Deepest Dorset


 Deepest Dorset …

Its here ! A brilliant new book called Deepest Dorset discovering the people, places and roots of a unique community.  Contributors include Julian Fellows, Rose Prince, Kate Adie, Valerie Singleton and recipe sections by me!

(Link to buy the book is in ‘This Week’ section at the bottom of the post).


When I was asked to join in on this project I was  very excited (even by my standards).  I moved to this county at the age of 4 and have had roots here ever since.  It was here my love, interest and obsessions were cultivated with food and how it is produced and I learnt the joys and importance of sitting around a table and sharing a meal together with friends and family.


Dorset has been described as England’s Tuscany ( a quote that particularly tickled me ) but more importantly set me thinking.  Having traveled a good bit of the world, writing and waxing lyrical about the exotic smells and spices of the far east, the wonderful markets with their perfect produce of Provence, the inspiring localness and seasonality of Paros and Sardinia  with their rich history of food and the beauty of Scotland with its wonderful abundance of wild food I have slightly been ignoring the incredible offering on my own doorstep.  Text book slip up but on reflexion it would obviously be hard to find greener grass elsewhere….


The book is raising money for Dorset Charities: The Royal National Lifeboat Institution , Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, Weldmar Hospice care Trust and Community Foundations Dorset Fund. We were lucky enough to hold the launch at the stunning house St Giles that has been the ancestral home to Earls of Shaftesbury for many generations.


I was asked to do the food for the launch party but decided rather than rolling out the canapés we would carry on the theme of celebrating Dorset and get local suppliers and producers to show case their food and drink.


When deciding on my recipes for the book I wanted to highlight the wonderful diversity we have here : a fabulous coastline of fish, a rich abundance of wild food like venison, mushrooms and hedgerows of berries,  impressive fruit and veg growers ( including of course our apple orchards) delicious cheese including Woolsery Goat and one of my favourite blue cheeses,  Blue Vinny  and now our award wining sparkling wine and beer makers.


(pic. Viscount Rothermere one of the trustees of  The Rothermere foundation whom kindly funded the book )

The brilliant authors and editors of the book Fanny Charles and Gay Pirrie  – Weir were delighted with all this and even more so when I suggested I wanted to photograph and serve the food of platters made by                                               Dorset potters.   2016-10-11_0001 They did however think I was taking my Dorset enthusiasm  too far when I suggested we find some local alpaca or sheep wool to knit clothes out of for the waiters to wear on the night….

photograph by Hattie Miles ... 28.09.2016 ... Book launch of 'Deepest Dorset' at St Giles House, Wimborne St Giles ... Delicious food from around the county was enjoyed buy guests ... here are some of the catering team ready for the event.

The project was such fun to be involved with from the meetings with the editors, and the discovery of Dorset suppliers and producers to the party planning and book talks. I confess I had a sight twinge of post party blues as we finished the get out from the launch however on very much the upside I now have a copy of the book Deepest Dorset and am greatly enjoying reading about our impressive art, music, film, food, literature, landscape and history.


 This Week

Every home should have : a copy of Deepest Dorset. To buy the book please click on this link Deepest Dorset.  Money raised will go to 4 Dorset charities.

I discovered : Liberty Dorset vodka ( a great use of Dorset’s abundant sacks of apples )

I’m reading : Deepest Dorset (obv)

Im eating : Capreolus charcuterie ( some of the best I’ve ever had)

Next stop …cooking for a Rosh Hashanah supper and my annual trip to the charming Witterings …

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Where to eat in Venice


Don’t Cook Now

After a busy and fun week cooking in Dublin then buzzing around for a long weekend on a bee project I was totally ready to jump on the plane to Venice, the location for the brilliant film thriller “Don’t Look Now” based on a Daphne du Mauriers’ short story, for a few days off and a feasting extravaganza.


Completing my Front tuck – round off, back spring somersault down the garden path in the direction of Mr Del Monte I delightedly informed him I had finished making our reservations for Venice restaurants and that I had succeeded in getting tables at all the best places. I am not sure if he was genuinely as delighted as I was or if the discovery of two baby lemons on the tree he was tending had put the look a look of satisfaction and success on his face.


Venice, more than almost anywhere in the world, is notorious for being a tourist food trap (and has been so I have been told for over 2000 years) so I was putting extra effort into my research so as not to slip up on the food side of the break. I had no doubt as we were heading to Italy that churches, statues and art would be very hard to miss.


Whether I am traveling for work of pleasure I tend to do a crazy amount of research on what and where to eat. I spend the weeks before ringing, texting, twittering and chatting to everyone I think may have the skinny on my destination. I go through my address book of friends and family which includes chefs, clients, food writers, food producers, foodies, food retailers…. you get the picture, it’s a lot of people who know a lot about food.


I could say this slightly obsessive behaviour was because as a well travelled chef/food writer I feel the pressure to know about these things from others and the answer to “Where should we eat tonight” should come from me but its more because I love doing it and I see food as one of the most interesting and important aspects and reveals about people and places.


So for this blog it’s a mini food review, tips and tricks of what and where to eat in Venice.


Firstly NEVER, EVER wonder down a street, peer into a restaurant and think “ooh that looks nice, lets eat here”. Yes that’s a fun approach and works perfectly well else where but in Venice its is a sure fired way of being disappointed and ending the evening in frosty looks and mutterings of “ well it was your idea” as the bill for a bajillon euros reaches the table and you are trying to digest your canned luke warm spaghetti alle vongole.


Trust your sources. When researching and asking people be honest and think do I trust their opinion (having just reread this blog that last sentence makes me sound much less easy going than I actually am ( promise). Some food review sites like trip adviser, that although have some of the biggest collection of views, include everyone’s opinion and so are open to the restaurants friends and family putting positive or false opinions up eg “ eating at Besta Pasta in Towna was the best dining experience I have in the entire universe” or on the other hand allows disgruntled customers to rant or even the competitive restaurateurs to have their say e.g. “ This Venice restaurant should be allowed to sink, the waiters had less charm than the tasteless slimy sea slug like gnocchi being served on my plate” .

