Archive | Main Course

Recipe |Pan fried grouse breasts with hazelnuts and caul fat


Caul of the Wild


“Where you off to next?”

“I’m off to cook for a stalking week.”

“Stalking?! What’s that, sounds dodgy’? My friend asked.

“Well…. Its where you head into the hills dressed in tweeds, cashmere and Barbour’s, crawl around in the mud and heather and scramble over rocks and walk for absolutely miles from sun up to sun down, hoping to spot, stalk then shoot a stag”

“Oh, I see… that sounds exhausting! Do they always get a stag”?

“ not always”

“So essentially then they could just be walkers”

“well yes, I guess…but much better dressed”.


When cooking for these stalking weeks you don’t have to hit the ground running, you have to hit the ground with the speed and power of a hunting panther, then maintain the pace all week.  I love it.


The weather, as always in Scotland, was spectacularly indecisive. We had everything from bright sunshine to thick silent fog, rainbows and rain…and that was just Monday morning.


Arriving at Inverness airport I picked up the hire car and started heading north. Dashing into shops along the way to do a serious larder stock at the speed of light   – you are never sure where your nearest shop will be. The only major obstacle on the first day is finding the lodge you are meant to be cooking at. They are generally in the middle of nowhere with drastically beautiful surroundings but harder to find than the lost city of Atlantis.


You can’t enter the lodges (when rented) till about 4 pm, then its straight in the kitchen to unpack, check out the equipment and get supper on the go.  This frenzy of activity continues the rest of the week with hearty breakfasts, big table spreads for guests to take as “pieces” (pack lunches) on the hill, afternoon teas then 3 or4 for course dinners.


Some of my favorite things I cooked that week was a beef rib roast that could have been taken from a dinosaur and a roast chicken that was 6 kilos . When I told my mother this she said, 
“Yes darling, its called a turkey,”


With out a doubt however the most exciting part of the week was being bought brought back the caul fat off the stag.  As beautiful and impressive as a piece of Sophie Hallette lace, this intricate fatty membrane surrounds the stomach.


Most game does not have much fat to it  ( think pheasants/ venison/ grouse etc.) so chefs will often cook it in pork or goose fat. I have always tried to avoid this as I find its just too bawdy in in comparison, caul fat I have decided is really the perfect one to go for. Its gentle gaminess is definitely “of the hill” and there is that great satisfaction of using as much of the beast as possible.


For this postcard recipe I will share with you a dish I whipped up the night the stalkers bought back the caul fat from the wild;

Grouse breasts coated in hazelnuts and fried in caul fat with chanterelles and parsley.


This week;

I’m driving: a Vauxhall corsa – without the boy racer attachments.

Eggs soft boiled for breakfast: 27

Percentage increase of not shooting a stag having had kipper for breakfast  88%

Percentage of clients stylishly dressed for stalking 100%




Grouse breasted rolled in hazelnuts and fried in Caul fat with chanterelles

Serves 4

8 grouse breasts

a piece of caul fat approximately 15cm x 15 cm

100g ground hazelnuts

100ml milk

1 egg

200g chanterelles cleaned and ready to use

1 small clove of garlic finely chopped

1 tbs roughly chopped parsley


Beat the egg into the milk.

Dip the grouse breasts into the milk/egg mix then remove and shake of any excess liquid. Dip into the ground hazelnuts.

In a frying pan render the caul fat down on a low heat for about 10  – 15 minutes – lots of lovely fat should melt into the pan.

Turn up the heat and fry the hazelnut-coated breasts for just over a minute each side.

Take out the pan and put aside to rest. Remove the caul fat, turn up the heat then add the chanterelles.

Fry for a minute then add the chopped garlic.

Fry for a further minute then add the parsley

Serve the grouse breasts on a warm plate with a few chanterelles scattered on top.


This would be delicious as a lunch and served with an autumnal salad or for dinner served with greens and mashed potatoes.


I am now heading south to West Sussex to do some pre Christmas freezer filling and cook for ananotherjolly shooting party….



Recipe | Toasted buttered cobnut salad with garden plums, steamed marrow and Comte cheese


 Pigs are pets not pork….

I am not sure I should admit how delighted I was to be woken by a handsome stranger quietly standing at my door. Hoping to catch what I am sure would have been an impressive display I lay quietly in my bed watching… but apparently to shy to get it up he eventually just wondered off. An intriguing start to my week in the south west of France…


The fields all around us were ablaze with sunflowers and although uncharacteristically cool for this time of year the countryside looked completely stunning.


It didn’t take long for the children to drag me out of the kitchen and show me the new arrivals to their animal collection, which by the way would put Noah’s one to shame. Its not often I ponder whether or not I would eat something as tasty as a pink little piglet but I had to admit she was outrageously cute even I might have dithered if I had to cook it. Restraining from putting my camera on ‘food’ setting and remembering I had strictly been told pigs are pets not pork I made do with just petting them and went to check out the vegetable garden.


