Archive | Lunch

Recipe|Crab cakes with chilli sauce


Feeling crabby ?

I have just come back from cooking for a delightful dinner party in the magical city of Edinburgh. Having recently made quite a few trips here I have to admit I am falling for its charms. Effortlessly classy and littered with magnificent pieces of architecture it really is a grand place. The dinner was for 18 guests and was being held just because the hosts felt like throwing a party for their friends! My day started early as I had to drive into Edinburgh and I wasn’t sure what the traffic would be like, luckily my biggest obstacle seemed to be getting out of the drive…


The days menu read as follows…



Mini crab cakes with chili sauce

Red radish with butter and salt

 Roast cherry tomato, mozzarella and hazelnut pesto crostini

Black olive and anchovy tapenade with oregano crostini

Pea, pecorino and mint crostini

Smoked salmon with warm blini with sour cream and mock caviar



Rare roast fillet of beef with freshly grated horseradish mixed with crème fraiche and yogurt 

Goose fat roast potatoes with new season’s garlic and rosemary

Green lentils with mustard and soft herbs

Roast beetroots and carrots with thyme and butter

Vignole  –  asparagus, artichokes and peas cooked in white wine, pancetta and mint.

Green salad with rocket, baby gem, linseed, herbs and French dressing


Gooseberry and meringue ice cream


There is a definite trend of changing the format of dinner parties. I find a surprising number of clients are keen to move away from sitting at the table for hours and labouring their way through countless courses. Instead more canapés /amuse bouches are being ordered and eaten with the pre dinner drinks, the starter skipped altogether and the main course to be served help yourself style to suit everyone’s portion control ideas. I personally think both the formal sit down and this more casual approach can work really well, but it’s about knowing your guests and how relaxed you want the occasion to be.


For this postcard recipe I will share with you one of the pre dinner nibbles that went like hot cakes… well they were actually hot cakes with crab and chilli sauce. They make a super tasty nibble or you can up the size and serve it as a starter or main course with some salad and coleslaw.


On another note….


The Observer Magazine has launched their 2014 food awards, with a category for Best UK based Food Blog. I would be delighted if you fancied voting for me and Voting can be done on line at   you can vote by:

1)registering your email with the Guardian

2) via a face book account

3)with a google+ account.


Many thanks to anyone who feels compelled to do this!





I am now re -packing for sunnier climes and skipping off to the south of France to cook down near the Camargue…


Crab cakes with Chilli Sauce

Chilli Sauce

1 red chilli

½ tspn sherry vinegar

½ tsp cumin

1 tsp finely chopped coriander

1 tsp olive oil

1)Finely chop the chilli (discarding the seeds)

2)Mix in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

This can be made at least several hours in advance or until you are ready to serve the crab cakes.

Crab cakes

Makes 12 bite sized crab cakes or 4 big ones

40g breadcrumbs
½ tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of paprika
2 tbsp parsley finely chopped
250g white crabmeat, in chunks
1 egg, beaten
Plain Flour, to coat
Vegetable oil, to cook

1)Put the breadcrumbs, mustard powder, seasoning and parsley in a bowl and stir well to combine. Add the crab and stir gently

2)Add the egg and mix

3)Roll into balls then flatten gently into disks (they may seem a little fragile but they will firm up a bit and seem to hold together when cooked).

4)Chill for 30 minutes.

5)In a frying pan set on a medium heat add 1 tbs vegetable oil. Fry the cakes till lightly browned each side and hot all the way through ( about 1 1/2 minutes each side).

Serve immediately with a ¼ tsp of chili sauce on top of each and garnish with a small rocket leaf for a flash of colour.



Recipe |Never out of fashion dressings


A different kettle of bird..


The beautiful birds strutted their stuff across the wild Scottish landscape, unflappable  despite the fact they were being furiously shot at.