I stick to food bloggers websites, trusted sources of friends and family and take note if certain restaurants are repeatedly mentioned on ‘where to’ lists published by magazines and newspapers.


It’s perfectly acceptable to have a sharpener before 11. As you wonder through the markets and peer into tratorrias and bars you will see locals casually sipping on glasses of prosecco, wine or my favourite Venetian drink, the spritz. These can be taken with Aperol ( the scary orange stuff) that is actually delicious but quite sweet, Select, the medium sweet option, or my top choice Campari which is deliciously bitter. The drink is topped off with prosecco and soda water and is served on the rocks. It is usual to get a bowl of crisps or fat green olives along side your spritz and bizarrely is often one of the cheapest cocktails you get over there.


North Eastern Italy produces some good wine that is worth trying so don’t dismiss the Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Alto Adige, Trentino, and Veneto regions when flicking through the wine list ( for reds Valpolicellas and Bardolinos and for whites Soaves are the ones to look out for).

You may of course be tempted to try the Peach Bellini , created here at the iconic Harrys bar in the 30’s / 40’s consisting of white peach puree and prosecco. Whilst drinking it at this charming canal side bar, former watering hole of Hemingway and Welles, you will then of course have to wear your large ‘I am a tourist’ badge. (Yes I’ve done it)…(ok… yes it was fun).


Focus on fish. With its infamous fish market near the Rialto bridge, it is not surprising that fish is the dish to order in Venice (although they are still arguing with Tuscany trying to claim to be the birth place of beef Carpaccio and Venice also loves it liver and onions).


Based on my extensive research the restaurants that made it to my ‘must get a table or there is no point going to Venice at all’ list were;

Al Covo

Locanda Cipriani

Antiche Carampane

Alle Testiere


The results…

Al Covo is set in a small square and  was staffed by charming waiters. The wine list is very reasonable and the menu is encouragingly small.   Simply done fish and desserts worth saving room for makes this a place I would definitely recommend and visit again.

Wallet damage- 60 euro per person approx for 3 courses and wine

We scoffed;

Salted Anchovies with country butter

Marinated anchovies with fennel fronds and aubergines

Fritto Misto of red mullet, squid and sole

Pan fried prawns and squid with lemon

Ricotta cheesecake

Wild strawberry frittas


Locanda Cipriani

If staying in Venice for a coupe of days I would definitely recommend the boat trip out to Locanda Cipriani on the small island of Torcello. Taking public transport can be a great way to collect the ambiance of a place (unless you are in central or the West Coast of America) and unless you fancy selling your Louboutins or a kidney to fund taking a private water taxi, hop on a vaporetto and enjoy the group ride. If you set out early enough ( 9 ish in holiday terms) you can stop at Murano ( the island for glass) or Burano ( the island for lace) for a quick look before carrying on to the very charming Torcello for lunch. With one road / canal leading from the vaporetto stop to the restaurants ( I think there are 3 in total) and the church you will not need a map.

The restaurant has a charming garden which half made the experience for me so I would suggest going in the warmer months. Service was good and the food very enjoyable.

Wallet Damage – 90 euros per person approx for 3 courses, wine and a view.

We scoffed;

Crab gnocchi

Seabass and sautéed potatoes

Poached Peaches with prauline icecream

Hazelnut crème brûleée


Antiche Carampane

When this restaurant gets mentioned there is usually reference to how difficult it is to find though fortunately for me Mr Del Monte had a knack of easily sorting out these navigational issues so we only ended up down one dark alley with a group of Japenese tourists and their selfie sticks to give each other the acknowledging grins of ‘you’re exploring (aka lost) in Venice too’ . I was concerned by the non Italian vs English speaking ratio of customers here ( the waiters were charming enough not to be snobby about having to mostly speak in their non native tongue) but it was delightfully a top meal and well worth finding.

Wallet damage – 50 euros a head for 2 courses and wine.

We scoffed ;

Spider crab linguini ( sooo good)

Spicy seafood linguini

John Dory with wild mushrooms and zucchini ( this was one of my favourite dishes if the week)

Seabass and salad



On the forth day the sun had gone, the rain had started and moral was sinking to a low. I had not booked a restaurant for lunch this day, as there are only so many three course meals a girl should eat in five days, but I was keen to stick to my rule of not being fooled into stumbling across and eating at the wrong place. It was then that data roaming, foodbloggers of venice and Mr Map Reader Extraordinaire saved us. Just as I was about to push him into the canal he found the chechetti bar that I suggested as salvation to the situation. Chichetti can be found all over Venice and although food writers will tell you of there favourite spots I think providing you are not on the main tourist drags you will be able to spot a good one. Very reasonably priced little slices of bread topped with salted cod or cured meats or grilled vegetables are laid out on trays under the glass counters. You go and have a good stare then point and order the ones you fancy along with a glass of something. My advice would be, as they are usually eaten standing up, is choose somewhere that looks like it has a good atmosphere and the chechetti haven’t been sitting there since time began.


Alle Tesiere

If you want to eat here, this restaurant has to be booked well in advance. You can email, then have to ring to arrange deposit of your grandmother / child or lumps of cash to secure your table. Sadly my Italian currently has limited abilities and it wasn’t until I managed to make the waiter understand I was at the ready to handover my credit card details stage of the booking that he started to thaw to the determined English girl at the end of the phone.

The 24 ish seat restaurant is not particularly good looking and I admit expectations were high. Antipasti and primo were delicious but I think if you are used to eating fresh simply cooked fish the main courses can be underwhelming. The wine list encourages you spend and although I am pleased to have it ticked off my list I would not recommend it to those that eating simply cooked very good fresh fish is nothing out of the norm.

Wallet damage : over 100 euro per person for 4 courses and wine

We scoffed

Spider crab

Prawn ravioli – which was really delicious

Squid and cinnamon gnocchi

3 Small whole turbot

3 Small monkfish

pistachio cake with pistachio ice cream – sooo good

Panna cotta


Next time I visit I would be keen to have lunch on the terrace at the Gritti Palace which I am told is a wonderful place to watch venice float by and I should also mention a restaurant by the Rialto bridge called Bancogiro which has one of the most romantic out door spots at night and serves some delicious food.

This week

I ate.