The garden was absolutely bubbling over with produce and I admit I felt that during my week here I almost struggled keeping up with all the wonderful fresh veggies and fruits it produced.

The key I decided was to constantly pick away at it and put out big bowls of freshly picked plums and tomatoes in the house so the guests dug in as they walked past them. That and slipping the veggies and fruits into as many dishes as I could.


I had been asked a few years ago by a friend what was the best way to deal with the glut of marrows that her garden kept producing year after year

“Next year, plant less” I suggested.

This was clearly not the answer she was hoping for and recently having had more personal experience with growing your own I understand the overwhelming sensation vegetable gardens can cause at this time of year.


Tomatoes are relatively easy to use up and there is something rather special about making fresh tomato sauce for pastas, soups, and braises besides of course the wonderful salads they can create.

Marrows are slightly more challenging. Few would claim them to be the most fashionable of vegetables ( note this postcard recipe title starts with ‘butter’ and ‘cobnuts’ rather than the ‘steamed marrow’ for lure factor) but they certainly can have their appeal. Their shape and texture lend themselves to being easily stuffed horizontally or vertically, and due to their subtly in flavour ( I wont say bland as it is unfair to the vegetable that has just appeared in about 10 of my recent meals in some form or another rather successfully ) you can add lots of punchy flavours like smoky bacon, chanterlles, truffle oil, crispy onions, sweet fruit like plums and apples to contrast with the marrows’ soft texture and gentle flavour and if they are not too big and watery you can still grill them for salads and tarts.


For this weeks’ postcard I am sharing a warm marrow salad I made with cobnuts, a wild type of hazelnut, that appears at this time of year and back in the UK is particularly found in Kent. I have also included a stuffed marrow recipe with bacon, chanterelles and truffle oil.

This Week

Every home should have: a Ridgeback – I love them dearly although they are shameless thieves and would not think twice about stealing a whole fillet of just roasted beef (yes a whole fillet)!!

Job High: Perched up ladders picking 6 kilos of plums on a beautiful Sunday morning.

Job Low: Child no. 2 would rather do maths homework than try one of my sausage rolls, sad and shocking.

Driving: A faithful Landover



Toasted Buttered Cobnut Salad with garden plums, steamed marrow and Comte Cheese


Serves 4 as a side salad

800g marrow having been peeled, chopped lengthways and the middle taken out.

About 16 plums that are tasty and sweet cut in half and de stoned.

150g of shelled cobnuts

1 tbs salted butter

Juice from ½ lemon

50g comte cheese

20g of parsley leaves

3 tbs olive oil


Chop the marrow into 2 cm wide new moon shape pieces

Season with salt and pepper and steam till tender (about 15 – 20 mins)

Meanwhile toast the cobnuts ( they will have probably broken in half from being shelled but if not it is a good idea to very roughly chop them)

Toast the cobnuts in a frying pan with butter

 When ready to serve lay the warm marrow on the serving dish, squeeze over the lemon and half the olive oil.

Layer on top the plums, warm cobuts , cheese and parsley.

Sprinkle over some salt and pepper and drizzle over the rest of the olive oil.


Marrow stuffed with bacon and chanterelles

Serves 4 adults as a main course ( or 1 ridgeback as a light snack)

1 kilo marrow

2 white onions finely chopped

150g lardons

2 tbs butter

2 tbs olive oil

2 garlic cloves

200g chanterelle

400g fresh porcini roughly chopped

200g grated parmesan

200g goats cheese

200g bread crumbs

2 tbs chopped parsley

100g gruyere

1 tbs truffle oil to serve


You will need a large roasting dish or baking sheet that will fit the marrow and some foil.

Pre heat the oven to 200°C

In a wide frying pan add the onions and lardons with the butter and the olive oil, fry until the onions are sweet and translucent.

Then add the porcini and chanterlles (you need a wide frying pan as you want to fry rather than steam the porcini when they are added which is what will happen if they are too crowded).

After about 3 – 4 mins when the porcini are cooked add the parmesan, goats cheese, breadcrumbs and parsley and mix well. Take off the heat.

Split the marrow ( with the skin on ) lengthways.

Season with salt and pepper.

On a baking sheet lay a long sheet of foil ( the idea is to wrap the stuffed marrow so it steams and cooks then to undo the parcel for the last 10 minutes to brown the top).

Put the two marrow ½ s on top of the foil and fill with the stuffing mixture.

Sprinkle the gruyere on top.

Wrap the foil around the marrow to form a parcel and bake for 40 – 50 minutes until the marrow is cooked.

Undo the top of the parcel and roast for 10 minutes at the same temperature to brown the top.

When out of the oven drizzle on the truffle oil and keep out the way of the dog.

I served mine with Camargue rice cooked n lamb stock but I a crisp green salad with a tangy French dressing would also work well.

Next stop I am taking the high road to Stirlingshire in Scotland…..




