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Monday, January 5, 2015

pomegranate honey

Thanks go to both the food writer Charlotte Wood and Lucy Dodd's food blog Nourish Me for the superb idea of mixing pomegranate seeds and a little shaved skin of the whole fruit into a jar of honey. What could be easier, tastier and better for you and it's a cure for a sore throat as well!

There's nothing to this other than I've stated above. Use a lemon zester if you have one or otherwise use a very sharp knife to finely slice up a little of the skin avoiding the white pith. Wear gloves and an apron when cutting the fruit (pomegranate stains are almost indelible). Cut a whole pomegranate in half and either bang out the seeds or squeeze them out by hand making sure there is no white membrane attached to them. Drain away any juice and reserve on the side to drink later.

Pour a jar of honey into an airtight container, add the drained seeds and the peel and close tightly. Leave in the pantry for a couple of weeks for the flavours to marry. The colour and texture will change to a pinkish hue and will have a thiner consistency. Place in the fridge and simply top up with more honey, seeds and peel as the level goes down with use.

Divine served drizzled over ice cream, yoghurt or on salads or anything that compliments a sparkling sweet-tart flavour.

Pomegranates are loaded with potassium and vitamin C. The seeds are translucent, luscious,  brilliant-red and jewel like. This would be a perfect accompaniment to a Christmas feast and I should have posted this recipe for Christmas this year but like everyone, time got away from me.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Oeufs en Meurette (eggs poached in red wine)

This is my interpretation of a famous French classic and I've voted it my starter of the year. Fitting I think too for The Food Vine's 6th birthday on 1st November just gone.

You might want to try this recipe several times before serving it for a special meal - it's not easy to do and it takes patience and care but if you take into account the following tips your chances of getting it wrong up are fairly slim.

This is a beautiful and elegant dish and a perfect starter for a French styled meal.

Ingredients for 4 servings:

4 very fresh large eggs
500g fresh mushrooms: portobello, swiss brown etc..
1 eschallot, finely chopped
1 small knob of butter
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon double cream
4 slices of white bread, toasted then cut into a disc about 2 inches in diameter
1 bottle of good red wine
1 x 28g beef or veal stock pot portion and 2 tablespoons water
2 slices of prosciutto


Cook the eschallots and mushrooms in the butter over a low heat until the mixture is cooked through and all the moisture has evaporated. Add the cream and finely add the parsley. Turn into a small bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator.

Prepare a bowl of ice and water and leave it standing next to the cooker. Pour enough red wine into a very small frying pan (reserve what's left in the bottle). Bring the wine to boiling point then turn it down to the lowest heat setting. Crack one egg into a small cup then slide the egg into the wine. Set the timer for 3 minutes. Baste the egg yolk continually. After 3 minutes remove the egg with a slotted spoon and carefully place the cooked egg into the ice water. Repeat this with the other three eggs. Place the cooked eggs in the ice bath into the refrigerator.

Pour the wine from the frying pan into a medium size saucepan. Add the rest of the wine to the saucepan from the bottle. Bring the wine to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer until reduced by three quarters of its original volume. Add the stock and 2 tablespoons of water. Reduce by half. The sauce should be thick enough to coat. If it isn't whisk in a pinch of xanthan powder until you achieve the desired consistency. Cover and place in the refrigerator.

To plate up:

Toast the bread. Cut out a two inch disc from each slice. Spread a thick quantity of the mushroom mixer over the top of each disc and place the discs in the centre of four serving dishes.

Cook the 2 slices of prosciutto in a little oil until crisp. Drain. Cut each slice into two. Set aside.

Take the eggs from the refrigerator. Very carefully drain off the ice water. Boil the kettle. Carefully fill the bowl with boiling water and leave to stand for 2-3 minutes. Take a slotted spoon and carefully remove each egg, one by one and place on top of the four discs. Heat the sauce in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. Coat each egg with a little sauce. Place a piece of prosciutto across or alongside each egg and garnish with a little parsley or fresh bay leaf. Serve immediately.

Note:  'Continental' produce highly concentrated stock portions called: Stock Pot - they come four to a pack weighing about 28g each. Ideal for this sauce. If these aren't available to you use any other stock but then you will probably most definitely need to thicken the finished sauce with xanthan powder or similar.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

San Sebastian's best....

Pintxos bars:

La Cuchara de San Telmo
Borda Berri
A Feugo Negro
La Vina

Best value for money restaurant:

La Fabrica

Best restaurants for atmosphere (in the old port):

Marinela and the San Sebastián

Best fine dining:

Martin Berasategui

Going there? try this new tour operator:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Simple is best!

Easy Blog Photo
 I can't claim to have put this lovely dish together, oh I wish! I actually experienced it in a restaurant in Spain in a place whose name escapes me for the moment. Divine isn't it? Oh so simple - almost nothing at all - a de-seeded, skinned tomato with a slice of perfectly cooked tuna floating above like a cloud. I really don't want to go on about fresh food too much - I think we're all a bit tired of chef talk and their rantings about how important it is to have the freshest of the fresh ingredients. Yes, we all know that! Although I bow to their philosophy I'd just love to hear something new - tell us something different... Meanwhile this dish is all about love, simplicity and yes of course it's fresh.... gloriously so!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

tip of the week - make your food shine!

Glucose Wash

Make up a wash comprising one teaspoon liquid glucose (corn syrup) with one tablespoon water. Mix well over a low heat for a minute until combined. Take a pasty brush and 'paint' the piece of meat, fish or chicken you are about to sear -  the painted side (presentation side) goes down first - cook to desired doneness and turn over - paint second side and sear again until cooked to your liking. The perfect shine every time!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Spicy Prunes

These spicy prunes don't photograph very well but believe me they are delicious. This recipe was given to me by Judy Newell who owns Rangimarie Beachstay on the east coast of NZ's north island.  If you don't want to go to the trouble of making spice vinegar any strong vinegar will do instead.


450g pitted prunes
1 cup spiced vinegar
1 cup soft brown sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Place all the ingredients in a small pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for ten minutes. Cool and bottle.

Spiced Vinegar:


2 teaspoons allspice
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 bay leaves
1 blade of mace
1 teaspoon cloves
1 stick cinnamon
6 peppercorns
1 small thumb ginger, chopped
1 litre vinegar (malt)


Tie the spices in a muslin bag, place in a covered pan with the vinegar and heat slowly to boiling point. Leave to stand for two hours then remove the muslin bag and discard it except the cinnamon stick. Pour the spiced vinegar and place the cinnamon stick into a suitable bottle for storage. This vinegar keeps indefinitely.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Spain - under my skin

Spain has a way of getting under my skin, it's a country I can't get out of my head once back home. We've just returned from a dream two weeks. Rediscovering Barcelona and Port Andratx on Mallorca and getting to know Valencia and doing the tapas trail in Logrono. As always - not enough time but enough to feel enthusiastic to recreate and evoke the tastes and flavours in my own kitchen here in France. Some of the most remarkable food was the simplest. Isn't it always? My favourite from this trip: sepia (cuttlefish) on the plancha. I'm hooked. In Valencia black paella was new for me as was suckling lamb done in a wood fired oven in Logrono. Absolutely no complaints.

Trouble is getting the ingredients. Here in south west France the local (fantastic) produce is very regional so finding 'proper' Spanish ingredients comes as a challenge. However, I've made a start with a well known dish from where in Spain it comes I'm not sure but it's a safe bet for me. Black pudding is easy to find here and very delicious it is from the town of Vic-en-Bigorre at our local Saturday market.  Black pudding is not everyone's cup of tea but if you have the chance to taste a really good one you'll soon be converted.  The best black pudding I have ever had comes from Burgos in Spain and includes rice and for my money nothing else touches it.

This is not really a recipe as such it's just a case of putting all these splendid ingredients together. I doubt scallops are traditional in Spain but I've married them here with the morcilla (black pudding) as a flavour experiment. The texture of the scallops and the creaminess of the black pudding feel right in the mouth heightened by the succulent beans and the fresh, tangy mint.  It feels good. Essential ingredient next is the sea salt.

I first made this dish about thirty years ago. Spurred on by the loveable English cook, Keith Floyd, whose love of Spain matched my own and whose love of slapping up great simple ingredients with a glass of wine in his hand and a great amount of gusto enthused us all. He made us feel happy, not just about his cooking but about life and living and sharing. I can't quite remember off the top of my head how he made his broad bean dish but ever since then I've been putting together one version or another. The following is how I made it last night. Next time might be different. I might add some jamon Serrano and a splash of white wine or not as the case may be.

Serves: 2 as a main course

1 x 500g small black pudding, sliced into even 2cm slices
500g frozen broad beans
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet white onion, finely sliced
6 scallops with or without coral
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Handful of fresh mint leaves


Transfer the frozen broad beans to a bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover. Leave for a few minutes to cool then pod each bean of its tough outer shell. Discard the shells and set the podded beans aside.

In a medium sized frying pan heat the oil and sear the scallops for two to three minutes on each side until they are cooked through and lightly browned. Remove and keep warm.

Add the onion to the pan and gently cook until soft and translucent. Remove and keep warm.

Add the black pudding to the pan and cook until it is cooked through - about two to three minutes on each side.

Return the onion to the pan with the black pudding and add the beans. Cook a further few minutes, gently turning the ingredients around to mix together but without breaking up the delicate slices of meat.

Place the scallops on top, scatter over the mint and liberally sprinkle with sea salt and ground black pepper. An extra splash of extra virgin olive oil will help loosen the ingredients and given an extra sheen. Serve immediately.

Monday, May 13, 2013

taking a break!

autumn sunset at Binbilla, our home in the Hunter

Regular posting on the foodvine has suffered since the beginning of 2013 while I sat back to write another cookbook, the Recipe Tin. Now the book is finished, published and for sale (see opposite) I feel I can take a well deserved break from food writing. I apologise to my regular readers but I will make amends in the months to come.