When bribery and confection is the answer…
With a twinkle in their eye (one can only assume as the conversation was via telephone) the brief for my job in Gascony went like this…
With a twinkle in their eye (one can only assume as the conversation was via telephone) the brief for my job in Gascony went like this…
Season greetings to you all, I hope you had a very Merry Christmas!
Currently at an airport waiting to board my next flight I wanted to send you a quick christmas postcard but I am seriously distracted by the festive flavours going on in the coffee shops, although not at all tempted.
I simply can’t imagine what Gingerbread house latte laced with elf shavings would be like or how eggnog essence mince pie tea topped with Santa’s beard sprinkles would work on the palate. However it is amazing how quickly even the thought of some flavours can make a dish be Christmassy.
Over the last few days back at base, unable to tear myself away from the stove, light on the festive flavours I was not. Unctuous Cinnamon and star anise slow cooked local beef Brisket with clementine’s and ginger went down a treat, super tender with a crackling crunch free range pork belly with plum sauce and five spice was gobbled up and there is not a trace left of the chocolate, chestnut and brandy log.
Although not strictly speaking a traditional Christmas food household there are certain foods I will always make sure are in stock around this time of year. Layers of locally smoked trout, wedges of Dorset Blue Vinny, home made mince pies ( I am still working my way through the pots of 2013 filling that I over enthusiastically made), mint chocolates ( currently stocking six different varieties) and of course mountains of clementines.
The other staple that I like to have waiting in the wings for those unexpected guests or hungry family members or even a pre breakfast breakfast is plenty of cake after all mince pies alone are not a balanced diet.
So, just before I dash, for this postcard recipe I want to share with you my sticky toffee apple and pear cake, obviously laced with festive spices.
Turkey cooked: 27 kilos
Spice cupboard : much depleted
Brandy used : 1 bottle ( yes that’s a lot…it made its way into a fair few cocktails )
Clementine bowl : now empty
5 small Apples
1 tbs Demerara sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
150g salted butter
110g golden caster sugar
60g dark muscovado sugar
260ml double cream
250g soft salted Butter
250g caster Sugar
250 g Self Raising flour
4 organic Eggs
2 tsp ground Cinnamon
½ grated Nutmeg
1 tsp Ground ginger
Line a 10 inch deep cake tin with baking paper.
In a small saucepan gently bring all the ingredients for the caramel sauce to a simmer and cook for five minutes.
Pour half on the sauce into the cake tin.
Peel and core the apples then split in half horizontally toss with the 1 tbs demerara sugar and 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 ts ground ginger. Place into the cake tin and move around to coat with caramel sauce then arrange flat side up.
To make the batter
In a bowl beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy.
Add half the flour, all the spices and 2 of the eggs. Gently beat until combined then add the rest of the eggs and flour and gently beat again.
Grate the pears , sin and all but discarding the core. Stir through the batter then pour on top of the apples.
Bake on the middle shelf for 40 mins or until a skewer comes out clean ( its just the batter you don’t want to see on the skewer – there may be caramel sauce
Leave to cool in the tin then turn out on to your serving platter.
Gently arm the rest of the sauce and pour over the top of the cake.
This is delicious with whipped cream or even brandy butter.
Defra and the City of London Pollution control team, are currently analysing some mysterious anomalies in their data for the end of November. With readings off the charts and new territories reached on the Decibel scale I hear they are truly puzzled.
Well… I will fess up. It was us!
Thanksgiving celebrations, west London area, a bajillion children and a lot of excited American ex pats celebrating their grand federal holiday. It was my first one and I loved it!
For those of you who have never celebrated thanksgiving think levels of Christmas preparation, planning and excitement just without the carols and presents.
Thanksgiving is generally thought to have come about from the 102 Pilgrims who set sail on the Mayflower back in 1620. It was a very harsh first winter so most of them stayed on their ship. About half of them died and those that survived were understandably not in great shape. When they finally all came ashore come spring time they were met by local Native Indians who taught and helped them grow, hunt and gather food in order to survive in their new environment .
The pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest in November 1621 and invited some of the local Indians which many consider the first of thanksgiving. Over the years the tradition of giving thanks around harvest time spread to other areas but it wasn’t until 1863, during the civil war, that President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving would take place on the last Thursday each November. For a while the date was moved forward a week, this was done during the great depression in 1939 by Roosevelt to help boost sales but as so many objected in 1941 a bill was signed placing it on the forth Thursday of November where it remains set to this day.
( above are the welcoming margarita clementine cocktails)
Over time it is not just the date that has changed but the menu as well.
Turkey meat was unlikely to have been part of the earlier Thanksgiving suppers, although they would have been some wild ones living around the Plymouth area where the pilgrims landed. It is likely they eventually got incorporated into the feast, as they were large enough to feed a crowd plus could be spared as they don’t lay lots of eggs (unlike chickens) or produce other useful produce like milk.
Although I wouldn’t place Turkey at the top of my favourites list I was amused by the idea that every year in the States it has become custom for the president to pardon one.
From thousands of birds around 80 are randomly selected from the National Turkey federation. They are fed a quick fattening diet of grains and soybeans so they can look the part if they go on to be the ‘chosen one’. The 80 turkeys are put into celebrity turkey training camp and exposed to flashing camera lights, loud noises and given exposure to large crowds. Twenty finalists are then chosen to live on and are closely monitored to see which are the best behaved, most good-looking and largest. Eventually two ‘chosen’ ones will be named by The White House and then finally one will go on to be Americas next top turkey and the ‘pardoned’ one.
