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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Maggie's Chocolate Pavlova with Raspberries

We were very happy to be invited to lunch recently at the home of our good friends, Maggie and George and eagerly awaited the day knowing Maggie would cook up a tornedo. The following is the dessert we were served - an absolutely stunning chocolate pavlova with lashings of mascapone, creme fraiche and plump raspberries. The meringue was indeed superb - all crispy on the outside and perfectly chewy on the inside and her cleverly combined filling gave the pavlova a new dimension and taste sensation. We were treated to something really special.

Serves: 8 - 10

Oven: 180C


6 egg whites
300g castor sugar
3 tablesppons cocoa powder, sieved
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
50g chopped dark chocolate.


250g creme fraiche
250g mascapone
500g fresh raspberries
2-3 tablespoons shaved chocolate


Line a tray with baking paper. Beat eggs whites until they stand up then beat in the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Test for firmness by turn the basin upside down - the meringue should not drop out. Add the cocoa and chocolate and gentle fold into the whites.

Mould the meringue onto the paper and form it into a round to about 22 cms.

Turn to the oven down to 150C and cook the meringue for 1 - 1.5 hours. Turn the oven off and leave the door ajar and let the meringue cool completely. Whip the creme fraiche and mascapone and pile on top of the meringue, top with raspberries and shave a little more chocolate over the top.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Aspic Eggs with Jamon Iberico

In Oz I buy glace de viande (meat glaze) in jars from David Jones mainly because it's easy and I'm too lazy to make my own. With time on my hands recently and a long way from David Jones I not only wanted to end up with glace de viande but wanted a wobbley (not rubbery) aspic (jelly) in the process. I was determined not to clarify the stock with the aid of egg whites and if it wasn't for the simmer pad on my Lacanche cooker my goose would have been well and truly cooked! So it was with Richard Olney's trusted Simple French Food by my side and a few of my own ideas ready to throw in for good measure I set out on an interesting and successful journey.

Technically, glace de viande is made from a demi glace and demi glace is, more or less, sauce Espagnole. Glace de viande is the result of progressive transferrals of a demi glace to smaller saucepans and continued reduction to the state of a thick syrup and is the consistency of hard rubber. It is one of the sauce-enrichening standbys of classical cuisine. It can be kept, refrigerated, for a very long time. My idea was to by-pass the demi glace and turn the jelly, after using some of it for my aspic eggs, into glace de viande by continual reduction.

Place a rack if you have one in the bottom of your stock pot on which to place the meat and bones and then add the following:

1 veal knuckle (including meaty section) cut in two or three pieces, 2 pig's trotters split in two or 1 calf's foot boiled from a cold water start for 5 minutes, 500g chicken wing-tips, water to cover.

Place the meat and bones onto the rack if using and fill pot with enough water to cover by a good 4 to 5cm. Heat slowly taking about an hour to get to boiling point. Do not start to remove the forming scum until just before boiling when it is very easy to do so. As soon as you skim the first lot of scum off add a glass of cold water to the pot and wait until it almost reaches boiling point again and repeat the process again and again until there is not grey scum visible only a little white froth.

Now add to the pot the following:

1 medium onion stuck with a few cloves, 3 large carrots, peeled, 2 large leeks, cut in 3 - 4 pieces each, 1 stick celery, 1 unpeeled whole garlic bulb and a handful of course salt. Bouquet garni tied in muslin: a few sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf, few sprigs of parsley

Return the pot to almost boiling point and skim again. Regulate the heat onto the lowest of the low settings and leave the lid ajar. The surface of the stock should be at a murmur - not as cool as true poaching point nor slipping into a full boil. This careful adjustment may take some time until it is precise and consisent. Use an asbestos pad if your cooker is tricky. The stock must be left, undisturbed, for around 9 - 10 hours.

Place a colander over a bowl or another saucepan and line it with several layers of muslin and drain the stock through it. Wash out the muslin and repeat and keep repeating until the stock is completely clear. Cool rapidly, place in the refrigerator overnight, uncovered.

