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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

seasoning the pan........

The seasoning of a cast iron frying pan is necessary to create a surface so food cooked in it does not stick. It is also essential to get rid of any moisture if and when the pan is ever cleaned in water. The following process can be repeated time after time, if necessary.


Wash the pan in hot soapy water scouring away impurities or rust.

Dry the pan with a clean cloth.

Cover the entire surface of the pan with plenty of salt. Heat the pan gently on a very low heat or on the pilot light or put it in a moderately hot oven if the handle is heatproof.

Leave it until the salt goes grey, about 1.5 hours.

Tip out the salt, discard it, and wipe the pan out with paper.

Pour in enough oil to cover the surface, reheat the pan gently for about thirty minutes, tip out the oil, and wipe the pan out well.

Smear a tiny amount of fresh oil over the pan with a clean piece of paper.

Store the pan for further use.

Avoid getting your seasoned pan wet but if you find that unavoidable repeat the above procedure.

To use your seasoned cast iron frying pan or any teflon coated frying pan: Heat the pan first, when it is hot add the oil, when the oil is hot cook the food.

Herb and Wine Infusions....

Thanks to the Provence Cookery School the wonderful world of herb and wine infusions changed my cooking and thinking about stocks. These delicious concoctions are excellent as stocks, marinades, sauce bases and poaching liquids.

Think outside the five basic stocks: beef, veal, chicken, fish, vegetable and consider the following combinations. Do not limit infusions to only herbs and wine – add bay leaves, cloves, other spices, orange and apple peel or anything that will compliment the dish you are ultimately preparing the infusion for.

Lamb use rosemary and rosé
Beef use parsley, bay leaves and red wine
Rabbit use thyme and sweet white wine
Pork use sage, a little onion and dry white wine
Veal use sage and white wine
Chicken use tarragon and white wine
or any other herb and wine combinations that come to mind

For rosemary and red wine infusion in the above photograph with 1.5 litre yield, I used:

2 very long storks rosemary broken into 6 pieces
4 bay leaves
A handful of juniper berries lightly crushed
4 pieces of orange peel, no pith
1.5 litres boiling water
750ml red wine

Infuse the rosemary, bay leaves, juniper berries and orange peel or your choice of herbs and spices with the boiling water, place the pan on a very low heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the wine, turn up the heat and cook until the liquid has reduced by one-third. Strain infusion through a fine sieve.


As a marinade for meat or chicken: It is not necessary to strain the infusion in this case just allow it to become cold and use it to marinate meat – preferably overnight or for at least six hours. Drain meat and discard the marinade.

As a poaching liquid: – strain infusion first. Bring the infusion to a simmer and gently poach meat or fish until cooked through – do not allow the liquid to boil – true poaching means the water barely moves! This is an ideal way to cook previously browned or raw meat or fish requiring gently handling, e.g. veal or fresh whole trout.

As a sauce base: deglaze the pan after browning meat or fish to make a sauce or gravy.

As a sauce: add a few tablespoons of infusion to an existing sauce for extra flavour.

As a stock: use the infusion as the cooking liquid for stews or casseroles

Go Italian: use infusion to cook pasta and as the stock element when making risotto

Haddock Logs

Adapted from a Cordon Bleu recipe this is a great way to use the whole leek, even the dark green fronds - instructions for preparing these, see Christmassy Affair. Any smoked fish is suitable; smoked trout, cod or haddock depending on what is available in your area.

Serves: 4 as a starter

Ingredients for poaching fish:

300g smoked fish
250ml milk
2 bay leaves
6 black peppercorns
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs parsley

Ingredients to combine with poached fish:

100g softened butter
25ml cream
Juice ½ lemon
Chervil and parsley, finely chopped
Ingredients to garnish:

1 leek, white part only, finely julienned, to garnish
Lemon fillets to garnish
Extra chervil sprigs to garnish


Combine all the poaching ingredients and poach fish gently until cooked, about twenty minutes. I cook them in the microwave on high for ten minutes. Cool fish, drain, discard liquid and flake fish. Combine the cooled, cooked fish with the butter, cream, lemon juice and herbs.

