Archive | Salads

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

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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Next Stop… Utah.

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Recipe | Potato salad

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

 

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

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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…

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“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.

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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.

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Next stop… Greece

 

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

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Recipe | 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.

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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 | Roast Cauliflower, sour cherry and almond salad

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Getting the party started…

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

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

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

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

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

Then a butcher comes out with a leg of lamb.

“3 kilo lamb for you Miss?”

“er… no I said gammon for Ham”

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

“Pork”! she shrieks .

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

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

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

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

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

“Ah , I see”.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Rare roast fillet of beef with thyme and sea salt

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

Baked ham glazed with maple syrup.

Roasted turmeric, cauliflower, sour cherry and almond salad.

Baked side of salmon with watercress mayonnaise

Beetroot, honey glazed carrots, kohlrabi and beluga lentil salad

Desserts

Lemon tart wit crème fraiche

Baked fruit with honey ricotta, lemon and pistachio praline.

Flourless chocolate cake with mascarpone

 

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

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

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This Week:

Every home should have: Faberge China

Festive feelings: warming up.

Ratio of gammons ordered successfully : 1 in 3

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

Party dress envy levels: High.

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

 

 

Cauliflower, turmeric, sour cherries and toasted almond salad

Serves 6 as a side dish

1 cauliflower

1 dsp turmeric,

1 dsp ground cumin

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

Olive oil

1 handful sour cherries

1 large handful of toasted almonds, skin on.

Splash of orange or apple juice

1 radicchio

1 small box of coriander sprouts

½ lemon

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Pre heat the oven to 180 ° C.

Soak the sour cherries in the juice.

Floret the cauliflower and place in a bowl.

Season with salt and pepper

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

Toss well.

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

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

Next stop… its party time over in Dublin.

 

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Recipe | Grilled Goats cheese salad with beetroot, figs and mint

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 Uzès charm from every door.

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On the wild off-chance you didn’t spend your childhood watching My Fair Lady,             “Oozing charm from every pore” is a line from one of Professor Higgins’ numbers. I would heartily recommend the movie if you haven’t seen it in a while and enjoy a good sing along. This tune was not however what I have just spent the week listening to…

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I arrived to the Languedoc region in the South of France to one of the small but very pretty villages just outside Uzés, a day before my clients. This doesn’t often happen but I have to say it was a change not having to do a mad first dash to the shops and get supper on the table for a gaggle of hungry people within 3 hours of landing (though of course those circumstances are not without their great elements of fun). The job was to cook for a group of friends that had been holidaying for a week together for the last 16 years.

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With no one in the house for the first 12 hours it occurred to me I could have carte blanche on the sound system. I then discovered that there was no internet and only 3 cds to choose from. Still with Frank, Abba and Mr Morrison to keep me company while I got the prep underway and laid the table ready for the guest’s arrival the time flew by.

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As the week went by it rather amused me that by the last day at some point or other all of the guests had commented on how much I must like Frank Sinatra.

I finally replied to the host that yes I do like Frank but there are only 3 cds to choose from.

“What about the big shelf of them by the cupboard?” she replied.

“@**@!!!!, I thought, I clearly missed that but on the up side I can now sing his top 20 hits off by heart.

Fortunately I was much more on the ball when it came to the food.

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After morning one, I made an executive decision to change alliance from the local bakery to the one in the adjoining village due to distressingly below par croissants. I find it a slightly dream shattering reality that this is the third bad bakery I’ve come across this year in France and find it hard to believe that the locals haven’t started a riot. Actually in two of the cases the bread was still very good so perhaps locals don’t really eat croissants and only care about their daily baguette.

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I have learnt that in France between the hours of 7 am – and 8 30 am, when most people do their bread run, that there are no rules on the road within 50 m each way of the boulungere -park wherever you like in which ever direction, and not to worry about blocking people in or cutting them off, as what is important is that we all get our morning fix of dough.