Next stop… Deepest Dorset.

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Recipe | Roast suckling pig


This little piggy…

Sardinia meant a new destination and new client for me so all seemed very exciting. The initial introductions were done over the phone and all seemed like it would work out very nicely until…

“ Oh yes we eat practically anything”! (client)

“Great” (me)

“Yes, and we wondered how you felt about cooking baby … phone line crackles at inopportune moment.

‘I’m sorry?”

“Baby…!” more phone crackling.

Cripes I thought what had I got myself into?!


Turns out they were saying baby pig or “Su Porcheddu” the Sardinian specialty of suckling pig. Which is totally delicious, though I was surprised when I got mixed reactions of me giving ours a little massage with olive oil on my instagram account phollowphilippa. Personally I have much more of an issue with people buying non local or non free range or processed meat and or when they don’t make use of all the meat and bones that they buy. ( High horse moment over)…


I flew into Olbia airport and had made good arrangements with my client of what I looked like and what they looked like ( I almost went home with the wrong chap back in Val d Isere earlier this year, so didn’t wanting repeat confusion). The spectacular drive to the house took about an hour along the winding roads that over looked the rugged and hot hills of the island.


The first shop had been done for me, which was a fun way to start the weeks cooking. Jumping into the very pretty blue tiled kitchen I was delighted at the perfectly ripe tomatoes, peaches and soft fresh mozzarella they had chosen and guessed that shopping would be very much what was local and in season.


For an island that is super popular with the jet set crowd I was pleased to see that the shops in our area really did stick to what was local. This translates to what is at its tastiest although not always aesthetically beautiful. I am pleased to report Italians don’t have the same problem as us in the UK where every fruit or vegetable has to be the same size and lumps and bumps are not permitted. I was amused when I couldn’t find any chocolate at the local supermarket to cook with but I could find five different varieties of peaches.   2016-09-03_0009

For those wishing to embrace the Sardinian food culture here are my favorite things you should look out for:

Su Porcheddu – suckling roast pig

Malloreddus – my new favorite semolina pasta that is like a curled up contact lense. It scoops up sauces brilliantly and is a delight to eat.

Bottarga – dried fish roe

Fregula – small round cous cous like but actually pasta balls that can be cooked like risotto or pasta.


The malloreddus pasta nearly pipped the pig to the post for this postcard recipe. A delightful size to eat and went particularly well with the sausage, fennel, chili, tomato, saffron and pecorino sauce I made.


The island, although not home to many of the charming old settlements has an interesting Gaudi esque style archictecture and a mix of brown orange and white villas dotted over the hills. A trip around the coast or to one of the islands is a must and we were interestingly near where Nelson kept his fleet in the Napoleonic wars though he himself never set foot ashore as was in ill health.


So for this weeks postcard I give you suckling pig which will be what you are eating if you are at our table for Christmas lunch . The smells as it cooked were superb and everyone including me couldn’t help but occasionally open the oven to have a peak at the pig.


This week

Super yachts spotted : 8

Peaches bought and eaten ( by us all) : 103

Varieties of peach bought : 5

Pasta cooked : 5.1 kilo

Olive oil used : 4.2 litres

I’m loving: walking to the end of the garden and falling into the med.

Every home should have: a bosse wireless mini speaker ( they are amazing)

I’m reading : The Magus, compelling read despite some of the most dislikable characters ever written.


 Suckling pig .

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 suckling pig

1 fennel bulb

2 apples plus one small one for serving

handful each of parsley and thyme

1 garlic head cut in half horizontally

1 onione red or white peeled and chopped into four.

½ dry white wine like vermentino

Pre heat the oven to 160 C


With a damp kitchen paper towel give the pig a quick wipe.

Sprinkle with salt and give a quick massage with oil all over

Stuff the belly with fennel , chopped apple , thyme , parsley stalk , garlic , onion . If the kidneys and heart are in you can leave in as they can be eaten and or will add the flavor.

Then sit pig upright and try to position front legs stretching out and back legs tucked under – like an Egyptian jackal statue .

Cover the ears in foil for cooking as otherwise will burn .

If you want to stuff apple in mouth at end stuff a ball of foil in mouth at this stage.

Slit the pig in a few places so skin does not burst when cooking ( I made incision by armpits and back legs – but not too deep)

Bake at 15 mins per pound at 160 °C

After 1 1/2 hours add 1/2 pint water to the tray .

At 2 1/2 hours add 1/2 pint white wine to the tray .

Baste occasionally.

The Liquids will keep the pig moist and produce your gravy but you don’t want to add them too soon as you also want the pig to roast.


Once cooked Let rest for 1/2 hour after cooking lightly covered in foil .

There should be lots of lovely natural juice you can strain off and use for gravy.

Remove the foil ball and earmuffs and stuff a small apple in its mouth

Serve at the table to lots of oohs and ahhs with some delicious Sardinian wine.



Next stop … Dublin

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Recipe | Almond, cherry, lime and tequila cake


The girl who played with a wood fired oven


I felt like a real party pooper as I sat soberly on the plane heading from Edinburgh to Ibiza. It was around midday and the rest of passengers were clearly well on their way to tipsy land. Amusingly as soon as the seatbelt sign went off the entire plane (minus me and a chap who had already passed out) got up to use the ‘facilities’ then once that kerfuffle was over the drinks trolley became like a moving god down the isle . Ibiza is of course known for its excellent clubbing scene and fun nightlife however for those who have discovered it there is also an island of great beauty, food, secluded alcoves and paradise like beaches.


My days started with trips to the bakery, a great time to people watch as a few locals are already out sipping their morning coffees (and of course a few who impressively haven’t gone to bed yet!) then a dash to the shops before the roads get super busy. Despite its increased popularity I love the fact that the ingredients available are generally very local and so of course seasonal and tasty.


Sun ripened tomatoes, watermelon and figs were particularly delicious standouts and of course there is always an impressive amount of fresh fish available.


Despite the glittering blue seas, one of the prettiest dinning courtyards I have ever seen, the bright sunny days and blue skies, a jolly crowd and the prefect secluded Ibizan spot my favourite thing on this job was….

2016-08-24_0004 That they had a wood oven to play with.