Following instructions for leek frond preparation in the above link - they must be blanched for 60 seconds, refreshed in ice water.

Blanch julienned leek in boiling water for 3 seconds, drain and refresh in ice water and reserve for garnish.

To Serve:

Remove log from the fridge, unwrap and slice using a hot knife wiped clean and reheated between slices. Brush each slice with a little oil and water so they look shiny; add some blanched julienne of white leek, a few sprigs of chervil and a fillet of lemon. A few drops of coloured oil, chilli or red pepper would add a bit of colour.

Monday, April 13, 2009

the green Kumato

These are the kumatoes mentioned in my recipe below for green gazpacho where all things green are esssential. If you can't find these try Green Zebra or any other heirloom variety as long as the tomato is ripe and the colour is green. Kumatoes are seasonal and hard to find but worth the effort. I love to eat them sliced raw with a sprinkling of sea salt otherwise use them like any other tomato.

Gazpacho - three times a winner!

Anything miniature is attractive in the food world and no less so when it comes to soup. If you have the time and energy and you’re planning a special dinner party or luncheon, it is fun to serve three different gazpachos together but small portions are essential as each soup is quite filling. I use small coffee cups, three of each soup is an adequate starter size overall.

If you are in a hurry chill the vegetables before blending otherwise chill the finished soup well before serving. I would recommend chilling any gazpacho, whether green, red or white one to two days beforehand. Making gazpacho well in advance allows the flavour to develop and really makes a big difference to the complexity of the soup.

I do not sieve red or green gazpacho after blending – I think the rather course texture suits its Spanish character, giving a rustic appearance – too smooth is not natural for this soup. The white soup comes out perfectly smooth enough due to its content so does not require sieving.

Tabasco flavoured ice cubes not only look aesthetically pleasing in green gazpacho they also contribute to the chill factor and provide a last minute heat shock as they melt, just when it’s needed.

Quickly seared or even finely sliced raw scallops make an interesting garnish to green gazpacho too - surprising the taster with their unexpected, delicate, fishy flavour and adding a dimension of colour.

Ajo Blanco comes from Malaga and looks lovely garnished with toasted almonds and sliced seedless white grapes or a few raisins and some tiny apple pieces tossed in lemon juice.

Tip: If the finished red or green gazpacho is too thin extend either gradually with a little water. Do not do this to white gazpacho – a few hours in the fridge changes the consistency of this white soup dramatically so no extra water is required.

The serving sizes are for six people, meaning: normal size soup bowls. If you use small coffee cups your yield will be far greater.

click here for WHITE GAZPACHO recipe


Serves: 6


3-4 slices white bread, crusts removed
60ml white vinegar
½ bunch celery, chopped
1 telegraph cucumber, deseeded and chopped
2 green kumatoes, coarsely chopped (or other green, ripe tomato)
2 green capsicum, coarsely chopped
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
100ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
Mint leaves, coriander, cress and lime slices - to garnish


Soak bread in vinegar, in a non-reactive bowl, for 5 minutes. Coarsely chop all the vegetables then place them with the squeezed out bread and everything else in a food processor and whiz until puréed. Season to taste and refrigerate until required.

Tabasco Ice Cubes:

100ml tomato juice
Few drops of Tabasco

Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.

Serve garnished with finely chopped mint leaves and a little chopped coriander, cress and tiny lime slices. Pop in a Tabasco ice cube or two at the last minute. A few drops of olive oil also look attractive.


