Recipe | Asparagus and roasted Jerusalem artichoke salad

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 Perked up by Spring !

Last week I almost fainted. By instruction of a client I was purchasing some relatively good-looking apples from a trendy west London shop. The fruits were prettily laid out in pristine new wicker baskets and they had an impressive range of varieties. I loved that they were not all textbook apple shape and that alarmingly uniform and same size you generally get in the supermarkets. When it came to totting up the bill however I really couldn’t quite believe the price they were asking.

“That will be a bajillion pounds please”

The young cool bearded dude behind the rustic counter casually said.

“A bajillion pounds (?!*!?*%$!?$)” says I?

“Er, yes well, they’re local, ain’t they?”

“Local? To Kensington”?

“Erm well…”

I left bemused and very carefully carrying my expensive cargo.

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I think part of the trouble was the shock in comparison to the rural markets surrounding Toulouse from where I had just returned.   Deep in the south west of France you could pop to a market, buy 3 huge bags full of fresh local, seasonal fruit and veg and still have change out of a 50 Euro note for a croissant and morning café. You will find few fancy selling tactics, just muddy plastic crates or old wooden boxes stacked on the floors and wobbly tables packed full of fresh delicious produce.

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I was down there to cook for a family and their friends. The brief for the food, despite us being firmly located in fois gras and duck land, was to focus mainly on vegetarian dishes. With spring well underway in those parts creating non meat based feasts was easy and enjoyable. Being that much ahead of the British season I was delighted on my first visit to the market to see tables full of white and green asparagus, artichokes, broad beans, peas, strawberries, rapeseed tops and spring onions.

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Obviously I was delighted with this abundance of choice but what really kept grabbing my attention were the boxes of kiwis being sold, a fruit I have never really associated with French cuisine.

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Originally from China, the kiwi fruit grows on a vine and are mostly produced in New Zealand, Chili, Greece, Italy and France.  Apparently they are notoriously difficult to pollinate, as bees are not very attracted to the flowers. Growers will often have a good amount of beehives in the actual orchards so competition for pollen becomes fierce and the bees have to feed on the kiwi pollen. Once picked, if kept correctly, they will not ripen but are very sensitive to ethylene so once ready to eat they should be kept away from other fruit.

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The other showstopper in the market that is now also in season in the UK was Green and White Asparagus (white asparagus is the same as green it is just grown under mulch so the chlorophyll never gets to photosynthesise).

The photo below shows some plants in their second year. To get the best of results you harvest them in the third year of growing.

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If I were ever to buy into this crazy fad of calling certain foods “Super Foods” (this clearly is not likely to happen) asparagus would be near the top of the list. It has heaps of nutrients, fibre and vitamins and it is a great source of glutathione, a compound that detoxifies the body and helps break down carcinogens and free radicals.

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But most interestingly it is regarded as an aphrodisiac

People usually mention its phallic shape here but I am not so sure how many people go in for long slender green things but what science tells us is that they are a diuretic so increase the amount of urine excreted which ‘excites’ the passages. Plus with its high amounts of aspartic acid it helps get rid of excess ammonia, which can make people feel tired and sexually disinterested.

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For this postcards recipe I couldn’t settle on a kiwi recipe as I really only like them raw in a fruit salad, on a cake or in Pavlova so I would like to share instead a delicious Asparagus dish to make the most of this slender green beauty.

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This week

Its all about asparagus and Kiwis

Every home should have: a cuisine art ice cream maker

Asparagus spears served: 169

Libidos : I didn’t ask.

I’m reading: My brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

I travelled by: citron, horse, plane and train

 

Roasted Jerusalem artichoke and asparagus salad with toasted almonds, Dijon and parsley dressing.

Make the most of English asparagus season as it can whizz by before you know it. The asparagus and artichokes can be served cold or warm in this salad – I personally prefer them warm.

Serves 4

16 – 20 spears of green asparagus

16 – 20 Jerusalem artichokes

2 tbs olive oil

4 spring onions finely chopped

2 heads of red chicory, leaves separated.

One handful of toasted almonds

Dressing

2 tbs Dijon mustard

2 tbs sherry vinegar

1 tbs honey

3 bs extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs finely chopped parsley

To make the dressing …

Add a sprinkle of salt to a bowl then add the vinegar and mustard then whisk in the honey, parsley and olive oil.

For the Jerusalem Artichokes…

Pre heat the oven to 180°C.

Wash then chop the artichokes in half lengthways .

