Sunday, 27 November 2011

Persimmon, Pomegranate and Anchovy salad

Persimmon also known as sharon fruit comes into season in November along with lemons and pomegranate. Although I have a persimmon tree in the garden,  it is the type you eat overipe.  We eat them like you would a soft boiled egg, opening the top and scooping out the sweet, sloppy, orange flesh with a teaspoon.  There are two main types called Hachiya and Fuya, the former is the one I have.  I bought this Fuya to give it a try, sweet but with a firm flesh, both types benefit from the addition of lemon or lime juice to bring out the taste.

The saltiness of the anchovies compliment the sweet fruit.  The best come from Cantabria in Spain or Colliure in French Catalonia.  If you can get them, buy them, you won't regret it

Serves 2


Mixed salad leaves ( I used ground cress, dandelion and escarole)
1 persimmon
1/2 pomegranate
1 lemon
10 anchovies
olive oil
pinch of sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
pinch of salt

How to go about it

Wash and drain salad leaves.  Make the dressing by mixing 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of a lemon, add salt, sugar, cumin and coriander.  Add a dribble of oil from anchovies.  Slice persimmon  and cut each slice in half.  Open up pomegranate and extract some of the seeds.  Arrange salad leaves on plates, top with persimmon, anchovies and pomegranate.  Dribble over dressing.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Pear, Walnut, Escarole and Roquefort Salad

The French classic combination of pear and walnuts with blue cheese is well loved.  The addition of escarole adds a slightly bitter contrast that marries perfectly with the blue cheese and sweet pears. Chicory can be substituted for the escarole. 

Serves 4


1 escarola
2 ripe pears
120g roquefort
50g walnuts
olive oil
black pepper and salt
chopped chives
1 small onion

How to go about it

Wash and drain escarole (use only centre), dry with a tea towel if necessary.  Wash and slice pears, throw away the core.  Finely slice onion and chop chives.  Arrange escarole on plates and put onions, pears and walnuts on top.  Crumb Roquefort over salad.  Drizzle over oil and balsamic, sprinkle on chives, salt and a good grinding of black pepper.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Moscatel Grapes, Figs and Smoked Herring Salad

This salad is based on a breakfast, 'Casse-Croûte' I had in the vineyards, when picking grapes with a neighbour.  We just brought bread along and the smoked fish and picked the grapes straight from the vines.  The sweetness of the grapes and the saltiness of the fish go really well together.  The figs add extra sweetness and also a bit of colour. 

moscatel grapes
salad- mustard leaves, rocket, and cos
smoked herring or mackerel
olive oil
cider vinegar

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Conserved Aubergines


I've never tried to conserve aubergines before but after talking to neighbours on how they conserve them, I thought I would give it a go.  I have so many of them and I am running out of ways to cook them.  The truth is I am so busy with the garden and conserving, I hardly have the time to cook.  Well, maybe that is a bit of a exaggeration because I always have time to cook and above all - EAT.



How to go about it

BBQ the aubergines, or grill them,  as they are.  It is better to have a bit of flame as you want to char the skins and not overcook the them.  When the skins are blackened, take them off the BBQ and wrap them in newspaper or put them in a plastic bag and let them cool. 

Next step is to peel them, a bit of a mucky job but the aroma of the char grilled aubergines is heaven and when you open them in winter you will be transported back to the Summer. 

Put them in a colander and let them drain overnight in the fridge.

Tear off strips of aubergine and put them in hot sterilized jars of your choice.  Put on the lids.  Put them in a pressure cooker and put water in to come up to  5cm of jars.  Put lid on pressure cooker and bring up to the boil with out weight on, when steam comes out, continue heating for 10 minutes.  Then put on weight and pressure cook for 20 minutes.    Turn off heat and let them cool in cooker for an hour.  Remove from cooker being careful not to touch the lids.  The lids should now be concave.  This cooking in the pressure cooker is very important for low acid foods.  A normal bain marie is not suitable for low acid foods as it does not reach a higher enough temperature to kill the bacteria.. 

You can add other vegetables, like peppers or maybe some onions, char grilled the same as the aubergines.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Le Somail, Canal du Midi

Le Somail on the Canal du Midi is a very picturesque Hamlet which used to be a stop over place for travellers when the Canal was in full swing in recent centuries.  Now it is the hub for rented boats and barges, for peace seeking tourist enjoying a bit of relaxing boating  along the waterways. 