The tradition of giving turkeys to Presidents had been going on for many years but it was only since Reagan that they started being pardoned and not until 1998 in George HW Bush time that the tradition really set in. Once the razzmatazz of being spared is over the turkey will live out the rest of its days either in a petting zoo (in which case I cant help but feel the turkey may have preferred to get the chop rather than deal with being manhandled by hundreds of visitors a day), or on a farm probably in Virginia or even go to Disney land where it becomes the honorary marshal of the Thanksgiving day parade. I kid you not. One should note however as the turkey is encouraged to become in what human terms we call obese it doesn’t live that long anyway.
The thanksgiving meal I cooked for happened in two sittings. First came the bajillion children and then the adults. My morning was spent weight lifting huge turkeys from lidgates to the house , roasting and peeling mountains of chestnuts and sceptically making the star of this postcard recipe a, Pumpkin Pie.
Before you pumpkin pie fans raise your eyebrows at my scepticism (or you pumpkin pie non converts click away) let me explain. I am of the opinion if a certain dish was that good or that well loved it would appear more than just once a year, the British obsession with turkey at Christmas being my prime example.
Pumpkin pie has never really been adopted by us Brits and from what I can tell only really gets attention the other side of the pond around thanksgiving. Well this has got to change ! Pumpkin pie it turns out is totally delicious and should be eaten for life (ok when is season) and not just for Thanksgiving .
When the job was done and as I was saying my good byes we discussed what fun it was and I expressed how much I enjoyed cooking for my first Thanksgiving.
“Great” my clients said …
“Next year we will get you a baseball cap to cook in “! they yelled as I headed out the door
“ but perhaps maybe some ear plugs too ” I muttered as I headed down the street on to my next job …
So for this postcard recipe I give you… Pumpkin Pie.
I love : Pumpkin pie
Every home should have : Alexa
Favourite pumpkin trivia : In 1705 the Connecticut town of Colchester famously postponed its Thanksgiving for a week because there wasn’t enough molasses available to make pumpkin pie.
Turkeys spared : 1 ( by Obama not me)
You may wonder why I use squash when the title suggests I should be using pumpkin, basically squash is much less watery, tastes better and close enough so allowed in.You may also wonder why there is no photo… basically it got eaten before it could be papped !
You will need a 28 cm pie dish
For the pastry
250g plain flour plus extra for rolling
1 tbs icing sugar
1 x orange, zest only
50g cream cheese
100g butter, chilled
1 – 2 tbs iced water
1 medium butternut squash
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tbs demerera sugar
200ml maple syrup
4 tbsp brandy
4 medium eggs, beaten
150ml evaporated milk
To make the pastry ,
In a food processor blitz the flour with the icing sugar and orange zest.
Grate in the butter and add the cream cheese in small spoonful’s. Pulse a few times.
Add the egg yolk and ½ tbs iced water and blitz. Stop as soon as the pastry starts to form into a dough (you may need to add a little more water.
Lightly flour a piece of baking paper and roll out the dough to line your pie dish. Press well into the edges and reline with the sheet of baking paper.
Pre heat the oven to 200 °C
Leave to rest in the fridge for 30 mins then pour in baking beans and cook for 15mins , then remove the paper and beans and cook for a further 10( it should be lightly golden).
Leave to cool.
Reduce the oven to 175 °C.
Peel, deseed and chunk the squash into 1inch pieces. Toss with the cinnamon, ginger and the sugar.
Roast on a flat tray for 40mins or until soft.
Place in a food processor (scraping in a any spice bits from the tray) and blitz to smooth.
Place a clean thin tea towel or muslin cloth in a colander set over a bowl or pot and scoop in the squash puree. Leave to drain for 1 hour then weigh out 300g. You don’t need the remainder for this dessert so I popped mine into a celeriac and squash gratin but could go into a soup cet.).
Place the weighed puree into a bowl and hand whisk in the syrup, brandy, eggs and evaporated milk, you are just doing this to mix rather than to add volume or air into the mix.
Taste to see if it needs extra spices then pour into the pastry and bake for 40 mins – 1 hour or until set.
Leave to cool then serve in slices with whipped cream and plenty of American cheer.
From an early age much of my time has been spent on and off stage so I’m well aware of what it takes to make a production run smoothly. All going well on the face of it we see the actors entering and exiting at the appropriate moments, impressively and seamlessly remembering their lines (we hope) and brilliantly drawing us into their world. What we tend to forget as an audience member however is how much work has to go on backstage to achieve all this.
People have been working tirelessly on costumes, props and scenery. Directors, musicians , techies and other crew have all shed blood, sweat and probably tears to get the show on the road and not to mention the gentle cajoling , ego massaging, support and camaraderie that has gone on to hold it all together by everyone.
What has all this got to do with venison sausage rolls I hear you ask?! And how can she possibly link this thespian theme to her latest job cooking for a Highland partridge shoot? Well…
Up on the Cawdor estate near Inverness, it’s hard not to get drawn into a dramtic mood, not least because it is the home of the Scottish Play (or Macbeth for those of you who are less superstitious). Add 42,000 acres of extraordinary Highland landscape, endlessly changing light, some of the best field sport in the country and boundless amounts of fresh air and you can understand how one can easily become theatrical.
