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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.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Quince time, again.................

Just another reminder that it's quince time again. Fill your home with the heady aroma of baking quince. They do not need to be peeled, just cut each one into quarters, remove the seeds, place the cut pieces in a greased ovenproof dish and drizzle with honey. Cook until tender.

clink link for printer friendly page:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Persimmon time again......

Just a little reminder that persimmons are back in season - laden trees in full autumn glory, fruit beckoning to be picked. The most simple way to eat them is direct from the tree, split the skin and suck out the flesh or for a more refined way slice them in half with a sharp knife and scoop out the flesh with a spoon.  Our poor old tree struggles on having been leant on by kangaroos, bashed about by the ride-on mower and branches torn off in storms. We love it despite its rather tatty appearance and the heavenly fruit is a joy once a year. (click here for persimmon sorbet method).

click here to print recipe:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

steak tartare

Steak tartare at Macleay Street Bistro in Sydney’s Potts Point is just about as good as it gets – and whenever we go there, Al never fails to order it as a first course. He is also very good at making it himself and like anyone who makes steak tartare he has his own special style.

We like the meat undressed with the onions, cornichons, anchovies, capers and parsley on the side, not pre-mixed with the meat and the mustards, sauces and oil in separate bowls on the table for individual use. Served this way it is up to the individual to create their own ‘tartare’ according to their personal likes, dislikes and heat preferences.

Rump steak has a stronger flavour and better suited, we think, to this dish than eye fillet. The meat needs to be finely chopped by hand and not blitzed in a food processor. Some recipes say to scrape the meat through a drum sieve as in the making of rillettes but the resulting texture of the meat is not to our liking. Chopping it by hand gives a superior result.

Raw meat is a little overwhelming and does not appeal to everyone despite the fact the whole dish will change dramatically once the accompanying ingredients are mixed through. Serving it as a starter is a more subtle way to approach this classic dish and to appreciate and understand its status on the world’s culinary stage.

Ingredients for 4:

100g rump steak per person for a starter or 200gm per person for a main course
4 egg yolks served in their half shell or alone
Toast to serve

very finely chop:

1 Spanish onion
12 cornichons
12 anchovies
4 tablespoons salted capers, washed and drained
4 tablespoons parsley


Finely chop the steak and form a small mound on each plate making a slight well in the centre. Place one egg yolk on top of the meat. Arrange the rest of the ingredients in alternating rows fanning out from the steak and serve the following condiments on the side along with unbuttered, quartered toast.

Worcestershire Sauce
English mustard
Green mustard

Monday, April 19, 2010


I just love lasagne but it is something I do not often make and I do not know why, perhaps it is the thought of having to make so much béchamel sauce in one go that puts me off. Just recently, my cousin, Jennifer reminded me of a great lasagne recipe I used to make years ago – one of those foolproof recipes that everyone has the right size pan for. Not only is it extremely tasty, just like lasagne should be, but also the yield is accurate and any leftovers freeze well.

Freezing leftovers is a pleasure knowing one day soon we will enjoy a delicious lunch or supper and the only work involved will be the opening of the microwave door after the ding. With days turning cooler lasagne is warming, soothing, and good for the soul.

This recipe fits exactly into a pan 34cm x 24cm x 7cm deep

Ingredients for the meat sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 kilos best mince
2 large onions, diced
750gm tinned tomatoes
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
dash paprika
3 beef stock cubes
1 green pepper, diced
dash red wine
2 tablespoons tomato puree
400ml water
Oregano to taste
Basil to taste
750g mozzarella, grated
1.5 x 500g boxes pre-cooked lasagne

Method for the meat sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan on gently heat and brown the onion, add the mince and brown this too then add the diced pepper and all the rest of the ingredients except the herbs the mozzarella and the lasagne sheets. Simmer for one hour. Add the fresh herbs, stir them in well then remove the saucepan from the heat. Remove all traces of fat when the dish is cold. Refrigerate and remove from the fridge one hour before making up the lasagne.

Ingredients for the béchamel sauce:

1 onion, peeled and studded with 6 cloves
5 cups milk
8 tablespoons butter
¾-cup plain flour
Salt and white pepper to taste
pinch nutmeg
pinch thyme
1 bay leaf

Method for the béchamel sauce:

Pour the milk into a medium size saucepan with the studded onion and the bay leaf and gently bring to the boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave to cool – allowing the sauce to infuse the flavourings. Do this at least ¾ hour before making up the lasagne. In another medium size saucepan melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook over a low heat without letting it colour for 1 minute. Remove the onion from the milk and discard the bay leaf. Gradually add the milk to the roux, stirring continuously.  Place the onion back in the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes on a very low heat. Remove and discard the onion, add the seasonings, nutmeg and thyme.