Recipe | Lobster linguine with courgettes, cream and chopped rocket


A little lobster…

Debating on what should be my final postcard from Boston for this summer I dithered greatly.

Blogging as I had originally planned about night fishing is a terrible idea as below explains.


Maybe I should have thought it through a little better? I had visited Harvard a few days prior to this and had even been told,

“Hey lady, you’re pretty smart”

As I helped some small guy with thick rimmed glasses, no doubt a mathematical genius, who had turned himself crimson frantically trying to go through a ‘push’ door that said pull.

I felt rather smug with myself until I almost made a complete hash of working out the ticketing system for the T line (the Boston tube system) to get back into town.


So with night fishing out of the running for this post I hoped you would enjoy another lobster recipe. It is incredibly cheap here ($4.99 /£2.94 a lb in some places) and I even heard that it wasn’t that long ago that servants in houses would have it written into their contracts that they would refuse to eat lobster any more than once a week!


Nutritionally lobster meat is rich in Zinc and omega 3 fatty acids (good for improving brain functionality) low in fat and high in protein. Before coming here I confess I was always rather nonchalant about lobster, often finding it lacked flavour and its texture wasn’t always that desirable, but now I admit I am truly smitten.


For those of you who drooled over the smoked ribs and chicken from the last post, then had to get yourself a smoker, next time you fire it up throw a few lobsters in there – incredible! The meat turns out wildly tender and outrageously juicy and with a short(ish) smoking time, roughly 40 minutes, the meat has the perfect balance of smokiness without masking the lobster flavour. I have given some tips on how to do this at the end.


So for my final recipe from Boston I will give you a dish we made for when we had some left over lobster from a party the night before. Lobster linguine with courgettes, cream and chopped rocket. What made it particularly good was cooking the pasta in a stock made from the shells, which added huge amounts of flavour and helped not to waste a drop of flavour from the crustacean we should all love (unless you have a shellfish allergy then your emotions will probably be somewhat different) the Lobster.


My month in numbers

Lobsters slaughtered -72

Clams Killed – 11 kilos

Intellectuals rescued from baffling doors – 1


Next stop … The Great Dorset Chilli Festival


Lobster spaghetti with courgette, cream and chopped rocket

Serves 4


Meat from 2 x small *cooked lobsters roughly chopped ( 240g approx )   – although you can use less, as a little lobster can go a long way as you will get lots of flavour from the stock. Keep the shells for the stock.

200g linguini

2 small courgettes finely sliced into strands ( I used 1 yellow and 1 green )

a pinch of fried red chilli

100ml double cream

1 teaspoon chopped dill

100g rocket, roughly chopped

1 small pinch of dried red chilli

zest and juice of 1 lemon

3 litres of lobster stock **



Bring the lobster stock to the boil then taste, it needs to be salty to cook the pasta, season accordingly. 

Cook the lingue as per instructions till al dente

Add the strands of courgettes into the stock with the lingueni and cook for 1 more minute then strain.

Immediately return to the pasta and courgettes to the saucepan then add the cream, chilli, chopped rocket and lemon, check for seasoning then serve.

To cook a whole lobster –

*When I cooked a 1 ½ lb lobster I bought a large pan of salty water to the boil flavoured with a cup of dry white wine, a few parsley stalks and 1 teaspoon of peppercorns added the live lobster and cooked it for 7 minutes. Fished it out till cool then extracted the meat.

**I recommend popping the lobster shells, a few peppercorns, a few stalks of parsley and a medium tomato chopped in half into a saucepan with 4 litres of cold water, bringing it to a boil then turning it down to simmer for 30 minutes before straining (if you leave it for too long the stock tastes bitter).



How to smoke a lobster

Bring the smoker to 240 F.

Kill the lobster by splitting its head.

Once dead put some cracks in the claws to help the smoke penetrate and cut along the top off the tail. Slip 2 teaspoons of salted butter into the tail and smoke for 40 minutes or until cooked.   You can put a skewer up through the length of the lobster to stop it from curling up with the heat. Keep an eye on the thermometer it needs to stay around 240. I tried apple and hickory but preferred the hickory, as with the short smoking time the apple wood was just a little too subtle.



(picture above is the strained shells from the lobster stock ) 










Recipe | Hickory Smoked Baby Back Pork Ribs


Smoke gets in your eyes…

You might want to get your credit cards out now as you are all going to want one. Or better still start rummaging round the tool shed so you can build your own even though;

Parents will advise you against it.

It’s seriously addictive.

It goes really well with a few beers (Ipswich Ale the choice here in Boston)

When over indulgence occurs you don’t feel great the next day – even if it seemed a good idea at the time

I am of course wittering on about that fun process of striking a match and lighting up…. to produce some woody smoke to flavour and slowly cook hunks of food.


