Recipe | Roast Turbot with dill and lemon yogurt

 

 

Icon   London’s Calling…

 

I had assumed pheasants were not the brightest of creatures but judging by the number of them skulking around the house on my Yorkshire shooting job they knew exactly where the safest place was to hang out.  Sadly for the grouse who tend to lurk on the moors in amongst the heather there was less of a safety net and many of them will now have made their way onto the diners plate in the big smoke.

 

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From Yorkshire I also made my way down to London.  I was truly excited to be back in the city where the streets are paved with food shops, restaurants pop up faster than ground weed and I had a dinner party to cook for near Earls Court.

 

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I was delighted that the client chose fish as a main course for their party. Most people this time of year, myself included, begin to feel the nippy air outside, see the golden leaves begin to fall and dive straight into eating from the hearty bag of mixed game that is so abundant around now.

 

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My client decided on turbot for their main course, the left eyed flat fish, which I think makes as an impressive main course. Here is that evening’s menu.

 

Nibbles

Deep fried mussels with walnut tarator 

Warm chorizo bites cooked in cider and parsley

Beetroot and hummus dip with crisp bread and crudités

Quails eggs with salt and pepper

Bowls of warm salted almonds/ marinated olives

Starter

Salad of seared venison fillet with roast butternut squash, buttered spiced quince, pomegranates and pecorino cheese with balsamic dressing

Main

Roast turbot with lentil and saffron rice pilaf, crispy onions, dill and lemon yogurt and roast beetroots

Dessert

Chocolate mousse with baked cinnamon plums, mascarpone and hokey pokey

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From top left moving clockwise , baked cinnamon plums, melting chocolate,  hokey pokey,  baked plums with the brandy and poached quince , dessert, dessert being plates.

Having previously lived and worked in London for years I had a good idea of where I wanted to buy ingredients.  Borough market has a good selection of butchers for the venison starter and I went to the South Kensington Branch of Moxons fishmongers for the Turbot. http://www.moxonsfreshfish.com 

 

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I had ordered Turbot for 12 so upon my arrival to collect it I was presented with a whole 4.3 kilo fish – pretty big.  For more casual parties I would have kept it whole but for formal dinners it is neater and quicker to serve and thus keep warm if it is  pre portioned. The fish was tranched which  keeps a bit of bone in each portion so cooks beautifully and looks great so I have to admit I got the fishmonger to tackle this beast.

 

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Curious how long it would take a Turbot to grow to 4.4 kilos I asked and found out that it would be between 10 – 12 years.  It had been caught by nets in the Gulf stream between France and Cornwall and landed at Plymouth.  This alarmed me as other unwanted fish are  often caught  in the nets then thrown back dead. The fishmonger said the boat my turbot was on was a day boat so returns everyday with its catch meaning less throw back and not too unethical.  I was obviously relived but it reminded me that we constantly need to question how food is grown and killed and where it comes from.  http://www.fishfight.net

 

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Making a fleshy meaty fish the main course is a great idea at this time of year with all the Christmas parties and events that are coming up, otherwise it can easily feel like an unpleasant feasting marathon.  Serving it with herb yogurt keeps it fresh and interesting and you can introduce some exciting middle eastern flavors into the side dish like a spiced cinnamon pilaf, fragrant saffron and turmeric potatoes or warm herb and preserved lemon chickpea salad.

 

This postcard recipe gives you the recipe for roasting the turbot and the dill and lemon yogurt

 

Serves 4

 

Roast Turbot

Turbot portions, allow 180g/200g per person with the bone in (you can get your fishmonger to tranche it for you).

1 garlic clove finely chopped

1 tsp red chili chopped

3 tsp finely chopped parsley

1 tbs olive oil plus a little extra to grease the roasting dish

4 circular thin slices of lemon

 

1)Lightly grease a roasting dish with olive oil.

2)In a large mixing bowl add the chili, garlic, parsley and olive oil.

3)Individually gently mix the turbot portions in the parsley mix and lay them on the roasting tray – giving them room to roast evenly.

4)Pre heat the oven to 190 c and roast for 10 minutes.

One of the beauties of cooking with fairly chunky fish on the bone is that it will happily sit there for a few minuets keeping its heat, moisture and texture.

 

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Dill and Lemon Yogurt

6 tbs plain yogurt

1 tbs finely chopped dill

juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

1 tbs olive oil

 

Mix all the ingredients together, season with salt and black pepper and leave in the fridge until 1/2 hour before needed to let it come up to room temperature to bring out the flavors.  Spoon on top of the fish to serve.

 

 

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Show someone you love them by giving them the fish cheek  – its delicious.

Next week I am off to Israel to cook for some dinner parties and help kick start a healthy eating regime…

This week’s mode of transport… an East Coast train, an Audi estate and the london underground’s District line.

 

 

 

 

 

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Postcard 13, a tricky treat for Halloween

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           Are you sitting uncomfortably………………….?  Good. Then let me begin.

For my Halloween special I thought you might like some sweet treats that are fun to bake with the family,cup cakes that look like mummies and that have scary faces on them.

 

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Too unoriginal?

How about something that used up all that scooped out pumpkin, like pumpkin pie or pumpkin gnocchi with nut sage butter?  I am yawning myself.

Which is why I decided, what I really wanted to share with you this cold and dark Halloween (I am in Scotland so the chances are high of it being really cold and dark and possibly wet too) is the secret behind this rich…  Chocolate Truffle Mixture.

 

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Ha! Trick!

That is actually a bucket of cooked blood that was about to be made into delicious Black Pudding.

