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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Black Garlic - the new wonder!

Black garlic is a new and exciting product that has finally found its way around the world. Once only used in high-end cuisine it is now readily available if you know where to find it. I bought mine on the web through in Melbourne but there are plenty of stockists, worldwide.  Sometimes referred to as fermented garlic it has a taste reminiscent of sweet balsamic vinegar and tamarind. Uniquely individual and setting itself apart but nothing at all like the garlic we all know and love. It has a multitude of uses and would no doubt be a very lucrative thing to produce if you are a garlic grower with plenty of time on your hands! Growers should read this link to ehow  if they are interested in fermenting their own ‘Black Gold’.
For me it is very exciting as I love to make terrines and I love truffles but rarely get my hands on one. In a funny way sort of way, it is almost a substitute (for me) - imagine black garlic running through a pink salmon terrine, It would look stunning. I have my one and only remaining bulb under lock and key but had great fun trying the first one with scrambled eggs and fresh salmon as you can see in the two photographs. The recipe I used for the salmon came from the  blackgarlic web site - check it out!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

kingfish sashimi with honey & lime vinaigrette

This is an elegant first course to serve on Christmas day. Not only beautiful to look at but light enough not to spoil the large main course to follow.  


Serves: 4

400gm sashimi grade kingfish
100ml grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon soy sauce
Pinch salt
Pinch white pepper
Microherbs or shiso leaves, chopped chives and ground black pepper to garnish


Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together and shake well. Slice the kingfish into long thin pieces with a very sharp knife and lay them side by side on each plate. Spoon a little dressing over the top and scatter the plates with herbs and a few grindings of cracked pepper.

Kingfish Sashimi printable recipe, click here:

Friday, December 17, 2010


There are many meanings for the word ‘cartouche’ but in cooking terms it describes a round piece of paper, usually greaseproof (baking paper), waxed or parchment used to cover the surface of a pot.

The placement of a cartouche on the surface of food, under a saucepan lid, keeps the components submerged, reduces evaporation during the cooking process and is vital in the prevention of a skin forming on top of a sauce.


  1. Tear off a large piece of paper from a carton, twice the surface of your pot
  2. With the short end facing you, fold it in half (bottom to top)
  3. Fold in half again, right to left
  4. Fold in half again, right to left
  5. There is now a sharp point at one end
  6. Place the pointed end in the centre of your pan to measure the distance from the centre to the edge and tear or cut off any paper that extends over the edge of the pan.
  7. Unravel and place the circle of paper over the surface of the pan

If the purpose of your cartouche is to keep a skin from forming on top of a sauce, wet the cartouche with water before placing it on the surface of the sauce.

I use foil from time to time too, as illustrated above, but it is not so effective. Paper absorbs water (moisture from the pan) thereby creating a suction giving a better result.

The great juggling act of the year comes into its own at Christmas when practically every saucepan in the kitchen comes into play at the same time. The use of a simple cartouche over a pre-prepared sauce can be a real lifesaver and you’ll be amazed what it does for chicken, stews, casseroles and the like!

Cartouche making - printable version, click here:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

borlotti beans (fagioli scritti)

Critical point time is the choice of saucepan when cooking borlotti beans, this way. Make sure the saucepan is not too big and the beans come half way up the sides – they must be a tight, snug fit. The red stripes on fresh borlotti disappear during the cooking process, sadly. Their beautiful uncooked look is NOT the cooked look!

Oven: 180C
2 kg fresh borlotti beans or 4oogm dried, soaked overnight in cold water
2-3 whole tomatoes
1 whole head of garlic split in half
1 handful each fresh sage and parsley leaves
12oml extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper – add before seasoning

Place the beans in a saucepan and add all the ingredients except the seasoning and oil. Cover with enough cold water to ensure the level is 1cm over the top of the beans. Slowly pour on the olive oil to form a slick on top of the water. Seal the pan with a piece of foil, pierce a hole in the top of it and bake for one hour.
Remove when creamy, soft and cooked. Season generously and add a little extra olive oil to serve.
Serves: 6
Do not put salt in the water during the cooking process, this will toughen the beans – best to season them just before serving. This is adapted from a River Café recipe.