To make up: Lightly grease the dish. Make alternating layers of béchamel sauce, lasagne, meat sauce, cheese, lasagne and repeat. End with cheese. Cook for 40 minutes at 180C until golden brown and bubbling.
Serves: 6-8 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Beetroot with Goat's cheese

This is a variation on a theme and just goes to show that deconstruction is still alive and kicking. My original recipe for beetroot with goat’s cheese is quite challenging and time consuming. Using the same ingredients but adding cucumber for variation and mint not thyme the dish this time round not only looks just as appealing but also saves time and the problem of finding opaque goat’s cheese - hard to come by outside France.

Ingredients to serve 4:

1 very large, very thinly sliced, cooked beetroot
½ peeled telegraph cucumber, thinly sliced
1 x 175g block of goat’s cheese, evenly and finely sliced
Baby beetroot leaves or micro herbs to garnish
Mint and olive oil to garnish


Peel and cut the beetroot and cucumber very thinly with a mandolin or a very sharp knife. Place a piece of beetroot on each plate and make alternating layers of cucumber and goat’s cheese to form small stacks. Finish by topping each stack with a slice of beetroot. You might find this easier using a ring mould.

Whiz a few sprigs of mint with 50ml olive oil in a blender or small food processor and drizzle over the top of each stack and sides of the each plate. Garnish with baby beetroot leaves or micro herbs pre moistened in olive oil so they look shiny.

Note: Mint oil made this way will not keep – discard any unused.

Monday, April 5, 2010

mini Scotch eggs

Until a few years ago Easter wasn’t Easter for me unless I made Scotch eggs but somehow I’d let that old tradition slip. Yesterday, I was racking my brain for something different to serve with drinks when my old favourite came to mind. What could be more appropriate than mini Scotch eggs making use of the humble quail. Great to serve with drinks – fitting the bill for a snack while still maintaining an Easter custom.

The following mince wrap recipe is not mine and I cannot remember where I came across it. It is far more sophisticated and interesting than the mince I used to make which consisted of pork, a minced onion and a few spices.


to cover about 20 quail eggs:

½ kilo minced chicken
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 tablespoons basil, finely chopped
100g pine nuts, chopped
2 tablespoons parmesan, grated
2 garlic cloves, creamed
3 slices stale bread, crusts removed, crumbed
Sea salt, cracked pepper
Plain flour to dust
3 tablespoons oil for frying


Place the eggs in a medium size pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil on a gentle heat then immediately turn off the heat, cover the pan with a lid and leave for 3 minutes. Plunge the eggs into cold water. Carefully peel the eggs once they are cool enough to handle. Fresh eggs are difficult to peel. Try to use older eggs if you know the collection date or add 1 teaspoon of bi-carb soda to the water when boiling them.

Mix all the other ingredients together and using wet hands wrap a small amount of mince around each quail egg to form a small ball. Place the finished eggs in the fridge for half an hour or more then lightly dust with flour and fry gently until the mince is cooked through and they are brown all over - approximately 7-8 minutes.

Cool and serve with a fresh pesto sauce or a few drops of chilli oil.

Chocolate Puddings

Like molten lava, hot liquid chocolate spills from the heart of these delicious and versatile little puddings. I sometimes serve them at room temperature just on their own with a creamy cup of espresso or hot for dessert with ice cream or thick fresh cream. They are easy to make up but a very good understanding of your oven is essential so as not to overcook them.

Serves: 5 X 175ml dariole moulds


140g unsalted butter
140g chocolate, roughly chopped
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
85g castor sugar
25g plain flour


Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Butter or almond oil the dariole moulds and place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Microwave the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl on high for 1 minute 15 seconds until melted. Stir half way through and again at the end of the cooking time. Set aside. If you do not have a microwave, melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof dish set over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Do not allow the water to touch the base of the dish. Set aside.

Whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar together with an electric hand whisk for three minutes until pale. Stir in the chocolate mixture and whisk in briefly using the hand mixer.
Fold in the flour and pour the mixture into the moulds.

Ovens vary so bake for 12 minutes, check and if necessary bake another 3-4 minutes until risen but still flat on top and not quite firm. The puddings must not overcook.  Loosen the edges with a knife, turn out immediately and serve upright.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pashka time, again....

Just to remind you of my Happy Easter favourite from last year but with very good reason. Pashka is just too delicious not to make. Don't be confused by the spelling - it could be: paskha, pashka or paska - but always pronounced pahs-kak. This dish is a classic from Russia and is traditionally decorated with nuts and sweets to form the letters XB which stands for 'Christ is risen'.

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 tin or two and leave in the fridge for at least 24 hours but up to a week is fine.