Serves: 6


3 slices white bread, crusts removed
500g ripe tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
2 red peppers (capsicum), chopped
1 cucumber, skinned, deseeded and chopped
½ onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
125ml olive oil
2 tablespoons white or sherry vinegar


Cubes of white bread for croutons
Cubes of tomato
Cubes of red pepper
Diced onion
Diced ham (optional)
Diced hard-boiled egg (optional)
Chopped parsley


Roughly break up the bread and pour a little water over it, leave to soak for ten minutes or so. Put the rest of the ingredients into a blender, add the squeezed bread and purée until smooth. Chill at least twenty-four hours or even forty-eight if you have the time. Taste the soup before serving and only add salt if it is required. You may find it does not need it.

Fry the cubes of bread in a little oil, drain on kitchen paper, and serve the soup in bowls with all the garnish ingredients piled on top.

Prawns with Lemongrass & Palm Sugar

This is one of those stand-by recipes to have up your sleeve. I always keep a bag of green prawns in the freezer for those ‘just in case’ days and then find myself making this again, quite often. The lemongrass and Thai basil give a fresh clean taste but the palm sugar is the magic ingredient. I ring the changes with cous cous, pasta or noodles to bulk it up, depending what’s in the pantry, they all go well with the other ingredients.

Serves: 4


500g shelled, butterflied green prawns
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of ginger, finely chopped
1-tablespoon lemon grass, white part only, finely chopped
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded, finely sliced
2 kaffir lime leaves, chiffonade
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons palm sugar
1-tablespoon water
3 handfuls Thai Basil, torn
Fettuccine or noodles or cous cous


Pre-cook enough fettucine/noodles/cous cous for four people depending on the brand instructions. Drain and set aside.

Heat your wok to high beforehand then add the oil and allow it to come to temperature then add the onion, garlic, chilli, lime leaves, ginger and lemongrass. Stir continuously for 2-3 minutes. Add the prawns and turn until they change colour and become opaque – one or two minutes. Add the fish sauce, palm sugar and water. Cook for another minute or so then turn off the heat. Add the cooked noodles and gently turn through Add torn basil just before serving.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Squid Rolls

Everyone loves squid whether it’s stuffed, pan-fried, baked, grilled, stir-fried with salt and pepper or coated in batter and deep-fried as calamari. The Japanese use it raw in sushi, the Spanish use the ink as a flavouring, the Italians use the ink to colour pasta and it’s hugely popular in Asian cooking. Squid is rich in protein and phosphorus so not only tastes good is good. Choose small squid for sweetness with clear eyes and an ocean-like fragrance. Cook it quickly otherwise the texture becomes rubbery when overcooked. It’s one of those things people seem to be nervous about, like a lot of fish cookery - if this applies to you just remember you’re cooking it, it’s not cooking you!

Serves: 4


8 medium sized squid
175ml extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons dry white wine
1 lemongrass stork, white part only, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 kaffir lime leaves - chiffonaded
1 handful coriander, chopped
1 handful continental parsley, chopped
1 lime, zest and juice
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1 dried chilli, chopped


Clean the squid: discarding gut, tentacles and internal plastic-like membrane. Skin them and split each one down the side with a sharp knife then open them out so they lie flat. Make three or four incisions diagonally across the flesh. Place the squid in a dish large enough to hold them all, they can overlap each other. Pour over the rest of the ingredients and leave for several hours.

Remove and drain well from the marinade and cook quickly on a piping hot grill or ridged pan for 3-4 minutes each side. Serve immediately.

To chiffonade click here

Friday, April 10, 2009

how to julienne

It is easy to julienne (to make matchstick strips) once you know how to master the technique of 'squaring up'. Apply this way of cutting to any vegetable (e.g. leeks, carrots, tomatoes, celery etc) and you can't go wrong.
In the case of julienne of carrot: peel the carrot and divide it into 3 pieces. Take one of those pieces and square off the sides, cut the now square piece of carrot into 1/8 inch (0.3cm) thick slices.
Stack these slices on top of each other and cut into 1/8 inch (0.3cm) strips. Repeat with the rest of the carrot. For leeks, cut the whole leek into about 3 pieces then cut each piece in half and take apart the folds, stack them and slice as above. Go one step further to achieve the perfect dice. For tomatoes: skin, deseed, cut tomato into four, square up pieces all the same size and slice. Once you are at the stage to julienne as in the above carrot pictures choose how thick you would like them - the thing about this technique is having control. It will come naturally to you eventually and all your slicing will be the same length and thickness and will look very professional - as will any diced vegetable if you take that extra step. Use up all the left over pieces, after squaring up, in a salad or stock or casserole - don't throw them away!

Qunice time............

One of the best things about Autumn is the great misunderstood quince and the best thing about quinces is the heavenly aroma in the kitchen during the cooking process. I'm not all that crazy about preparing them - maybe I'm just not strong enough to cut and peel. Some say don't peel but I think they look better on the dessert plate if they are. I make them one way only:

Slice, core and peel three or four large quinces. Grease a shallow oven proof dish - lay the pieces side by side and drizzle over a couple of tablespoons honey and about 150 ml water and a few knobs of butter. Cook at about 150C for two to three hours. Test for doneness with a skewer and turn regularly. Their colour will change to a soft rosy pink and they will smell divine.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


With Easter upon us Paska comes to mind. Many dishes are synonymous with Easter but this is the one I try very hard not to forget and Al is a huge fan so it is a must do for me. Paska has its origins in Russia and is traditionally made in a flowerpot to resemble the Turkish hat or captured Turk’s head, as it is known. This recipe came to me a very long time ago from my great old friend, Annie, when I lived in London. We cooked together often, swapped many recipes and talked food until we were blue in the face. Every year I make Paska and think of her, our cooking and our laughing. Other recipes call for eggs but I think this is nicer and gets top points for ease.

Serves: 6-8


500g fresh cream cheese or ricotta from the deli counter
125g butter
155g caster sugar
300ml sour cream
185g slivered almonds
125g mixed peel, chopped
375g raisins


Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Rub cheese through a nylon sieve and blend with the butter and sugar. Add sour cream and almonds. Beat well to combine. Add mixed peel, nuts and raisins – stir them through gently but thoroughly.

Line a mould or a flowerpot with a clean chux or j-cloth or muslin big enough to overlap the sides. Fill the pot with the mixture then bring the excess cloth over to cover the top. Weigh down with a saucer and a heavy tin or two and leave in the fridge for at least 24 hours - up to a week is fine. Invert pudding onto a serving plate and remove cloth. This pudding is very rich so serve small portions and keep the rest for later.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

how to chiffonade

Break apart the two kaffir lime leaves - they grow with two leaves (one large and one small) attached to each other, see above. Remove and discard the central stem from each leaf – leaving eight halves - pile the separated leaves on top of each other, roll them up into a tight ball and shred them very finely with a sharp knife.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Double Header!

Wanting to do something different with sardines I came up with this way of preparing and presenting them. They certainly make a statement!

Serves: 4

8 sardines, washed and scaled
1-tablespoon white vinegar
1-teaspoon sugar
150ml olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
1 garlic clove, crushed
1-teaspoon sea salt (I use Maldon Smoked Sea Salt)
Pinch cayenne pepper
Ground black pepper
Roasted red pepper strips (I bought mine in a jar at the supermarket)


Gut each fish including inside the head area and remove the backbone, leave the head and tail tip intact. Trim sides to so they look nice and neat, wash them very carefully then pat dry. Place in a large dish. Mix all the other ingredients together, except the red peppers, and pour over the fish and leave to marinate for at least six but preferably twenty-four hours. Forty-eight hours would be even better.

Remove the sardines from the marinade, drain and wipe them down gently. Place some roasted red pepper strips inside each one and shape them into circles with the head meeting the tail then turn them upright. Serve chilled, two to a plate with a little of the marinade mixture spooned over the top and a sprinkling of sea salt.

click link for printer friendly version of this recipe: