Posts

Showing posts from 2018

Le Frésinat

Image
Le frésinat is a simple country dish from the Tarn region of France that consists mostly of pork and potatoes. That doesn't sound too promising but the combination of ingredients produces an intensely savoury and satisfying dish that's just perfect for winter. It's said to be the meal that was traditionally cooked as a thank you to the friends and neighbours who helped out when the farm pig was slaughtered. I don't have a pig or a farm and so I can't vouch for that. I just use pork shoulder from a friendly, local butcher. You could use other cuts, but it's best to avoid any that are too lean. (It's also best to avoid unfriendly butchers, funnily enough). I'm not usually bothered too much about authenticity in my recipes and I often substitute ingredients. This dish, however, relies on the balance of simple flavours and I've learnt the hard way that it's probably best to not play around with the ingredients too much. For instance, if you swap t

Speculoos – The Domesticated And Eggless Version

Image
For years I thought of speculoos as the little, wrapped biscuits that often accompanied a bad cup of coffee at conferences and business meetings where people said "going forward" a lot. Then I discovered the almost fanatical devotion to this biscuit in Belgium and northern France and I realised that speculoos must have hidden depths. These days I've long since given up the conferences and the "going forward" people but I've learned to love one or two speculoos alongside good coffee (or tea if you're making it). There's no shortage of the mass-produced, commercial product (whatever they choose to call them these days) but a lot of bakers in northern France, both professional and amateur, make their own. Many of these are more substantial than the usual commercial biscuit and a little different in texture too. Most of the recipes I've come across add egg to the mixture but I've been told that egg isn't truly authentic (although I admit th

Normandy Lamb With Mint

Image
I've been rereading 'Flaubert’s Parrot' by Julian Barnes, which is a funny, sad, literary novel from the 1980s and in my lightweight view is one of the finest written during my lifetime. Mr Barnes refers to the Normandy travels of the Reverend George Musgrave Musgrave (that's his name,  not an accidental duplicate word) and, in particular, a conversation he reports in his 1855 book 'A Ramble Through Normandy'. The Reverend Musgrave amuses himself by questioning  'a thriving merchant of Rouen' who, despite being 'upwards of sixty years old', had never heard of mint sauce! Of course, the Reverend 'advised him to take up a new set of notions on English cookery'. It isn't what the Reverend intended but I was reminded of this dish from Normandy. Some French people (well, Parisians, at least) can still be very dismissive of British food. In my experience, if you try to defend British cooking to them, then you might well get the response

Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Image
In the early 1990s dulce de leche was in every supermarket and every recipe magazine. You just couldn't avoid it unless you hid in a cave far from civilisation. In those long lost days I decided it would be a spiffing idea to use the abundant supply of dulce de leche to make some ice cream. It turned out to be very easy to put together and very pleasant indeed to eat. And so I kept making it. In fact, I made it so often that people begged me to stop kindly suggested that I should maybe try another flavour. So I moved on to other types of iced delight and forgot all about dulce de leche ice cream. Then, a few days ago, I came across a notebook from my younger days that wittered on about this ice cream and I really wanted to try it one more time. My very cheap ice cream machine is a simple freeze-ahead bowl type that's not particularly efficient but that's all you need for this ice cream. In fact, you could make this without a machine at all if you put the mixture in the f

Gâteau au Chocolat de Nancy

Image
I have it on good authority that this is an ancient type of gâteau from Nancy in north-eastern France although I have to confess that I couldn't find a recipe that's older than the 1960s (due to poor research, no doubt). It's one of those classic flourless cakes which, in this case, is enriched with chocolate. There are some recipes that do add a little flour, which will help to stabilise the cake but I'm hoping that this flourless version is as light and pure in flavour as the real thing should be. It's a recipe that's easy to remember. Essentially it's equal amounts of each ingredient (if you consider the ground almonds and potato flour as a single entity) plus eggs. This is not the only type of cake that you might find described as a Gâteau de Nancy. The citizens of Nancy seem to have a number of treats at their disposal from large meringue confections to macarons and cakes flavoured with the local plum liqueur. They are obviously wise and happy peopl