On my last few jobs, cooked breakfasts have been required, some asking for everything you could ever hope to find on you plate in the morning, others requesting a more bespoke twist – Lightly scrambled garden eggs, streaky bacon and avocado or Black pudding, fried duck egg, granary toast and apple jam – a plate I would very happily start my day with.

 

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Having long been a great admirer of black pudding and it’s Spanish spicier cousin morcilla, I thought it would be fun to go and watch it being made.  Most importantly I think it is delicious but I also have the approach that if the animal is going to be killed and eaten then we should use as much of it as possible, including the blood.

 

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My first job in London was at Lidgate butchers in Holland Park, so I am well versed in butcher banter and so happily trotted off to  William Ovens in Lanarkshire, a local butcher to the good folk of Biggar and whose haggis is so good private jets have been charted in to collect them, but thats another story…

The two butchers Iain and Ian, presided over by the boss Mr Jimmy Bogle happily welcomed me in to witness the weekly Tuesday making of the 22 kilos of black pudding they sell every week.

“ You’re  not squeamish  are you?”

Iain inquired with a glint in his eye as he came out the cold room with a big bucket of blood.

I am not at all squeamish , unless of course I am presented with a child’s nappy to change, so we pressed on.

 

Firstly they take beef suet, which is kidney fat, and run it through a mincer with 10 litres of cooked blood.  It looks a bit like chocolate turron ( a spanish soft nougat).

 

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Next into the mammoth mixing bucket goes about 12 oz of fine sea salt, 7 lbs of oatmeal, and a good few handfuls of seasoning that includes cloves and cinnamon.  Its given a good mix around then a 3 litre bucket of 1 or 2 day old blood is poured in.

 

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Surprisingly the blood was ox’s and not the more commonly used pig’s.  Ian or was it Iain(?) delighted in telling me it was the apprentices job in the abattoir to keep the fresh blood moving before it coagulates and to keep removing any lumps and strands that formed. The poor apprentice is practically stuck under the carcass performing this task.  At this point he looked up again to see if he could detect signs of queasiness from me. I am made of sterner stuff having grown up with animals that were reared purely for our family dinner table, one gets very practical about these things, although I have to admit I would not want to be the said apprentice, especially after a heavy night out.   Once fully stirred the mixture gets packed into the sausage machine and is pumped into the skins that have been soaked for about 1/2 hour to make them more pliable.

 

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They are cooked in a water bath at 80 c for 2 hours before being cooled down to sell.

 

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This is unlikely to be something I ever try at home unless I try and reenact the ways of “The Good Life” but it was extremely interesting to watch.  If you would like to add black pudding to your Halloween menu why not serve it fried as part of a salad with spiced buttered quince and frisee lettuce with mustard dressing or crumble it up once cooked and toss it through a hearty thick ribboned pasta with cream, parmesan, chopped watercress and egg yolks.

 

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I am now off to the North Yorkshire moors for to cook for a grouse shooting party which looks set to be fun, though not for the grouse..

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Recipe | Poached Langoustines with apple, fennel and radish salad, aioli and lemon

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 The charms of Chichester..

“There is nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats…….” so Ratty exclaimed to Mole in Wind in the Willows. I am not sure I entirely agree. It is only in recent years that I have been able to overcome my easily triggered sea sickness. I remember once feeling quite queasy at the London Boat show. However, witnessing the bustling river banks near Chichester harbor while on my recent job I felt I could have almost agreed.

 

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I was  there mainly to cook for a post shoot dinner party, pheasant and partridge being the targets. A decent 386 birds were shot, apparently a similar number to the grammatical errors on my last postcard….

 

As there was an evening that didn’t need catering for I was asked to cook meals and puddings to stock the freezer.  I made a few stews, curries, slow cooked lamb shanks and,  much to the relief of the hostess, dealt with a load of the birds by making a big game pie. Without the pressure of evening dinner it also allowed a little more time for food shopping and expeditions to the local independent stores scattered in and amongst the surrounding villages.  Local shopping was even taken as far as the wine by using the nearby Nyetimber vineyard.

 

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Nyetimber  produces an extremely fine sparkling wine that makes even Champagne doubt its superiority. The hosts and I  agreed that besides making an excellent aperitif the wine would pair perfectly with the starter for the dinner party.  The menu read as follows;

 

Canapés 

Beetroot and artichoke dip with celery

Potted local smoked trout and crisp bread

Quails eggs with home made celery salt

Grilled oysters with gruyere and lemon

British Charcuterie 

 

Starter

Poached Langoustines with fennel, apple and pea shoot salad, aioli and lemon

 

Main

Wiltshire Roe deer fillet with goose fat roast potatoes, parsnip chips, wild mushrooms and braised cavolo nero.

 

Desert

Pressed chocolate cake with blackberry semifreddo

 

Cheese

Brie de Meaux, Keens cheddar, Goodwood goats cheese, Colston Basset stilton with strawberry grapes, dried figs and oat cakes

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Beetroot and Artichoke dip

 

This postcard recipe is the light but delicious starter of poached langoustines whose sweet taste marries so well with the citrus and bready flavors of the amazing English Nytimber sparkling wine.

http://nyetimber.com/fancy-a-glass/

 

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Poached Langoustines with apple, fennel and pea shoot salad, aioli and lemon.

 

Langoustines, also called Dublin bay prawns and Norwegian lobster spend most of their time in muddy burrows under salt water.  Scotland provides around a third of the world’s supply.  Buy them live, and preferably caught in creels ( wicker baskets) rather than by trawlers which have horrific impact on other marine life.  Your local fishmonger should be able to provide you with their origin and capture methods.

