Recipe | Roast suckling pig

whisk

This little piggy…

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

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

“Great” (me)

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

‘I’m sorry?”

“Baby…!” more phone crackling.

Cripes I thought what had I got myself into?!

2016-09-03_0001

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

2016-09-03_0004

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

2016-09-03_0002

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

2016-09-03_0010

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

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

Su Porcheddu – suckling roast pig

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

Bottarga – dried fish roe

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

2016-09-03_0012

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

2016-09-03_0013

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

2016-09-03_0015

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

  2016-09-03_0011

This week

Super yachts spotted : 8

Peaches bought and eaten ( by us all) : 103

Varieties of peach bought : 5

Pasta cooked : 5.1 kilo

Olive oil used : 4.2 litres

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

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

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

  2016-09-03_0008

 Suckling pig .

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 suckling pig

1 fennel bulb

2 apples plus one small one for serving

handful each of parsley and thyme

1 garlic head cut in half horizontally

1 onione red or white peeled and chopped into four.

½ dry white wine like vermentino

Pre heat the oven to 160 C

2016-09-03_0006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bake at 15 mins per pound at 160 °C

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

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

Baste occasionally.

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

2016-09-03_0007

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

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

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

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

2016-09-03_0005

2016-09-03_0003

Next stop … Dublin

Comments { 0 }

Recipe | Almond, cherry, lime and tequila cake

whisk

The girl who played with a wood fired oven

 

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

2016-08-24_0008

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

2016-08-24_0001

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

2016-08-24_0003

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

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

2016-08-24_0011

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

2016-08-24_0012

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

2016-08-24_0013

 

This week

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

Every Home should have : their pools painted white

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

I’m loving : the wood oven

We ate : 3 kilos of watermelon

Tequila : is the drink of the summer

Im listening to : La Traviata

2016-08-24_0002

 

Cherry, lime, almond and tequila cake

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

Pre heat the oven to 160 °C fan oven

250g butter (room temperature )

200g caster sugar

3 free range or organic eggs

160g SR flour

100g gr almonds

1 ts vanilla

2 lime zest

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

Splash of tequila

30g flaked almond

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

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

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

Briefly whisk in the eggs.

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

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

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

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

Delicious for breakfast after a late night ;). 

2016-08-24_0007

 

Next stop…. Sardinia

Comments { 0 }

Recipe | Raspberry Jell – O and honey baked cheesecake


whisk

Philippa Davis and the Sundance Kids

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

2016-08-12_0006

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016-08-12_0004

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

2016-08-12_0008

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

2016-08-12_0009

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

2016-08-12_0003

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

2016-08-12_0011

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

2016-08-12_0005

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

2016-08-12_0010

This week

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

Lemongate happened: discretion forbids me telling more…

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

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

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

 

 

Raspberry Jell -O cheesecake

Serves 12

You will need a 10 inch spring form cake tin

Pre heat the oven to 170 °C

For the base

180 g graham crackers or ginger nut biscuits

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbs honey

110g salted butter

Finely grind the crackers or biscuits and mix in the cinnamon

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

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

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

Filling

1 kilo cream cheese

150g white sugar

2 tbs runny honey

450g sour cream

6 eggs

2 yolks

3 lime zest

2 tsp vanilla

2016-08-12_0007

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

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

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

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

The cheesecake should have a slight wobble in the middle.

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

Jelly

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

Serve in slices with fresh raspberries on top.

2016-08-12_0002

Next stop….Ibiza .

 

Comments { 0 }

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

whisk

Corn in the USA

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

2016-07-29_0003

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

2016-07-29_0001

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

2016-07-29_0004

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

2016-07-29_0002

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

2016-07-29_0007

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

2016-07-29_0008

This week

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

Corn cooked: 48

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

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

Every home should have : bicycles

We are on : a sugar high

2016-07-29_0010

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

Serves 4

4 ripe figs cut in quarters

2 corn

300g tomatoes ( which ever are best )

150g leaves

100g roughly chopped almonds

Dressing

juice from half a lemon

1 tbs maple syrup

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

1 tbs mayonnaise

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

2016-07-29_0006

To make the dressing

Sprinkle some salt and pepper in a bowl

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

2016-07-29_0009

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

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

Leave to cool slightly then slice off the kernels

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

2016-07-29_0005

Next Stop… Utah.

Comments { 0 }

Recipe | Olive oil, orange and rosemary cake

whisk

Greece lightening

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

“Did we turn off the lights”

“Did we pack my new bathing suit”

“Did we remember all the kids?”

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

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

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

2016-07-16_0008

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

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

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

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

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

2016-07-16_0010

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

2016-07-19_0002

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

2016-07-16_0001

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

2016-07-16_0005

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

2016-07-16_0011

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

2016-07-16_0012

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

2016-07-16_0013

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

2016-07-16_0007

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

2016-07-16_0009

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

2016-07-19_0001

This week

My favourite Greek Extra virgin olive oil: Olive tree London 

Olive oil used : 6 litres

Greek yogurt eaten : 2.5 kilos

Percentage of dishes involving olive oil : 91%

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

Ouzo habit: good

I’m loving : properly made tarmasalata and grilled octopus

Every Greek villa should have: caper berry bushes

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

2016-07-19_0004

Extra virgin Olive oil, orange, rosemary and honey cake

1 long spring of rosemary

150g sr flour

½ tsp baking powder

150g cup ground almonds

3 eggs

100g sugar

75 g runny honey

seeds from 1 vanilla pod

2 orange zest

1 sprig rosemary

2016-07-16_0006

Pre heat the oven to 170 ° C

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve with spoonfuls of Greek yogurt.

2016-07-16_0003

2016-07-19_0003

Next stop… Im visiting the East Hamptons.

Comments { 0 }

Recipe | Vlita, saffron and feta pie

whisk

My big fat Greek….Pie

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

2016-07-10_0005

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

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

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

2016-07-10_0002

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

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

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

2016-07-10_0008

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

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

Saffron and vlita became my answers.

 

2016-07-10_0010

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

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

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

2016-07-10_0006

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

Then the head of the table says;

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

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

2016-07-10_0004

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

2016-07-10_0011

 

This Week

Greek Extra Virgin Olive oil used : 8 Litres

Raw Greek Honey used : 2 lbs

I’m loving: Ouzo

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

Mode of transport : Boats, trains, Planes and cars

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

2016-07-10_0012

Vlita, feta and saffron pie

Serves 8

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

2016-07-10_0016

4 or 5 thick sheets of filo

pinch of saffron

150g butter

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 red onions finely chopped

1 tsp dried oregano

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

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

200g top quality feta

4 organic eggs

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

2016-07-10_0009

Pre heat the oven to 180 °C

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repeat with 2 more layers .

Tip the filling in and level out.

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

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

Can be eaten warm or cold.

2016-07-10_0003

 

Next postcard recipe….I’m staying put !

2016-07-10_0001

 

Comments { 0 }

Recipe | Potato salad

whisk

Le Tour de Carbs

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

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

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

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

or

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

and

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

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

2016-06-30_0013

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

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

2016-06-30_0006

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

2016-06-30_0002

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

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

2016-06-30_0004

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

2016-06-30_0003

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

2016-06-30_0009

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

 

Breakfast

Banana

Bircher muesli, strawberry and blueberry pots

Sausage sandwiches

Roast mushroom rolls.

Fresh fruit smoothie with honey

Coffee / tea

Mountain sustenance

Bananas

Cut up oranges

Cheese sandwiches

Home made Sausage Rolls

Peanut sandwiches

Power balls

Home made Flapjacks

Jaffa cakes

Banana and maple syrup cake

Brownies

Crisps

Chocolate bars

Jelly babies

 

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

2016-06-30_0001

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

 

2016-06-30_0011

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

2016-06-30_0010

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

2016-06-30_0012

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

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

or my favourite feedback

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

 

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

2016-06-30_0005

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

This week

Pasta eaten: 7.2 kilo

Potatoes eaten: 8.1 kilos

Cocktails drunk: xxx

Admiration levels: 100 %

Inclination to do it myself: 0 %

Every home should have: 30 bicycle pumps

Problems caused by corroded spoke nipples: 1

Potato salad

Serves 10

1 kilo waxy potatoes

Mayonnaise

2 egg yolks

squeeze of lemon

150 ml sunflower oil

150 ml olive oil

1 dsp Dijon mustard

30 gherkins roughly chopped

6 spring onions finely chopped

3 tbs roughly chopped parsley

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

To make the mayonnaise

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

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

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

2016-06-30_0007

 

Next stop… Greece

 

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

Comments { 0 }

Recipe | Barbecued flatbread with sprinkles

whisk

Hatched, matched and dispatched

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

2016-06-15_0005

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

2016-06-15_0009

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

2016-06-15_0010

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

2016-06-15_0011

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

2016-06-15_0008

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

2016-06-15_0014

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

2016-06-15_0003

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

2016-06-15_0006

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

2016-06-15_0001

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

2016-06-15_0013

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

The meat or fish

Olive oil

A lemon

And some fresh herbs.