My first attempt at smoking pork ribs  over here was, ok. They were a little too lean to start and I don’t think I had quite become master (mistress) of the coals and wood chips so misjudged the heat and timing. Even though the results were not perfect it was an enjoyable experience. The second attempt however was the stuff food fetish dreams are made of and I can honestly say I am truly hooked. Feel free to drool over my second attempt at ribs pictured below…


With a great gathering due to happen at the house I thought it was a perfect opportunity to do some more smoking and with my obsessive nature I decided to smoke as much as I could. Chicken, beef ribs, more pork ribs, sadly we didn’t catch any lobsters that day but they are SO next for this treatment. Smoking food to cook it is a long process and although most websites recommend breaking open a 6 pack whilst you wait I thought I would have a forage round the garden for some flowers for the house – far more lady like.


I am going to have a go at making my own smoker (regardless of the fact I don’t really have anywhere to put it – yet)! The contraption I am playing with in Boston is a hot smoker which cooks and flavours the food, but back in the day when I was cooking at Mudchute London City Farm in the Docklands we built a cold smoker. These are used to flavour rather than cook food. The other chefs and I went overboard and experimented with everything. Some worked, some didn’t. Here are some of my notes form the time:

 Butter… delicious




The point is however, as I keep telling client’s children, ‘you don’t know until you try’ (although strawberries probably was a stupid idea).



For this postcard recipe I will give you my spice rub, bbq sauce recipe and some tips on smoking meat.

Next adventure will hopefully be night fishing for striped bass ….



Spice Rub and BBQ sauce with tips on how to Smoke meat

Depending on what type, cut and size of meat you choose to smoke it can take up to 10 hours so plan ahead.

You will need;


Rub mix (recipe below)

BBQ sauce (recipe below)

A hot smoker

Charcoal for heat

Wood chips for smoke

A lot of patience

For any first timers;

A domestic hot smoker will be a container that can hold heat/ smoke and food. It will generally have;

A fire pit at the bottom that you use to heat the smoker and to throw the wood chips on to create lots of lovely smoke

A dish for water to help keep everything moist

1 or more racks to put the meat / food on

Vents to control the temperature

A thermometer


The Heat

We used charcoal for the heat.

I found the best temperature was keeping the smoker at 220 F/105 °C for the duration of smoking.

Adjust the vents as necessary to maintain the temperature – closing the vents to suffocate the fire to drop the temperature and vice versa to heat things up.

Check the temperature about every half hour and add more charcoal as necessary.

Wood chips

These get thrown on top of the coals to produce the tasty smoke, depending on their size and how quickly they burn throw on every ½ -1 hour at about a handful at a time.

We experimented with hickory, apple and cherry – all delicious and sadly my smoke palate is not trained enough yet to ‘name that wood chip’ but I am working on it. If foraging for your own wood chips use a hard wood like oak, beech or a fruit wood like cherry/apple. Do not use any conifers like pine/spruce/fir.

Also you obviously don’t want to be putting on any wood that has been chemically treated.

I soaked my wood for 30 minutes each time before throwing it onto the fire but there is a big school of thought that this is a pointless activity.

Smoking the Meat


Pork ribs

These have a very thin membrane that needs to be pulled off (found on the bone side) otherwise the smoke does not penetrate as well and it’s not great to eat. Slip a small sharp knife into the membrane at one end to help start with the peel.

At least 1 hour before smoking sprinkle then massage the rub onto the ribs, about 1 tbs each side of the ribs should be perfect.

Spice Rub

This is enough for 4 big racks of pork ribs

3 tbs fine sea salt

2 tbs dark brown sugar

2 tbs sweet smoked paprika

1 tsp mustard powder

1 tsp chili flakes

Mix everything in bowl and keep it in a jar for as and when it is needed.

BBQ sauce

This will make enough for 3 racks of ribs

100g streaky smoked bacon cut into small pieces

1 small white onion finely diced

2 peeled and finely chopped cloves of garlic

2 tbs olive oil

250ml ketchup

150 ml white wine or cider vinegar

200g soft brown sugar

50ml Worcestershire sauce

50ml whisky/ bourbon

3 tbs dark molasses

1 tsp salt

2 tsp smoked sweet paprika

1 tsp mustard powder

Fry the bacon, onion and garlic in a saucepan with the oil till sweet and translucent ( about 10 mins)

Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a simmer and cook for 20 mins.

Cool then cover till ready to use

This will keep for 1 month in the fridge.


When you are ready to cook/smoke the ribs;

Heat the smoker to 220F (105 C) and place the ribs (pre rubbed with the spice mix) on the grill

Check the grill every ½ hour to see if the temperature is around 220F (105C)

There is no need to turn or move them.

Practice makes it easier to tell when the meat is done but you should be able to bend the meat and the smoky surface should crack.

Or you should just about be able to wiggle the bones.

It is NOT like cooking pork belly where you can easily remove the bones when it is done

It should take between 3 – 4 hours if cooking at 220F but it will vary.