 

The langoustines can be poached in the morning and left in the fridge till ready to serve

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Serves 4 as a starter

 

16 medium sized langoustines

Court bouillon flavorings to include: small bunch of parsley stalks, 2 tspn fennel seeds, 1 tsp black peppercorns, 1 peeled clove of garlic, 1 glass of dry white wine.

(Court bouillon is the boiling water used for poaching the langoustine)

 

Salad

1 fennel bulb

4 red radish

2 small crunchy apples

150 g pea shoots

juice of 1/2  lemon

2 tbs olive oil

1 lemon cut in quarters

 

Aioli

2 free range egg yolks

1/2 small garlic glove crushed with 1/2 teaspoon of salt

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tsp white wine vinegar

250 ml olive oil

 

 

Poaching Langoustines

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1)In a large pan bring the court bouillon to a rapid boil. Add lots of salt, as a rather scary head chef once told me it should taste like tears).

2)Poach the langoustines a few at a time for 2 minutes from the moment they go in. (Depending on size they may take a little longer  – ask your fish monger for advice).

 

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2)Once cooked lay them flat on a tray.

3)Leave to cool then cover and pop them in the fridge till ready to serve.

 

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Aioli

It is frustrating to be told something is easy when you have difficulties with it.  I know many people fear making mayonnaise/ aioli as it splits on them.  My biggest piece of advice is get the beginning stage right and there should be no problems.

 

Whisk by hand/ machine or blend in a food processor the egg yolks, lemon juice, vinegar and crushed garlic.

  1. Keep mixing ( at least 4 minutes)
  2. Only at the stage where the mix has lightened in color and become a thick emulsion can you start to slowly (ish) trickle in the olive oil.
  3. Once all the olive has been added check the seasoning then cover and store in fridge till ready to use.

 

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Salad

This can only be made just before serving.

  1. Slice thinly the fennel, apple and radish and toss in the lemon juice and olive oil.
  2. Mix through the pea shoots.

 

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To assemble

Lay the langoustines on a plate with the salad, aioli, wedge of lemon and serve with a chilled glass of dry sparkling wine or Champagne.  Don’t forget finger bowls on the table as sucking all the meat out of the claws can prove messy ….but worth it.

 

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Job done, a quick chance to have a brief moment down at  the water front then I’m back on the road and heading off to find some suitable Halloween treats………..

 

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The week of the hunter

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Recipe | Parsnip chips and Celeriac, swede and beetroot  gratin

There is a secret dress code for the flight to Inverness in Scotland. For those in the know you will see them wrapped in yards of tweed and snuggling quietly in plush cashmere.  The outfit is generally finished off with a Barbour jacket, looking a little shabby and expected to be around half the age of the wearer, a shinny stiff new one would never do.  These tweedy sporting folk are on their way for a week of shooting, fishing or stalking in and amongst one of the stunning Scottish highland sporting estates.

 

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Last week I cooked for a delightful group of appropriately beautifully dressed stalkers on the Wyvis estate near Dingwall.  To get to the fabulous lodge they had taken for the week my sat nav and I braved the single track that ran through woodlands and along the mysterious loch for absolutely miles.  Actually my sat nav freaked out half way along the track and pleaded we turned back. Ignoring its lack of adventure I drove on and finally arrived at the lodge with its welcoming open fires, wood paneled walls and impressive collection of mounted stags heads.

 

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Catering for these sporting weeks is a huge amount of fun for a chef as client’s calorie counting is invariably suspended.  The day starts with full on cooked breakfasts including a pre course of porridge giving me the chance to try out the spurtle I found in the kitchen dresser ( if you don’t know what one is you are making your porridge all wrong)!

 

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Once breakfast is over, a table groaning with sustenance for the stalkers day on the hill must be laid out with delights such as honey baked ham, cold roast beef, soft rolls, crisps, cheeses and high energy treats like chocolate fridge cake and flapjack.

 

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The stalkers ( creeping after red deer in this case ), having spent the entire day walking, crawling and lying in heather, rocks and scrub return ravenous from their day. Therefore pots of loose leaf tea, freshly baked gingerbread or my trade mark coffee, cardamom and cinnamon cake and savory treats like home made sausage rolls or cheese straws were always an appreciated welcome home.

 

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Come evening, with the fires briskly burning and the sun firmly set beyond the loch the hunters were ready to feast. They dined upon wonderful traditional food that could have come straight out of a Dickens novel; Roast ribs of beef with Yorkshire pudding, Haunches of venison with parsnip chips and goose fat roast potatoes, Cinnamon duck breasts with bacon and pearl barley and Roast chicken with creamed spinach and honey carrots — no one was left wanting more!

 

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Then there were the puddings; Steamed Golden Treacle with custard, Classic Creme Brulee,  Apple tart tatin, Pressed chocolate cake, Lemon Tarts……I wont let on how many packets of butter that is but I am now thinking of buying shares in the local dairy.

 

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I am intrigued about stalking, every time I go to cook for such an event I learn a little bit more and am deeply impressed by the amount of work that goes into running a sporting estate. The Ghillie  ( assistant, advisor and guide to the stalker) has to know the terrain extremely well. Sudden mists may fall which can be treacherous for those unaware of their surroundings, they also have to be super fit as the day will consist of a marathon trek.  They must know their deer herd intimately. It is their livelihood and the wild herd must be managed properly with only certain beasts allowed to be harvested by the stalkers to leave a healthy herd of a size that the hill can sustain throughout the lean winter months. It is not unusual to be stalking a stag for hours to eventually get close enough to examine it properly, only to realise that it is too fine a beast to take.