A Delinquent Sort Of Muxu and a Glass (or Two) of Kalimoxto

Image
You may well imagine that I'm a sophisticated and elegant man-about-town but allow me to disabuse you a little. I can be a thoroughgoing tatterdemalion if I put my mind to it. I was going through a slovenly phase (it was my butler's night off) when I put the following together. I'm probably in a lot of trouble with the people of the Basque region for mucking about with these local specialities but I swear that I do it with a great fondness and respect and only partly because I've had a glass or two of kalimoxto. Let's start with my errant sort of muxu…. I fancied something to go with my evening espresso and so I made this inelegant, chocolatey sort of muxu. A few years ago it became the thing (at least among food bloggers) to create sophisticated, professional looking macarons. Quality patisserie is a wonderful thing but it's not what I usually enjoy baking and I'm rather glad that we've moved on a bit. The real muxu is a refined Basque speciality a

Pigeon Breasts with Pomegranate Molasses and Soy Sauce

Image
Pigeon is a very underused meat (at least it is in the UK) but it's far too nice to ignore. I remember that it became quite a trendy thing to eat in the 1980s, often in warm salads or served with soy sauce and sesame. Then it seemed to fade away again. Admittedly pigeon does have disadvantages - there's not a huge amount of meat on a pigeon and what there is can be tough. But it really doesn't have to be like that. This sauce is based loosely on a Ming Tsai recipe from the 1990s (if memory serves) and the whole dish is simple to put together. Do make sure that you allow enough time for the marinade to do its work, though. I served the pigeon with simply steamed potatoes and roasted beetroot this time, but rice or mash (sweet potato mash, maybe) would be fine and dandy too. You could also ease off on the amount of sauce and make the pigeon the star of a warm salad with interesting leaves, new potatoes and whatever else you fancy. (That's a very 1980s option but it

RB’s Lemon Cake

Image
Many people have bucket lists consisting of adventurous or highly dangerous activities like skydiving or eating at a restaurant on its opening day. But I have a bucket list of cakes. I'm much happier that way. Here's one I've just ticked off on that list. Many of the recipes that I publish on this blog are not particularly well known or are hard to find elsewhere. (My theory being that at least I'll know where to find them when I want them next time). This cake is an exception. It's really well known (at least, it is in the UK). You might have seen it on TV, on a recipe site, in blogs, in a book, in a magazine or you may have been lucky enough to try it yourself. I've made a lot of lemon cakes over the years but, despite my best intentions, I hadn't made this one until now. Many years ago Raymond Blanc began making and serving this cake to guests at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire and it's still made and served there today. It's a

Fallue

Image
Fallue isn't an obscure Shakespearean character, it's actually one of the types of brioche that you might come across in Normandy. It's less sweet than some and uses crème fraîche instead of some of the usual butter. I promised to get around to posting this recipe when I said it was the chosen partner for teurgoule , although you really don't have to make a teurgoule to enjoy this bread. I know that all good food bloggers should spend many happy hours mixing and kneading their bread by hand and that would be nice but I honestly don't have the time. I use a bread machine to prepare this dough and I don't care who knows it. Of course, you can make the dough in a much more traditional way if you wish. Unlike some brioche recipes, this is very simple to put together and even simpler if you use a machine. I'm not claiming that this is an authentic fallue but it is based on some genuine Normandy recipes that I've had ferreted away for some time and that I&

Teurgoule

Image
In Normandy every Sunday morning in accordance with ancient tradition the fearless men of the Calvados region gather with their forks and hope to hunt the wild and menacing teurgoule. OK, I'm lying. Teurgoule is indeed a speciality of the Calvados area but, let's not beat around the Normandy bush, it's a type of rice pudding. There are a number of stories about the origin of this simple speciality but I'm not sufficiently knowledgeable or gullible to say if they're true or not. So let's just say that this is a very slowly cooked rice pudding that's usually flavoured with cinnamon. That may seem a bit of an incongruous flavour for northern France but once upon a time spices, including cinnamon, would come ashore at Honfleur and the other ports along the Normandy coast. As for the strange name, there are plenty of explanations and it's often translated as “twisted mouth” but, since it has more of a patois or slang origin, I think that “mangled mug” mig