When it is cooked brush it with bbq marinade and cook it for another 15 – 25 minutes.

Serve with piles of napkins.


Beef Ribs

These don’t need any membrane removed as it helps keep its shape. I just sprinkled mine with some fine sea salt as didn’t want everything to taste the same.

Heat the smoker to 220 F/105°Cand lay the ribs on bone side down

Leave for 5 – 6 hours until cooked

You can pick a bit of the meat to see if it is cooked

Or if using a thermometer the middle of the meat should be about 190 F (88° C).

Whole Chicken

To keep the chicken succulent you need to soak it in brine.


Mix 5 liters of cold water with 250g light brown sugar and 250g fine sea salt.

Immerse the whole chicken for at least 3 hours and up to 10 (keep somewhere cool in the fridge).

When ready to smoke remove from the chicken from the brine, give it a quick wash and pat dry with some kitchen paper.

I rubbed mine with 1 tbs sweet paprika all over which helps to add a textbook smoked colour to the finished bird.

Stuff with a chopped apple or pear and some sprigs of herbs like parsley,sage and / or rosemary.

Heat the smoker to 220F/105 °CPut the chicken on and cook for between 2 – 3 hours or until cooked through. The meat will look pinker than a regular roast chicken but the juices should run clear when tested in between the leg and body.

Smoked chicken, beef ribs and baby back ribs washed down with a few Ipswich pale ales, now thats the end to a perfect day…



Recipe | Camargue red rice with roast fillet of beef, chard and black olive sauce



Wild horses and rice…. kept me from leaving


This week I ventured forth into the depths of the Camargue, a beautiful unique landscape and quite different to anything I had seen before.


There were vast stretches of fields calmly covered in water. Little green shoots popped out of the surface in impossibly long rows that had a bizarrely soothing effect. The bright pink salt lakes contrasting against the off white salt flats seemed almost extra terrestrial and with the wildlife flying at you from every direction it just all seemed such a wonderful spectacle. In fact I was in such a high state of admiration I even got excited about watching a smallish black bird swoop down close to where I was standing to peck at the ground…. until I realised it was a magpie!


In fairness to me though the Camargue is a pretty extraordinary place. The water of the salt lakes turns a pretty pink due to the presence of an organism that produces a red pigment to help it absorb more sunlight and therefore produce more energy. Some of the salt that is harvested there is used to produce Fleur de Sel de Camargue, a hand raked salt that has the faint aroma of violets.

There are wild grey horses that are looked after by the rather dashing guardians (southern France’s answer to cowboys) and flocks of flamingos. The area also produces the seriously tasty Camargue rice, which is featured in this postcard recipe.


While I am on my nature loving high, I also have to mention that all the olive trees down here have been flowering and their dainty white petals have been blowing across the rows of scented lavender.


On an educational note, most French table olives are not cured so should be eaten within 6 months of harvesting which is done around November in Provence . They are all hand picked or rather ‘cajoled’ as they like to say down here from the tree. These ‘Nyons’ variety that I bought at the market were in perfect condition to make into the sauce for the evening’s supper.


Job nearly done here, I realise I have been so absorbed in lapping up the seasons fresh produce I have completely forgotten to visit one of my favourite chocolate makers Joel Durad in Saint Remy…oh well maybe next time.

Next week I am off to cook in Tuscany for a gathering of adults whose brief simply read

“We eat everything and anything!”. As it will be easy to get my hands on the 4th stomach of the cow maybe time to try out my Trippa alla Fiorentina recipes and put them to the test….



Camargue red rice with rare roast beef and  blanched chard with black olive sauce

Camargue red rice has not been around that long with 1988 being recorded as the first harvest. It is a cross between a wild rice and a short grain rice and it has a very pleasant nutty flavour and firm texture.


Pre heat the oven to 190 C


Serves 4

For the Rice

1 litre of cold stock (I used lamb stock but you could use chicken/vegetable/ pigeon etc)

350 g rice

4 sticks celery cut into 1/2cm pieces

60 g butter

Splash of olive oil


In a saucepan sauté the celery in the butter for about 5 minutes

Add the rice and continue to fry for 2 more minutes then add the stock.

Cook for 40 minutes at a simmer or until the rice is cooked (it still tends to have a little bit of bite in comparison to white rice)

Season with salt and pepper


Once the rice is on you can cook your beef :

For the beef


1 x 800g piece of beef fillet at room temperature

2 tbs chopped thyme leaves

1 tbs olive oil

Massage the beef briefly with the olive oil

Then roll the beef fillet in chopped thyme and a good sprinkle of sea salt

In a hot frying pan sear the beef on all sides (including the two ends)

Then roast for about 18 – 22 minutes in the pre heated 190 C oven.