Borlotti Beans printable recipe, click here:

Monday, November 22, 2010

lifting your spirits!

two reasons to be cheerful.... saucisson and Sicilian olives.....yum!

courgettes with mint and sea salt

Middle Eastern food has long taken my fancy and never more so since discovering Julie Le Clerc’s gorgeous book, Taking Tea in the Medina. Chicken kebabs with toum; olive and parsley salad; lamb and hummus pizza and this simple method for preparing courgettes with mint and sea salt are but a few of my favourite dishes from her exotic collection.

Serves: 6


800g courgettes thickly cut on the diagonal
3 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons fresh mint, leaves only
80ml olive oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste


This is a painless operation if you have a mini food processor – in which case place the garlic cloves, chopped in half; the mint leaves, torn up and the olive oil inside and give them all a good whiz. Otherwise, pound the garlic, mint and salt together to form a smooth paste then gradually add the oil. Pour the mixture over the courgettes and coat them well, use your hands to ensure a good result.

Bake the courgettes in a moderate oven 180C for about 45 minutes until tender. Allow to rest before serving and sprinkle liberally with sea salt and a few grindings of black pepper.

courgettes with mint and sea salt - printer friendly recipe, click here:

Monday, November 8, 2010

porcini mushroom lasagne with prosciutto

1st November 2010 is a very special day shared by two important anniversaries: our tenth year at Broke Road Vineyard and the Food Vine’s 2nd birthday. By co-incidence this double celebration marks the publishing of my 100th recipe.

I wanted to write a new recipe to celebrate this triple anniversary, one that would express all the things we love about home: warmth, comfort, coziness, peace and happiness. I also wanted to write something for Alan who absolutely loves pasta and so I went home to my spiritual food heart and came up with the following.

Now there is nothing new about the concept of porcini mushroom lasagne but there is everything new about this recipe and this is the only place you will ever find it.

A few pointers first: heavy le Creuset saucepans are a big plus when making the mother sauces which are: béchamel (milk based) espagnole (brown stock based) velouté (white stock based) and allemande (egg enriched velouté). These mother sauces consist of a butter and flour roux to which their respective liquid is added. Skill is required when adding liquid to a hot roux to avoid lumps so the aid of a heavy based pan gives more control and it is a wise move to do this off the heat. The purchase of a silicone-coated whisk to avoid scratching the enameled surface is necessary if you want to preserve the quality and finish of these expense pans.

I hit upon the idea to make up the lasagne in my le Creuset terrine dish. I wanted to be able to cut short slices that would be high enough to show off the layers but delicate enough to serve as a starter. Less is more and never more so than in the case of lasagne.

Serves 4 as a starter 3 as a main
Oven: 180C


30gm dried porcini mushrooms
325ml boiling water to soak mushrooms, water preserved
400gm brown Swiss mushrooms, storks discarded, sliced
100gm prosciutto cut into 1 inch or 2.5cmquares
3 cloves garlic, sliced
6 sprigs of thyme, stems discarded
2 tablespoons grape-seed oil
2 tablespoons sherry
Salt to taste
Cracked black pepper to taste
6 sheets pre-cooked egg based lasagne cut to fit the terrine (4 layers in all)
110gm parmesan cheese, grated

Sauce Ingredients:

76gm unsalted butter
76gm plain flour
300ml porcini soaking liquid
300ml milk
300ml double cream
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste

Mushrooms Method:

Rehydrate the porcini by soaking them in 325ml boiling water for 30 minutes. Strain the mushrooms, squeeze our excess water, rinse under the tap and dry on kitchen paper, chop and set aside. Set aside the soaking liquid.

Sauté the prosciutto in one-tablespoon grape-seed oil, for one or two minutes until crisp. Remove, drain on kitchen paper.
Add one-tablespoon oil to the pan and fry the brown mushrooms. Do not be tempted to add more oil as they release their juices soon enough. After a minute or two add the chopped porcini and the garlic and continue to sauté until the all mushrooms are coloured. Deglaze the pan with the sherry and let it completely reduce before adding the chopped prosciutto, the thyme and finally the seasonings. Set aside.

Sauce Method:

Melt the butter in a medium sized pan, add the flour and cook out on a medium heat for five minutes. Remove the pan from the heat; add the porcini soaking liquid slowly whilst constantly stirring to avoid lumps. Return to the heat and add the milk and stir until boiling – simmer on a very low heat for ten minutes. Add the cream, stirring all the time then season well with salt and pepper and taste to make sure the seasoning is adjusted correctly. Remove from the heat. Do not rush this lengthy process; a very smooth, velvety sauce thick enough to hold its own between layers is what you are looking for.

