to keep things simple, just add a few herbs or other flavour…

Welsh Honey and Dried Rosemary Lamb

Image
This flavouring paste (or rub, if you prefer) is based on an old, perhaps even ancient, Welsh method for flavouring lamb. I used it a lot back in the 1980s and I was reminded of it when I visited Anglesey a few years ago. The sight of fine Anglesey honey for sale made me crave the intense flavour of this dish once again.

When I was young and easily-led, I used to listen to TV cooks telling me not to use dried herbs because fresh herbs are always better. I remember one of those cooks saying that if we needed proof, then we should try making mint sauce with dried mint and see how horrible it is. Years later I came across cooks choosing dried rather than fresh mint to flavour some very fine dishes and realised that dried herbs are different but by no means always inferior. You just need to use them in the right dish.

To be fair to those ancient TV cooks, though, there are certain dried herbs such as basil or parsley that really don't seem to work at all. And so what, you may ask, wou…

Visitandines

Image
When I first came across visitandines I imagined that the name came from the fact that they were the perfect little cakes to take on a visit. That just proves how dumb I can be. In fact the cakes were first produced by nuns of the Ordre de la Visitation which was founded in the 17th century in Annecy. I have to admit that my knowledge of nuns is sketchy to say the least.

The cakes are very similar to financiers but have probably been round a fair bit longer. The key difference is that one is made by pious, peaceful nuns and the other is made for bankers who'd rather have their cake and eat it.

Some visitandine recipes call for browned butter (beurre noisette) and that will give the cakes a very fine flavour, although I think it makes the cakes taste a little too similar to some traditional madeleines. You may prefer them that way, though, so don't let me stop you.

Visitandines are commonly baked in barquette moulds but small, round muffin tins will work very well and may even…

Fennel Ketchup or It Might Be A Sauce

Image
Every now and then I find that I'm tempted to use certain flavours more and more often until they become a bit of an obsession. Fennel has been a bit like that for me in recent times. This ketchup definitely satisfies the fennel craving with a serious hit of flavour.

I'm not sure that this is truly a ketchup and I've probably used it more often as a sauce for chicken, pork or seafood combined with pasta or rice. It's made using the same technique as a ketchup but with less vinegar and sugar than you might expect. As a result, it won't keep as long as a typical ketchup, so store it in the fridge if you're using it in the next few days, or freeze it if you need to keep it longer.

This makes around 350 ml of ketchup or 3 to 4 portions if used as a sauce.

1 onion (I like to use red onions in pickles and ketchups but it’s not really critical)
1 bulb of fennel
2 cloves of garlic (3 if they’re small)
¼ - ½ chilli (depending on how hot the chilli turns o…

Salade Polletaise

Image
OK, I admit that some people would rather eat gravel than herrings but I love the little silver darlings and this dish is my way of celebrating some of the excellent marinated herrings produced in the UK. At one time the marinades plonked on this poor little fish could be used as an alternative to paint stripper but the products from some of the smaller suppliers today are a completely different kettle of herring. (You could create your own marinated herring and that would be a wonderful thing to do but I'm assuming that time isn't hanging heavy on your hands.) For this salad you need a good quality marinated herring without any overly strong flavours. A simple dill or light mustard marinade would be perfect.

This is actually a little offering from my Dieppe days. Le Pollet is the traditional fishermens’ quarter of Dieppe where old sea dogs sit mending their nets and telling colourful tales of life on the unforgiving sea. Actually, it may have been like that once when Walter S…

Tourte or Pastis or Croustade of The Pyrenees

Image
I've been reading Allyson Gofton's ‘Recipes from my French Kitchen’ and it's been pleasantly nostalgic for me because it talks enthusiastically of foods and places that I've loved in the south west of France.  It's also a bit odd because it's clearly aimed at an audience back home in New Zealand and New Zealand is much more of a mystery to me than France. How I came to be the owner of a signed copy of a book of French recipes written by a cook from New Zealand whom I've never met is just too long a story. As far as I know, the book hasn't been published in the UK.

I was reminded of many places and tastes but one in particular stood out. In the local markets and bakeries, especially as you start to get into the Pyrenees, you're pretty sure to come across a brioche-shaped cake called either a ‘pastis’ or a ‘tourte’ or maybe a ‘croustade’. It's a cake that I'd always intended to make but that I'd never quite got round to attempting and thi…

London Pie - Sort Of

Image
I was reminded of this dish while meandering along the back alleys of some old cookbooks. It's a variation on cottage pie and the most obvious difference is that you don't usually get fruit in a cottage pie. I don't know the exact history of this recipe but I'm sure that this pie was around in some form during the period of rationing after the war. At that time small amounts of meat were often mixed with any available veg and fruit to make it go further. I can remember eating something like it in the 1970s but it seemed to fade away around the end of that decade. Meat combined with fruit has a very long history in British food and is common enough now in more fashionable, imported dishes so I thought I'd try a personal London Pie revival.

Less sweet varieties of apple are best for this recipe in my opinion and I've used both cooking and eating apples to give a contrast in texture. The sour quality of the apples is offset by the dried fruit and the sweetness in…

Munich Pudding

Image
Every so often I come across a historic recipe that sounds barmy but just can't be ignored. I really want to know what it tastes like. This is definitely one of those ‘can't pass it by’ sort of recipes. Essentially it's a variation on a bread and butter pudding but the twist is that it was meant to be cooked in a paper bag.

The original recipe is from Nicolas Soyer's ‘Paper-Bag Cookery’ first published in 1911 and is described as ‘Pudding à la Munich’. This book has been the subject of a fair amount of (mostly academic) ridicule over the years but I think that's unfair. Nicolas Soyer was the grandson of the renowned chef Alexis Soyer but he has a claim in his own right to be the original ‘modern’ celebrity chef. He was probably the first to understand the power of marketing and branded goods. If you wanted to make some of the recipes in ‘Paper-Bag Cookery’ then you really needed to get hold of some of Soyer's own paper bags which came with his signature printed…

Pain de Gênes

Image
Most people I know are not only deeply suspicious of fat these days but are also putting on false beards and crossing the street to avoid bumping into sugar and so I suppose it's not surprising that I haven't added a cake recipe to the blog lately. But here's one that I've had around for a while. For some incomprehensible reason I was reluctant to publish this recipe because I thought that it wasn't an authentic Pain de Gênes. That's the first time I've been bothered by authenticity and, to be honest, it will probably be the last time too.

The original and authentic Pain de Gênes should be made with almond paste unless I'm much mistaken (and I could be) but this recipe uses ground almonds and no flour. Oddly enough, I first came across this style of Pain de Gênes in my venerable copy of the 1950's classic 'Constance Spry Cookery Book' but since then I've seen a number of French recipes that are made in a similar way. It's a beautiful…

It's 2017 & Time For A Floctail

Image
Let's not dwell on the dispiriting aspects of 2016. Here are a few food and drink snippets worth celebrating from 2016 and worth looking forward to in 2017 - well, for me anyway. Given the events of the last year I suppose it's not surprising that a number of them are alcoholic.

But first, let me offer a sincere apology. At the start of last year I confessed that I was running out of recipes and that 2016 would probably be the last year of this blog. The bad news is that not only have I been hopeless at getting around to adding the remaining recipes to the blog, I've also found a few more in a ditch somewhere with the result that I might well have another year to go. Sorry about that.

I did make an effort to be a bit less hopeless and more like a proper blogger early in 2016. I was persuaded that I should start a Facebook page for the blog. It seemed to use up time that I couldn't really spare but I gave it a go until a very successful blogger told me that Facebook wou…