The Canal du Midi was the brainchild of engineer Pierre-Paul Riquet.  Opened in 1681 a year after he died.  The canal connects the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and is 240 km long, it connects from the river Garonne through to the Mediterranean sea.  The banks are lined with trees called Platinus Hispanica or Planes.  Sadly in the coming years 42000 of them will be felled and burnt because they have a fungal disease that is spread via the roots.  The aim is to fell 4000 a year.  The trees act as shade for the boats and help to stop with water evaporation.  The roots hold the banks together and when the leaves drop onto the water and sink to the bottom they act as a waterproof seal, helping to keep the water in the Canal.  They also give a bit of protection from the wind and boy does it blow in this region of France.  The Aude is the windiest department in France.

My preferred method of travelling and visiting places

I like to think that I have an apartment in every town which, you can say is almost true.  My van is the love of my life.  With its 26 year old Mercedes engine, it roars along the road and up and down mountains like a true gentleman.  I have to say that I always have a lot of people that seem to be following me.

Dinner at le Somail cooked and served in the Mercedes.

Tomato and cucumber salad from my garden

Pan-fried duck breast with pears (pears from garden)

I photographed this three-wheeled vesper when I saw it in le Somail because my husband told me that once he was hitch-hiking near to Granada and got a lift in one of these.  He Said that the man who was driving was very portly and so was my husband at the time.  He had the Madonna hanging from the central mirror and sang, at the top of his voice for the entire time that my husband was in the car, about 50 km.  I would have liked to have seen that.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Aubergine with Basil and Mascarpone

The vegetables are starting to change in my garden, now we're getting into the real high Summer.  I entered the kitchen with a variety of things and my hands started to prepare this dish without even thinking about it.  I didn't have any pine nuts for pesto,  so substituted it for almonds, adding a bit of parmesan and marscarpone, so this is not a pesto, just in case there are any Italians reading.  I once discussed pesto with and Italian and sort of touched on the idea of the addition of lemon.  His face changed from friendly, chatty  to a very serious one.  He looked me in the eye and told me that there is no lemon in pesto.  Point taken and I agree, pesto is pesto.  Let's leave it at that.  If you make something similar get your own name and leave pesto alone!

Serves 4 as side dish


2 aubergine's
1 bunch of basil
olive oil
2 tablespoons of parmesan
4 tablespoons of mascarpone
15 almonds, roasted
salt and pepper

How to go about it

Cut the aubergines in half, lengthwise.  Score the flesh in crisscross fashion and sprinkle with salt, leave for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile liquidise basil, parmesan, almonds, mascarpone with oil to make a sloppy sauce.  Rinse aubergines, pat dry and fry cut side down in olive oil until golden.  Turn and fry other side.  Remove from pan and let cool a little.


 A few minutes before serving,  spread the sauce over the aubergines and grill for a few minutes until golden.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Peach leaf liqueur

I'm a little bit peeved today, as normally I had planned to go and watch a stage of the Tour de France, this weekend, in the Pyrenees but due to other commitments I am unable to go.  The stage which I wanted to watch was one that I have been to before on the Plateau de Beille in the Ariege.  If you have never seen a stage of the Tour in the mountains, I suggest you go.  It is fantastique!  Surprisingly enough or maybe not in the case of the French and Basque spectator's, is the food that is cooked on the side of the road.  People will pitch their tents on the side of the mountain and start to cook the most amazing food.  Clinging on for dear life, out will come the frying pans, calor gas or BBQ and commence the feast.  To arrive at their chosen spot they will go up the mountain by whatever means is possible.  Here are some photo's of when I went in 2007. 

This man had his 2 children in the trailer and his dog in backpack. 

Local food shop
Some of the Astana boys, including Alexander Vinokourov, after his fall, 2007

Doping or not it is still an incredible sport and I hope they succeed in cleaning it up.  The atmosphere and passion that so many people, from so many different countries have, is staggering.    I have never seen anything except politeness and friendliness amongst the spectators.  The Basque are very supportive, some might say to the point of rowdiness but I have never personally had any problems and I was once camping next to 20 young lads that had a mountain of beer cans higher than their tent.

Anyway, I have to be content with watching the stage on the TV and making this Peach Leaf Liqueur but I had to just work the Tour de France somehow into the post, sorry for all those that find cycling boring. 

