Recipe | Matcha Eclairs with white chocolate icing

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From Singapore with love

Despite the mass splattering of red decorations sputtered over every street in Singapore in readiness for Chinese New Year my focus for the week was on preparing a party feast for Russian New Year, all be it a late one.

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Russian cuisine I admit would not be one of my chosen Mastermind topics however this was nothing a few evenings with Google could not change, or at least help with.   Well that and a Russian cookbook from the 1990s my mother thrust into my case as I bounded out the door a few weeks before.

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Whilst the host and I enthusiastically went through the menu I tentatively mentioned that from what I could gather Russian cuisine centres on dill, vodka and sour cream.

“Da“! They explained “Da, Da, wery good, you have it “!

(Ok – they don’t normally speak in a Russian accent but I felt it added to the story).

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With this concept nailed here was our party’s menu:

Cocktails

Russian mules  – vodka, ginger beer, lime

Cosmopolitans  – vodka, cranberry, triple sec and lime, garnished with orange.

Canapés

Smoked salmon blini with sour cream and caviar

Smoked herring on cucumber slices with dill and apple.

Main

Beef stroganoff with rice

Satsivi – Roasted chicken with garlic, coriander and saffron

Fish Po Azovsky  – baked fish with white wine, spinach, stewed tomato and parsley.

Sides

Beetroot, smetana and walnut salad

Russian Potato salad

Cucumber and radish salad with dill, sour cream and spring onions

Dessert

Apple Sharlotka

White Russian Ice cream with chilled vodka coffee syrup

Chocolate and ginger torte

Midnight snack

Potato, mushroom and cheese pirozhki

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Some of the dishes took on a more Georgian slant as they have slightly more ingredients incorporated into their cuisine like the coriander and saffron in the chicken dish.   The star and saviour of the midnight munchies for many of us were the pirozhki , small bread parcels that can be stuffed with meat, cheese or vegetables. These little beauties should make a midnight appearance at all good parties and will certainly be appearing again on my menus over 2016.

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The rest of the week was spent cooking for (slightly less wild) dinner parties, shopping at various markets and eating steamed dumplings.

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I confess after my time out here I am slightly in love with dumplings especially the Xiao Long Bao  (pictured above) which traditionally contain pork and a scalding hot liquid that bursts into your mouth once you bite into the steaming little juicy morsels.

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For this postcard recipe as much as I would like to share with you the pirozhki I feel I should be giving you a far more Eastern inspired recipe like the Matcha eclairs I made one night for dessert. Matcha is a powdered green tea from Japan and China.  It lends a superb green colour to dishes and has a delicate, delightful, exotic  and somewhat unusual taste.  It works extremely well in noodles, ice cream, kit-kats and eclairs.

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By the end of the week, having eaten as many dumplings as I could and everyone feeling thoroughly well fed and entertained it was time for me to once again pack my bags and head on to the next adventure…

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This Week

Every party should have: pirozhki

Vodka and champagne drunk: xxx (private chef code of conduct and Asia’s top lawyers deny me from divulging these figures)

Modes of Transport: boats, planes , MTR , MRT.

We are listening to :From Russia with Love and  Ra Ra Rasputin (very loudly)

Dumplings consumed : 36

Its all about : dill and sour cream

 

Matcha Green Tea Éclairs

Yes this is a multi stage and multi bowl washing up extravaganza BUT incredibly delicious and makes a rather interesting and light dessert.

Éclairs

50g butter cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing

150 ml water

65 g plain flour

1 dsp caster sugar

2  eggs lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 220 °C

Line a large flat tray with baking paper.

Place the butter and water in a small saucepan to melt the butter and bring the water just to the boil.

Take off the heat, tip all the flour and sugar in at once and stir.

Once in a ball return to a low heat and cook for a couple of minutes stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 10 minutes – this stage is really important as if you add the eggs in when the mixture is two hot your éclairs are doomed.

Once the mix is cooler add 2/3s of the eggs and beat till combined. You want to form a paste you can pipe and it still holds its shape so add as much egg as needed.

Scoop into a piping bag and pipe out 12  strips about 7 cm long, two strips wide and two layers high  – leaving space in-between each eclair 

Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the oven to 170 °c and bake for a further 15 – 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and pierce each éclair at one end with a skewer to release the steam and leave to cool on a rack.

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Matcha Créme Pâtissèrie

500 ml whole milk

1 vanilla pod

3 egg yolks

100 g caster sugar

60 g cornflour, sifted

2 tsp matcha powder, sifted

35 g butter, cut into cubes

Weigh out all the ingredients

Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the scraped seeds and the pod. Gently bring to a boil.

In a bowl whisk the egg yolks with sugar then add the corn flour and matcha.

Whisk in the just boiled milk (discarding the pod) then pour back into the

saucepan.

Using a spatula and occasionally a whisk slowly cook the mix for a couple of

minutes. It should be think and by the end not taste of raw corn flour.

Take off the heat and stir in the butter. Scrape into a bowl , cover with cling film

and leave in the fridge to cool completely.

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White chocolate icing

Make this just before you are ready to use it.

100 g white chocolate

1 tbs double cream

Melt the white chocolate with 1 tbs double cream in a pan on a low heat till smooth .