Take out and lightly cover in foil and REST for at least 8 minutes,



For Black Olive Sauce

200g black olives

2 salted anchovies de boned and lightly rinsed

1 tbs of parsley/ chives/ chervil – all finely chopped

4 tbs olive oil

2tbs water

1 tsp Dijon mustard


De-stone and roughly chop the olives

Finely chop the anchovies

Mix the anchovies and olives with the parsley, chives chervil and Dijon mustard

Stir in the olive oil then add the 2tbs water ( I add the water as for me without it there is just too much of a kick and the flavours fight but with the water everything just mellows and works)

Season with salt and pepper



For the Chard


750g chard

Chop the chard stalks into 1 inch pieces but keep the leaf whole

Bring a large pan of water to the boil then add a sprinkle of fine sea salt

Blanch the chard leaves and stalks in separate batches as the leaves only take about 2 minutes and the stalks about 4

When cooked scoop the chard out of the water and drain through a colander.

Place the warm chard into a bowl and toss through half of the olive mixture


To serve

Thinly slice the beef and serve with a spoon of the warm Camargue rice and a heap of warm chard. Place the rest of the olive mix in a bowl on the table for people to help themselves….



Recipe | Pan fried duck breast with fennel, hazelnut and orange salad and a white bean, sausage and tomato salad


 Getting your ducks (and goats, sheep, pigs and alpacas) all in a row

Well here we all are the other side of Easter. I hope disrespectable amounts of chocolate were eaten and you are now thoroughly gorging on anything you gave up for lent.   I had a great week cooking for a lovely family west of Toulouse in the Midi-Pyrénées .  Besides the party of amorous frogs (the amphibian kind) outside my bedroom croaking their love songs all night it was a very tranquil setting.  Surrounded by lush green undulating fields and a landscape spattered with huge  farmhouses, you really felt you were in deep rural France.


As rural as we may have been there was of course a local boulangerie and weekly market.  The nearby Monday one in Samatan was very traditional. As well as the butcher vans, vegetable stalls of which asparagus and artichokes were clearly in season, massive lumps of nougat for sale and barrels full of olives, there was also a huge shed filled with live animals for sale.


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It turns out the family I was cooking for found it nigh on impossible to visit without buying some new livestock to add to their already delightfully eclectic menagerie, of which I was strictly forbidden to incorporate into any of the weeks menus.


I was however encouraged to use one of the major specialities of this area – duck.  Every other crossroad seemed to have a casual hand painted sign for foie gras with rustic shops in the farm yard selling their home made patés, terrines, sausages, fresh and mi cuit foie gras lobes as well as their delicious duck meat. I was particularly keen to get hold of some Magret Duck breasts, which is the meat from the corn fed birds that produce the foie gras. Magret duck breasts are extremely tender and tasty and so it was no wonder we decided to serve this as our Easter feast.



The Sunday Lunch menu went as follows:

Blanched White asparagus with hollandaise

Seared Foie Gras on brioche with stewed rhubarb and apple


Pan fried Magret duck breasts

Orange and fennel salad with hazelnuts and lime

White bean salad with tomato, pork sausage and parsley

Whole globe artichokes with French vinaigrette



Rhubarb mille feuille

 For this postcard I wanted to share the method for cooking the duck breasts to get that perfect crispy skin and juicy tender pink meat with tasty salads to accompany it that pay homage to the local dish of cassoulet and the classic Duck a l’Orange.



This week in numbers:

6.28 kilos of French cheese

56 spears of asparagus

0 pets from the field eaten


Job done and au revoirs said, I am heading off next to cater for a fashion shoot in the UK, where I ashamedly would be happily paid in luxury goodies….



Pan fried Magret duck breasts

serves 6

Magret duck breasts are larger than most other ducks so 1 breast should serve 2 people as a main course.

3 duck breasts

salt/ pepper


To cook the duck breasts score the skin being careful not to cut as far down as the meat and season with salt.

Lay skin side down in a cold frying pan ( with NO oil or fat) and turn on the heat to medium.

Leave to cook there until the skin goes crispy and brown (about 10 – 15 minutes).

A lot of fat will be rendered off the breasts which you should keep pouring into a pan and keep for future use (roast potatoes or fried bread?…)

Once the skin is crispy turn flesh side down and fry for another 5  – 8 minutes. Take off the heat, season with pepper and loosely cover in foil to rest for another 5  – 8 minutes.

Slice at an angle and serve warm.

Fennel and Orange salad with toasted hazelnuts

2 fennel finely sliced

2 oranges peeled and finely sliced

3 tbs roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts


1 lime

1 tbs olive oil

1 tbs roughly chopped mint

It is important when using nuts to think about what kind of flavour and texture you want them to give the dish. For this salad you want to toast the hazelnuts to give a fuller and crunchier flavour.

To make the dressing zest and juice the lime, season with salt and pepper then whisk in the oil and chopped mint.

To make the salad:

Mix the sliced fennel, oranges and chopped nuts together and toss through the dressing.


White bean, tomato, sausage and parsley salad

I heartily recommend starting this salad from scratch and using dried beans, although I confess I have occasionally had to use last minute emergency beans from a jar which still made a very tasty end product.