Season with salt and pepper and coat in the 2 tbs of olive oil.

Lay them flat on a baking tray and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or until they are cooked through and starting to caramelise.

For the asparagus…

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.

Rinse the asparagus and snap off the woody ends (these can be discarded or I sometimes use them to make a stock for asparagus based soups).

Blanch the tender ends for a couple of minutes then drain.

To assemble the salad in a large bowl toss the cooked asparagus and artichokes with the chicory, nuts and dressing pile onto a plate and serve.

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Next stop, I’m off to cook for a fashion shoot…

 

 

 

 

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Recipe | Clams with white wine, jamon and coriander

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It’s all about the birdie….

Its all about the birdie

The sun was out, I had front row seats to the hottest Easter party in the Algarve ( OK I was coking for it) and we had more chocolate than Willy Wonker for the Easter Egg Hunt of 2016, I just knew it was going to be a great week.

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On the Southern coast of Portugal there are numerous activities one can pursue, eating and drinking some of the excellent local produce is of course top of my list but everyone else seemed to be there for the birdies.

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Whilst out for a potter along the coast I stumbled across what I initially thought was a ‘clash’ (I couldn’t find the collective pronoun for paparazzi) of photographers. Blocking the path and all totally focused on something on the distant sands. I wondered if it was Sir Cliff Richard catching some cheeky rays or perhaps José Mourinho that had caught their attention, but on closer inspection it turned out to be this lot.

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Bird watching was obviously big in these parts.

On the other side of the water anther activity, that was hopeful for birdies, was taking place. Golf.

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One of my more junior clients for the week was trying to explain to me the rules, skills, scoring and excitements of the game. Birdies, an albatross and eagles were all mentioned as good things but I decided to move the conversation on when he started talking about bogeys.

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The food available down here is generally excellent; there are some wonderful local markets and impressively stocked supermarkets. Fish is particularly good including stone bass and clams and there are lots of fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits.  Shopping trips were made even more exciting by my bumbling but enthusiastic poor mix of Portuguese / Spanish / Italian that came out in a Russia accent. Thank goodness for hand gestures.

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I love some of the strong gutsy flavors of Portugal from the well known Piri Piri Chicken and chips – done well this is a very fine meal, to the classier clams with garlic and coriander, this Postcards recipe.

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This week

Chocolate stolen from small children – 28 mini eggs ( so much easier than having to find it in the garden)

Birdies scored: 0

Birdies sighted:123

Bogeys :0

Watch the birdie – was originally used when photographs took a long time to take and the children’s attenetion was focused on a mechanical moving bird above the camera .

A Birdie – is a score in golf where you get the ball in the hole 1 stroke under the ideal score. The bigger and more impressive the bird (Eagle, Albatross, Condor) the more strokes under par you are.

 

Garlic clams with jamon, white wine and coriander

Serves 2 as a starter or light lunch

500g clams

1 tbs oats

3 cloves of garlic peeled and lightly smashed with the back of a knief

2 thin slices of jamon finely chopped

2 tbs olive oil

Slosh of dry white wine

Finely chopped green chilli 1 – 2 tsp depending on preference of heat

2 tbs freshly chopped corrander ( stalks finely chopped, leaves roughly chopped).

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Rinse the clams then let them sit in cold water with a sprinkling of oats for 1.2 hour – this will help get rid of any grit.

Lift the clams out of the water ( so any grit stays in the bowl).

In a pan with a lid big enough to hold the clams gently fry the garlic and jamon in the olive oil until just starting to take colour.

Add the clams, white wine, half the coriander and some freshly milled black pepper.

Place the lid on and steam for about 4 minutes or until the clams have all opened.

Add the chilli and rest of the coriander, mix and serve.

Best eaten with a very cold glass of white wine.

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Next stop, South West France…

 

 

 

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Recipe | Prawn, chicken and chorizo paella

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Leaping into spring some exciting developments have happened,

Firstly Philippa Davis, postcard recipes now has a face book page which I would love you all to like and share, I will be posting more photos, videos, cooking tips and recipes. Click here to like face book 

I also have been on the radio chatting to the lovely William Sitwell, editor of Waitrose Food, about life as a private chef. You can listen to the interview by clicking this link Radio Soho 

If you see a crocodile…

‘Row, row, row your boat’ has got to be a top classic when it comes to kids songs, this was made clear to me when my 5 year old niece recently gave me all her variations. Favourite renditions would have to include:

“Row, row, row your boat gently down the river

If you see a polar bear don’t forget to quiver”

Row, row, row your boat gently to the bay

If you see a pirate ship sail the other way “

Row, row, row your boat gently to the shore,

If you see a lion there don’t forget to roar”

These lines were unfortunately swimming round my head as I went to my job cooking for a party of 50 people celebrating the start of a rather serious and successful female London rowing team.

 

I love cooking for parties whether there are 2 or 150 guests expected (just providing I haven’t been told to cater for 2 and 150 show up). I know some find it more stressful then pleasurable catering for numbers so I thought I would use this blog post to give a few tips and tricks for preparing for a party.

Firstly anything you can prepare before the day, do and if you don’t have a fleet of staff at your disposable get some friends or family to help, its more fun.

The Table

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Laying tables, this can be done up to two days before the event if you turn the glasses up side down.

Flower arranging can be done the day before, if you have some where cool to keep them, and moved into situ on the morning, make sure they are either low enough to talk over or will tower high like a canopy above the seated guests. You can use anything from jam jars to Milano glass just try and get some sort of continuity with either colours, shapes or style. When decorating a large table it can take more time and flowers than you think.

 

Linen

Think how formal you want it to be and what sort of occasion you are catering for, if its for a rather fun loving and rowdy crowd you probably don’t want to get out your best white linen and spend the evening worrying that someone’s going to decorate it with their red wine.

Napkins – for large numbers believe me everyone hesitates whether it’s acceptable to use good quality paper instead of cloth. Trust me no one will ever go home tutting that the evening was spoilt not being able to dab their mouths with a Weissfee napkin.

Sort out serving dishes and utensils the day before (carefully dusting down that wedding gift dinner service you only use every seven years).

 

Drinks

Chilling drinks.

Nothing is worse than a warm glass of white wine (ok that’s a bit of an exaggeration but its not nice). Drinks can all be bought in advance and put in the chiller, remember it can take longer then usual when there are lots and the fridges and freezers are fuller than normal with food ect.

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Cocktails – are a thoughtful and fun way to start the party, I like to put seasonal twists on mine so at the moment it’s all about forced rhubarb or blood oranges.

Water – make sure you have lots of jugs or bottles at the ready and that they are refilled, no one will thank you for a hangover due to dehydration. If using jugs it delicious to put slices of lemon, lime or cucumber or sprigs of mint in.

 

Food shopping

In a ‘Stepford Wife’ (or husband as men these days are in the kitchen more than ever) perfect style world you would of course calmly gather all the ingredients from local shops and markets in ones wicker basket. In reality you are probably trying to juggle preparing for the party, taking little Johnny to the dentist and keeping a watch on that piece from 1stdibs that has caught your eye. So if short of time there is no shame in getting the bulk of ingredients in an Ocado delivery.

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The Menu

If you are a fearless and experienced cook its fine, you can choose to put soufflés for 16 on your menu or make 5 different flavoured macaroons for petit fours if not…choose dishes you have made before and that are not too complicated. It’s meant to be a fun occasion for everyone so it doesn’t make sense to choose something that causes tears and tantrums in the run up.

Don’t plan on making too many different dishes, its best to do a few really well then prepare a Caesar like feast.

Make sure one course is completely finished before guests arrived (I usually do the desserts) so there is less pressure and distraction on you as the host during the event.

Buffets (although not a word I love) or platters of food popped in the middle of the table are a brilliant way to feed a group and take my word for it everyone from Dukes to Captains of industry are doing it. This style of serving food has various advantages in that guests can control their own portion size, its saves time and space on plating up food and passing round food or gathering at the feeding trough can help break at the ice at the beginning.

 

Remember if you decide on using a buffet table think about the flow of people – centre isles are great as guests can work their way round and not cause a human traffic jam but if you have to serve from a table in the corner make sure they start at the wall end with the empty plates then work their way into the room finishing with picking up their cutlery and napkin.

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Choosing your menu

Good dishes to prepare for parties are ones that don’t take up too many pots and pans ( you don’t want a pile of washing up as guests arrive) or that can be made ahead and cooked or reheated on the day.

Curries, pies, cobblers, lasagnes and tagines are all good for this as well as paella which is the recipe for this postcard.

 

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This week

Philippa Davis postcard recipes now has a face book page, please click here to like and share face book

Boats rowed to shore: 9

This seasons party cocktail: Rhubarb, gin and prosecco

Paper vs Linen : Paper

Chilled drinks and hosts: 100 %

If you see a crocodile ; run!