This is probably little known to many people.  Peach leaf aperitif is popular in the region of the Périgord.  My husband who is from a small village near to Riberac, often tells me about customs and food from there.  I know peach leaves are not accessible to everyone but maybe it is possible to make it with the leaves of other fruit trees.

The incredible thing about this was the strong smell of almonds when the leaves were macerating in the wine.  I know that peaches, apricots and almonds are of the same family but the scent was overpowering, almost to the point of having the same smell as bitter almonds and if you have ever accidentally bitten into one of those you'll know exactly what I mean.


200 peach leaves
2 litres white wine
300 ml eau de vie or other white spirits
350g sugar

How to go about it

Put the put the leaves into the wine in a bucket and let macerate for 5 days, in a cool place.  Strain and add sugar and spirit, stir to dissolve sugar and bottle.  Leave for a month before drinking.

Anyway, I've invited friends to lunch and I'll have a feast but in front of the TV, haven't told my friends yet that we'll be watching the Tour!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Courgette and Peach Chutney

Here we go again with the same ingredients but this time something for the winter.  We've had strong winds this week and it has blown loads of the peaches to the ground, they were still in good condition and totally usable.  Courgettes, well they just keep coming.

Makes about 2.5 kg


1kg courgettes
1kg peaches
3 large onions
150g sultanas
500g sugar
1 litre white wine vinegar
1 stick of cinnamon
4 star anise
1 tablespoon coriander
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon Jamaican pepper
2-3 fresh chili peppers
1 tablespoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon cardamon pods

How to go about it

Peel and chop courgettes into cubes, chop peaches.  Put in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of the salt and let degorge for 30 minutes, rinse and pat dry.  Put all ingredients into large saucepan, bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.  Then turn up heat a little and cook for 1.5 hours until nearly all the liquid has evaporated.  Put into hot, sterilized jars and seal.  Leave for at least 6 months.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Peach, Swiss Chard and Cabrales Pie

I've been thinking about making this Provençal pie for a few years now but the whole idea of vegetables and fruit didn't quite do it for me.  I'm used to eating spinach with sultanas and pine nuts, a Catalan dish that I love but I needed to clinch the recipe.  I mused over different cheese and even bought two or three but in the end I decided on the cabrales.  A strong blue cheese from Asturias in northern Spain.  It can be made from unpasteurised cows milk or more traditionally made with a blend of goat's and sheep's milk.  Other blue cheeses can be used in its place, Stilton would be a good choice.

The pastry is made with a blend of plain flour and Gofio, a toasted wheatgerm from the Canary Islands.

Serves 4 - 6

Preheat oven to 180°c


For the pastry
150g plain flour
50g gofio
100g butter
1 egg yolk
1 - 2 tablespoons cold water
salt and freshly ground pepper

1 kg Swiss chard or spinach
80g pine nuts
80g sultanas
100g cabrales
2 - 3 peaches
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of sugar
salt and pepper
2 eggs
50ml single cream or milk

How to go about it

Firstly put the sultanas in half a cup of water and bring to boil and then leave to cool in liquid.  Rub the butter into the two flour, add salt and a good grinding of pepper.  Bind with egg yolk and water to form pastry.  knead for seconds and wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Take off the centres of chard an use in another recipe.  Cook green part in boiling water for 3 minutes, drain and cool and squeeze out all of liquid.  Lightly roast pine nuts, finely chop chard and mix with sultanas, pine nuts, spices, eggs, and cream, crumble the cheese and also add.  Season. 

Butter shallow pie dish and roll-out half the pastry and line pie dish.  Fill with chard mixture.  Cut peaches in half and stone and slice in medium slices, lay on top of chard and sprinkle the sugar on top.  Roll out the other half of pastry and cover the pie.  Brush with beaten egg mixed with tablespoon of water.  Bake for 45 - 55 minutes.

I wasn't disappointed, I think it was worth the two year musing before making it.  After all, you can't rush things in the Mediterranean.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Peach pavlova

I can't stop going to the fridge and eating small slices of this.  I know I shouldn't because it has a lot of calories and now the Tour de France has started, I'll watch it everyday and be so enthused to get on by bike and return to my youthful fitness. 