Aspic (jelly) must be as clear as crystal. Remove any traces of fat with a spoon then wipe the surface of the set stock with a piece of muslin that have been boiled and rung out. Put the pot back in the fridge until you are ready to make up the eggs.

600ml of (the jelled) stock melted gently with 3 tablespoons port or sherry, decorative pieces, e.g. leaf of tarragon, half an olive, tiny piece red pepper, 6 very lightly poached eggs: cooled , cut into neat circles and trimmed of excess whites.

Rinse six moulds/ramekins out with cold water. Pour in a tablespoon of stock to just cover the bottom of the mould and add the decorative pieces. Place in refrigerator to set. Add a little more stock, set it, add the eggs but turn them upside down in the moulds so when they are upturned they are the right way up, add a little more stock and set again. Add a slice of ham cut to fit each ramekin, I used jamon Iberico (pata negra) .... as I just happened to have some in the kitchen BECAUSE our good friends from Spain gave us a WHOLE HAM recently - blowing us completely away ........SO I JUST HADE TO USE IT - the most fantastic ham in the world world. Lastly top up the moulds with stock if there is any room left and reset in the refrigerator.

Unmould by running the tip of a knife round the top of each mould, turn upside down and jar against your hand. If they don't budge dip the bottom of the mould in hot water for a brief second then try again. The aspic eggs would be nice served on a bed of small leaves or with a mousse or as I have done, with dressed cucumber rounds.

With my leftover jellied stock every two days I gently reheated it then reduced it for 15 minutes, cooled it rapidly and put it back uncovered in the refrigerator. Now, some time later I have wonderful glace de viande which I am successfully using in other sauces. Voila! I should point that my version is not quite the real thing but it still works and tastes great.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sublime Tomato Salad

Succulent red tomatoes, chopped walnuts, chopped, freshly picked parsley, a dash of walnut oil and just a hint of walnut vinegar - a salad that epitomises the flavours of South-West France!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cep Omlette

There's a restaurant in Aydie in South West France that serves the best omlettes in the whole world. It's slap bang in the middle of the Madiran grape growing region with spellbinding views of the surrounding countryside but unfortunately only from the car park! We go for the omlettes not the view and they are to die for!

Rich, bright yellow eggs streaked to perfection, big strong ceps, home grown garlic and a pinch or two of salt all rolled into a creamy, moving mass of mouthwatering flavours. Served with a plate of pommes frites, a simple green salad, some bread and a pichet of wine - you're in taste bud heaven.

I love to try to evoke the tastes and flavours of Aydie when we're far far away and sometimes when we're quite close too but no matter how often or hard I try mine never taste quite the same - but an oeuf of that. This is how I make them:
It's vital to use eggs from corn fed chickens. If you can't pick your own ceps buy them in tins - this is expensive but well worth it. You could use field mushrooms but then the omlette would end up tasting rather ordinary and you would wonder what this posting was all about. Try to find ceps fresh or tinned for an outstanding flavour.

Serves: 4

12 large corn fed chicken eggs
400g tinned (drained) or 500g fresh ceps finely sliced
2 garlic cloves creamed with salt
Knob of butter for cooking each omlette
Salt to taste
Parsley to garnish


Make one very large omlette if you are brave enough or four individual ones. For four omlettes in turn crack 3 eggs into a jug and gently fork them through creating delicate white streaks. Care taken here not to to whisk or beat the eggs too hard allows for a nicer presentation. Add quarter of the creamed garlic and a pinch salt.
Heat the pan then add a knob of butter and pour in the eggs, gently fluff up by drawing the fast cooking eggs away from the sides and into the centre - this puts air into them and helps to prevent sticking. Once the eggs have started to cook around the edges but the centre is still runny add the drained or fresh ceps to one side of the omlette and cook a little longer. Fold the side free of ceps over to cover the cep side and cook another minute or two then quickly slide off onto a hot plate. A wise cook would use Chinese cooking chopsticks instead of a fork to fluff up and to fold. Continue with the next three omlettes. Garnish each omlette with a piece of parsley and serve immediately.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Chantilly Cream with Smoked Duck Breast

Espumas (foams) and flavoured chantilly creams are great fun to make all thanks to Ferran Adria, chef-owner of the world's number one restaurant, El Bulli, in Spain. His idea to use a siphon or gourmet whip in the kitchen has revolutionised professional and home cooking - food never looked better nor tasted so good. But first you must buy a siphon and this will cost you about $100 or 50 euros - not too much expense as a one off but it's the gas cartridges that hurt the most at a dollar/euro a pop!