Ive been on William Sitwells radio show Biting talk, click hear to listen

Biting talk 

 

Chicken, Chorizo and Prawn paella

Serves 12

The stock

Amazing soups, risottos and paellas start with an amazing stock so it is totally worth investing time and money in it.

If you don’t have a paella pan you can make it in one or two large frying pans and transfer it onto platters for serving.

2 tbs olive oil

2 large handfuls of prawn shells or 300g of prawns with their shell on

1 glass of white wine

½ a glass of dry sherry or brandy

1 free-range chicken carcasses

1 white onion peeled and roughly chopped

1 head of garlic sliced horizonattly in half

bunch of parsley stalks

1 tbs black peppercorns

1tbs fennel seeds

In a large pot fry the prawns shells in the oil until starting to slight;y brown then slosh in the wine and brady or sherry.

Add the there stock ingredients then fill the pot 1 inch from the top with cold water.

Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for about 1 hour ( preferably 2).

Drain the stock through a sieve into another sauce pan and leave to one side.

The Paella.

There are of course many variations including a rabbit and snail one, but no ones ever requested it. My favourite is this chicken, prawn and chorizo.

2 tbs olive oil plus a little extra for the chicken

2 white onions peeled and chopped into approx. 1 cm squares

2 red peppers chopped the same size as the onions

4 cloves of garlic finely chopped

6 bay leaves

300g cooking chorizo chopped into small chunks ( can be the spicy sort if that’s what you like).

10 skinless and boneless chicken breasts cut into 3’s (you can use more or less depending on how hungry the crowd you are feeding are)

840g paella rice

700g peeled raw prawns

2 handfuls of cooked peas

3 tbs finely chopped parsley

3 lemons

1 x large pinch of saffron mixed wih 50ml just boiled water

Bring the prepared stock to a simmer

In your frying / paella pan sear all the chicken pieces in a little of the olive oil till browned on each side then remove from the pan and put to one side (you are not cooking them through at this stage).

Then on a medium heat fry the onions, pepper, chorizo, garlic and bay leaves in the olive oil for about 10 minutes until lightly caramelised, stirring regularly.

Add the rice and stir well so everything is hot .

Carefully pour the stock onto the rice so it comes about 2 cm above the rice, add the chicken and season with salt and pepper.

Let the pan simmer till most of the liquid has been absorbed then test the rice to see if it needs more cooking and liquid.

Once the rice is almost there add the prawns and peas. Cook for another couple of minutes so the prawns cook through and the peas are hot.

Once everything is cooked sprinkle over the saffron water and parsley. Squeeze over the juice from one lemon then cut up the other 2 into wedges and place on top of the rice

Serve with garlicky aioli and a fresh crunchy green salad.

Note – You don’t want the paella too sloppy or dry so you will have to judge for yourself how much stock to add in the final stages of cooking.

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Next stop, Portugal…

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipe | French Apple Tart

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Car parks, whisky, wine and tarts

The recent weeks have involved cooking for a Shabbat in West London, a whisky tasting lunch and photographic exhibition in a Soho car park, a wine tasting at the fabulous Whirly Wines down in Tooting Bec, working on an brilliant Dorset book project and a trip to Nice and Monaco.   2016-03-09_0006

I was excited to cook for my first Shabbat, a day of rest and celebration in the Jewish week.   The Middle Eastern themed meal was to take place in a very cosmopolitan feeling Kensington. When designing the menu there were certain rules I had to bare in mind, so of course no pork, no shellfish, fish with only gills and scales – meaning no turbot, monkfish, catfish etc.. and it was also important not to mix meat and dairy so couldn’t include yogurt sauces with some dishes in the Middle eastern feast.

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The Shabbat meal begins with candle lighting and blessings then the food is bought in and the feast begins. Here was their menu :

 

Children’s Supper

Home made burgers, potato wedges and broccoli

Adults Canapés and cocktails

Vodka, champagne and rhubarb fizz 

Beetroot hummus with garlic and lemon on crisp breads

Chicken and orange blossom pastries with harrissa

Adult Mains

Roast Bass with ras al hanout, white wine and garlic with roasted squash and herbed couscous, chopped salad with lime and sumac.

Slow roast shoulder of lamb with cinnamon, cumin and coriander with saffron pilaf, tomato and chickpea sauce, crispy onions, pomegranates and tahini sauce.

Desserts 

Children   – Chocolate caramel brownies

Adults – Pressed chocolate cake with roasted rhubarb

Apple tart tatin and cream

As kosher meat is salted in order to help remove the blood it is recommended that you wash it before cooking, also you need to be more sensitive when seasoning.

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The whisky tasting lunch in the trendy car park was all rather jolly helping to celebrate the launch of an exhibition by the photographer James Stroud. The photographs were of the Balvenie Distillery on Speyside. The party kicked off with whisky based cocktails and canapés and then continued with three courses all of which were paired with various aged whiskies. Tentatively reflecting on it the next day I am not fully convinced that it is a great idea to have whisky pre lunch AND with every course but I am totally won over by serving it with the cheese.

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Though in fairness to the whisky it probably didn’t help that in true trooper chef style, having said my thank yous and goodbyes to the whisky infused crowd, I headed south for a wine tasting. For anyone enthusiastic about interesting wines from small producers around the world, Whirly Wines is a place I would highly recommend to visit. When we arrived at the tasting there were some top foodies around the table including chefs from Bibendum, the Begging Bowl and people from some of London’s most interesting wine clubs as well as locals, passing by that were then drawn in by the merriment kicking off inside.

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The next day my much needed detoxing had to wait, as I was on a plane heading to the somewhat warmer Riviera.

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So much wonderful food originates here, Salad Nicoise ( though shockingly I didn’t actually experience or see particularly good ones), socca – thin chickpea flour pancakes (the perfect snack with an ice cold beer), daube – a beef stew , deep fried courgettes flowers, farcais – veal stuffed vegetable, Pissaladiére   – sweet onion and anchovy pastry tart and tourtes de blettes – a chard tart with raisons and pinenuts. All of which I managed to sample.

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The stand out show stopper of the culinary tour however has to have been the apple tarts (I tried several) that are so ubiquitous in French bistros. Very simple – no spices, no purees and very delicious, they can make even those who find it hard to stop, linger for a few moments extra at the table.

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So for this postcard I would like to share my French Apple tart recipe, the perfect way to end a lunch, enjoy the moment and toast absent friends

This week:

Lunches in car parks : 1

Wine tastings in Tooting Bec:1

Not nice Nicoise salads : 2

Shabbats cooked for:1

I joined Facebook : please like my page here  Philippa Davis face book 

 

French Apple Tart

Makes 8 – 10 6 cm individual tarts

Pastry

180g plain flour

20g icing sugar

100g cold salted butter

1 egg yolk

2 – 4 tbs iced water

6 -8 large crunchy Apples like Gala, Braeburn, Pink lady, Jazz.

8- 10 tsp soft butter

8- 10 tsp golden caster sugar

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbs milk

4 tbs apricot jam

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In a food processor pulse the flour and icing sugar a couple of times.

On the large side of the cheese grater, grate the butter then add to the flour. Pulse a couple of times.

Add the egg yolk and pulse a couple more times.

Add 2 – 4 tbs of the very cold water, whilst pulsing, until the pastry only just starts coming together into a ball.

Tip into a bowl and bring together.

Flatten out into a 2 cm fat disk, wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for ½ hour.

Once rested…

Pre heat the oven to 180 ° c

Roll out the pastry to a couple of mm thick then cut out 8 – 10 circles and lay them on flat baking sheets lined with non stick paper (you will need to re ball and re roll the pastry but try not to over handle it).

Brush the pastry with the egg yolk and milk mix,

Peel, core and chop the apples into thin crescents.

Lay them in a pretty pattern on top of the pastry circles trying to get them slightly upright.

Dot on the butter and sprinkle on the sugar.

Bake for 45 mins until golden and the apple is soft.

Once cooked melt the apricot jam with 1 tbs water in a pan on a low heat and brush onto the tarts.

Enjoy hot or cold but certainly with a big pile of cream.

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Next stop, a party in Mayfair to celebrate the start of the rowing season.

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Raviolis with garlic, reblochon, wild mushrooms and parsley

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Apple of my Pie

Navigating airports at half term are a bit like playing a kids computer game. The route from departures in one country to arrivals in another is thwarted with challenges, obstacles and tasks to test your intuition and skill that all has to be completed within a certain time frame or its game over or at least a missed flight. I didn’t miss my flight from Gatwick to Geneva for my weeks ski job (it would certainly be a postcard lacking in scenic snow shots and plates of warming food if I had) but I did feel challenged. At my early morning check-in there was an obscene amount of suitcases, children, ski kits and parents whose morning coffee had not quite kicked in yet. My trick in these circumstances is to keep my head down, find the queue with the oldest average age and make sure my caffeine levels are fully dosed. It has to be said though, when you do finally reach the snowy peaks and get your first lungful of chilled mountain air the journey makes perfect sense.