When it all goes 'peach shape', or I do,  I'll blame my husband for letting me eat it and not taking an active interest in my fitness but still I will return to the fridge for just one more slice.    So don't make this pavlova. 

or maybe just once


4 egg whites
200g sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
3-4 ripe peaches
500ml whipping cream
2 tablespoons of icing sugar

How to go about it

Preheat oven to 120°c

Whip egg whites until stiff, then add sugar tablespoon at a time, whip between tablespoons, it should be nice and glossy and stiff.  Add cornflour then vinegar, mix.  Line a baking tray with silicone paper and mark a large circle of 25cm diameter.  Spoon half of the egg whites on to circle, spreading out.  Place the rest of the egg whites into a piping bag with a large star nozzle and pipe a boarder, building up the sides until all used up.  Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes until firm.  Let cool in the oven.  When you are ready to fill meringue, whip cream and add icing sugar to taste.  Stone peaches and slice.  Fill with cream and arrange peaches on top.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Peach and frangipani tart

There's one thing I have an almost unlimited supply of in my garden and that is almonds.  We have about 5 large productive trees, that give us about 70 kilos plus of almonds, still in there shells, per year.  Minus the loads that my Labrador eats!

So being of tight nature I am determined to use them.  This week the peaches have finally started to  ripen.  I have been squeezing them everyday to check and in the last couple of days they have been falling off the tree in heavy ripeness.  So I decided to marry them together to make this unctuous tart.

I asked my husband what he thought of this tart and he said that he needed to eat more of it, until he felt he could comment.  What does that mean? 

Makes a 23cm flan dish


For the paté sucre

200g plain flour
100g unsalted butter
50g ground almonds
50g sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cold water
grated zest of a lemon


6-8 peaches, depending on size
100g ground almonds
100g unsalted butter
100g sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon plain flour
2 tablespoons kirsch or eau de vie or rum
2 tablespoons of red currant jam or quince jelly

Preperation time 20 minutes

Cooking time 40minutes

How to go about it

Preheat oven to 200° c, put in baking tray in middle of oven.

Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour.  Add sugar, almonds and lemon zest, mix.  Mix in egg yolk and cold water.  Knead for a few seconds.  Wrap in cling film and refrigerate.

To make the filling whizz all ingredients together except the jam.

Cut peaches in half, twist and cut out stone and slice into large wedges.  Reserve on a plate. 

Butter flan dish, roll out pastry and line dish.  Put in frangipani and arrange peach slices in decreasing circle, pushing them into mixture.  Place in oven on preheated oven tray and cook for 10 minutes on 200°c.  Turn oven down to 175°c and cook for a further 30 minutes.  Cool. 

Mix jam and water and heat up and then paint over flan.

Peach and lemon verbena drink

 Well the heat has arrived, as have the peaches.  To take advantage of this I quickly made this today to cool everyone down and use surplus peaches.

For 1 litre jug


4 peaches
2 pots of plain yoghurt
sugar to taste
ice cubes
water, fizzy or still
2-3 leaves of lemon verbena or lemon balm or juice of half a lemon

How to go about it

Peel peaches by scalding in boiling water for 30 seconds, or if you prefer leave skin on.  Crush ice by wrapping in a tea towel and bash it a with rolling pin.  Put all ingredients together in a liquidizer and whizz. 

Store in fridge and serve with extra ice or water

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Seafood pasta

I first ate this pasta dish,  known as Fideua in Spanish, with an elderly couple that I had met in the village of Alcover in the province of Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain over 10 years ago.

Mercedes was originally from the village but her husband was from the south of Spain.  They had met  in England in their early 20's when both their families had fled Spain after the civil war.  They lived in England for over 40 years.  Jo, her husband, had imported bananas from the Canary Islands and once a year he would put his car on a banana boat and go to the islands for 6 weeks to sort out business. 

He was based in Covent Garden when it was still used as a major fruit and vegetable wholesale market.  He told me there was such a great camaraderie in those days.  In the very early, cold mornings of London they use to light fires in old oil drums and drink tea and rum and the workers use to throw rotten vegetables at the city gents, passing in their bowler hats carrying their brief cases.  It didn't at the time seem to bother the gentlemen nor was it frowned upon, it was almost expected.

When they retired, they moved back to Spain and settled in Alcover and the strange thing is that they continued to speak English together in the house, even though it was neither of their mother tongue. 

I loved this dish when I first ate it.  Simple ingredients, robust flavours,  it is a dish that I continue to make  regularly to this day.

Serves 4


500g unpeeled, raw prawns
300g of live clams, washed
4 squid, cleaned and cut into rings
500g live mussels, debearded and washed
9 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
olive oil
salt and pepper
good pinch of saffron
600g fideos, if you can't get these, break up spaghetti into 2 cm pieces
fish stock


2 egg yolks
4 cloves garlic
olive oil

How to go about it

If you are smart, get someone to make the allioli for you.  Give them these instructions.  Peel garlic and roughly chop and put into a mortar with the salt and grind with the pestle.  Add the egg yolks and grind to mix and add the olive oil in a fine drizzle moving the pestle all the time.  It should start to emulsify, add the oil until it reaches the required consistency.

  • It can be made with 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk and made in hand whizzer, adding oil in same way.  It is not as thick but still okay.
  • When you make it in the pestle and mortar when it has reached required consistency, you can add 2-3 teaspoons of boiling water, mix and then add a bit more oil.
  • True allioli has no egg yolk.  It is hard work to get an emulsion but it is sublime made in this way.
  • If it splits or won't emulsify, start again with another egg yolk in a clean bowl and add split mixture in a drizzle until emulsifies.
  • It is better to have eggs and oil at the same temperature, not too hot or not too cold.
  • Rule -  always store allioli in fridge after making.  Throw away allioli after the first day,

Peel and dehead prawns.  Put heads and body peel in a saucepan and cover in water.  Cook for 10 minutes, mash the heads and peelings with a potato masher to extract the juice from the prawns.  Drain and keep hot, add extra fish stock as needed. 

Fry the whole garlic in olive oil, in a large, shallow frying pan.  Do not let burn, fry for 5 minutes and discard garlic.  This is only to flavour oil.  Fry squid in the same pan for 5 minutes them add pasta.  Fry for 5 minutes longer until the pasta starts to become transparent.  Soak safron in a little hot water then  add to pan with salt and pepper.  Start to add laddlefuls of prawn stock one by one, let cook then add clams and mussels and 2-3 laddles of hot stock until just covered.  Let cook, don't stir, let it form a film on the top, as this acts as a lid.

When the stock is just about absorbed, turn off heat and cover with tea towel.  If you are lucky the pasta will stand on end, pointing skywards. 

Serve with the allioli.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Cannelloni bean and vegetable soup with harissa and yoghurt

So many vegetables in the garden, I think I am turning into a vegetarian.  I thought I would give this a bit of a twist, instead of making a straight forward minestrone I decided to put a bit of harissa and yoghurt in it.

Serves 4


300g of cannelloni beans, soaked overnight
3 carrots
1 courgette
bunch of swiss card
1 clove of garlic
1 onion
handful of green beans
1 - 2 teaspoons harissa (depending on how hot you like it)
1 tablespoon of tomato purée
1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
small sprig of rosemary
small sprig of oregano
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

For the yoghurt sauce

4 tablespoons of yoghurt
juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped basil

How to go about it

First cook beans in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes or 40 minutes in normal saucepan.  Drain but reserve liquid.  Peel and chop onion, garlic and carrots, chard stems, gentle fry in saucepan until soft.  Add chopped courgette and continue frying for a few minutes.  Add herbs and cumin and fry for 2 minutes.  Add harissa and purée, mix and them add tomatoes, chopped chard leaves, beans and liquid from beans and more water if you think it needs it.  Season.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make yoghurt sauce by mixing all the ingredients. Serve.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Rabbit and artichoke paella

I think there are hundreds of versions of Paella and for sure every family will have its own way of making it.  My son's girlfriend went to eat at a friends house, where the father made the Paella and he even had a special jacket he wore when he made it!  The combination of rabbit and artichoke is said to be one of the original ways of eating this dish of Spain and for me my personal favourite.

Paella can be made in advanced and covered with foil and a heavy tea towel and be kept warm in this way for quite a while.  There are not any fancy ingredients in Paella, it is peasant food and would normally be cooked by the grandmother for the rest of the family.  The important ingredient in this version is to have a good quality Spanish smoked paprika.

Serves 4


1 rabbit
2-3 artichokes (depending on size)
3 garlic cloves
3 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
chicken stock
600g of paella rice (bomba)
Olive oil
salt and pepper

How to go about it

Prepare artichokes, chop in half and peel off outer leaves.  Peel stalk and cut in quarters, carefully take out the hairy choke and discard.  If you don't want them to discolour put them in some water with the juice of half a lemon or a sprig of parsley.

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Chop the rabbit in small pieces and include the liver, heart and kidneys.

In a paella pan or large shallow pan put in 2 tablespoons of oil and add whole, unpeeled garlic cloves and rabbit and sauté for 10 minutes on gentle heat.  Turn pieces, then add artichokes and continue to sauté for 5 minutes more.  Add a bit more oil and put in rice and paprika, season with salt and fry until the rice is starts to colour and it is coated in paprika.  Add enough stock to so the liquid comes about 2 cm over the rice. Cook on a medium heat. 

The rule is with paella is that you can stir for the first few minutes and then don't touch.  It forms a film on top of the liquid that acts as a lid and helps to cook the rice evenly.  When all the liquid is absorbed, turn it off and cover and let rest for 5 minutes.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Artichoke and black pudding Pasta

When you grow your own veg, you don't always have the choice of what you are going to eat.  It's a question of what needs harvesting in the garden and how am I going to cook this.  This is a recipe that works with different combinations of early Summer vegetables.  I bought these artichoke plants about 3 months ago and was told that they didn't need cutting down to the ground at the end of May and they wouldn't be any artichokes till the following Spring, so I was surprised to see these artichokes in June!

Serves 4


2 artichokes
bunch of swiss chard
1 courgette
handful of broad beans, fresh or frozen
2 black puddings
olive oil
salt and pepper
400g macaroni pasta

For the sauce

100 dl olive oil
100g parmesan cheese
1 lemon
fresh basil
3 cloves fresh garlic
small bunch of basil

I had in my garden an enormous plant which I knew to be of the onion/garlic family but was told by a neighbour it is what they call french garlic and it is used to make allioli (Catalan garlic mayonaise) as it is milder.

How to go about it

First make the sauce by finely chopping garlic and basil, add olive oil and the juice of lemon and parmesan, mix with a fork.

Put a saucepan of water on to boil for pasta.

Prepare artichokes, discarding outer leaves and cut into eights, fry in olive oil.  Wash and separate stalks of chard, chop stalks and add to artichokes.  Finely slice courgettes in semi circles and add to pan.  Fry on low heat for 5 minutes.  Add chopped chard leaves and broad beans and fry for another 5 minutes.  While this is cooking, put pasta on to cook.  Follow cooking instructions on packet.  Drain but DON'T RINSE.   Add a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper.  Cover and keep warm.

Slice black pudding and gentle fry on both side for a few minutes. Remember that black pudding is already cooked so it just needs to be heated through and browning a bit. 

Mix pasta into veg, then mix in sauce.  Serve in bowls or on plates and arrange black pudding on top.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Courgette, pea and new potato soup

Now that my three courgette plants have started to give courgettes, it has become really the star veg of my table each day.  Wanted or not, I have to eat it, I can't abide wasting food, especially food that I have grown, that my soil has given me.  So today instead of the usual puréed courgette velouté, I decided to keep it a bit chunky.

Serves 4


1 young onion
3 - 4 wet (fresh) garlic cloves
2 large new potatoes, scrubbed, not peeled
2 courgettes
small sprig of fresh rosemary
700dl of vegetable stock or water
4 handfuls of peas, shucked fresh or frozen,
salt and pepper
Olive oil

How to go about it

Peel and chop onion.  Peel and finely chop garlic, cut potatoes into large cubes along with the courgette.  Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottom saucepan and gentle fry onion, garlic, courgettes and potatoes for 15 minutes until almost cooked, add more oil if it is dry.  Then just cover with stock or water, add finely chopped rosemary and season, add 2 handfuls of peas.  Let simmer for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile cook the other to 2 handfuls of peas in a little water for 5 minutes, then purée.  Add the puréed peas to the soup, heat through for a few minutes and serve.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Apricot tart

I always think that apricots come into there own when cooked, it brings out the best in them and what better way to enjoy them than a simple tart.

For the paté sucre

200g plain flour
130g butter
25g sugar
1 egg yolk
pinch of salt


800g apricots, halved and stoned
150g double cream
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
80g sugar

How to go about it

Make sweet pastry by rubbing in butter into flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add sugar, salt and vanilla, mix in egg yolk and enough cold water to bind.  Gentle knead for few seconds and wrap in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Butter a flan dish, roll out the pastry and line the dish, put in apricots cut- sides up.  Lightly beat egg into cream and add sugar then pour around the apricots.  Bake in a preheated oven at 180c° for 40 minutes.  Serve at room temperature.