Shoot jobs are always busy as there are a lot of hungry men (and more and more so women) to feed. Despite November being quite late in the season to still be eating outside the group was game to have their lunches up on ‘the hill’, the in the know term for on the moor.
I am always delighted to to be heading out on these adventures, braving the elements, dirt tracks and overcoming the challenges of transporting and serving a top not lunch to the middle of nowhere. The shooting crowd are definitely a set who love their food so ones efforts to go all out are always appreciated.
As the chef your day starts early in the lodge kitchen doing a big cooked breakfast and preparing the elevenses baskets for the game keeper to takeaway for the gun’s mid morning snack. Once breakfast is cleared away the preparing and packing up of a top notch lunch to be served way up on the hill can begin.
Food has to be carefully packed along with tables, tablecloths, plates, candles if the day is dark, flowers, wine (of course) and fire wood into the trusty Range Rover and driven across narrow bridges, winding tracks across babbling burns and reversed down slippery paths to a bothy hidden in the depths of the moor. Undoubtedly more fun than an office job I imagine. Once there, everything is unloaded come rain or shine or wind (though often in Scotland a bit of all three) and set up, the wood burner lit, hot soup made ready to serve and the wine opened in anticipation for the arrival of the hungry and often cold and wet guns.
On one of the days on our way to the bothy we had to pause on the hill as the beaters (people with flags energetically waving them on command whilst walking down a hill to flush the birds towards the guns and not Harry Potter like children on broom sticks playing quidditch), were making their sweep ahead of us.
Turning on our radio to the channel that the head keeper and beaters were using we received instructions to wait there for a wee while longer. Not wanting to scare the birds off course we switched off the engine and due to our remote location and therefore lack of signal to Radio 4, listened into the “ backstage” working of the shoot.
Like a director of an enormous production (think Aida on a Verona scale) the head Game keeper directs his backstage crew to flush the actors (partridge in this case) onto the stage (the area surrounding the pegs) where the eager audience (the guns) get to take their shot.
In this case however the actors (partridge) are more temperamental than the worst of divas and it takes great skill and combined effort to get them to fly where and when you want them.
Listening to the instructions was a bit like listening to the shipping forecast, you enjoy it and are strangely addicted but don’t quite understand all that is said. None the less it was hard not to get swept up in the team effort of getting the birds in the right place and the building excitement of whether it would pay off.
“ Flag up, flag up !!!!! “ was repeated many times and moments later a flurry of flag waving from the guys and girls on the hill.
“I canny see Eion , get oot ‘o the gulley” !! also seemed to be a popular communication.
The crackly line coupled with the heavy Scottish accents meant I couldn’t follow the script exactly but the most entertaining moment was when one group of partridge was spotted flying too far left, the beaters were directed to reposition themselves sharpish to correct the flight path and I distinctly heard in My Fair Lady meets Braveheart style from one of the keepers:
“ come on…come on!…come on !! …come on Beaters, move yer bloomin’ arse!” .
The ripple of gun fire a moment later indicated the move was successful and that the guys on the hill had done a good job. Then came the sound of the horn indicating the end of the drive and our cue to get a move on to the bothy to set up lunch.
During a lunch the game keeper will inform the head of the party their current bird count ( bag), if their booked number has already been met and if it has if they would like to carry on, for a second act. Invariably the answer is yes, unless the weather has turned really foul, so once the feast is finished they all had back out for a few more drives.
At the end of the shoot day, once the show is over, everyone returns back to the lodge and the day’s bag is laid out for the count. The beaters, dog handlers, game keepers and guns gather round for a wee dram and exchange highlights and tales of the day and it is at this point that the backstage crew can take their bow and be thanked for a tremendous show.
For this postcard I want to share with you my new favourite snack I like to make for the elevenses basket namely venison scotch eggs. To qualify for a good elevenses shoot snack the food has to be able to survive transportation, easy to eat with one hand, hearty and suitable for ketchup or Tabasco (that’s a must according to Lord L who apparently is a connoisseur when it comes to elevenses).
Scotch eggs are totally worth making from scratch as you can get the eggs perfectly cooked ( unlike the obligatorily over cooked shop bought ones) and the meat perfectly seasoned.
These Venison ones have the advantage that the meat is known to be full of minerals and iron and is low fat.. which in my book translates as you don’t have to feel so guilty about scoffing a whole one. I have to say on a personal note that when Lord L is not looking you should also try it with crab apple jelly as its mix of tart and sweetness pairs beautifully with game flavours.
Best bag: 434
Best Bag: Bottega Veneta
Every home should have: A piper
I used : 94 local eggs
Butter usage : off the charts
I’m driving : a Range Rover
800g venison mince
2 slices white bread
splash of milk
200g bread crumbs ( panko are the best) placed in a small bowl
100g cornflour, placed in a small bowl.
1 litre veg oil for frying
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil.
Gently plop 8 eggs in and cook on a high heat for 7 minutes.
Gently drain and fill the pan with cold water and a few handfuls of ice.
Once the eggs are cool peel them.
In a large bowl season the venison mince with salt and pepper.
Break the bread into bits, crust and all, and splash on some milk and 1 raw egg. Mush about then mix well into the mince ( if you are feeling fancy you can add 2 cloves finely ground clove and 1 tbs of finely chopped parsley but for me home made venison scotch egg is excitement enough).
Take 1/8 of the mince and wrap around 1 of the cooked eggs. It is easier if your hands are wet.
Repeat with the other eggs.
Then break the last egg into a bowl and add a splash of milk and beat.
Dip each of the meat wrapped eggs into the cornflour, then egg mix then breadcrumbs.
It is less messy if you dip every egg into the cornflour, then every egg into the egg, then finally the breadcrumbs otherwise you end up with breaded fingers.
Pre heat the oven to 200°C
Heat your oil in a deep pan, When hot ( a small lump of bread when dropped in should go brown and crispy in seconds) fry the eggs individually until golden ( a minute or so) then lay on a flat baking tray nicely spread apart.
Once they have all been fried, bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes.
Remove and transfer onto a wire rack to cool a little.
Eat warm or cold as the perfect elevenses snack.
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.
When most families pack a car and set off on their holidays it is not unusual for them to go through last minute panic checks:
“Did you turn off the lights”!?
“Did you lock the back door”?!
“Did I pack my new bikini”?!
“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 A exclaims:
“Stop the car! Did you remember to load the Olive oil?!”
It’s going to be my kind of trip I thought as client B assures client A that yes all 17 litres of the stuff is on board and safety packed. Ready to roll we made the journey from Athens onto the ferry that would sail us to Paros. Getting a car ferry to the Greek islands was one of the most confusing and seemingly pot luck travel adventures I’ve ever been a part of and one day can have a post all to itself… when I’ve figured out how it actually all worked out.
As I write this on the flight back from Athens I have been flicking through my photos of Paros from the last two weeks and have been 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 variety 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 strangely low).
4) It looks like I developed a soft spot for ouzo (though not sure if this will travel back with me to the UK as although it works extremely well in the lingering heat of the Grecian evening sun I’m not sure it will have quite the same effect in Dorset).
Ouzo here is often drunk before dinner on ice with splashes of water. My extensive research concludes it works incredibly well with taramaslata and grilled octopus. The octopus interestingly are caught and killed then beaten to tenderise them before being left to dry in the sun. You can often see them draped over poles by the beach and above restaurants and bars. When cooked and simply grilled then tossed in a splash of vinegar, lemon juice, dill and olive oil they make the most perfect aperitif.
Sea urchins I noticed are also very popular and made regular appearances on menus. They can be served simply with olive oil or my new favourite way, scooped out and served on half a lemon. To eat it you gently scrape your spoon across thereby gathering up the sea urchin and getting a delightful balanced twang of lemon. Perfect.
Obviously I wasn’t just bought out here to enjoy the sun, sea and ouzo, I was also here to cook. When I first arrived at the villa there were half-hearted mutterings from some of the group that they were afraid they would pile on a few pounds having read some of my heartier statistics from postcards earlier on in the year. I think they were referring to the 1 ½ packs of butter, 500ml double cream and 5 eggs per person per day scenarios that occasionally seem to occur. Fear not, I said as I was totally geared up and ready to start on my summer inspired salads, grills and healthier desserts and of course replacing as far as possible butter with Greek extra virgin Olive oil.
Menus involved using lots of the all locally produced vegetables, fruits and meats. Unfortunately there was no fish as the sea was too rough due to the high winds, although as consolation the wind in tandem with the dazzling sun made for perfect summer weather and saved us all from being fried alive. I noted the fisherman, whom we visited every other day at the port, didn’t seem too distressed and were quite happy spending their morning drinking coffee, smoking their Karelia and mending their nets.
Food was kept light, refreshing and although I didn’t specifically set out to make it focused on healthy it naturally is when cooking with Mediterranean summer ingredients.
With every day a guaranteed scorcher it was important the food remained not too heavy and so besides including a lot of salad and vegetable centric dishes on the menus with the lack of fish I kept meat dishes light by grilling or slow cooking them with lots of herbs, zests and healthy sloshes of the impressive Paros white wine.
The local butcher, who turned out to be quite the character, supplied meat only reared on Paros and although he did not offer a great variety it was mostly top quality. He assured me goat meat is very popular on the island, which was of no surprise as when driving around you can see the hills are littered with them, but I admit I turned it down as the ones he offered looked very scrawny . Their pork and 41 day aged beef ( thats almost twice the time beef is generally hung in the UK) however was excellent and perfect for the BBQ.
One of my favourite things about being a chef who gets to travel extensively is rather than the normal situation of staying in situ and trying to find the top foods that have been imported, it is me being shipped out to find the top ingredients from the local suppliers.
Take for instance the kalamata olives. My client and I ( she liked to come with me to the shops as food really is her thing) bought a bag from the local veg shop, she nudged me and predicted I was going to LOVE these. I admit I was slightly unmoved at the time as kalamata olives are hardly a rare sight these days. When seven O’Clock came and the ouzo, ice and nibbles were gathered I placed a little bowl of these black beauties on the tray, saving one ( or two) to pop in my mouth to try.
‘Surprise” the olives yelled as they bust open in my mouth, filling it with a rich creamy yet clean sensation, ” you won’t forget us in a hurry” they muttered as the delightfully meaty olive taste lingered for several minutes longer ( and no, the olives were not talking to me because I had had one too many ouzos ).
The brilliant white feta ( less chatty than the olives but sensational none the less) which is served from big barrels and chunks sliced off to order, was again nothing like I had tried back home. All the nuts we bought were fresh, crunchy and full of flavour especially the pistachios and almonds and the plump caper berries were so moreish the kids, also keen on them, threatened to hide the pot from me.