No, I was not cooking for some illegal out of season gun gathering but rather for a couple of fashion shoots with the rugged rocks, rusty heather and babbling burns as the back drops.  Most of the crew had travelled up from the big smoke and I think slightly taken aback by the sheer amount of fresh air we have up here.  They say an abundant presence of lichen and moss indicates excellent  air quality. This seemed to be the place to get ones air ‘fix’…


I love watching different industries at work, it fascinates me the high and lows of other peoples jobs and how they react when the pressure is on (having spent years in London kitchens I am no stranger to shouty professionals).  I have to say after watching these production crews hard at it, they had military like efficiency yet with great charm they got the job done. From my kitchen window I could see the tops of their heads pass by. As the long day progressed and as the hours of useable light diminished, the efficient walk used in the morning began to pick up speed. Getting this and that prop and or bringing out the next piece of perfectly pressed garment, they were practically sprinting past when 5 o clock came, yet never once raised there voices or became any less than perfectly polite.  Perhaps the fashion industry and the military could do a group project and world peace would ensue….or at least we would all be better dressed.


Planning a menu for these sorts of jobs can be tricky. Firstly there is the dynamics. There could be lots of figure conscientious types, happy to push salad leaves around a plate or there might be lots of people lugging stuff about working up a big appetite.  The other element is timing. This is one of the few occasions that I cook for where the food, although still obviously has to be delicious, it is not the central part of the day ( I know can you believe it)?!. The team might be making the most of a sudden change in the weather  – it can happen a lot in Scotland, or perhaps they suddenly need to break early so they can go off and get a long afternoon stint done.  The chosen food has to be able to sit there for at least a couple of hours with out loosing any of its razzale dazzle.


Here was one of the days menus


Breakfast from 7 am

Fresh Fruit salad with home made yogurt and granola 


Bircher Muesli


Crispy bacon, american banana and blueberry pancakes , maple syrup 

Scrambled and poached eggs to order


Cereals, toast, jams, marmalades



Lunch x 30

Pulled pork – shoulder of pork slow cooked with apple, white wine and fennel then shredded and served warm


Broccoli, sesame seed, coriander and spring onion salad with soy and ginger


Tabbouleh salad with roasted courgettes, peppers, sweet onion, parsley and tahini dressing


Soft buns



Pressed Chocolate and hazelnut cake with mascarpone and raspberries ( gluten free)

Fruit platter


Afternoon Tea 


Scones with clotted cream and jam

Gluten free scones

Gluten free chocolate fridge cake



Thai green chicken curry

Slow cooked Beef curry

Spiced Chickpea and cauliflower curry 

Saffron rice

Poppadoms, raitia and chutney

cucumber and carrot salad with lemon dressing



Salted caramel ice cream 


Rhubarb, meringues and mascarpone with cream, vanilla and orange



Another part of the days menu was to provide lots of snacks through out the day so as well as the mandatory fruit baskets there had to be cookies, shortbreads, rocky roads etc. There also had to be some gluten free  treats as 1 person in a group of 30 was intolerant,  What surprised me that within 4 hours of their arrival not only had 23 giant chocolate chip cookies been scoffed but it was the gluten/ wheat free choices that had been delved into rather than the normal version.  With that noted I  started making most of the treats all with wheat / gluten free flour.  They surprisingly mostly came out really well and I don’t know if I would have been able to tell which was which. Apart from my scones which came out as flat as the Somerset levels and if there was any photographic evidence I would be banned from joining the Women’s Institute  for life.




In the end we opted for lots of salads on the menus to accompany any mains so there was ample choice for people who wanted to eat really healthily .

For this postcard recipe, I will share with you some of the dressings used on the salads and with the promise of warm weather creeping up on us it could not be better timing. Its great to have a few different bottles made up so they come easy to hand and make every salad a taste sensation.

The week, having flown by, is now over and my bags are packed, next job is a dinner party in Edinburgh…

Recipe | Never out of fashion Dressings

I would never serve a salad naked ( unless strictly instructed by a client)  as not only does the oil help us absorb more vitamins from the vegetables but the dressing really does bring the salad to a whole new level.


Maybe have about 3 on the go and try and use them within a couple of weeks as they will loose their sparkle.  Scale the quantities up or down depending on the amount of salad-fests and visitors you plan to have.  Good olive oil and vinegars are so important and generally salads are so simple they rely heavily on quality.

Dressings are generally best made in a big bowl, always start with throwing in the salt first then pouring in the acid (lemon juice/ vinegar etc ) as this dissolves the crystals.


Lemon dressing

Salt /pepper to season

2 lemons

6 tbs olive oil


Throw some seasoning in a bowl, whisk in the lemon juice then olive oil. Store for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.  Bring it out an hour before use and shake before pouring.