Matcha green dribble

1 tbs icing sugar

1 tsp matcha

1 – 3 tsp water

Mix the icing sugar and matcha together and stir in enough water to create a paste that can be dribbled.

To assemble

Cut each éclair lengthways, fill a piping bag with the matcha crème pâtissèrie  and pipe a good layer onto the bottom half then place the back the top of the eclair 

Spoon on top a thin layer of white chocolate icing. Leave this to set then dribble over some green matcha icing.

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Nest stop, Dorset….

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipe | Steamed bass with ginger and soy

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Soup and dragons

I instantly loved the fast energy of Hong Kong. The winding streets that were connected by hills, steep steps and alleyways were I admit a challenge at first with not every corner always being named and most signs being unintelligible to me but I feel sometimes the best ways to explore new places is to simply get lost (This is what I tell myself on a frequent basis at the moment).

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Growing up we were always told to eat everything and having reared our own meat for the table I have always eaten offal and the more unusual cuts of meat. So my usual reply to “Do you eat everything”? Is “Yes” I confess out in Hong Kong however I was a little more reluctant.

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Meandering through the countless markets and gazing into the shops, that were especially busy with Chinese New Year coming up, I really got the sense that they pretty much eat everything out there. One expat described their first few shopping trips more like going into a shop that would supply Merlin with so many wonderful and strange looking ingredients. I was very lucky to spend a day with a friend who not only is a brilliant chef but also is Hong Kong / Chinese so had it all sussed and with our mutual love of food did not mind me asking every two seconds “ What’s that”? and “What’s it for”?

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There is an incredible amount of dried goods that you can buy including meat, worms, fish bellies, mushrooms, birds nests where the bird spit is the prized component, abalone, shark fins and pretty much anything else you can think of. I spent an hour pointing and asking what it all was and what was it for. Most answers to the latter were “soup”. There is a huge focus on the properties of ingredients here and what health benefits they can give you.

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The wet markets were a thousand miles away (well actually 6000) from those back home. Fish were all alive and in tanks until bought then the fishmonger (mostly women) would get out their massive knife and …thwack!

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Eating out was a varied experience.   When eating out solo I only aced it 70% of the time, I had some incredible pork and prawn dumplings with watercress and a beef brisket noodle soup dish ( no doubt with some of those magical dried goods in the market making the stock so tasty) all for about £3. Sadly I also managed to order some dishes where MSG was the main ingredient and the sauce crazily heavily on the corn-starch. Interestingly both these were Michelin stared or recommended restaurants but I concluded you really have to know what you are doing when ordering here. Though in fairness, although I consider myself a fairly adventurous eater, even characters like Anthony Bourdain sometimes found it hard eating out here.  So when faced between choosing goose web (the feet) or pigs spleen you really do need some experienced help.

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The best meal was a dim sum breakfast. It was a very casual but very busy restaurant with locals sat around large circular tables and trolleys of steaming dim sum weaving their way in between. With no English like reserve customers ambush the trolleys as they pass and lift up the bamboo lids to see if they might want the goodies inside. Lashings of tea is served at a whole new level and continuously topped up by the waiters carrying around large kettles of boiling water.

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My recipe for this postcard was a very simple but incredibly delicious fish dish. In China they are very keen on only ‘just’ cooking the fish which makes it all the more delicious and succulent.

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This week:

I ate: 21 new dishes

I’ reading: (or trying to) Chinese characters.

I’m loving: the hustle and bustle

I’ve learnt: when exchanging business cards (or indeed exchanging most things) it is polite to use both hands. Also that on receiving a business card it is polite to spend time studying it.

I’m told : not having your business card at a party is like forgetting your underwear.

My editor is: asleep whilst I type so please excuse the colourful grammar etc.. 2016-01-21_0003

 

Steamed fish with ginger, soy and ginger.

This is the most simple (and recognisable) dish I ate whilst in Hong kong but also one of the most delicious with its clean fresh flavours and perfectly cooked fish.

The picture is the one I ate at the Jockey Club.

Serve with mounds of white rice.

Serves 2

1 x whole sea bass 800g – 1 kilo

3 fingers worth of ginger peeled and finely julienned

5 x spring onions finely chopped on an angle

15 g coriander roughly chopped

80 ml soy sauce

1 tbs rice wine

1 tbs sesame oil

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Make sure the fish is descaled, gills removed and fins snipped off.

Cut three slashes down each side so you almost reach the bone.

Place 1/3 of the ginger, coriander and spring onions in its belly .

Place the fish on the holding plate in your steamer and steam on high until just cooked (check after 8 minutes).

Mix together the ginger, soy, sesame oil and spring onions then heat gently in a pan.

When the fish is cooked lay out on a serving platter, pour over the sauce and top with coriander.

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Next hop… Singapore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Singapore swing

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Singapore swing

Jet lag? Ha ! After a 13 hour flight, when I had planned to snooze but managed to turn it into a movie marathon I landed in time to see Singapore in the midst of waking up and swinging into life.

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Singapore is the ultimate melting pot, with food and other cultural influences from Malaysia, Indonesia , China, India, Peranakan (locally born but descendants of mostly Malay immigrants who married local women) and Eurasians.

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With no better way to stay awake then amuse myself with food markets I dropped my bags and headed straight for Little India.

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Starting in the Tekka Centre in the area of Little India, a wet market (fresh food) with Hawkers centres ( communal eating spaces spattered with a range of incredibly cheap and delicious fast food outlets, it was immediately apparent I was not in Kansas/Dorset any more.

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Exotic and colourful looking vegetables and fruits caught my eye at every stall, fish and crustaceans I had never seen were boxed on ice and been sold at rapid speeds and the smells of spices and foods that shouted ‘you are in the far East’ distracted me at every turn. Yes, I loved it! No prizes for which culture Little India centres on but perhaps a free cake for anyone who can identify all of the below.

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Come lunchtime, although I didn’t think I was ready to eat (it would have been around 3 am back in Blighty) I didn’t want to miss a food opportunity so slipped into a recommended Indian restaurant. When unsure of protocol whilst travelling it is always best to hang back a bit, see what locals do, then have a go. So having loitered for a bit I bustled into the restaurant, headed to the back to wash my hands then grabbed a table. Luckily for my experience enjoyment I was then joined at my communal table by 3 locals an Uncle, niece and friend who clearly saw I was not from around there so gave me the low down on what was good and then decided to order for me. A large tray lined with a banana leaf arrived with a lentil dahl, a spinach dish and some pickle. Quickly a waiter came and added a mound of steaming white rice to it ( none of that supposedly healthy brown stuff we seem to be focusing on in the UK thank you very much). Then another waiter came round with buckets of soupy looking stuff that they then artfully throw onto your leaf. This was all very exciting apart from I was slightly concerned that here you authentically eat with your right hand (never your left as that’s for loo duties) and I was of course keen to try. Watching the others I dived in and yes it was messy (well I was in compared to them) but it’s a powerful way to connect with your food. There was also a super tasty shark curry, a chicken one and a salty refreshing drink made form curd but for fear of turning this into a war and peace length postcard I will suffice with saying they too were all delicious.

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The next day was more about the Chinese markets but this time I was lucky enough to go with a friend who knew what they were doing, seeing and buying.

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Stacks of different greens, all sounding slightly similar so not a chance I could ever repeat their names, bags of dried fish, mushrooms and innards, that are used to flavour soup and another stretch of exciting hawker stalls selling delicious dumplings, breads, fried delights, rice, noodles, roasted ducks and more all were a joy to encounter.

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Keen to get into the kitchen to get to work with some of these ingredients we choose a selection of Eastern delights and headed home. This postcard recipe is for the lotus root fritters I made that evening.

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This Week

Every home should have: Air conditioning and lots of fridge space.

I’m loving : the energy of the East.

Butter used : 2 packs (pretty impressive since they don’t really go in for that sort of thing here.

I’ve tried : 27 new foods.

Im travelling by :plane, taxi, MRT

Its: hot and humid (just though I would mention it as apparently quite cold at present back home :).

I got: caught in the afternoon down pours… twice.

I learnt in time : when making meringue in hot and humid clients, so it doesn’t collapse and become sticky, you need to cook it for longer and lower as well as adding a few tbs of icing sugar to the mix.

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Lotus fritters

These make great little pre dinner nibbles. You can make the mix an hour or two in advance and then fry them when needed.

Makes about 40.

4 Chinese dried black mushrooms (if you cant get these you could use a few fresh oyster mushrooms and fry them with the onions)

1 tbs olive oil

1 red onion peeled and finely chopped

2 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped

1 x yam (about 800g in weight )

20g coriander, washed, dried and finely chopped.

4 spring onions finely chopped

1 finger of garlic , peeled and finely grated.

1 tbs sesame oil

1 tbs light soy sauce plus extra for serving

2 eggs lightly beaten

2 tbs corn flour

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To cook

2 – 3 tbs sunflower oil

To serve

1 x lime

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Soak the mushrooms in just boiled water for at least 30 mins (they are quite tough so need a long time to soak) then remove the stalks and finely chop them ( you can use the tougher stalks to flavour soups or stocks).

Fry the onion and garlic in a pan with the olive oil on a low heat until just softened.

Peel and grate, on the large side, the lotus root.

In a large bowl mix everything together.

To cook: heat a frying pan with a little sunflower oil, In batches dollop teaspoon size mounds of the mix into the pan and fry both sides on a low to medium heat for about 1 minute each side.

Lay onto kitchen paper then serve warm.

To serve: sprinkle with a little extra soy and a squeeze of lime.

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Next stop… Hong Kong.

 

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Recipe | Galette des Rois

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To play the king…

 

I spent a fun New Year cooking in a chalet in Val d’Isere, and despite the lack of snow I made sure there was no lack of cake.

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Cooking for ski parties is another one of those jobs, like the shooting ones, that allows you to be fairly liberal with the butter and cream. I do find myself being slightly less precious about seasonal and local as when you are 1800m up in a snowy mountain, choices can be fairly limited. In these sorts of resorts though there are generally excellent butchers, green grocers, cheese shops and even decent fishmongers – although I drew the line at buying spider crabs from Japan.

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Around New Year in various places in Europe, including the south of France, you will see stacks of ‘Galettes des Rois’ eagerly being bought and taken home. This ‘King Cake’ is said to celebrate Epiphany – the visit from the three Kings to Jesus.

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There are several variations including ones with candied fruits, frangipanes, bread like casings, flaky pastry and spices. Inside each there is hidden a trinket said to represent baby Jesus and who ever gets the slice with it in gets to play King for the day and apparently has to make it their shout when buying next year’s cake. Back in the day a fava bean was used and then more recently a little plastic or porcelain figurine– unfortunately due to modern bakers not wanting to be blamed for choking anyone they will now often leave the trinket out for customers to hide themselves.

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For New Year I baked a Gallette de Rois for the group and hid a hazelnut in the cake as my King. The children especially were keen to dive in and I was rather amused as the second youngest had their slice, didn’t find the nut then asked,

“so what happens if no -one finds the nut”?

“I guess we will just have to be a democracy” says eldest.

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The nut was found, we crowned the King and celebrated the rest of New Year in regal style.

 

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This week:

Every chalet should have: a deep bath

2016 running butter total: 10 of 10

2016 running egg total: 43 of 43

I’m traveling by: plane, trains and busses (sadly not skis)

I’m loving: My scenic walk to the boulangerie

 

 

Galette des Rois

2x 25 cm circles of puff pastry

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbs milk

50 g ground almonds

70g ground hazelnuts

1 whole hazelnut

100g catser sugar

2 tbs honey

120g soft butter

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp almond extract

50g plain flour.

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Pre heat the oven to 180°C

Beat the butter, almonds, ground hazelnuts, honey and sugar together for a couple of minutes.

Then whisk in the eggs, spices and extracts and finally the flour.

On a large baking sheet lined with baking paper lay one of the circles of puff pastry brushed with the yolk mix on both sides.

Pour the almond mix into the middle leaving one inch from the edge.

Poke the whole hazelnut somewhere into the batter.

Lay the second pastry circle on top.

Crimp the edges and poke 5 small holes in the top (to allow steam to escape.

Lightly score with a pattern (I chose the fleur – de –lis) then brush the with egg yolk.

Bake for 30 mins by which time the pastry should be puffed up and golden.

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Serve warm or cold (I like mine with cream but that’s really not done in France).

Who ever gets the whole nut gets the crown!

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Next stop … Singapore.

 

 

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Recipe | Mulled cider with cinnamon and sloe gin

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Wishing you a very merry Christmas…

Dear All,

I hope you are feeling super festive and are already in the full swing of Christmas. Here in the West country the fires are lit, the music is on and preparations are well under way in the kitchen.

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Thank you all for sharing this year’s adventures and recipes with me and for all your lovely responses and comments to the postcard recipes.

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For my short but sweet (like lark the Papillon below) Christmas blog I would like to share with you a warming festive cocktail that makes a delicious alternative to mulled wine.

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I hope you all have a very merry and delicious Christmas and I very much look forward to sharing more postcard recipes and adventures in what looks like is going to be a very exciting 2016…

 

Lots of love

Philippa x

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Mulled cider with cinnamon and sloe gin

Serves 4 large glasses

500 ml cider

250 ml best quality apple juice

1/2 apple lightly studied with 15 cloves

½ apple cored and cut into small chunks

10 cardamom pods lightly crushed

4 cinnamon sticks

1   – 4 dsp. honey

2 clementines sliced

3 cm ginger peeled and finely grated

250ml sloe gin

In a saucepan bring everything apart from the sloe gin to a simmer, cook for 5 minutes then turn off the heat.

Add the sloe gin.

Serve in large cups with pieces of the fruit and a cinnamon stick to garnish.

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Next stop, New year in Val d’Isère…

 

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Recipe |Wild Suckling Boar with roasted quince

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Boar to death, literally.

“Where are you off to now”? my mother asks as I fly out the door.
“London then heading East to Gloucester for that pheasant shoot”
“Erm, Philippa dear, Gloucester is West of London and didn’t you say it was Herefordshire?”
“Ah yes, don’t worry, Ive got it all sussed”! then off I dashed…

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The truth is I did have my travel all sussed but my mind was a little pre occupied on what I was going to cook that weekend. My client had just emailed telling me I had two wild boar piglets to play with. I was somewhat excited and partly wondering if they meant dead, or that I would have them running round my feet in the kitchen. You never know…

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I arrived and was delighted to find out they did mean dead. I have cooked suckling pig before, though admittedly it was a quite few years ago when I worked at Moro in London. I remember slowly roasting them in the wood oven with the effect of having meat so tender that you could carve it with a cazuela. The meat is so young that the flavour is still milky and totally delicious.

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Before I arrived West in Herefordshire I managed to spend a good bit of time researching on the Internet tips and techniques on cooking suckling pigs (there was nothing on wild boar piglets having said that) though surprisingly there wasn’t that much. There were quite a few Spanish videos that involved drinking cerveza whilst watching the stuffed piglet on a charcoal pit and an excellent one by the formidable Fanny Cradock (who I could happily watch regardless of what she was actually cooking) jollily rubbing the piglets in oil, roasting them then once cooked decorating them with garlands and poking flowers in their eyes. I didn’t particularly go down either of these routes.

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Wild boar have been absent from the wilds of Britain for a good few hundred years (research tells me anything from 300 – 700 years). It wasn’t until the 1980s that it was officially recognised they were back. This was due to boar farms having a few ‘escapees’ and breeding rather well. The reestablishment of wild boar seems to not without its debate, as does the culling of them. Their numbers were probably dramatically reduced to nothing due to overhunting by humans but recent reintroduction has not been without its controversies.

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Wild boar have started to cause agricultural damage (mostly to fences and crops) and although they prefer to forage the woodland floor for food they have also started to enjoy, particularly when natural food is scarce, foraging in people’s allotments and gardens. They can be rather boisterous toward humans and dogs especially when with their young. There is also a possible risk of passing on diseases to farm animals. As they are wild it is hard to give exact numbers but numbers are certainly increasing. This helped soothe the guilt as I sprinkled the cute creatures with salt and massaged olive oil over their little bodies before popping them in the oven.

This Week,

I’m loving: Fanny Cradock videos.
Every home should have: some woods.
Mince Pie clementine ratio in grams : 3:2
I’m traveling: by train (West).
Butter cooked with : 12 packs
Eggs used : 91

Slow roast suckling wild boar with roasted quince.

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Feeds 8 -12 depending on hunger levels and size of piglet.

Although ours were tiny they yielded a fair bit of meat, there is something spectacular about cooking and serving a whole animal so I would seriously consider adding a piglet to your Christmas feasting table.

2 wild boar piglets (about 2 – 3 kilo each in weight).
20g thyme on the stalk
6 stalks of rosemary
4 heads of garlic cut horizontally in half.
1 small handful of parsley stalks
4 apples cut into quarters
6 banana shallots peeled and roughly chopped
4 tbs olive oil
3 tbs crushed juniper berries
½ bottle red wine
300ml light meat stock (could be game / beef / or chicken).

5 quince
2 tbs honey
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp crushed cardamom seeds.

Pre heat the oven to 200° C

For the quinces
Wash the fluff off the quinces and cut into ¼ ‘s.
Toss with the spices and honey then lay them on a roasting tin with the wine.
Cover with parchment and foil and place in the oven.
Bake for about an hour then once just soft remove the foil and parchment and let them caramelise on the top shelf for a further 15 – 20 mins.

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For the piglets
Make sure the wild boar piglets have their entrails removed and the cavity looks clean – with wild meat I often give it a wipe with a damp clean cloth. Stuff with the apple, shallots, thyme, parsley stalks and rosemary.
Lie them belly down in a roasting tin like an Egyptian jackal with their legs all stretching forward (sadly ours had no head but if yours do and you want to stuff an apple in it at the end place a ball of foil in its mouth whilst cooking then remove and replace with an apple when about to serve).

Sprinkle with salt then rub all over with olive oil then with the juniper berries.
Place in the oven for 30 mins on high then remove. Lower the oven to 160 ° C add the stock and wine , lightly cover with baking parchment and foil and return to the oven for 2 – 3 hours or until the meat is super tender.

Leave the meat to rest for 20 mins then shred from the bone, serve with the warm quinces . This goes really well with lots of lovely roasted veggies and greens or you could do a winter coleslaw, potato wedges and brioche buns.

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(Sunday morning survivors party)

Next postcard from … The West Highlands (yes I am sure in what direction I am heading)

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White truffle and butter Taglierini

whisk

Diamonds are for… dinner.

With various Christmas parties to cook for in West London last week I was racing around town to some of my favourite food shops hunting and gathering the various delicious seasonal offerings currently available.

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In Holland Park, besides the landmark butchers Lidgates and the impressive wine merchant and deli Jeroboams there is an excellent old school fruit and veg shop called Michanicou. Not only is their produce top notch but so to is the service. Outside and inside the shop there are towers of boxes and crates stuffed with beautiful ingredients. The routine is you go in, stand in the middle and spiel out your order, the numerous staff then leap round the shop selecting it for you whilst engaging in shop keeper banter – this time it was mostly at my expense as we all tried to decipher my shopping list.

“5 x orang-utans” they chuckled …”3 x ridiculous lettuces ,1 x spaceship, why yes miss, of course, coming right up”!

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On the spare inch of wall without actual produce I noticed a sign that announced they could source white truffles upon request. “Mmmmmm”, I thought.

Having asked a few questions as to how the season was going (a little late this year) , how much I would need to order one in advance they proudly told me how they sometimes store them overnight in their elevenses biscuit tin.   From various taste tests they informed me that although truffle infused shortbread is delicious, Garibaldis were frankly just weird (good to know).

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White Truffles, known affectionately as diamonds of the kitchen are highly prized. They are generally available between October and December/January.

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As cultivation is generally not successful the wild treasure has to be foraged. Sometimes done with female pigs (the scent apparently similar to the male pigs pheromone) but more often with well-trained dogs as they cause less destruction to the habitat, are less likely to scoff the truffle and of course are easier to pop in the back of the car. The hunters go out in dark and secretive early hours of the morning, often taking elaborate routes so as not to be followed.

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When I got a thumbs up from my client that white truffle should indeed be on the menu I was on the other side of town so decided to pay Tartufaia in Borough Market a visit. I love buying food (and shoes) from the Italians. Unlike the French whom as much as I love and respect can make you feel like you really don’t know anything, the Italians are more than happy to indulge in answering all your questions.

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We opened the jars and sniffed , we chatted and went through what I wanted to do with my truffle, we debated and discussed what I should and shouldn’t add and both nearly had watery eyes of joy as we discussed just how special these fruiting bodies of subterranean tuber fungus are.

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Points of note I learnt were:

Never store in rice as it will dry them out (store lightly wrapped in kitchen paper in the fridge.

They will last up to two weeks from being dug out of the earth – but the sooner eaten the better.

Clean with a slightly dampened (new) toothbrush.

Although most famously the white ones are from Alba in the Piedmont area of Northern Italy they can also be sniffed out in other places like Emilia Romagna, Tuscany , Croatia and Slovenia.

Once we had finished our natter over the truffle (and had I paid) I excitedly headed back to West London to start the preparations for that night’s party. The menu read as follows

Christmas Clementine Mule – clementine juice, lime, vodka and ginger beer

Canapé -Black olive tapenade crostini

Starter – White truffle with Taglierini and butter

Main – Slow cooked ossobuco in milk, sage and garlic with saffron risotto, braised cavalo nero and roasted carrots with garlic confit.

Dessert – Salted Caramel chocolate mousse.

It was a great joy to serve steaming bowls of hot pasta with lashings of white truffle shavings on top and to see the delight of guests as they were bought to the table.

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The next day the house was reset and ready to welcome 20 ladies for lunch and then it was time to pack my bags, don my country coat and head West.

This week;

Clementine: Mince Pie ratio 3:1

Every home should have: a mandolin

I’m loving : London’s Christmas Lights

White Truffle bought: 64g

I’m traveling: by Underground

I am delighted to contribute to the wonderful Yapp Brothers wine merchants a Christmas food and wine matching piece.

 

 

Taglierini with white truffle and butter.

Serves 6

30g white truffle

300g fresh egg taglierini pasta

1 yolk

100g freshly grated Parmesan

100g truffle butter

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This is not so much of a recipe as an instruction.

If serving truffle as a starter you want about 5 g each, make sure you have a truffle slicer or mandolin ( I had to visit 3 cook shops in W11 before I could find somewhere where they hadn’t sold out) to get the perfect thin slices.

Do not use truffle oil to enhance the flavour but you can use truffle butter like I did.

Don’t be tempted to add parsley to the dish. Just don’t.

Prep the truffle by brushing any dirt of with a slightly damp new toothbrush.

Cook the fresh egg pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water then drain (reserving some of the water).

Whisk a splash of hot pasta water with the yolk then add the Paremsan, toss through the butter and pasta.

Pile onto a warm serving bowl or share between warm starter plates then immediately shave over the truffle in very thin slices.

Next postcard from a pheasant shoot weekend in Herefordshire…

 

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Recipe | Pheasant au Vin

whisk

 Fun and Game

At this stage in the game season I have noticed it is definitely the keen beans, the obsessed and the hardy that do most of the shooting in Scotland. It is of course still incredibly beautiful up there and yes there should still be a good bag of game to be had BUT it can also be bloody cold.

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So those that really love it and have a certain amount of experience at the climate are still game to don their tweeds and Barbours, be up and out at a reasonable hour and spend all the light the day gives standing in the great outdoors battling wind, rain and the cold in order pursue their love of field sports. I am always impressed (and possibly slightly smug as I get to spend the day in the toasty warm kitchen).

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Food, being an integral part of the weekend, needs to be plentiful, delicious, regular and warming. It was mentioned on the third day however of the long weekend that one of the guests began to feel like a fois gras duck as they pretended to waddle back out into the cold after lunch.

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We had designed the menus so firstly guests could help themselves which seems to be the most popular way these days especially when eating over a couple of days and people’s appetites vary and secondly that they contained lots of interesting vegetable dishes and winter salads to keep a healthy balance.

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It definitely should be noted that due to the tremendous energy needed all round for a shoot weekend, a lot of food is required. Long sociable dinners, early (ish) mornings, 5 to 6 hours out shooting (this in itself is impressive as lifting a gun to your shoulder at regular intervals requires  certain degree of  stamina and fitness) and of course the weather all make it a fun but full on weekend.  From a chef’s perspective, it is of course also rather full on and from a gun dog’s… well the excitement is exhausting!

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This week:

Eggs consumed: 91

Every home should have: T. Goodge China

Butter consumed: 13 blocks

Dogs ‘helping’ cook: 5

Mince pies verses clementines personally consumed: 2:1

I’m listening to: John Tavenor

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Recipe

Cooking with game at this stage in the season can require a little more love and attention. Often the meat is slightly tougher as it has been cajoled into flying about the place and had to start to contend with cooler weather.

For this dish it simply means cooking the breasts and legs separately or adding the breasts to the casserole dish at a later stage this is so they get a shorter amount of cooking time and the legs can slowly cook so everything becomes tender.

Chips of course are irresistible but I have noticed many people prefer not to be deep-frying things in their home due to the smell it can create. Homemade oven chips are a great solution and are very delicious (though if I am being honest, I would not win a chip battle against some duck fat triple fried chips).

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Pheasant au vin with confit garlic oven baked chips.

Serves 4

1 brace of pheasants plucked and cleaned

3 tbs butter

3 tbs olive oil plus

4 banana shallots peeled and chopped in half lengthways

6 bay leaves

1 small bunch of thyme

12 sage leaves

8 slices of streaky smoked bacon (Heston is currently selling a range in Waitrose which is top notch)

2 leeks washed and chopped into 2 cm chunks

1/3 bottle of good red wine (don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink)

12 chestnut mushrooms

400ml game stock (can be made out of the pheasant carcasses)

Confit garlic

2 heads of garlic

2 tbs olive oil

Chips

100ml veg oil

600g waxy potatoes

Pre heat the oven to 180 °C.

Peel the garlic cloves and mix with the 2 tbs olive oil. Roast in a baking dish for about 10 – 15 mins or golden and soft. Keep to one side.

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Wash and cut the potatoes into chip shape.

Bring a large pan of salted boiling water to the boil and blanch the chips in 2 batches for a couple of minutes  (you want the water to come back to a boil and bubble for a minute). Drain.

Lay them flat on a tray lined with baking paper and let them steam for a couple of minutes.

Drizzle with the veg oil then roast at the top of the oven for about 1 hour, turning occasionally.

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For the pheasant au vin

Separate the breast and leg meat

In a large frying pan, heat the 1 tbs oil and 1 tbs butter then gently sear the meat till golden.

Season with salt and pepper and remove to 2 casserole dishes (breasts in one and legs in another).

In the same pan, gently sauté the shallots in another 1 tbs of butter and olive oil, when golden, split between the casserole dishes.

Finally in the frying pan, add the last of the butter and olive oil and sauté the leeks, bacon and herbs for about 10 minutes, split between the two casserole dishes.

Deglaze the frying pan with a splash of red wine and add to a casserole dish then split the stock and red wine between the two, and lightly cover with baking paper then foil.

Bake the legs in the oven for about 1 – 1 ½ hours, the meat should be tender and the breasts for about ½ hour, they should be just cooked through.

Bring out of the oven, combine the two casserole dishes and stir through the confit garlic. Check for seasoning then serve hot with a sprinkling of parsley and the chips.

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Next postcard from party central W11 London…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipe | Hunters Delight

whisk

An accent waiting to happen.

I just can’t help myself. Whenever I hear an accent I naturally seem to try and copy it. Last week I was in Dublin giving a cookery class and whipping up a birthday supper for a group of friends and family. Having spent a fair bit of time in an around Dublin (and having spent much of my childhood larking around on the stage) I found myself all too quickly slipping back into the lyrical accent and starting to use numerous fun expressions the Irish are so fond of.  This of course is fine except I find the Irish accent (or my version of one) particularly sticks with me for a couple of weeks after exposure so when I returned home my sister, who has some training in sociolinguistics, instantly picked up that I had been in Ireland. Though in a way I was pleased, as at least she didn’t ask from the way I spoke if I had just returned from Wales

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The cookery class was for a group of 10 female friends who were all rather experienced in the kitchen and were mostly looking for new inspiration. Throughout the day we whizzed up many dishes and talked through various techniques. This was in-between everyone chipping in with stories and catching up on news. I had forgotten how many conversations begin with,

“ You know your man….” And then proceed really speedily with the story.

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Of course if you don’t know whom ‘ your man’ is referring to, one can feel rather lost. Also if there are about 6 stories about various “man’s “ going on, pretty much simultaneously, you can feel completely bewildered, as I did about half way through the day. However we were all having a good time and the cooking was going ‘grand’ so I decided not to worry.

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The birthday dinner, which was the take place in the same kitchen, was to be a relaxed affair. Canapés and cocktails to start then a sharing main course and dessert to finish. The cocktail, this postcards recipe, is my current favourite and I totally urge you to give it a go, especially as we swing into the festive party season.

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No sooner though had I felt myself getting back into the Dublin vibe it was time to pack my bags, hop back across the Irish Sea and begin the journey north to Perthshire.

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This week

Every home should have: a boiling water tap.

Times ‘T’anks a million’s “ was said : a million

Candles blown out: too discreet to say.

I’m reading: I am Malala

Creatures I have been compared to: an octopus and a panther (!?).

 

Hunters delight – Mezcal, gin hibiscus, lime and fizz cocktail

A friend who has just returned form Mexico bearing gifts is the inspiration for this new party piece. Mezcal is similar to tequila but has a wonderful smoky flavour. The hibiscus flowers are mostly used to make lemonade out there but as she handed them to me with a twinkle in her eye she suggested I would probably think of something else to do with them…

300ml Mezcal or tequila chilled

300ml Gin chilled

1 x bottle Prosecco or cava chilled

1 small handful of dried Hibiscus flowers

300g White Sugar

200ml water

5 x Limes, zest and juice. Plus 6 thin round slices.

Serve 6 coups (or 2 with guaranteed top ups)

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In a pan heat the sugar, water, the lime zest and hibiscus flowers, bring to a simmer and cook for 5 mins. Leave to cool then strain (keep the flowers for decoration) and pop in the fridge till chilled. Once cool stir in the lime juice.

To serve mix equal parts gin, mescal and the lime/hibiscus syrup and fill the coups 1/3 full.

Top with prosecco and decorate with a hibiscus flower and slice of lime.

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Next postcard from Perth’s weekend pheasant shoot..

 

 

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Recipe | Roast Cauliflower, sour cherry and almond salad

whisk

Getting the party started…

If you are prone to muttering ‘bah humbug’ at the first sightings of fairy lights / Christmas wrapping paper or mince pies you probably want to skip reading this blog and just enjoy the photos. Though on second thoughts anyone who ever bleats ‘bah humbug’ at the sight of a mince pie probably needs help. My work diary definitely suggests the festive party season is here with parties galore coming up over the next few weeks and I for one cant wait to get the Christmas decorations down from the attic.

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Before that happens however all my focus is on planning menus, working out logistics and where to source the best produce for the rest of this year’s jobs.

My latest one was cooking for a dinner party then a ladies lunch in West London. I have a good knowledge of London food shops and always find it relatively easy whirling around town getting my hand on the desired produce (though occasionally lose mini battles trying to navigate the tube at Earls court). I almost came a cropper when out shopping this time ‘round though when I was on the search for a gammon for the lunch party the next day.

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The first butchers I visited, who is usually very good, quickly turned into a Monty Python sketch.

“Hello, I’d like to get a 3 kilo gammon, you know, to make ham.” Says I and off the nice lady went to open the door to the butchers out the back and shouts out my order.

Then a butcher comes out with a leg of lamb.

“3 kilo lamb for you Miss?”

“er… no I said gammon for Ham”

“ah, Miss here did not say lamb” he shouts at the nice lady.

“Pork”! she shrieks .

He then trots of again and came back with a rolled leg of pork.

Deep breath… anyhow it turns out they didn’t sell gammon.

So next I get out my phone and start googling local butchers, its getting dark and I am keen to get back to base to crack on with further supper prep. The first one that comes up on the list is shutting in five minutes and doesn’t answer the phone so I ring the second that doesn’t look too far away.

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“Oh, hello’ says I “Do you sell gammon, you know for making ham”

“ No madam, we are halal” he politely tells me.

“Ah , I see”.

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I ended up ringing one of the best butchers in town, Lidgates in Holland Park and ordered a 3 kilo gammon to collect super early the next morning.

Lidgates is quite an experience, so much so tourists and meat lovers make pilgrimages to ogle and worship outside its window, or take mini-mortgages out to go inside and actually buy something. I bounced up to the service desk to collect my order and tentatively asked to see inside the already smartly packaged joint just in case we were not on the same page. I explained to the lady that I had had some trouble getting hold of this and just wanted to check.

She totally understood and mentioned how many of their American clients had confusions ordering their Thanks Giving and Christmas hams as for them the terms ham, gammon and bacon are all interchangeable.

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In the UK gammon is the cured back leg of a pig and once cooked it can be called ham. I have had experiences in Scotland of butchers calling ham gammon and in the states butchers calling gammon ham. So I have now ended up whenever ordering these cuts getting into a conversation about what I plan to do with it, probably slightly boring for the poor butcher but at least everyone ends up happy.

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Once the gammon was successfully bought I arrived nice and early at the client’s house to prep for the ladies lunch party for 30. We had created a lovely menu that was perfect for the occasion and it read as follows.

 

Rare roast fillet of beef with thyme and sea salt

Quinoa herb and seed salad with roasted aubergines and romesco sauce.

Baked ham glazed with maple syrup.

Roasted turmeric, cauliflower, sour cherry and almond salad.

Baked side of salmon with watercress mayonnaise

Beetroot, honey glazed carrots, kohlrabi and beluga lentil salad

Desserts

Lemon tart wit crème fraiche

Baked fruit with honey ricotta, lemon and pistachio praline.

Flourless chocolate cake with mascarpone

 

The super chic ladies piled in bang on time and the party quickly got underway. The food went down a treat (especially the ham) and I couldn’t help but feel the festive season had begun.

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This postcard shares the recipe for the roasted cauliflower salad which, as it happens, goes really well with ham!

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This Week:

Every home should have: Faberge China

Festive feelings: warming up.

Ratio of gammons ordered successfully : 1 in 3

I’m listening to : Macklemore and Ryan / Monterverdes Vespers.

Party dress envy levels: High.

Cocktails invented : 1 (Mexican hibiscus flower with lime, sugar, tequila, gin and prosecco).

 

 

Cauliflower, turmeric, sour cherries and toasted almond salad

Serves 6 as a side dish

1 cauliflower

1 dsp turmeric,

1 dsp ground cumin

1 crushed garlic clove ( peel and crush with salt with back of knife)

Olive oil

1 handful sour cherries

1 large handful of toasted almonds, skin on.

Splash of orange or apple juice

1 radicchio

1 small box of coriander sprouts

½ lemon

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Pre heat the oven to 180 ° C.

Soak the sour cherries in the juice.

Floret the cauliflower and place in a bowl.

Season with salt and pepper

Add the turmeric, cumin, garlic and a splash of olive oil.

Toss well.

Roast for 20 – 30 mins flat on a baking sheet till golden and soft.

To serve squeeze the lemon over the radicchio and toss through the cauliflower almonds and sour cherries.

Next stop… its party time over in Dublin.

 

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