The star of the show/kitchen however had to ultimately be… the Greek extra virgin olive oil.
I had to confess to my client, who is Greek, that I really hadn’t used it much as from my days at the River Café I had been firmly swayed/indoctrinated towards the Italian stuff. I was calmly sat down and the lectures ( fascinating and in good spirit) began…
Globally the production and sale of olive oil is a murky and not quite so liquid green gold world with many troubles, grey areas and mysteries. For instance Italy sells far more Italian extra virgin olive oil than it can actually produce (I was told that 60% of Greek olive oil is shipped too Italy and then sold as Italian). You would not guess from looking on the shop shelves back home but Greece is the worlds third largest producer. As the rest of the family joined in about the merits of Greek olive oil above, the gesticulating got more flamboyant and my eye kept catching the light coating the olive branches in the garden it was hard not to be sucked in and become a complete convert. I suspect however it would only take a five minute walk through an olive grove in Provence to remind that there are in fact quite a few places you can obtain delicious olive oil, you just have to be prepared to pay for it.
As price is often the main driving factor in our purchasing decisions it is worth knowing that the cheaper extra virgin olive oils are often sourced by trucks going around various farms / co ops sucking up anything left in the large barrels ( so unknown age/ quality ) then mixing, filtering before bottling and selling it on. The growing, harvesting and pressing involved is not without its difficulties and so it is not surprising that if you want a quality one it will be comparatively expensive. Once you taste the good stuff however it is hard to want to use anything else.
If you are interested in reading more into the scandalous and marvellous world of olive oil I suggest the book Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller.
As my client grows, harvests and makes some top quality extra virgin olive oil it was not surprising we had brought enough to practically bathe in. We did however manage to resist the temptation and stick to the Aegean sea for that urge and keep all the oil for cooking.
It was used not only for the obvious things like cooked meats, vegetables and making dressings but also in various desserts and cakes.
For this postcard recipe I want to share with you one of the cakes I made for afternoon tea that although may not have helped us in Greece with any lightening of the figures, it uses olive oil rather than butter and mostly honey rather than sugar so seemed a good comprise for a treat.
Olive oil used : 6 litres
Greek yogurt eaten : 2.5 kilos ( by us all)
Percentage of dishes involving olive oil : 91%
I’m reading : The Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield
Ouzo habit: developing
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
1 long sprig of rosemary
150g sr flour
½ tsp baking powder
150g cup ground almonds
100ml extra virgin olive oil
75 g runny honey
seeds from 1 vanilla pod
zest from 2 oranges
Pre heat the oven to 170 ° C
1)Line a 2 lb loaf tin with baking parchment and place the sprig of rosemary at the bottom.
2)In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and ground almonds.
3)In a separate bowl whisk together the sugar and eggs until pale and thick ( about 3 minutes if using an electric whisk) then mix in the olive oil, honey , vanilla seeds, orange zest and juice.
4)Gradually mix the eggs into the flour mixture and stir until you have a smooth batter.
5)Pour into the tin and bake on a lower shelf for 40 – 5o mins or until a skewer comes out clean.
6)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.
The recent weeks have involved cooking for a Shabbat in West London, a whisky tasting lunch and photographic exhibition in a Soho car park, a wine tasting at the fabulous Whirly Wines down in Tooting Bec, working on an brilliant Dorset book project and a trip to Nice and Monaco.
I was excited to cook for my first Shabbat, a day of rest and celebration in the Jewish week. The Middle Eastern themed meal was to take place in a very cosmopolitan feeling Kensington. When designing the menu there were certain rules I had to bare in mind, so of course no pork, no shellfish, fish with only gills and scales – meaning no turbot, monkfish, catfish etc.. and it was also important not to mix meat and dairy so couldn’t include yogurt sauces with some dishes in the Middle eastern feast.
The Shabbat meal begins with candle lighting and blessings then the food is bought in and the feast begins. Here was their menu :
Home made burgers, potato wedges and broccoli
Adults Canapés and cocktails
Vodka, champagne and rhubarb fizz
Beetroot hummus with garlic and lemon on crisp breads
Chicken and orange blossom pastries with harrissa
Roast Bass with ras al hanout, white wine and garlic with roasted squash and herbed couscous, chopped salad with lime and sumac.
Slow roast shoulder of lamb with cinnamon, cumin and coriander with saffron pilaf, tomato and chickpea sauce, crispy onions, pomegranates and tahini sauce.
Children – Chocolate caramel brownies
Adults – Pressed chocolate cake with roasted rhubarb
Apple tart tatin and cream
As kosher meat is salted in order to help remove the blood it is recommended that you wash it before cooking, also you need to be more sensitive when seasoning.
The whisky tasting lunch in the trendy car park was all rather jolly helping to celebrate the launch of an exhibition by the photographer James Stroud. The photographs were of the Balvenie Distillery on Speyside. The party kicked off with whisky based cocktails and canapés and then continued with three courses all of which were paired with various aged whiskies. Tentatively reflecting on it the next day I am not fully convinced that it is a great idea to have whisky pre lunch AND with every course but I am totally won over by serving it with the cheese.
Though in fairness to the whisky it probably didn’t help that in true trooper chef style, having said my thank yous and goodbyes to the whisky infused crowd, I headed south for a wine tasting. For anyone enthusiastic about interesting wines from small producers around the world, Whirly Wines is a place I would highly recommend to visit. When we arrived at the tasting there were some top foodies around the table including chefs from Bibendum, the Begging Bowl and people from some of London’s most interesting wine clubs as well as locals, passing by that were then drawn in by the merriment kicking off inside.
The next day my much needed detoxing had to wait, as I was on a plane heading to the somewhat warmer Riviera.
So much wonderful food originates here, Salad Nicoise ( though shockingly I didn’t actually experience or see particularly good ones), socca – thin chickpea flour pancakes (the perfect snack with an ice cold beer), daube – a beef stew , deep fried courgettes flowers, farcais – veal stuffed vegetable, Pissaladiére – sweet onion and anchovy pastry tart and tourtes de blettes – a chard tart with raisons and pinenuts. All of which I managed to sample.
The stand out show stopper of the culinary tour however has to have been the apple tarts (I tried several) that are so ubiquitous in French bistros. Very simple – no spices, no purees and very delicious, they can make even those who find it hard to stop, linger for a few moments extra at the table.
So for this postcard I would like to share my French Apple tart recipe, the perfect way to end a lunch, enjoy the moment and toast absent friends
Lunches in car parks : 1
Wine tastings in Tooting Bec:1
Not nice Nicoise salads : 2
Shabbats cooked for:1
I joined Facebook : please like my page here Philippa Davis face book
Makes 8 – 10 6 cm individual tarts
180g plain flour
20g icing sugar
100g cold salted butter
1 egg yolk
2 – 4 tbs iced water
6 -8 large crunchy Apples like Gala, Braeburn, Pink lady, Jazz.
8- 10 tsp soft butter
8- 10 tsp golden caster sugar
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbs milk
4 tbs apricot jam
In a food processor pulse the flour and icing sugar a couple of times.
On the large side of the cheese grater, grate the butter then add to the flour. Pulse a couple of times.
Add the egg yolk and pulse a couple more times.
Add 2 – 4 tbs of the very cold water, whilst pulsing, until the pastry only just starts coming together into a ball.
Tip into a bowl and bring together.
Flatten out into a 2 cm fat disk, wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for ½ hour.
Pre heat the oven to 180 ° c
Roll out the pastry to a couple of mm thick then cut out 8 – 10 circles and lay them on flat baking sheets lined with non stick paper (you will need to re ball and re roll the pastry but try not to over handle it).
Brush the pastry with the egg yolk and milk mix,
Peel, core and chop the apples into thin crescents.
Lay them in a pretty pattern on top of the pastry circles trying to get them slightly upright.
Dot on the butter and sprinkle on the sugar.
Bake for 45 mins until golden and the apple is soft.
Once cooked melt the apricot jam with 1 tbs water in a pan on a low heat and brush onto the tarts.
Enjoy hot or cold but certainly with a big pile of cream.
Despite the mass splattering of red decorations sputtered over every street in Singapore in readiness for Chinese New Year my focus for the week was on preparing a party feast for Russian New Year, all be it a late one.
Russian cuisine I admit would not be one of my chosen Mastermind topics however this was nothing a few evenings with Google could not change, or at least help with. Well that and a Russian cookbook from the 1990s my mother thrust into my case as I bounded out the door a few weeks before.
Whilst the host and I enthusiastically went through the menu I tentatively mentioned that from what I could gather Russian cuisine centres on dill, vodka and sour cream.
“Da“! They explained “Da, Da, wery good, you have it “!
(Ok – they don’t normally speak in a Russian accent but I felt it added to the story).
With this concept nailed here was our party’s menu:
Russian mules – vodka, ginger beer, lime
Cosmopolitans – vodka, cranberry, triple sec and lime, garnished with orange.
Smoked salmon blini with sour cream and caviar
Smoked herring on cucumber slices with dill and apple.
Beef stroganoff with rice
Satsivi – Roasted chicken with garlic, coriander and saffron
Fish Po Azovsky – baked fish with white wine, spinach, stewed tomato and parsley.
Beetroot, smetana and walnut salad
Russian Potato salad
Cucumber and radish salad with dill, sour cream and spring onions
White Russian Ice cream with chilled vodka coffee syrup
Chocolate and ginger torte
Potato, mushroom and cheese pirozhki
Some of the dishes took on a more Georgian slant as they have slightly more ingredients incorporated into their cuisine like the coriander and saffron in the chicken dish. The star and saviour of the midnight munchies for many of us were the pirozhki , small bread parcels that can be stuffed with meat, cheese or vegetables. These little beauties should make a midnight appearance at all good parties and will certainly be appearing again on my menus over 2016.
The rest of the week was spent cooking for (slightly less wild) dinner parties, shopping at various markets and eating steamed dumplings.
I confess after my time out here I am slightly in love with dumplings especially the Xiao Long Bao (pictured above) which traditionally contain pork and a scalding hot liquid that bursts into your mouth once you bite into the steaming little juicy morsels.
For this postcard recipe as much as I would like to share with you the pirozhki I feel I should be giving you a far more Eastern inspired recipe like the Matcha eclairs I made one night for dessert. Matcha is a powdered green tea from Japan and China. It lends a superb green colour to dishes and has a delicate, delightful, exotic and somewhat unusual taste. It works extremely well in noodles, ice cream, kit-kats and eclairs.
By the end of the week, having eaten as many dumplings as I could and everyone feeling thoroughly well fed and entertained it was time for me to once again pack my bags and head on to the next adventure…
Every party should have: pirozhki
Vodka and champagne drunk: xxx (private chef code of conduct and Asia’s top lawyers deny me from divulging these figures)
Modes of Transport: boats, planes , MTR , MRT.
We are listening to :From Russia with Love and Ra Ra Rasputin (very loudly)
Dumplings consumed : 36
Its all about : dill and sour cream
Yes this is a multi stage and multi bowl washing up extravaganza BUT incredibly delicious and makes a rather interesting and light dessert.
50g butter cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
150 ml water
65 g plain flour
1 dsp caster sugar
2 eggs lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 220 °C
Line a large flat tray with baking paper.
Place the butter and water in a small saucepan to melt the butter and bring the water just to the boil.
Take off the heat, tip all the flour and sugar in at once and stir.
Once in a ball return to a low heat and cook for a couple of minutes stirring constantly.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 10 minutes – this stage is really important as if you add the eggs in when the mixture is two hot your éclairs are doomed.
Once the mix is cooler add 2/3s of the eggs and beat till combined. You want to form a paste you can pipe and it still holds its shape so add as much egg as needed.
Scoop into a piping bag and pipe out 12 strips about 7 cm long, two strips wide and two layers high – leaving space in-between each eclair
Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the oven to 170 °c and bake for a further 15 – 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and pierce each éclair at one end with a skewer to release the steam and leave to cool on a rack.
500 ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod
3 egg yolks
100 g caster sugar
60 g cornflour, sifted
2 tsp matcha powder, sifted
35 g butter, cut into cubes
Weigh out all the ingredients
Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the scraped seeds and the pod. Gently bring to a boil.
In a bowl whisk the egg yolks with sugar then add the corn flour and matcha.
Whisk in the just boiled milk (discarding the pod) then pour back into the
Using a spatula and occasionally a whisk slowly cook the mix for a couple of
minutes. It should be think and by the end not taste of raw corn flour.
Take off the heat and stir in the butter. Scrape into a bowl , cover with cling film
and leave in the fridge to cool completely.
Make this just before you are ready to use it.
100 g white chocolate
1 tbs double cream
Melt the white chocolate with 1 tbs double cream in a pan on a low heat till smooth .
1 tbs icing sugar
1 tsp matcha
1 – 3 tsp water
Mix the icing sugar and matcha together and stir in enough water to create a paste that can be dribbled.
Cut each éclair lengthways, fill a piping bag with the matcha crème pâtissèrie and pipe a good layer onto the bottom half then place the back the top of the eclair
Spoon on top a thin layer of white chocolate icing. Leave this to set then dribble over some green matcha icing.
With various Christmas parties to cook for in West London last week I was racing around town to some of my favourite food shops hunting and gathering the various delicious seasonal offerings currently available.
In Holland Park, besides the landmark butchers Lidgates and the impressive wine merchant and deli Jeroboams there is an excellent old school fruit and veg shop called Michanicou. Not only is their produce top notch but so to is the service. Outside and inside the shop there are towers of boxes and crates stuffed with beautiful ingredients. The routine is you go in, stand in the middle and spiel out your order, the numerous staff then leap round the shop selecting it for you whilst engaging in shop keeper banter – this time it was mostly at my expense as we all tried to decipher my shopping list.
“5 x orang-utans” they chuckled …”3 x ridiculous lettuces ,1 x spaceship, why yes miss, of course, coming right up”!
On the spare inch of wall without actual produce I noticed a sign that announced they could source white truffles upon request. “Mmmmmm”, I thought.
Having asked a few questions as to how the season was going (a little late this year) , how much I would need to order one in advance they proudly told me how they sometimes store them overnight in their elevenses biscuit tin. From various taste tests they informed me that although truffle infused shortbread is delicious, Garibaldis were frankly just weird (good to know).
White Truffles, known affectionately as diamonds of the kitchen are highly prized. They are generally available between October and December/January.
As cultivation is generally not successful the wild treasure has to be foraged. Sometimes done with female pigs (the scent apparently similar to the male pigs pheromone) but more often with well-trained dogs as they cause less destruction to the habitat, are less likely to scoff the truffle and of course are easier to pop in the back of the car. The hunters go out in dark and secretive early hours of the morning, often taking elaborate routes so as not to be followed.
When I got a thumbs up from my client that white truffle should indeed be on the menu I was on the other side of town so decided to pay Tartufaia in Borough Market a visit. I love buying food (and shoes) from the Italians. Unlike the French whom as much as I love and respect can make you feel like you really don’t know anything, the Italians are more than happy to indulge in answering all your questions.
We opened the jars and sniffed , we chatted and went through what I wanted to do with my truffle, we debated and discussed what I should and shouldn’t add and both nearly had watery eyes of joy as we discussed just how special these fruiting bodies of subterranean tuber fungus are.
Points of note I learnt were:
Never store in rice as it will dry them out (store lightly wrapped in kitchen paper in the fridge.
They will last up to two weeks from being dug out of the earth – but the sooner eaten the better.
Clean with a slightly dampened (new) toothbrush.
Although most famously the white ones are from Alba in the Piedmont area of Northern Italy they can also be sniffed out in other places like Emilia Romagna, Tuscany , Croatia and Slovenia.
Once we had finished our natter over the truffle (and had I paid) I excitedly headed back to West London to start the preparations for that night’s party. The menu read as follows
It was a great joy to serve steaming bowls of hot pasta with lashings of white truffle shavings on top and to see the delight of guests as they were bought to the table.
The next day the house was reset and ready to welcome 20 ladies for lunch and then it was time to pack my bags, don my country coat and head West.
Clementine: Mince Pie ratio 3:1
Every home should have: a mandolin
I’m loving : London’s Christmas Lights
White Truffle bought: 64g
I’m traveling: by Underground
I am delighted to contribute to the wonderful Yapp Brothers wine merchants a Christmas food and wine matching piece.
30g white truffle
300g fresh egg taglierini pasta
100g freshly grated Parmesan
100g truffle butter
This is not so much of a recipe as an instruction.
If serving truffle as a starter you want about 5 g each, make sure you have a truffle slicer or mandolin ( I had to visit 3 cook shops in W11 before I could find somewhere where they hadn’t sold out) to get the perfect thin slices.
Do not use truffle oil to enhance the flavour but you can use truffle butter like I did.
Don’t be tempted to add parsley to the dish. Just don’t.
Prep the truffle by brushing any dirt of with a slightly damp new toothbrush.
Cook the fresh egg pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water then drain (reserving some of the water).
Whisk a splash of hot pasta water with the yolk then add the Paremsan, toss through the butter and pasta.
Pile onto a warm serving bowl or share between warm starter plates then immediately shave over the truffle in very thin slices.
Here in the UK we are using the week to pay homage to that wonderful sweet sticky substance that is made by bees from the nectar of flowers. Yes, National Honey Week is here and it’s time you too got stuck in.
Besides from keeping the peas on your knife (only joking Mr Debrett, I know that’s what ketchup is for) honey has many culinary uses. It can add an amazing new level to dishes and having been more liberal with it than usual this past week I can confidently say it’s incredibly versatile. All the food dishes photographed in this postcard recipe have honey in them, well apart from one but I liked the photo so I wanted to include it.
A few years back I remember a phase where practically every client had me out looking for mānuka honey, produced by bees in New Zealand and said to have particularly good medicinal properties. A friend of mine bought some, handing over £30 for the jar with high expectations of it containing the elixir of life. A few spoonfuls and days in to the jar they decided that although delicious, they would have been just as happy in life and wellbeing with a jar produced by local bees and at least £20 better off.
Depending on what the bees forage on the honey produced will vary greatly. For instance heather honey in comparison to chestnut honey couldn’t be more different. This week as I was cooking lots of game I decided to use mostly Scottish heather honey, which naturally pairs well with that “of the hill” herby flavour of the wild meat. I noted that as we kept the jar by the salt, pepper and olive oil, ingredients that are constantly used, the honey became almost a 4th staple seasoning. As it is thought that over heating honey destroys some of its benefits I generally try and add it at the end of cooking or raw on top. Though this view does make me wonder why honey, lemon and a wee dram of hot whisky makes such a good medicinal drink…
When buying honey it is really worth checking out the label and answering these questions. Is it from the UK? Is it a blend? Has it been pasteurised or is it raw? All of these factors will not only affect taste but also the benefits it can give you. There is this great company ‘Hive & Keeper’ (hiveandkeeper.com) which I just love the concept of. It is set up to sell unique jars of honey from different beekeepers dotted around the UK (sadly the majority of honey currently sold here is a blend and a lot of it imported). So you have the choice and can buy jars of honey made in Clapham Common in London or maybe a jar produced in North Lincolnshire (a perfect idea for Christmas prezzies). With bees foraging within a 3 mile radius of their hive every batch will be unique.
The garden at home has 3 hives and earlier in the spring I thought it would be a wonderful idea to plant a wild flower meadow around the apiary along with rows of lavender. Secretly thinking I was the next Gertrude Jekyll I ignored the sceptics and enthusiastically scattered seeds into the rocks and stones around the hives convinced that when I returned in a few months there would be a flourish of life and colour. The below…
Is not what I returned to and instead there was an impressive jungle of weeds.
Apparently in a good year bees can produce 2 – 3 times more honey than needed to keep them going through the winter. Even though many gardens may have looked a perfect bees playground many bee keepers have found the 2015 harvest has been very poor with a wet, windy and cool summer to blame.
Despite the rest of the garden putting on a magnificent display our little darlings did not make enough honey for us to take any, I’m not really cross but if they don’t buck up there ideas for next year I am considering swapping them all for a llama.
For more information on bees and what you can do to support them visit the British Bee Keepers Association ( bbka.org.uk )
For this weeks postcard I want to share with you my Honey, lime and yogurt sorbet recipe. I served it with a tart lemon tart with orange and vanilla pastry but it would be perfectly happy starring on its own.
Bad week: for those with melissophobia
Good week: for apiarists
Dishes made incorporating honey: 23
Honey coated spoons licked once finished with : 100%
Lb’s of honey used: 3 ½
I’m loving: the project Hive & Keeper, unique jars of honey from pockets of the UK.
Makes 1 ½ litre (approx 16 scoops)
3 tbs honey (preferably local to you)
3 limes – zest and juice
2 egg whites
1 tsp cater sugar
Mix the honey, lime zest and juice together (if the honey is hard gently heat it until runny enough to mix).
Stir the honey mix into the yogurt.
Churn in an ice cream maker till almost frozen then spoon into a large bowl.
Whisk the egg whites and sugar until soft peak stage then fold through the frozen yogurt.
Freeze completely (this will take at least 3 hours).
To get good balls of the frozen yogurt dip your ice cream scoop into hot water between every serving.