 

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This postcard has two recipes for excellent accompaniments to venison – Parsnip Chips, and Celeriac, beetroot and swede gratin with nutmeg and gruyere. So get excited about the thought of eating venison – it is an extremely delicious, low fat, sustainable, native, free range, mostly organic meat that gives even good roast beef stiff competition In fact I am so smitten with deer at the moment I am in the throws of persuading the family to make it this year’s Christmas dinner!

 

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Parsnip Chips

serves 4

2 parsnips

500ml vegetable oil

Salt

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1)Peel the parsnips

2))Keep peeling off strips until you are just left with the core ( discard this or, as I got to do, feed it to the wild boar!)

then…

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and have ready a plate with a piece of kitchen towel on top.
  2. Carefully drop small handfuls of the parsnip strips in the oil ( it should sizzle)and shallow fry them until the turn golden.
  3. Remove with a slotted spoon onto the paper and sprinkle with salt

This can be done 1 – 2 hours in advance of the meal

Celeriac, beetroot and Swede  gratin

serves 4

150 g Beetroot peeled and thinly sliced

200g celeriac

200g  swede

200ml cream

200ml milk

1/2 nutmeg, 1 bay leaf

100g grated gruyere cheese

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  1. Bring the milk, cream, bay leaf and nutmeg to a gentle boil in a pan.
  2. Layer the celeriac, beetroot and Swede in a baking dish and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Pour over the cream mix
  4. Sprinkle over the cheese and cover with parchment then foil, place on a baking tray ( this will save cleaning the oven floor if any of the cream mix bubbles over)
  5. Bake at 170 c  for 1 1/2 hours, check that the root vegetable are cooked by inserting a knife then remove the foil and parchment and bake for another 20mins to brown the top.

Serve hot with the roast of your choice…… providing its venison.

 

  Kitchen clean and bags packed I am now zooming off to the other end of the country to a harbour town near Chichester…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The love life of Honey B

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Recipe | Künefe – Honey, pistachio, walnut and orange blossom Turkish pastry

I have just spent a delightful week in Dorset embracing country pursuits.  Mucking around with horses, walking the dogs, picking plums and best of all, harvesting honey.

 

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At the bottom of the garden, amongst the apple and medlar trees there stands a beehive with the colony preparing for the cooler winter months ahead. Harvesting is usually done in the late summer, but with a few ultra warm days we got busy and collected the sticky delicious perfumed liquid.

 

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First you have to get dressed up, the jumper part looks like a collaboration between a NASA and Lady Ga Ga design, and then there is the necessary clumpy boots, thick trousers and protective gloves — sexy and chic this activity is not.  We drew lots to see who would get the older suit with holes in, my brother in law ( keeper of these bees) lost,  but decided it would add a fun element of extra danger to this years harvesting. You can waft smoke into the hive to make them a little more docile but even with this there is a certain adrenaline rush as the top chamber is opened and they come flying out.  The intensity of the buzzing around my head, seeing them whizz past the thin netting covering my face certainly got my heart pumping.

 

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Obtaining the honey involves cracking off the wooden frames from the super ( the compartment where the honey is stored) then slicing off the capped waxed ends of the comb and spinning it.  The honey is left overnight to settle then can be drained out and jarred.   This was all great fun but what really sparked my interest was life in the colony itself.

 

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In the hight of the summer this healthy bee colony contained around 40,000 lady worker bees, a few thousand drones ( personal male gigolos to the queen) and of course only one Queen Bee.

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The bees would naturally swarm each year to build a new hive, so its the beekeepers job to prevent this or there will be no honey for them to collect.  Incidentally the cartoons had it wrong, a swarm of bees are relatively harmless. They are so full of food ready for the delights of the house hunting journey they would rarely sting, something I never wish to test.

 

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In natural conditions a typical cycle would go like this. When the hive is ready to swarm the queen bee would lay lots of eggs that are then fed royal jelly by the worker bees. Having done that most of the hive ups and leaves with the old queen.  The new potential queens begin to emerge from their cells and in Highlander fashion one queen bee will kill off the rest of the rival heirs.  After a few days she mates with a good few of the  drones, the male bees whose only purpose is to fertilize her. Sadly this act kills the drone but I guess there are worse ways to go.   Only needing to do this once for her whole life ( she can live up to 7 years) any other drones are often killed and swept out of the hive before the leaner winter months come.

 

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As the queen can dictate the sex of the eggs she lays, more drones are created when required.  The hive spends the summer collecting pollen and nectar to make the honey. Usually they produce more than they need to feed themselves over the cold months so we get to eat the extra.

 

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Having potted 10 lbs of honey I came up with a giant list of what I would like to use it for.  Drizzling it on crumpets, white bread, pancakes, porridge or using it in parsnip, date and mint salad, slow roast spiced honey lamb – of course all delightful but so is the chance to make künefe, a turkish sweet pastry swamped in honey, nuts, cheese and orange blossom, the recipe I shall give you now.