Not really a recipe I know, but surprisingly delicious on leaves and raw vegetables like fennel, radishes, blanched asparagus and also really great with salads that have lots of herbs.

For a more middle eastern twist add a tsp of sumac (a dried red berry that has a citrus flavour) or a tsp za’atr ( sesame seeds with dried oregano/ thyme/savory).




Soy, ginger, lime and honey

2 tbs dark soy

juice of 1 lime

1 tbs honey

2 tsp finely grated or finely chopped ginger

4 tbs sesame oil


You Dont really need salt for this dressing as the soy is salty. Whisk everything in a bowl adding the sesame oil last.


This dressing is fantastic with salads containing spring onions, grilled broccoli with toasted almonds or  a cold glass noodle one with peanuts and coriander.


Dijon, honey and apple

I make this dressing more than any of the others, particularly great with avocado, bacon and goats cheese salads. When I come to the end of the dijon mustard jar I usually make the dressing straight in the pot and just shake it.


Salt and pepper to season

2 tbs white wine vinegar or cider vinegar

1 tbs runny honey

2 tbs dijon mustard

3 tbs apple juice

6 tbs olive oil


Whisk everything in a bowl adding the olive oil last.



Order is everything with this dressing or you will just get a lumpy split mess


salt and pepper to season.

1 tbs Tahini

1 tbs lemon juice

4 tbs water

1 tbs olive oil


Add the ingredients in order shown, whisking all the time.


This is dressing is of middle eastern influence and is delicious with chopped salads and green salads and also makes a great sauce for fish and chicken.  I have had it served as a dip with warm grilled flat bread which was amazing ( for this it is served thicker so reduce the amount of water added to 1 or 2 tbs)



This dressing more than all the others is about quality.  There are a lot of cheap frauds out there calling themselves balsamic vinegar but they are nothing like the real McCoy.  Proper, good balsamic is expensive as it is a long and wasteful process (lots of evaporating). Read the ingredients list, it should always start with ‘grape must’ and will  be a minimum of 12 years old.  Splash out on a bottle of the good stuff and use sparingly, it is truly worth it.


I generally use a good (ish) balsamic for salad dressings then sprinkle a few drops of the really great stuff on top  of the dressed salad-  you don’t need much.


salt/pepper to season

1 tbs balsmic vingar

2 tbs oilve oil


Whisk all together.


With its Italian roots this dressing goes perfectly with salads that include cheese like mozzarella, pecorino and parmesan,  it is great tossed through mixed grilled vegetables or served with  bitter leaves like chicory and radicchio (the sweetness contrasts with the bitterness  of the lettuce so well ) and served with salty parma ham .





Sherry Vinegar and sweet paprika

If making a spanish slanted meal use this dressing, its great tossed through a warm bean or chickpea salad with sausage and parsley or with a salt cod and tomato salad.  It can of course be used with green salads and cured salty meats like serrano ham as well, and makes a nice change form always having a balsamic dressing.


salt and pepper

1 tbs sherry vinegar

2 tbs olive oil

1 tsp sweet smoked paprika


Whisk all the above ingredients together.








Recipe | Slow roast shoulder of pork sandwich with rhubarb and radish salad


 Happy as a pig in a bun….

Blossom is exploding all over Wiltshire at the moment with magnolia flowers and cherry blossoms bursting out from the branches and woodland floors being smothered in bluebells.

It is truly stunning.



For a cook it is an exciting time of year as lots of spring produce is now available; asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, nettles, rhubarb and my favourite….wild garlic.  If you are out and about in the UK or Ireland, sniff the air and see if you can get a waft of the sweet, aromatic tender young leaves.  Often found in damp broadleaf woods with dappled light, this taste sensation is best eaten before it flowers and gets slightly tougher.  I have found patches in Dorset, Wiltshire, London, Edinburgh and Dublin, the exact locations of which I will keep secret as if I had found a precious patch of white truffles.


Wild garlic can be wilted down in a little butter or olive oil and added to soups, stews, as a side dish, pasta, risotto, or even folded through scrambled eggs. When picking remember:

  1. Disregard any advice your parents gave you and stray as far from the path as you can as you never know who or what has needed the call of nature along its way…
  2. Wash very thoroughly before use
  3. Only take what you are going to eat
  4. Be sure you know what you are foraging, ( the only other plant that wild garlic looks like is Lily of the Valley which won’t do you any good, so be careful!)