2016-06-15_0004

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

2016-06-15_0012

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

This week

Eggs: 157

Butter: 19 packs

Salmon caught: 9

Salmon caught leaping: 23

Kilos of charcoal used: 18

Every home should have: a drone

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

 

Barbequed Flatbread

Makes about 8 large circles

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

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

2 tsp. Dried Yeast

1 tsp. Fine sea salt

300ml – 350ml Warm water

1 tbs. runny honey

1 tbs Olive oil plus a little extra

1 tbs plain yogurt

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

In a large bowl mix the flour and sea salt

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

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

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

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

2016-06-15_0007

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016-06-15_0002

Next stop…cooking for a group cycling the Pyrenees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments { 0 }

Recipe | Deep fried Wild Garlic flowers

whisk

Fashion flower…

2016-05-20_0004

The fashion shoot really whizzed by in a flash. The days were long but fun and everyone was on constant alert in case they were needed. The stoves in the kitchen fired up around 430 am in order to make first breakfasts for the cast and crew before they had to venture to the chilly outside to make the most of the amazing morning light. Like hobbits (all be it very super, tall and beautiful ones) they would return a few hours later for second breakfast and a rest before lunch and then head back out for more shooting. They would all start to pile back in for tea time around 5pm and spend a few hours tying up jobs from the day and prepping for the next before tucking in to a late supper.

2016-05-20_0007

It amuses me that when I tell people I am off to cook for a fashion shoot every one always assumes its all about lettuce leaves and the trendiest grain of the moment (I believe we are meant to be still obsessed with teff) but I can tell you the early morning bacon butties were immensely popular although power balls once again seemed to be in high demand.

They also assume that the crowd will all be rather high maintenance and requests like “Go and find 48 local blue flamingos, quick!” or “ Love the mountain in the back drop but can you just move it 3 meters to the left?” would not be uncommon but in my experience everyone is super organised, reasonable and works their socks off!

2016-05-20_0003

Once the shoot was over I headed home for a few days where the garden was putting on an outrageously beautiful fashion show, declaring big, bright and blousy was in.

2016-05-20_0008

In the food world although ingredients aren’t quite so subject to going in and out of fashion they certainly can come quickly in and out of season.

2016-05-20_0002

For this postcard recipe I wanted to make sure we were all making the most of the wild garlic. Like many spring ingredients the season is short so we have to make the most of it and although the leaves may be past their best the flowers still make delicious eating.

2016-05-20_0005

 

This Week

Power balls consumed: 178

In fashion: Wild garlic flowers

Out of fashion: sleeping

I’m driving: Evoque Range Rover

New Facebook videos on top tips and trends from a private chef: 2

 

Deep fried wild garlic flowers

This makes a tasty pre dinner nibble with a glass or two of fizz but would also work well as part of a main dish for fish or meat.

Serves 5 as a pre dinner nibble.

10 wild garlic heads

5 tbs plain flour

1 level tsp. baking powder

200ml approx. chilled beer

1 lemon

Oil for deep-frying.

Cut the stalks so they are about 2 inches long

In a bowl whisk the flour and baking powder with a pinch of salt the slowly pour in the beer, whisking continually, until you have reached the consistency of a loose double cream.

Dip the flower heads in the batter, shake off the excess, and then fry for 10 – 15 seconds until they go golden.  

Carefully remove and drain on kitchen paper.

Sprinkle with salt and add a little squeeze of lemon, eat instantly.

2016-05-20_0001

 

Next Stop, Salmon Fishing in the Highlands….

Comments { 0 }

Recipe | Asparagus and roasted Jerusalem artichoke salad

whisk

 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.

2016-05-03_0005

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.

2016-05-03_0007

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.

2016-05-04_0003

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.

2016-05-04_0001

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.

2016-05-03_0002

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.

2016-05-04_0005

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.

2016-05-03_0001

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.

2016-05-03_0004

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.

2016-05-03_0006

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.

2016-05-03_0003

 

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

 

 

 

 

Comments { 0 }
css.php