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As for the Markets I felt totally on form as not only did I triumph in buying the most beautiful stashes of chanterllles mushrooms but I am also proud to announce I feel I have truly mastered the art of beating the elderly female French shoppers at their own game. Let me explain.

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Picture the scene, a bustling charming southern French market, the sun is hopefully shooting bursts of dappled light through the plain trees onto the various tables and boxes of local goodies. I am there early with the locals (golden rule number one of market shopping) and am standing in line, probably wearing a bright summer dress and some oversized earrings. I wait till it is fairly my turn to place my order or pay and then some little old French lady behind me barges me out the way with their boney elbow, jumps the queue and has the bravado to give me a glass shattering death stare. Well not any more, I now dodge that arm, always make sure I make firm friendly yet assertive eye contact with the stallholder and stand my ground. This has totally worked out and so now all I have to put up with is the old French ladies tutting that I am buying the very item they wanted and that they don’t have all day. In response I bat them off with my perfected French style shrug.

(This is all said with true affection as I very much hope to be as canny as these feisty old ladies in years to come).

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As for the cuisine, the star dish of the week may not have been the luscious chaneterlles cheese and lardon omelettes, or the chilli prawn linguini they couldn’t stop eating and possibly not even the vervaine and pistachio praline ice cream it was probably (according to the owner) his home grown grapes.

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He had a point, they were perfectly ripe, very juicy and sweet, and so successful this year we all wondered about turning the land (as it happens a similar size to Petrus) into a vineyard…we shall watch that space!

In the Languedoc it is around now the farmers are harvesting their grapes for wine making and eating and at the markets I noted there were some amazing sweet and delicious varieties on offer that are well worth looking out for in your local shops back in the UK. We all noted that similar to strawberries although you can buy grapes all year round there are only certain times of year they are truly worth serving.

With several days of heavy rain we all wondered what it might do to this months harvest. After much research (well actually I just sent an email to my good friend at the amazing Yapp Brothers Wine Merchants in Mere) I learnt that,

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“A little rain at harvest time isn’t a major problem in a good, ripe vintage (which this one is, by all accounts) but continued and lengthy rain at harvest time would cause the grapes to swell and even split, allowing such problems as mildew, mould and other nasty things to attack and destroy the grapes. In short rain isn’t good at “vendange” time.”
The weather did turn for the better mid week so I will await with interest what this years harvest brings.

After much feasting, festivity and a few al fresco lunches the week ended all to quickly. On my way back to Montpellier airport I reflected on the dishes I cooked and which one I would like to do for this postcard recipe. Initially tempted by the bouillabaisse which went down rather well I have finally decided on the goats cheese crostini, beetroot, fig and mint salad that I had to stand my ground for to buy the ingredients.

This week:

Home grown grapes picked and eaten: 176

I’m driving: a Fiat 500 L, it’s ok but I expected more power for this ‘super sized’ version.

Every home should have: their own vines (and more than 3 cds).

We are making the most of: the last of the summer peaches and tomatoes.

Grilled goats cheese salad with beetroot, fig and mint.

A major part of my job is knowing how to shop, by this I particularly mean being aware of the seasons and local specialties. When you see something that looks extra special at the market it is always worth buying and then deciding what you want to do with it. When I saw these goat’s cheeses and a tray of what I knew would be the last of this summers figs, that night’s starter just fell in to place.

Serves 4

1 small raw beetroot

4 slices of bagette

2 rounds of goats cheese (a tangy one works well with the sweetness of the figs but creamy is also delicious).

1 tbs olive oil

4 ripe figs (green or black) cut in half.

12 mint leaves

1 head of chicory split into leaves

2 tbs pomegranate seeds ( ours was pockled which made them extra sweet)

For the beetroot dressing

1 tbs red wine vinegar

2 tsp honey

1 tbs olive oil

For the salad dressing

1 tbs white wine vinegar

2 tbs olive oil

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To make the beetroot dressing:

Whisk the vinegar with a pinch of salt and pepper

Then the honey and finally the olive oil.

To make the salad dressing

Whisk the vinegar with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Then whisk in the olive oil.