Grease the terrine very lightly with a little grape-seed oil. Place a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the dish, add a layer of pasta to cover, add another layer of sauce then one-third of the mushrooms, one-fourth of the parmesan and repeat with: pasta, sauce, mushrooms, parmesan and then do it again. The final top layer is pasta, sauce and remaining parmesan.

All the ingredients fit exactly into the dish with no shortages or leftovers. If you do not have a le Creuset terrine find a similar size dish, which is: Length 28cm, Width 8cm, Depth 6cm or in inches: Length 11, Width 3.5, Depth 2.5.

Place the finished terrine in a hot oven for 30 minutes until it is cooked through, brown and bubbling on top. Allow to rest for ten minutes before plating up.

This lasagne recipe is a balancing act of tastes and flavours, each one subtly enhancing but not outdoing the other. I hope you enjoy it.

Note: I used, Barilla La Collezione Lasagne all’Uovo

porcini mushroom lasagne printable recipe, click here:

Friday, November 5, 2010

marinated kipper fillets with lemon and grainy mustard dressing

This 99th recipe on the foodvine should well have been the first! I only wish I had a pound for every time I made this dish when I lived in London. Anyone who knows me well will remember how often I served it - from two people to one hundred and as many times. Kippers are hugely popular in the United Kingdom so it is not surprising I gave it a good innings.

Marinated kipper fillets are great for lunch or as a starter for a dinner party but equally good as part of a large buffet. If freshly smoked are unavailable use frozen.

Serves: 4


1 packet frozen kipper fillets, skinned
1 medium Spanish red onion, very finely sliced
2-3 lemons, very finely sliced
1-tablespoon grain mustard
1-teaspoon caster sugar
pinch salt
cracked pepper to taste
2-tablespoons white wine vinegar
125ml extra virgin olive oil
Parsley, finely chopped to garnish (optional)


Skin the kipper fillets and slice them lengthwise into 4-6 slices depending on the width of each fillet, mix with the sliced onion and place in a serving dish large enough to accommodation the kippers and the onion in one layer with no gaps - a tight fit.

Cover the dish with overlapping lemon slices.

Mix together the mustard, sugar, salt, pepper, vinegar and oil and pour over the top. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 48. Parsley looks nice for added colour but it is not particularly necessary.

Note: any bones in the kippers more or less disintegrate or at least soften enough to be edible. The lemon slices although tart can be eaten. Remove from the refrigerator thirty minutes before serving.

kipper fillets with lemons, printable recipe, click here:

Monday, November 1, 2010

mussels with pernod and mayonnaise

How to steam open a kilo of mussels with a good slug of pernod!

Wash thoroughly, debeard and place the mussels in a large saucepan, add a generous slug of pernod, cover with a lid and shake over the burner until all the mussels open. Add a couple of tablespoons of your best mayonnaise, two teaspoons of grain mustard and a handful of chopped parsley. Gently mix the ingredients through the mussels, add salt and pepper to taste and cook for a further minute. Turn the mussels out immediately onto a large serving platter and discard any that have not opened.

This unusual but impressive method of preparing mussels comes from my belle-soeur, Anita, in France.

Mussels with pernod and mayonnaise, printable recipe, click here:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Quail Italian style

My inspiration for this dish came from the Bondi Trattoria at Bondi Beach in Sydney. Their quail, legs and breast, came served on a bed of potatoes, pancetta, olives and celeriac. To this lovely combination, I added preserved lemon, diced courgette and garlic for a bit more pep. I served quail breast only, more for convenience as they come pre-packed and boning is a pain if you are in a hurry. This dish is bursting with flavour, it is a true feast, and is by far my dish of the year. Omit the quail if it is not to your fancy and try something different on top or just serve the vegetables alone.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

10 quail breasts or 2 boned quail cut into four pieces
4 kipfler or waxy potatoes, steamed and diced
½ celeriac, steamed and diced
6 thick slices Pancetta cut into batons
Handful black pitted olives
1 courgette (zucchini), finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 preserved lemon, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Cracked black pepper
Parsley, finely chopped


Steam the potatoes and the celeriac. I use a Chinese steamer stack and check their progress regularly making sure not to over steam them. They should be cooked but firm. Remove and cool completely. Dice and set aside.

Melt the butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and fry the quail on both sides for only a few minutes and it is still pink in the middle. Transfer to a warm place.

Add the garlic to the pan and gently cook for minute or two. Add the diced courgette, the olives and the pancetta. Cook until the pancetta is crispy and courgettes are crunchy. Add the potatoes and the celeriac, gently turn them through the mixture until they warm through, add the lemon and black pepper.

Transfer to a plate, put the quail on top and add a little chopped parsley for extra colour.

Quail Italian style printable recipe, click here:

Monday, October 25, 2010

tamarillos with star anise

There is nobody quite like Peter Gordon, the New Zealand chef, for my money. With restaurants in London and Auckland, he is a class act and it was at his Sugar Club in London I first enjoyed tamarillos in red wine.

The following is an adaptation of his famous recipe. Sadly, the season for this beautiful fruit is short so snap them up when you spot them. The sauce is heavenly and if there is any over, I refer to it as ‘the mother sauce’.  Ready and waiting in the refrigerator, it is divine on ice cream or just poured over anything that needs sweetening up.


6 tamarillos
750ml red wine
200g demerara sugar
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 drops rosewater


Bring the wine, sugar, star anise, rosewater and cinnamon to the boil in a medium saucepan. Lightly cut the pointed end of the tamarillos with a sharp knife to make an X and place them in the boiling liquid. Return to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes – test fruit is cooked with a skewer. Leave to cool in the liquid. Use any way you like – as it, at room temperature of cold from the fridge. Fabulous with vanilla bavarois.

Tamarillos in red wine and star anise printer friendly recipe click this link:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Octopus Oz

While I'm still on my favourite subject, the cooking of octopus, see previous octopus recipes under FISH, I thought I'd see what was available at the Sydney fish markets. They had plenty of octopus of varying size but not the kind we buy in France. In France they sell a completely different variety and it's sold by the kilo. In other words the fishmonger will happily chop a hunk off a very large octopus from where the head has already been removed. Buying large pieces of octopus where the cut pieces are the same size gives easier portion control and greater yield. However, the net result of my shopping trip was pretty much the same as far and taste and texture were concerned.  I chose pre-tenderised medium sized octopus and although the finished dish had many irregularities in size it was just as delicious only it did lack moisture. Overall it was good to know that it is possible to evoke the taste and flavours of Spain here in Australia.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

baked pear and fennel salad

I spotted a variation of this salad in a magazine recently but instead of using peaches as suggested I thought pears would go just as well, if not better, with the other ingredients.

This is a truly mind blowing salad and one you will repeat again and again. It's fresh, crisp and deliciously tasty. The key is the use a mandoline to slice the cheese and fennel - there is simply no other way. Slicing finely with a knife will not do! So with that in mind combine the following ingredients in a large plain white salad bowl and drizzle over the top a little of your best extra virgin olive oil and a scattering of snipped fennels fronds.

Serves: 4

2 large Beurre Bosc pears, baked  at 180c until tender, cored and each sliced into 8 pieces
1 medium fennel sliced on a mandoline
1-2 packets of jamon cru or proscuitto depending on your appetite!
10-12 slices Gruyère cheese cut on a mandoline
Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
Fennel fronds for garnish

Baked pear and fennel salad printable recipe, click here:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

tuna and mango refresher

This cheerful little starter refreshes the palate and lifts the spirits.

A set of ring moulds is worthwhile investing in especially one that includes a pusher. It is important to compress the stack in a gentle manner otherwise it is likely to topple over and that just will not do. Pretty up the plate with dots and trails of herb oil if you like. A good tip for making dots (see photo) is to buy a medicine measure from the chemist. It can be a risky business putting dots on a plate when all other ingredients are in place so a device that will not let you down is vital. This little measure has a squeeze top allowing greater control when dot size matters.

Serves: 4

1 slightly under ripe mango, peeled and finely diced
2 mini cucumbers, peeled and finely diced
200gm fresh, sashimi quality tuna, finely diced
4 teaspoons lump fish caviar
2 teaspoons Spanish sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
few chives, finely chopped


Dice the mango, cucumber and tuna. Place in separate bowls. Mix the oil, vinegar and chives together, stir the dressing into the tuna.

Place each ring mould on a plate and spoon in the mango, the cucumber and lastly the tuna. Place teaspoon lumpfish caviar on top of each one and serve. Garnish the plate with a little herb oil.

tuna and mango refresher recipe - printable version, click here:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Padron with love

Sauté until soft in your best extra virgin olive oil for three to five minutes, sprinkle with lots of sea salt and ENJOY!

Click link for printer friendly version of this recipe:

Thursday, September 9, 2010


This is the delicious dessert, Bonnet, from the Hotel Villa Rita on the island of Elba. I'm posting the recipe as it came to me from their chef, Vincenzo.

Preheat oven to 160C
Serves: 10


6 eggs
100g white sugar
1-tablespoon cocoa powder
125m1-cup filter coffee
125ml Amaretto liqueur
350g caster sugar and 4 tablespoons water to make up a caramel
Amaretti biscuits to garnish
 10 ramekins, greased


Combine all the above ingredients.  Make up the caramel by placing the sugar in a heavy based pan and slowly melt and cook until it turns a golden honey colour. Remove from the heat and very carefully add 4 tablespoons water. Stir and pour a little caramel into the bottom of each ramekin. Pour in the rest of the mixture.

Place the ramekins in an oven proof dish lined with a tea towel and pour enough boiling water to come half way up the sides of the ramekins. Cook for one hour or until set. Remove and chill under ready to serve.

Unmould each ramekin and turn upside down on individual serving plates. Scatter a little crushed Amaretti biscuits over the top and serve with fresh cream or ice cream.

 Click this link for a printer friendly version of this recipe:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Magret with a duxelles farce

I like to stuff duck breast (magret) even though it is a moist meat with many layers of fat. The inclusion of stuffing just adds to the succulence and even more so when the stuffing is a mushroom, eschallot and herb duxelles.  Technically the duxelles mixture should be moisture free but I think it works better here if the mixture is a tiny bit moist.

To make a pocket in the duck breast: lay the breast fat side down on a board on a non-slip surface. Place one hand in the centre of the breast to ensure full control, take a very sharp knife in the other and make an incision at the fattest end of the breast. Using your steady hand as a guide, to feel the point of the knife inside the breast, carefully work the knife through the meat by edging it into the corners until you have achieved a large cavity. Care is required not to pierce the fat or flesh. Remove the knife. Turn the breast over and score the fat very lightly. It is most important not to score too deeply. The breast is now ready for stuffing and salting. Cover and refrigerate until required.

Duxelles – for two thick duck breasts

500g mushrooms, wiped clean
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped eschallot
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
100ml dry white wine

Whiz the mushrooms in a food processor. Turn out onto a clean cloth or paper towels and ring the moisture out. Place the mushrooms, butter and eschallots in a small saucepan and cook until the eschallots are soft. Add the wine and continue cooking until the liquid has completely reduced. Add the chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper.

I have just given you the method for preparing traditional duxelles but I tend not to be too particular about the mixture being very dry. As I said, I think it works better if the mixture is still a little moist. Cool the duxelles and fill each duck breasts cavity. Lightly salt the fat side of each breast with sea salt.

Cook the breasts as follows: 
The breasts are delicious served rare. Set your fire early and burn the charcoal down to the glowing red ember stage. Place the breasts fat side down and slowly cook melting the thick fat during the process but be prepared for flare-ups. Once the fat is reduced, turn each breast over and cook for another four or so minutes. Remove the breasts from the heat, cover to keep warm and rest for five to ten minutes. Slice across each breast into thick slices and serve. 

Breast served this way do not need a sauce.

Click this link for a printer friendly version of this recipe:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Octopus tapas

I seem to be cooking octopus on a weekly basis at the moment. In fact I can't get enough of it. See my recipe from last summer it's as easy as pie but there is another way to prepare octopus. Just place the washed octopus in a large shallow pan and place a lid on top. Gently cook on a low heat for about an hour and a quarter until tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife. The octopus will release its own juice and in this juice it slowly cooks and it just as delicious without the use of herbs, spices and vinegar. Remove from the heat when cooked, cool down completely in its own juice then clean it up under a running tap. The loose dark skin will fall away leaving soft pink flesh ready for slicing. 

Cut the octopus into small rings, hold two or three rings together with a toothpick. Drizzle over some olive oil, a sprinkling of pink sea salt and a little paprika.

Click link for a printer friendly version of this recipe:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Salmon Torrefie

I use this coating sometimes to add interest to sashimi quality tuna instead of serving it raw. This gives it that extra something crunchy with heat. The ingredients for the mixture formed part of a dish I made in a cooking class in France last year where we used another type of fish. I applied it to tuna with great success and here I'm doing it with salmon just as successfully but the salmon needs to be cured first unless it is sashimi quality from a reputable fishmonger.

Coating for 2 X 200gm thick fillets of cured or sashimi quality raw salmon, pin bones removed. Use tuna as a substitute.

7gm green anis - from a health food store
7gm coriander seeds
3gm black peppercorns
9gm sea salt
10gm instant coffee granules
40g mixed red pepper berries

Whizz all the above in a mini food processor then add 20gm sesame seeds

Cut each thick salmon fillet into 2 even logs, lengthways. Roll in the mixture to evenly coat and place in a hot pan with no oil or fat. Using tongs, turn each salmon fillet so all four sides on each one change colour but the inside of the salmon remains raw.

Remove and rest the salmon for ten minutes. Slice each log of salmon into 6-8 slices per log and place 3-4 slices on each plate. Serve with micro herbs and freshly squeezed lemon and a few drops of oil. I serve it with a coffee and mango sauce now and then but perhaps wasabi flavoured mayonnaise would work well too.

Serves: 8 as a starter.

Click link for a printer friendly version of this recipe:

Creamy Goan fish Curry

I’m not wild about preparing this because the endless list of ingredients is a turnoff but I love to eat Goan fish curry.  In order to get over my problem I consider it to be a four-stage operation. The first three stages I execute a day or so ahead leaving the fourth stage; the cooking of the fish, prawns and rice to the last minute. This is a beautiful creamy curry, delicately perfumed by the tamarind but with enough heat to hold interest and is a perfect marriage with fish.
Serves: 6


8 cardamom pods
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
4 teaspoons mustard seeds
4 tablespoons grated coconut
100ml olive oil
2 red onions, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large green chilli finely chopped
1 large red chilli, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
large pinch of grated nutmeg
8 cloves
4 tablespoons tamarind paste
12 curry leaves
4 cinnamon sticks
1250ml coconut cream
1200g firm, thick, white fish like:  like Sea Bream or Perch
12-18 large green prawns
Fresh coriander to garnish
Rice to serve, I use Basmati

Split the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar to remove seeds, discard empty pods. Dry fry the cardamom seeds and the coriander seeds until fragrant and the seeds pop. Grind in a spice grinder or a pestle and mortar and set aside.

Stage 2.

Dry fry the coconut and the mustard seeds until the coconut turns golden and the seeds
pop. Set aside.

Stage 3.

Heat the oil in a large deep frying pan, add the onion and cook until soft, add the garlic, chilli, ginger, turmeric and nutmeg. Cook a further minute then add the ground spices, the coconut mixture, the cloves, tamarind, curry leaves, cinnamon sticks and the coconut cream. Simmer the curry very gently until slightly reduced and thickened for ten minutes without allowing it to boil.

Stage 4.

Gently poach the fish until it becomes opaque, add the prawns for the last few minutes and cook until pink.  Serve on a bed of steamed rice garnished with freshly chopped coriander.
Adapted from a recipe by De Costi Seafoods, Australia.

click link for a printer friendly version of this recipe:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Villa Rita's sweet and sour zucchinis

Piero's cabbage patch

The restaurant's vegetable garden at Hotel Villa Rita is lovingly tendered and nurtured by the owners themselves, Piero and Rita. The result of their hard work is evident in the dishes produced by chef Vincenzo and the following recipe is an example of how important it is to use the freshest vegetables available and not to overcook them.

I used a Japanese mandolin to ensure the vegetables were all the same size. If you do not have one try and slice the zucchinis 10cm long by 3/4mm thick. I used long, sweet and what I call, summer onions.


2 kg zucchines
500g sweet white onions
250ml extra virgin olive oil
150ml white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 dessertspoons sugar

Spread the vegetables in a wide shallow pan. Mix up the rest of the ingredients and pour over the vegetables.  Cover with a lid or foil and cook on a medium for roughly fifteen minutes or until the vegetables are cooked but still al dente. This could be done in an oven at about 180c if preferred. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Serve cold.

Serves:  6-8 as part of a buffet

Click this link for a printer friendly version of this recipe:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

sarago with olives and rosemary

We recently spent a few days on the magnificent island of Elba off the Tuscan coast at the hotel Villa Rita run by our old friends, Paola and Davide.