There is something about cooking in these beauties that completely does it for me. The fire management, choosing different woods to get different smokes , the dry heat it produces which is perfect for roasting vegetables and meats and of course the insane temperatures you can get it to reach to cook pizza.


This postcard recipe isn’t wood smoked as even I realise doing cake in a wood oven is taking it too far but it does use a fruit very much associated with Ibiza, the cherry. So I give you my almond, lime and cherry cake.



This week

I learnt : Cherry smasher is 1920s slang for a feeble kiss

Every Home should have : their pools painted white

I’m driving : a smart car, pretty smart until you want to fit your shopping into it.

I’m loving : the wood oven

We ate : 3 kilos of watermelon

Tequila : is the drink of the summer

Im listening to : La Traviata



Cherry, lime, almond and tequila cake

I confess the tequila doesn’t come through taste wise much once cooked, however once the bottle is out and open it may encourage you to make margaritas  which of course is an excellent thing. 

Pre heat the oven to 160 °C fan oven

250g butter (room temperature )

200g caster sugar

3 free range or organic eggs

160g SR flour

100g gr almonds

1 ts vanilla

2 lime zest

300g stoned cherries (stoned as in stones taken out rather than Ibiza ‘stoned’ ).

Splash of tequila

30g flaked almond

Line a 20 cm x 20 cm approx. cake tin with baking parchment

Splash the tequila onto the destoned cherries and leave to one side while you make the cake

Beat the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy.

Briefly whisk in the eggs.

Tip in the flour, almonds, vanilla and lime zest and beat until combined

Scoop the cake batter into the tin and scatter over the cherries then the flaked almonds.

Bake for 30 – 40 mins or a cake skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin, then slice and serve.

Delicious for breakfast after a late night ;). 



Next stop…. Sardinia

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Recipe | Raspberry Jell – O and honey baked cheesecake


Philippa Davis and the Sundance Kids

Utah, the 45th state, is known for various things, The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day saints, mining including copper, gold and silver, the 2002 winter Olympics, a staggering collection of Dinosaur bone finds, Jell – O particularly of the green variety and where we were heading (Sundance) and the talented Robert Redford.


When we arrived at the airport at Salt Lake city, a mere five hour hop from New York City, it was dark and so our journey towards the Sundance resort in the mountains was filled with

“ ooh I bet there are some fantastic views from here”

“You can imagine the mountains that must be in the distance”

“we must be driving down one of those incredibly impressive rocky valleys”

In reality of course we could see nothing besides pitch black and the endless industrial lights that lined the massive road we were heading along.

It wasn’t until the morning that we got our first glimpse of our surroundings, which were indeed spectacular.


Food wise Utah is famous for a few culinary delights. The scone, totally nothing to do with our West Country variety. In true American fashion it is a doughy deep-fried feast the size of a dinner plate. Jell – O or jelly, served weirdly kind of as a salad with fruit and occasionally vegetables set into it, raspberries from Bear Lake and honey.


Our group had travelled to Utah to celebrate a 40th birthday, well actually six 40th birthdays but we decided that 240 candles on the cake would have probably burnt our lovely lodge down. With various activities in what is a ski resort in winter but a brilliant place for hiking, riding, relaxing, water sports and more in summer, helping to feed the crowd of 25 was quite a feat.


The shops meant a trip down the mountain, I think the supermarket managers thought I was a bit crazy the first few days whilst trying to stock up, pushing in total about 5 trolleys overflowing with stuff. I have become hardened to the quizzical looks from others and tutts from fellow shoppers behind me in the queue. I have to say however that Harmon’s where I did most my shopping was one of the friendliest supermarkets I have ever used and by day four they were opening checkouts for me and practically welcoming me with a brass band and flags. So with sales targets more than reached for that month the manager can rest easy. It also has one of the most impressive car park views I am ever likely to come across.


Food wise there was a good selection of vegetables and some tasty beef. Fish I tended to avoid as didn’t look great altough this is no surprise as the nearest ocean or sea was a few states away.


I was also fascinated to visit what many consider the home of the Mormons in Salt Lake city and learn more about their history, although a comparatively short one. Having been drummed out of New York and various other places along the way began to settle in Utah around 1847. They have strong family beliefs and so one of the best libraries of family records (of mormons and non Mormons) in the world. They are anti taking addictive substances including caffeine and alcohol and due to their hardworking ethos originally adopted the beehive as a symbol, which is now also a state symbol. There are now over 15 million Mormons in the world and roughly 50 % of the population of Utah belongs to their church. However after the winter Olympics in 2012 and an increase in immigration into Salt Lake City their population is now much more diluted.


For this journeys postcard I wanted to include a few of the states food icons including raspberries, honey and Jell – O , I of course couldn’t do the Utah scone as being a west country girl I had to disown the deep-fried monster. So here I give you a raspberry, honey Jell – O baked cheesecake that we served at the birthday dinner and were made to promise to save some for the Sundance kids whom had to go to bed before the party started.


This week

Eggs eaten: 232 (almost enough to give the shooting weekend a competition)

Lemongate happened: discretion forbids me telling more…

I’m loving : mountain walks where I spied snakes, stags and squirrels

Every lodge should have: giant comfy beds ( no joke I had to basically run and jump to get into it each night) .

I’m driving: a big American Chevrolet that could seat an entire village



Raspberry Jell -O cheesecake

Serves 12

You will need a 10 inch spring form cake tin

Pre heat the oven to 170 °C

For the base

180 g graham crackers or ginger nut biscuits

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbs honey

110g salted butter

Finely grind the crackers or biscuits and mix in the cinnamon

Melt the honey and the butter in a saucepan on a low heat.

Stir the ground crackers into the melted butter then press firmly into the tin.

Bake for ten minutes then take out and cool. Increase the oven temperature to 200 °C.


1 kilo cream cheese

150g white sugar

2 tbs runny honey

450g sour cream

6 eggs

2 yolks

3 lime zest

2 tsp vanilla


In a bowl whisk the cream cheese, sugar and honey until light and fluffy ( about three minutes).

Then whisk in the sour cream, eggs, lime zest and vanilla.