Served with a small glass of quince liqueur

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Minervois Sourdough Bread.

Anyone that has tried their hand at making bread, whether it be from a natural yeast starter or bought yeast, will no the complete enthralling and compelling obsession  that it becomes.  The quest to produce the perfect loaf becomes all consuming. 

I started my first sourdough starter in my Mothers airing cupboard and after  feeding and nurturing it for over a week it eventually turned into the BLOB, growing and consuming all its path.  Namely forgotten knickers and odd socks abandoned on the copper pipes in the airing cupboard, until in the end it had to be punched into a black plastic sack and thrown out in the rubbish.  Who knows it could be living at the local tip to this day, devouring all in its path! 

My second attempt was in the Languedoc in France and this time I used Minervois red grapes at the time of the harvest in September and organic, stone ground rye flour from the neighbouring Black Mountains.  This time it was a success and I am still using it to date.  It will be 4 years old this coming September.  We've had are ups and downs but it has always bounced back.  It is like a pet that I always have to think about.  It normally comes on holiday with us as we have a camper van and I just put it in the fridge and feed it as normal.  Sorry, I am not explaining  this very well, once you have started a natural yeast starter it always has to be fed with fresh flour, usually on a weekly basis, but depending on how often you use it.  I could go into pages of explanation but you just have to get to know your starter and learn what it will tolerate or not in order to survive.

This is how I started mine.


a plastic bucket
piece of muslin
organic rye flour
1 bunch organic red grapes
spring water
1 kilo glass jar with plastic lid
rubber spatula (I never use metal to mix my Mother Culture)

How to go about it

Put grapes in muslin and tie up with the string
Put 500g flour and enough water in the bucket to make a thick paste and squeeze grapes into the flour and water mixture.  Leave grapes in the mixture, cover with a clean, dry tea towel.

Let it ferment at room temperature for a couple of days.  It should start to smell beery, which is what beer is - liquid bread!  The colour will be pinky grey.  Yuk but this it how it should look.  Leave it another day and then add another cup of flour and some water and squeeze grapes a bit more.  Cover and let it ferment again for 2 days.  Then throw a couple of cups away and add some more flour and mix to same consistency as before, cover and leave again for two days.  Repeat twice more throwing away and adding.  Right now it should start to take strength.  Fill a kilo jar up to 3/4 with starter and make a small hole in the lid and store in fridge.  This is now your pet and it has to breath and eat.  Every time you use it,  throw away a good half of the jar, top up with flour and water and mix and return to fridge.  If you are not going to use it for while that is okay it will go to sleep as such but you will have to bring it back up to strength by throwing away and topping up until it recovers its strength.  It is best to make bread with it two days after it has been fed.

So, now you want to make some bread.
Firstly, make sure that your Mother culture is fed and ready for action.

Day 1  Hour 1700

Sponge mixture


125g  wholemeal flour
125g strong bread flour
250dl room temperature water, the amount will depend on the dryness of your flour.
about a tangerine size amount of Mother culture

How to go about it

Put the two flours in a bowl and put in starter.  Mix in water with spatula until it is like a thick paste, cover with a clean tea towel and leave at room temperature for 18 to 24 hours.  It should be quite bubbly.
Don't forget to feed Mother Culture, throw a bit away if needed.  I changed my flour for feeding my culture from rye to wholemeal, this was a question of what was available and price.  It is not a problem to feed it with rye or wholemeal it will adapt but the most important thing is that it is fed and watered.

Day 2  Hour 1700


1250g strong bread flour
3 teaspoons of salt
3 teaspoons of sugar or honey
3 tablespoons olive oil
400g of the sponge mixture
About 300dl tepid water

How to go about it

Mix all ingredients together and knead for 15 minutes.  It can be made in a food mixer but you might have to make it in two lots.  The water content will depend on your flour but the wetter the dough the better.  Put the dough into an oiled bowl and turn over so it is covered in oil.  Put cling film on top of the dough and leaver out for 1 hour and then put in the fridge overnight.

Day 3 Hour 0900

Take dough out of the fridge and let sit for an hour.  Take out of the bowl and split in two, lightly shape into two round loaves.  Dust with flour and place each loaf on an floured baking tray, cover each loaf with a clean tea towel and let prove for 4 hours. 

Preheat the oven 40 minutes before to 225°c.  Cook each loaf one at a time and slash just before it is put into the oven and spray with water.  Bake for 35 minutes.