Hotel Villa Rita is fast becoming a destination gourmet hotel thanks to the efforts of Paola and Davide. They have taken full advantage of the hotel’s idyllic setting, the peace and beauty of the surroundings, the comfort of the accommodation and the talents of their chef, Vincenzo. The food is lovingly prepared and presented and not only looks wonderful but tastes just as good. A stay, long or short at this lovely hotel is a must for anyone seeking all the pleasures Italy has to offer: style, comfort and great food.

I will be publishing a number of recipes from our stay here but this first one is my favourite. The chef used sea bream but use any firm white fish as long as it’s not too thick .

Serves 4


8 fillets of firm Sarago (sea bream)
1 or 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
½ leek, finely sliced
Handful of Italian black olives
8 small sprigs rosemary to garnish
1 sprig of rosemary for the sauce, needles only
1 cup dry white wine
Pinch salt


Prepare the above ingredients as indicated and place in a large open frying pan except the rosemary to garnish. Roll the fish with the tails towards the centre and hold together with toothpicks. Cover the pan with a lid and bring the liquid to simmering point. Do not allow it to boil. Gently poach the fish for about 5 minutes until the flesh turns white and it appears cooked. Remove the fillets and place on hot serving dishes, remove the toothpicks and place a piece of rosemary in each one. Slightly reduce the sauce and pour over the fillets before serving.

Monday, July 19, 2010

stacking up...........

This has to be the ultimate in simplicity and ease and what a result!

I love using ring moulds but the most important thing is to pack down the stack,gently but firmly enough to make sure the ingredients stay intact otherwise the stack might wobble over. I have used a cocktail muddler for this purpose which was far from ideal but better than nothing so I was thrilled when I came across a proper ring mound packer in a kitchen shop in Pau. This does the job perfectly. The ingredients stay pressed together and the stack doesn't move.

The only ingredients above are sliced: tomatoes, cucumber and salad onions arranged in layers and finished off with freshly picked herbs and a little basil oil drizzled over the top. Presenting a salad this way (and in this case with an omlette) is far more appealing and pleasing to the eye and a huge relief to know that it will stay together at least until it is attacked with a knife and fork.

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Copper love.....

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Le Russe

A little word about a big cake!

In the town of Oloron-Sainte-Marie in southwest France is the patisserie shop, Artigarrede, at 1 Place de la Cathèdrale. This is home to one of the world’s greatest cakes, Le Russe. A cake with a history shrouded in secrecy and mystery.

According to legend, the cake was invented here on behalf of and dispatched regularly to, a Russian nobleman. An astonishing feat for a small patisserie in rural France but one that gave rise to guard its recipe with the up most secrecy.  A tradition upheld to this present day where its employees still must sign a secrecy agreement. Le Russe is now advertised as the Le veritable Russe (the true Russe) - indicating Artigarrede has come up against strong competition and conjecture.

Our own discovery of Le Russe came from an article in Gourmet Traveller about 8 years ago on the Basque country. An article that sent us not only in search of the mysterious cake but ever onward and upward to almost the top of the Pyrénées to the tiny mountain village of Larrau and the destination gourmet inn, Etchemaite.

We were (unbeknownst) lucky that day, Artigarrede was open. We bought many slices for ourselves and everyone we thought might like to try this famous cake. It was eye wateringly expensive, gob smackingly delicious and every mouthful savoured right down to the last speck. As the years went by we took and sent many friends to Oloron enroute to Etchemaite but sadly the shop was always closed presumably for summer holidays or some such reason so more bad luck than anything else, we supposed. Disappointment rained.

UNTIL just recently when friends from Australia stopped by for lunch enroute to Carcassonne bearing gifts of wine, cheese and a whole LE VERITABLE RUSSE - the Holy Grail itself. I was absolutely stunned.

However, my stunned state did not last long. We (the four of us) ate the whole cake in one sitting I am rather ashamed to say. We just had to make up for 8 years of longing and dreaming, who wouldn’t! 

Liz is a champion cook, food writer and food critic and together we enjoyed discussing the possible secret ingredients of Le veritable Russe. It has two wafer thin layers of a type of melt in the mouth almond flavoured meringue with an almond paste butter cream sandwiched between the two. The base is firm enough to slice through but there is no awareness of this slightly harder texture at the moment of taste.

Spurred on by Liz and Arthur’s visit and their wonderful treat I thought I’d do a little research and came up with the story that it is to the almonds in the cake that we owe the name and not to any count or Russian nobleman. The almonds came from Russia - not quite so romantic, I’m afraid. As to the secrecy surrounding the recipe, I could not come up with anything but then it is, after all, a secret!

I also found many recipes for Moroccan Le Russe cake. A similar sounding cake from my imagined ingredients and from all accounts, one that would have a similar taste, but I could not find one photograph that resembled in any way our Le Russe from Oloron-Sainte-Marie. It is, after all,  Le veritable Russe!

Link to printable version of this recipe

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

hearts in the South West

Magret (duck breasts) and coeurs de canard (duck hearts) barbequed - what could be better? No marinating, no fuss, just a sprinkling of salt on the breasts and a few fresh bay leaves between the hearts and away you go. Traditionally we serve these cuts with peas, into which we put many slithers of garlic and plenty of ground allspice. Alongside them a glistening plate of peeled potatoes sliced on a mandolin, brushed with melted butter and baked at 180C for one hour. The potatoes benefit from a sprinkling of finely minced garlic and parsley just before serving and most important of all is the orange flavoured sauce, a necessary and delicious accompaniment to anything 'duck'.

I prefer my sauce in this case to have a thin consistency so I simmer it for only about twenty to thirty minutes. Cook it for longer if you prefer it thick.

Ingredients for the sauce:

1 large brown onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
100ml raspberry vinegar
1x370gm Gelée Bonne Maman Cassis jam
1 orange, juice only
100ml port


Gently cook the onion in the oil under it has softened and becomes opaque. Add the raspberry vinegar and cook until the liquid reduces to almost nothing. Add the jam, the orange juice and the port. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the mixture is thick and reduced to half its original volume. Set aside to cool. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve then transfer it to a small serving bowl and keep warm. The sauce will keep refrigerated for one week.

To cook the meat: Score the thick fat on each breast and rub in a little salt. Thread the duck hearts and fresh bay leaves onto long skewers and rub each one with a little oil.

Both the breasts and hearts are delicious served rare. Set your fire early and burn the charcoal down to the glowing red ember stage. Place the breasts fat side down and slowly cook melting the thick fat during the process but be prepared for flare-ups. We have a barbeque plate especially designed for cooking magret, it is fluted so the fat runs into a central point with an external lip designed to collect the drips in a separate container. Once the fat is reduced, turn each breast over and cook for another four or so minutes. Remove the breasts from the heat, cover to keep warm and rest for five to ten minutes. The duck hearts take about five minutes to cook on each side and must rest before serving.

An alternative way to cook the duck breasts if you are concerned about hot dripping fat is to cook them in a dry frying pan on the cooker until all the fat has melted then finish them off on the BBQ for a few minutes on each side to get that nice BBQ flavour.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Taking time out........................

Something went horribly wrong with the San Sebastian posting. Try as I might I could not close the gap between the title and the beginning of the text and I did not arrange the photos that way. Restarting was out of the question as it seemed to be a issue. Every now and then they make changes to their settings and if posting and uploading coincide then it's impossible to avoid some sort of error and it is anyone's guess when they might fix the problem. Makes no difference to the story or the photographs, however.

Sorry, no recipe with the Broccoli Souffle picture. There will be but I'm running out of time..... I'm taking a break from the Food Vine for a few weeks. Catch you in the last half of May......with the recipe and hopefully many more!

Broccoli Souffle

San Sebastian

Regular readers of the Food Vine might have gleaned from my many references, recipes and photographs of Spain that it is a very special place for us. We have traveled extensively its length and breadth and in France, where we live, we are lucky to be only 2 hours from the city of San Sebastian, considered the gourmet capital of Spain. San Sebastian is located on the Atlantic coast 20km south of the French border. It is a small, intimate, elegant city bursting with life, style and fabulous food.

I first went to San Sebastian when I was 21 and I have returned on and off ever since but I never thought that first day just how much the place would mean to me in my later life.  These days we cannot go to France for five months and not go to San Sebastian - it would not feel right. We try to go once a month or thereabouts and friends who come to stay often join us on these two to three day trips. A mutual sharing of the city, the food, the wine, the hospitality and the conviviality of the Basque people and we have found a great home away from home at the Hotel Parma in the Parte Vieja, the historic and gastronomic centre of the city.

Last summer, on one of our regular trips, we had the pleasure of being in the good company of friends from Australia, Stewart and Liz. Not one to let an unsnapped moment go by Stewart captured our time there in these lovely, colourful photographs.  Life as it is; in the markets, the tapas bars and in the food we ate. Thanks, Stewart and my apologies for taking so long to post them on the Food Vine.