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I do also have to mention on a travel note that the transfer company, generally staffed by young men on gap years, were impressively prompt, speedy and swift. We were unusually briskly, but politely, herded from airport to car park. As soon as the mini bus was loaded the doors slammed shut and we were speedily on our way across the border from Switzerland to France. The rep proudly announced that this was the first time in the company’s history the departure was not only on time but also ahead of schedule! My neighbour nudged me and said with a wink,

“You can thank the Six Nations rugby match this afternoon for that.”

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My week’s cooking was filled with butter, eggs, cream and apples. The first three ingredients are obvious, hearty ski food that is exactly what is desired and needed after a day throwing oneself down a steep mountain on two plastic planks in freezing conditions. The last ingredient, the apple, became my private nemesis.

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No matter what dessert I made, after every meal child 3 of the group, declined dessert and requested 2 chopped up apples. I made tart tatins, cheesecakes, chocolate tarts, strudels, panna cottas, Eton mess but nothing could persuade him. Even the Apple Pie got turned down. I know you are probably thinking why would I want to persuade a child to have dessert over apples BUT let me assure you that they generally eat a good balanced diet, were spending all day out on the slopes and happy to tuck into various candies so I just couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t try dessert!

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Just as I was losing all hope the answer hit me, quite literally. I was planning to make a batch of ice cream for that night and as I opened the treat cupboard to get some chocolate to melt for sauce, down fell a bag of Malteasers. Bingo! Chocolate Malteaser ice cream – if that doesn’t tempt child 3, I give up!

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The chocolate Malteaser ice cream….was indeed tempting enough to be tried, although alongside two chopped up apples of course.

For the postcard recipe this week I would like to share with you one of the side dishes I made for the week’s big celebration dinner, raviules with wild mushrooms and reblouchon. Raviules are the French equivalent of the Italian potato dumplings, gnocchi but they have the added luxury of being fried in butter. I served mine as a side to beef wellington and for that added lushness I massaged white truffle oil into the fillet before encasing it in mushrooms and puff pastry.

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This week

Battle of Apple vs. desserts: apple wins

Butter: 12 packs

Eggs: 7 dozen

I’m loving: green tomato Jo Malone candles

Every private chef should know: Unicorn in French is La Lincone and Pocahontas didn’t marry John Smith.

Raviules with reblochon and wild mushrooms.

I confess the Raviules are quite fussy to make so the perfect request when you have a private chef to hand or fancy a few hours in the kitchen.

Makes enough for 4 as a lunch or 8 as a side dish.

1 kilo of similar sized floury potatoes (King Edwards or Maris piper are good)

100g flour + extra for dusting

2 eggs lightly beaten

3 cloves of garlic finely chopped

100g Semolina

150g butter plus 1 tbs extra

20g flat leaf parsley roughly chopped

200g wild mushrooms

200g reblochon

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With their skins on boil the potatoes in salted water till cooked.

Drain, then whilst still hot, using a tea towel to hold them, peel and mash – this is best done through a ricer a mouli or a sieve into a large bowl.

To the potato add 2/3 of the finely chopped garlic, season with salt then stir in the eggs and the 100g flour. Knead lightly with your hand to bring together into a ball.

Lightly dust a tray with semolina then using the extra plain flour to dust your spoons make quenelles out of the potato mix (you will need to re-dust your spoons roughly after every three). Lay the quenelles on the tray and when you have finished the mix lightly sprinkle the tops with semolina.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and poach the raviules in batches – they will float to the top then leave them to cook for 10 seconds. Once cooked lay out to drain on kitchen paper. They can be made to this stage several hours in advance.

When ready to serve:

Melt 1 tbs of the butter in a large frying pan on a medium heat. When the butter starts to foam add the raviules in batches and fry on the 3 sides until golden then remove and keep warm. Repeat in batches with the rest of the 150g of butter and raviules.

When finished, using the same frying pan add the extra butter, mushrooms and the last 1/3 of garlic, fry for a couple of minutes until the mushrooms are just cooked and you can smell the garlic. Take off the heat add the reblochon and parsley stir then tip over the fried raviules. Serve hot.

Delicious as lunch with a crisp green salad with French dressing or as a side to roasted beef or lamb.

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Next stop, cooking for Shabbat in London.

 

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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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