Castagnaccio

Image
To end my very short series of "the Italian recipes that I really had to write down sooner or later" I'm offering something to finish the meal. This chestnut cake is based on a truly venerable recipe dating back as far as the 16th century but many variations have been turning up recently in glossy cookbooks. Unfortunately, the authors frequently disagree on just how the castagnaccio should look and taste. So when I got hold of some chestnut flour (it was French not Italian, but that's life) I just had to try playing around with it for myself and I've decided that this relatively dense version works best for me. This is a remarkably easy dish to put together. In fact, the most difficult thing seems to be choosing which flavourings and additions you might fancy. I'd suggest that raisins are essential. I soaked mine in sloe gin, which isn't remotely Italian but works really well. Another alcohol, Earl Grey tea or even water will do the job if you prefer. P

Two Vegetable Purées or How I Got It Wrong In The 1980s

Image
I stopped making vegetable purées for many years because back in the 1980s it was common practice to purée anything you could lay your hands on, especially if it was brightly coloured. It just got a bit too much like baby food. But I shouldn't have been so hasty. Vegetable purées are easy to make, they can be prepared in advance and reheated when required and, if you choose the right type of vegetable, the colour definitely can't be ignored on the plate. That's probably why purées not unlike these two seem to turn up quite regularly in slightly too expensive restaurants. You could rub these purées through a fine sieve if you want a guaranteed smooth result, although I usually prefer a little texture. Both of these purées will serve 2 or 4 people - 2 if it's for a midweek meal and you're hungry or 4 if you're planning delicate dollops arranged artistically on plates at a dinner party. (Do people still have dinner parties? I'm not entirely sure.) Red Cabb

Navette Albigeoise

Image
Years ago I posted a recipe for Navettes from Marseille on this blog and, although they're an interesting and unusual local delicacy, I have to admit that they're a bit of an acquired taste for many people.  I thought about that original recipe recently and I felt that it was only right that I should finally get around to admitting that the Marseille navette is not the only navette in the south of France. Here's an alternative that might be a little less alarming. This recipe is based on a navette from the region around the town of Albi in the Tarn. There's no raising agent in the recipe so don't expect a delicate sponge cake but it's lighter and less challenging than the drier Marseille version. Think of it as a little treat to sit alongside or even dip into a coffee or tea. Better still, imagine it with a local Gaillac Doux wine as you sit bathed in the light of the setting sun outside a café in Cordes-sur-Ciel. (Sorry, I got a bit carried away there). Sw

Fegatini Di Pollo in Swinging London

Image
This is part two of my very short series of the Italian recipes that I felt I finally needed to write down. Like the caponata recipe I'm afraid it's probably a little elegiac in tone. I suppose that's what happens when you're as ancient as me. Never mind, it's the food that matters. Alvaro Maccioni was one of the food celebrities in Britain through the 1960s and 70s. It's generally accepted wisdom that food in England was rubbish during that period but I'm not completely convinced. I admit there were certainly some highly questionable and eccentric restaurants around at the time but Maccioni's La Famiglia just off the King's Road definitely wasn't one of them. It tended to attract a celebrity crowd and hard up, scruffy people like me didn't necessarily eat there often - well, OK I did once or twice. Maccioni was a great advocate of authentic, delicious and often quite simple Tuscan food. Ahead of his time in many ways and hugely influentia

Lemon And Orange Guinea Fowl

Image
I've just noticed that it's 2018. I know I should be reviewing last year or predicting the trends for the months to come but it's as cold and grey as any self-respecting January should be and so here's a summery sort of recipe for cheering up dismal days. I've been told that guinea fowl is at its best in the depths of winter and so that's the perfect excuse for making it now. (Of course, I might have been misled - I frequently am). There's a traditional way of cooking guinea fowl with lemon in the Roussillon and this recipe probably owes its origins to that tradition, but it's more directly inspired by dishes that turned up fairly often in England back in the 1980s and early 1990s in some of the better, unpretentious restaurants of those long-lost days. These days I don't often use cream in sauces (or any recipes for that matter) but I make an exception here because it works so well. You could use chicken in this recipe if that's what you hav