This week, as I was in Wiltshire, I wanted to cook a good hunk of pork.  Pigs have been farmed in the area for centuries and delicious products like Wiltshire baked hams, really good bacon and the truly delicious lardy cake ( a spiced fruity bread laced with pork fat and sugar) are easily found.

The joint for Sunday lunch was to be a shoulder of Gloucester Old Spot pig bought from the local farm shop in Stourhead.   This cut can be roasted but I think that it is best slowly cooked until tender and then can be pulled apart. I remove the skin before cooking (leaving what fat there is on the shoulder) and cook it separately for crackling perfection.


When slowly cooking meat it is worth really thinking about what flavours you want to add whilst cooking as you will get lots of juices at the end. I decided on apple, fennel, rhubarb and white wine.  Served stuffed inside a ciabatta and with a radish and rhubarb salad it made a scrumptious Sunday lunch especially with the sun shining and a chilled glass of flinty Chenin Blanc.


Next I am off to cook in Toulouse where I suspect the Easter bunny is safe but the ducks may well end up as part of the feast…



Slow roast shoulder of pork sandwich with rhubarb and radish salad

serves 8  – 10

To cook the pork you will need;

2.5 kilo of free range pork with the bone in and skin cut off.

1 head of fennel cut in half

6 sticks of rhubarb roughly chopped

2 glasses of dry white wine ( one for the pig, one for you as you have 6 hours to kill)

2 apples (Braeburn or similar) cut in quarters (no need to skin or core)

3 glasses apple juice

1 white onion peeled and cut into 4

3 bay leaves

1 head of garlic cut horizontally and outer skin removed

I was lucky enough to have access to a wood oven so I fired it up to about 400 C then let the pork cook slowly over night in the dying embers of the fire………. yes I did thoroughly enjoy that method! For those of you who don’t happen to have a wood oven in the back garden here is how it can be done.


Pre heat the oven to 200 C.

In a roasting dish add the pork seasoned with salt and pepper, add the rest of the ingredients listed above.

Cover loosely with baking parchment then wrap tightly in foil.

Bake for 45 minutes then turn the oven down to 150 C and cook for a further 5 hours.

Take it out to rest while you turn up the oven to 180 C and roast the skin, placed on a flat baking sheet, till it goes crispy ( about 30 –  40 minutes).

Once the meat has rested shred with two forks into strands and cut some of the cooked fennel, rhubarb and onion into thin slithers and add to the meat for serving.  Toss well with all the delicious juice.


Rhubarb salad

2 thin sticks of young rhubarb

1 apple

10 red radishes

4 sticks celery

handful of mint

handful of parsley

2 tbs mayonnaise

2 tbs olive oil

juice and zest of 1 lemon

1 tub of cress

Mix in a bowl the mayonnaise, olive oil, zest and juice of the lemon. Season with salt and pepper

Thinly slice the rhubarb, celery, apple and radish and add to the mayonnaise.

Add the parsley, mint and cress and mix well


To serve;

10 ciabatta rolls

1 peeled garlic clove

olive oil


To serve lightly toast the ciabatta then rub with raw garlic and drizzle with olive oil.  Stuff the bread with warm pulled pork and serve with some crunchy radish and rhubarb salad.











Recipe | Asparagus and Wild Garlic Galette AND a Rhubarb Ramos Gin Fizz


 Paris, the city of light, love and lunch…

I confess the trip to Paris was a jolly.  It involved lots of walking to counter balance the lots of eating that always happens when I take a sojourn.  Fortunately  it is a very charming city to take a stroll around so it all worked out rather well.


 Besides being completely romanced by the bridges, grand buildings and general Parisian chic my ever lasting memory will be my final lunch there.   I had already consumed steaks, duck legs, oysters, calves kidneys, rabbit stew, veal chops, and the odd croissant, all of which were fine.  The Breton galette though on the last day….. now that was special.


Galettes are made from buckwheat flour which any gluten and / or wheat intolerant readers will be pleased to know is not actually a wheat.  It is in fact a seed and the plant is related to rhubarb and sorrel.  The flour has an extraordinary scent, like a snapped stalk or the freshly broken pea pod.  Galettes are traditionally from Brittany and only have savoury fillings such as cheese, ham and egg yolk.  My Galette in Paris had smoked herring, caviar, potato and sour cream and was SO good especially accompanied by some Breton Cider.