Turn the grill on medium

Peel and thinly slice the beetroot, use a mandolin if you have one, then toss through the beetroot dressing. Leave this to one side while you

Smear the goats cheese on top of the sliced pieces of baguette, drizzle with a little of the extra olive oil and place under the grill for a couple of minutes till they are bubbling and golden on top.

Toss the chicory, mint and figs through the salad dressing then layer on a plate with the beetroot and goats cheese toasts, sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and serve immediately.

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Next stop, the Wyvis Estate in the Scottish Highlands…

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Climb every mountain

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Climb every mountain…

If one felt so inclined (or capable) the area surrounding St Remy de Provence is perfect for getting on a bike and busting up some crazily steep hills and mountains. Numerous cyclists of all ages get up early to miss the blazing sun and test their endurance to reach the tops. My week was spent in a state of perseverance, determination and effort… on the tennis court.

Though of course my main focus was the food.

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Cooking here is always a pleasure and ideas come easily due to the mass of perfect produce available. There are few places I have been that can match the abundance of tasty fruits and vegetables. The peaches are always juicy and for lack of a better description ‘ peachy’, the cherries are shiny and sweet, the figs fleshy and perfect, the Provençal Rosé is famous for good reason and the olive oil is so good you sometimes need nothing else to finish a simple salad.

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Having been here at various times of year I am always impressed with how seasonal the shops and markets are and noted how that one day the boxes of tumbling cherries suddenly stopped appearing. Season over. The sadness was only eased by the appearance of the next ingredient coming in – the most extraordinary green figs.

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The working day started early with the bread run to the local bolangerie. It wasn’t the closest of the bakeries but my alliances had to change when we noted that the croissants at our local now lacked that flaky butteryness our morning cafes demanded. Our new bakery of choice was clearly the towns favourite as there was always an impressive queue of people by 7:30 , 95% of whom were French. There was then the food shop dash where I have started to play ‘spot the private chef’ as there seemed to be a collection of us down there (if you ever want to play look out for extensive shopping lists, speedy trolley manoeuvres, skills at catching the fishmongers eyes at 50 yards and speed packing). Lunch was long and chatty then siestas and swims were had before the evening amusements began.

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With long warm evenings (I promise I’m not trying to rub it in for those of you back in Blighty where I understand you have had an abundance of wet stuff fall from the sky) dinners were served later in the evenings. This was also due to the fact that the clients and chef were battling it out on the tennis court. An improved performance was hoped by all from last year and rumour had it that one of us had taken time off work just to get in extra practice.

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Culinary highlights of the week included a fig, honey and mascarpone tart and this postcard recipe of grilled aubergine and tomato salad with anchovy and lime dressing.

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This Week

I’m driving: A Nissan Note – zippier than expected but easily bullied by the Mistrals.

Tennis game victories: 1

Tennis game defeats: too ashamed to say.

Every home should have: a collection French grey table linen

We are drinking: Angelina and Brads Rosé

Espressos drunk: 124 (not all be me but I had my fair share).

Skin tone: has turned from blanched almond to lightly toasted.

Mountains climbed: 0 (unless you count success in getting children to eat new vegetables).

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Grilled tomato, aubergine and olive salad with anchovy and lime dressing

This has been my favourite new salad this summer, the anchovy should be very subtle and only add base notes rather than dominate the flavours. It is a perfect BBQ salad.

Serves 4 as a side

3 aubergines

4 large tomatoes

1 salted anchovy, rinsed, deboned and finely chopped

1 lime

2 tsp sherry vinegar

4 tbs pitted green olives

3 tbs olive oil

20g coriander finely chopped (stalks and leaves)

1- 3 dried chillies, crushed (depending on how hot you like it)

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Light the BBQ, when the coals are grey with ash grill the whole aubergines on all sides until soft (this will take about 10 minutes and the outside will look a bit burnt and the inside will be soft). Place in a colander over a bowl to cool and drain.

Grill the whole tomatoes till just blacked all over.

In a large bowl whisk the anchovy with the zest and juice of the lime, the sherry vinegar and olive oil. Add the coriander and olives. Season with salt, pepper and the dried chilli.

Peel the skin from the aubergines and tomatoes and roughly chop (adding any tomato juice in to the dressing). Mix into the dressing and leave to mingle for at least 20 mins

Serve at room temperature as part of your BBQ spread.

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 Bags packed and my adieux said I am now heading west to Gascony …

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Recipe | BBQ wild salmon with grilled baby gem and salsa verde

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Quite the catch…

This week I headed to the Scottish Highlands to cook for a salmon fishing week on the River Findhorn, lots of big breakfasts, afternoon teas, help yourself suppers and best of all bbq s by the river …

“Oh, its easy to find, you cant miss it !” My client called from the Landy Defender as they headed off to the river.

So I jammed the trusty old Range Rover to the brim with boxes, bags of charcoal and food supplies and headed to the ‘middle beat fishing hut’ wherever it may be (for you non -fishing folks a ‘beat’ is a part of a river you fish). On the upside I knew the that it was going to be by the river, what worried me was getting lost in part of the 70 000 acres of estate I had to drive through to get there and then possibly not being found till the grouse season started in August…

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I found the hut (fear not, I am not posting this from the wilderness) unloaded the kit, laid the table, set up my outdoor kitchen and fired up the bbq. As I was in Scotland it of course started raining as soon as I had struck my first match, it then got a little windy and then to my delight/relief the sun came out.

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On the first few days nothing was caught so I ended up cooking lots of meat on the coals; chicken marinated in thyme and lemon, pigeon with zataar and lime , Gressingham duck breasts with just with a sprinkling of salt. All delicious but no fish!

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On day three spirits were still high amongst the group, despite the changeable weather and lack of salmon. I began to feel I was more keen for them to catch one then they were, I even briefly considered going on strike until they had but then   with the intervention of St Peter, the skill of the fisherman and with help from the ghillie ( a knowledgeable attendant to the fisherman) the group triumphantly bought back that night to the kitchen two silver beauties.

Hello tomorrow’s lunch!

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Wild Scottish salmon really are quite extraordinary creatures and have the most challenging of lives and seemingly endless name changes. They start as one of around 7000 eggs laid by the ‘hen’ salmon deep in river bed gravel. 90 % of these generally survive and once hatched they are then called Alevins. Born with their own pack lunch (a yolk sack) they lurk in the gravel for a few weeks then once ready start to fend for themselves. Sadly with limited feeding grounds and a lot of competition at this point only about 10% make it to the next stage.

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The fighting few that survive (now called ‘ Parr’) spend a year or two in the river but with threats of summer droughts and / or floods they still haven’t hit easy street. After a couple of years, come spring time some of the larger fish that have made it start drifting out towards the sea and you guessed it they change their name once more and now answer to ‘Smolt’. The smolts travel in shoals and as they reach the estuary they are often picked off by predators or fall victim to human pollution.

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Those that make it to the sea for their first winter are obviously not called salmon as that would make it far to easy, no they are called Grilse. Our British Grilse can be found anywhere from Faroes to Greenland so its no wonder they build up an appetite and can double in size.   The 10 % that survive their sea voyage then start to swim back to the river (cleverly very close to where they hatched as eggs) in order to do some breeding of their own and are called….Salmon !

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Spawning generally takes place from October to January. Once back in the river the fish do not eat at all and they start to loose their knight like silver and develop a colourful breeding dress (pinks and red ARE the new silver for these guys). Once a fish has spawned its called a kelt (come on keep up!) they look really thin and are not allowed to be taken from the river.

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If the salmon survives all this (though few do) it will head back out to sea and bravely attempt the same routine again the next year.

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As you can imagine with this precarious lifestyle their numbers are not huge so, as like with many country pursuits, there is much etiquette and rules to abide by which I shall delve into in my next postcard.

 This week;

Salmon caught: x 2 , a 8 lb and 9 lb

Salmon released: x 3

Pears eaten : 45

Puppies on lap helping to drive: 2 cocker spaniels

I’m reading ; The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton

Transport : Range Rover, Kia estate (zippier than you think), Fly B airplane, Airport bus ( with an unusually cheerful driver).

 

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Bbq salmon with grilled lettuce and salsa verde.

 A few years back I cooked for a fishing week (but much further up north) when they came back with their first salmon the triumphant fisherman reluctantly handed it over to me.

“Please don’t do too much to it..”

they then proceeded to hover around the stove while I prepared supper.

I totally agree that when the salmon is this good very little should be done, some heat and a wedge of lemon at most. I also think when its really good it works best served ‘medium rare’ so if you are lucky enough to get some wild salmon don’t be too keen to cook it completely through.

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Prepare the bbq so its hot , the coals have gone grey and the grills are clean.

 

Grilled salmon

Salmon, allow about 200g of salmon per portion

Maldon Salt

Olive oil

Lemon

Check the salmon has been properly descaled and that any bones have been removed ( a pair of tweezers works perfectly for this job).

Season with a pinch of salt and brush lightly with olive oil (salmon is naturally fatty son doesn’t need to much cooking fat)

Grill skin side down first and only turn once the skin lifts off the grill.

Best served medium rare and by the river it was caught from!

 

Grilled lettuce and hallumi

You can try grilling most lettuce but for this lunch I used baby gem (frisse, romaine, iceberg and even rocket – when kept on its root also work well).

 

Baby gem, allow ½ per person

Salt

Olive oil

Lemon

Pinch of red chilli flakes

 

Wash and dry the lettuce,

Cut in half and sprinkle with salt, pepper and a small drizzle of olive oil

On a hot grill cook on all sides till slightly blackened and starting to wilt (a couple of minutes)

Remove from the heat and serve warm with a squeeze over some lemon and a sprinkling of chilli flakes.

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Salsa verde

I really think this is the best sauce with this fish as the tangy acidity pairs particularity well with the fatty rich salmon.

 

1 big bunch of flat leaf parsley (about 30g ) washed and dried

1 tbs. tiny capers from brine

5 salted anchovies fillets, rinsed and bones removed

2 tsp. mustard

5tbs Olive oil

Juice from half a lemon

 

Finely chop the parsley and pop into a bowl

Add the mustard, capers and anchovies and mix

Stir in the olive oil and finally the lemon and some pepper.

Check for seasoning but as anchovies and capers are salty it generally doesn’t need much.

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Having had much fun on the river all week, learnt a lot and bbq ed practically everything I can think of I have waved good bye to my clients I am now changing beats to cook for another fishing week but this time turning my attentions to packed lunches. For this postcard recipe I will share with you my bbq salmon lunch recipes.

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Recipe | Tips and tricks to perfect lamb chops and Quinoa salads

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School of wok…

Travelling East from the blossoming West Country towards the big smoke for my latest job my mind was speeding along faster than the train (although admittedly that’s not always difficult). The days ahead were really going to challenge me in different ways and my skills and knowledge were to be put to the test…I was excited.

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Was I about to cook for a tyrannical tycoon using only ingredients beginning with the letter Q?…no.  Perhaps create an entirely aquamarine coloured menu for a stroppy model?…nope.  It wasn’t even to whip up lunch for 50 with only ingredients bought at Waterloo station. No, I had been commissioned to teach my client how to cook.

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I have done various classes before including cookery parties for kids where their main objective seems to be how much chocolate they can eat before I object and Christmas cookery demonstrations that inevitably end in festive cocktail making.

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In professional kitchens you are of course continuously learning and teaching and in my experience although knowledge and enthusiasm is essential, clarity is also important. I remember once a very busy lunchtime shift at the café I set up for the Mudchute city park and farm.  I yelled out at my new trainee to grab the box of broad beans from outside and shuck them.

He looked at me startled then seeing my stare scuttled off.  He came back 10 minutes later empty handed.

“Where are my broad beans?!’

“I chucked them… on the compost.”

He didn’t make the grade as a chef but you will be glad to know he did go on to be a rather successful actor.

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Teaching someone at home to cook is a lot more tranquil. My client was starting from scratch confessing never having cooked before.  I felt we had a head start as they were certainly knowledgeable about various foods and I had noticed the house was always stocked with top notch produce.

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The first session was how to cook various types of fish, including fried sea bass, seared scallops, cod En papillote and salmon. (I have lots of tips on cooking fish published in this months issue of The Field Magazine). We then moved onto cuts of meat including some spectacular lamb chops, slow cooked lamb shoulder, butterflied chicken and juicy rump steaks. We did a session on stir fries, soups and sauces and for our ‘grand finale’ we rustled up an entire lunch for a group of her friends.  The menu read as follows :

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 Baked side of salmon, with lemon and fennel

Served with a Salsa verde and a hot black olive and anchovy sauce.

 Tomato and hazelnut pesto with mozzarella and nectarines

 Quinoa salad with roasted courgette, lemon, avocado and herbs.

 Flourless chocolate cake and salted caramel ice cream

 

The lunch was a great success and I was delighted my client, who swears they have never cooked before, knocked out plate after plate of delicious food.

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Job done, mortarboards tossed and (school)bags packed I am now heading on for the next job….

For this postcard recipe I will give you some tips on cooking lamb chops (as we agreed we totally nailed it) and a recipe on how to properly cook quinoa.

 

This week;

Gold stars given :5

Detentions : 0

I raised an eyebrow at: The price of meat from the local butcher.

Range rover to Porsche ratio spotted in W11:   5:1

I have had: My postcard recipe from Provence published in the American journal ‘The Cooks Cook’  and an article on a day in the life of a private chef (this can be found in the Cooks World Section).

The word is : Aquamarine IS the colour to be seen in.

 

For more snippets and photos of my week you can follow me on

Instagram @phollowphilippa

and

Twitter @phollowphilippa

 

Tips and tricks for cooking chops

My first job in London was at the amazing Lidgate butchers.  Amazing for many reasons  – the meat is renowned for quality and I know that any meat aspiring to be sold from their blocks has to endure vigorous scrutiny and have impressive credentials before being allowed even in the front door.  Its also amazing that it’s the kind of shop that passers by stop and peer in just to have a look at the old fashioned splendor from the meat displays to the quaint staff uniforms.    The price unfortunately is also quite amazing.

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 To cook a great lamb chop:

 When to buy lamb?

You can obviously buy it all year round but for those in the UK Spring lamb is great for its tenderness but as the animal hasn’t had much time on lush grass it can lack flavour.  I prefer to wait till summer when they have had time to graze and build up a more interesting taste.

 How to store your lamb.

If vac packed remove from the plastic as this draws out moisture and flavour and wrap instead in parchment.

Before cooking generally with meat you want to bring it to room temperature however if you like your lamb chop pink keep it in the fridge, this way you can cook it long enough to render the fat but the meat will still stay pink.

 Marinades

Marinades really only add a layer of flavour to the outside, start with a good piece of lamb and don’t always feel tempted to swamp it with too many spices and herbs.

 How to cook

Start cooking the chops by placing them on their edge fat side down in a cold frying pan  Turn the heat to low  / medium and slowly let the fat render (cook down) . If you start in a hot pan it is too easy to nicely colour the outside of the fat but still leave it pretty inedible.

Once you have rendered the fat, which can take about 7 minutes turn the heat up drain away the excess then sear both flat sides for about 1 ½ mins each.

If you only decide to take one piece of advice from this list let it be this one…

Once cooked, LET IT REST.  When you cook meat the fibres firm up and the water is pushed out, if you cut it immediately you are likely to lose a lot of this and end up with dry meat. Resting lets the juices redistribute and so keeps it moist and flavourful.

We served our with a cardamom and cumin roasted aubergine and a chilli mint yogurt.

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 Quinoa salad

Many would have you believe it has a delightful nutty taste (which it kind of does especially the darker coloured types) but I definitely think it is one of those ingredients that needs as much help as it can get or it is very boring.

 Despite the way we cook Quinia it is actually a seed and not a grain so great for those of you with wheat allergies wanting to bulk out your dishes.

Unusual for a vegetable it has all 9 amino acids and so is a balanced source of protein (great if you don’t eat meat). It also has a good dose of fibre and iron.

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To cook Quinoa

Rinse before cooking as it is naturally has a bitter coating to protect to from predators (many varieties available have been pre rinsed but it cant hurt to do it twice).

Simmer 1 part Quinoa with 2 parts cold liquid (either water, a light vegetable or chicken stock).

Cook for about 10  – 15 minutes or until just soft then drain.

Leave to stand for 5 minutes then fluff up with a fork.

Once cooked there is a huge choice of what you can add making it a great solution to using up odd bits of herbs, vegetables and fruit you may have lurking in your fridge.

We added

Roasted courgettes, avocado, mint, parsley, coriander, chilli, olive oil, fennel, radish, celery and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

Other favourite additions include; pomegranates, cinnamon, cardamom, apple slices, dried cranberries, toasted nuts and seeds.

 

 Next stop…I’m off to the river Findhorn to cook for a salmon fishing party

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Recipe|Roast beetroot, Umbrian lentil, blood orange and honey ricotta salad

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The Ladies lunch…

I have been cooking for the week in various impressive kitchens in West London for ladies lunches. With not a Cosmopolitan in sight – in reading or drinking format it was not quite what you would expect.

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All the clients had chosen to have a relaxed buffet style with lots of dishes to choose from.   Cold cuts of meat, baked fish and lots of interesting winter salads and yes desserts and bread baskets too.

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Feeling delighted to be back in the big smoke with an enormous choice of amazing food shops, buying the best ingredients was easy, navigating the Circle and District line around Kensington less so. Zooming around to various markets, fishmongers and trusty Waitrose I managed to get exactly what I was looking for (and more as is usually the way).  I am also beginning to discover the glory and usefulness of our Thames river bus service, which I would highly recommend as a mode of serious transport or for a fun jaunt.

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With more FT’ s than G&T’s at the party I was most impressed by the…well I was actually most impressed by the beautiful shoes…but food wise, that for dessert an entire lemon tart got demolished pastry and all.  Sometimes it is sadly left while the filling gets scooped off.

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There was however a noticeable shift in my cooking style veering away from the shoot style hearty lunches and rich dinners and turning towards the fresh new produce now in season, like blood oranges, purple sprouting broccoli, and forced rhubarb. Olive oil was very much replacing butter, yogurt replacing cream and an even greater use of fresh herbs and citrus to keep bold but fresh flavours.

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Platters cleared away and the ladies having scooted off (though I hope not too fast in those heels!) to do various school runs and to get back to work, the parties finished up and then it was time to get on with prep for the next feast…a dinner party for 10 in the city of Westminster.

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 This Week

Shoe envy levels: seriously high

It’s all about Greek Olive oil from Olive Tree London

Every home should have: an Alexander the Great

Mode of transports included boats, trains, planes and busses.

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Next I’m heading off across the channel to the Alps and the ski resort of Tignes.

 

Roast beetroot, Umbrian lentils and honey with ricotta winter salad.

 

Serves 8 as a side salad

4 raw beetroots (I used golden and red ones)

1 tbs olive oil for cooking

 

200g Umbrian lentils

1 garlic clove

a few parsley stalks

½ a chilli cut lengthways

 

200g ricotta

2 tsp honey

 

3 sticks celery

20g parsley

20g dill

20g mint

2 blood oranges

2 avocados

 

To dress the salad

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tbs olive oil

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Pre heat the oven to 180°C.

Scrub the beetroots and boil in water till cooked (depending on size this can take 30  mins- 1 hour

Drain then scrape away the skin. Cut into wedges and drizzle with the cooking oil. Roast on a tray till slightly caramlised (about 30 mins).

 

Meanwhile place the lentils in a pan and cover with water to 1 inch above.

Add the garlic clove, chilli, parsley stalks and bring the boil.

Simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes or until just cooked.

If there is still lots of water left once cooked drian away most of the excess then season with salt and pepper.

 

Mix the ricotta with the honey and season with salt and pepper.

 

When ready to serve remove the skin and pith off the oranges and slice into thin rounds

Chop the celery into 1 cm pieces and the avocado into small chunks.

Finely chop the herbs and add them to the lentils along with the lemon juice, chopped celery and avocado.

Layer the lentils, beetroots, oranges in a bowl and top with scoops of honeyed ricotta.

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Recipe |Scallops, fino and butter with blood orange and chicory salad

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You put your left foot in…..

Left foot, swiftly followed by right foot went onto the plane with moments to spare until they shut the doors and we were zipping along the runway to head to Dublin.

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I was off to cook for a dinner party. The hosts, having only recently moved in, were practically unpacking the china and glasswear as fast as we could use it. The menu for the evening read as follows

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Nibbles

Smoked Irish salmon on crisp bread with sourcream

Chorizo cooked in cider, garlic and parsley

 Starter

Pan fried scallop with fino sherry and butter, chicory, blood orange and parsley salad

 Main

Rare roast fillet of beef with saffron bay potatoes and braised chard

 Dessert

Dark chocolate mouse, hokey pokey, nutmeg crisps and poaches pear in brandy.

 

Knowing it would be a big night (the Irish really do know how to party)! I had booked myself on a late flight the following day to the west country where I was to prepare another dinner party, this one in celebration of Robert Burns night.

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The guests were all donning garments of tartan, except one who had mis interpreted my Scottish and thought I said Rabbi Burns (I clearly need to work on my accents).

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There was whisky sours , poetry, song, wild wielding of knives by the host to cut the “great chieftan o’ the puddin’ race ”  (much to the alarm of the guest to his left), explanations of how they make haggis (much to the alarm of the vegetarian guest), and an impressively energetic ceilidh (much to the alarm of the carpet).

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Photo left to right  – caviar and egg, haggis neeps and tatties, vanilla ice cream, turnip sorbet I mean orange and chestnut chocolate cream.

With a playful approach to the 3 courses, the meal was well received although I cant help but feel the best bit is always the next day with haggis potato cakes, fried eggs with a splurge of Tommie K.

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Next …

Fun had, carpet straightened and sporrans back in their boxes I am now heading north into the blizzards of Perthshire for the final pheasant shoot of this season

 

This week

London square meal has named me blogger of the week (thank you thank you!)

https://www.facebook.com/squaremeal.uk

Ive made enough marmalade to feed all of dorset for breakfast every day…till 2017.

Every home should have a copy of ‘the swinging sporran’

Pan fried scallops with fino sherry, blood orange, butter and bitter leaves.

Serves 4 as a starter

4 large scallops

100ml fino sherry

100g butter

 

1 head of chicory

1 blood orange peeled and sliced into small segments..

1 tbs roughly chopped parsley

 

1 tsp. sherry vinegar

2015-01-29_0002 2 tsp. oil plus 1 tbs for frying

 

Chicory and orange salad

Mix the sherry vinegar and 2 tsp. olive oil in a bowl.

Separate the leaves if the chicory then toss them through the dressing.

Mix the orange and parsley together.

Arrange the dressed chicory and orange on a serving plate while you cook the scallops.

 

Cooking the scallops

Season the scallops with a pinch of salt

Place a frying pan on a high heat and add the 1 tbs olive oil.

Sear the scallops both sides for about 30 seconds   – they should get a great caramelised brown colour.

Add the fino sherry and butter and shimmy the pan to amalgamate the sauce.

Season with pepper.

Serve straight away with the chicory salad, ladling the fino sauce over the oranges and scallops.

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