Pour into the base and bake for 15 mins then turn down the temperature to

110 ° C and bake for a further 1 hour 20 mins .

The cheesecake should have a slight wobble in the middle.

Leave to cool mostly in the oven with the door slightly wedged open ( I use a wooded spoon) for about 2 hours. Take out and leave in the fridge to cool fully for at least 3 hours.


Make up ½ pint of jelly (I used fresh raspberry juice, honey and gelatine and followed the packet setting instructions but you can use jelly cubes) and pour, once cool, over the set cheese cake. Place back in the fridge to set (approx. another 2 hours) . I confess by luck rather than design I got a lovely ring of jelly/jello around the side of the cake where it had cooled and shrunk away from the sides.

Serve in slices with fresh raspberries on top.


Next stop….Ibiza .


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Recipe | Grilled corn, fig and tomato salad with maple syrup and cheese dressing


Corn in the USA

I was excited to be whisked northwards from JFK airport, New York to the Hamptons, Long Island, famous for The Great Gatsby, Maria Carey, Billy crystal, Blue Oyster cult, Donna Karen, Billy Joel, Jackie Kennedy , Steve Madden, beautiful beaches and golden corn.


The USA produced in 2015 $49 billions worth of corn harvested from 88 million acres of land. That’s a lot.


Whilst doing my usual scouting trip around the local farms, markets and shops I found a roadside stall that belonged to the adjoining farm that boasted of its “world famous corn”. I think it would be practically impossible to start saying where the best corn was grown but what really matters when buying and eating it is how fresh is it is. Once picked that delicious sweetness starts turning into starch so time is of the essence!


Health wise corn has lots of antioxidants and vitamins and contains soluble and insoluble fibre. The insoluble fibre is good at helping the good bacteria in our gut.


When not eating corn or discussing politics we managed to slip in a fair few sugar highs with cookies, brownies ( it will always remain a mystery as to what happened to that second box ) shortbreads and ice creams nicely balanced with some simply grilled delicious local fish, fresh juices and salads.


For this postcard recipe I would like to share one of the corn salads we made, grilling the corn adds a delicious element and putting it in a salad helps stop the urge to smother the blackened sweet juicy corn in butter although thats probably the best way to eat it.


This week

Times Ive been told to ‘ Have a nice day’ : A LOT, luckily I generally was otherwise it would have been really annoying.

Corn cooked: 48

Dogs in crazy costumes seen: 2 ( check out my instgram @ phollowphilippa)

I’m reading : Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel , a Mexican emotional food feast.

Every home should have : bicycles

We are on : a sugar high


Grilled corn, fig and tomato salad with maple syrup and cheese dressing.

Serves 4

4 ripe figs cut in quarters

2 corn

300g tomatoes ( which ever are best )

150g leaves

100g roughly chopped almonds


juice from half a lemon

1 tbs maple syrup

100g grated cheese – I used comte but you could use blue, cheddar or goat

1 tbs mayonnaise

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil


To make the dressing

Sprinkle some salt and pepper in a bowl

Whisk in the lemon juice then in this order the syrup, cheese, mayo and finally the olive oil.


Blanch the corn for about 8 minutes in a large pot of boiling non salted water, you want the corn to be just cooked.

Drain then grill for about five minutes on a medium heat so most of the outside has taken on some colour.

Leave to cool slightly then slice off the kernels

To assemble the salad, toss the figs, leaves, tomatoes , almonds and corn in the dressing and pile onto a plate.


Next Stop… Utah.

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Recipe | Olive oil, orange and rosemary cake


Greece lightening

When most families pack a car and set off for their holidays it is not unusual for to go through last minute panic checks.

“Did we turn off the lights”

“Did we pack my new bathing suit”

“Did we remember all the kids?”

So it was much to my amusement when we set off, car full of kids, bags, flippers and beach balls that client one exclaims,

“Stop the car! Did we remember the Olive oil?!”

It’s going to be my kind of trip I thought as client 2 assures client 1 that yes all 17 litres of the stuff is on board and safety packed.


Flicking through my photos of Paros from the last two weeks I am struck by several things.

1)The brilliant white that gleams off every building (similar to my skin tone apparently the day I arrived).

2)The amount of produce Paros produces including most things from grapes to goats.

3)The amount of Greek Extra Virgin olive oil we managed to go through (therefore meaning butter consumption alarmingly low).

4) My new love for ouzo (though not sure if this will travel back with me to the UK as although it works phonemically well in the lingering heat of the Grecian evening sun I’m not sure it will be quite the same in Dorset).


Ouzo here is often drunk before dinner on ice with splashes of water. It works incredibly well with taramaslata and grilled octopus. The octopus interestingly are caught and killed then beaten to tenderise them then left to dry in the sun and you can often see them draped over poles in the heat. Simply grilled with a splash of vinegar, lemon juice, parsley or dill and olive oil they make the most perfect aperitif.


Sea urchins are also very popular here and can just be served simply with olive oil or my new favourite way scooped out and served on half a lemon. You then gently scrape your spoon across gathering up the sea urchin and getting a twang of lemon. Perfect.


There were half-hearted mutterings from some of the group when I arrived of fear that they would pile on a few pounds having read some of my heartier statistics from postcards earlier on this year. I think they were referring to the 1 ½ packs of butter, 500ml double cream and 5 eggs per person per day scenarios that occasionally seem to occur. Fear not, I said as I was totally geared up and ready to start on my summer inspired salads, grills and healthier desserts and of course replacing as far as possible butter with Greek extra virgin Olive oil.


Menus involved using the baskets full of fresh local vegetables and fruits, local meats from our cheeky island senior butcher but unfortunately no fish as the sea was too rough due to the wind (although the wind in compensation in tandem with the dazzling sun made for perfect weather).


Food was kept light, refreshing and mostly healthy. With the lack of fish we kept meat dishes light by grilling or slow cooking with lots of herbs and light sauces. We tried to buy some goat, the island is scattered with them, but sadly it looked rather scrawny, however their pork and 41 day aged beef was excellent.


Stand out produce included the large capers which were plump and had a clean tang, olives from kalamata which were of incredible quality, brilliant white feta which is served from big barrels and chunks sliced off to order and of course the olive oil.