For this postcard I HAD to try making my own galettes at home. I chose some seasonal fillings of asparagus and wild garlic which fits perfectly as their spring like flavours are allowed to shine through.  As it is traditional just to use just the egg yolk, and there is nothing worse than food waste, I thought I would also give you a recipe to use up the egg white.  A seasonal Rhubarb Gin fizz cocktail that should solve the problem and make a delightful start to any spring party.  


Next I am off to Wiltshire where I am looking forward to cooking some delicious local pork as well using up some of the rhubarb that is flourishing in the garden.

Asparagus and wild garlic galette


makes about 6

Pancake Batter

250g Buckwheat flour

400ml  – 500ml water

good pinch of salt

150 ml cider

5  – 6 tsp buttter


1 handful of wilted wild garlic

10 spears of asparagus, prepped, blanched and sliced lengthways

150 g gruyere cheese

a free range yolk for each pancake



1) In a bowl pour the cider then water into the flour while whisking.  You want the constancy of double cream. Keep whisking once combined for a few more minutes as apparently this helps  the mix hold together.

2)Leave to rest for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.


3)Heat a crepe pan or large non stick frying pan so really hot.  Add a small tsp of butter.  It will brown but this is a delicious wanted flavour.

4) Add a ladle of batter and drag it round the pan.  It should be thinnish and slightly lacy.


5)  Once it has started to go brown and crispy flip it over.  Add a thin sprinkling of grated gruyere cheese, a little wild garlic, a few sliced asparagus spears  and the egg yolk.

6)Once the other side is cooked fold in the sides to create a square.  Then eat.



My galette in Paris was from Briezh Cafe and now appears on my edible map France/ Paris/where to eat section.

Rhubarb Ramos Gin Fizz

A traditional Ramos gin fizz was said to be shaken for 12 minutes.  I wouldn’t go quite so far as to insist on  this but it does need a good old shake and it is excellent exercise for the arms.

 1 part gin

1 part lemon juice

2 parts rhubarb syrup ( you will need rhubarb/caster sugar and water)

1 egg white

2 handfulls ice

2 good splashes of soda water


1)To make the rhubarb syrup bring to a simmer 1 part water to 1 part caster sugar. Add 1 or 2 sticks of chopped rhubarb for about 150 g sugar) and  cook till soft.  Leave to cool with the rhubarb in the syrup then drain retaining the syrup.  ( Eat the rhubarb)

2)Shake everything apart from the soda water in a sealable jar or cocktail shaker.  This may take a couple of minutes but you want the egg white to form a thick foam.

3) Serve with a sprig of mint and a good splash of soda water.




Recipe | Pappardelle pasta with braised pheasant , cavolo nero, cream and nutmeg


    I am pretty sure it was The Spaniel, in the Billiard Room with the Cream Tea

that left a trail of muddy paws for the house keeper to deal with…


Having finished the job in Hampshire, with clear roads and a little bit of luck, I got back to Dorset in time for a late afternoon tea with my parents.  Then I was soon setting off to Perthshire in Scotland where I was to cook for 12 guests attending a pheasant shoot in a magnificent setting near Blairgowrie next to the River Tay.




Cooking for shoots is frantically fun.  Before sunrise the days work begins preparing breakfast and packing the elevenses into wicker hampers along with the sloe gin and tumblers.




While the guests are out on the first drives of the morning, this is when the beaters ( people with sticks) walk towards the line of guns stirring up the pheasants into the air,    the house is busy tidying up breakfast and preparing for lunch.

Outdoor pursuits and nippy weather can work up quite an appetite so lunch is hot, hearty and needs to be served sharpish as everyone is keen to get back outside to get a few more drives done before the light fades. Then its back in for afternoon tea, then pre dinner drinks and snacks, then dinner itself which is usually another hearty affair.




As you can imagine the kitchen is non stop and I have to say I relish the challenge these sorts of jobs present.  Super organisation is the key as there is little time to pop to the shops for something that has been overlooked. Now, the restaurant trade taught me many things but did not present the experience of working with a carpet full of dogs beneath my feet. This is a new and fun challenge.  My new canine friends were all desperately hoping I would drop that juicy tray of slow roast pork belly or leave the mallards resting just in reach of their delicate mouths.  Thankfully by the second day they were all so exhausted from the days shooting they happily slinked off to bed when told and curled up to dream of the sound of the gun and falling pheasants.