 

 

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Honey, pistachio, walnut and orange blossom künefe

serves 10

This is suitable with the mid morning coffee or as an after dinner decadence.  It is sweet so only a little each is needed. Serving it with clotted cream ( Kaymak is the Turkish equivalent)  is essential and finishes the treat. 2013-09-21_0014

 

 

Pre heat the oven to 170 ° c

Ingredients

270 g filo pastry

125 g butter

100ml milk

75 g of pistachios 75 g walnuts –  chopped or pounded up with a pestle and mortar

125 g ricotta and 125 shredded mozzarella mixed together

8 dessert spoons of runny honey

2 teaspoon of orange blossom

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  1. Cut the filo into thin strips ( roughly a few millimeters wide)
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the shredded filo then milk stir until combined.
  3. Press half this mix into a round oven proof dish – roughly 22cm in diameter.
  4. scatter with a 1/3 of the broken up nuts then spread on the ricotta/mozzarella mix
  5. scatter on another 1/3 of the nuts then top with the rest of the pastry
  6. bake for 45 mins
  7. once out drizzle with the honey and orange blossom and top with the rest of the nuts
  8. serve warm with clotted cream

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Interested in learning more about bees? Visit http://www.bbka.org.uk or find your local bee keepers association.

 

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Recipe | Roast porcini with anchovy breadcrumbs and Chanterelles with lardons and cheese toasts

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The fun-gi gets chosen…..

This week I find myself waking up with stunning views across a vineyard in the Languedoc Roussillon  region of France.  I am cooking for a fun group of clients who are staying in a tiny village near Uzes, with charming crooked streets and a 17th century pigeon tower.  I only mention the pigeon tower as the birds each morning try and pelt me with their white missiles as I walk down to the bakery.  I should warn these flying beasts I have a few recipes I wouldn’t mind trying with their plump little bodies but I forget the French for “Just you wait till I get my hands on you”

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It is a warm 30 º C here but inevitably autumn has started to touch the land and the leaves are beginning to rustle and turn golden.   I am never sad to see the seasons change, as with it comes different produce to grow or buy, cook and eat.  That is not to say I have dismissed all summer produce, for instance now is my favorite time to eat UK tomatoes as they have had the chance to develop a fuller flavor with the warmth of the September sun.  It is also a great time to look out for bargain summer ends like cheap boxes of peaches, apricots and strawberries or better still hedgerows of free wild blackberries and raspberries all of which make great jam or can be frozen for later use.

 

 

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photo  – Left – Wild blackberry picking.  Right  – Home made yogurt with hazelnut and almond granola and blackberry compote.

Always keen to shop at local markets I jumped at the chance to try the small, non touristy offerings of the neighboring villages;  Sainte Chaptes on a Thursday and Saint Quentin la Poterie  on a Friday. At Sainte Chaptes, small but funtional, there was a veg man, a butcher and bizarrely someone selling bed mattresses with dried beans – perhaps some princess and the pea marketing technique that is yet to grip the rest of Europe?  There was admittedly not much choice but I decided this was a good thing, everything was produced locally therefore fresh and seasonal and I couldn’t spend ages dithering at what to cook for that nights’ dinner party.  My mind was made up when I spied a healthy looking box of Autumnal chanterelles and some huge porcini.

 

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A lot of recipes will put mushrooms with garlic, which of course is delicious but beware  not to overpower them.  Use the cloves sparingly and pay great attention to how fierce  you fry them as there is almost nothing worse than the obnoxious taste of even slightly  over cooked garlic.  The earthy woodland floor taste of mushrooms marries particularly well with the sweetness of prawns and a splash of fino sherry or dry white wine and of course cheeses like Parmesan or Gruyere are other great partners.

 

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I decided to use the mushrooms in a starter and so that evening’s menu read as follows;

 

Amuse Bouche

Sweet onion and saucisson  tortilla brushed with aioli

Starter

Pan fried chanterelles with pancetta, garlic and cheese toasts

Roast porcini with breadcrumbs, anchovy butter and parsley

Main

Grilled veal chops marinated in whey, lemon and garden thyme with mixed grilled vegetables and crispy thin potatoes

Dessert

Hedgerow blackberry semifreddo

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This postcard recipe gives you an idea with what to do with some of the first wonderful Autumn ingredients, wild mushrooms.

 

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When served together these two recipes serve 6 as a starter. I put both the finished dishes in the middle of the table for people to help themselves.

 

 

Pan fried Chanterelles with pancetta, garlic and cheese toasts

200g Chanterelles

1 small glove of garlic finely chopped

1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

50g lardons

Cheese toasts

1 small baguette

100g cheese – I used blue and goat

2 tsp dijon mustard

1 tbs creme fraiche

The cheese toasts can be made up to 1/2 hour before serving

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  1. Mix the creme friache, mustard and cheese together, season with black pepper.
  2. Slice the baguette into thinish slices – two each should be perfect.
  3. Smear the cheese mix on each of the breads and lay out on a baking tray.

4)Bake in a 180 º C oven for 10 mins.

While the cheese toasts are baking cook the chanterelles

  1. Check they are clean  – brush off any dirt, and pick out any stray leaves and bits of                      forest floor.  Any particularly big ones can be ripped in half.
  1. In a wide frying pan ( you don’t want the mushrooms being over crowded and sweating) add 1 tbs olive oil, 1 tsp butter and the garlic and gently fry, just as the garlic starts to turn golden add the lardons.
  2. Fry for a couple of minutes then add the chanterelles, season with salt and pepper and add the parsley.
  3. To serve place the hot cheese toasts on a serving platter and sprinkle over the mushrooms mix. I finished the dish with some crisped up Parma ham.

Roast Porcini with anchovy breadcrumbs

1 porcini roughly 250g ( you can use a few smaller ones but the big one looks impressive and its pleasurable to slice it at the table)

Anchovy Breadcrumbs

150 g breadcrumbs

2 tbs anchovy butter (mix two finely chopped anchovy fillets with 1 tbs soft butter)

1 tbs finely chopped parsley

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tbsp grated parmesan

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  1. Slice the porcini in half and put into a baking dish, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with 2 tsp olive oil
  2. Mix together all the breadcrumb ingredients
  3. Sprinkle this over the mushroom and bake for 10 min at 180ºC ( if cooking the two dishes together just put it in at the same time as the cheese toasts.
  4. You can serve it in the baking dish or laid out on a wooden board for that charming woodland touch.

 

I am all wrapped up here and am on my way to Dorset where I suspect I will be busy as a bee……

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Recipe | Reach for the Skye a.k.a. Whisky Raspberry and Mint Cocktail

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A  bonnie trip……

I knew I had reached West Coast  Scotland. Sun, rain and mist battled to be the prevailing weather, all within ten minutes. Dark and glistening burns tore through the moody purple heather that carpeted the craggy rocks and my mobile phone signal became as rare and elusive as a golden eagle.

 

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My destination was the Isle of Skye, one of Scotland’s most stunning west coast islands. A place brimming with opportunity to do strenuous activities such as walking, climbing, fishing and boating – I just came for the food.  There were several renowned restaurants that I had been longing to try and the local venison, scallops and wild mushrooms had been begging me to eat them. The trip also provided the opportunity for me to visit my first whisky distillery.

 

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I will try and write about the process of whisky making but it is hard to relay the truly magical bits to you.  The Goliath noise the handsome machinery makes when grinding the malted barley into grist, the divinely scented warm air that fills the factory as the brewing process begins or the excitement of watching the bubbles rise in the gigantic tubs of pine wood  as fermentation takes over the wort ( the sugary juice produced by soaking the malted barley in unfiltered water ‘aff the hill’ ).

 

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Only after these stages does the beery alcoholic liquid pass into the distillery room  — which looks like a mix of the old Moscow sky line and Willy Wonka’s experimenting rooms.

 

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The stills ( large copper vessels) used for boiling  the liquid to separate the water from the alcohol are a different shape for each distillery, each apparently helping to add their unique flavor to the whisky ( I have it on good authority that this is romantic tosh, though I cant help but like the idea).  The liquid is distilled twice in Scotland and passed through an eccentric looking spirit safe  during  each distillation to measure alcohol content.

 

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The spirit  is then poured into barrels and left to rest for a legal minimum of three years to be called whisky although most single malts are left for at least 8 – 10 years and others even longer.  The longer it is aged in the barrels the more mellow and complex the flavors become and of course the greater the price.  The barrels are usually second hand American bourbon ones , these are cheaper to get than other barrels as legally bourbon must be stored in a new barrel so there are lots of them.  Whisky can also be stored in other wood like sherry, Maderia or claret.

 

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During storage in the earth floored locked warehouses, 1 – 2 % of the whisky is lost through the barrels by evaporation and this they call the “angels share” .  If you consider the amount of barrels aging whisky in Scotland at any given time thats one big continuous hangover for the angels.

 

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I am going to give you a cocktail in honor of my new found deeper appreciation for whisky, try it before the summer is over to make the most of the juicy raspberries.  At great expense to my head I tried it with various whiskies and found the west coast peaty /smokey ones like Laphroig or Talikser went stunningly with the raspberries and mint.  I am anxious that Scotland may not let me back in if I start sloshing their single malts into cocktails but maybe I could persuade them if I made them one of my ‘Reach for the Skyes”

 

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”Reach for the Skye”

Serves two – twice!

Sugar syrup

100g caster sugar

100g water

 

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool

200 ml whisky – a smokey single malt if you dare.

juice of one lemon

juice of two limes

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In a shaker  (I used a kilner jar) add the cooled sugar syrup, whisky, lemon and lime juice,  16 ripe raspberries  – or there abouts, 10 bruised mint leaves (rub then briefly between your hands) and 8 pieces of ice.  Close the lid and shake for at least 30 seconds.  The aim is to muddle the raspberries with the rest of the ingridiants to get a crimson liquid.  Pour over ice placed in your chosen drinking glass and add a few fresh raspberries and mint leaves to garnish.

 

 

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Well its back to work for me and I am heading to the  Languedoc Roussillon region for what promises to be a fun week of cooking…..

 

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Recipe | Tart

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The collective noun for tarts? Answers on a postcard…

The last garlic bulb has been plucked from the string, my suitcase is packed and sad au revoirs said.  I have finished here in Provence and am on my way to take a “wee” trip across Scotland.  Driving away I wistfully turned to get one last glimpse of the fig tree that was about to produce an army of ripe fleshy fruits.

 

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Always keen to gather new facts, I reflected on some of the things I had learnt over the summer about the French way of life;

1) The further south you travel the more kisses are given and received upon greeting, its a time consuming delightful 3 in Provence.

2) In the South, olive oil largely replaces butter in cooking and is the star of many of the provincial dishes; ratatouille, tapenades, soupe au Pisto, and the dressings, dips and marinades of the region.

3) If you are French and want to show true finesse when eating pudding, never pick up your spoon – it is there to trick you.  Use your fork for everything, including ice cream.

4) Everyone stops for lunch.

 

I am not sure what the collective noun for tart is, a bust, romp or flush perhaps but reflecting on the last few weeks I sure have whipped up a few for the midday meal.  Lunch is a long, leisurely social meal here and a tart is undeniably a great dish for a crowd. You can even make it with varied  halves so that it has a child and adult friendly side.

 

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Tarts are also a great way of using up left overs. From serving up many a cheese board at dinner I was frequently left with little bits which made the most delicious 4/5/6/7 types of cheese tarts. Each one unique and delicious.  Likewise, remains of a mixed grilled vegetable salad can be transformed into a lovely filling, as can the sides of fried aubergines, slow cooked courgettes, roasted tomatoes and so on.  It is also always great to add dollops of pestos and olive tapenades.

 

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A good quiche Lorraine and a chilled glass of Grand Cru Preuses Chablis can hardly make for a happier lunch but I wont bore you with the recipe.  What I will say though is, if you do decide to make one keep the filling fairly shallow, so much more elegant than a thick eggy bacon type quiche. Add some créme fraîche to the eggs and cream, oh and don’t forget to sprinkle the blind baked pastry case with lots of grated gruyere  – should have just given the recipe!

 

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This postcard recipe is more of a starting block for a tart.  Fillings can be chosen on what you have in the fridge, an abundance of whats in the garden, something that catches your eye at the shops or perhaps suitable left overs from yesterdays dinner. If serving more than one tart I like to use different pastries so maybe a shortcrust then a filio or puff pastry base and also make them in different shapes – circular, round or rectangular, be creative.  Like the French, sit down and take time over your lunch,enjoy, et bon appetite!

 

Tart

Serves a greedy 6 or a more restrained 8.

You will need a 30cm oven proof fluted glass tart dish – this way you can cut and serve it in the dish.

 

For the pastry

250g plain flour

100g cold salted butter

6 tbsp cold water

 

  1. Add the flour to a mixing bowl and using the large side grate in the cold butter.
  2. Rub together with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Sprinkle over the cold water and mix confidently bringing the mix into a ball.
  4. Roll the pastry into a circle and line the tart dish ( lightly flouring the rolling pin and work surface),
  5. Prick the pastry case with a fork and rest in the fridge for at least one hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 190 ºc , line the pastry with baking parchment and fill with pie weights ( dried chickpeas/rice/ceramic baking beans) and bake for 15  minutes.

 

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For the filling

600g to 800g of filling – could be grilled vegetables, roast tomatoes, fried lardons, baked vegetables, grated/crumbs of cheese….. (Just note if using vegetables like tomatoes make sure they are not too wet by straining off excess juice.

8 free range eggs

300ml double cream

 

1)Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly, whisk in the cream and season with salt and pepper.

2)Pour into the baked pastry.

3)Add in the filling of your choice and top if desired with extra grated cheese or dollops of pestos/tapenades finely chopped herbs.

4)Bake at 170º for 30 – 40 mins until set.

 

Most delicious when served warm with crunchy green salad and a glass or two of chilled Chablis.

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Recipe | Summer pudding in Provence

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The butcher, the baker, the baker, the baker, the baker, and the baker

The local village  has a population of about 12  ( OK, I under exaggerate)  and yet it has not one but two thriving bakeries.  The interiors are not chic, just simple Formica tops, local event posters decorating the shabby walls and of course trays of delicious freshly-baked bread. This is great proof of consumer power and the importance of supporting local shops.

 

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Many of my clients ask for no bread to be served with meals.  There also seems to be an ever increasing amount of people with gluten and wheat problems – now is not the time to go through all the possible reasons for these intolerances. However I will say this, before you scream and run from the bread bin, ask yourself, are you eating real bread?  Industrialisation has hugely changed the way wheat is farmed, milled and made into bread and some say that these process-heavy production methods (particularly milling and fermentation) may make it disagreeable for our bodies to digest.  In my view, quick-fermenting, bright-white, long-lasting, pre-sliced loaves should not be classed as bread.

 

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….. Jumping off my high horse and mounting “ma bicyclette” early every morning I cycle into the village to buy “les baguettes” and a few croissants.  It always pays to have a special smile for your baker (and butcher) so it was with great delight that whilst snapping a few photos through the door of the bakers at work, they caught my eye and lured me in with macaroons and freshly baked croissants.

 

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Swooning slightly watching the skill of the five bakers while they rolled out the croissants and baked rack upon rack of loaves I was drawn into the romance and charm of this art.  After my tour of the different work stations and having been fed and plied with delicious strong black coffee and pastries  I bid my farewells and returned to the house to start the preparations for lunch.

 

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I hate wasting food. After my visit to the bakery I am even more conscious of not wasting any of yesterdays bread so am continuously thinking of ways to use it.   Here are some of the recent second lives I have given it…

 

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From top left moving clockwise – sausage rolls (bread in the filling), panzanella – toasted bread dressed in vinegar, oil and tomatoes, ,oysters with gruyere and breadcrumbs, Moroccan meatballs – I often add bread  that has been soaked in milk or whey to meatballs to soften the texture, crisped up and herbed bread for pate, stuffed squid with bread and chorizo,

On the blue moon occasions where we have an abundance of croissants left I love making it into summer pudding, adding peaches and apricots to the usual orgy of berries.  A perfect dessert for the warm long lunches in Provence.

 

Summer Pudding with a french twist

Serves 8

you will need

5 x 1 day old croissants sliced horizontally into 3 or 4 (my other favourite is using day old ciabatta or you can use a farm house white)

800g of fruit  – which could include blackberries, raspberries, strawberries – cut into chunks if very big, red currents, black currents, apricots and peaches cut into chunks the same size as the cut strawberries. Use mostly berries in the mix with maybe just 5 apricots and 3 peaches.

250g castor sugar

400ml red wine –  I once used Chateau Latour 1998 only because the client had some left and told me to!  Otherwise a busty french red would be perfect.  Like wise if using ciabatta maybe its more fun to use an Italian red like Valpolicella.  Always cook with wine you would be happy to drink.

1 vanilla pod

1 cinnamon stick

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Method

1)In a saucepan add the wine, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla pod – spilt lengthways and seeds taken out then the seeds and pod added.

2)Heat until the sugar is dissolved – a couple of minutes

3)Add half the fruit, bring to a simmer for 2 or 3 minutes then turn of the heat.

4) Add the rest of the fruit and gently stir. Leave to one side.

5) Line a 3pint bowl with the sliced croissants to form a layer.  

6) Strain the fruit through a sieve, saving all the delicious juice. Then place the fruit in the lined bowl. Pour over some of the juice, keeping the rest for serving. Top the pudding with more sliced croissant pieces, a bit more juice and then cover the bowl with cling film.  Weigh the pudding down with a small plate and a weight on top  – a mortar or a few tins usually work and leave in the fridge for at least 6 hours.

To serve remove the weight and the cling film, place a plate over the top and flip over, pour over some of the the reserved juice.  Serve with a big jug of double cream.

 

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I must confess the croissant  summer pudding did not have time to be photographed before it was eaten, pictured above and below is its’ Portuguese cousin made last summer. I used red wine from the Douro region and a home-made white loaf.

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Recipe | Fig, feta and spinach fataya with honey and mint yogurt

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Starting the party…

Friday, 8:30 pm. Outside the dining table is adorned with vases of mint and lavender, flickering candles, gleaming cutlery and beautiful French linen.  Long shadows are cast across the olive grove as the last of the evening sun casts a pink haze over the Alpilles hills and the indefatigable cigals provide the music of Provence. The guests are about to arrive.  Snapping out of the dreamy bliss that this kind of setting lulls you into, party season here has definitely kicked in and the food has been flying out the kitchen.

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The evenings menu read as follows;

Amuse-bouche

Garden fig, spinach and feta fataya with honey and mint yogurt

Starter

Salad of pan fried quail breast with toasted hazelnuts, apricots, chicory and sherry vinegar.

Main

Grilled whole bream with roast potatoes, fennel, black olives, aubergine and rosemary.

Cheese

 with fig jam and walnuts

Dessert

Apple sorbet served with shots of chilled French gin.

 

 

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Most gatherings start with a bottle or two of delicious local rosé (Mas de la Dame and Domaine Guilbert being two of my current favourites) along with a little something to nibble.  I am not sure how I feel about the word canapé, taken from the French word “couch”, I much prefer amuse-bouche, to amuse the mouth, for me a much more appealing thought. Before becoming a private chef I never gave much thought to these pre dinner snacks.  In the restaurants I worked they were generally not required and I rarely go to the sort of function where they would be served. Although I did go to one at Nobu where sensational platters of sushi were brought out. Myself and a chef friend promptly placed ourselves strategically  by the kitchen doors to get first dabs and so of course failed to do any networking but did get a veritable feast.

 

 

Now I find a certain amusement in thinking about and creating them.  Its hard to be original and there are some classics that truly are delicious when well executed; smoked salmon blinis, raw oysters, devils on horseback and so on but as variety is the spice of life I am always looking for new ideas.

 

Duck eggs and celery salt ( the duck eggs were a delightful gift to the hostess and swiftly got eaten)

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Hummus with crudités and poppyseed crisp bread, potted trout with toast 2013-08-08_0001

For small parties I quite like something that needs a little explaining or has some personal touch like produce that has been picked from the garden.  I have been playing around with fillings for the Lebanese fataya and as we have an abundance of figs to use I made a very popular fig, spinach and feta variety with mint and honey yogurt (recipe below) .  The garden has also been producing an abundance of courgettes along with their flowers which have been making a few appearances pre dinner.

Young courgette batons deep fried with chilli, mint and vinegar ( served on the F.T. market dependant)

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Courgette flowers with ricotta, honey and mint.

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A fine way to start the evening, along with a glass or two of the ubiquitous Rosé.

 

Finishing the evening with another flourish after dessert can be dangerously close to over kill, however a little something with your coffee or vervain tea can also be a delight.  Chocolate is an obvious choice. In St Remy there is the renowned chocolatier Joël Durand and his chocolate alphabet collection. Personally I am not sure if I have met anyone I liked enough to share a box of these with, they are so good. Instead my favourite finale at present is 3 gently toasted almonds discreetly placed on the saucer and a sharing bowl of juicy iced cherries.  So when the last cigale has finally stopped chirping and the cigars are lit everyone feels well and truly replete.

 

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Fig, spinach and feta fataya with honey and mint yogurt

 

Fataya dough

White Bread flour, 250g

dried yeast, 7g

warm water, 150ml

fine sea salt, a pinch

olive oil, 1tbsp

Mix the flour, yeast, salt and oil in bowl, add the water and knead until smooth (about 8  to 10 mins) leave to prove until doubled in size ( it will take about one hour)

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Filling

Spinach, 150g

Finely diced white onion,1

feta crumbled, 1oog

Ripe figs, 2

Slowly fry the onion in 1 tbsp olive oil until lightly cloloured and sweet. Add the spinach and cook till wilted. Drain off any excess liquid. Chop the figs and add to the spinach along with the crumbled  feta.  Season with salt and pepper.

When the dough is ready, divide it into 12 equal (ish) balls. Roll them out into disks and brush with water, place a dollop of the fig mix in the centre then bring together into a triangle. I snip the corners to stop from getting an overload of bread.

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Place on a lightly floured baking sheet and bake in a 180 c oven for 12 – 15 mins until golden.Serve warm with a yogurt and honey dip.

Yogurt dip

3 tbs plain yogurt

1 tsp runny honey

4 mint leaves finely chopped.

Mix all the ingredients and pour into a small bowl for serving.

 

 

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