It is only more recently that I have started using and loving  Greek olive oil as my days at the River Café firmly swayed me to the beauty of a good Italian extra virgin olive oil. You would not know from looking in the shops but Greece is the worlds third largest producer. Once you start looking into the murky and not quite so liquid green gold world of it on a global scale you find out that there are many troubles, grey areas and mysteries. For instance Italy sells far more Italian extra virgin olive oil than it can actually produce (they say  that 60% of Greek olive oil is shipped too Italy and then sold as Italian).  As a consumer it is another lesson of watching out who and where you buy from, reading labels and staying alert. It is worth knowing that the cheaper olive oils are often from trucks going around various farms / co ops sucking up anything left in the barrel ( so unknown age/ quality ) then mixing, filtering before bottling and selling it on. Once you taste quality extra virgin olive oil it is hard to want to use anything else.


We had enough to bathe in but we managed to resist and keep it just for cooking. Not only the obvious things like cooked meats, vegetables and making dressings but also in desserts and cakes.


For this postcard recipe I want to share with you one of the cakes I made for afternoon tea that although may not have helped us in Greece with any lightening of the figures it uses olive oil rather than butter and mostly honey rather than sugar so seemed a good comprise for a treat.


This week

My favourite Greek Extra virgin olive oil: Olive tree London 

Olive oil used : 6 litres

Greek yogurt eaten : 2.5 kilos

Percentage of dishes involving olive oil : 91%

I’m reading : The Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield : Ok but had to chew my way through the last third.

Ouzo habit: good

I’m loving : properly made tarmasalata and grilled octopus

Every Greek villa should have: caper berry bushes

Greek wine to try : Mayiko Bouvo , Magic Mountain, Nico Lazaridi


Extra virgin Olive oil, orange, rosemary and honey cake

1 long spring of rosemary

150g sr flour

½ tsp baking powder

150g cup ground almonds

3 eggs

100g sugar

75 g runny honey

seeds from 1 vanilla pod

2 orange zest

1 sprig rosemary


Pre heat the oven to 170 ° C

Line a 2 lb loaf tin with baking parchment and place a sprig of rosemary at the bottom.

In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and ground almonds.

In a separate bowl whisk together the sugar and eggs until pale an thick ( about 3 minutes if using an electric whisk) then mix in the honey , vanilla seeds, orange zest and juice.

Gradually mix the eggs into the flour mixture and stir until you have a smooth batter.

Pout into the tin and bake on a lower shelf for 40 – 5omins or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Remove the rosemary sprig

Serve with spoonfuls of Greek yogurt.



Next stop… Im visiting the East Hamptons.

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Recipe | Vlita, saffron and feta pie


My big fat Greek….Pie

An overnight stay in Athens was swiftly followed by a few hours boat ride across the Aegean to the pretty island of Paros where the gleaming white washed buildings lay backdrop to the colourful myths, legends and modern day lives of the Greeks. The winding streets of the towns, so designed to make attacking pirates lives more difficult, were filled with cafes, boutiques, ouzerias and restaurants. I soon decided this was my kind of place.


Our villa instantly filled with guests and I quickly got my first taste of Greek family life. They are similar to the French and Italians in terms of passion and excitement over food, the amusing uncontrollable urge to stir pots on the stove every time they walk by and the wonderful ability to discuss recipes at length. Even the children were overheard debating which their favourite dish of the week had been.   In my books however I have to currently admit the Greeks edge ahead with their friendliness. Firstly they do not look at you like you have just blasphemed every time you attempt to utter a few words of their language (the French, as much as I love them, have I am sure given most of us puzzled glaring looks when pronouncing words fractionally wrong then follow it with a mini lesson that they are never satisfied with the result in). Secondly, unlike the Italians (of whom I am also very fond) who fiercely defend their recipes and dictate that theirs is the best and only way to make a certain dish, the Greeks seem much more easy going and delighted and interested in their food culture being an inspiration for a new dish.

With the mercury easily hitting the 30°C each day but a delightful breeze keeping us all in a very pleasant state, food was light, summary and involved of course a lot of extra virgin Greek olive oil. 2016-07-10_0014

I instantly loved that shopping for fruit and vegetables was dictated by what was fresh, local and in season and it was very much one of those places here you go to the shop/market and then decide what to cook. There are permanent stalls/benches set up in the towns that farmers can just come and sell there produce at when they have it and some farmers shops that although are certainly more shi shi than a few old wooden crates by the side of the road still fully focus on what the very productive island has to offer.


Feeling plucky and encouraged by the feed back by day three I decided it was time to cook them a lamb dish

“ Ooh that’s brave, cooking lamb for the Greeks”, the hostess playfully told me as I splashed extra of the local excellent wine, Moraitis over the young legs of lamb and returned them to the oven.

Well too late now, I thought as suppertime shortly loomed. Again they were delighted with it loved that I had used local wine and the wild thyme and oregano that had been picked by the path that led down to the beach.


With encouragement from this and courage from a little outing with the group the night before for a pre dinner ouzo I decided it was time to have a go at my version of their practically national dish, Spanakopita (surely the name of the next bond girl)  this postcards recipe.

Having never been one to feel totally compelled to follow the well-trodden path I had been thinking of ways I could beneficially twist the dish.

Saffron and vlita became my answers.



In the middle ages the charmingly named Essex town of Cheppinge Waldron became Englands epicentre for saffron and so great was its importance that the places’ name was changed to Saffron Waldron. Sadly with a puritan sway sweeping the land as we emerged from the Middle Ages, our tastes became plainer, the saffron use declined and so did the industry.

Legend has in ancient Greek that when the bold and ‘easy on the eye ‘ youth Crocus set his amorous heart of the nymph Smilax she indulged him in some frolics in a wood near Athens. Enjoyment, on her part at first, soon turned to boredom and when he continued to persist in bothering her she turned him into the flower ‘saffron crocus’ and still to this day the fiery glow of the stigmas reveals his smouldering but unrequited passions…or so the story goes.

The Mediterranean island of Santonrini has had discoveries of wall murals dating back a few thousand years BC of beautiful breast baring female saffron gathers that tells us of the exotic spices long history with this land. I cant imagine a similar dress code or look for the Middle Ages saffron pickers in Essex but then again perhaps it was dress down Fridays that sparked a puritanical turn in our ways.


So on a bold Friday morning I made my big fat greek pie and presented it at the table. We sat down to lunch, slices were shared out and we began to eat.

Then the head of the table says;

“ That was the best spinach pie I have ever had”!

Inwardly I was thinking OMG are the woman going to throw plates/daggers/a wild cat ( there are quite a few here) at him?! Would this be the beginning of the end for me? Will this bring and end to the holiday harmony and bliss? ….


No of course not, more wine was poured, the laughter and chat levels rose, various methods, twists and recipe ideas were discussed and the party continued…



This Week

Greek Extra Virgin Olive oil used : 8 Litres

Raw Greek Honey used : 2 lbs

I’m loving: Ouzo

Im reading : Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, totally gripping and can’t believe I hadn’t read it before.

Mode of transport : Boats, trains, Planes and cars

Every Greek Villa should have: poolside beanbag loungers and be within skipping distance to the Aegean.


Vlita, feta and saffron pie

Serves 8

In the UK although the leaf vlita is not wildly available, it is a bit like a chard / spinach / nettle cross (but with out the sting), you will have seen its seed Amaranth in many food shops, a so called super food packed full of protein.


4 or 5 thick sheets of filo

pinch of saffron

150g butter

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 red onions finely chopped

1 tsp dried oregano

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

3 good handfulls of blanched vlita (or spinach / chard)

200g top quality feta

4 organic eggs

1 1/2 tbs each of finely chopped parsley, mint and dill


Pre heat the oven to 180 °C

Melt the butter in a small pan with saffron then leave to one side to infuse

In a frying pan sauté the onions and garlic with the olive oil until softened and sweet.

In a bowl lightly beat the eggs, crumble in the cheese then add the herbs.

Add the cooked vlita to the egg mix and season with salt and pepper.

Brush a pie dish or baking tin of approx. 8” by 10” with the saffron butter.

Lay a sheet of filo down, it should come up over the sides and brush with butter.

Repeat with 2 more layers .

Tip the filling in and level out.

Then crinkling and rucking up the rest of the sheets of filo and the overhanging sides enclose the pie and drizzle with the rest of the saffron butter.

Bake for 45mins to 1 hour, the pie should be golden.

Can be eaten warm or cold.



Next postcard recipe….I’m staying put !



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Recipe | Potato salad


Le Tour de Carbs

This week I’ve been cooking for a group of 30 athletes cycling 3 cols of the Pyrenees.

It was like discovering a secret bizarre club and then finding out that half the people I knew were members.

“I’m off to cook for a group doing some crazy Tour de France style cycle over the Pyrenees”

“Oooh how interesting, yes we did that last month”


“ Wonderful! Nothing more fun than a 5 hour bike ride up some hills”


“Ah yes, Milly and I often take our bikes on a challenging weeks ride across Scotland. Jolly good fun”!

Everyone I talked to seemed to be into cycling thing, in a serious way. Even the girl at the checkout when I was buying obscene amounts of jaffa cakes and jelly babies  ( for the cyclists not me..ok I had a few) to take with me had just come back from a weekend of cycling with her friends.


I really cannot think of many ways I would less like to spend my time.

I have tried it (sort of) and just didn’t derive the pleasure of reaching the top of the hills or particularly the kamikaze nature of coming down them.   Give me a horse as alternative transport any day of the week.   What really did interest and excite me about this cycling extravaganza however was researching and creating a menu for the weekend.


There was to be a party on the Friday night to get everyone in the mood, a carb happy lunch and dinner on the Saturday to help fuel them for their gruelling ride, take away breakfast and cycle snacks to be distributed between three support vehicles following them up the mountains to go on the Sunday then a grand feast Sunday night to welcome home the champions.


The Friday and Saturday carb happy meals were easy to come up with ideas for and there was plenty of advice on the Internet about the best slow release energy foods and protein dishes to help with muscle performance.

I should warn you however if you ever find yourself doing your own research do not to type in “ what to eat before and during a cycle” as you will be bombarded with menstrual related information.


It was the ‘what would people want to eat during the cycle’ that was the most challenging and conflicting in results. Everyone I asked seemed to have different opinions. Some swore that a cheese sandwich and a few jelly babies in your back pocket were all you needed, some liked to delve into gels, mineral drinks and other lab concoctions of alarming colours that are available in the sporty fanatic world and then I even heard stories of members of this group last year happy to stop for a 2 course lunch and glass or two of wine to help fuel them through the day. The only consistent item of food was bananas.


The food for the ride had to be split between three support vehicles (also carrying spare tyres, pumps, water, extra Lycra ect..). It had to be appealing to those on the ride but also transportable and survive a day of being lugged up and down mountains. It helped that we bought half of Frances supply of Tupperware to aid us in this challenge.


Their take away breakfast and extreme picnic menu in the end read as follows.




Bircher muesli, strawberry and blueberry pots

Sausage sandwiches

Roast mushroom rolls.

Fresh fruit smoothie with honey

Coffee / tea

Mountain sustenance


Cut up oranges

Cheese sandwiches

Home made Sausage Rolls

Peanut sandwiches

Power balls

Home made Flapjacks

Jaffa cakes

Banana and maple syrup cake



Chocolate bars

Jelly babies


So come Sunday morning, after a very jolly Friday night (I was not sure at this point how seriously they were taking this) a slightly more subdued Saturday night , the 30 Lycra clad cyclists piled onto the bus and headed to the Pyrenees. It was like watching the start of a stage of the tour de France (though with less egos, doping and politics clouding the enjoyment).


They were equipped with supplies that I hoped would satisfy any cravings that may appear and a few large boxes of iced cold beer ready for the end of the day.



Meanwhile back at base the team regrouped after an early start to prepare for the evenings feast.


When the victors returned it was fun hearing as they all tumbled back in how their day went and how they got on with the supplies…


“oooh your sausage rolls, the thought of them at the next stop helped me up that last 20 km”

“Gosh it really is all about power balls isn’t it ?”

or my favourite feedback

“ I basically rewarded myself with a jelly baby every km” (that’s 110)


I confess having seen the pictures of the ride, hearing the stories of team work and camaraderie, observing the joy of triumph and achievement… I still have zero desire to ever do it myself.