Experiment with cream only until you get the hang of using a siphon - it would be shame to waste expensive ingredients. Read and follow the maufacturer's instructions carefully - they all vary. Do not use a soda siphon as a substitute for the following recipe or any food related recipe. Some siphons are more versatile than others - one that keeps food hot or cold is ideal . For hot place siphon in a bain-marie and keep water temperature under 70C or for cold place it in the fridge to promote the setting of cream and/or gelatine etc. Do not place a siphon in the freezer.

Serves: 10


100g Roquefort cheese
300ml pouring cream
2 teaspoons honey
10 slices of smoked duck breast rolled into cigar shapes
10 small batons celery
sprigs of dill to garnish


Place the cheese, cream and honey in a small saucepan and heat gently until the cheese has melted. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool before sieving and pouring into the siphon with the aid of a funnel. Choose a thick decorating nozzle and place a gas cartridge into the charger holder. Screw the holder onto the inlet valve until the content releases with a hissing sound. Remove and discard the spent cartridge. Hold the siphon in the vertical position and shake it about ten times then place it in the refrigerator for at least three hours.

Remove the siphon from the refrigerator, hold it vertically with the decorating nozzle pointing downwards and about 1cm from the surface and dispense a small amount of cream onto each spoon. Place a duck breast cigar, a celery baton and a sprig of dill on each one and serve immediately.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Octopus (Pulpo in Spanish) is one of my favourite things and something I look forward to on our trips to San Sebastian's tapas bars. It's one of those things I dream about when we're twelve thousand miles away but unfortunately it's always the most expensive tapa on the menu. Needing a good Pulpo fix recently and wanting to make up for lost time I put the following recipe together so we could have the same treat at home for a fraction of the price:

Wash about a kilo of Octopus under cold running water then place it in a saucepan and add the following:

a splash of white wine vinegar, a couple of smashed whole garlic cloves, two bay leaves, a few whole black peppercorns and a few sprigs of fresh thyme.

Cover with cold water, bring very slowly to the boil then simmer it on a very low heat for about an hour to an hour and a quarter. It's cooked when it feels tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife. Strain, discarding everything except the cooked Octopus then wash it again in cold water to remove any excess skin and leave on the side to come to room temperature then slice it into fat chunky rings.

Prepare a dressing of olive oil, garlic, paprika, lemon juice and parsley and pour over the Octopus. Serves 6 - 8 as one of several tapas with drinks.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tomatoes with Goat's Cheese & Quail Eggs

This dish makes an elegant starter but is probably better suited as a light lunch. Served alone or with a small salad and garnished with chive flowers the filled tomatoes look simply stunning. Chive flowers are not only beautiful but edible, too!

Serves: 4

Preheat oven to 180C

4 medium to large vine ripened tomatoes
4 rounds of goat's cheese cut to fit the bottom of each tomato
Sea salt and ground black pepper
1 lemon, juiced
3-4 tablespoons water
100g unsalted butter cubed and chilled
small bunch of fresh thyme sprigs or tarragone sprig
4 quail eggs
4 chive flowers


Cut a lid from the stalk end of each tomato and trim the other side too if necessary so the tomatoes stay upright in the oven. Remove flesh and pulp carefully so as not to break the skin. Season with salt and pepper and leave to drain upside down while you make the sauce.

Heat the water and lemon juice gently on a low heat then whisk in the cubed butter, one piece at a time. Add the herbs and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Place a round of goat's cheese in each tomato, divide the sauce (with the herbs) between each tomato, break a quail egg on top of each one and place in a greased ovenproof dish. Bake near the top of the oven for about 15 minutes or until the quail egg is just set. Serve immediately with a little mixed salad, garnish with a chive flower stalk.