250g dried beans, soaked over night in cold water with 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda.

2 large ripe tomatoes – blanched in boiling water for about 10 secs then peeled and roughly chopped

2 tbs chopped parsley

2 tsp red wine vinegar

3 tbs olive oil

300g good pork or duck sausages cooked and cut into rounds

100g raw sausage cooked into rounds


To cook the beans pour away the soaking water and wash well in a colander.

Tip the beans into a saucepan and cover with above with about 5 cm of cold water

Add the 100g of chopped raw sausage, ground black pepper and some parsley stalks.

Bring to the boil and simmer until cooked – this could take from 1 – 2 hours.

Once cooked if there is lots of cooking liquid pour away some until the level is just below the beans then while still warm season with salt, the olive oil and chopped parsley.

Leave for at least half an hour to let the beans soak up the flavours.

To serve

Add the rest of the cooked sausages and the tomatoes and mix well, check for seasoning then serve.



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 | King fish curry and chilli sweet potatoes


 Turtles of the Caribbean

Did I think twice about taking a last minute job in the Caribbean in mid February?

No I did not ! I had started to pack while still on the phone completing the details and getting the job description.




The gig was to go and cook for 10 guys doing a boot camp on the incredibly stunning island of Canouan. The name comes form the Arawakan word meaning turtle and as the cute little creatures are everywhere, it is very aptly named. Their favorite spot seems to be hanging out in the middle of the road. When driving around you simply don’t wait for a turtle to get out the way so you are forever getting out of the vehicle, picking them up and moving them to the other side. I began to feel racked with guilt though as half of the time I never new which side of the road they had intended to finish up on.




With nutritional training being a major part of the trip I was fascinated to hear the advice being given out and what the soon to be ‘Adonis’s’ could or shouldn’t eat. Lunch was packed with carbohydrates, fatty meats were required in the evening after a morning of exercise, whole milk was a must and butter was given the thumbs up!  Mind you if I was scrambling up volcanic rocks and doing that amount of exercise I would want to be well fed too, even in that heat.



Meal planning as always started with what is at its most delicious.  The island produces some fantastic herbs and salads and in the local waters there are some tasty sweet tiger shrimps. Marry that off with some essential Caribbean chili, a splash of coconut and juice from the glut of local limes and you have a lip smackingly good starter. King fish is another local must try, a firm white fish with skin that resembles unpolished silver (King Fish caribbean Curry recipe given below).



I have to admit I barbecued a lot.  Who could blame me ? I was seduced by the warm air, being able to watch the bright blue waves crashing against the rocks and listen to the birds singing their exotic songs all whilst cooking lunch.  The only thing that was missing was a glass of iced rum…




After making 5 liters of fresh juices, 4.5 kilo of homemade granary bread (that was my personal work out) and more vegetables and salad than you would find at new covent garden market on a friday, the job was done.  Sadly returning my sunhat to the suitcase and flip-flops to the drawer I am off next week to Switzerland. Swapping sand and sun for snow and skis in Verbier.




 King Fish Curry

serves 6

Spice mix

1 tbs cumin ground

1 tsp ground cardamon

1 – 2 red chili depending on your level of spice endurance

1 tbs sweet paprika

1 tbs turmeric

1 tbs thyme leaves


Caribbean Green Seasoning

3 sticks of celery

1 green chiili

1 white onion (medium sized

2 cloves of peeled garlic

2 tbs chopped parsley

3 tbs chopped coriander

1 lime

4 white onions

6 tomatoes

1 hot red chili



6 portions of firm white fish skin off.

3 tbs plain flour

extra coriander

6 spring onions

1)In a frying pan gently toast the spice mix, it should take a couple of minutes on a low heat. This will help to release all the flavors. Leave to cool.

2)Squeeze the lime juice over the fish.

3)Finely chop 1 of the onions. Roughly chop the tomatoes. Finely chop the garlic and chili.

4)Toss the fish in the cooled spice mix and the chopped vegetables. Leave to marinade for 1 hour.

5)Meanwhile slice the onions and fry them in a little olive oil. Remove from the frying pan and set aside.

6)When the fish has marinaded take the pieces out and dust them in plan flour. (keep the marinade as you will use it in a minute.

7)Season the fish with salt and pepper then fry in a good splash of oil till colored.  Set aside on a plate

8)Return the fried onions and all the veg that the fish has been marinading in to the pan add 600ml of fish stock, or chicken stock or worst case scenario water and cook for 10  – 15 minutes or until reduced by a third.

9)Return the fish to the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.

10)Check the seasoning then serve with rice, a good sprinkling of finely chopped sprig onions and some sprigs of fresh coriander.


Spiced Sweet potato chips

serves 6

6 sweet potatoes

1 tsp of dried oregano

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

2 tsp of sweet paprika

good drizzle of olive oil

Heat the oven to 200

1)Peel the potatoes ( if doing a bigger batch you may need to keep them in cold water until you are ready to season them)

2)Slice into wedges roughly the same size

3)Sprinkle over the spice mix and olive oil and toss

4)  Bake in a pre heated oven for about 40 mins or until browned and cooked through 



2014-02-13_0013   2014-02-13_0002





























Recipe | Roast Pheasant with apple, bacon, cream and wholegrain mustard


               Out damned shot! out, I say…


Hello and welcome to Philippa Davis postcard recipes 2014!  Having consumed 1 (or 3) Clementine Iced Margaritas too many over my New Year holiday I sadly cannot give you the accurate recipe.  I remember there being lots of juicing going on by others, a lot of tequila  being poured by me and having fun smashing ice to the right size but the rest is a haze.  I can assure you they are delicious though and I promise to be better food blogger next time and share the recipe…




Swiftly moving on to 2014 and re – donning my chefs apron I headed off for a shooting job on the Cawdor Estate near Inverness, home to many game birds and beasts, wild salmon and of course Macbeth.  The train journey up from Edinburgh was through thick swirling mists, then pretty snow scattered grounds and by toiling streams bubbling with dark waters.  So foul and fair a day I had not seen, though they do say in Scotland if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.  A show stopping landscape greeted me upon arrival, along with the sound of cackling pheasants, perhaps celebrating they had made it thus far through the season?




I was to cook at Drynachan Lodge  for a party of 14 and was excited to be asked to laden my menus with game from the estate.  Woodcock on toast for breakfast, Roast pheasant for lunch ( this postcards recipe) and Braised mountain hare with dried porcini, red wine, chopped watercress  and tagliatelle smothered in butter and parmesan for dinner.




To finish that days feasting something wicked this way comes to the table in the form of dessert.



 Pavlova with blackcurrants picked from the garden in summer.


I hadn’t cooked hare before and had assumed it was mostly off limits for shooting.  The mountain hares from the estate ( whose fur turns a beautiful white in winter) had been affected a few years back with ticks and so numbers were being kept down to stop it from spreading. Fortunately they still remain edible.  It always amazes me the immense task of managing a wild environment and the careful balance that must be kept for everything to survive. If problems like ticks are not dealt with in one fell swoop the ecosystem can become unbalanced.




The days shooting kicked off well with clear skies, excited dogs and stylishly dressed guns ( a person shooting) heading off to their first pegs.




At the end of the day the head gamekeeper will give a little de brief and let the guns know how many birds were shot and often lay out a display of the days bag.  Then the exhausted but happy dogs can collapse back into the land rovers for the ride home and the game keepers, beaters, flankers,  pickers up ( those collecting the shot birds) and guns can head off for afternoon tea and wee drams to celebrate the days success.




This weeks statistics

Macbeth quotes precariously weaved into postcard, 6

Pheasants/ partridge shot, 348

Cream consumed, 1260ml


This weeks transport

East coast train from Edinburgh to Aviemore

Landrover Defender ( oh boy, are they fun)

Airlingus flight to Dublin



Next I am off to the fair city of Dublin to catch a glimpse of the tart with the cart….



Roast Pheasant with apples, bacon and cream and wholegrain mustard

serves 4

2 oven ready pheasant

4 rashers of unsmoked streaky bacon  cut into 1 inch pieces

4 sticks of celery, 2 carrots, 2 red  onions all diced into approx 1 cm squares

2 bay leaves

300ml pear cider

2 apples ( I used Braeburn) quartered and core removed

200ml double cream

1 tbsp wholegrain mustard.

olive oil, salt and pepper


Remember when roasting pheasant  – what’s done cannot be undone, and dry pheasant is not a joyous meal so this dish needs your full attention.  By half roasting half braising the birds you should get a delicious result and remember look out for shot.

1)Season the pheasant with salt and rub them with a little olive oil.  Sear them in a frying pan on all sides on a medium heat then place into a roasting dish.

2)In the frying pan add a tablespoon more olive oil then add the onion, celery, carrots and bay leaves. Fry for about five minutes until they have just started to cook then scatter this around the pheasant with the chopped apples.

3)Add the cider to the frying pan, bring to the boil then add to the pheasants. Season with pepper.

4)Place the pheasants into a 190 c oven and check after 30 mins.

( The best place to see if a bird is cooked is by looking in between the thigh and breast, when poked with a knife you should clear juices running from the meat).

5)If done ( or nearly done) add the cream and stir in the mustard.  Then rest for 10 minutes under a loose piece of foil in a warm place ( or pop back in the oven for another 5 – 10 minutes if you think they need longer to cook).

Serve with mashed potato and greens, I used curly kale and topped it with parsnip chips.






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.




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.




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.




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.



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


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


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


Chocolate mousse with baked cinnamon plums, mascarpone and hokey pokey


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. 




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.




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.




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.




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.




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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