For this weeks postcard I will give you a carb happy recipe for potato salad.

This week

Pasta eaten: 7.2 kilo

Potatoes eaten: 8.1 kilos

Cocktails drunk: xxx

Admiration levels: 100 %

Inclination to do it myself: 0 %

Every home should have: 30 bicycle pumps

Problems caused by corroded spoke nipples: 1

Potato salad

Serves 10

1 kilo waxy potatoes


2 egg yolks

squeeze of lemon

150 ml sunflower oil

150 ml olive oil

1 dsp Dijon mustard

30 gherkins roughly chopped

6 spring onions finely chopped

3 tbs roughly chopped parsley

Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water, drain and cool.

To make the mayonnaise

Whizz the eggs yolks in a blender with lemon juice until thick and pale.

Slowly pour in the two oils, then add the mustard and season with salt and pepper.

Mix the mayo through the cold potatoes along with the gherkins, spring onions and parsley. Serve room temperature at least a day before a big cycle as potatoes are a slow release carbohydrate.



Next stop… Greece


Some photos from this postcard recipe have been given and used with kind permission of the group

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Recipe | Barbecued flatbread with sprinkles


Hatched, matched and dispatched

The salmon and I were leaping for joy at the prospect of spending a jolly few weeks on the Findhorn. Though on second thoughts we probably had different motives.


There is nothing that comes even close in salmon perfection as the Scottish wild variety. Its texture, colour and above all flavour cannot be beaten. I could not wait to get my hands on one and there was poetic beauty in knowing it was hatched, matched ( with a sauce) and dispatched in pretty much the same spot.


I had to restrain myself from shooing the fishermen out of the lodge in the morning to maximise their time on the river bank, though I was delighted that a few of the first jolly group of 18 were up and out before breakfast and even returned for some late night fishing when the light is said to be particularly good for the sport.


This year there is a 70 % catch and release policy with anything caught over 9 lb, basically meaning you need to catch two before you can keep one.   The tradition is to beep the horn of your 4 x 4 as you pull up to the lodge if you have been successful. For our first group it was also the signal to dash out with a wee dram ( it was G and T’s if you returned empty netted so a pretty win-win situation if you ask me).


The second group who came to fish had rather a turn in the weather (the sun came out) and a drop in the river, making it harder sport. It did however make it perfect conditions for their BBQ lunches on the river banks.


Relatively obsessed (ok totally) with BBQ s, over my years as a chef and opinionated eater I have formed firm ideas on BBQ’S.


If you have a gas one, really don’t bother, just cook inside. You are adding very little in terms of flavour to your meal, they rarely stay hot enough, unless you keep closing the lid in which case you are basically cooking it in a gas oven, I could rant on…but wont. No, it has to be charcoal.


Mastering the smoky flavour giving intense heat is a satisfying thing. Learning to successfully light, maintain and use the heat is an art. I confess one rainy day 2 packs of firelighters and 2 weeks worth of Sunday Times were invaluable.


Over the week I would do some prep in the lodge kitchen, load the Range Rover chock-a-block with food, drinks, tables and charcoal and head to the assigned fishing hut (you can watch videos of week on my instgram feed). Upon arrival the Range Rover would get unloaded, a makeshift outdoor kitchen erected, the table laid and the BBQ lit.


Guests would be welcomed with a tin cup of soup then a grill themed lunch would follow. Over the week they had fillets and legs of estate venison, grilled crispy skinned chicken, pork chops, whole bass, bream, squid and of course wild salmon.


Packing for these BBQs was like a memory game, you couldn’t forget anything and if you did ,well you had to get creative. The week confirmed my approach that with BBQ’s, simple is generally best and at bare minimum al I really needed to remember to pack was

The meat or fish

Olive oil

A lemon

And some fresh herbs.


Sauces are always important as you generally don’t create much gravy / juice so jars of fresh horseradish, salsa verde, chilli sauce, home made mayonnaise and tartar sauce came out each day.


One of my favourite foods I cooked over the week, besides the grilled and whole foil baked salmon was the fresh flatbreads, this postcards’ recipe.

This week

Eggs: 157

Butter: 19 packs

Salmon caught: 9

Salmon caught leaping: 23

Kilos of charcoal used: 18

Every home should have: a drone

I learnt : the salmon on the Findhorn are the prettiest ( possibly slightly biased source)


Barbequed Flatbread

Makes about 8 large circles

You can knead and rest the dough then transport it to the riverbank / bbq to grill.

500g White Bread Flour plus a few handfuls extra for rolling

2 tsp. Dried Yeast

1 tsp. Fine sea salt

300ml – 350ml Warm water

1 tbs. runny honey

1 tbs Olive oil plus a little extra

1 tbs plain yogurt

2 -3 tbs of Sprinkles e.g. sumac, poppy seeds, zatar or cumin

In a large bowl mix the flour and sea salt

In a jug stir the yeast into 300ml of the water with the honey, leave for 5 minutes (it should have started to foam) then pour into the flour and start to mix.

Add the olive oil and yogurt and knead on a clean surface for about 10 minutes. . The dough should be quite wet so if it feels stiff add a little more warm water.

When smooth and elastic place it back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to double in size, this will take about an hour in a warm kitchen.

I then took the bowl to the river bank and rolled my flatbreads there.


To roll the flatbread make sure you have a hot clean grill.

Roll all the dough into equal sized balls (in-between a golf and a tennis ball is good).

Lightly flour the surface and one by one roll the balls into circles about 2 – 3 mm thick. Lightly brush one side with olive oil and then scatter on your choice of sprinkle ( my current favourite is sumac mixed with ground cumin).

Grill on both sides for a couple of minutes till golden and serve as soon as possible.

If doing a batch you can lightly warp them in foil and give them a quick flash on the bbq to warm them up.

These are delicious with juicy grilled meats, vegetables or fish or with dipping sauced like labneh, hummus ect.


Next stop…cooking for a group cycling the Pyrenees.
















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