I was thrilled to be told by my client that there were pheasants and wild ducks to be used from last weeks shoot and could I think of something other than the normal roast for them.  As excited as a gun dog at the sight of tweed my mind was soon racing with ideas and the prospect of using game from the estate.  For this postcard recipe I would like to share the lunch dish of pappardelle pasta with  braised pheasant, cream, nutmeg and cavolo nero.  Here is how the days menu read.






Black pudding, poached egg, crab apple jelly and granary toast

French toast with crispy bacon, maple syrup and berries


Chorizo, chestnut and butternut squash soup ( with pheasant stock)

Home made sausage rolls

Squares of rocky road

Pre lunch nibbles

Bloody Mary

Scottish smoked salmon with horseradish, creme fraiche on raddichio



Pappardelle pasta with Braised pheasant, cavolo nero, nutmeg and cream

Poached quince, chicory and walnut salad with balsamic dressing


Coffee, cheese board and brownies

Afternoon tea

Scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam

Lapsang souchong tea

Pre dinner drinks

Whisky sour cocktails

Quince and plum syrup with iced rum, lime and mint


Pancetta and parmesan Arancini with slow cooked tomato and aioli

Chicken liver and brandy pate with celery sticks and crisp bread


Slow cooked wild duck with cinnamon, saffron rice, crispy onions, fried aubergines and cumin yogurt


Salted caramel ice cream

Whisky and raisin ice cream

Vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate sauce



Pappardelle pasta with Braised pheasant, cavolo nero, cream and nutmeg

serves 4

1 brace of pheasants

1 white onion  finely chopped

4 bay leaves

glass of dry white wine

50g butter

2 large leeks

5 rashers of streaky smoked bacon cut into 1/2 cm chunks.

100g grated parmesan

about 20 leaves of cavolo nero (centre stalk removed)

300 ml double cream

1/2 nutmeg

2 egg yolks

400g pappardelle pasta



Braised pheasant

Remove the breasts and the legs of the pheasant (make a stock from the bones)

1)In a baking dish mix the legs, chopped onions, bay leaves and white wine, season with salt and pepper then cover with foil.  Bake for around 3 hours at 120 c or until the meat is tender and falls off the bone.

2)Leave to cool then shred the leg meat. ( you can use the onions and juices to make the base of a soup, you could add it to the pasta but I prefer not to have onions through the sauce).

3)In a frying pan on a medium heat add 1 dsp olive oil and fry the breasts seasoned with salt.  Cooke for about 4 minutes on each side or until just cooked through then leave to rest covered in foil.


1)Blanch the cavolo nero ( tough central stalk removed) in a rapidly boiling salted water until just tender ( approx 3 mins)

2)Slice and wash the leeks ( I cut mine in half length ways then into 1 cm semi circles)

3)In a frying pan add 50g butter and 1 tbs olive oil, add the leeks and chopped bacon then season. If you have a rind of parmesan chuck this into the pan while the leeks are cooking. Cook on a low heat until the leeks are tender ( about 10 minutes) then add the cavolo nero. Keep warm.

4)In a large bowl whip the cream until semi stiff and add the grated nutmeg, parmesan and 2 egg yolks.

Cook the pasta as per packet instructions.

Drain the pasta then pour immediately into the cream mixture along with the warm leeks and cavolo nero.   Slice the breast meat and add this along with the shredded pheasant.

Serve with extra freshly grated parmesan on top and a little extra grated nutmeg.


This weeks transport; Mercedes E class, Easy jet flight to Edinburgh, Audi A4 estate.


Shoot statistics

271 Birds

12 packs of butter

7 Spaniels

1 labrador

88 free range eggs




Next I am off to the south of France to cook for pre Noel celebrations and use the gluttonous amounts of black truffles, mushrooms and oysters that are so bountiful at this time of year in that part of the world.



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


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”



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.




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.




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.





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


Pan fried chanterelles with pancetta, garlic and cheese toasts

Roast porcini with breadcrumbs, anchovy butter and parsley


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


Hedgerow blackberry semifreddo


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




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


  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



  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……



Recipe | Tart



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.



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.




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.




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!




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!



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.




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.



Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes